Apple and Microsoft in dead heat
Katie bar the door! A fresh headline from the venerable New York Times captures an important moment — “New King of Technology: Apple Overtakes Microsoft”
Don’t get too excited, we’re dealing in Monopoly money here as the article makes clear:
“In intraday trading in the afternoon session, Apple shares rose 1.8 percent, which gave the company a value of $227.1 billion. Shares of Microsoft declined about 1 percent, giving the company a market capitalization of $226.3 billion.”
Still, the only company worth more in the known universe is Exxon Mobile valued by the market at $282 billion.
So, that’s a lot of money and a significant coup for a company (Apple) that once nearly bought the farm until Microsoft gave it life support in the form of a loan. Still the crossing is significant.
In recent years, Apple could do almost no wrong with product introductions like the iPod and recently the iPad and more importantly, the retailization of technology. I own Apple TV which is not a hit that I can tell though it is a very nice product. The glitch that I can see is that Apple TV doesn’t have a lower case “i” in front of it so blame product marketing.
I don’t know what you think but it seems like Microsoft hasn’t done much right since Gates went into philanthropy. The company isn’t exactly an idea or product generator like Apple and the products they do bring out seem inept. Many people bought Apple products in reaction to product quality issues with Windows. And while Apple went for hands-on selling in its stores, Microsoft left it all to the big partners that pride themselves on how efficient they are at specking out a system and mailing it to you. Where Apple updates your software automagically, Windows users have to find a web site and figure out what to get (full truth, my last experience with Windows was XP and I bought a bushel of macs rather than chance Vista).
But the two companies are not simply mirror images. Apple makes no software save its wonderful OS and some funky utilities and an office suite, and Microsoft makes very few hardware products. Perhaps software is inherently more difficult? Maybe. But, importantly, in a world where you’d think all the hardware niches are full, Apple manages to find and exploit new ones. In the same world where you’d think the sky is still the limit in software, Microsoft finds it necessary to push the same rock up a hill by periodically re-writing its OS and we get headlines about security breaches.
We could look at the parity in market value as a good thing, as Apple catching up, but we also have to say that Microsoft slowed down. Why?