Apple has been grabbing all the innovation headlines with the iPhone and the iPad and its iMac business has benefitted in the process. Microsoft showed off Windows 8 at D9 today and in so doing showed the world that markets are always open to those who innovate. Windows 8 has a completely different look and feel to the current operating system. Gone is the start button and the icons for apps. Instead the new version will use live tiles. These will be familiar to those who use a current generation of Windows phone. Indeed this is part of what makes Windows 8 so clever. It shares the same interface across mobile and PC, meaning you learn one way to find and access content. It also makes it easier to share content between systems. To get a good feel for Windows 8 see the demo on YouTube. Windows 8 looks very cool and may well be the kind of innovation that will draw Mac users back to the Windows platform. It also demonstrates why Nokia may have chosen to go the Windows route for its mobile products. I love it when you can actually see innovation and with Windows 8 that innovation is not just visible it’s also screaming at you.
Sooner or later Twitter will get serious about an IPO and or someone will try and buy them. My guess is that various firms have already made offers but that they are shrewdly holding out. After all, YouTube sold early to Google for what seemed like a lot at that time but now seems a bargain. Let’s assume that at some point suitors are able to offer enough money to entice the founders and investors to sell. Who is likely to get the prize? Well here are my candidates:
- Facebook – could decide that ‘Places’ is OK but not great and that a second property makes sense. If they did they may be able to offer an interesting alternative for investors, whereby they get to take part in what is likely to be biggest IPO in a decade or more when they themselves go public.
- Google – Google has a search engine, a content library, email, IP comms and great mapping technology. But Bing is catching them up,their email isn’t the best, there’s a lot of competition in their IP comms areas AND it doesn’t have a social platform that rocks people’s world. Twitter would fit into the Google empire much like YouTube has and they have the cash to make an outrageous bid.
- Microsoft – they have the cash and REALLY want to be a player in the Internet world. They’ve stumbled but Bing is proof that they are turning things around. They may well be smart enough to leave Twitter alone and have enough server farms (as do Google) to make sure Twitter outages are a thing of the past.
- Apple – they are a left field option. We’ve already seen that Apple wants to play in the social network space with Ping. I don’t think they get it though and would likely screw up. That said, they effectively invented the small app world and could make Twitter the center of a massive app world.
- Skype -If Skype does an IPO they could have the platform to do a deal. Imagine a Skype version of Twitter with thousands of short videos on your desktop, iPhone etc each day? I can’t see Twitter going this route but it could happen.
- Amazon or eBay – these are also outsiders but both could use this technology very effectively within their businesses and could therefore justify a big price tag. That said eBay bought Skype and later sold it at a loss, so they will likely pass on this one.
- IBM, Oracle, HP etc – any one of the big IT vendors could make a play as they have the cash. They’re not likely to though. Twitter is not a good fit culturally and they would probably rather spend their money on more obvious Internet targets such as Salesforce.com.
What’s clear is that WHEN Twitter looks to realize the value they’ve created, there are plenty of deep pocketed options for them. Don’t you wish you’d got founder stock? I certainly do.
For a while now Microsoft has struggled (in relative terms) while Apple has gone from apparent strength to strength. Apple, it seemed, could do no wrong. Then about 18 months ago a few things started to go against Apple. These minor issues have largely been ignored or brushed off as, well, minor but I wonder if Apple may finally be starting to feel the heat from Microsoft?
What has gone against Apple? Here’s my list:
1. Steve’s illness was very badly handled and has shown how critical he is to the success of the company. Microsoft handled Gates departure with some style – even making a quite funny ‘last day at the office video.’ At some point Apple needs to face up to the fact that Steve won’t be around forever and start preparing customers for that world.
2. Microsoft ran a pretty successful ad campaign that showed how expensive Macs were versus a PC. It clearly impacted Apple as they a) cut the prices of their products and b) asked Microsoft to stop running the ads.
3. Microsoft launched Bing. While Bing has a long way to go to topple Google it has achieved some success and has shown that Microsoft can actually compete again. Meanwhile Apple launched Snow Leopard, while it’s a good product various reviewers, including the notable Walt Mossberg at the WSJ were disappointed.
4. Apple has resorted to a very negative ad to address the launch of Windows 7. They wouldn’t have done this if they didn’t believe Windows 7 may well lure some Mac customers back to Windows and of course stem the tide of people like me that moved to the Mac at home and finally at work.
I think if Microsoft wants to knock Apple of its perch as the customer favorite and mindshare leader when it comes to technology it may well be in with a good shot at it. Steve is back at the helm of Apple and I’m sure they’ll usher in some great new products. But Windows 7 has shown Microsoft still has real teeth and could well get a whole bunch of people to feel proud of owning a Microsoft product again.