I’ve been a happy customer (and frequent stockholder) of Apple for a few years now. Apple has had a substantial lead in design, technology and platforms like iTunes. They leveraged this in a spectacular way with the iPhone. But there have been some nagging issues along the wayÂ like the proprietary nature of their products, their great reluctance to admit to any mistakes or shortcomings and relatively high prices which generate high returns but also fund increasingly swanky store locations.
There’s no reason to get down on Apple. But at the same time I’m getting a bit tired of them and even their products. It’s been years since I was thrilled by my first installation of iTunes (AAPL was around $19 I think) and then my first Mac laptop, then desktop, and so on.Â I didn’t move to the iPhone due to my heavy use of a keyboard and longtime Blackberry orientation. But still an iPhone might have been in my future if it were not for Android. Apple has proven to be less-than-helpful at really making things like iTunes, AppleTV and even the Touch and iPhone work in the way that I want them too. At the same time there are not many third party solutions to turn to.
Windows 7 is going to be a big help for the PC industry. It’s going to revitalize what still represents the vast majority of the computing business and be an important catalyst for Microsoft and related vendors. Google is effectively embracing and extending the Windows space with their browser and cloud-based services like Wave.
Google also clearly wants to do more with infrastructure services and communication. The recent divergence between Google and Apple makes it clear that Apple will be seeing Google in their core markets much more in the coming years. What we don’t know yet from Google is how they will deal with media assets beyond what they are doing with YouTube and books.
Apple is a great company with great products. They have executed incredibly well. However they have also done so without much competition. Google and Microsoft are poised to be much stronger players. And by pitting themselves against companies like Verizon they have opened themselves to more competition than their stockholders and analysts are fully prepared for.
Fortunately for Apple the current strength of the iPhone, iTunes and the iPod will make them hard to beat in any of those areas directly.Â Strangely enough they may be much more at risk in their legacy core business of computers and software than anywhere else.
Technology and markets never sleep.
[Disclosure: The author holds a personal position in Microsoft call options at the time of this writing.]