New products and new markets are defined by players who catch the giants of the current industry on the wrong foot. As the computing world is unfolding, that is precisely how I see it playing out for the giants as well.
Microsoft and Intel have defined the personal computing for over three decades. A lot of well healed and intelligent players came and brought far superior products, but they met quick demise. A combination of marketing and dominance could pound far better products into dust very easily.
However, it was left to the old foe, Apple and the new foe, Google to combine and redefine the computing future such that the coming decades seem to be without the yesteryear giants.
Because I personally hold that the Computing products of tomorrow will NOT be defined by the personal computers (laptops) of today, but by the smartphones of today.
If you are not a power to reckon with in the smart phones architecture and network; you should quickly cash your stocks and retire. For, sooner or later you will be history. iPhone’s (and now iPads) smart maneuverability and Androids quickly approaching dominance status as the OS of the smart phones means that for most part, this market has been lost.
I see very little competition to Android in the coming years. In fact, it will only grow in dominance. Yes, RIM (Blackberry) has been a strong competitor; but the appeal and strength of its OS and application community will be no match for the Android world. If I were the RIM CEO, and I had to make one smart decision – I would say – to heck with the OS dominance – lets build new generations Blackberrys based on Android and evade this losing bet.
There was a case in our MBA strategy class – where Singer company which made sewing machines was the top sewing machine company in the 1970s. But by the 1980s every company was beating it. And it was such a giant for it owned the iron ore mines, the forests (for wood of the cabinets), made the machines and marketed them. Suddenly several upstarts came in by making machines using readymade raw material. Now, all these machine manufacturers had to do was buy the wood and iron cheaper than Singer, and they had beaten its margin!
Singer had forgotten to answer a simple question: “What business are we in?” Were they in Iron Ore mining? Or in Forest development? Or making Sewing machines? Or Marketing machines? They had several competitors in every industry, that they had to do several tasks really really well to even get somewhere.
RIM – the maker of Blackberry – and Apple (maker of iPhones) are the Singers of the the mobile phones and more importantly, the mobile computing industry. If they don’t answer a simple question – “What business are we in?” – then the chances are that they will lose it all.
Meanwhile, the Texas Instruments, Qualcomm, Nvidia and other ARM processor makers are having the last laugh. Acorn Computers had tried to use the ARM (Advanced RISC Machine) architecture but failed against the Intel processors for personal computers. But today the games and smartphones of today, even the iPad from Apple – are based on the ARM architecture.
Interestingly and ironically, Intel and AMD have failed to jump on to this bandwagon and may suffer from late entry, unless they bring in something that is vastly and inherently superior and disruptive.
And did you notice that Microsoft is nowhere when it comes to Mobile Computing? Well, its OS for mobile computing isn’t the most exciting and its dominance has fallen off. And to Microsoft’s chagrin; Google has learnt he lessons of how to dominate and pulverize its competition (even nascent one) pretty well from the Windows giant itself!
The world is achanging and it may be without a Window in sight.
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