Posted by Greg Mills
The press, especially MSNBC, is loaded these days with glowing stories about Microsoft's Windows 8. I do not claim to be an expert on anything Microsoft, as I avoid their software like the plague. In my experience, OS X almost never crashes, but when it does go down, it is normally a Microsoft app that did it.
I have noticed interesting differences between Apple and Microsoft in their strategic approach to mobile platforms. That is the focus of this article.
Apple launched the iOS to support the iPhone. Modern mobile computers and smartphones require a robust operating system that can do the cell phone functions as well as run iPod, camera, GPS, web and apps. Built upon the fresh and clean iOS foundation they expanded the iPhone iOS to run on iPad as well. In the Apple world we have the Mac OS X which runs Apple personal computers and the Mac iOS to run mobile devices. Apple is betting that mobile computers will eventually kill the PC and have even announced the end of the PC age. We are seeing a convergence of sorts where features of the iOS are showing up on our Mac computers.
Microsoft launched its original smartphone OS years ago and it sucked, but didn't have much competition. In those days not much was expected of smartphones. Then after iPhone was a wildly successful product, Microsoft launched the Kin phone with its own mobile OS and was so awful the product was killed within a few weeks. Apple's iPhone market share began to surge and very late in the mobile revolution, Microsoft launched its Mobile Windows OS.
Tablets, actually iPad, began to be the computer market growth area while conventional PCs, other than Macs, began to tank. The decline is so severe and the prospects so bad HP, the largest PC maker is pulling out of the market. Serious competition forcing the margin out of PCs and the mobile revolution have combined to rock the PC industry. Fearful of a declining market, never seen in the PC industry before, Microsoft finally realized they needed to move into the tablet OS market to provide its hardware "partners" with an operating system and stay in business for the long term.
This is where it gets interesting. Instead of the Microsoft vision of tablets being an offshoot of the mobile revolution, they opted instead for something like a mobile mutation of the stock Windows PC OS they knew and loved. Instead of Microsoft ramping up its smartphone OS as Apple did it, Microsoft plans to dumb down its new Windows 8 PC OS to serve the tablet computer format.
The problems Microsoft has had in the past, making Windows into a mobile OS that will scale and run well on touch screen tablets are pretty well known. The truth of the matter is that at its heart, Microsoft completely rejects the notion that the PC is the walking dead. Ballmer has stated that "tablets are only a PC in a different form factor". Steve Jobs shot a round over the bow of the great ship Microsoft, warning of the giant mobile revolution that is taking place and the Redmond gang, that can't shoot straight, still doesn't get it.
I submit that simply having a flawed strategic plan, that fundamentally sets the stage for bulky tablets running on a modified conventional PC opertaing system is backwards and doomed for failure. In addition to the basic foundational planning error, from what I hear, Microsoft plans to launch its tablet OS as a third platform without compatibility for either the Windows PC OS or its new Windows smartphone operating system. Apple has two platforms, Microsoft will have three platforms that don't interact so well.
Even Ballmer has recently admitted publicly that the new Windows smartphone OS has not done well in the market. Handset makers who built Windows smartphones are very disappointed in the lousy sales. Microsoft hopes the most recent "Mango" mobile phone update will improve the roughly 3% market penetration for Windows Mobile.
Nokia is working on launching smartphones that run Microsoft's mobile OS. Nokia has bet the farm on Microsoft's mobile OS and if the pending Nokia launch is anything like recent RIM offerings, Nokia is going down for good. The dumb phone market is not doing well these days and Nokia must enter the smartphone era or perish. Rumors of a pre-paid incarnation of iPhone must be causing serious panic at Nokia's headquarters. Nokia stock is plunging as is RIM's.
RIM may soon put its PlayBook on sale at half off to the general public, just to move the sluggish inventory of unsold tablets. Recently it came out that RIM only shipped 200,000 PlayBooks, but the sell through to consumers isn't publically known. How many PlayBooks are just gathering dust on the shelves of electronics stores? Rodgers cellular network in Canada is selling PlayBooks at half price to employees. Even sprint refuses to support PlayBook. If Rim finally pulls the plug on PlayBook, as HP did on its Palm based tablets, RIMs poorly selling BlackBerry handsets will not save the day. Look for RIM to be bought out for its patents. Keep in mind, RIM was one of the partners with Apple when they bought that giant raft of patents a while back. Could Google buy RIM as well as Motorola without bringing in the monopoly cops? The RIM story is just about over folks.
Samsung continues to struggle with Apple patent suits around the world. Palm and RIM are down for the count, Nokia is facing a make it or break it launch soon, Android is on the ropes in many respects and we are just a few weeks from Apple's newest iPhones and perhaps iPad, both running iOS 5. That is Greg's Bite on the grim situation in the iPad killer camps around the world.