Stop the Noiz

5 Strategies Microsoft Must Use to Succeed Against the iPad

Frank Fox - 2010.08.06 - Tip Jar

Last week's big news was Steve Ballmer's comments about the iPad. Microsoft's CEO thinks Apple has sold too many, and it's time that Microsoft gets its A-game on to shut down Apple.

Some may doubt Microsoft ability to succeed. You can look back on how well they have done with Zune, Kin, and Windows Mobile Phone 7 against Apple's iPod, iPhone, and iOS. Clearly Microsoft has big ambitions - and no clue regarding proper execution.

Is it even possible for Microsoft to succeed?

Microsoft fears looking foolish as much as it fears failing.

Yes, if it follows my five business strategies for winning.

Microsoft has the talent and money to achieve each of these goals, but it appears unable to stick with a plan for long. Microsoft fears looking foolish as much as it fears failing. This leads me to believe that it isn't likely to win any time soon.

Still, desperation could be just the kind of motivation it needs.

Without further ado, my list of the five business strategies Microsoft must use to defeat the iPad.

1. Keep it Cheap and Profitable

Look at the success of netbooks and the Kindle. A low price allows penetrations into markets that Apple doesn't reach. This means that computers and "slates" under $400 don't have to compete with Apple.

The low price also means a larger market.

There will also be less profit if you don't follow all five of my business strategies correctly. You can't simply lower the price and hope to make it up on volume.

2. Make it Simple

Complexity is not the friend of a touch-based device. It needs to be simple to use. Build it so it takes only one motion to make anything happen. You can have ten different kinds of motions, from pinches to swipes, but each does the job without two more to follow.

Never have layers of screens for the user to navigate through.

Don't have a lot of buttons or other tools that could confuse the user about which to use. Adding buttons only comes later, after you've trained people on the first or second generation of your device. Training is part of the product development cycle.

3. Marginalize Your Opponent's Core Business

The easiest competitor to tackle is one that is so entrenched that it has become inflexible. This is the big problem with Microsoft.

Microsoft cannot risk its Windows and Office monopolies, but Google can give away free software (Google Docs, Google Desktop, Google Earth, Google Chrome (the browser), Android OS, Google Chrome OS, etc.) without fear.

Once a company builds up a large market based on one or two products, it is weak against any business model that marginalizes those products.

4. Don't Attack Headlong

attacking a castleA basic strategy of war is flanking maneuvers. Try to bring your forces around the enemy line so you can attack where they are weakest: If you can get behind them, you win.

Apple has an incredibly strong product line, great marketing, and high brand recognition. A headlong attack on Apple is like an army attacking a castle. The attacking army will be torn to bits. By coming around to a back gate (or an unprotected side), you save your strength for the real fight.

5. Learn What to Leave Out

Apple understands this tactic better than anyone else. Throwing everything into a product costs money, creates competition for your own product, and confuses customers. With everything you leave out, you sharpen your product's focus and save money.

Apple is sitting on billions in the bank because it does this better than any other hardware vendor out there.

Follow These Strategies and You'll Win

Knowing how to execute these five tactics is what makes Steve Jobs a genius. He has employed each one against Microsoft. He has consistently attacked Microsoft where it is weak. Jobs first used hardware-operating system integration to attack Windows, and then used the iPod and iTunes to lead a sneak attack on Microsoft dominance in the consumer market.

It won't be easy for Microsoft to turn the tables on Apple, but it is possible if done properly. (If any executives from Microsoft, HP, or Dell need some help, give me a call.)

Apple's Other Competitors

At least there is Google and the Android platform to give Apple some competition.

Google cares nothing about hardware or software sales. Instead, advertising revenues props up Google. This gives it a great advantage over Apple. Apple has clearly crafted iAd to challenge Google in its core business.

I'd like a good three-way fight between Apple and Microsoft and Google. The product innovation would be a windfall for consumers.

However, I expect we'll get to see a Zunification of the iPad concept as Microsoft tries to make a frontal assault on Apple.

This will end in another round of failure for Microsoft. LEM

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