2 Big Players
The Discourse community I chose for my final project is the tech industry. I chose this particular topic because I was heavily involved and influenced by the community. Furthermore the industry has a wide spread effect on the world at large.
Within the vast tech community, I am going to narrow in on two very important companies, Microsoft and Apple.
I used to be that kid who spent 15 hours a day on the computer and argued with other geeks about computer specs. During this time, inevitably, I frequently had an argument about Mac vs Windows. I was always on the Mac side and tried to defend my argument with my life!
This particular clash of ideas didn’t happen in the last decade or so, but goes all the way back to when the companies themselves were founded 1975 and 1976 for Microsoft and Apple respectively.
Two major players in this battle were Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, who also happen to be arguably the two most successful and influential people of the time period especially within the tech industry. Both Gates and Jobs at the time were young, smart and always at each others throats!
As the years went on the companies brought out new products, each better then the previous and better than their competitors current. As the companies grew bigger so did the cult for them. People began taking sides and arguing why one is better than the other. This tension between the companies forced them to progress and compete with each others products. Each trying to be cheaper, faster, and more powerful than the other. The companies brought out their own innovative ideas as well as borrowed from the other. They did what ever it took to be better than the other. Along the way few 3rd wheels came in but never stuck on like Microsoft and Apple did.
Apple was known for making satirical Mac vs PC Ads which put the company on line. Even though their products were much more expensive, the Ads easily convinced people, especially the younger college students to choose a mac over a windows based PC. Apple argued that their products were easier to use and more practical. On the other hand the PC’s side of the argument was performance and cost.
Today the argument extends to the smartphone industry. Apple with iOS and Google with android. A very similar argument to the mac vs PC arguments arises with each user supporting his or her reason for choosing one over the other.
In the end even thought the tech arguments created a lot of heat for a seemingly trivial arguments, they have benefited society at large. The journey towards the best phone or computer keeps each other at their toes, which intern gives us, the end user a better, faster, cheaper and easier to use product.
Now, I don’t want this to turn out to be a history lesson on two major tech giants. However I would like to go back in time to talk about how these tech giants, Apple and Microsoft were once business partners.
In Mac History’s excellent article “Archrival and Knight in Shining Armor”, Christoph Dernbach talks about the transition of the companies from there roots to the tech giants we know them as today. Dernbach focuses not on the paths the individual companies took, rather he looks at points of overlap during their growth. These moments of the companies coming together was sometime positive, and sometimes created a tension, which lasts till date.
Steve Jobs took on a leadership position throughout his history with Apple. However, most of the work behind the scenes was done by Walter Isaacson, the co-founder of Apple.
When they were working on developing software for their new hardware, they couldn’t come up with a solid program like Microsoft did.
Jobs said (about Isaacson):
“He did a great version of BASIC, but then never could buckle down and write the floating-point BASIC we needed, so we ended up later having to make a deal with Microsoft. He was just too unfocused.”
The resulted in Microsoft providing software for the Macintosh.
Bill Gates even appeared in the promotional video for Apple’s computer.
Another time the heads of the companies met was when Steve Jobs invited Gates along with other executives to a conference at Hawaii in 1983. This was around the time Apple had released their macintosh computer. Gates got a huge round of applause when he said:
“During 1984, Microsoft expects to get half of its revenues from software for the Macintosh.”
Jobs asked if he thought that the Macintosh’s new operating system would become one of the industry’s new standards.
Gates answered, “To create a new standard takes not just making something that’s a little bit different, it takes something that’s really new and captures people’s imagination. And the Macintosh, of all the machines I’ve ever seen, is the only one that meets that standard.”
However It wasn’t all smooth sailing over the years. There was a long moment of tension after this. It was when Microsoft blatantly copied Apple’s software. This was termed as “stealing from a rich neighbor” by many theorists.
This resulted in several lawsuits and threats from both companies. Microsoft threatened to stop providing their services to Apple, which they heavily relied on.
This process of copying each others ideas has been in place ever since, however it is more acceptable now.
The relationship between the companies was sour until 1997. At this time Jobs returned to the company (after being fired long ago) and sought Microsoft’s help to bring the company out of the water.
Jobs called Gates “the knight in shining armor” at the MacWorld Expo 1997 with Bill Gates appearing on an oversized video screen just like a Big Brother. Introducing Gates, Jobs said:
“We have to let go of the notion that in order to for Apple to win, Microsoft has to lose. Relationships that are destructive don’t help anybody. The era of setting this up as a competition between Apple and Microsoft is over.”
Later, The companies did part ways for the better. Microsoft was the bigger company for a long time, with Apple being the underdogs. Several years later, in 2010 Apple took over as the biggest tech company.
Now, stepping back and taking a look at these two companies, two discourse communities, what can we learn?
When you have two sets of people or organizations doing the same thing, there will inevitably be attempts to repress the other, and trying the be the best. What that does however is keep each party on a steep upward climb to be the best. Without this competition, there would be no progress…