Back in the ‘90s, Microsoft and Apple were fierce rivals. As the shape of computing was being formed, Bill Gates’ Microsoft was victorious with PCs. Even in 2015, Microsoft still controls over 90 percent of all laptop and desktop computing. Mac vs. PC commercials and jabs from Steve Jobs were once regular occurrences, but if you want evidence that the two have moved on then look no further than yesterday’s Apple keynote.
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Apple had barely finished introducing its new iPad Pro tablet when Microsoft jumped on stage. Yes, Microsoft on stage at an Apple event. You’d have to return to the days of Bill Gates rescuing Apple or announcing Internet Explorer and Office for Mac to remember the last time Microsoft was a big highlight of an Apple event. It was a surreal moment. Apple wants to pitch the iPad Pro at businesses, and it needed Microsoft’s help. Apple’s head of marketing, Phil Schiller, even admitted that "yeah, these guys know productivity." It was honest, but it was also key that Apple was welcoming Microsoft on stage as the king of productivity. Apple didn’t show off its own iWork applications, it chose Microsoft’s superior Office software.
Back in the days of Steve Ballmer it’s hard to imagine this ever happening. Ballmer would have probably laughed at the iPad Pro, blind to the benefits it could bring to Microsoft as a software and services company, instead of just a Windows, Windows, Windows company. Microsoft’s new CEO Satya Nadella has formed new partnerships with Dropbox, acquired important software like Acompli, and extinguished a bitter war with Salesforce. He isn’t blind to the benefits of collaboration, and this new approach will only benefit Microsoft’s Office dominance.
Microsoft believes in the iPad Pro
"At Microsoft we really believe that bringing together the iPad Pro with Microsoft Office — the ink, the multitasking capabilities — will really transform the way people work on these type of devices," said Microsoft’s Office chief, Kirk Koenigsbauer, as he finished off his Office for iPad Pro demo. It was a moment of acceptance for Microsoft that the iPad is here to stay, but also a truce with Apple. While much has been discussed of the "new Microsoft" and Nadella’s approach to software and services, Apple’s acceptance that Microsoft is key to productivity is a clear vote of confidence in this new Microsoft.
The mere fact that Apple now believes in hybrid devices that transform to use touch, keyboards, and a stylus backs up Microsoft’s own message. This combination of inputs has been at the core of Surface for three years, and now Apple is accepting it as a crucial part of its own "post-PC" future. Some might see the iPad Pro as a giant threat to Microsoft’s Surface tablet, but it’s clear Microsoft isn’t concerned. The new Microsoft knows its place in the world. It doesn’t care if you’re using a Surface or an iPad Pro, it’s happy just as long as you’re using Office and Microsoft’s other software and services. That’s the sign of a true software company and Apple just agreed.