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Steve Jobs and Steve Ballmer now buddies – or – a look into the crystal ball for WWDC 2010

Strange things happening lately. Right after Google more or less officially announced that their battle against Apple is on, it turns out that Microsoft will be playing together with Apple. Yes, you heard right – Microsoft is teaming up with Apple – to provide a development platform for iPhone apps in Visual Studio 2010.

How could that happen? Well, its obviously the case that Microsoft failed big time in the smartphone business – being overtaken by the newcomers iPhone and Android and more or less exiting the market by starving must really have hurt. Losing browser market share to WebKit-based browsers and Firefox after a 90%+ domination with IE6 again demonstrates impressive ignorance concerning web trends. And entirely missing (despite other promises)the cloud computing movement must have been on some mystery purpose nobody but Steve Ballmer can possibly understand: Seeing Amazon (EC2, A3) and Google (AppEngine, Cloud Storage) ramping up their cloud products and doing nothing (Azure doesn’t count) is indeed impressive.

So here we are: Microsoft failed a lot lately (Windows 7 and XBOX 360 are exceptions here) and the future doesn’t look good. Operating Systems won’t be that much a market anymore in 5 years – the web is the platform – and Microsoft doesn’t have a solid browser. Office applications will be webapps – no market for selling Microsoft Office anymore. And the user experience will be dominated by mobile computing using smartphones, tablets and what-not – but nothing Microsoft is currently capable of delivering. That’s the reason why Microsoft is failing right now. That’s the reason why Apple overtook Microsoft in market cap. yesterday. Microsoft doesn’t have a future right now.

Their only hope right now is Bing. And having no platform to bring Bing to their mobile users (iPhone uses Google as default and Android as well naturally) will be a problem in a world of mobile connectivity. So they either bet everything they have on Windows Phone 7 (a non-market right now) – or they team up with one of the big players: Google and Apple. Google has its own search engine as its core product – so certainly no joy there. Only Apple – the long-time enemy – is left.

But then: why would Apple do that? Well – since they are in a face-to-face combat with Google right now they want to fortify their position and to weaken their enemy. But they don’t have a search engine – instead they are bringing customers to Google search with every iPhone and iPad they ship. Clearly a situation that a Steve Jobs cannot tolerate much longer.

And that’s where the sweet spot is: Google has search. Google has a phone. Apple has a phone but no search. Microsoft has a search but no phone. It only sounds logical for Microsoft and Apple to join forces in the battle against Google. And that’s what’s happening right now.

So what will we see at WWDC 2010 in a couple of days? Certainly no Steve Ballmer – that show belongs to another Steve. We’ll see iPhone 4G (again). We’ll see iPhone OS 4 being released. We’ll see Steve Jobs promote the platform’s openness (even Microsoft can develop iPhone apps now!). And we’ll see Bing being the default search on the next iPhone generation. But that’s just my guess for now – we won’t know for certain until June 7th :-)

Interesting times indeed!

Happy guessing,

Alex

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