By Greg Mills
Microsoft is at it again, breathlessly planning to underwhelm us with "me too" tooo late to be relevant software. They are planning to spend millions advertising their new smartphone software.
If Windows Mobile was so darn good why did Microsoft "miss a generation" in the smartphone market as Ballmer put it? I can well remember three of four years ago turning down a nearly new "smartphone" my cousin offered me at a cut rate price, because he reluctantly admitted it was running Microsoft Mobile OS. He is on his second or third generation of the iPhone now and never looked back. His old Microsoft infested smart phones are gathering dust, since he couldn't even give them away.
Now the Redmond gang that can't shoot straight, the folks who launched Windows Vista, Ken, Zune and a slew of other much less than stellar products, wants another shot at "killing" the iPhone. Yeah, right. If I remember correctly, Microsoft killed their own unreleased "iPad killer" slate computer only a few days after Apple's iPad was in the wild, so they could actually hold an iPad and see what they had to compete with. The US$500 price point Apple used at launch completely killed off most of the slate computer competition before it even began, including Microsoft's entry.
Only recently, have any actual competitive slate computers made it to the market. Rim's slate computer has been announced, but a price has not been released. The Rim slate computer called "PlayBook" is expected to cost a lot more than iPad but have some features, such as a USB port, that weren't part of the first generation iPad. Would I pay a few hundred dollars more for a USB port? I don't think so. The Apple App Store vs the Rim app store is like comparing Wal-mart and a kid's lemonade stand, no comparison.
While AT&T has agreed to sell a couple of smart phones running the new Windows Mobile OS 7, it is hard to imagine there is anything revolutionary coming. When I was a child and other kids in the class "used the inspiration of others" we called them "copy cats." Copy cats never really get beyond creating something that comes close to the original, but never exceeds it. I figure that is the best Redmond can do.
The head start from the time advantage Apple enjoys and the power of "industrial scale" allows Apple to lock up much of the world's touch screens and NAND flash memory to the extent competitors will have a hard time even launching competitively priced slate computers. The launch delay until after the Christmas selling season for any meaningful competitive slate computers dooms them to "late to the party, me too" status. Just Monday, Target and Amazon began to sell iPads with high hopes for Christmas sales.
What has hurt Microsoft repeatedly, is the secrecy and amazing creativity that is innovation "out of the box" when Apple updates things. By the time Microsoft can reverse engineer Apple's new products, dance around the likely patents and implement their copy cat products, Apple has the next generation of their cool new product ready to launch.
If the best Microsoft can do is catch up to an out of date Apple iOS platform, with a Windows smartphone platform that just "syncs well with Windows PCs" and keeps scores on XBox games via the Internet, they are in deep trouble. They have to do much better than that. They will sell some lackluster product to less than discriminating customers who really don't understand what they are missing, but that is all. My bet is Apple iPhone, iPod and iPad live on to eat another Microsoft product for lunch.
The stock of Microsoft is already discounted as savvy investors are ready to be underwhelmed on Oct. 7 when Ballmer is set to launch the new smart phones. Even if Windows Mobile 7 is up to speed with Android (which they are hoping to sue into the ground without the thought that if you can't beat them, sue'em), there is not likely enough market share for a viable third mobile platform.
To the problems of working out all the glitches in a new OS, the lack of a meaningful Windows App store, lame developer base and lackluster store infrastructure, add the horrible mental image a lot of people associate with the word "Windows." I think Apple will laugh all the way to the bank, as the crew at Redmond strike out again.
There is more and more talk on the street of forcing Ballmer out as CEO of Microsoft. Microsoft has lost over half its market cap since Bill Gates stepped down and handed the company over to his former college roommate. Owning a lot stock in a large company might make you very rich, but it does not make you a good CEO of a technology company.
Was it anything but blind luck that Ballmer and Gates were assigned to the same dorm room? Ballmer will need that sort of random lightning strike good luck to see WIndows Mobile 7 succeed in keeping Microsoft even relevant in the smartphone market. The Stuxnet worm, which is still infecting computers and servers around the world that are running Windows operating software is something Redmond should be spending more resources on.
The only serious competition Apple is likely to face in the iOS market is the open source Android platform from Google. From what I read this morning, even Android is really not yet up to running slate computers well enough to compete with Apple. Certainly, Google will eventually catch up with Apple's iOS, but then, Steve Jobs will announce, "one more thing" and a new cycle of catch up begins. Buy Apple and short Microsoft, I expect Microsoft's stock to drop even further and Apple to go through the roof.
Thats Greg's Bite for today.
(Greg Mills, is a Faux Artist in Kansas City. Formerly a new product R&D man for the paint sundry market, he holds 11 US patents. He's working on a solar energy startup, www.CottageIndustrySolar.com using a patent pending process of turning waste dual pane glass into thermal solar panels used to heat water. Greg writes for intellectual web sites and Mac related issues. See Greg's art web site at www.gregmills.info ; His email is email@example.com )