Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Apple and Google Becoming Great Rivals

I think as humans we all enjoy great rivalries.  We were pitted to our screens to watch World Cup action, we root passionately for our sports rivals, especially Red Sox and Yankees, and in the corporate world we have had notable rivalries like ATT and Verizon in the cellular world, Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts in coffee, and lately Apple and Google. 

The latest indication of this rivalry is the acquisition of Songza, a music streaming service by Google, a month after Apple buys Beats.  Last week Google announced Android based smart watches while we all wait for Apple to finally announce its own iWatch smartwatch.  Each competes with devices and libraries, while Google has gone a step further with a build-out of fiber in a few communities.  It makes one wonder if Apple will turn around and buy a cable company.  And while Google has You Tube, some also speculate that Aple needs to buy a content company (Disney was a suggestion) as well. 

And while their business models and strategies don't overlap completely, it is clear that each looks as the other as a rival in the technology field.  The race is not a two man race.  Amazon makes a significant third leg of this stool.  It also competes with devices and content and may one day announce their own smartwatch. 

Google may be Apple's current rival but certainly not its first.  For many years, the rivalry with Microsoft has taken center stage.  But Microsoft has made a number of mistakes including Zune, its iPod substitute.  The Surface tablet may be out there but it pales in comparison to what Google and Amazon are offering nor is there any real smartphone offering.  And Microsoft has had best success most recently in gaming with XBox, competing much more with Sony and Playstation. 

Rivalries make for excitement and keep the competitive juices humming.  We are in store for more announcements by Google and Apple in the coming months.  Will it last as long as a Red Sox and Yankee rivalry, we will just have to keep watching. 

Twitter Shakes Up Executive Team To Spur Growth

Twitter has lost a COO, CFO, Head of Engineering, and VP of Consumer Products as it tries to pursue new growth opportunities.  But Twitter user growth has slowed while losses mount.  But let's be fair to Twitter, their usage is growing, just at a slower pace than previous quarters.  "Twitter’s membership in the first quarter rose 25 percent from a year earlier to 255 million, decelerating from 30 percent growth in the prior period and 39 percent in the third quarter of 2013."  And while 255 million users sounds impressive, it also matters how many are active users. 

Certainly great content helps drive users to share their thoughts through the service.  World Cup matches provide a great example of this as does all the snarky comments for every major awards show.  Still, users may also be growing tired of the service and the limit of 140 characters.  They say a picture paints a thousand words and sites like Instagram and Facebook may be providing too great a competition to the mix.  And the younger demos seem to lately prefer the Instagram route.  Or as I mentioned yesterday, we may simply be getting tired of too much sharing, especially when their ramifications lead to the need to apologize for our too quick tweeting.  Users may finally have figured out that it is time to put down that keyboard. 

For Twitter, the challenge to grow should not overshadow the need to drive revenue over costs and to build out a profitable business.  Changes in the type indicate that the current strategy was not working well enough and a new direction might be needed.  What that new direction will be could interesting.  May I suggest creating subset feeds, some that are categorized as strictly news, sports, or entertainment so that more relevant tweets reach us more quickly.  Just a thought.