Sunday, October 10, 2010

Microsoft losing a battle it hasn't even begun

Apple boss Steve Jobs has called Flash an unreliable, poorly secured battery killer. Neither the iPhone nor the iPad runs Flash and it doesn't seem to have affected sales.

"So far, people seem to be liking iPads. We've sold one every three seconds since we launched it," Jobs said this summer.

Galen Gruman of Info World, the analysis firm, called Windows Phone 7 a "big pig" and said it was doomed to fail. Andy Rubin, chief of Google's Android mobile phone system, got his dig in early when he said: "The world doesn't need another platform."

According to reports, Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer met Adobe's chief, Shantanu Narayen, to discuss how the two firms could take the fight to Apple. A full merger looks unlikely but an alliance is almost guaranteed. Google has also thrown its weight behind Adobe, putting Flash in its Chrome browser and more recently in Google TV. Both Microsoft and Google have had their rows with Adobe but the enemy of my enemy is my friend. For all three firms, Apple presents a bigger threat.

The mobile war reaches beyond today's handheld devices. Up next is a battle over tablet computers, a market that Apple has single-handedly created with the success of the iPad. Mobile devices will act as a gateway for computer and tablet buyers of the future, said Aggarwal. Once you get used to Apple on a phone, why buy a PC running Windows?

RIM is working on its own tablet device and Google is lining up manufacturers for Android-powered iPad rivals. But they are entering new markets. Microsoft has the most to lose.

The problem is that Rubin at Android may be right when he said that there is no need for another platform. Gartner's Dulaney said Windows Phone 7 had a lot of "interesting ideas" but Apple has had such a headstart that it would be hard for Microsoft to catch up.

Apple says there are 50,000 apps available for the iPhone, ranging from a spirit level to make sure the picture is straight, to flight trackers, restaurant guides and games.

A whole eco-system of developers has sprung up to feed the iPhone universe and now the iPad. Google has been trying to catch up but is way behind. Microsoft has been courting developers but starts at a big disadvantage.

"People don't know what they want but they do know they want to be where the action is," said Dulaney.
But Microsoft is fully aware of all this, he added. "They are in this for the long run. They can't afford not to be."

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