It seems to me that Apple doesn’t spend much effort looking into the rearview mirror. There are plenty of competitors who want to gain on Apple, not the least of which is the perennial tech follower, Microsoft, forever in Apple’s wake.
The KopyKat King
Allow me a moment to perform an annual ritual– a little Microsoft bashing. Despite the company’s massive marketshare, and huge profit centers in Windows and Office, something is missing.
Way back in the day, Apple created the Mac and Mac OS, an easier way to compute. It took Microsoft 10 years of trying, and the result was Windows 95, and Apple dangling from a cliff.
Microsoft copied Apple’s Mac OS as much as it could. Bill Gates knew the future was the GUI.
Apple without Steve Jobs languished and nearly died. Microsoft won. Apple lost. Steve Jobs returned. Microsoft went to sleep while Jobs and Apple invented the future of personal computing– mobile devices to use, love, and cherish.
From the time Steve Jobs cut a financial deal with Microsoft and locked in Office for Mac for a few years, Microsoft fell asleep. After all, who was left to copy? Apple was near dead.
Then, in short order, almost as if on a schedule, Apple invented the future of mobile devices. Classy stores with well arranged products to be demonstrated, touched, held, and purchased.
Then along came the iPod. The iTunes Music Store. The iPhone. The iPhone App Store. The iPad.
By the time Microsoft woke up from the decade long slumber under CEO Steve Ballmer, Apple was the most valuable company on planet earth, and the de facto standard bearer for smartphones and tablets.
What could and did Microsoft do? The company did as Microsoft has always done. It copied Apple. The Zune was Microsoft’s version of the iPod but it failed.
Microsoft launched their own chain of retail stores, often within a stone’s throw of an Apple Store. What did they look like? An Apple Store with different colors.
Microsoft launched their own music and media store, but iTunes remained the leader. Microsoft revamped Windows Phone to make it more appealing. It’s not, and sales have languished.
Microsoft decided to make their own (farmed out to third party manufacturers, just like Apple) tablets to compete with the iPad, but ended up taking a financial bath instead.
Always Behind, Never Ahead
Try as it might, Microsoft always seems to be behind Apple in what’s important to technology buyers. Now desperate, the Windows maker decided to spend billions and buy Nokia, saving the once proud smartphone maker from an impending demise.
Will Microsoft ever get ahead of Apple and disrupt a new or existing industry? I don’t think so. The company is a follower, not a leader. The gap between Google and Microsoft vs. Apple is growing.
What gap? Money. Think of it this way. Since the iPhone launched, Apple has garnered the lion’s share of industry profits– somewhere around $150-billion.
Meanwhile, Nokia lost money, BlackBerry lost money, Motorola lost money, HTC lost money (a few Chinese manufacturers have done well– in China), and Microsoft lost money on mobile devices. That’s a huge financial gap to overcome, and only Samsung has remained fiscally viable.
So, how are Google and Microsoft getting back in the game? By spending more money. Google may have invested as much as $20-billion in the Android game (patents, development, Motorola purchase), while Microsoft will be down about $10-billion to prop up Windows mobile devices (patents, development, Nokia purchase, write offs).
How can they overcome Apple’s huge lead? Somehow, someway, Google, Microsoft, Samsung or some other company needs to invent the future, disrupt the current status quo. Otherwise, about all those companies will see of the future is Apple’s disappearing taillights.