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Apple Now Much Bigger than Microsoft -- and Google's Gaining

The world turned upside-down some months ago when Apple became bigger than Microsoft, thereby rendering obsolete -- or, at least, purely historical -- Bill Gates' declaration to Steve Jobs in the epic film Pirates of Silicon Valley that, "I got the loot!" It's about 7:40 here if you want to see it again.

Billions of dollars in sales of iPhones, iPads and just plain ol' Macs later, Apple isn't just bigger than Microsoft -- it's way bigger. In fact, it's $100 billion in market cap larger than any other company in the technology industry. (Yes, that's billion with a "b.") That's some pwnage, as we understand the kids call it these days, right there.

But look out, Microsoft. Your grip on the No. 2 spot is slipping. Rushing up behind you is Google, which is within striking distance of taking the runner-up spot. Apple and Google are growing explosively, and Microsoft is, well, not. So, what does all of this mean for the former king of the software hill?

We at RCPU actually interpret it as mostly good news. Microsoft's slow growth is bad news for partners, but its loss of the top spot in the technology industry (by a huge margin) shouldn't really matter that much. In fact, as we've said here before, it should encourage Microsoft to stop chasing Apple in the consumer market and focus instead on holding its enterprise ground -- which is where partners derive most of their revenues, anyway.

In the Pirates of Silicon Valley clip, somebody who works for Apple tries to convince Jobs that it's Microsoft, not IBM, that is the company's mortal enemy. Microsoft could take a similar lesson here: It's Google, not Apple, that Redmond should watch out for. Sure, the iPad is cutting into PC sales. But Google's cloud-based business offerings cut to the very core of Microsoft's most profitable and stable enterprise offerings.

And we're not talking about search here, either. Bing is actually making inroads against Google, but Microsoft has to focus on protecting its enterprise market. Azure and the cloud strategy will be key to that, and so will making sure physical servers stay relevant in an era of expanding cloud infrastructure. All of that means competing against Google, not Apple.

Bill Gates, to his immense credit, is busy giving his loot away these days. Back in the rat race, it's Steve Jobs, not Steve Ballmer, who has it now. Microsoft should just let that go, as difficult as that will be at a company that is used to ruling the roost. Better to hang on to second place than to slip behind another competitor that could do some serious damage.

What's your take on Microsoft's standing in the software industry? Send it to lpender@rcpmag.com.

Posted by Lee Pender on 02/16/2011 at 1:23 PM


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