Microsoft Loomed Large Over WWDC (Premium)


Ahead of my analysis of yesterday’s WWDC 2019 keynote, it occurs to me that Microsoft quietly had an outsized impact on the announcements.

This is interesting on a few levels.

Most obviously, Microsoft is commonly thought to have lost at mobile, but its post-Windows Phone efforts to expand its presence on the dominant mobile platforms has been quite successful. And while Apple never really mentioned Microsoft explicitly in the keynote, that’s emblematic of the role Microsoft will probably have for most individuals in the future: Unseen but still quite influential.

In any event, there are at least three key ways in which Microsoft impacted the WWDC 2019 keynote.

First, as Mehedi wrote, Apple TV is gaining support for Xbox One (and PlayStation) controllers in tvOS, which is expected this fall. “tvOS 13 adds support for the best and most popular game controllers in the world, Xbox One S and PlayStation DualShock 4, making it even easier for gamers to take advantage of Apple Arcade and other great games on the App Store,” Apple notes in its iOS 13 announcement.

But that support extends to iOS as well, and the audience of gamers on iOS—which includes iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch (despite the recent addition of iPadOS)—is much, much bigger than the gamer audience on Apple TV. Apple doesn’t mention Xbox One Controller support in its iOS 13 announcement. But it’s coming and will be available to those who subscribe to Apple’s coming Arcade service. This could make mobile gaming truly interesting for the first time to those who today prefer consoles.

Second, Mojang’s demo of Minecraft Earth, which mingles the world of Minecraft with the real world using the AR technologies in iOS, was arguably the hit of the show. Left unsaid, of course, is that Microsoft owns Mojang and Minecraft, which Apple breathlessly claimed during the keynote was “the best-selling game of all time.”

The demo is inspiring, and the experience is clearly amazing. And you can catch it at about the 2:01:28 mark in Apple’s video replay of the keynote. The best bit? You can tell that the Mojang presenters are blown away by being able to demonstrate this title publicly. Just look at their faces as the demo concludes. That’s what bliss looks like.

Third and finally, Microsoft’s Office apps played a role in the iPad portion of the show because they legitimatize Apple’s ongoing efforts to morph this platform into more of a PC-like productivity experience. This year, Apple is separating the new iPadOS from iOS so that it can more easily make this transition, and iPadOS 13 (as I assume it will be called) includes a more efficient home screen, improved Split Screen and Slide Over capabilities, better Apple Pencil integration, a more powerful Files app, a desktop version of the Safari web browser, improved text editing, and more.

For its first public demo of iPadOS, Apple used an iPad Pro that was loaded down with Apple’s built-in apps, of course. But there was exactly one third-party app on the home screen, for Microsoft Word, which was sporting its colorful new logo. Noting that you can use two Microsoft Word documents side-by-side, Apple’s Craig Federighi joked, “now that’s enterprise-y right there.”

But it was no joke: Microsoft Word was the only third-party app used during the iPadOS demo.

In case it’s not obvious, Microsoft’s influence over WWDC is even more impressive because Apple’s platforms are so locked down. Where Microsoft can easily meld Android to its own will, and does via a big lineup of Android launchers, virtual keyboards, and apps and services all kinds, including PC integration capabilities, getting onto iOS is a lot more complicated, and a lot more limited.

And yet there it was, on stage, a big presence at Apple’s own show. There’s only one reason, then, for this influence. Microsoft’s offerings are good enough to warrant the attention. Even from Apple.

Tagged with , , ,

Join the discussion!


Don't have a login but want to join the conversation? Become a Thurrott Premium or Basic User to participate

Comments (26)

26 responses to “Microsoft Loomed Large Over WWDC (Premium)”

  1. BrianEricFord

    i hear the audience cheers for the Playstation controller dwarfed that of the Xbox.

    Also, “influence” is one way to look at it, but putting Office up felt more like Apple saying “See: you don’t need a laptop (Surface) to run your enterprise-y applications.”

    Furthermore, for having so much influence, it seems a little odd that one might leave the keynote assuming Microsoft had no involvement at all with Minecraft. (In contrary to when Pokémon Go was announced and Nintendo got virtually all of the credit and acclaim for a game it actually had very little to do with.)

    For me, the high point of the Keynote was the accessibility additions to MacOS/iOS/iPadOS and the demonstration. Amazing.

