Satya Nadella Toasts Tim Cook

Posted on November 22, 2016 by Paul Thurrott in iOS, Microsoft Surface, Mobile with 52 Comments

Satya Nadella Toasts Tim Cook

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has finally taken Apple CEO Tim Cook to task for his hypocritical comments about 2-in-1 PCs.

And it’s about freaking time.

As you may recall, Mr. Cook was asked during a quarterly earnings conference call about PC/mobile hybrids—what we now call 2-in-1 PCs—after Microsoft launched Surface in late 2012. At that time, Cook mocked these devices as Frankenstein contraptions that didn’t meet user needs.

“Anything can be forced to converge, but the problem is that products are about trade-offs, and you begin to make trade-offs to the point where what you have left doesn’t please anyone,” he said in response. “You can converge a toaster and a refrigerator, but those things are probably not going be pleasing to the user.”

Which explains why Mr. Cook’s Apple released its own 2-in-1 computer, the iPad Pro, just three years later. Well, that and the fact that the iPad, which had been going gangbusters in 2012, had seen sales slow and then fall. In fact, iPad sales have fallen year-over-year for over two years now.

So Apple, like Microsoft and the PC industry before it, saw convergence as the solution. And the iPad was converged to be more like a 2-in-1 PC. To be more—a lot more—like Surface.

Well, Cook’s “converged toaster and refrigerator” comments—like Steve Jobs’ equally-mistaken miscue of calling out a certain tech journalist who said that “anyone who thinks the iPad is a game changer is a tool”—has triggered a long-overdue comeuppance. And now, a year after Apple launched the iPad Pro, Microsoft’s Nadella has finally called him out on it.

In an interview with the Financial Review, Mr. Nadella said that Microsoft’s bet on 2-in-1s—once mocked by Mr. Cook—had paid off.

“Take Surface,” he said, referring to boldness and risk. “Three years ago, the 2-in-1 as a form factor was questioned. Does anybody need one? And now guess what, even our competition has decided that it’s not a refrigerator and a toaster but it’s actually a 2-in-1.”

This shows me a couple of things.

One, Mr. Cook’s words had their intended hurtful impact: Mr. Nadella wasn’t even CEO of Microsoft in 2012, but he clearly retained the insult.

Two, and this is no surprise, Nadella is a class act. He could have gone a lot further in his calling out of Mr. Cook–for example, by naming names—but he maintained his civility. (I couldn’t have done that. I am, in fact, not doing that.)

There is still a healthy debate to be had about which approach to the 2-in-1 is “better” if not “correct.” Apple, because iOS is so much more popular than the Mac, started with a simpler platform. While Microsoft, thanks to the popularity of Windows, started with a more powerful but complex system. Both ideas have merit, and the market will decide.

Too, Apple has a rich history of putting down product categories in which it secretly intends to compete. That said, I don’t believe Cook knew in 2012 that he’d be forced to eat crow and create his own 2-in-1.

Which, ultimately, is what makes this so wonderful.


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