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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Keep Moving Forward - Apple, Microsoft, Google, RIM, Hearst

by Adam Hartung

Did you ever notice how often a large company will introduce a new solution (often a new technology), but then retrench from promoting it? Frequently, the market is developed by an alternate company that captures most of the value. We can see that behavior looking at smartphones.

Keep Moving Forward - Apple, Microsoft, Google, RIM, Hearst
Source: Silicon Alley Insider

In 2008, three early leaders were Microsoft, RIM and Palm. But Microsoft chose to invest in Defending & Extending its PC software business - with updates to the operating system in Vista and OS 7. As the market has shifted toward mobile computing, Microsoft has been clobbered. But largely because it remained stuck trying to protect its "core" while the market shifted away. Palm also tried to Defend & Extend (D&E) its early position with updates, but because it did not follow the pathway to greater usage with new applications it also has seen dramatic share decline.

Meanwhile, RIM has promoted new uses within the corporate world for mobility, and thus grown its market share. And Apple has made a huge impact by bringing forward dozens of new mobile applications, closely followed by Google. What we see is a classic example of the early entrant fading largely because they decided to Defend the old market, rather than investing in the new one. Really too bad for shareholders in Microsoft (losing 20 share points) and Palm (losing 10 share points), while good for shareholders of RIM, Apple and Google.

And in Apple's case we can see that the company continues using White Space to grow revenues by expanding the new marketplace. The iPad is off to a very strong start, with tens of thousands of units ordered last week. But of greater importance is how Apple is promoting the shift to mobile devices from traditional PC devices. At SeekingAlpha.com, in "How the iPad, Slates Will Evolve the Next Two Years," the reporter projects how demand for all laptop products will decline as more capability and functionality is added to mobile devices like smartphones and these new slate products.

Microsoft can keep trying to Defend & Extend PC technology, but it won't be long before their efforts largely won't matter. Don't forget that once Cray computers was a rapidly growing super-computer company. But increasing performance from much alternative products eventually made Cray irrelevant. Same for Silicon Graphics and Sun Microsystems.

Today the market capitalization of Microsoft is about $250B, about 4x sales. Apple's market cap is just over $200B, about 6x sales. Google's market cap is about $180B, about 8x sales. All reflect investor expectations about future growth. The D&E company is simply not expected to grow - and in fact is much more likely to disappoint than the companies growing share in growing markets toward which customers are shifting.

And any company can choose to participate in growth, versus Defend & Extend. While Tribune Corporation is trying to find a way out of bankruptcy, and struggling to figure out how to deal with market shifts away from newspapers, Hearst is taking positive action. The Wall Street Journal reports in "Hearst Jumps Into the Apps Business" how the old-line newspaper company has set up a White Space project, complete with dedicated people and its own funding, to begin developing mobile applications for news!

Even when business leaders see a market shift, far too many choose to Defend & Extend the "core." Unfortunately, that leads to disappointments. Keep in mind Microsoft and its rapid loss of Smartphone share as users move increasingly to mobile devices from PCs. To succeed leaders need to drive their organizations in the direction of market shifts, and growth. Like Apple, Google and even Hearst.

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Adam HartungAdam Hartung, author of "Create Marketplace Disruption", is a Faculty and Board member of the Lake Forest Graduate School of Management, Managing Partner of Spark Partners, and writes for "Forbes" and the "Journal for Innovation Science."

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Blogger Adam said...

I totally agree. Living in the past is silly. The world changes and we all need to either get with the program or find ourselves very uncomfortable.

It amazes me that a company the size of Microsoft would not have the resources to properly defend (or, ideally grow) its core business while expanding into another segment. But I have seen this is my own career. Companies often simply do not have the will to innovate.

4:39 AM  
Anonymous Jamie said...

@Adam Totally agree.

I've spent most of my career working for multi-billion dollar companies, and it's amazing how they get 'out maneuvered' by much smaller companies. Frustration sets in, subtly at first, and it becomes the catalyst for action as in individual. I plan to launch a startup in a totally different field.

11:04 PM  

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