Apple versus Microsoft: Who’s more sustainable?

I would like to apply the elements of a sustainable company to Apple, Inc.

The focus is on Apple’s agility, ability to think differently and its focus which made Apple truly a sustainable company. Currently, Microsoft is trying to muscle in a strong retaliation with Apple’s hold onto personal mobile devices industry (Consumer electronics if you may).

From Yahoo! Finance, Apple’s stock prices had always been below and sometimes way below Microsoft’s. Apple leapfrogged Microsoft when the iPhone was introduced to the world in 2007.

The road of Apple’s current success: (Agility, thinking differently and focus of the company)
1997 – App store iTunes.
2001 – iPod launched.
2003 – iTunes 4 with 10 million songs sold.
2004 – 100 million songs downloaded from iTunes making it the most successful legal only music download service in the market.
2007 – iPhone, greatest success ever. Also in 2007, Apple changed its name to Apple Inc. to reflect the company’s ongoing expansion into the consumer electronics market in addition to its traditional focus on personal computers. (See how focus Apple is compared to Microsoft)
2010,2011 – iPad 1 and 2, another emerging huge success.

I did not mention iMac in 1998 even though it brought profits back to Apple because iMac did not make Apple hot and a cultural icon we see today.


While Microsoft ventured heavily into the PC industry and some effort in the Gaming industry (Xbox), Apple had been paving way for the mobile industry while at the same time making significant efforts in the PC industry with improved releases of MacOS.

I believe Microsoft in the late 90s and early 2000s had been pre-occupied competing with various competitors such as outmaneuvering Apple’s PC market share and therefore failed to think differently in investing heavily into the personal mobile devices market. (Except for their failed attempts of Pocket PC 2002 and Windows Mobile operating systems for mobile devices)

Not forgetting Microsoft is always fighting everyone and this includes the familiar Google. I believe Microsoft is trying to think differently but because it is a huge and incumbent dominant player in the PC industry, it is hard for it to attain an effective discipline of innovation like Apple. It looked like Microsoft is trying to combat the Innovator’s dilemma by dividing its attention to so many industries.


Look at how many products Apple really has to offer? Macintosh computers and its MacOSes, an App store and mobile devices such as iPod, iPhone and iPad. We can name almost every Apple product because Apple is focused.

What about Microsoft? Operating Systems such as Windows, Windows mobile, Windows Server; Internet Explorer against Netscape’s, Xbox and Xbox-Kinect for gaming, Bing for search engine, and more recently their social ad solution [1].

Microsoft is like an octopus ranging from Computer software, Consumer electronics, Digital distribution, Computer hardware, Video games, IT consulting, Online advertising, Retail stores, Automotive software, and at the same time Microsoft could lose its reign.

It seems like Microsoft adopted a reactive response than a pro-active response in the market. Some suggestion to the above claim:

Windows 8: Microsoft has put a lot of time, effort and money into making Windows 8 a touch-based operating system. It seems that Microsoft is betting that touch (and tablets) will be a big thing during the reign of Windows 8, but the company is making its assumption based on one device – Apple’s iPad.

Tablets have been around in one shape or form for over a decade, but each new model withered and died on the vine. The fact that there’s a market for the iPad doesn’t mean that there’s a broader market for tablets in general. Take the enormous success of the iPod for example, there were many companies that saw the success of the iPod and thought that would translate into a broader market for MP3 players in general. It wasn’t the case, and companies lost a lot of money pursuing a dead market. [2]

[1] Microsoft’s Social Ad Solution
http://www.zdnet.com/blog/feeds/microsoft-goes-beyond-the-like-with-social-ads-solution/4581?tag=nl.e550
[2] Windows 8
http://www.zdnet.com/blog/hardware/five-ways-windows-8-could-fail/18181?tag=nl.e550

You can find a comprehensive infographics history of Apple and Microsoft on http://www.redmondpie.com/apple-vs.-microsoft-the-history-of-computing-infographic/