Daniel Eran Dilger
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Reality Check: Microsoft rumored at show at Apple’s WWDC 2010

Daniel Eran Dilger

Barrons cited Global Equities Research analyst Trip Chowdhry as saying Apple had devoted 7 minutes of Steve Jobs’ hour long WWDC Keynote to Microsoft, purportedly to talk about how Microsoft would be adapting Visual Studio to build iPhone and Mac apps. They’re wrong, here’s why.
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The world of pundits has jumped on the bandwagon, with Mary Jo Foley suggesting that her “guess” would be that Apple and Microsoft are teaming up to deliver Silverlight on the iPhone. Just a clue about how unlikely that is: Microsoft’s Silverlight is like Adobe Flash, except that nobody really uses it outside of Microsoft’s compound and its far less mature. It doesn’t even work on Windows Mobile.

Before getting too carried away about any of this, keep in mind that it wasn’t really Barrons the newspaper reporting this, but rather the Barrons-affiliiated blogger Eric Savitz, a man who gets a lot of things wrong in order to come up with sensationalist headlines (Too many millions of unsold iPhones in the channel! Too much demand to address! Apple will collapse if Jobs takes a break related to health issues!).

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Claim Chowdhry

Also keep in mind that Savitz’ source, Chowdhry (from a “tiny” research firm Savitz notes) was the same person who in 2008 predicted Apple would bring the iPhone to Costco to sell to the masses for $149 (just after the company had slashed the original iPhone price to $199). Was that based on a poor source that turned out to be wrong, or just somewhat plausible conjecture Chowdhry made up on his own to get attention, hoping that everyone would forget about it before his next prediction?

Apparently the latter. Last fall, Chowdhry predicted Apple would launch a “SmartBook” device for $899 with an 8 to 10 inch OLED screen and a Cortex-A9 processor. The problem with this rumor is that large OLED screens themselves cost far more than $900 (they’re not even in production because nobody is using them), and the A9 wasn’t yet even being demoed.

Chowdhry claimed the “SmartBook” would ship at the end of 2009, even though it wouldn’t be widely available until early 2010. Apple doesn’t announce products it can’t ship. Even the iPad and iPhone, both of which sold out in some locations due to spikes in demand, didn’t deliver experimental technology that simply wasn’t available in quantity. That’s not how Apple rolls. This isn’t just guesswork from Global Equities Research, it’s woefully uninformed guesswork.

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Searching for partners

Even ignoring the sensationalist messenger and his vacuous source, the only good reason for Microsoft to show up at WWDC is to talk about mobile search.

Apple has good reason to want to partner with Microsoft on Bing search or perhaps maps in order to shed some dependance upon Google, which is now positioning itself as an embittered rival, speaking of the iPhone and Apple as promoting a “1984” dystopia and as being a “North Korea.” With partners like that, you might as well cozy up to Microsoft.

Apple doesn’t want to do its own search and maps, which is why the company once talked about what a great deal it was to partner with companies like Google that are great at doing other things (such as when Steve Jobs was on stage at All Things Digital with Bill Gates).

Microsoft’s search is going nowhere, and a partnership that put its unfortunately named Bing on the iPhone would certainly turn that situation around. Apple is already partnering with Microsoft in Exchange Server integration, so it’s not so much of a stretch that Apple would again bring Microsoft on stage to talk about more things related to the two company’s overlapping interests.

Microsoft Bing share vs Google smaller than Safari vs IE

No interest in Microsoft’s core goals

While Apple has some interests aligned with Microsoft, it certainly doesn’t have much interest in most the things Microsoft is doing or has done. For example, Apple doesn’t really care about Office anymore. Microsoft is not threatening to stop or slow down its Mac version, and it has demonstrated no capability to deliver a functional Office for its own Tablet PCs, let alone Apple’s iPad, which already has a functional productivity suite in iWork.

