NSFW: Microsoft doesn't have to suck, and you don't have to hate it

Microsoft's stumbles with Windows in recent years has created millions of new Mac users. But that doesn't mean you should turn your back on Microsoft.

About half the people I sell Macs to in my weekend job at an Apple retailer are new to the Mac platform: They're PC users looking to make the switch. And lots of them are fed up with Windows. But honestly, as much as I support Apple, I think some of my customers are turning their back on Microsoft at their peril — because Microsoft still does a lot of things right and continues to do a lot of things right.

"We have to let go of this notion that for Apple to win, Microsoft has to lose." - Steve Jobs, Macworld Expo Boston keynote, 1997

I remember being in the audience watching Steve Jobs give that speech at the Park Plaza Castle in Boston: Jobs had just announced a multi-tiered partnership with Microsoft. Apple's storied rival would continue to support the Mac with new versions of Microsoft Office, Internet Explorer would be the default web browser on the Mac platform, and Microsoft made a $150 million investment in Apple stock, to help bolster its crumbling share price.

Some people still hold to the notion that Microsoft has to fail.

But times were very different, then. Apple was in shambles, and people weren't buying Macs. And even though the company was losing money, a partnership with Microsoft was the last thing many people in that audience — the proverbial "Mac faithful" often reported on — wanted to hear. Boy, I wish I'd had the money to invest in Apple at that point: I could have put my kids through Ivy League schools with the income I'd have made.

When that Macworld Expo keynote happened, I attended as an IT manager. Macs in my business were under assault by accountants and senior IT execs who felt that the creative departments which depended on them could control costs better and be just as efficient on the PC. The Mac was doomed as far as the folks upstairs were concerned, and continuing to spend cash on new Mac hardware and software was throwing good money after bad.

Up until that point, I was one of the Mac faithful. I lived and breathed the Mac. I'd been a Mac user for more than a decade, getting my first Fat Mac when I was a teenager. I'd spent my entire working life as a Mac expert, first as a temporary office worker who specialized in Mac apps, then in tech support for Mac hardware and software companies.

But I took Jobs's words to heart and stopped thinking of Microsoft as The Enemy. I can't say that I became a fan of Microsoft, but I didn't hate them, either. I just accepted them as the alternative dominant desktop operating system and as a necessary, integral part of the Mac ecosystem.

I'm pretty excited about some of the stuff Microsoft is working on these days.

In 2015, it's hard to remember those days. Apple is the biggest consumer electronics company on the planet, a massive juggernaut that makes its presence known in whatever markets it pleases. These days, some of the same pejoratives used to describe Microsoft are used to describe Apple. I regularly read about the evil empire of Apple or other weird euphemisms that sometimes make me think of what we said about Microsoft back in the day.

It's embarrassing that almost two decades later, some people still hold to the notion that Microsoft has to fail, and that any gut punch that Microsoft suffers ultimately will be to Apple's benefit. It's the worst kind of tribalism. It's chauvinism in the purest sense of the word.

I have to admit that I'm pretty excited about some of the stuff Microsoft is working on these days. Every chance I've had to use Microsoft Office 2016, I've been impressed with how well it works. It's available as a preview version that can be installed alongside Office 2011 if necessary.

I've also been experimenting with Microsoft Windows 10 on my Mac, installed in a virtual machine environment, and I'm also quite impressed with how much better that is than Windows 8.1. Two of my kids use Windows Phones and like them a lot, although they wish their choices of apps were more robust.

Turning your back on Microsoft is fine when you have alternatives that work for you. But many of us live in a world where we have to cooperate with people who still depend on using Microsoft products to get their work done. So being familiar with and continuing to use Microsoft products is ok, really. They're improving. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella is moving the company in a good direction.

Look, it's all right not to like Microsoft. You're better off investing your enmity in other things not to like, though — like cancer, typhoons, or people who are mean to animals. Hating a company — Microsoft, Google, Apple, or whichever — is just dumb.