Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Google and Apple fight, Microsoft gains

A couple of years ago, when the market was tanking, a friend asked me which stocks I would buy in mobile. I answered "Apple and Google, they are the only two companies with a clue in this space". I am not sure if I would have made money on the stock (I am an open source guy, money is bad :-) but they definitely delivered on the product side.

Not only they delivered it. They did it together.

Think about the launch of the iPhone. There was Google all over the place. The best maps implementation in the world, even better than on a desktop (let me repeat myself, better than the desktop, with pinch and zoom, any hint on the future of computing?). The YouTube app, first time we really managed to watch videos in mobile (via Google). Gmail integrated. A Goophone...

Google has been a big driver for the iPhone. Eric Schmidt was at the iPhone launch. He was on Apple's board. They were working together.

Then something happened: Google decided to push Android. They launched a device so ugly Steve Jobs probably is still laughing. Then it got better. And better. The Nexus One is the closest thing to an iPhone out there. I am sure Jobs noticed it...

Eric Schmidt left the Apple board. Soon thereafter, Google stole AdMob from Apple (they let expire a 45 days no-shop, and three days later Google announced the acquisition for $750M...).

Lastly, a month ago Google pushed an update of the Android OS that made it look like an iPhone, with pinch and zoom. A declaration of war.

And war it is. This month, Apple has sued HTC, the company which makes the Google Phone. A proxy to attack Google. It is out in the open. And it is going to be nasty.

What is next?

Well, you do not want to piss off Steve Jobs... He has recently said that "do not be evil" is bullshit (his words, not mine). And that "we did not enter the search business, they entered the phone business". He is pissed. Really pissed.

Few guesses:
  1. the iPad might have Microsoft Bing as a default search engine (I am not suggesting they will strip off Google completely, they will nicely put it as a second choice)
  2. that might happen on the iPhone 4.0 as well
  3. the maps application might be removed and transformed into one Microsoft-like
  4. the video application might be removed and transformed into one Apple-like (coming from iTunes)
How bad could this be for Google? Bad. Because Android will be dominant, but Apple is not going away soon and they will own a large chunk of the market. In particular, if the iPad becomes the future of computing, as I expect.

Is it bad for Apple? Of course. Google is the king of search, and their maps app is fantastic. YouTube remains number one. If you strip out Google stuff, the Apple fan might protest (as they are protesting for the lack of Flash, good luck with that). At the end, users might decide Apple is too close and move elsewhere.

Anybody gaining? Microsoft. This is the chance they were waiting for. With Yahoo, they now have with Bing almost 30% of the search engine market. If they get on the iPad and on the iPhone, they might catch Google in a couple of years.

On top of it, they are launching Windows 7 Phone at the end of the year. Everything I have seen so far is very nice (excluding the fact that Windows 6.x apps will need to be completely rewritten...).

Microsoft is very very late in mobile but when #1 and #2 are fighting, you have a chance to gain back. They have been friend with Apple in the past, when Apple needed them and viceversa. Now they could get back in the game, big time.

Do not discount Microsoft. Never.

Should you buy some Microsoft stock?