31-3.1 The war ended a long time ago, buddy

Adam Tinworth
Adam Tinworth


I had an odd experience on Facebook the other day. It’s probably the closest I’ll ever come to those apocryphal tales of warriors emerging from the jungles of Asia to discover that the war ended decades ago. A friend posted about the GoTo security flaw that has afflicted Apple devices, that was fixed over the last week or so.

He mentioned, in passing, that Apple products were no longer the bastion of security they once were. Someone immediately popped up ranting about “90% marketing and 10% security by obscurity”, and I thought “Really? There’s still someone out there fighting the Mac versus PC war?”

Serving in the OS war trenches

I served my time in those trenches a good 15 years or so back. I valiantly fought for my beloved Mac against the overwhelming hordes of PC users that made up my friends and colleagues. I used to feel guilty about it, like it was an embarrassment from my youth, but I’ve sort of gotten over that. I was battling to preserve an OS that I preferred using, in a time when there was a very real possibility that it might disappear. There’s nothing wrong in standing up for choice. In that, that’s why today’s Android versus iOS battle doesn’t even feel remotely similar, because both OSes are doing very nicely, thankyouverymuch. Neither is at any risk of expiring. In fact, as a consumer, I’m rather enjoying watching two strong competitors drive each other ever onwards. It means a better device in my pocket, whichever side I choose.

This Facebook warrior that started this rambling thought process, emerging from the jungle, is coming out to find that his side, which we’ll call Micro$oft for old times’ sake, won. And what it won was – irrelevance. You can’t dispute that Microsoft still has an utter stranglehold on corporate computing, putting a PC on the desktop of pretty much every corporate drone out there. And you’ll have to pry PCs from the cold, dead hands of gamers everywhere.

If it’s not mobile it doesn’t matter

But beyond that? The landscape has changed, and all the interest – and sales – are in mobile devices. Poor old Microsoft is a distant third in this game, climbing up nervously even after it saw BlackBerry plummet down past it a short while ago. It’s been utterly unable to turn its market dominance into PCs into amiable strategy in the mobile age, and has made the unedifying discovery that its critics were right: its main selling point was being a cheap, flexible knock-off of an Apple OS. How does it know? Because Google’s cheap, flexible knock off of an Apple OS is kicking its butt in the marketplace.

The irony is that Microsoft has done it right this time. It built something fresh, original and iconic in Windows Phone. And it can’t shift it in any significant numbers. Only its hardest core fans have gone for it, and its traditional buyers have gone Android in their droves. It’s a pity, because like many Apple fans, I really like Windows Phone.

Never trust a fanboy

If there’s any moral to this tale, it’s possibly that: never take business strategy advice from Apple fanboys. Oh, and don’t fight last decade’s OS wars. It just makes you look silly on Facebook.

This is the first in a series of one-a-day substantive posts I’m going to try to write through March.


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Adam is a lecturer, trainer and writer. He's been a blogger for over 20 years, and a journalist for more than 30. He lectures on audience strategy and engagement at City, University of London.