Microsoft Following Apple’s “Whole Widget” Approach

zune.jpgMicrosoft is taking a leaf from Apple’s playbook and re-organizing its major online services division to create a tighter link between hardware and software.

Microsoft has reorganized it’s Platforms and Services Division, responsible for products like online search and Internet Explorer, to more closely follow Apple’s “whole widget” approach of closely tying hardware to software and online services.

In a memo to employees, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer explains:

“In the competition between PCs and Macs, we outsell Apple 30-to-1. But there is no doubt that Apple is thriving. Why? Because they are good at providing an experience that is narrow but complete, while our commitment to choice often comes with some compromises to the end-to-end experience. Today, we’re changing the way we work with hardware vendors to ensure that we can provide complete experiences with absolutely no compromises. We’ll do the same with phones–providing choice as we work to create great end-to-end experiences.”

It sounds like Microsoft is going to try and replicate what it’s done with the XBox and the Zune — exert more control over hardware, software and cloud services.

For decades, Microsoft has thrived by selling its software to third-party vendors who build with commodity components and compete fiercly on price. This model works well when selling to businesses, whichare concerned with price and interopability, but increasingly, ordinary consumers are the grwoth market for the PC industry, and consumers care more about ease-of-use, reliability and good design. These of course, are Apple’s strengths.

Ballmer doesn’t seem to be suggesting that Microsoft bring hardware in-house, but rather initiate a tighter pairing between Microsoft’s software and the company’s third-party hardware partners. Examples of this kind of hardware/software alliance include Real Networks and Sandisk, which have teamed to make MP3 players; and Netflix and LG, which are collaborating on an online movie service integrated into LG’s TVs.

Ballmer specifically mentions phones, which are increasingly becoming mobile computing devices that could threaten Microsoft. Microsoft is rumored to be working on a Zune phone to rival the iPhone (and soon, Google’s Android).

  • macandal

    This is funny. If you click to read the full memo, someone posted the following as a comment:

    “No doubt Jim Jones was giving similar speeches, in the days before he and his followers decamped for Guyana. And I’d bet he was equally certain that his expressed vision for the group was obvious & reasonable. But he was every bit as mistaken.”

  • csbmonkey

    “But there is no doubt that Apple is thriving. Why? Because they are good at providing an experience that is narrow but complete…”

    Nice backhand, Mister Balmer.

  • Deocliciano

    If you want to success, you define yr own path!
    And this path must match yr weakness and strength!

    Apple and Microsoft has their own weakness and strength, can an elephant go to battle with an ant’s strategy?

    Either the guy is PANICKING [no reason for that!, apple would have to BEAT lottsa pc makers first] or HE is clueless!

  • leigh

    I will say that the only MS Product i own, the XBox 360, is nearly flawlessly executed. (save for lethal red-circle hardware glitches).

    @Deocliciano: the “Ant” of which you speak is fully half the size of MS, better EPS, better Enterprise Value / Share, and roughly the same amount of cash on hand.

    It’s more like a Leopard vs Lion battle.

  • Deocliciano

    @Leigh McMullen

    … And lion kicks leopard for good!
    Hope 10.7 is called Lion!

  • Neil Anderson

    Apple makes great products that people actually want to use.

  • Adrian

    apple make our life easy. ballmer is a loser

  • leigh

    @Deocliciano:

    the lion has to **catch** the leopard first (I chose that analogy on purpose (and the entendre))

    ——–

    All of that said, I think this is a great development. While I don’t think there is any reasonable likelihood that MS will catch Apple anytime soon, but a focus on their part on a complete user experience could only mean good things for our industry.

  • Andrew DK

    Two cents, two words:

    Apple Envy

  • Andrew DK

    Two cents, two words:

    Apple Envy

  • Steve

    These never get tried of ripping off apple! This is why I wont go near a windose box unless I have no choice. No new ideas from this dinosaur company in seattle. then you got ppl who swear by their filth!

    I got one question to be who dont like apple…..

    If apple sucks sooooo much why do you have to rip off their ideas?

  • Peruchito

    @Leigh.

    true, leopards take their prey up into the trees were the lions can’t steal them. personally, i hope 10.7 is called Liger. its my favourite animal.

    PS vote for pedro

  • Bill Olson

    Microsoft blah blah blah blah blah.

    THE ONE reason I want to learn how to program for Macs is to be able to create a filter that filters out any articles about MajorSuck in Browndom (the are located in Redmond and they create Brown MP3 players, hence Browndom…).

    I couldn’t care less what that company says or does or anything. Is there a way to get your site WITHOUT Majorsuck updates included? If I wanted to read about them, I’d go to a MajorSuck fan website.

  • Andrew DK

    @Olson

    Your MajorSuck comment is MajorSuck annoying and it’s not a MajorSuck joke if you have to MajorSuck explain it.

  • Mark Price

    I wonder if Balmer just read a book by Leander Kahney titled “Inside Steve’s Brain”. The author speaks in detail about the Whole Widget Approach – how Apple succeeds in such an approach compared to Microsoft.

About the author

Lonnie Lazar

Lonnie Lazar is a writer-musician-web designer-attorney. He writes about Apple for Cult of Mac and Mac|Life, and about VoIP and telecommunications for Voxilla. Follow Lonnie on Twitter @LonnieLazar, join the Cult of Mac on Facebook, and find Lonnie's photos on Flickr.

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