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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.

The difference
Both these philosophies--the all-things device and the targeted devices--have their benefits. We do not presently live in an always-on-the-Internet world, or at least one where we're always reliablyon the Internet (see: air travel, or that beach you go to every summer). There's a tradeoff between availability and optimization. If you don't have the files loaded onto the device you have with you, you may not be able to access them on the plane. But after using Windows Explorer via a touchscreen, you're also going to need to spend $10 on a drink instead of $8 on in-flight WiFi.

You might be able to do more things on an all-things device, you just can't do all of those things as well as you could with devices optimized for that specific purpose. I'm not saying it's impossible to design an application that works well on both a touchscreen and in a mouse and keyboard-driven environment ...

Actually, I am. Because what you need is two different interfaces for each. You could put two different interfaces in an application and have it switch modes, but that's tantamount to creating two different applications. The last ten years of computing have been all about the cloud, and despite the aforementioned Windows Azure, the Surface suggests that Microsoft doesn't really get that.

To date, the all-in-one philosophy has failed miserably at gaining traction. I regret to inform you that the Ubuntu Edge appears set to fall short of its $32 million Indiegogo goal. But only by about $20 million. So close. This is one of the reasons why I think the cliché "open always wins" should be updated to "open can never fail, it can only be failed." In this case by the open-source community itself.

As for Motorola's Webtop, that project was killed after the company was acquired by Google. Now, why would Google do that to the technology that some called "its secret weapon for fighting Apple and Microsoft"? Because Google's philosophy is more like Apple's: Don't keep your stuff on your device, keep it in the cloud and use it on any device. For Apple it makes sense because Cupertino want to sell you more devices. For Google it makes sense because it wants the devices themselves to be unimportant--cloud services are its bread and butter.

Well, really its bread and butter are ads. Cloud services are more like the plate it serves you the bread and butter on.

As for the Surface, Microsoft was forced to write off its unsold inventory to the tune of $900 million, which is a really lousy song. Like Coldplay, Nickelback, and Creed all got together and collaborated on a song. The Surface Pro currently sells for $100 off its original price while the Surface RT is $150 less than what it first shipped for. Microsoft has also backed off from some of the design choices it made in Windows 8 and will allow users to boot right to the desktop instead of using the Interface Formerly Known as Metro. The company still seems to have a hangover from its "lost decade."

 

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