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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

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    Comparing Two Competing Business Models

    Microsoft began development, in one form or another, of Windows Vista right on the heels of Windows XP’s release.’ That was five years ago.’ I remember the grand vision Microsoft laid out back then- the next generation of Windows wouldn’t just be XP on steroids, but a new and solid computing base.’ They promised us Storage+, which was later renamed WinFS, a revolutionary new file system based on SQL.’ They promised us PC-PC synchronization, which sought to make computing on multiple workstations a breeze.’ Most importantly, they promised us a new code-base, based on .NET, in a departure from the aging and bloated code-base of XP.’ By making all these grandiose statements and hyping features before they had even been coded, Vista is seen as a failure before it has even been released.’ It’s as if Microsoft had deliberately sabotaged Vista from day one, failing in a way that Apple never could.

    That is not to say all of Apple’s products are quality, as slow and buggy Aperture reminds us.’ Simply spoken, Apple’s management style could never have allowed such a huge debacle as Vista’s development to occur.’ Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO, maintains strict control over the products that Apple releases.’ Crack design teams influence development of products in a profound way, as you can see in the hugely successful iPod (which many say lacks features in place of a great styling and an intuitive UI).’ Rather than building huge bureaucracy layers and placing blind faith in management chains, high-level management is constantly supervising all aspects of product development, write insiders.’ It is this constant evaluation that has enabled Apple to roll out with five major OS releases in five years, including a complete porting of their code base from PPC to X86 while retaining compatibility with virtually all of its installed user base.

    The other major difference between these two companies is ways in which they deploy secrecy.’ Apple didn’t announce the features of OS 10.5, slated for release just months after Vista, in 2001.’ Microsoft, on the other hand, did project five years in advance.’ In fact, Apple didn’t announce the features of OS 10.5 until just last month, less than eight months from final release.’ While there are obvious disadvantages to this approach, including making purchasing plans for major businesses a headache, it gives Apple a chance to try its hand at actually developing the technologies that are to ship before they are publicize.

    Microsoft, in typical Microsoft fashion, may have recently outdone itself with the announcement of their Zune portable music player.’ They first released details in piecemeal and stated that Zune would have robust WiFi features.’ Many speculated that users would be able to purchase music wirelessly and a large buzz was generated.’ Microsoft officials later amended their earlier statements and said that Zune’s WiFi would enable users to temporarily share music between one another, only if that music was purchased through Microsoft’s Zune online store.’ In addition, while these same officials noted that much of what they were saying was still in planning, the DRM scheme that Zune would use would be different and possibly incompatible with their Play4Sure framework.

    When Apple makes an announcement, all the groundwork has been laid.’ Steve Jobs didn’t announce the iTunes Music Store until it had over 100,000 artists to choose from and a DRM system in place.’ The same day that Jobs announced Apple’s music store, customers could download the software and purchase music.’ This is classically Apple.’ Microsoft, on the other hand, talks big and reveals impressive roadmaps, which they almost always renege on.

    In closing, while I am certainly not the first one to say this, I do hope that Microsoft managers have the good sense to keep on top of criticisms that I, along with other critics, level at them.’ While I cannot say I look forward to another failure from Microsoft in the iteration of Vista’s successor, I do anticipate it.

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