Friday, September 17, 2010

The Battle of the Titans Part 1....

Google, Apple, Microsoft, Amazon and Facebook are fighting for a dominant role in the internet.

Google of course is trying to do this through multiple channels.  It seems to be the octopus that has its tentacles in many places.  First and foremost, there is their search engine (that was originally designed to search digital books).   Second, there is its new operating systems Android for smaller mobile devices and Chrome OS which is a very logical approach to the way an operating system should be on a computer (totally web based).  Third, it is creating the largest repository of digital books in the world with Google Books (scanning about 5,000 books a day worldwide).  There are according to Google about 130,000,000 "unique" books.  So far they have scanned about 12,000,000 books and are about to scan another 400,000 from Austrian libraries which encompass most of European history and literature.  They are using an Elphel 323 camera which can scan approximately 1,000 pages an hour.  Android is becoming a very serious competitor for iOS4 from Apple, with some predicting that it will surpass Apple's mobile OS in licensing by 2012.

Not much needs to be said about Apple that they have not already stated, being the excellent marketing company that they are.  Beginning with the iPod and spreading to the iPod Touch, iPhone and iPad their products have sold in the millions (iPad sales have hit 7,000,000iPhone sales are at 15.8 million and growing and the iPod Touch sales are at 45,000,000.  These are enviable numbers by anyones standards. But there is even more amazing news from Best Buy about how iPad sales are taking 50% chunk out of netbook sales.  This will just the beginning.  The iPad is a REVOLUTION.  Not just because it is a touch screen, but because it is encourages those who have never really liked computers, to use Apple's device.  The iPad is INTUITIVE, and therefore, carries a very small learning curve.

What does Apple want?  It wants it ALL of course.  They want to control media (music, TV shows, movies).  They want to control advertising in mobile devices which is the considered by many the next big growth in ad revenues by 2014.  Apple is positioned very nicely through its new iAd service.

This is not to say that Google, Microsoft, Amazon and Facebook do not want it all either.  They all do.  Apple has the advantage of their spectacular hardware which almost everyone wants to own or emulate.  But they also have something which they have had for years, the crown jewel is their amazing ability to make computers and other assorted devices EASY TO USE.  This is something Microsoft has never really learned.  From day one, Apple's philosophy has been that machines should think like people do and not the other way around.  If something is difficult to use Apple considers it the manufacturer's faulty design not the end users fault.  People are much more sophisticated than any computer so they are not the ones who need an "upgrade."  Apple controls the hardware and it is selling in unimaginable numbers.  They also control what will go on that hardware and how it will be used.  This is a tremendous strategic advantage which Google and Microsoft do not have.  Amazon may have a this advantage while Facebook has another different kind of advantage.

This is the favorite company people like to beat up.  They have been called many names in the past (in some cases with justification).  Some have said that they are out of this new game.  What new game you might ask?  The new web 2.0 and 3.0 technologies that are already here and still arriving.

But just when you might think this empire is about to collapse, it manages to do something right and stay in the game.  They use to be the richest technology company in the world.  This title now belongs to Apple depending on how it is measured.

So how was Microsoft survived?  First, through the old warhorses of Office and the Windows Operating System.  We are not going to revive the years-old-battle as to whether Microsoft stole Windows from the Apple OS except to reference this video which is an excerpt from the movie Pirates of Silicon Valley.

Sales of the Vista operating system were not great.  Windows 7 however, has been a tremendous success.  Microsoft Office of course always sells well since they have a captive audience.  But this truism may be changing.  Yet the really innovative thing Microsoft has done has been Bing, its new search engine.

Apart from their snazzy commerials more and more people are using it to search.  Their mobile area is a disaster for Microsoft with Windows Mobile sales being lackluster.

In Part 2 of Battle of the Titans we will discuss Amazon and Facebook.  Stay tuned!

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