Color me ambidextrous. I work both sides of the fence. At home I’m an Apple customer. At work I’m a Microsoft customer fully bathed in all things Windows and Office. For more than 25 years I have managed to work well and live well using both sides. Microsoft and Apple are not the same kinds of technology companies but they share a few common traits.
First, both companies know how to make money and pump up the stock price; both hovering around a trillion dollars in value. Second, both companies deal with an enormous number of customers; Apple with about 1.5-billion devices in the wild, and Microsoft, through Windows and Office, has a few billion.
Beyond the search for power and wealth and customers, how are they similar?
Microsoft is a software company that dabbles in hardware. Apple is a hardware company that uses software as a key point of differentiation. What both companies do best is to keep focus.
Apple focuses on hardware and software, and while both have grown in recent years, the company has few hardware failures, and software– with the company’s carefully cultivated ecosystem– continues to set Apple apart from Microsoft, Samsung, Google, and competitors. Yet, the Apple system is open to all comers; both Microsoft and Google have many apps that run on Apple hardware.
Here’s an example of Apple working diligently to keep focus and maintain a solid brand.
The Mac line is obvious and distinct. MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, Mac mini, iMac, iMac Pro, and soon, Mac Pro. macOS, iOS, iPadOS, watchOS, and tvOS grace the hardware products.
Microsoft has many different revenue streams, including cloud services, Windows, Office, hardware and more. The cash cows are Windows and Office, the latter now a subscription service. How is that working out?
Microsoft may have 170-million Office 365 subscribers, which could bring in over $12-billion in annual revenue. The Windows maker also have over a billion Office users– more revenue.
How are all those different products and revenue sources evidence of focus?
A company can only grow so far and so fast with a small product line, and publicly traded companies are required by shareholders to accomplish much– grow revenue, grow profit, grow stock value. Guess which one is most important?
That means that companies like Apple and Microsoft must diversify. Both have done well, though Apple’s hardware line is well diversified and highly profitable. Microsoft’s cloud services business is highly profitable while Apple’s iCloud is more of an addendum service for customers.
Is competitor Google well focused?
Most of the search engine giant’s revenue comes from advertising. Attempts to diversify to other products– hardware, particularly, including the Pixel smartphone and Nest home products, have failed– spectacularly relative to Apple’s hardware growth and profits.
Lack of focus. See the problem?
Apple has customers. Microsoft has customers. Google has users and struggles to deal with customers. Where Google succeeds is focus on advertising.