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Apple v Microsoft

5:30 PM -- A while ago, I wrote that Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) has the opportunity to beat Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) in the next-generation Smartphone race, even though Apple is way ahead at present with the iPhone. Windows Mobile 6 isn’t even a contender here; something with a lot more oomph -- a technical term -- is required. In the long run, I expect Microsoft to move from a CE base to an XP Embedded base, something required if they’re to ever beat Apple in Big Smartphones. (See Thoughts on Thick.)

And -- long term -- who wins? Apple has always been a company that focuses on the end-user. They’re still start-up-quality innovators; they invented the PDA (the Newton) and the solid-state/hard-drive music/video player (the iPod). They invented the next-generation Smartphone (the iPhone). Their mantra is insanely great products with an emphasis on ease-of-use and technical excellence.

Microsoft, on the other hand, is a company of, by, and for developers (computer-science majors); end-users need to be the same in order to fully utilize anything Microsoft builds. They are a follower in the PDA and media-player spaces, and the current Windows Mobile products are toys compared to the iPhone. Microsoft, however, is driven by a ruthless obsession to dominate its chosen markets and a Mongol-horde-like need to crush the competition. At the very least, they’re the robber barons of the 21st century. Microsoft’s mainstream PC operating systems were designed first and foremost to lock out competition on Intel-class PCs, and beyond that are complex, unreliable, slow, bug-ridden, inconvenient, and bloated beyond belief. There is little to recommend them, other than their serving as a platform for the applications we really want to buy (which are, sadly, also built by Microsoft, and just as complex and bloated).

I don’t own a Mac, and, as I noted before, I have no plans to buy an iPhone until there’s a CDMA version that supports EV-DO. But I think I’d rather have an Apple phone than whatever Microsoft comes up with next. Call me jaded. Really. Go ahead. But a desirable future for mobility may depend upon the success of Apple and others who dare challenge the Evil Empire.

— Craig Mathias is Principal Analyst at the Farpoint Group , an advisory firm specializing in wireless communications and mobile computing. Special to Unstrung

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