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The Week Ahead: Dueling launches for Microsoft, Apple

By Tom Hudson, The Miami Herald –

We Americans love our rivalries. The Bears and the Packers. Yankees and the Red Sox. Ford and Chevy. Fox and MSNBC. These fierce competitions drive innovations and ingenuity as the contestants look to gain an edge. In the process, everyone’s game is improved.

Microsoft and Apple have been cutthroat rivals for more than two decades. Last century, Microsoft was the brute, using its ubiquitous Windows operating system to swallow an overwhelming majority of the personal computing market. Apple was resigned to selling relatively expensive but easier-to-use machines to schools and aficionados. Then a decade ago, as Microsoft was plump with Windows profits, Apple unleashed the iPod and changed the game.

This week, the two square off with competing product announcements. Apple is expected to unveil its mini iPad on Tuesday. On Friday, Microsoft launches Windows 8. Windows will be greeted by a much different computer market than its when its predecessor was released just three years ago. Today, Apple owns the tablet market, something that didn’t even exist in 2009. And the smartphone business has tripled.

Microsoft’s meager presence in the tablet and smartphone market belies its size and drive. Yes, the traditional PC business has been hurt by mobile devices, but Microsoft still powers 90 percent of personal computers. The company built its newest Windows operating system to reflect the changing trend in how we access technology.

Like all rivals, these companies look to maximize their advantages against one another, but loyal fans of both win.

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