A former Windows product manager puts his finger on the difference between MSFT and AAPL.
FORTUNE — If you read only one story Monday morning about Steve Ballmer’s departure from Microsoft MSFT , skip Kara Swisher’s gossipy piece about how it happened more precipitously than Microsoft let on and go straight to Ben Thompson’s If Steve Ballmer ran Apple on his stratechery blog.
In this provocative thought experiment, Thompson — a former Microsoft Windows product manager — imagines what Apple’s new CEO would do over the next five years, starting with the rollout of the iPhone 5C:
Thompson’s punchline — which gets to the heart of the difference between Microsoft and Apple AAPL — is that if Ballmer ran Apple, the company would never again ship a disruptive new product.
Part of this he attributes to the innovator’s dilemma — Clay Christensen’s idea that a company focused on maximizing profits can’t pursue a successful new product because of its impact on existing profit margins. Part of it is the kind of people who are attracted to and stay with a company like that.
But if Apple’s success has proved anything, Thompson suggests, it’s that measurables like profits and incentive bonuses aren’t the half of it. “Things like design can’t be measured,” he writes, “nor can user experience. How do you price delight, or discount annoyance?”
By contrast, Thompson offers Jony Ive’s set speech on Apple’s core values:
That’s not something you’d ever hear Steve Ballmer say.