In the News, Reviews, Watercooler

Apple / Microsoft War is Back On: New Products and New Marketing Campaigns

This was a big week for the computer industry – Apple continued to show strength with a favorable earnings report and new marketing campaign; Microsoft launched Windows 7 (in the hope of erasing Vista’s memory forever) and, while the company’s earnings fell 18% to $3.6 billion or 40 cents per share, they beat street estimates of 32 cents a share. This week also signaled a new battle between the two companies as they compete for user attention, and, as VentureBeat reporter Dean Takahashi pointed out, “The overall PC market is expected to grow just 2 percent in the third quarter. That means Apple is taking market share from Windows still.”

Apple has solidified its status as a media darling with its iPod and Mac products, but how do the companies really compare? And what about their respective leaders?

When looking at employee approval ratings of each CEO, Steve Jobs’ 90% approval helps solidify his iconic status, and he completely overshadows’ Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer’s rating of just 41%. In Glassdoor’s deeper analysis of 90-day trailing averages, Jobs’ has always held more than a 20 percentage point lead over Ballmer. Jobs’ rating took a dip in recent weeks, while Ballmer’s approval rating continued to stay low (20-40%) and could end up being the key reason that Microsoft does not make the Glassdoor Best Places to Work list again this year.

Jobs v. Ballmer 10.18.09

Microsoft has taken some knocks in the industry as of late, but what are its employees saying? Anonymous reviews on Glassdoor include some pointed feedback for the company’s leadership from within its ranks:

MS has the resources to invest in cutting edge tech. And, chances are your project/product will impact millions of users…[in advice to senior management] Stop hiding from Apple and take them head-on in the coolness factor (not the majority factor). Microsoft Program Manager (Redmond, WA)

Great people, benefits, work/life balance (if one takes cares of it)… [but] All decisions made by CEO slows down innovation path. – Microsoft Director of Marketing (Redmond, WA)

Microsoft is challenging. You will be stretched. You will never be bored…[in advice to senior management] Management need to take a hard look at their marketing and advertising strategy. Uncool advertising is so embarrassing for employees, who’d really like to be proud to work there. – Microsoft Process Engineer (Redmond, WA)

Microsoft gets the best and brightest talent from around the world and puts them in global, cross-functional teams…[but] Everyone is overloaded, so planning is often given short shrift which just starts the cycle all over again [and] Lack of transperancy creates a somewhat Macciavelian environment among managers. – Microsoft employee (St. Louis, MO)

Despite notable variances in CEO approval, the company ratings are a lot more competitive. Apple has generally had slightly higher company ratings than Microsoft since September 2008 through to August 2009. However, since August 2009 the company satisfaction ratings have started to close in. In fact, based on the 90-day trailing average for company ratings, Microsoft has taken a slight edge over Apple. As of October 16, Microsoft’s 90-day trailing average rating was 3.4 and Apple’s was 3.3.

Apple v. MSFT (as of 10.16.09)

According to reviews, Apple employees on the whole are satisfied with the company. But recent reviews do shed some light on the dip in ratings:

Great products, but not a great place to work…Executives are so indoctrinated in the Apple way of doing things that they’re not open to new approaches. – Apple employee (location n/a)

Excellent products that remain among the top in the industry…[but] No communication of ongoing issues with products. – Apple Specialist (Dallas, TX)

Exposure to leading edge technology [and] intelligent co-workers…[but] management makes no effort to find ongoing projects for employees when re-structuring occurs – employees are on-their-own. – Apple Engineer (Cupertino, CA)

Apple still has a great cachet [but] Everything depends on the next hit product and of Steve Jobs staying ahead of the competition. Although there is lots to like in Apple’s products, they have fallen behind before with Steve Jobs, and he will not be there forever. Apple Marketing Manager (location n/a)

However, if the recent marketing campaign is an indicator, Apple is even more serious about the competition with Microsoft:

Will Windows 7 help remove the shadow cast by Windows Vista? Or will effective marketing campaigns continue to help Apple steal market share from PCs? Tell us what you think.