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The blogged wandering of Robert W. Anderson

Schonfeld wrong on why Microsoft adopted Flash Lite

Erick Schonfeld of TechCrunch reports that Microsoft Adopts Flash Lite For Windows Mobile As a Stopgap Measure.  For those not keeping track of this, Adobe stopped supporting flash on Windows Mobile some time back.  And now it looks like Microsoft has licensed the Flash Lite run time for Windows Mobile directly.

This is good news for Windows Mobile users, but Shonfeld is wrong about Microsoft’s reasons.  He says,

… for Microsoft, this is just a stopgap measure until it can gain more traction for Silverlight, its Flash-competitor. The mobile version of Sliverlight 2.0 does not ship until the second quarter. Making WinMo more capable won’t detract from Silverlight’s appeal. There is a desperate need to get a full Flash-like experience on a mobile device. Flash itself is supposedly too slow on mobile phones. That leaves an opening for Microsoft win over converts to Silverlight by bringing video, animation, and other rich-media experiences to mobile. Nokia is already on board.

Does he really think that Microsoft would get into bed with Adobe Flash just because the Silverlight runtime doesn’t ship for one more quarter?

No way.

Microsoft is licensing Flash because they realize that they are losing to the iPhone.  Simply put, Microsoft wants to make Windows Mobile better.  Only running Silverlight would be a limitation, not an advantage.  So they license Flash.  My guess is that they’ll have a pre-installed Java runtime too.

On a related note, licensing ActiveSync to Apple has been much debated.  Was is a good thing for Microsoft?  Yes, and it is consistent with Microsoft licensing Flash Lite.  Why?

  • I think Microsoft has made the decision that Windows Mobile has to compete on its own merits (and not because it is a part of a greater lock-in with Microsoft Office). 
  • Microsoft also wants to protect their back-office Exchange licensing; what better way to do that than to make it easier for mobile handsets to support Exchange?

Adopting Flash is a step in the right direction.  And licensing ActiveSync forces this point home.

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Why Apple Won’t Dominate Next Gen Computing

Alex Iskold of ReadWriteWeb tells us Why Apple Will Dominate Next Gen Computing.  He is wrong.

Apple’s success isn’t about the software

Alex Iskold’s premise is that Apple’s software platform is superior, therefore they will dominate.  He says . . .

Apple’s secret sauce has been its software.

First off, this is not Apple’s secret sauce.  Apple’s not-so-secret sauce is their ability to deliver highly-polished total product: hardware + software + services + image.

Controlling the hardware and software is a baseline requirement for a company to do this, but they go beyond that to build beautiful, desirable, and highly functional total products.  A good part of this is observable beauty and another part is pure marketing genius: the creation of desire and belief in the hipness of the product. 

Compare Apple’s total product approach with . . .

  • Microsoft licenses Windows Mobile for a variety of devices, not being a handset manufacture, it doesn’t control the total product.  For example, Samsung Blackjack.  Popular phone?  Yes.  Windows Mobile a flop?  No, but for user experience it compares very poorly against the iPhone.
  • Microsoft licenses Windows Vista to a wide range of OEMs.  Same story.  A little worse because when they did have influence over the total product, they botched it.  Example? The Vista Ready campaign and surrounding lawsuits.
  • Palm?  They had the slickest PDAs for quite some time.  They controlled the total product but forgot the services part so Blackberry beat them handily.  There death nell was selling of the software and licensing WM5.
  • The XBox 360.  Microsoft builds the hardware + software + service.  Runaway success.  Home run. 

My point? 

It isn’t the software, it isn’t the hardware, it is the total product. When a company controls the total product they can achieve Apple-level success.

Why Apple won’t dominate

To dominate, Apple has to penetrate into the greater computing space (and stop being a high-priced niche brand).  Either

  • their hardware becomes ubiquitous; or
  • they broadly license their platform to other hardware manufactures.

The first one is ludicrous:  user preferences are too varied for a single hardware vendor to be the one solution.  Apple has mostly done it with the iPod, but that is a piece of consumer electronics and pales in comparison to the complexity of computer systems in general.  If they believe this to be a good strategy, they would likely have to greatly broaden their product mix and lower their prices.

The second one, while certainly possible, would greatly complicate the Apple story, Apple software quality, messaging, etc.  And still, broadly licensing technology will not result in domination.

Only if Apple chooses one of these approaches can they possibly dominate next-generation computing.  And then they have to execute brilliantly.  And then several years have to pass for people to be in a position to replace hardware.  And then a huge migration has to occur.  And then, Cocoa what?

Anyone think this is Steve Jobs plan?  No way. 

And if it is?  Short Apple.  There is too much choice out there in terms of hardware, developer platforms, better licensing models, nascent cloud platforms, etc., for Apple to dominate.

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