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One device to rule them all? Microsoft and Apple face off

John Moltz | Aug. 22, 2013
Microsoft espouses a philosophy of one device for every task, while Apple champions different devices for different scenarios. John Moltz explores the gulf between the two approaches.

I have observed that there are two kinds of people in this world.

No, stick with me.

There are people who dream of having one device that they can use in every instance, and there are, well, the rest of us.

That's a fundamental philosophical difference currently being presented by Apple and its competitors: Apple makes devices that it believes are better suited to particular use cases, while others--such as Microsoft--say that one device alone can do it all.

Surface tension
Take the Surface, for example. (Really, Microsoft would love it if you'd take one.) Redmond's pitch is that the Surface is a tablet anda laptop (assuming you buy the keyboard for $100 more). It runs desktop applications, but it's touch-enabled everywhere. It slices, it dices, it juliennes fries. No compromises.

Microsoft believes that people don't really want separate devices, they want just one. And it likes to present iPad users as "frustrated" with that device's inability to be the one true product for consumers. In talking about the Surface, Bill Gates said of iPad users:

"They can't type. They can't create documents," said Gates.

Now, in his defense, it's possible he's never used an iPad before. Or seen one. And he may also be unaware there are kinds of documents other than Word documents. The point is, Microsoft is selling the idea that the iPad is half a solution and the Surface is the whole solution.

Of course, it's not selling that idea very well, given the Surface's sales figures, but we'll get to that in a minute.

Microsoft isn't the only one with this particular vision. Another shining example is Ubuntu Edge, an Indiegogo project started by Canonical to fund a state-of-the-art Ubuntu phone that, when connected to a monitor, mouse, and keyboard would function as a full Ubuntu desktop. Just what you always wanted! And up until last year, Motorola was working on Webtop, a system that would give users the ability to dock their Android devices at their desktop and use them as PCs. So, this isn't just a fringe group. Well, it may be a fringe group, but it's one that uses a variety of platforms.

Windows 8 proponents will wax poetic about the magic of being able to edit a document on your tablet with the onscreen touch keyboard whilst flying through the air and then, when you get home, editing it with a mouse and keyboard on the very same device.

Well, OK, but this is 2013. Why not use Dropbox or iCloud or--hey, here's an idea--Windows Azure and edit it on any device, with the input methods that are best suited to that device?

 

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