Apple's latest hardware advancements are still a challenge for Microsoft

Today, Apple announced numerous new versions of their current hardware. In fact, there was not a single surprise due to the thorough leak last week by 9To5Mac's Mark Gurman. That is not Apple's fault, of course, just the nature of the technology reporting these days.

In case you missed the news, you can head to our sister site iMore who have been covering the event all morning. Everything from the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus to the 12.9-inch iPad Pro (with an optional keyboard and a $99 stylus) was announced along with an updated Apple TV.

There is no doubt that Apple knows how to launch products. In fact, the jokes about how they rarely invent anything and merely improve upon other ideas still holds true. That is not a knock as I genuinely think Apple makes outstanding hardware. Perhaps the biggest victim in all of this is Microsoft (and Nokia), who won't get the accolades for certain products like Apple will from the press.

Here are a few of my observations from today's Apple Event:

  • Apple is adding OSs (iOS, Watch, OS X, Apple TV) while Microsoft is combining and reducing them
  • Apple is using the phrase 'Universal Apps' now, but it only applies to iOS and Apple TV; OS X is still on its own
  • Apple beats Microsoft to '3D Touch' although not the same thing
  • Apple TV brings app model to the living room, similar to Xbox, but their Store is open now to devs
  • Apple is embracing the Surface model with a keyboard and stylus (err… rechargeable Pencil)
  • New iPad Pro competes against any PC…except for the desktop OS part
  • Context menus are now OK for phones too (Force Touch)
  • Apple invented Nokia's Living Images for photos and can now do 4K video like all other high-end phones
  • Updated iPad, iPhones, Apple TV all Seem Faster™

Although some of this is said with obvious snark, the bigger issue here is how Microsoft appears to be behind the curve…again. For instance:

  • Although Windows 10 on Xbox One will happen, it won't until later this year
  • The Xbox One and Windows 10 Store will launch behind Apple's TV
  • Apple's new '3D Touch' system is very different from the one Microsoft and Nokia were pursuing, but it is clear they won in bringing something to market whereas 'McLaren' failed during development
  • Nokia's Living Images will pale compared to Apple's new Live photos
  • Microsoft's new flagships Lumias will be seen as less exciting than the new iPhones

Sure, Microsoft Lumias could do 4K video and Living Images for a while now, but it is Apple who will reap the benefits. Apple TV is less exciting compared to the power of an Xbox One and Cortana, but Apple's system is here today. When it comes to the iPad Pro, it is basically a Lumia 2520 with an Apple logo (and more apps, ahem).

Apple's new Force Touch for the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus is a neat addition, but how can they get away with adding hidden UI elements all over the place? Windows 8 and 8.1 were mocked for such poor UX, and yet Apple is just fine with it.

The fact is, Apple is very good at taking other's technology, improving upon it and bringing it to market faster and in a better way. Windows 10 and Microsoft's mobile strategy is still Coming Soon™ especially after yet another reboot (the third in 4 years).

None of this is to say I'm losing hope. I think Microsoft's one OS approach is much more interesting in the long run. But Microsoft's mobile plan is not here today. How they can overcome such hurdles is a mystery to me. While Microsoft's Cityman and Talkman flagship Lumias seem like they will be solid phones, solid is just not good enough anymore.

The good news is the Surface Pro 4 (and its larger 14-inch version), HoloLens, Windows 10, Xbox One and maybe even Band 2 all have potential to still wow the public. Even better is the fact that Surface is leading a new category with Apple taking notice.

Microsoft has a lot going for them heading into 2016, but they still have a long way to go and some tough competition.

Daniel Rubino

Daniel Rubino is the Editor-in-chief of Windows Central. He is also the head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft since 2007, when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, laptops, next-gen computing, and watches. He has been reviewing laptops since 2015 and is particularly fond of 2-in-1 convertibles, ARM processors, new form factors, and thin-and-light PCs. Before all this tech stuff, he worked on a Ph.D. in linguistics, watched people sleep (for medical purposes!), and ran the projectors at movie theaters because it was fun.