Microsoft Defense Dance

Is Microsoft buying Nokia a final point of Ballmer failure? Likely not, but with his track record one has to wonder. Microsoft is buying Nokia’s handset hardware business and licensing Nokia mobile technology patents (something that Apple also did after a nasty bout of litigation). Most folks think Microsoft is attempting to clone Apples 360° product offering. Microsoft already started down this road with their Surface tablets, which received rave reviews from both customers. Recognizing that they are desperately behind in the now-dominating consumer mobile market, Microsoft seems to be building a new product offering by bringing all the hard and software in-house. (The obvious punch line is that Microsoft is adopting their own orphan since Nokia is the only handy maker squarely behind mobile Windows) The more interesting aspect of this news item is Nokia’s patents, which Microsoft is licensing (Nokia was wise not to sell that revenue stream). … Continue reading

Apple Worms

Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but it is also the cheapest form of revenue. Apple has devolved from being a generator of disruptive innovations to instigator of imitations. This week’s iOS 7 preview is meeting with weird-not-rave reviews noting that the mobile operating system borrows design elements from Microsoft Vista and Google’s Android. The big hype is that the UI design is completely overhauled, meaning that Apple is now copying Microsoft’s mode of destroying what people have become accustomed to using, and by jettisoning that investment may also jettison customers. One commenter rudely said: “Say what you want about Apple products, but at least they always had their own vibe. The new update eliminates that. Now, iPhones and iPads will look like more expensive versions of their Android cousins. That green felt and wood aesthetic that Apple was so excited to discard at least allowed Apple to … Continue reading

Muddy Models

To dominate or not to dominate. That is the non-rhetorical question. Being a former IT guru, I hang-out virtually with some of my former peers in forums where we argue about everything from driver code to global warming. Many years ago I announced to that cabal that Android would dominate the smart phone market due to its business model. iPhone fanbois who littered this clan insinuated I had lost my mind – that Apple’s elegance, simplicity and market lead would forever overwhelm Android’s then 3% market share. This week Gartner announced Android makes up 75% of all new smart phone sales. My prognostication was based on market mechanics while my techie chums were enamored by Apples early technology differentiation. But like Microsoft before them on the desktop, Google decided to use the ecosystem to spread an operating system, which is a good way to get a lot of companies to … Continue reading

Ill-Lumina

Launching a late-comer product into a maturing market is like pushing a salmon up Niagara Falls. Some folks (with perhaps a bit too much time on their hands) have estimated that about $450 has been spent marketing each Nokia Lumina sold … which currently retails for $49 (with the ubiquitous two-year contract). You don’t need an MBA to see that this is not an entirely profitable go-to-market plan. The Lumina was the first serious attempt to lift Microsoft’s mobile market share, and managed push fewer than two million of them into users hands (though it is uncertain if this includes the number of devices Nokia gave to AT&T employees in an attempt to evangelize in-store sales staff). There are about as many Android activations each day as Luminas now in use. The marketing puzzle that Microsoft failed to solve was getting consumers to believe that WinPhones were better gizmos than … Continue reading

Driving on the RIM

When was the last time you heard somebody use the word “crackberry”? I recall a Southwest Airlines flight attendant uttering that abstraction when comically ordering passengers to turn off electronic gizmos. It was a period in history with Research In Motion (RIM) was, well, flying high. Their email push technology was new, hot, addictive for road warriors and earned a share price that startled even Silicon Valley investors. RIM stock has fallen 94% since then. RIM was a one-trick technology. It certainly filled a need, but offered something that was cloanable, and eventually obsoleted by mass adoption of wireless data plans. Today a cheap feature phone can make IMAP connections to any email server and deliver the same degree of digital addiction that once made RIM famous. Some analysts claim RIM is now worth nothing except the value of their patent portfolio. Success often breeds failure. Incessant laurel sniffing leads … Continue reading

Real SoLoMo

Intersections cause collisions, but also opportunities. A basic marketing strategy is practice to find the intersection of what customers want to achieve (expected outcomes) and where the market is not providing that solution. Alternately, one can look for places where different technologies can, for the first time, be combined and create previously unavailable value. Smart phones are now ready to facilitate SoLoMo. The three raging factors in markets and marketing today are SOcial, LOcation-based apps and MObile. The real-time enabled combination of these three may well be the next major moment in consumer technology and marketing. The ability to reach people in tight geographical clusters, who are sharing an experience or looking for one, will be an exciting market in which to pitch. Social is about sharing. As witnessed by Facebook posts, it is the moment in which the user has the impetus to share that is important. What one … Continue reading

HP Hip Plop

I would not want to be an HP employee this week. Well, actually I have not wanted to be one since Bill and Dave went to the big database in the sky. Last week, in rapid fire, HP said they will likely get out of the PC/laptop business (either through an Agilent-like spinoff or outright sale), killed their newborn webOS phone and slab business, and bought a relatively obscure software company for a huge premium. Their stock dropped about 30% and HP aficionados are still staring, jaws agape, in disbelief. Change is the only thing of permanence, and that applies doubly in the high tech business. Tech companies are the most agile known, and many have completely reinvented themselves when faced with undeniable market shifts. Others change because better opportunities exist. HP’s newest CEO, Leo the Lively, knows that software companies make significant margins (Oracle has an overall margin of … Continue reading