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Introduction

Microsoft is an American multi-national company with its headquarters in Redmond, Washington. The company specializes in manufacturing, development and licensing of various products that are related to the computing industry. This computing conglomerate was established in 1975 by Bill Gates and Paul Allen. In terms of revenues, the company is the largest software maker globally. According to the Forbes Magazine, the company is one of the most valuable companies in the world.

As for the year 2012, Microsoft dominated the market of personal computer operating system and Office Suite. The company is also involved in the development of diverse software for desktop computers and servers (Griffin & Moorehead, 2012). Some of the areas that it is involved include: internet search, digital service, video games, and mobile phone operating systems. The Company is in the process of launching the Microsoft surface tablet.

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Since it is publicly traded business entity, Microsoft is run by individuals from outside the company. Members of the board are elected annually by the shareholders. At the board level, there are five committees that handle more specific issues. These are: anti-trust compliance committee, audit committee, governance and nominating committee, compensation committee and the finance committee.

Apple Inc is a multi-national company that has its headquarters in Cupertino California. Initially the company was known as Apple Computer Inc, but the word ‘computer’ was deleted in 2007 to show its diversification into consumer electronics after the launch of the iPhone. Apple Inc specializes in the manufacture, designing computer hardware and software, consumer electronics and personal computers. Founded in 1976 by Steve Jobs, the company has become the most valuable company in the world by 2012. The company is the third largest mobile phone maker after Samsung and Nokia (Phillips & Gully, 2012). Apple is known for its innovative products, making it the largest traded company in terms of market capitalization in the whole world (Phillips & Gully, 2012). The company is headed by a chief executive officer, a position currently held by Tim Cook after the dead of Steve Jobs in 2011.

Organizational behavior

Organizational behavior is the study of how people, structures and groups impact the behavior within an organization (Sims, 2002). It is a multi-disciplinary field that encompasses psychology, sociology, management and communication. When individuals interact in an organization, many factors come into play. Current studies of organizational behavior attempt to mold and understand these factors.  For the last two decades, the study of organizational behavior has integrated with other related fields such as leadership understanding, ethics and their significances and anthropology.

Microsoft

The change in leadership at Microsoft in 2000 and the assumption of leadership by Steve Ballmer herald a new phase for the technology giant. The departure of Gates has been termed as a move to avoid impending competition from other companies such as Apple and Google. By analyzing the present financials of these competitors, it is evident that Microsoft is trailing behind. Compared with Apple and Facebook where innovation is driven by technology experts, Microsoft differs from these corporations because it is still determined by business people despite efforts by Ballmer to empower engineers in the firm.

Best practices

Through innovation, Microsoft has developed products that enabled it to compete in the technology industry. Despite fierce competition from its rivals, some of Microsoft’s products such as Microsoft Office Suite are still competitive. The company has also been able to sustain a steady change reflecting the dynamic business environment it operates in.

Microsoft encourages a democratic leadership style that brings the best from its workers. This leadership style incorporates employees in the decision making process. This is different from Apple where decision making revolves around the Chief Executive Officer. Another strength of the company is that it recruits and fire employees in a logical way giving it the experience in the management of risk. The company is also investing in the future through the development of research centers.  Strategic partnerships with companies such as Nokia give the company a chance to integrate its products and services (Griffin & Moorehead, 2012). Reorganization is giving the company the opportunity to place engineers in a leading role in decision making.

Worst practices

Failure to develop an innovative culture is one of the reasons cited for the declining prospects of Microsoft. The company places little significance on emerging teams that are responsible for developing cutting-edge technologies. Despite having the best research laboratory and three chief technology officers, the company has failed to keep up with the competition in the computing industry. Some senior executives of the company have been accused of thwarting new products because they appear to threaten their positions or products (Jorgenson & Wessner, 2006). Much of the growth realized at Microsoft revolves around Windows and Office, which explains the stagnation in the company and the apparent lack of interest by investors.

Another practice that is negatively affecting the company is situating its headquarters in Redmond instead of Silicon Valley where leading technology giants reside. The company is not able to access new ideas and innovations, and this explains the reason why the company has been accused of doing things the old way. This is exemplified in the performance of its products such as Xbox and Bing in the market; they performed dismally against expectations. Placing business people in key decision making positions is another practice that is disadvantaging the company (Jorgenson & Wessner, 2006). Innovators, who are key drivers of growth and competitiveness, have limited say in the company compared to Apple where engineers drive the agenda. Failure by the company to shift focus to mobile devices, tablet computers and web-based application such as Cloud computing have contributed to the lagging behind of the company.

Recommendations

  1. The company needs to change senior management from business oriented individuals to technology oriented people in order to drive innovation, which remains the determinant of competitive advantage. Individuals with a technical background are able to identify a product’s real potential, which may be the next big thing in the industry.
  2. Senior executives need to promote a culture of risk taking and offer its scientists challenging tasks in order to foster creativity.
  3. Developing an informal culture that facilitates the sharing of ideas is necessary at Microsoft.
  4. Entering into strategic partnerships with other companies in order to integrate new resources into its already developed production and marketing processes.

Apple Inc

Best practices

Apple is identified with innovative products that have dominated the consumer electronics market. Most of the products that the company manufactures have been trendsetters in the industry. The main reason that gives the company sufficient ability to innovate is a unique and positive corporate culture (Nelson & Quick, 2012). There is passion in the company to develop new and complex products with no restrictions to challenges and opportunities. Since its foundation, the company has focused on innovation and entered markets that it could make positive contribution. One of the main objectives of the company was to make technology a seamless experience for the client.

The company is known for fostering individuality and excellence that attracts talented people into it. To identify the most effective employees, the company established the Apple Fellows Program that rewards individual who have made immense contributions to computing during their tenure at the company. The role of Steve Jobs in fostering a culture of beating deadlines is cited by employees who claim that without the involvement of the former Chief Executive Officer, projects tend to take longer.

At Apple, specialization is highly encouraged in order to get the best out of employees from their area of expertise. This idea was formulated by Jobs to place the best talent in every function. This deviates from Microsoft’s culture that creates well-rounded executives (Nelson & Quick, 2012). Management at Apple is not formal or hierarchical because it is more results oriented. The work ethic at Apple has been summarized by some employees as fun and at the same time demanding.

Worst practices

Decision making process at Apple is centralized in that it is influenced by the CEO, especially during the time of Steve Jobs. The disadvantage of relying on one individual to make key decision is that in their absence the company may lose its competitiveness. Apple was able to manage this after the death of Steve Jobs and Tim Cook has continued to steer the company to greater heights.

The culture of secrecy that permeates the company may hurt the company in the long run has it restricts the sharing of information with other players in the market. As more companies strike strategic partnership to pool their resources and knowledge base, secrecy may hurt the company’s brand in the new market dispensation.

Recommendations

  1. The company should involve lower ranking employees in the decision making process in order to develop an environment of belonging.
  2. There is need to enter into strategic partnerships with competitors in some of its flagship projects to facilitate sharing of ideas and resources.
  3. To avoid redundancy, Apple should continue to invest more on research and innovation to avoid the predicament that is facing Microsoft now.

The company should ensure environmental sustainability in their operations, which have come under sharp criticism for failing to stop the use of harmful chemicals.

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