The new 4 horsemen of Wall Street
Technology that worked well in one era is often considered a weakness in the next.
While this is not to be mistaken as praise for the emulating companies, it should not be considered an indictment either. In fact, I will argue that had Research In Motion (RIMM) set aside its pride and copied Apple, as many had suggested, it would still be relevant today.
Learning from the winners
As in sports, and in particular football, the world of business has become a "copy-cat league." Winning formulas are not considered intellectual property. In other words, where Super Bowl championships were once dominated by the best running teams, that has now shifted to those that are better at passing the ball. Essentially, every team now wants to do what last year's Super Bowl winner did.
In similar fashion, Wall Street has no shame in mimicking successful formulas, which I think makes sense.
For many years Apple was the only company that was able to successfully be its own hardware and software supplier -- essentially creating the ecosystem of a unified platform. Today, Microsoft and Google are looking for a similar benefits.
Google and Amazon join the tablet race
In announcing the Nexus 7 Google is looking at two possible outcomes.
First, it sought to design a device specifically for its online store in order to sell music, movies, books and other content. However, with its pricing point set firmly at $199, Google is also looking to steal market share from Amazon -- except it forgets that it licenses its Android OS to Amazon to power its Kindle Fire tablet. Essentially, Google has now become an Amazon partner as well as rival.
On the other hand, Amazon, which launched its highly successful Kindle Fire last year, has become an immediate threat to Apple's iPad. While the Fire lacks several of the features of the iPad, its $199 price has proven to be not only a very attractive trade-off, but a formidable opponent.
As a response, the word is that Apple will unveil a 7-inch iPad later this fall to apply pressure to not only Amazon, but also Google and Microsoft. But it doesn't end there, as Amazon might soon confirm its plans to not only release a 7-inch Kindle Fire later this month, but also a 10-inch version later in the fall.
HP and Dell are left behind
So if you are keeping score at home, let's just say there are a lot of tablets and mobile devices on the horizon. Noticeably absent in these discussions are the once-dominant personal computer players, Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) and Dell (DELL).
If you ever doubted that the PC era was over, these recent tablet events along with the fact that neither HP nor Dell has been seen at the party should signal the times are changing. However, that is not to be confused with their demise.
There was also a time when International Business Machines (IBM) was where both Dell and HP are today. It was able to successfully transition itself into a services company that is as dominant today as it ever was. Can HP and Dell do the same?
For HP and Dell to emerge successful as the software companies enter their space, their challenge will be to discover ways to grow their high-margin segments such as services, networking, storage as well as figuring out ways to leverage their recent software acquisitions to synergize not only with their existing businesses but also to address the new enterprise phenomenon that is known as "the cloud."
How well they are able to do this will ultimately determine their fate. Clearly, they are no longer growth companies, but that does not mean they can't be profitable.
Microsoft clues in
What worked well in one era is often considered a weakness in new ones. As we are seeing with the rising popularity of tablets and mobile devices, the more agile Apple, Google and Amazon are the ones leading the charge.
In an interesting twist, Microsoft is one company that is linked to both the past and the future. By having announced its own tablet plans and seemingly abandoning (in some respect) its previous OEM partnerships with Dell and HP, it appears ready to embrace the new era just in time for it to move on. It's too bad it waited 10 years to get with the times.
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