A couple months back, before Windows Phone 8 had its retail launch, before the Surface RT arrived, our Jaime Rivera took a look at the state of competition in the mobile sector, and made a case for Google and Apple leveraging their current popularity to try and muscle-out Microsoft. Of course, there was always the possibility that Windows 8 and WP8 would go over like gangbusters… but they haven’t. And considering what we’ve seen since, I’ve got to admit that there are are at least some signs that we could be looking at a concerted effort against Microsoft.
Sure enough, Apple and Google managed to steal Microsoft’s launchtime thunder. The iPad mini unveiling, though it didn’t arrive with any real surprises, captivated the attention of the Apple crowd, as well as the mainstream press. Then when it was finally time for Microsoft to have its own events, it felt almost like the air had been let out of its tires. After all, the new Windows Phone hardware had already been announced, and we had already been told about the changes coming to the platform; there just wasn’t much left to get excited about.
Had Microsoft launched the platform during a lull in the smartphone news cycle, things might had been different, but sandwiched between the iPad mini and the announcement of Google’s Nexus triple-threat just days later, Microsoft didn’t have a chance.
Frankly, some of what’s been coming out of Apple and Google towards Microsoft just seems mean. Right around the time of the WP8 launch, we heard Apple’s Tim Cook talking trash about the Surface during Apple’s quarterly earnings call. Cook described Surface as “a fairly compromised, confusing product”, suggesting that it was trying to be too many things at once, rather than do any one thing particularly well.
More recently, Google delivered its own low blow, explaining the lack of Google-authored apps on Windows Phone as a result of an absence of appreciable consumer interest in the platform. Maybe that’s the cruelest dig of all: “it’s not that there’s anything fundamentally wrong with you, but we don’t want to hang out because you’re just so unpopular”.
Pundits were quick to argue that Google itself could be partially responsible for the lack of public enthusiasm towards Windows Phone, as the presence of a Google app suite would almost certainly go a long way towards amping-up interest in the platform.
And yeah, developing those apps, especially for a platform with which Google lacks familiarity, might be a slight inconvenience, but this is Google we’re talking about. Not only does it have cash to spare, but it doesn’t seem to hesitate when it comes to spending it on really shot-in-the-dark ideas. Just look at all the Google Labs projects that have fizzled out over the years, or the aborted launch of the Nexus Q just a few months back. All that taken into consideration, and you can start to get the sense that Google just flat-out doesn’t want Microsoft receiving the benefit of Google’s own popularity.
Maybe Apple and Google just really see a need to defend their mobile turf. They caught a huge break when Microsoft failed to keep evolving Windows Mobile into the platform that it needed to become – before it got around to releasing WP7 – and now that they have the market share they do, why give Microsoft any inroads?
This is all part of a changing landscape, and I’m far from convinced that full-featured PCs are going the way of the dodo; Microsoft has that to rely on for now, at least. Still, mobile becomes a larger (and more profitable) sector all the time, and it only makes sense that its big players want to keep as much of that pie as they can for themselves.