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Gates vs Jobs, Apple vs Microsoft, and the winner is . . .

Date Added 01/03/2011

Where do you start with these two giants of the IT industry, well I suppose the year in which their respective founders were born, I say year because they were both born in 1955, Bill in Seattle, Steve in San Francisco. That year was apparently also a great time for the vineyards of France described as ‘Aged exceptionally well, producing wines of charm and character’, in the personality stakes if you had to choose between these two technology moguls I think you would have to agree that ‘Steven Paul Jobs’ comes out on top of this particular duel. You only have to witness his charismatic performances on stage at the WWDC (Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference) or as a keynote speaker at any Apple product launch.

With regards to the companies or empires these two preside over I’m not sure it’s a fair fight to compare them as one and the same. Microsoft is a software company, where as Apple are a Jack-of-all-trades and let’s be honest a master of them all (I’m not biased).

So how do you compare them, well in terms of Mac sales versus PC’s, there is no competition, Apple Mac only accounts for around 4% of the market user base which predominantly must go down to both the much higher cost of the average Macintosh computer and the fact that they have really only come to the table as a challenger in the last decade. Of those PC’s that account for the other 96%, none of them are manufactured by Microsoft, instead other giants of the industry come into play like HP and Dell, but the majority do run Windows. We cannot even compare aesthetics because yes Apple computers look fantastic in your retro open plan loft apartment, but Microsoft do not manufacture any hardware to put side-by-side the latest iMac.

Presumably then we should analyse the software or more importantly the operating systems, Window vs Mac OS. When I left University in 1999 with my degree in computing, I was aware that Apple Mac existed but I had never used one. The first Mac I ever came across was an original iMac sitting lonely in a dark corner of PC World in 1998. The Mac was never mentioned on my course, the university was Windows PC based, they were of course preparing us for an industry dominated by Microsoft.

As it turns out my first job in this industry was for an Apple Mac software development house. Talk about a shock to the system, it was a time when Apple were still peddling Mac OS 9 and personally I could see why Windows was preferred. This antiquated old system was a country mile from the Apple OS we have grown to love today, but the underlying architecture was there for something special to come.

I was there at the beginning of Mac OS X and it was an exciting time to be working with an Apple software company. ‘Aqua’ was the name they had given their user interface and it was nothing like we had ever seen from any OS and I believe paved the way for the slick new design style of a company that at the time were floundering in the industry. The standard had been set and out of it grew the iPod and a new generation of aesthetically pleasing computers.

Of course my roots are in Microsoft Windows, after all I grew up with it, geeking around in the MS DOS prompt, fudging graphics settings while spending hours on premium rate support help lines just so I could play Fifa 96 (the players had triangles for football boots back then) on my struggling excuse for a personal computer, not the fault of Microsoft but that of the exponential rate of growth in processor power that we endured during the 1990’s, but that’s another story.

Windows 95 was an unrivalled success, another industry game changer. At that time ‘William Henry Gates’ ruled the computing world, but let’s be honest who was his competition? Certainly not Apple, but what Microsoft failed to do from Windows 95 up to Windows 2000 was create anything groundbreaking, the OS simply plodded along, maybe they were given a false sense of security with the lack of competition. XP was an improvement but when Mac OS X took hold what did Microsoft hit back with, that’s right, Vista and we all know how that turned out.

The style and panache with which Apple’s now OS operates has certainly been a kick up the proverbial backside for Microsoft, a rude awakening if you will, but the plodders needed that. Windows 7 in my opinion has been a vast improvement, and yes some of the user interface features similar to those of Mac OS X have caused some to make accusations of copying but all in all it’s got to be great for the industry across the board. After all, a great idea is a great idea.

Microsoft and Apple, a fair comparison? I don’t think so, they both operate at different ends of the market. If you are the CEO of a large multi-national and you need to fill your new skyscraper with personal computers for your hundreds of staff to perform word processing and spreadsheet creation, chances are you go with the much more budget conscious option of a Windows PC. At the other end of the scale, if you are the owner of a graphic design studio where it’s more about trendy than corporate, Apple wins through every time.

With all the hype surrounding the ‘Microsoft versus Apple’ debate that has raged on during the last decade one thing is for sure; Steve Jobs and Bill Gates will forever be immortalised by this exhilarating industry race and deserve their place in IT history. I say long may it continue, it’s not a race that can be won, just entered.

By Jason Batt

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