updated 05:55 pm EST, Tue February 23, 2010
Apple's Cook says MS afraid of retail commitment
Apple chief financial officer Tim Cook took shots at Microsoft's retail stores today in his presentation at Goldman-Sachs' Technology & Internet Conference. The executive indirectly accused Microsoft of being afraid to actually launch a real retail effort and said Apple's original plan in 2001 was a commitment to selling products to customers, not just a vehicle for an experience.
Apple retail is "not a pilot, not a test," Cook said, referring to Microsoft's decision to limit its initial plans to just one store each in Arizona and California.
Microsoft has always viewed its shops as trials and, in the past, has said it would pass on much of what it learned about PC and smartphone sales to other retailers to improve their own approaches. Most of the current Scottsdale and Mission Viejo designs nonetheless directly imitate Apple's aesthetic design and Genius Bar section.
He also used the question and answer session at the conference to jab netbooks, noting that he feels most people aren't actually interested in the experience, just the price. They're often disappointed with the end result and are likely to have a much better impression when they get to play with an iPad at a store.
"They got [a netbook] home and used it and went 'why did I buy this?" Cook claimed. "When somebody looks at iPad and compares it to a netbook, I find it hard to believe that people are going to [continue to] buy netbooks. Not everyone will make the comparison so I'm not suggesting that."
At separate points, the CFO further contrasted Apple's overall practices against Microsoft's. He reiterated that it's an "ingrained" part of Apple's culture to resist expanding into other categories simply to make itself bigger, as many others do. Everything Apple makes could likely fit at one of the tables at the Goldman-Sachs meeting, he said.
Software was also treated as a key differentiator. Since Mac OS X can scale down to devices as small as Apple TV or iPhone, Apple can develop new products faster than companies that are "geographically north," Cook said in a dig at his Redmond, Washington-based rival.
The argument is at least partly valid as Microsoft has often had to develop almost entirely different platforms for both desktop and mobile, with only a handful of similarities linking the two. Tablets like the HP slate are virtually required to use a stock version of Windows 7 as Windows Mobile, and now Windows Phone, aren't optimized for more than smartphone-sized displays.