Mac v PC - the battle resumes

Apple's iPad, Nokia's new smartphone

Tuesday saw two big product launches on one day - and from each, interesting signs that an old rivalry might be flaring up again.

For 20 years Microsoft and Apple slugged it out - with Bill Gates' company the Goliath and Steve Jobs' firm the plucky David, mostly failing to be anything other than a noisy sideshow. Then competition intensified as Apple came roaring back with its iProducts, but in recent years both companies turned their fire instead on Google as the big new kid on the block threatening to take away their toys.

But at Apple's event on Tuesday night, where a new, thinner iPad made the headlines, was more interesting for what it said about the renewed rivalry with Microsoft. It started with the unveiling of new, typically expensive - if very high-specification - computers, those objects supposedly made obsolete by the rise of the tablet.

Tim Cook told the audience that this part of the business (from which, by the way, Apple only makes a tiny share of its huge profits) was still vitally important - and he mocked another company that didn't know whether it wanted a tablet to be a PC or vice versa. In the week that Microsoft's Surface 2 goes on sale, it was clear who he was talking about.

The only real surprises in the 90-minute show came with the announcements that Mavericks, the latest version of the Mac operating system, would now be free to download and updated versions of its iWork apps, Apple's rival to Microsoft's Office software, would now come free on any new iOS device.

Big deal, said anyone from the open source community, where the idea that you would pay for software has long been seen as old-fashioned. But it might be a concern for Microsoft. It still makes big bucks by charging for Windows and Office, so Apple's move could be seen as a direct threat to its business model.

Mind you, there had been evidence earlier that Microsoft might at last be making progress in the area where Apple had left it far behind, mobile devices.

The words "Nokia" and "Microsoft" on the Lumia 1020 Windows smart phone The Lumia 1020 Windows smart phone

I'd tuned into the live stream from Abu Dhabi of Nokia World, the phone giant's last big event before it disappears into the embrace of Microsoft. And I came away with two questions - is the Windows Phone operating system finally getting some traction, particularly on the latest Nokia Lumia phones? And does that mean Nokia's board sold the phone business at exactly the wrong time?

Nokia's CEO Stephen Elop had the slightly strange job of unveiling some quite impressive new products and software, which will now contribute to the Microsoft bottom line, where he will be running the devices division or possibly the whole business.

Lumia is getting larger, with the 1520 Phablet, and Nokia has at long last unveiled a tablet, the Lumia 2520, running the Windows RT operating system. Just how that will be marketed inside Microsoft, where so much has been invested in the Surface, will be an interesting question for Mr Elop.

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Momentum is key in this market, and at last Nokia, and hence Microsoft, is getting some”

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But the amount of innovation that has come out of Nokia in recent months has been truly impressive, in particular in the key area of mobile phone photography, where the Lumia 1020 seems to have the most advanced camera on the market.

And finally that seems to be showing in sales, with the Wall Street Journal reporting that eight million Lumias were sold in the last quarter. True, that compares with nine million new iPhones sold in just three days. But momentum is key in this market, and at last Nokia, and hence Microsoft, is getting some.

What still deters many from taking the plunge and embracing Windows Phone is a lack of compelling apps. So the most important announcement out of Abu Dhabi was the imminent arrival of Instagram, the vastly popular picture-sharing app whose absence has been a glaring hole in the Windows portfolio.

And now there's another opportunity for Windows to make progress at the business end of the mobile industry. With confidence seeping away fast from Blackberry, many organisations will be pondering where to take their business next. Some have already switched to the iPhone, others will wonder about Android, although they may have concerns about security.

But enterprises which already have a long-term relationship with Microsoft - and that's just about all of them - may now think that Windows Phone devices can offer them a safe solution to their needs.

The Mac v PC battle is going mobile - and if Microsoft does at last manage to make an impression in this world, there could be huge rewards. Nokia's board will then ask itself whether it got the right price for all that innovation now under the control of its former CEO in Redmond.

Rory Cellan-Jones Article written by Rory Cellan-Jones Rory Cellan-Jones Technology correspondent

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  • rate this

    Comment number 184.

    @ mbecks83

    "Apple charge a huge premium for basically the same components" think again, Apple is better quality and holds it's value

  • Comment number 183.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 182.

    This article seems baseless with regard to the Mac PC debate. Buy what you want and don't preach about it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 181.

    Just bought yet another iMac for my graphics work. The secret, if that is what it is,is that apart from being the best computer for professional designers, It totally integrates with the iPad and the iPhone, no messing. I go to a meeting and make notes on my iPad, or arrange dates and schedule meetings on it and my iPhone and computer are automatically updated. It is a professional's dream.

  • rate this

    Comment number 180.