Applet is certainly not interested in Silverlight or .Net or anything else Microsoft offers in the realm of coding. Jobs made it pretty clear that Apple doesn’t want to have a middleman of platform middleware sitting between it and its developers and customers. That wasn’t just rhetoric aimed at Flash, it was a genuine statement of the company’s position. It isn’t going to turn around and embrace a less capable, less entrenched, and more dangerously parasitic monoculture from the much more powerful Microsoft.

I think its also pretty obvious that Apple isn’t desperate for help in shoring up Xcode’s IDE or compiler technology. If Apple felt its own development tools were in need of outside augmentation, it’s far more likely (by which I mean “only possible”) that Apple might forge some alliance with Eclipse or other open source development tools. Visual Studio, really? Microsoft has some hidden expertise related to Objective-C? Some clever improvements to offer LLVM and Clang?

Microsoft will be paying

If Microsoft can get a toe of Bing into the iPhone waters, it will have some new credibility to spend in trying to sell Bing to Symbian, RIM, and Palm; it desperately needs to get itself back into the the game with HP, and a Bing partnership with HP/Palm would do that. Make no mistake, Bing for iPhone would be a convenience for Apple but would cost Microsoft millions of dollars.

Google already pays Apple for every iPhone search initiated in the browser, scores of millions per year. If Microsoft wants to play in the grownup mobile leagues, it won’t be calling the shots and demanding tit-for-tat in pushing its dev tools or Silverlight middleware. It’ll be paying dearly for every search customer it can coax away from Google via the iPhone.

The only thing Microsoft can really beg from Apple is perhaps a decent mobile browser for its upcoming Windows Phone 7. Imagine how that might play out: perhaps Apple could invest $150 million into Microsoft and agree to provide Safari Mobile for WP7 along with a promise to deliver iWork apps over the next 5 years. And perform a cross-licensing agreement. No, probably not that last bit.

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  • Mike

    So I can only imagine that if Bing is on mobile Safari, then Google will be even more hurt then it already is by (temporarily) falling mobile advertising revenue. Of course, we already knew that Google wanted to expand outside of Apple, so Apple is just collateral damage for their war of words. And people are buying into it, because the only way companies have found anything to be profitable in mobile is in smartphones, of which most people would recognize as iPhones and the like.

    But of course, we’ll see whether this happens or not. Most likely not, Apple will just announce that Bing is on the iPhone and that will be that. But then again, isn’t Yahoo powered by Bing, so really Bing already is on the iPhone?

  • Myaushka

    The only reason I can think of why /Microsoft/ would want to support Mac/iPhone/iPad development on Windows is to prevent developers/businesses from buying too many Macs. If this is the case, then I can’t imagine why Apple would find it at all interesting to promote VS2010 at WWDC.

  • stormj

    I’ve heard stupider rumors, I just can’t think of them right now. Are you sure they didn’t say that Apple is announcing that OS X 10.*7* will really just be Windows *7*?

  • ericdano

    Trip Chowdhry? I think someone needs to investigate this person, as a Google search seems to pick up nothing on the guy. I think it is a FAKE name and identity created by someone else to spread false rumors.

  • lmasanti

    Maybe Ballmer will thanks Jobs for porting Obj-C and Xcode to Windows and announce that they closing Visual Studio, C# and .Net.

  • KenC

    Global Equities Research

    When a company needs to put a word related to size in their name, then you know the exact opposite is true. So, Global, isn’t actually Global, it’s tiny. And, Group of Enderle Group, is actually Rob and his cat. And, Microsoft is actually a slow-moving behemoth.

  • davitron

    A few guesses:
    – Microsoft adopts WebKit for IE9.
    – Microsoft and Apple partners for a Mac/Windows HTML5 authoring tool.
    – As two eminent MPEGLA licensors, they announce radicaly new and attractive licence terms for H264 that kills VP8 in its infancy.
    – Apple takes Bing and Microsoft integrates iAd in Bing.

    Independantly from Microsoft, I expect to see a new HTML5 authoring tool from Apple: easy to create iAds, and great webpps with sproutcore or another great framework. Very plausible for a dev conf.

