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.


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.



The Democrats’ War at Home

How can the president’s party defend itself from the president’s foreign policy blunders?

Congress’ Public Shaming of the Secret Service Was Political Grandstanding at Its Best

Michigan’s Tradition of Football “Toughness” Needs to Go—Starting With Coach Hoke

A Plentiful, Renewable Resource That America Keeps Overlooking

Animal manure.

Windows 8 Was So Bad That Microsoft Will Skip Straight to Windows 10


Cringing. Ducking. Mumbling.

How GOP candidates react whenever someone brings up reproductive rights or gay marriage.

Building a Better Workplace

You Deserve a Pre-cation

The smartest job perk you’ve never heard of.

Hasbro Is Cracking Down on Scrabble Players Who Turn Its Official Word List Into Popular Apps

Florida State’s New President Is Underqualified and Mistrusted. He Just Might Save the University.

  News & Politics
Sept. 30 2014 9:33 PM Political Theater With a Purpose Darrell Issa’s public shaming of the head of the Secret Service was congressional grandstanding at its best.
Sept. 30 2014 7:02 PM At Long Last, eBay Sets PayPal Free
Sept. 30 2014 7:35 PM Who Owns Scrabble’s Word List? Hasbro says the list of playable words belongs to the company. Players beg to differ.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 30 2014 12:34 PM Parents, Get Your Teenage Daughters the IUD
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Sept. 30 2014 3:21 PM Meet Jordan Weissmann Five questions with Slate’s senior business and economics correspondent.
Brow Beat
Sept. 30 2014 8:54 PM Bette Davis Talks Gender Roles in a Delightful, Animated Interview From 1963
Future Tense
Sept. 30 2014 7:00 PM There’s Going to Be a Live-Action Tetris Movie for Some Reason
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 30 2014 11:51 PM Should You Freeze Your Eggs? An egg freezing party is not a great place to find answers to this or other questions.
Sports Nut
Sept. 30 2014 5:54 PM Goodbye, Tough Guy It’s time for Michigan to fire its toughness-obsessed coach, Brady Hoke.