Apple is the most successful company on earth. Its products have revolutionized several industries. It has more than $100 billion in cash and it's worth more than half a billion dollars.
So it's no wonder that other tech companies that used to be on top of the heap are trying to act more like Apple.
- Google is building hardware. It's making consumer electronics products and buying a major phone maker, Motorola.
- Microsoft is defining hardware specs. Microsoft's Windows Phone platform is only available on phones with very specific hardware designs. For tablets, Microsoft has an OS called Windows On ARM that will only be available with very carefully defined specifications -- just like the iPad. It won't run old Windows apps. You won't be able to buy it and install it yourself.
This is the wrong approach. There's no way you can beat Apple by trying to be more like Apple.
For evidence, look at the only other tablet maker who has had any real success against the iPad: Amazon's Kindle Fire.
It's not great hardware. In fact, it's not even TRYING to compete with Apple on hardware. Instead, it's just another sales channel for Amazon.
Amazon is really good at understanding how the move to digital technology will change how people shop. The Kindle plays to that strength.
So what is Google really good at?
Building (or buying) massive-scale Internet services and figuring out how to make money from them without charging consumers.
Yes, it had to make sure those services worked equally well on mobile devices -- which is why Android made sense as a hedge against other mobile platforms (mainly iOS) locking Google out. Google was smart to give Android away for free to gain fast adoption.
But it's very hard to see how building hardware will improve the user experience on Google services, or help advertisers reach Google users more effectively.
What is Microsoft really good at?
Building software for every kind of business user in the world. It may not be polished or perfect, but it's always got enough features for enough different kinds of users that everybody adopts it. Eventually it becomes the standard. Windows (and DOS). Office. Exchange. SharePoint.
This is why Microsoft should (and probably will) eventually move Office to every popular platform out there, including the iPad and Android.
It's also why Microsoft's "no compromises" approach to Windows 8 -- which will work on all kinds of computers and will run old PC software in the old Windows desktop interface -- makes sense.
But locked-down Windows tablets will have a very hard time competing on Apple's turf.
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