Microsoft looks AARP right in the eye

Posted by Emory Kale

Opinion - Apple did a good job in bridging the gap between the desktop Web and the mobile Web with the iPhone. That’s good, but a phone is pretty useless when you have to type a report, write an article, or even do a basic spreadsheet. Yes, there are people who use a computer for something besides email, IM, and RSS trawling. And when it comes to computers, Apple is more arrogant than aggressive. Going into an Apple store is an experience akin to joining a cult where you know they’re going to ask you to lie down on a shiny white surface, drink something deadly, and wait for the mother ship to take away the faithful.

Microsoft, on the other hand, should know better. It is a monopoly. It is battle scarred. It likes to win.

It used to.

Now, well now, who knows what the company wants. Vista is an awful upgrade. There may well be another Windows upgrade that will  come and make IT managers happy, but Windows is no longer relevant, or accessible to the vast majority of users. It could be argued that neither is the PC. It’s an expensive utility. It is a product that kowtows to its corporate IT base without providing any real progress to the consumers that gave it its best features. Corporate IT guys did not spec WIMP, they did not ask for 3D graphics, or audio, or video. Consumers made all those things features for everyone.

Microsoft seems to have forgotten this. Perhaps Apple hasn’t because it doesn’t have corporate IT guys to worry about. Apple can make cool products, and define a market. Microsoft used to be able to do that, even if it was copying someone else. The crowd in Redmond seems to have forgotten who consumers are. They don’t seem to have any connection to their general audience. Maybe not even their IT audience judging by the reactions to Vista, but that happens every little iteration of the OS.

Underlying all of this is the fact that our basic computing platform, the PC, is an anachronism. Someone should have recognized that fact and did something about it. It doesn’t matter to the Web. It doesn’t matter to entertainment, and the more applications we move to the Webtop, the less it will matter to the IT guys, either. Why didn’t Microsoft do something drastic like give the IT guys Windows, and give us a redefined PC, one that would be Xbox compatible, say, and yet provide all of the inherently modern features of a mobile and connected world? Something that wasn’t so damn bloated and resource hungry and unwieldy. Then, perhaps then, they could have thrown impractical stuff like Microsoft Surface at this new machine and let the early adopters, the people who care more about the experience than productivity, handle it. Did Microsoft forget that crazy individualism helped to build the PC’s most interesting features?

Sadly, there is no replacement for the PC. Sadly, there does not seem to be anyone who can build an alternative.