Here’s the tale of two companies, both self-annointed saviors of the technology industry (if not humankind), each of which has fallen on hard times. Why? How? It’s all about blame and fun and profit.
First on my list is Apple, which despite being the most valuable company on the planet, and the most profitable company on the planet, has seen a stock erosion that borders on the insane. Apple is barely worth three times the company’s cash hoard.
Why? How? Let me call it the piling on technique promulgated by the tech and financial press. We all love an underdog, rags to riches story, but once a company reaches the top, the idol makers bare fangs and claws and tear down the idol for now reason other than fun and profit. Even as the stock falls and people lose money, those manipulators laugh all the way to the bank.
Apple’s dilemma is not unique among tech giants.
Add Microsoft to the list, and for similar reasons. Apple is no longer seen as an industry disrupting innovator because it’s been three years since the iPad launched, more than a year since dear leader Steve Jobs died, and despite revenue and profit records, Apple is tagged with the out of gas sticker.
What about Microsoft? It’s a similar story, though it dates back about a decade. Microsoft remains a highly profitable company thanks to the enterprise, Windows and Office, but the stock is beleaguered to the point of being flatlined and near death. Why? Microsoft hasn’t done much since Windows and Office.
Wait. What about search and Bing? What about XBox? And, what about, uh, Zune, and Surface, and Windows Phone? That’s what I mean. Microsoft has failed in one new venture after another, and though it is a highly profitable company, its mere presence in an industry segment doesn’t mean success.
Already, Microsoft’s PC partners are blaming the company for the apparent failure of Windows 8. Failure? Nah, not from a monetary standpoint. Microsoft will make another boatload of cash from Windows 8. But Windows RT and the branded Surface tablet? That’s a different animal.
Apparently, the stock sharks, media zealots, and seemingly miscreant critics in both media and Wall Street see a similarity between Microsoft and Apple. The blame game they play is fun for them. For tech media pundits, criticism drives up page views to their websites, and increased advertising revenue. Ditto for the traditional media players who scoff at Apple or Microsoft’s riches and cry out, ‘What have you done for me lately?‘ while bashing the company, executives, the stock, the products, and even customers.
And don’t get me started on those in the market who downgrade and badmouth a company while making money on the company’s stock (or, stock losses).
This game is a sad one to play, and too profitable for those who play it.