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Microsoft and Apple haven't had a great time of it recently with mobile consumers. For Microsoft, the market roundly rejected the Kin, which just about anyone who follows the cell phone market knew would happen. Meanwhile, Apple is taking it on the chin about how they are handling the iPhone 4 antenna debacle and there is clearly growing discontent among consumers.

The big difference here, however is the sales picture. Apple, for whatever reason, continues to live off its reputation and sell iPhones hand over fist, while Microsoft's mobile strategy continues to flounder.

Microsoft's Mobile Woes Continue

Microsoft has pretty much screwed up its entire mobile strategy, something that even Steve Ballmer admitted as much on video at the D8 conference recently. He said they missed a whole development cycle. He's right and the Kin only made the situation worse. A report in today's Business Insider quotes one present and former mobile Microsoft employee after another stating how poorly Microsoft handled the Kin launch. Here's a taste:

"I for one can't believe that no one has been axed over the Kin debacle. Billions of dollars were wasted, not to mention all of the smart people over there who spent 3 years with no return on the investment."

Indeed, Microsoft should be embarrassed and heads should be rolling, perhaps starting with the CEO (as my colleague Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols recently suggested in his Computerworld blog).

Apple's More Together, But Losing Consumer Confidence

Apple continues to sell phones, but it's clear that consumers are beginning to be fed up with all of the problems, large and small, with the iPhone 4. My Twitter friend, Lisa Johnson, put it best when she compared Apple's reactions to her iPhone problem to BP:

Actually Apple is being very BP in their approach, blame the user, tell them to buy more crap, no responsibility here

I don't think Johnson is alone in growing discontent over Apple's reactions to iPhone 4 issues. Dave Caolo writing in his 52 Tiger blog believes Apple has a serious PR problem (and he's right).

Apple Still Clearly Coming Out Ahead

Whatever, you say about the iPhone 4, they still have sold millions of units, and there are many, many satisfied users out there. But as Caolo points out in his post, Apple could be losing the battle for consumer goodwill, which could catch up with them eventually. Apple has always been the teflon company, getting off easy whenever there was an issue. Microsoft on the other hand gets fried over everything: big, small or indifferent.

In this case, they both probably deserve some grief, but for Apple, it's probably just a bump in the road, to be smoothed over when Steve Jobs opens his mouth to release the next must-have shiny mobile toy. For Microsoft, the mobile situation is grave, perhaps even on life support, and Microsoft needs to get it together quickly if it wants to continue to compete in this space.

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Last Post by Techwriter10
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Nice summary, Ron. I agree that with the proliferation of mobile devices and tablets, Microsoft is losing its monopoly on user interface and that Apple is way ahead - a gap Microsoft is not likely able to close on their own.

I've noticed that you have not mentioned Google. When I read Business Insider - and I don't always share their sentiments - I could get the impression that Apple is on the defense from Android's attacks. What's your take on that?

--Lubor (Twitter @lptacek)

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Hi Lubor:
I'm not a big Business Insider fan either, but those quotes were rather juicy, you have to admit.

I was looking at this from the angle of two big companies facing a bunch of negative reports, so from that perspective, Google didn't exactly fit.

But it seems that Google is doing quite alright for itself. Still Google and Microsoft make an OS that appears on many phones and have basically both failed when they tried to sell branded phones. Apple only sells its own phone. So it's tough to compare them on that level.

Android is going to grab a piece of the mobile market, there is little doubt about that, but what's not clear is at whose expense. I think so long as Apple deals with its PR problems in a timely manner, it will be fine and there is plenty of room for both Google and Apple (and even Microsoft). The question is will Microsoft recover with the Win 7 Mobile phone release later this year.

The fact is they better hit a homerun to stay in the game (and even that might not be enough).

Thanks for the comment.

Ron

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