How Apple Lost Last Week to Microsoft

Last week, Apple and Microsoft had dueling product launch events. And in the tech version of this “Who wore it better?” contest, the winner seems to be: Microsoft.

That’s right. At least in the microcosm of last week, Microsoft has made Apple look like the square, after lifting the veil on a 28-inch touchscreen all-in-one desktop called the Surface Studio that immediately had tech enthusiasts drooling. Over a desktop.

(Also see: Everything You Need to Know About the Microsoft Surface Studio)

One could argue that this is an apples-to-oranges comparison. Microsoft, while on the rise again, still benefits from lower expectations than Apple. Introducing a new product, such as the Studio, is almost always going to be more exciting than upgrading an old line. But there is a common thread here, which we can use to analyze how these companies are thinking about the future – even more specifically, the future of touch and computing.

How Apple Lost Last Week to Microsoft

Touch itself, as a technology, isn’t new. But Microsoft did a good job of framing its incorporation of touch with the Studio as expansive, liberating, and a universal way to unlock potential. Who doesn’t want to think that they have a symphony, novel, or artistic masterpiece inside them, just waiting to be unlocked by the right new tools?

Apple, on the other, seems to have uncharacteristically flubbed its audience pitch. Speaking to analysts after its event, it seemed that “current MacBook Pro owners looking to upgrade” was the main audience Apple was going for.

That’s practical – Apple laptops sell well. It’s not inspiring, though, is it?

What makes this even more odd is that Apple is arguably the company that, arguably, did something really new for their company, at least – the Touch Bar shows off something we haven’t seen from Apple before. The Surface Studio looks gorgeous, but Microsoft’s essentially made an enormous version of its Surface tablet. It’s a very stylish and powerful one, but that’s basically what it is.

Given a couple of days, and a truly dazzling Apple event, that probably could have become the storyline for the Studio. But try to explain what exactly Apple did, and it’s surprisingly hard. They put a miniature iPhone screen at the top of the keyboard, that you could probably ignore if you wanted?

That’s a too-harsh assessment of the Touch Bar from someone who’s only played around with it for less than a half-hour altogether. But the Touch Bar certainly lacks a clarity of purpose that Microsoft managed to nail with its products – and managed to nail by not-so-subtly going after Apple’s traditional market of creatives.

Even Apple’s main on-stage demos, of photo-editing and a DJ, weren’t effective pitches for the MacBook Pro. The demos were fine, but there needed to be something communicated to a broader set of users that wasn’t just, “Hey, you can stop using those keyboard shortcuts you’ve committed to muscle memory over the years.”

Should it be all red lights and klaxons in Cupertino? Not necessarily. But there is a sense of longing for something more from Apple. Apple has a lot to prove, and it’s not proving it quite well enough. I’ve heard more “Well, I am a little tempted by the [insert competing product here]” from Apple fans this year than I’ve heard in a long time.

(Also see: MacBook Pro 2016 vs Microsoft Surface Pro vs HP Spectre 13)

Temptation isn’t enough to uproot a customer, particularly when you’ve done as good a job of keeping users in your ecosystem as Apple has. Apple will still make money, since Apple fans have proven in the past that they’re willing to pay a premium for its products, said Linn Huang, of the analysis firm IDC.

“Apple is in the position to say, with something new, that it can charge what it wants,” he said.

But that’s no way to retain happy customers, particularly for a firm that prides itself in manufacturing delight. Yet it’s somehow Microsoft – out of desperation, inspiration or a combination of both – that has managed to make products that are turning heads.

Apple should not panic. But it should at least take note.

Sony at E3 2017: God of War, Spider-Man, Uncharted: The Lost Legacy, and Skyrim for VR

HIGHLIGHTS

  • God of War is coming early 2018
  • Spider-Man scheduled for 2018 as well
  • Uncharted: The Lost Legacy arrives August 22

Unlike Microsoft, Sony didn’t have a new console to show off at its E3 2017 event on Tuesday – that’s because the PS4 Pro has been out since November – but it did provide a good look at some of its most anticipated exclusive games, and other popular third-party titles. Here’s the biggest stuff from the PlayStation presser.