  • http://themacadvocate.com TheMacAdvocate

    When I first saw you use the phrase “Suck it”, I was intrigued.

    Now I see “Claim Chowdhry” and “That’s not how Apple rolls”?

    If Gruber wasn’t married, I’d swear you 2 were setting a date for a quiet ceremony in Vermont. Maybe it’s a front?

    Seriously though: spot-on analysis, as usual. I was a little less charitable:

    http://themacadvocate.com/2010/05/27/dear-google-thanks-for-the-absurdity/

  • http://ObamaPacman.com ObamaPacman

    The FAILURE known as Chowdhry retracted his claims.
    – barrons (without the failure part).

  • MikieV

    Its “official”.

    Ballmer won’t be there.

    http://twitter.com/Microsoft/status/14850981422

    What a great tweet! :)

  • cjlacz

    I agree that it’s unlikely to see Visual Studio support for iPhone/iPad apps. If it was to happen, rather than bringing Silverlight to the iPhone, you’d probably see Obj-C brought into the CLI fold. Apple would still have to deliver libraries that would run on Windows, but it should mean that no libraries would stand between Apple and the developers when new APIs are released. Anyway, I see it as unlikely.

    CLI with a LLVM backend might be kind of cool though. Could it offer better optimizations than VES? I’m going off the deep end now though. I’ll just wait until WWDC.

  • mscabot

    Oh no Dan you were hit by the Microsoft FUD machine. You bought it, I can hardly believe it. Normally you are so dead on with your posts, but this one… Swing and a miss. The guys name that reported the FUD is clam chowder. Hahaha. Unbelievable. Nice quick retraction by MS via a tweet, classic FUD by a lost company.

  • http://berendschotanus.com Berend Schotanus

    Microsoft : Google = Verizon : AT&T

    Apple is keeping pressure on its partners. Rumors can be helpful for that. Just like rumors on a Verizon iPhone can help get better conditions at AT&T, rumors on Bing can help get better conditions at AT&T.

    Nothing personal, just business.

  • iLogic

    Thank you for checking my reality Daniel! Ballmer at WWDC is like… well it’s just BAD!

  • hrissan

    Just want to tell you as a developer with lots of experience on both Windows and Mac OS, Microsoft tools are really good. BTW I’ve downloaded an Windows Phone 7 SDK yesterday, it is like iPhone OS 2.0, but I see good potential – their UI library is powerful, they have modern language, not ancient Objective-C, their debugger is also modern, not piece of command-line crap of gdb. I’d like to have Apple do tools of Microsoft quality, I’m sorry they cannot. :(

  • GusDoeMatik

    Regardless if MicroSoft does or does not show it’s ugly head at the event isn’t that important…

    Microsoft has nothing of value that Apple would want… If they go there it’s to steal more innovative ideas from Jobs… And Dan is right the only thing they can offer, but have to pay out the whazoo for, is the Bing search service… Other than that Microsoft is a dead company…

    Why can’t people think before they come up with random: “I think”/”I wish”/”I hope” this happens…

    If People can’t do simple deductions based off the facts then they must be retarded. Adobe has better products then MicroSoft so if Jobs doesn’t want a company like adobe to have their filthy hands on the iPhone why would he entrust it to the guy that stole windows from him in the first place? It’s not happening… He might do the bing thing like Dan said. But that’s different, it’s only a service, not an inferior technology.

    And to be honest. I don’t think Jobs wants to do business with Microsoft, but since Google wants to play with the big boys he’s got no choice, other than purchasing a search engine company of his own…

    Which I highly believe he would not do… Jobs has more important things in motion at the present, then to be purchasing and developing a search engine company, right now… He’s about to show the other big boys a thing or 2 when trying to take a bite out of apple……….

  • http://backaccessward.blogspot.com beetle

    Thanks Daniel for this provocative prediction. We will all be back in a week to see how you did!

    Also, typo beginning the second paragraph “No interest in Microsoft’s core goals” section:  Applet is certainly not interested in Silverlight…