The war isn’t over, but the major battles have been fought, the handwriting is on the wall, the obituaries are being written. When it comes to mobile computing, Apple is crushing Microsoft to death.
A mere 10 years ago Apple was struggling toward the mobile future with the iPod and iTunes Music Store. Microsoft dominated the PC industry and was making headway into games and search. Apple was an afterthought.
Five years later, Apple’s Mac was running on Intel CPUs, the iPod was the king of portable media players, and iTunes Music Store ruled online sales.
Meanwhile, Microsoft struggled to advance beyond Windows XP. Redmond’s search efforts continued to lose money. Xbox 360 had market share but no profits and was far from giving a return on investment. Microsoft’s Windows on smart phones paled in significance, market share, revenue, and profits when compared to Windows on PCs.
In the interim, Apple’s iPod paved the way for mobile computing devices that have all but swept desktop and notebook PCs into the history books, and rendered Microsoft not a sleeping giant, but an old, feeble, comatose giant; a bloated relic of a bygone era.
How did that happen?
First, Apple protected the iPod’s well earned perch atop portable media players by launching an even better product– the iPhone. Apple’s success caught all major makers by surprise and quickly drove desktop and notebook computing to the pocket.
The ultimate personal computer is the one that fits into the hand, browses the internet, checks on email, and features a plethora of apps.
Microsoft was caught flat footed and has yet to recover.
Second, Apple extended the iPhone’s success by redefining the tablet segment of mobile computing with the iPad. Again, Microsoft was caught stuck in the mud, and despite some attractive new products, remains the industry giant of also-rans in a burgeoning new market that is sweeping the world– handheld devices.
Wait. Isn’t Windows Phone highly touted? Isn’t the new Microsoft Surface tablet just like the iPad? Doesn’t that mean that Microsoft is back in a big way?
When it comes to mobile computing, Apple owns the lion’s share of revenue and profits. No other manufacturer is close, and Microsoft is far, far down the list.
While technology pundits applaud Microsoft’s late-to-the-game Windows Phone for having a unique user interface that doesn’t copy Apple’s iOS, it hasn’t proven to be a better interface for users, and doesn’t provide a compelling reason for users to switch.
The same holds true for tablets– Surface vs. iPad. Surface is thin, light, and has a unique user interface. But no apps to speak of. Remember, the Mac suffered for a few decades because all the best apps were running on Windows PCs.
Today, all the best mobile device apps are running on Apple’s iOS devices. Not Microsoft. Not Google. Not BlackBerry. Not Nokia. The best mobile device user experience is subjective, of course, but it’s hard to argue that iOS has much competition.
Google’s Android OS has a substantial unit market share, but profitability remains unattainable for most Google hardware partners (Samsung being an exception; probably by copying Apple’s products atom-for-atom). Nokia, RIM, Motorola, and Microsoft’s mobile efforts are spilling red ink all over the world while Apple sits on a $100-billion pile of iPhone and iPad-generated cash.
The mobile computing war may not be over, but who is winning the battles? Even Google has yet to make a return on investment or profits from Android. RIM, Motorola, Nokia, and Microsoft fare even worse.
For now, Apple rules mobile computing devices with iPhone and iPad, and their halo effect gives the Mac a larger-than-life market share of revenue and profits.
Goodbye Microsoft. We hardly knew ye.