    I have both windows based pc and Mac at home, personally I prefer Mac's... I find they are more stable when doing graphic design work, but find the PC better when I play games as I can choose the hardware inside to suit.

  • rate this

    Comment number 179.

    If money is no problem by all mean a Mac as they are "
    ...if money is an issue it's a PC hands down...

    So you are trying to make this out to be a rich/poor type of argument are you.
    That is a really sad. and says more about you than you can imagine.

  • rate this

    Comment number 178.

    177. JamesStGeorge
    "the long term loser will be the lap top."

    Completely agree. Most laptops have far more functionality/power than the average user needs. Apple realised that most people simply want to browse, consume and communicate, hence the success of the iPad. Few people do serious work on a laptop, preferring a desktop. In a decade I'll be surprised if anyone is still making laptops.

  • rate this

    Comment number 177.

    Desktop computers are still clearly the best.Tablets and phones just toys, but able to be played with in more places and times. I suspect the long term loser in use will be the lap top.Never been any good really due to no mouse.Now touch screens are a fraction better than trackpads and smaller they will tend to be the mobile fill in devices until you get to a proper PC. PCs are just saturated now.

  • rate this

    Comment number 176.

    The Mac vs PC battle is not going mobile because the Mac and PC are not mobile devices.

    Plus, since Apple is so centered on their mobile line, it sounds like the PC has won.

  • rate this

    Comment number 175.

    I second everyone who is saying it should be Mac Vs Windows. PC has always stood for Personal Computer. Also, I am writing this in Ubuntu OS, which uses Linux (As Android does). I even deleted Windows from my PC.

    Valve will use Linux for their SteamBox, while more and more people are looking to it as the FREE future.

    How about some news on Linux? Ubuntu 13.10 is released, and faster then ever :D

  • rate this

    Comment number 174.

    69. LUCID100
    "Some folk do get a bit too excited by these gadgets"

    They're not real folk; they're paid trolls.
    In reality, everyone just buys the best they can afford for the tasks they require it to do, regardless of brand.

  • rate this

    Comment number 173.

    Please, please, please spare me the lack of apps story. I do not need 1899 choices of flashlight app! (OK now 1899 redundant apps with iOS 7.xx)
    How many of the million apps are of any use?


    So Instagram is not yet present, not EVERYONE in the world uses it, or wants to.

  • rate this

    Comment number 172.

    Writing as a long time Apple fanboy, it seems to me that the playing field has levelled out. Where Apple products in the past really were superior, now there are clearly fantastic products from all of the 'stables'.

    Looking at the pace of change in the last 10 years, the only thing that is certain is that any of the big players could expire if they do not continuously innovate.

  • rate this

    Comment number 171.

    It's horses for courses.

    Different people prefer different things.

    There is no one size fits all.

    Choice is good.

    If this was the USSR we would all still be working with the ZX Spectrum. So whatever you prefer just be glad that other people prefer other things and have the right to buy them too, otherwise there would be no progress at all.

  • rate this

    Comment number 170.

    'Hey look I bought a Mac, that must make me a professional'. A professional would see the good and bad in both. Mac is better at certain things - PC is better at certain things. Professionals use both.

  • rate this

    Comment number 169.

    As someone who has long used both types for lap top & desk top purposes my take is this;

    If money is no problem by all mean a Mac as they are "easier on the eye" & a little less likely to get hacked...

    ...if money is an issue it's a PC hands down...

    ...& if anyone ever tries to tell that Macs never crash then what they really mean is that they have never used a Mac...


  • rate this

    Comment number 168.

    Who really cares? You pay your money and you take your choice-choice being the key word.
    Apple could kill off competitors really quickly by doing away with the ludicrous 'blue tee shirt techs' and a store management process that is like going to the dentist-you need to go, but really don't want to!

  • rate this

    Comment number 167.

    macs just work

  • rate this

    Comment number 166.

    @154. kingsglade

    2) it has a hmdi out so I can watch movies on a tv .
    >>> Airplay

    = My windows PC can stream movies, pictures to my smart TV directly with out the need to buy Apple TV. Most TVs do it. it's just apple won't let you. Windows " just works" !

    If fact I have just found an app on the Hudl that acts a media sever for free.

    Please don't think only "apple can do it"

  • rate this

    Comment number 165.

    154. kingsglade

    I have a iPad2 and a hudl but the hudl is better for 2 reasons,
    1) it has a SD card so its easy to put documents and videos on it. iTunes is nightmare if don't get it from the apple store.
    >>> Cloud
    No Internet?

    2) it has a hmdi out so I can watch movies on a tv .
    >>> Airplay

    You have to buy Apple TV, try carting that around with you.


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