Why Apple's iPad and Microsoft's Cloud Say, 'Supersize Me'

By Paul Rubens (Send Email)
Posted Feb 2, 2010


Supersizing may have gone out of style in the restaurant world, but it sure is alive and kicking in the tech industry, as last week proved.

OS Roundup: Supersizing is out of style in the restaurant world, but Apple's iPad announcement last week and Microsoft's commercial launch of its cloud platform Azure yesterday prove it is very much alive in the tech industry.

Apple stole most of the headlines last week when Steve Jobs announced what is essentially a supersized version of the highly popular iPod Touch. There's no doubt the iPad will sell well to Apple fans, even though it's not yet clear what the point of it is. When that becomes clearer, it may well sell a good deal more.

Perhaps carried away on his own rhetoric, Jobs then proceeded to supersize Apple's importance, claiming Apple is "the largest mobile devices company in the world." This left the good folks at Nokia a tad confused and squealing with indignation, seeing as they sell more handsets, for more money, than Apple does, and they have done so for a very long time. Seems like Jobs' efforts to supersize Apple's marketshare meant being a tad creative with the truth in Nokia's eyes: He was, apparently, including laptop sales in his figure, not the "generally accepted and stable" definition of mobile devices, as Nokia calls it, that most certainly doesn't include them.

It may be tough for Nokia, but for once I am inclined to side with Steverino. After all, why should smartphones, which are essentially ultra-portable computers, be considered different from laptops? Heck, Nokia tacitly acknowledges this with the introduction of its Booklet 3G netbook. In an enterprise context, the similarity is even clearer: Smartphones and laptops need managing, monitoring and controlling in the same way so that they can access corporate networks and carry around data without compromising security. Apple may not be much good at selling servers and desktop machines, but by combining sales of laptops, iPhones, iPod Touches and, eventually iPads, Apple can make a good case for being the world's foremost supersize mobile devices company.

Apple's not the only one getting in on the supersizing action. February 1 saw the commercial debut of Microsoft's Windows Azure platform, which essentially is nothing more than a supersized version of Windows running supersized applications in supersized datacenters. Microsoft has been running a community technology preview for weeks now, and it released the final production code last month. However, as of yesterday, partners and customers will be able to offer their applications and services on Azure backed by a service-level agreement, and they will be billed for the capacity used. The Big Mac, extra large fries and 42oz soft drink version of Windows is officially up and running — and, crucially, billing — in the cloud.

The cloud may well be where the final Alien vs. Predator style operating system showdown between Microsoft and Google takes place, but no one seems to have told the end users. Last week, Microsoft announced results for its second quarter of fiscal 2010 ending December 29, with profits supersized 60 percent compared to the same period last year. Much of this was due to the old-fashioned, non-cloud based Windows 7 desktop operating system. "Exceptional demand for Windows 7 led to the positive top-line growth for the company," Peter Klein, Microsoft's chief financial officer, said. "Microsoft sold more 60 million Windows licenses in the quarter, making the OS the fastest selling operating system in history, according to the company.

Of course, Microsoft would have you believe that the strong sales of Windows 7 are due to it being the bees' knees, best operating system in the world ... ever, but the mundane truth is that it's just the least bad version of Windows available. Besides, there are some other factors at work here. One is pent-up demand for new desktop machines due to consumers holding off purchasing until Windows 7 replaced Vista. Another may be that the free Windows 7 release candidate is about to expire. Sales may be further fueled in the coming months by enterprises moving from Vista or, more likely, Windows XP. Preliminary results from a survey carried out by Kace Networks suggests 42 percent of Windows business users may switch to Windows 7 during 2010, The Register reported.

And isn't it nice to see that Apple is doing its bit? Last month the company (belatedly) added support for Windows 7 on the Mac via Boot Camp, so Apple fans no longer miss out on the Redmond magic and can help Microsoft remain the supersized beast that it is.

Paul Rubens is a journalist based in Marlow on Thames, England. He has been programming, tinkering and generally sitting in front of computer screens since his first encounter with a DEC PDP-11 in 1979.

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