The fortunes of Apple and Microsoft will always be compared. The two largest US hardware manufacturers have spent years in fierce competition. Their battles have ranged from the home computing space to MP3 players, tablet and now mobile phones.
Whilst there have been other rivalries between big American technology firms, few have the longevity of Apple and Microsoft. Both companies released financials this week which highlighted the different challenges each of them now face.
The headline of Microsoft’s financials was an operating loss of $2.1bn, this included $780m worth of restructuring costs of the Nokia Devices and Services (NDS) business. Apple’s standout meanwhile was a quarterly revenue of $49.6bn and quarterly net profit of $10.7bn.
There are obvious pitfalls in comparing financials between two companies for an isolated quarter and it would be totally unfair to judge Microsoft based on this basis. The US giant has placed a lot of focus on the launch of Windows 10 and its mobile strategy has shifted significantly in the last 12 months.
Nevertheless, it did illustrate the extent to which Microsoft is undergoing change and transition, whilst Apple is sticking to a particular formula.
Mobile has been a key battleground for these two giants in recent years. The contrasting fortunes each firm has experienced demonstrates not only how the two businesses have changed, it also shows different the technology market has become.
Apple’s iPhone exploded into the phone market the blaze of which still fills the Californian brand’s coffers. It helped launch a successful operating system, app store and developer community.
Microsoft’s path has been slightly different, after a couple of attempts to enter the smartphone market it decided to buy Nokia, the pain of which is still being felt now. The purchase has helped to improve its position in the market, but it has not raised it to the same level as Samsung and Apple.
There is more of a clear strategy at Microsoft in terms of interoperability and there is a sense now that they have a mobile operating system and developer ethos to succeed. That said, they still need to catch up with Apple which won’t be easy.
It’s important to remember that whilst it appears as if Apple have the upper hand in the battle of two American technology giants, it could all change. In the past the idea that Apple might be achieving more than Microsoft was almost unthinkable.
Whatever happens in the future and the historic rivalry the two companies share means comparisons will always be made.