Mac Innovation vis-à-vis Microsoft’s Surface Line

David Gewirtz, in a ZDNet piece headlined “Maybe It’s Time for Apple to Spin Off the Mac as a Separate Company”:

All that brings us back to the idea of spinning out the Macintosh business. I know, I know. There are lots of structural reasons why this might not be possible for Apple. The company has merged development groups, macOS and iOS are growing ever closer, yada, yada, yada. Let’s set all that aside and just brainstorm the idea for a few minutes.

Ask yourself a few questions. Would a stand-alone company on the verge of market dominance ever let its flagship top-end machine languish for five years? What about its most versatile (the Mac mini)? Would it let that machine languish, without even a processor bump, for three years? Apple went two years without updating the iMac, and that’s a top-seller.

The answer to these questions is “of course not.” Think about the Apple of the past, the one fully-focused on the Mac. Would it have allowed Microsoft to gain such innovation ground with the Surface Studio and Surface Book products? Would it have gone years without even processor-bumping its models?

The whole notion of spinning off the Mac into a separate company is so dumb it isn’t worth addressing. But the last paragraph quoted above is. I’ve seen this argument made multiple times recently — that Microsoft’s innovative and deservedly well-regarded Surface lineup was only enabled by Apple taking its collective eye off the ball in the PC space. I don’t buy that at all.

There are two Macs that have languished in recent years: the Mac Pro and Mac Mini. Microsoft’s Surface lineup doesn’t have an entry in either of those categories. The Surface lineup is composed of laptops and the iMac-esque Surface Studio.

Apple’s MacBook and iMac lineup lacks touchscreens not because Apple hasn’t paid attention to them but because Apple genuinely doesn’t think these machines should have touchscreens. Maybe Apple is wrong. Maybe Microsoft is onto the future of these form factors and Apple will have to play catch up. I don’t think so, but time will tell. But Apple has invested significant time and resources into the MacBook, MacBook Pro, iMac, and now iMac Pro as they are.

If Microsoft’s Surface lineup has taken advantage of complacency, it’s on the part of existing Windows PC makers, not Apple.

Wednesday, 3 January 2018