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Utterly unfair comparison. The Apple and Microsoft business models are so unlike each other it's almost inaccurate to say they're in the same business. Apple can get product quality to the point they do because they laser focus on a few profitable segments. Microsoft's business model --- not "what Steve Ballmer thinks they should be doing this month" but their underlying business model --- involves them serving 80+% of the market.

This is sort of like complaining that Safeway can't make ice cream as well as Ben and Jerry's.




Did you watch Futurama last night? I have trouble believing that two detracting comments about Safeway ice cream were spontaneously made a day apart.

"What do you say we go get some sewer coffee, sewer cake, and Safeway Ice Cream?" - Futurama


He is an avid Futurama fan.

http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1623530


Monkeys aren't donkeys! Stop messing with my head!


Nope. I hate the new Futurama episodes.


I assure you that more than one is made daily.


This is true, and I think it accounts for a lot of the difference in quality between their products. But in this case, it sounds like there just weren't clear, enforced rules about integration, interoperability, and usability. Not once in the email does Gates reference an existing, company-wide set of standards. Even a company like Microsoft is capable of having and enforcing such a thing, and it would actually boost productivity over the long run. If all the different teams are doing their own thing and subject to an off-the-cuff usability review only after they've shipped, they will ultimately spend more time making revisions than they would have spent targeting standards from the start.

I've no idea what Microsoft was like at the time, so maybe they did have such a thing, but if there was, I can't imagine it had much priority in the corporate culture.


> This is sort of like complaining that Safeway can't make ice cream as well as Ben and Jerry's.

And in fact, Safeway doesn't make ice cream as well as Ben and Jerry's. It's ice cream, not apples and oranges.

Apple is in a few markets where they serve a large majority of the market (music players being the obvious). There is probably room for Apple to improve on those products, but I suspect most rational people would not claim Apples products in those markets are as poorly made as most of Microsofts products. Effectively, it is not the unfair comparison you claim.


How do any differences in the business model cause or justify bad design/integration in either their web experience or software products? Duplicating popular software in higher volume isn't a burden on design, is it? I fail to see why popularity should be an excuse for mediocrity.

The distribution methods and relationships with customers differ a great deal, but both companies develop software, some of it very similar in purpose, and both also sell hardware. The problems outlined in the email were not related to problems integrating with others' hardware, so lack of ability to integrate with that isn't an excuse (this time).

I think it is the ice cream comparison that's the unfair one. Software sold in volume is a high margin business. With 80% market share there is neither the justification nor the excuse for the sort of blunders outlined in the email. Unlike ice cream, there are no physical ingredients to cut corners with. It's doubtful that things that compromised quality saved them any money at all. What resource did they lack?

It's not as if they were a hardware business operating on razor-thin margins to get market share and cutting corners to break even. They've got revenue, they've got cash, they've got many talented engineers. They spent about 9 times as much as Apple on R&D in 2007, about 7 times as much in 2009. Considering how often Apple has major OS updates, and introducing new/updated hardware designs, it seems like MS isn't producing as much fruit for the R&D money. Did I miss something?

R&D From the 10K filings with SEC

Microsoft USD 9 billion in 2009 https://investor.shareholder.com/msft/EdgarDetail.asp? CIK=789019&FID=1193125-09-158735&SID=09-00

Apple USD 1.3 billion in 2009 http://phx.corporate-ir.net/External.File? item=UGFyZW50SUQ9MTg1OTB8Q2hpbGRJRD0tMXxUeXBlPTM=&t=1


It seems like it is a fair comparison; why do consumers care what MS's target market is, except insofar as it affects a product they want to buy?

I suppose this is why many people prefer Ben and Jerry's ice cream to Safeway.


It wasn't a comparison of companies, it was a rebuke of Microsoft's leadership. The criticism is certainly valid, and all the more convincing because Microsoft HAS shipped high-quality products, so they are CAPABLE of doing great work, they just get LAZY.


What's the deal with Safeway Icecream? Never heard of it.




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