The new God of War is a father-son story
One of the most highly-awaited titles, the next God of War – simply titled eponymously – is a bit of a soft reboot and shifts to the Norse mythology. That doesn’t mean your favourite Greek myth hero, Kratos, is going anywhere though. This time, his son Atreus is with him for the ride as Kratos takes on an assortment of monster creatures. In between, you’ll have cut scenes featuring Atreus’ mother.

While you’ll play as Kratos throughout the game, you’ll be able to passively control Atreus with a dedicated button. The trailer focused on the father-son relationship, with Kratos teaching him how to survive and become a warrior. God of War will be a PS4-exclusive title, coming early 2018. It’ll be a single-player-only title, and is inspired by RPGs.

Sony at E3 2017: God of War, Spider-Man, Uncharted: The Lost Legacy, and Skyrim for VR

Spider-Man will be part stealth, and part bonkers
We know a new PS4-exclusive Spider-Man game has been on its way, and we got the first extended look at some gameplay during the PlayStation E3 2017 event. The game will allow you to play stealthily at times, and very hands-on as the need arises. Wilson Fisk, who some of you might know from Netflix’s Daredevil, seems to be a minor villain in the game.

The trailer showed us that Insomniac Games have spent time in understanding the insane capabilities of Spidey’s agility and web strength, which allows for some crazy and unique stunts, as witnessed from the helicopter balancing act in the trailer. There was even a sneak mention of Miles Morales towards the end of the event, which is a good progressive step identity-wise that Marvel’s film efforts should take notes from.

Spider-Man doesn’t have a defined release date, just 2018 at this point.

Uncharted: The Lost Legacy is set in India
After an announcement back in December as a standalone chapter, Uncharted: The Lost Legacy claimed the opening slot at the PlayStation E3 event, in the form of a live Indian classical music performance followed by a trailer that showed gameplay, story, characters, and its lush tropical setting: India.

Based on characters present in Uncharted 4 – Chloe Frazer and Nadine Ross – players will search for the tusk of Ganesh in the new game. Hopefully, the game will give a nuanced portrayal of its setting, and stay away from any stereotypes. We’ll find out when it arrives August 22.

Destiny 2 moved up to September 6
Although Bungie held an extensive reveal in May, Destiny 2 was still present at the PlayStation E3 2017 event. We didn’t get a lot in the way of gameplay, but instead a bigger focus on what will be the game’s primary antagonist at launch: Dominus Ghaul, the leader of the Red Legion. Of course, the bigger reason for Sony was to show off its continued exclusivity deal with Bungie, which will give the PS4 access to exclusive weapons, gear, strikes, and a map.

And if you’re dying to play it, you’ll be happy to know Destiny 2 arrives two days earlier on September 6 for consoles. It’ll make it to PCs October 24.

Call of Duty: WWII feels grittier than ever
While the franchise’s return to its roots – World War II, to be precise – may feel like a retrace of its steps, it has allowed the developers to explore the setting in a way that wasn’t frankly possible earlier. For one, the studio didn’t have the resources it has now, and graphics performance has come a long way in all those years.

With the new Call of Duty, it feels like we’re going to get a much gritter, and gory portrayal of the Second World War. In other words, much like it was for the people involved. Of course, this being Call of Duty, it also means the action will be dialled all the way to 11. There’s close quarter warfare, fighting in the trenches, and taking out bombers with anti-air weaponry.

Plus, it’ll take you through the most well-known spots during 1941-45: France, Germany, Belgium, and the Soviet Union. Call of Duty arrives November 3 for PS4, Xbox One, and PC.

PlayStation VR is getting Skyrim and FFXV fishing off-shoot
If you thought PS VR would be left out of the discussion, you’d happy to know that wasn’t the case. The biggest one was Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim by far, which didn’t get a release date, but the trailer did give a glimpse of what you can expect. Between VR and the Nintendo Switch, it seems Bethesda will ensure the acclaimed title can reap all its rewards before thinking of a new chapter in the long-running series.

There was a trailer for the VR spin-off to Final Fantasy XV, as well. It’s called Monster of the Deep, and it basically includes Noctis fishing, which is how he likes to spend time between the monster battles.

