On this specific aspect of design guidelines, Apple pioneered the development of graphical interface guidelines with the launch of the Macintosh in the 1980s which was promptly followed by Microsoft's Windows development team. While both operating system development teams have taken their own approaches to interpreting and fine-tuning the graphical standards as first defined by Apple, the depth of ergonomics and usability test to the application level is more pervasive in Apple's R&D spending. Microsoft has one of the largest research centers in the personal computer and software industry and has invested more heavily in Internet-based interfaces over operating systems to date (Hedgebeth, 2007). Apple's reliance on their loyal customer base and the development of online Internet panels to test new operating systems as was done thoroughly with the MacOS X 10.4 for example pays dividends as it also infuses a sense of ownership in the customer base for the new operating system, enhancements to graphical interface and new applications. This level of interaction is not possible for Microsoft as their customer base is so wide, distributed and often cut off from providing feedback as they are the primary customer to PC manufacturers.
Developer Communities and New Application Development
With less than or near 10% of the total PC marketplace, Apple is considered to be a unique and highly differentiated brand, so much so that founder CEO Steve Jobs likens the company's brand to BMW (Strategic Direction, 2008). This is not elitist; it is speaking of its unique niche and commitment to exceptional ergonomics, usability and delivering of value to consumers. Microsoft's Steve Ballmer concentrates his messaging on the scalability of Windows XP and Vista for enterprise companies, and also underscores the large installed base of Windows users globally. Both Steve Jobs and Steve Ballmer's primary responsibility apart from running their companies is to encourage 3rd party developers to continually add new applications and products for their respective PC operating systems. Both of these leaders know that to the extent there are new application is the extent to which their operating systems, and therefore IBM PC-compatible laptops in this instance, become more attractive to consumers.
In assessing this from the standpoint of the average consumer, who is doing the better job of attracting developers to their platform? Steve Ballmer reports that Microsoft has over 23,000 certified partner professionals working on its application framework alone. Conversely there are 2,500 developers generating 3,100 applications, according to Apple's Public Relations Department as of this year. The breadth and depth of applications generated for IBM PC-compatible laptops are far greater than those generated for the Apple Macintosh as can be seen from the developer numbers alone. Microsoft also has extensive development programs going in the Internet and Web Services arenas as well, aimed at enterprise integration and connectivity for their operating systems. When considering a Macintosh vs. An IBM PC-compatible laptop, Microsoft's operating system has the definite advantage in terms of support for 3rd party applications and the breadth of applications available.
Comparing the Apple PowerBook G4 with a 17" monitor vs. The Dell Studio 15 illustrates how Apple has been able to successfully capitalize on its tight integration of microprocessor-to-operating system integration and deliver value, while also showing how Dell's supply chain and direct selling model has been able to significantly trim the cost of production for a mid-range laptop. The Apple PowerBook G4 sells for $999 while the Dell Studio 15 begins at $1,074. The PowerBook is based on the Motorola PowerPC microprocessor, allowing it to run both Apple Macintosh and Intel-based applications. The Dell Studio 15 relies on an Intel Core 2 Duo processor running at 2.1 GHz. The Dell system has a 250GB hard drive, the Apple PowerBook G4, 120GB. The PowerBook also has a 17" TFT display while the Dell has a 14" active matrix screen. The Apple PowerBook G4 also has an advanced graphics chipset based on AGP 4x performance, had has 5.5 hours of battery life. The Dell Studio 15 relies on baseline XGA graphics on the motherboard and has 4 hours of estimated battery life. In addition, Apple includes a full one year warranty as standard, while Dell offers 90 days and sells a full year warranty for $79. Both systems offer DVD/RW drives as standard, and both have 802.11G wireless and WiFi support. Where the major difference is between these systems apart from screen size and processor is the software installed. The Apple PowerBook G4 includes an entire series of applications including the following: Apple iCal, OmniGraffle, Apple Safari, OmniOutliner, Zinio Reader, Apple iChat AV, Apple Dashboard, Apple QuickTime, Apple Spotlight, Apple iLife '05, Apple DVD Player, GraphicConverter, Apple Address Book, Apple Hardware Test, Apple Mac OS X Mail, Drivers & Utilities, Art Directors Toolkit, FileMaker Pro (Trial), Apple XCode Developer Tools, QuickBooks for Mac New User Edition, Microsoft Office 2004 for Mac Test Drive. The Dell Studio 15 just includes Microsoft Windows Vista Premium Operating system. Clearly the Apple PowerBook G4 delivers exceptionally more value for a lower price given the software and warranty included in the standard price.
Despite IBM PC-compatible laptops benefiting from the massive developer base of applications Microsoft has been able to attract and retain its ability to reduce the costs of its operating system and applications to make systems more affordable for the average consumer has yet to happen. Due to the high operating system and application licensing fees Microsoft charges, Apple is now able to sell laptops for the average consumer below the price point of mid-level laptops. This is significant in that it opens up increased graphics, video and media editing functionality to consumers that would not have otherwise been affordable. Apple has also done a better job of testing and validating its operating systems, and this is evident in the stability of MacOS X 10.4 versus Windows Vista Premium. Microsoft is in the middle of a major operating system transition with Windows Vista, and this instability is a risk for the average consumer. With all these factors taken into account, the Apple systems are more advisable for the average consumer at this time.
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Jeffrey T. Prince (2008). Repeat Purchase amid Rapid Quality Improvement: Structural Estimation of…