Palm has been knocked cold, and from all indications, RIM has thrown in the towel too.
Now, there are just four players left in the ring: Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Nokia, battling it out for the future of computing.
The Daily Beast’s Daniel Lyons reduces this fight to just two competitors – Apple and Google – with scarce a mention of the giant from Redmond and the lumbering Finnish beast.
Perhaps Lyons is right. Apple and Google have proven to be far nimbler in the past decade, outmaneuvering and outinnovating the competitors. And while you could be skeptical two years ago, there is no doubt whatsoever that the future of computing is in mobiles and tablets. Apple and Google already have a large foothold in this space. It is not a stretch to imagine Google dominating these markets in the near future (not due to superior quality, but due to affordability of its products), with Apple coming in a healthy second (with massive profit margins, to add).
But you can’t really count Microsoft out of the race. Not yet. As tablets and smartphones eat into the PC market share, Microsoft’s revenues will slide southward. To imagine Microsoft whimpering out without giving Google and Apple a ferocious fight would be to misunderstand the company itself.
Sure, the old warhorse is busy fighting malaria and eradicating global poverty, and the top brass at Redmond can come across as clueless at times, but software is Microsoft’s turf; it’ll scratch and bite at anyone that comes close to squatting on it.
Microsoft has been more than willing in the past to throw ridiculous money at a project just to keep the competitors on their toes. It has spent billions of dollars on search (without much success), if only to give Larry Page and Sergey Brin something to think about in the wee hours of the night. It threw a massive amount of cash to unsettle Sony’s PS2 armada without flinching. Whatever criticisms you might level at Microsoft, you can’t accuse it of not having an appetite for a fight.
Fact is, the Windows and Office divisions will continue to generate billions of dollars in cash for the next several years, cash that can and will be used to fuel innovation in mobile computing. By all critical standards, Windows Mobile is as good, if not better than Android; it only needs a great phone and a large app library to fly off the success runway. Knowing Microsoft, you can never bet against the company attracting a massive developer base.
Then there’s Windows 8. All previews indicate that this might be the actual challenger to the iPad, and not the Playbook or the Kindle Fire or whatever Android monstrosity being conjured up in Google’s labs.
Microsoft has entered the fight late, but not too late. The mobile computing market is still in its nascent stages and it’ll take at least a couple of years for it to reach maturity. That is plenty of time for Microsoft to polish off Windows Mobile and Windows 8.
Make no mistake: Microsoft hasn’t lost this fight. Yet. It is still a competitor and it will come down hard when it steps into the ring. Apple will survive the assault, but perhaps not Android.
Image Credit: Claudio Gennari