Home > Digital, Mobile, Strategy > Microsoft may be down but are they out?

Microsoft may be down but are they out?

The new mobile wars are about an ecosystem across devices.  Microsoft is obviously not in a great position. I have casually looked at Windows 8 devices the last few days. I am encouraged by what I see. That said, in my house we have 2 iPads, 3 iPhones and 2 Android phones. I will buy a Windows 8 device soon. Probably a laptop/tablet combo. Here are the contenders from a recent Forrester report.

Image representing iPad as depicted in CrunchBase

  • Amazon puts content — and commerce — first. Amazon’s strongest asset is its ability to deliver a rich assortment of content seamlessly to its customers, who are very comfortable with buying from the big retailer on any device, not just those from Amazon. In addition, the company is a powerhouse in cloud computing and provides seamless access to purchased and personal content across any device. Yet Amazon’s device offerings are limited, and its use of a modified variant of the Android platform requires a devoted effort to entice developers to create application versions tuned to that variant. While Amazon has global ambitions, its reach today is much more limited than its competitors; additionally, its method of working with mobile operators challenges its expansion rate.
  • Apple exerts by far the strongest loyalty gravitational pull. Apple’s collective offerings are demonstrably attractive to its customers, anchored most firmly by its most popular product, the iPhone. Consider that, compared with the total US online population, iPhone owners are 156% more likely to own an iPad, 188% more likely to own a Mac, and 235% more likely to own both. Apple has succeeded in providing digital distribution for nearly every major owner of music, video, books, newspapers, and magazines; additionally, while some media companies have publicly complained about Apple’s perceived stranglehold on the market, by and large Apple has helped those companies benefit from digital disruption. Apple customers have warmly embraced the company’s personal cloud services — but these services still have gaps to fill versus, for example, Google Docs.
  • Google touches the greatest number of mobile customers, but its loyalty force is less strong. The company’s Android software has skyrocketed to become the leading smartphone platform, but Android phone owners are not as strongly drawn to other Android devices as is the case for Apple. Online adults in the US who own an Android phone are twice as likely to own an Android tablet than the total US online population — but also 13% more likely to own an iPad.  Google’s range of content partnerships has grown rapidly in the past year. However, its library still falls short of both Apple’s and Amazon’s, and some media companies have shown reluctance to embrace Google as a partner given past collisions such as that between YouTube and Viacom. The company’s greatest strength is in its broad reach via cloud services and its Chrome browser, which is now available on the vast majority of connected devices.
  • Microsoft has the steepest mountain to climb. Microsoft has been singularly unsuccessful in translating its dominance in PCs to the mobile market, in fact suffering from a loss of smartphone market share since the introduction of its revamped Windows Phone 7 OS. The company has no presence so far in the vital tablet market and, as a result, has struggled to attract developers to its mobile platforms. While Microsoft has released a wide range of personal cloud services such as SkyDrive, it has not effectively communicated the value of those services to its customers. Microsoft’s greatest strength in content and media resides on the Xbox, whose connections to other devices powered by the company’s software is nearly invisible. With the release of Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8, Microsoft hopes to translate a common user experience into loyalty across multiple devices — a tall order given its competitors’ positions.
  • Others face a daunting task in building from (almost) scratch. It’s clear that many companies seek to establish a competitive ecosystem. RIM promises that its upcoming OS revamp, BlackBerry 10, and associated devices will revitalize the once-dominant smartphone maker. Samsung, the world leader in phone shipments, has invested in its own bada OS, has a range of content partnerships and its own media store, and has also hedged its bets by joining Intel’s Tizen development effort. Companies like HP, with strong ties to the enterprise, recognize the importance of having a diverse mobile offering, including smartphones. But we consider it highly unlikely that any of these companies can craft and unite all of the requisite components and then lure customers who have already placed their significant investments. Therefore their hope lies in those customers whose assets remain on the table — and there are billions of them.
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