In between, we got trailers for a sci-fi side-scroller called Star Child, a story set in an asylum called The Inpatient, Moss featuring a bunny on two legs with an artificial limb, and a FPS called Bravo Team.

Marvel vs Capcom saga continues with Infinite
The biggest change with Marvel vs Capcom: Infinite is two-on-two fights, instead of the usual three-on-three format. The trailer shown at E3 2017 wasn’t bothered with that at all though, instead focusing on the Marvel character list players would see: Captain America, Gamora and Rocket from Guardians of the Galaxy, Black Panther, Hulk, Thanos, and even Ultron. It’s coming September 19 for PS4, Xbox One, and PC.

Capcom also showed off a new Monster Hunter title at the event, which will bring the franchise out of Japan. It features dinosaurs, a giant sword, and a lot of running. Monster Hunter: World will release early 2018.

Days Gone involves hordes of zombies and infected giant bears
A gameplay trailer for Days Gone showed the protagonist’s skills and stealth gameplay, which can be turned into full-on action with an explosive that attracts zombies – known as “Freakers” that were created by a global pandemic – and takes out your enemies for you. The infection has also spread to giant, mutated bears, given what we witness in the trailer.

Days Gone still doesn’t have a release date, though.

A war is brewing between androids and humans in Detroit: Become Human
Announced almost two years ago, Sony’s first-party PS4-exclusive action-adventure title showed up at the PlayStation E3 2017 event without a release date, again. The focus was entirely on Marcus, an android disillusioned from his master-slave relationship with humans, who takes it upon himself to free others of his kind and take on the oppressors.

It’s set in futuristic Detroit City, and there are clear vibes of Watch Dogs – some hacking elements, and the aesthetic – as well as Deus Ex, which presents a similar conflict between humans and half-androids, so to say.

PlayStation VR is getting Skyrim and FFXV fishing off-shoot
If you thought PS VR would be left out of the discussion, you’d happy to know that wasn’t the case. The biggest one was Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim by far, which didn’t get a release date, but the trailer did give a glimpse of what you can expect. Between VR and the Nintendo Switch, it seems Bethesda will ensure the acclaimed title can reap all its rewards before thinking of a new chapter in the long-running series.

There was a trailer for the VR spin-off to Final Fantasy XV, as well. It’s called Monster of the Deep, and it basically includes Noctis fishing, which is how he likes to spend time between the monster battles.

In between, we got trailers for a sci-fi side-scroller called Star Child, a story set in an asylum called The Inpatient, Moss featuring a bunny on two legs with an artificial limb, and a FPS called Bravo Team.

Marvel vs Capcom saga continues with Infinite
The biggest change with Marvel vs Capcom: Infinite is two-on-two fights, instead of the usual three-on-three format. The trailer shown at E3 2017 wasn’t bothered with that at all though, instead focusing on the Marvel character list players would see: Captain America, Gamora and Rocket from Guardians of the Galaxy, Black Panther, Hulk, Thanos, and even Ultron. It’s coming September 19 for PS4, Xbox One, and PC.

Capcom also showed off a new Monster Hunter title at the event, which will bring the franchise out of Japan. It features dinosaurs, a giant sword, and a lot of running. Monster Hunter: World will release early 2018.

Days Gone involves hordes of zombies and infected giant bears
A gameplay trailer for Days Gone showed the protagonist’s skills and stealth gameplay, which can be turned into full-on action with an explosive that attracts zombies – known as “Freakers” that were created by a global pandemic – and takes out your enemies for you. The infection has also spread to giant, mutated bears, given what we witness in the trailer.

Days Gone still doesn’t have a release date, though.

A war is brewing between androids and humans in Detroit: Become Human
Announced almost two years ago, Sony’s first-party PS4-exclusive action-adventure title showed up at the PlayStation E3 2017 event without a release date, again. The focus was entirely on Marcus, an android disillusioned from his master-slave relationship with humans, who takes it upon himself to free others of his kind and take on the oppressors.

It’s set in futuristic Detroit City, and there are clear vibes of Watch Dogs – some hacking elements, and the aesthetic – as well as Deus Ex, which presents a similar conflict between humans and half-androids, so to say.