Apple’s Latest Move Is Terrible News for Microsoft

The Citizen's Guide to the Future
July 15 2014 6:16 PM

Et Tu, IBM? Apple’s Latest Move Is Not Good News for Microsoft.

Apple partners with IBM on enterprise software
Apple IBM

Photo by Chris Hondros/Getty Images

Tim Cook, Apple make deal with IBM
Tim Cook apparently doesn’t share his predecessor’s qualms about the business market.

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Thirty-four years ago, Microsoft won the contract that helped it conquer the computing world, eventually relegating rival Apple to the margins. That contract was with IBM, which needed a software partner to build the operating system for its first personal computer.

Will Oremus Will Oremus

Will Oremus is Slate's senior technology writer.

These days, it’s Microsoft that’s at risk of being pushed aside as Apple and Google dominate the consumer mobile computing industry. Microsoft retains one big stronghold: the enterprise market, where its Windows operating system still reigns.

Advertisement

On Tuesday, Apple announced a major frontal assault on Microsoft’s home turf: a plan to build business apps and sell iPhones and iPads to companies. And guess who Apple’s partnering with on the deal.

One can imagine the reaction in Redmond: “Et tu, IBM?”

Under the agreement, IBM will sell Apple devices to its corporate customers and provide on-site support. The two companies will also team up in an effort to develop business software that matches the quality and simplicity of Apple’s consumer apps.

No, hell hasn’t frozen over, and this isn’t the first time Apple and IBM have worked together to take on Microsoft. They formed an alliance in the 1990s, along with Motorola, to build the PowerPC as an alternative to the Microsoft-Intel empire. It wasn’t fully successful, of course, and Apple moved on to Intel processors in 2006.

But Apple today is in a very different market position—and so is Microsoft, which is rumored to be preparing a round of job cuts this week. Historically, Apple has paid little attention to the corporate market, which tends to require levels of customization and support that Cupertino has studiously resisted. But now it appears to be going for Microsoft’s throat.

Which is the company that “wants it all” now?

Update, July 15, 2014: I should mention that Microsoft is of course not the only target here. If Apple and IBM were to succeed in conquering the enterprise market, the most crushing blow could be to BlackBerry, which is already teetering on the edge. Google and its Android operating system are another obvious target. But Microsoft, more than Google, has pinned its hopes on remaining the default operating system as its corporate customers move onto mobile devices. That just got more difficult.

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

Will Oremus is Slate's senior technology writer.

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Don’t Worry, Obama Isn’t Sending U.S. Troops to Fight ISIS

But the next president might. 

The Extraordinary Amicus Brief That Attempts to Explain the Wu-Tang Clan to the Supreme Court Justices

Amazon Is Officially a Gadget Company. Here Are Its Six New Devices.

The Human Need to Find Connections in Everything

It’s the source of creativity and delusions. It can harm us more than it helps us.

How Much Should You Loathe NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell?

Here are the facts.

Altered State

The Plight of the Pre-Legalization Marijuana Offender

What should happen to weed users and dealers busted before the stuff was legal?

Surprise! The Women Hired to Fix the NFL Think the NFL Is Just Great.

You Shouldn’t Spank Anyone but Your Consensual Sex Partner

Moneybox
Sept. 17 2014 5:10 PM The Most Awkward Scenario in Which a Man Can Hold a Door for a Woman
  News & Politics
Altered State
Sept. 17 2014 11:51 PM The Plight of the Pre-Legalization Marijuana Offender What should happen to weed users and dealers busted before the stuff was legal?
  Business
Business Insider
Sept. 17 2014 1:36 PM Nate Silver Versus Princeton Professor: Who Has the Right Models?
  Life
Outward
Sept. 17 2014 6:53 PM LGBTQ Luminaries Honored With MacArthur “Genius” Fellowships
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 17 2014 6:14 PM Today in Gender Gaps: Biking
  Slate Plus
Slate Fare
Sept. 17 2014 9:37 AM Is Slate Too Liberal?  A members-only open thread.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 17 2014 8:25 PM A New Song and Music Video From Angel Olsen, Indie’s Next Big Thing
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 17 2014 9:00 PM Amazon Is Now a Gadget Company
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 17 2014 11:48 PM Spanking Is Great for Sex Which is why it’s grotesque for parenting.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 17 2014 3:51 PM NFL Jerk Watch: Roger Goodell How much should you loathe the pro football commissioner?