Why Microsoft users should care about today's Apple event

Why Microsoft users should care about today's Apple event

If you're not a huge fan of Apple, Twitter was a tough place to be for a few hours today. Tim Cook helmed a two-hours-plus product event, and it was live-tweeted by countless tech reporters, fans and other interested parties. Muting the #AppleEvent hashtag was probably a good bet -- and unfollowing people who didn't use the hashtag was probably another one.

But why should you care what Apple's up to? Because their product announcements underscored the message Satya Nadalla's been delivering all year long: We're living in a mobile-first, cloud-first world.

How's Apple handling its citizenship in Nadalla's new world? Consider these items:

-- Microsoft came out to demonstrate how Apple's new iPad Pro, with its capacious 12.9" screen, could be used to move seamlessly between apps in the Microsoft Office suite. The demo showed two windows side-by-side, and the ability for users to comment on digital files, then share those changes. It's a remarkably similar demo to any one of a number of demos given at Microsoft Ignite last May -- and one that was greeted with applause, not the gasps and boos that accompanied Microsoft's 1997 Office/Apple tie in.

(Side note: This demo speaks to an understanding on both Apple and Microsoft's parts that we are increasingly operating in a world where your specific hardware platform or OS matters far less than what you expect to do on it; the mobile-first, cloud-first world is a multiplatform one.)

-- In introducing the iPad Pro to the audience, marketing SVP Phil Schiller repeatedly emphasized its computing power, noting the 3rd-generation 64 bit chip, the increased memory bandwidth, the dramatically increased speed.

"This is desktop-class performance," he said, claiming that the new iPad Pro is faster than 90% of portable PCs that have shipped recently.

So what? What this means is that Apple's recognizing how people want to be able to use their tablets to work in the new mobile-first world. The screen's huge and the guts are speedy, two factors that can help people pull together documents, edit graphics or video files, or craft and edit intricate CAD renderings.

-- Speaking of CAD, a number of demonstrations today showed that Apple's got Microsoft in its sights for augmented and virtual reality. Microsoft's jumped out to an early market-leader position with its HoloLens headset and several strategic research projects. But Apple's introduction today of pressure sensitivity known as "3D Touch" for its phones, plus a vivid demonstration of its new "Pencil" stylus vis a vis a demonstration of a 3-D anatomy app, show that it's readying a software-plus-hardware platform to plug into an augmented reality market.

-- Plus, hands up if you think the Apple Pencil is absolutely a response to the Microsoft Surface stylus. (Bonus: check this tweet from the Surface team.)

-- Apple's repositioning of Apple TV as a device which will connect you to all manner of streaming entertainment and a galaxy of apps, some of which are games that allow multiplaying. Also notable: the newest version will let you run voice queries using Siri. This tight integration of entertainment and gaming into user's workaday Apple ecosystem certainly seems similar to Microsoft's XBox product line approach.

Now, I'm not saying that now is the time when you ditch your beloved Surface tablets, your Xboxes or your non-iPhone mobile phones. But I am saying that the beauty of the Satya Nadella model, in which he articulated the idea of a ubiquitous, seamless computing experience, is in how clearly it lays out a roadmap for other tech companies. Apple's staked out a place on the map.

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