A Tale of Two Solitudes: Technology at Home (Apple) vs at Work (Microsoft)

May 28, 2010

2 minute read

The New York Times recently reported that Apple is bigger than Microsoft in terms of market worth, making the “i-con” company now the holder of the world’s most valuable technology. How are we to interpret this, and does it affect the technology decisions we make in the future?

Well, here at our office, we won’t be replacing our SharePoint system, mothballing our SQL servers, swapping out Visio, or shutting down Outlook Exchange any time soon.

Here are some lessons that could be taken from this change in fortune in the long-running competition between Apple and Microsoft:

  • The value of sticking to your principles and maintaining your brand

Apple consistently sides with the free-thinking, creative, casually dressed members of the counter-culture. This has been reflected in the famous “1984” Super Bowl ad and “Think Different” campaign that featured a diverse range of interesting  and influential personalities from Mohammed Ali and Ted Turner to Bob Dylan

  • The extent that technology is used in our daily life (or should I say, iLife?)

Nobody questions the need for a computer at home anymore; the questions now are: What kind and how many? We rely on them to manage our memories (digital photos), keep in touch with family and friends (Skype, IM, gmail), and amuse ourselves (Farmville on Facebook, etc.).

When someone says that any product (including PCs) is becoming “commoditized,” that’s an indication of a lack of imagination and innovation. Not so with Apple – who continue to innovate at a rapid rate, designing products that equal objects of desire among consumers

  • The benefits of diversifying your business

While Microsoft is clearly the leader in business technology, Apple continues to sprout tentacles of profitable business – computers, music players, phones, ebook readers, digital music, video, and now book distribution, etc.

  • The value of anticipating the needs and desires of your target market

In the case of Apple, they’ve actually gone beyond anticipating needs, and have created needs and markets that did not exist before – for example, iTunes and the iPad for digital content distribution

  • Eventually the righteous will triumph over the evil

The Home/Work Tech Balance

In reality, the true lesson is a combination of all of the above (except for that last thing about good and evil). We have a need for technology in our lives – but those needs domestically are not necessarily met by the same IT solutions that make us productive in the workplace.

While we are all consuming more and more technology (and some of it will overlap home/work), I believe that we will also see the continued divergence of the “two solitudes” that represent our lives at home and at work.

P.S. The ideas for this post were born on an iMac at home, and finished on a ThinkPad running Windows XP at work.

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