Brad Moon, Microsoft
Tech companies can rise rapidly by hitting the right trend at the right time and establishing dominance. Occasionally one tackles a new market — something unexpected — and seemingly out of nowhere, they’re on top and leading a profitable new industry that seems far from their core competence.
That’s what happened with Apple.
The return of its exiled cofounder, OSX and the iMac helped once-troubled Apple get its mojo back. Still, it remained just another PC maker — albeit a stylish one — until it took two chances, first tackling portable music (with the iPod), then mobile communications (with the iPhone). Those ventures launched Apple into the stratosphere, not computers.
Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) might seem like an odd choice to repeat Apple’s success, but some familiar pieces are falling into place. A PC-era veteran that seemed increasingly irrelevant in a post-PC world, Microsoft is fighting back with Windows 8, an operating system that targets convergence. PCs, tablets and smartphones all run versions of the OS, which is garnering buzz. IDC predicts Windows will overtake Apple’s iOS in mobile market share by 2016. Then there’s Microsoft’s surprise unveil of its new Surface tablets — credible competition for both iPad and notebook PCs.
In the living room, Microsoft’s Xbox has morphed from video game console to disruptive entertainment hub. The gaming hardware has been expanded with Xbox Live, the Kinect motion controller, video streaming and most recently its SmartGlass for mobile devices. TV makers (and certainly Apple, which also is eying the lucrative living room) are realizing there was a wolf in that sheep’s clothing.
With its stock under $30 (half its all-time high), Microsoft has plenty of room for growth — Apple was around $9 (one third of its all-time high) when the iPod was released.
Could Microsoft pull an Apple? Stranger things have happened.