Does Microsoft Even Care Anymore?

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Bring back the old Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) -- the sweat-stained one obsessed with developers. Today's Microsoft is killing Windows Mobile.

On Monday, Mr. Softy opened submissions for its forthcoming Windows Marketplace for Mobile, reports. Good, right? Sure. Unfortunately, Microsoft is encouraging coders to get creative by offering four Microsoft Surface units -- a flatscreen, touch-sensitive PC built into a table -- as prizes.

Four. Tables.

Seriously, Microsoft? You have $30 billion in liquid investments lying around the bank, and all you can offer is fancy furniture? Please tell us you're joking.

To be fair, Mr. Softy isn't the only smartphone maker to go the American Idol route in trying to woo developers away from Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) iTunes App Store. Google (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) is on its second such contest. The difference is that The Big G is offering cash money for good work -- $250,000 to the top winner, and thousands more for runners-up and category winners.

The timing couldn't be better. Apple and AT&T (NYSE: T  ) just decided to boot all iterations of Google Voice from the App Store, as they did with tethering options last year. Developers could soon tire of seeing useful software barred from the iPhone. Where will Windows Mobile be when they do?

Wake up, Mr. Softy. Windows Mobile is a serious player in smartphones, but you're acting as if you're already Nokia (NYSE: NOK  ) , the current market leader. You're also acting as if Apple, Palm (Nasdaq: PALM  ) , and Research In Motion (Nasdaq: RIMM  ) pose no threat. But of course, every single one of them does.

You need developers to fight the good fight. This is no way to win their loyalty.

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Apple is a Stock Advisor selection. Microsoft and Nokia are Inside Value picks. Google is a Rule Breakers recommendation. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

Fool contributor Tim Beyers had stock and options positions in Apple and Google and a stock position in Nokia at the time of publication. Check out Tim's portfolio holdings and Foolish writings, or connect with him on Twitter as @milehighfool. The Motley Fool is also on Twitter as @TheMotleyFool. The Fool's disclosure policy is moving on to the next story. See you there.

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  • Report this Comment On July 29, 2009, at 4:09 PM, accelerando wrote:

    msft has no chance in this game. it is exactly the reverse of the pc vs mac game that apple so famously screwed up by angering developers (I know, I was one -- programmng the mac in the early days was a nightmare of invisible rules that no one at apple was willing to ever explain).

    in the smartphone world apple has already won. they have the platforms. they are incredibly friendly to developers. they already have zillions of apps -- and an entire well organized community of folks merrily making money designing more.

    This is a classic network externalities situation -- the more apps, the more iphones, the more iphones, the more apps. Two or three years from now apple will own the cell-phone industry the way they now own the portable music player industry. No one can possibly compete.

    Which is one of the key reasons why I'm predicting apple will be the first company to be worth a trillion dollars.

  • Report this Comment On July 30, 2009, at 11:25 AM, dudemonkey wrote:

    I would caution against assuming that Apple products will do well in Asia. I've found this to be a foregone assumption among Americans, but when I actually talk to people in China they already have phones that are on par with the iPhone, but cheaper. The thing to keep in mind is that the US sucks at design and Apple is good. However, the Germans and Japanese are GOOD at design, so Apple's products merely stack up okay against them.

    None of my friends in China have an interest in the iPhone and neither does anyone they know. I wouldn't bank on Apple doing well in China. They might, but it's not a foregone conclusion.

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