Dear Microsoft: You’re never going to beat Apple, so stop trying

Welcome to our weekly Apple Breakfast column, which includes all the Apple news you missed last week in a handy bite-sized roundup. We call it Apple Breakfast because we think it goes great with a Monday morning cup of coffee or tea, but it’s cool if you want to give it a read during lunch or dinner hours too.

Surface tension

Those who miss the days of full-time Apple/Microsoft beef will have been heartened last week by bold claims that the latest Surface devices are faster than the M3 MacBook Air. It’s fun to see Microsoft’s marketing department in a combative mood, but part of me wishes the company would stop trying so hard to show it’s better than Apple.

For one thing, it’s difficult to imagine that Apple takes this especially seriously. The whole thing gives off the same energy as that elevator scene from Mad Men. (Ginsberg: “I feel bad for you.” Don Draper: “I don’t think about you at all.”) Surface devices have done reasonably well with reviewers and customers alike, but they’re not likely to knock the MacBook off its perch anytime soon. And the fact that Microsoft, not Apple, is rushing to make the comparison rather gives that fact away: as beleaguered British prime minister Rishi Sunak understands, it’s the underdog, not the favorite, who benefits from the rough and tumble of debate.

The claim, like most stunt comparisons, also feels a little forced, not least because Microsoft is comparing its own brand-new devices to a four-month-old laptop that isn’t top of its own range or equipped with the latest chip generation. “It’s going to outperform any device out there,” says Microsoft VP Yusuf Mehdi, before settling on the M3 MacBook Air rather than the M3 Max MacBook Pro or even the M4 iPad Pro. I get that the Air is a closer match price-wise, but maybe don’t use the words “any device out there” if you’re then going to ignore the Pro-shaped elephant in the room. Or the existence of the M4 chip, which is currently confined to the iPad Pro but is likely to appear in a Mac before long.

That’s before we even get to the fact that speed tests do such a poor job of summing up the Mac’s attractiveness. Most Macs, especially since the arrival of Apple silicon, are extremely fast. But that isn’t why people buy them—or at least not the main reason. It’s about beautiful design, a reputation for excellent security and privacy, and the smooth intuitiveness of macOS.

But this is about more than nitpicking the details. It’s about fundamental strategy, and understanding a company’s place in the world. Apple grasps that it isn’t 2006 anymore, and that Mac vs PC is no longer the best way to approach customer decision-making; Microsoft needs to move on too. And maybe even accept that its best policy would be to work with Apple, rather than against it.

After all, these are two very different companies with very different skill sets. Apple currently has a big advantage when it comes to design, and probably always will. Microsoft, on the other hand, has more experience working with business users. (If it sounds like I’m dropping back into the Mac vs PC mentality, I don’t just mean spreadsheets. Just consider the success of HoloLens in a wide range of enterprise applications, from healthcare to the military.) The two aren’t really targeting the same customers, and it makes more sense for them to collaborate rather than compete directly. Ensuring that their apps work flawlessly on one another’s platforms, for a start, would benefit everyone.

In the past, companies would either refuse altogether to let their software run on rival platforms or allow it to run but make sure that platform had an older or less-optimized version–like the ancient version of iTunes you’d find on Windows for years. The thinking was presumably one of customer retention, with Apple in this case fearing that having access to all the same software would make Mac owners more likely to switch to a Windows machine. But while it still makes sense to follow this strategy on mobile, where iOS/Android switching is very much a thing, the Apple and Microsoft camps have moved so far apart that this is surely no longer an issue in the laptop market. Very few gamers or enterprise users are going to buy a Mac on a whim; nor are many designers and music producers going to be lured into buying a Surface on the strength of tenuous claims of higher speeds.

Ultimately, of course, comparative marketing campaigns like Microsoft’s aren’t about rationally presenting the pros and cons of a buying decision, they’re about stirring up controversy and grabbing free publicity. (You’re welcome, Satya Nadella.) I can’t really be mad about that. Just as long as everyone concerned understands that a publicity stunt is all this is and that Microsoft is never going to beat Apple on these terms.


The future of the iPhone is coming, but it’ll cost you dearly.

We round up 12 incredibly useful ways to repurpose your old Mac mini.

9-core vs. 10-core M4: Is it worth paying more for the iPad Pro?

Podcast of the week

We haven’t even reached the midpoint of 2024, and Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference is in a few weeks, but we’re already seeing unofficial reports on some of Apple’s plans for 2025. So we’re talking about those reports on today’s episode.

You can catch every episode of the Macworld Podcast on Spotify, Soundcloud, the Podcasts app, or our own site.

Reviews corner

The rumor mill

Here are the new AI features coming to your iPhone with iOS 18.

A classic iPhone color is looking more likely than ever to return this year.

Apple wants to price the iPhone SE 4 under $500. Google should be scared.

Next year’s iPhone could feature a thin, redesigned ultra high-end model.

Don’t expect the Mac Studio and Mac Pro to be updated at WWDC–or any time in 2024.

Report: A new AirTag is coming next year (but not much is changing).

Software updates, bugs, and problems

Apple Wi-Fi network vulnerability could leak your location in real time.

iOS 17.5.1 update fixes rare bug that caused some deleted photos to return.

Yay! Systems Settings will get an interface tune-up in macOS 15.

Beet, exhausted face, splatter emoji could be coming to your iPhone.

And with that, we’re done for this week’s Apple Breakfast. If you’d like to get regular roundups, sign up for our newsletters. You can also follow us on Facebook, Threads, or Twitter for discussion of breaking Apple news stories. See you next Monday, and stay Appley.

Source : Macworld