For much of the past 30 years or so the tech industry as we know it has been dominated by Microsoft. The giant that foisted Windows and Office onto the world has not always copied Apple at every turn. In fact, copying Apple more closely would benefit Microsoft these days.
Wherefore Art Thou Mobility?
For nearly 20 years Apple v. Microsoft was the most visible of technology battles; a David and Goliath story of sorts that pitted a once and future darling against the behemoth of tech titans.
Apple v. Microsoft began to change a few years after the second coming of Steve Jobs at the end of the last century. The signal that something was different about Apple began with Apple Stores.
Then along came the iPod and iTunes. Microsoft merely pushed out more versions of Windows XP and Office, but as all tech titans do, the company invested tens of billions of ill gotten gains to diversify itself.
Meanwhile, Apple stepped up its game by ignoring Microsoft everywhere except a wonderful series of television and web commercials. It took a few years but the iPod became synonymous with media player, iTunes became the world’s largest media retailer, and the once lowly Mac prospered.
Meanwhile, Microsoft shipped newer versions of Windows XP, then Vista, then Windows 7, Windows 8.x, Windows Phone, various versions of Office, more money-losing Xbox models, and spent tens of billions to diversify itself.
You know where this story goes, right? Apple went on to redefine both the smartphone and tablet industry and became the most dominant, powerful, wealthy, and loved tech company on planet earth.
What of Apple v. Microsoft?
Microsoft stumbled badly for more than a decade, completely missed the mobile revolution, spent tens of billions more to diversify itself away from Windows and Office, and now faces an uncertain future. As mobile devices reign, Microsoft’s Windows and Office business is in decline, and not offset by Xbox, Surface Pro, or cloud services.
You can always tell when things are going bad in a company when they fail to publish real numbers and hard facts. Cloud revenue is up? How much? Microsoft won’t say. Surface Pro sales are up? How much? Microsoft won’t say.
Fortunately for Microsoft, new products have been so anemic the past few years that any improvement can be seen as dramatic, but only in percentage terms, not hard and fast numerical terms.
Compare that scenario to Microsoft’s one-time nemesis, Apple, where everything sells well, profits are growing, and the company is able to count and report actual sales unit numbers, as well as revenue and profits in major product lines. When that stops then you’ll know that Apple has become more like Microsoft and is on the decline.