Windows 8 vs iOS vs Android?
The mobile phone and tablet market has become more competive in 2013. The Google Android ecosystem now rivals Apple iOS. Software quality is increasing for both the Android operating and the independent applications being produced, especially for games. Meanwhile, Apple's stock has fallen 40% from its highs and the innovation of the company has greatly slowed since the loss of Steve Jobs. Regardless of Steve Jobs, tremendous talent and innovative strength must still remain at Apple, however the new management will choose what direction that the talent goes.
I recently bought a new Windows 8 laptop (no touchscreen). Being open-minded, I gave Windows 8 a fair shot and found I am actually enjoying the new menu screen that has replaced the Start bar. This interface reminds me of Ubuntu in that you quickly find your application by typing in text. Also, the use of the corners of the display to switch between applications, and slide commands using the edge of the touchpad is fairly innovative. The general dismay of the greater community of PC users, however, shows that my feelings remain an exception.
Being a programmer in my spare time, I was curious to how difficult it is to write applications for the Metro side of Windows 8. Compared to the Eclipse IDE and API, I have found the Windows Visual Studio and APIs to be much nicer looking and more accessible. It also appears that MSFT has written the APIs with clear goals to benefit mobile devices, ie low battery use, responsiveness, and smooth user interaces. While I haven't found the application store to be very interesting, and it took me a while to figure out where to search the store - I see opportunities here. I think if MSFT can make the new interface less confusing and see some solid sales of Windows 8 mobile hardware in 2013 - this could be a really competitive third player in smart phones in the United States.
Intel is a natural ally in Windows 8 adoption. Their profit has been falling due to tablet competition, and it is clear that Intel needs to get into mobile and tablet markets with their chips. Increasingly, the future looks like a mushy mix between tablet and laptops - and Intel can't afford to not compete in mobile at this point. Intel has recently made statements that they expect Intel-based tablets to appear soon in the $250 price range, running Windows 8. A fast, cheap, productive Windows 8 tablet would greatly compete with Apple's Ipad systems. It will take longer for quality applications to appear to have the robust ecosystem that is needed to excite consumers. But if programmers see that Windows 8 is going to be solid and growing - I can't imagine that they wouldn't also get interested as all the PC desktops will be part of the market for their software.
In conclusion, I see a big opportunity for INTC, MSFT, and hardware companies like NOK. I see real competition for AAPL, which may help explain why the stock has suffered since this year start. Perhaps analysts also are looking into the future and seeing increasing strong competition - which could lead to falling margins. From people I have talked with, it is unlikely that current Apple users will leave the company as they are deeply tied to the ecosystem for which considerable money has been spent purchasing apps already. However, I could see Samsung especially facing competition in selling new phones if consumers begin to try Windows 8 smart phones. The current best Windows 8 phone appears to be the Nokia Lumia 920, only available with AT&T. I am interested in trying the 920 and other Nokia phones, as I have always thought Nokia made great phone hardware and was a loyal customer till they basically missed out on Android while pursuing Symbian instead.
With 3 major mobile OS now available it is likely we will see falling prices and better hardware. This is great for all of us. I hope to get to some stores and begin trying out the Windows 8 phones (and hopefully writing some applications in the near future). If you have opinions on the future of these ecosystems, let me know what you think 2013-2014 will look like. I am tempted to invest in INTC, NOK, and MSFT - as all of these companies have fairly conservative P/E values or share prices (NOK) compared to their historical valuations and the current market as a whole. AAPL is also quite tempting, since they remain quite profitable and are at the best share price in a long while to enter into a position. MSFT is the least interesting for me, since their share price is unlikely to greatly move regardless of events (look at the 10-year chart).
Thanks for taking the time to read and reflect!