Steve Ballmer is leaving under a cloud, and we all know it. The #Monkeyboy has never been an easy character to like, but I take exception to BusinessInsider’s pot shot over his quote about money, even though the original quoted Mary Jo Foley interview touched on many great decisions he made early on. This is to young master Jay Yarow and others that get lost in the forest of the philosophy of design. It is always about the money. What differs is how you get there.
Microsoft is a computer company. They make computer products, and they do it well. They’ve dominated the computer industry for a very long time. Apple is not a computer company. They shelved that business model when they competed against Microsoft. Apple ceased being a computer company some time ago – they are now a consumer electronics company that also makes computers, and they are an extremely profitable consumer electronics company. This isn’t entirely a revelation that happened when Apple dropped the “computer” from their business name. Steve Jobs made it crystal clear when he introduced the digital hub strategy. And Apple has, many, many times, been compared often with Sony. If Apple were still struggling with just the Macintosh computer and hadn’t pursued consumer electronics, where do you think they would be?
Apple’s key strategic products in consumer electronics have all been very successful since the introduction of the iPod – lets ignore those that Apple claims are a “hobby” (Apple TV) or those from the “computer” days, like the Newton, Pippin, early Apple TV and PowerCD. Microsoft’s forays into consumer electronics have had limited success – really, is there much more than the XBOX that they’ve done well? Apple looked to become an incredibly successful consumer electronics company and they’ve succeeded.
Google never was a computer company. They are an advertising company unlike none that came before. Look at any of their physical products, including the Nexus (and by extension, Android) and Google Glass. These are devices, along with their services, which deliver advertisements. This is exactly the inverse of the printing industry, that delivers articles that are of interest, which promotes advertising that’s included in the magazine. Instead, Google makes content more readily available for the purpose of making advertising palatable. Microsoft has tried on many fronts to compete against this, like a computer company. Then again, so has Apple.
None of these companies do what they do except for profits and (as publicly traded companies) shareholder value – but they pursue those things using methodologies that are appropriate to their target customer for what they are offering. Every industry can view the same human being as a different type of customer of a different type of product. Apple stopped looking at Average USA Joe with a median income of $50,000 a year as a computer user and started to look at him as a consumer electronics user. Then Apple sold more Macs as peripherals to the digital hub. This is what Steve Ballmer didn’t get.