Oblivion? Alright, maybe crushing Microsoft to oblivion is a bit strong, but the past decade has seen an enormous change on the technology landscape, and a complete reversal of fortunes for Microsoft and nemesis Apple.
Wait. That should be a complete reversal of fortunes for Apple and nemesis Microsoft. The order is important because Microsoft wrote off Apple as a competitor when Steve Jobs returned to the company in 1997. Bill Gates did an exit. Steve Ballmer took over and it was smooth sailing ahead.
What a difference a decade makes. To be fair, Microsoft is still a rich company, but doesn’t seem to have had much success beyond Windows and Office. Xbox 360? It may be the largest of the game systems. Unless you count Apple’s iPhone.
Other than the tried and true cash cows of Windows and Office, Microsoft hasn’t done much for me lately, losing billions and billions on one venture after another. Not only is Microsoft’s Surface tablet a dud in the marketplace, the naked emperor’s executives don’t have any clothes, either.
Microsoft CFO Peter Kelin says the company is ready, willing, and able to launch a Surface mini tablet to compete with Apple’s iPad. Windows Phone was supposed to compete with Apple’s iPhone, too. How’s that working out?
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer from last year.
We are not going to let any piece of this go uncontested to Apple. Not the consumer cloud. Not hardware software innovation. We are not leaving any of that to Apple by itself. Not going to happen. Not on our watch.
Except that’s exactly where it has happened for the past decade. Apple is eating Microsoft’s lunch at every turn.
Every turn? When it comes to PC profits, who leads the pack? Lenovo? Nope. HP? Nah. Dell? Please. It’s Apple. Add iPads to the mix of PCs and Apple is the dominant PC manufacturer on the planet.
Smart phones? It took Microsoft years to get Windows Phone into a competitive comparison with the iPhone, but that effort has proven too little too late with anemic sales and manufacturing partners who continue to bleed.
Tablets? Microsoft’s real innovation for tablets comes in the form of a big Surface table. Maybe they wanted to make a tablet, but Word’s spellchecker kept insisting on table. So, Microsoft has the world’s most expensive and best selling digital surface table instead of a tablet that anyone wants to buy.
Up and down the competitive line, Apple is simply outsmarting Microsoft. It’s Microsoft’s buggy SYNC technology which has caused Ford’s disastrous plummet in the J.D. Power automobile rankings. After spending tens of billions to compete against Google in search, Microsoft is now losing share, and Yahoo! says their deal with Bing isn’t performing very well.
Apple has displayed an incredible amount of patience and discipline since Steve Jobs returned, and shows no sign of slowing down construction of their new digital empire. Apple isn’t afraid to let go of the past and embrace the future. Goodbye, iPod. Hello iPhone. Goodbye, Mac. Hello iPad. From mobile devices to apps, Apple is romping down the field while Microsoft seems to live in a world of denial, hubris and bluster, but unable to figure out where the puck is, let alone where it’s going.
Apple has failures, too. Lisa. Apple III. Mac Cube. MobileMe. What else? Compare that list with Microsoft’s baggage in just recent years. Xbox 360. Zune. Bing. Windows Phone. Surface. Windows Vista.
Not only has Apple managed to crush Microsoft in the 21st century, the company is doing well against competitors which give away a competitive operating system, give away apps, and give away competing phones and tablets at manufacturing cost. If Apple can compete successfully against all the free or near free competition, what chance does Microsoft have against Apple?