    • Chris_Kez

      In reply to BrianEricFord:

      I would probably quibble with the word "influence" as well. Microsoft certainly had a notable presence, but I don't think they actually exert any influence over Apple. To me, the idea of influence connotes some ability to move Apple to do things Apple wouldn't otherwise do, or to get special access or abilities that others do not get. What has Apple done specifically for Microsoft, or changed specifically because Microsoft wanted it that way?

      • VancouverNinja

        In reply to Chris_Kez:

        I would disagree. Paul is bang on.

        If Microsoft did not support iPad with Office it would hurt the product very much, at least with Apple's goal to make it more competitive for productivity with a Windows 10 PC. Microsoft has to support iPad specific features and they are doing that to help Apple - and themselves of course. A VR Minecraft game on the iPad - a huge win for Apple. It means that Minecraft educational version could also appear on iPad's; which is also a big deal right now in the K-12 channel. There is no question that an absence of Microsoft support would hurt the iPad platform. MS does hold an influence with Apple; most likely there are silent support agreements between the two that make each other feel the coopetition is worth it.

    • Paul Thurrott

      In reply to BrianEricFord:

      Audience cheers have little to do with my point. And for whatever it's worth, they might have had more to do with the fact that it was then clear that Apple was supporting both console controllers, not just one.

  2. GT Tecolotecreek

    If MS "loomed large" we would have seen a new version of iTunes for Windows. Reality is, besides the Minecraft demo, MS "airtime" was less than 30 seconds in a 2 hour plus keynote.

  3. dcdevito

    Umm, no it didn't. LOL

  4. spullum

    Microsoft and Apple make a good team *some heads explode* ;)

  5. BoItmanLives

    Microsoft "loomed large" because AppleTV will support Xbox and PS4 gamepads, a Minecraft demo, and iPad still runs the same old MS Word it did yesterday?

    I love you Paul, but get a grip.

  6. christian.hvid

    So, when can we expect an iPad Pro running Windows 10? Honestly, I would buy it in a split second, to the benefit of both Apple and Microsoft.

    • jgraebner

      In reply to christian.hvid:

      Why? That would basically just be a Surface Pro. Or are you suggesting one that runs both Windows and iPadOS?

      • christian.hvid

        In reply to jgraebner:

        Look, I know it's never going to happen, but a man can dream, right? The iPad Pro is far and away the best tablet in the world, but it's hampered by a childish and incomplete operating system. Just like a lot of people find the MacBook to be the best Windows laptop, I feel that the iPad Pro could become the best Windows tablet.

        The Surface Pro is wonderful, but it's more of a lightweight laptop than a tablet. A true Windows tablet would have to be ARM based (but with a performance on par with Core i5), weigh around 500 grams, and have like ten hours of battery life. You know, like the iPad.

        Also, if Apple truly wants to position the iPad Pro as an enterprise device, they would do well to offer an option to run Windows on it. It would benefit Apple, which is still a hardware company at its core, and it would benefit Microsoft.

  7. Chris_Kez

    I'm very curious to see how mouse support (under the auspices of "accessibility" for now), combined with multiple app instances, translates into improved workflow for Office users on iPad. If I can run two Excel spreadsheets side-by-side and use a mouse to select and highlight cells, then it might be the end of the line for my Surface Pro.

  8. will

    I am curious if Microsoft will convert any iPad apps into Mac apps? Yes, they have desktop apps now but if you can have a single app that looks the same on both, with the power of the desktop including mouse, keyboard, Touch Bar, and others...just saying it might be something they look at.

  9. dstrauss

    So Microsoft's mobile strategy is to hitch a ride on iPadOS?

    "And yet there it was, on stage, a big presence at Apple’s own show. There’s only one reason, then, for this influence. Microsoft’s offerings are good enough to warrant the attention. Even from Apple."

    Maybe it is as much a side effect of MS making better iOS versions of their software than for their own mobile efforts?

  10. BBoileau

    Microsoft, as a software company, is entrenched in mobile. They may have lost with their own OS, but they offer a premium choice of applications on both the dominant OS's in the market. As personal computing device's evolve, Microsoft is poised to influence significantly. I'm personally thinking this way as I watch the movement towards a foldable device merging tablet and phone. With Launcher, Microsoft can customize the way we interact with our devices. Our home PC will integrate in a flawless manner and garner access from Microsoft into ambient computing as it enters the market.

Leave a Reply