Just yesterday, Microsoft jumped into the growth fray, but not due to Windows growth, but because of XBox, Kinect, and Bing. Today, Verizon also followed suit, with a second quarter boost, ostensibly from iPhone 4 sales (although it still trails AT&T in iPhone activations).
But that's not all. One million people have downloaded Apple's latest Mac OS release (OS X 10.7 Lion) in the first 36 hours or so, while 20 million people have jumped onto Google's new social platform, Google+, even thought it isn't available to the general public yet (just the 20 million carefully-selected people). The clamor has come despite Google+'s early bumps and bruises. Exuberance seems high.
What in the name of this dawdling economy is going on here?
It used to be that consumers would buy technology selectively, cautiously, and often on the recommendation of the geekiest person in their IT department. Now consumers just buy whatever they like and force the IT department to deal with it. It doesn't hurt that Lion, for example, is a no-brainer at $29. At the same time, our internal IT folks have asked us not to download the OS yet, saying that they hadn't finished testing our applications and that there were some issues with using the App Store and with personal Apple ID on computers within the enterprise. This is the crux of the tussle, isn't it?
In the earnings announcements coming from both Apple and Microsoft, it would appear that PC sales are slipping. Apple COO, Tim Cook, indicated during his company's earnings call that Mac sales haven't seen significant growth this year, most likely due to the avalanche of tablet sales. Some of Apple's growth, Cook noted, has come from the enterprise, specifically with iPads. As Tom Claburn wrote: "According to Apple CFO Peter Oppenheimer, 86% of the Fortune 500 are deploying or testing iPads, up from 75% last quarter."
More iPad-in-the-enterprise growth evidence: Tom Claburn points to a recent report from Good Technology--a company that is in the business of enterprise mobile activation and management, and claims thousands of customers, including 49 of the Fortune 100 (if it had 100 of them, it could easily be called Great Technology, couldn't it?): Their research says iPad activations represented 95% of tablet activations in the second quarter and "Android tablet activations declined slightly."
The biggest sector to embrace the tablet trend? Financial services. You know, the folks with massive amounts of data and regulated by government laws named after just about every member of Senate.
Just to douse the flames with a little cold water, a report from Strategy Analytics claimed that iPad market share has dropped from about 94% a year ago to 61% in the second quarter. That was bound to happen, given the mass influx of Android tablet manufacturers in the past several months. I still don't hear any of the Android tablet makers crowing.
An analysis of Microsoft's earnings from Paul McDougall today provides further evidence that tablets are cannibalizing PC sales. The short version: Microsoft Windows sales are down 2% for the past year.
The evidence isn't just in past results. Apple unveiled new PC platforms this week: faster, better versions of its slim MacBook Air (including an 11-inch version), and the Mac Mini, a 7.7-inch square that's 1.4 inches thick, costs $599, and connects to your HDTV, among other things. In other words, even the PCs are changing shape and being sized more like tablets and other consumer-oriented devices.
Eric Zeman, reporting on Verizon's earnings today, noted that the carrier's wireless data revenue grew $1.1 billion from last year. He also reported that half of AT&T's post-paid customers were using smart phones. And we're just at the beginning of the mobile revolution.
Zeman also reports today that the BlackBerry PlayBook is the first tablet to receive FIPS certification (from the National Institute of Standards). FIPS compliance is a requirement for devices used within the federal government. Not that the PlayBook buying floodgates will now open, but it's another cry for legitimacy inside the enterprise.
The world is changing faster than we can fathom. If Apple were to acquire Hulu, as rumors would have it, the company's presence will extend even further into the living room. If Amazon produces its long-rumored Android tablet at a low price, with no service contract, as rumors from BYTE also have it, the competitive landscape will change yet again. This is no time for resistance. It's time to prepare.
Fritz Nelson is the editorial director for InformationWeek and the Executive Producer of TechWebTV. Fritz writes about startups and established companies alike, but likes to exploit multiple forms of media into his writing.
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