Well, no, Apple never said any such thing.
The Verge article paints the path that Microsoft took to bring the touch screen Surface to market, while Apple maintained the chasm between the Mac and iPad.
That chasm has been bridged, first by enabling a mouse on the iPad via Accessibility settings, and now by the trackpad support in iPadOS 13.4.
But, to me, rather than being an admission that Microsoft was right all along, the 13.4 addition of trackpad support is more like the emergence of Apple Watch (and a very different approach than the glued on feel of mouse support via Accessibility). As they do, Apple took their time bringing Apple Watch to market, creating something different than the rest of the electronic watches in the market. And, as history has proven, Apple got it right.
Microsoft Surface is, in effect, a touch-screen laptop, with little UI difference between mouse on the tablet and the mouse on a laptop or desktop. To me, the finger is a second class citizen on the Surface and in Windows 10. Apple took a different path here.
With your finger, the elements on your screen are passive. Until you tap on an element, the screen waits for input, with no sense of where your finger is, or is going, until it makes contact with the screen.
With a trackpad, there is context. As you slide the trackpad cursor, and it approaches an element, the cursor animates to give you a sense of context, and the object being approached by the cursor might animate as well. This is a hybrid approach. While it might not be ready for prime-time (time will tell), this shows how carefully Apple is considering this problem, how much they care about creating something that works well, without losing responsiveness.
Looking forward to watching this new hybrid model evolve. Also wondering if the new hybrid model will cross the chasm as iPad apps make their way to macOS via Catalyst.