Satya Nadella Toasts Tim Cook

Posted on November 22, 2016 by Paul Thurrott in iOS, Microsoft Surface, Mobile with 56 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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  1. 6 | Reply
    ken_loewen Alpha Member #141 - 1 month ago

    Cool title!

    1. 1 | Reply
      Breaker119 Alpha Member #766 - 1 month ago
      In reply to ken_loewen:
      HA! I'm embarrassed that I completely missed it until your comment


  2. 4 | Reply
    WP7Mango Alpha Member #2513 - 1 month ago

    Interestingly, 2-in-1 products are not new -

    Radio Alarm Clock
    Fridge Freezer
    Microwave Oven
    Smartphone Camera

    Tim Cook called it a Toaster-Refrigerator, which most people would agree is a bad combination. So why didn't he call it one of the alternative combos above, which are great and very successful 2-in-1 product categories? Because he knows that most people within the Apple reality distortion field won't actually think about it too hard and the media will do its job in persuading people that he was right.

    So, I too am glad that Nadella finally called him out on this.

  3. 3 | Reply
    zybch Alpha Member #2568 - 1 month ago

    I'm still rockin' my Surface RT.

  4. 0 | Reply
    Bart Alpha Member #117 - 1 month ago

    "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."

    Slightly off topic, but the fact emulation of x86 on ARM might become a thing, would mean MS is on track to make Windows a whole lot simpler (assuming we will arrive at UWP)

  5. 0 | Reply
    Nic Alpha Member #228 - 1 month ago

    Wonder if Apple employees use the same negging tactic to pick up people at the bar.

  6. 0 | Reply
    Matt Lohr Alpha Member #698 - 1 month ago

    Paul (a.k.a. The No-Name Blogger),

    I understand that you came to regret your iPad comment (link). Are you now regretting your regret?

    Also, you said Steve Jobs called you out. Wasn't that Tim Cook? Perhaps I misunderstand.


  7. 0 | Reply
    agilbert Alpha Member #829 - 1 month ago

    Weren't Cook's comments about merging a toaster and fridge  directed at Windows 8and the regarding merging a tablet style O/S and traditional Windows. I thought they were also before the announcement of the Surface. Perhaps I mistaken. That said we all know how popular Windows 8 has been

    1. Paul Thurrott
      0 | Reply
      Paul Thurrott Alpha Member #1 - 1 month ago
      In reply to agilbert:

      I could be mistaken, but I believe the quote was about Surface. But he had ridiculed touch computers earlier in that year as well.

  8. -1 | Reply
    JerryH Alpha Member #248 - 1 month ago

    I own a Surface Pro 2 and a Surface Pro 3 personally. I also have a Surface Pro 3, Surface Pro 4, and a Lenovo X1 Tablet as work devices. I've used these for years and am very experienced with them. That said, they are terrible desktop replacements. They are not very good laptop replacements. They are poor tablet replacements (replacing pure tablet devices like a Nexus 9 or an iPad). So in that way, Tim Cook was correct. However, people WANT these devices. They are thin, light, and have the "ohh, shiny" factor going for them. They sell. It turns out, people don't really want a "really good" notebook. They want a mediocre notebook that is very light to carry and impresses people. So Microsoft was correct in that people want these devices even if they aren't "good" replacements for really any individual category. 

    1. 2 | Reply
      StriderNZ Alpha Member #505 - 1 month ago
      In reply to JerryH:

      I think the fact that you and many other people own more than one generation of Surface device is proof enough that they are more than just mediocre laptop/tablet replacement. Cool and shiny to show off to your friends might get a first buyer captivated, but you aren't going to purchase another one next year if it doesn't do the job. Not at the price a Surface goes for.

      I have recommended them to many of my clients who have little/no interested in being cool and I have never had a complaint about the functionality. They love the fact that it is as powerful as a laptop, but as portable as a tablet.

    2. 2 | Reply
      WP7Mango Alpha Member #2513 - 1 month ago
      In reply to StriderNZ:

      My anecdotal evidence suggests you are right. I started with the Surface Pro 2, but it wasn't ideal. But the concept was great and Microsoft then delivered the Surface Pro 3, which I also purchased. And bingo! The Surface Pro 3 is my perfect device.

      I haven't upgraded to the SP4 because the SP3 does what I need. However, I did upgrade to the SP4 pen and keyboard, so I've got some of the benefits of the SP4 without actually buying an SP4.

      I think that once SP5 is out, I might upgrade, but we'll see what the value proposition is. I'm still happy with the SP3 so the SP5 would need to be significantly better than the SP4 before I consider upgrading.

    3. 1 | Reply
      StriderNZ Alpha Member #505 - 1 month ago
      In reply to WP7Mango:

      That's interesting, your purchase and upgrade philosophy is exactly the same as mine.

      I have a desktop for gaming and office based activities and my Surface for when I'm out supporting my customers. I love being able to use my Surface on my lap even when on the drivers side of the car (pulled over of course). The range of motion between the screen and keyboard are a big plus for me (and sometimes an a annoyance).

    4. 1 | Reply
      bleeman Alpha Member #196 - 1 month ago
      In reply to JerryH:

      I eliminated all of my computers and only have my Surface Pro 3 and one other as a backup.  At home I have it connected to the dock with a 34" monitor attached.  The rest of the time I use it as my laptop and tablet and have no regrets getting rid of my other systems.  Like the others have mentioned, I'm taking the same approach.  I started with the RT, then the SP2, and finally the SP3 which hit my sweet spot.  There weren't significant enough differences for me to jump to the SP4, but I do have the SP4 keyboard and pen.  I'll probably also get the Surface Dial when it's released.  Like WP7Mango said above, I too am waiting to see when/if an SP5 comes out if there will be enough of a change to warrant an upgrade.

    5. 0 | Reply
      RonH Alpha Member #149 - 1 month ago
      In reply to JerryH:

      I have a SP4 and a desktop at home. Every day at work I wish I could use my SP4 instead of the laptop they provide me. I use my SP4 for all my business note taking with Onenote. that's about 3 hours of my work day.

  9. -2 | Reply
    Waethorn Alpha Member #2235 - 1 month ago

    "Hip to be square" should be the title of Satay Nutella's outfit.  The 80's called.  Bill Gates wants his nerd costume back.