Microsoft predominantly (and unabashedly) produces work tools: the Microsoft Office Suite remains its flagship product. The PC has always been clunky when it comes to media production and consumption (though less so than Apple and its legions want you to believe), and the graceful handling of these functions is what sets Apple apart. Of course, these “creative” fields of production are just as much work tools as Office; it’s just that your work is fun. You make music! You make movies! You’re not a slave!
And though gamers have always used PCs, they did so because you could upgrade video cards and processing speed and power as you needed — keeping up with the latest generation of games without replacing your computer — so that gamers ended up with machines whose internal functioning little resembled their office counterparts. A Mac, however, is a Mac, its functions largely black-box and proprietary. You don’t hack it and you don’t upgrade it, you just buy a new one.
Of course, it is in design and packaging, not computing, that Apple has really excelled. Other than its innovations in touch-screen technology and battery life (significant but outsourced achievements), Apple has offered little in the way of technical invention. What Apple does best is user interface and visual design, which, if you’re feeling generous, you can call a kind of beautiful craft: sowing the glove to exactly fit the hand while also grabbing the eye. But design, especially when it comes to the mass-produced consumer object, is really just the arty end of the marketing spectrum.