Microsoft Versus Apple Market Cap Is Not Everything

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Mark Twain once said that there were lies, damn lies, and statistics. The more you know about math, the more you understand that what he meant was that one can lie with statistics, NOT that all statistics are lies.

The trouble with statistics is two-fold. Number one, far too many Americans are math illiterate. High Schools and Colleges let students graduate with progressively less math. Not that it would matter, considering the staggering number of Americans who can’t remember much of anything that they learned in school anyway. (This suggests a problem of motivation and lack of respect for one’s own mind, but I’m not going there with this post.)

Number two, the critical component of valid statistical analysis is analyzing the RIGHT data. The only way to know whether or not it is the right data being analyzed is to look at the raw data behind the statistics. Unfortunately, that requires a basic understanding of math at a level above addition and subtraction. (See #1)

That being said, numbers don’t lie, as the other saying goes, and neither do statistics. As long as one understands what numbers are being analyzed and what is being said about them, there is no need to understand any complex advanced statistical formulas or concepts.

Apple Versus Microsoft Dollars Sales Value

Recently, the media made a big deal out of the fact that Apple passed Microsoft in market capitalization, theoretically making Apple a more valuable company than Microsoft. Of course, market cap is just one of many ways to measure a company’s value. To actually buy Microsoft or Apple you would have to pay more than the current share price.

Microsoft put up a post on the official Microsoft blog recently regarding some of the other numbers out there. In some ways it is a defense against the accelerating notion that Microsoft is a dying dinosaur while Apple is the future. In another way, it is nothing more than a different way of looking at the numbers.

For example, no one is disputing that Microsoft continues to dominate the enterprise and the personal computer markets. Those markets are far from small and despite plenty of pronouncements that the future does not include the computer as we know it, there is still the pesky problem of input. While the iPad may be a fun new way to view and interact with data, it is a terrible way to do data entry. Not even Apple claims that you should be able to type 80 words per minute on an iPad once you get used to it. That means the iPad for writers and other data creating professionals is a non-starter as a primary device.

The real dig in the numbers actually is in the past projections of Microsoft’s demise, such as the explosive growth of Linux displacing Microsoft in the server world. While Linux has enjoyed remarkable growth and Microsoft should not take too much pride in the fact that it has managed to “hold off” what it should have been able to crush, the so-called experts did miss by a large margin. The implication is that they are doing it again with their projections of huge growth for devices like the iPad.

The best part is that almost all of the numbers cited include a “source” so that an interested reader can verify the data for themselves, saving us all for wondering whether or not this is a bunch of lies, damn lies, or statistics.

But, even with the source links there is still plenty of wiggle room in these numbers. Consider the two statistics showing that less than ten percent of US netbooks were running Windows in 2008 and that 96 percent of US netbooks were running Windows in 2009. Sounds pretty good for Microsoft, right?

What the numbers are hoping you forgot is that in order to get that number in 2009, Microsoft had to re-authorize manufacturers to sell Windows XP because its bloated Windows Vista operating system couldn’t even be used. Furthermore, those sales also included cut-rate, bargain basement pricing of XP which made using Microsoft Windows cost effective. Without those two capitulations, that percentage might be single digits.

And those iPhone sales numbers are for Q1 2010, before the new iPhone 4.0 version came out, but after pretty much everyone guessed it was coming. In other words, those sales numbers represent the calm before the storm. Considering Apple says it sold 1.7 million iPhones in just three days. We will have to wait until Q3 to see real numbers because the new iPhone was only available for a few weeks of Q2.

Projected Sales for Apple Devices and Microsoft Software

  • Projected iPad Sales in 2010: 7.1 million
  • Projected PC sales in 2010: 355 million
  • iPhone Sales in first 3 days: 1.7 million

No matter how you slice, it Microsoft has a bigger market. More importantly, Microsoft continues to have no serious competitive threat. On the other hand, Android devices may soon equal or surpass the iPhone and will be offered on more than one wireless carrier. Likewise, touch screen computers are reportedly on the boards from many manufacturers who can use the iPad as a starting point.

In the end, projections and numbers are worthless. What matters is execution. Microsoft has a long history of sloppy, unloved products that barely pass muster, yet its execution in the sales arena is unparalleled. Apple has a long history of beloved, widely praised products that never manage to reach an audience bigger than its fan base. If the outcome of this decades old battle is to change, then one of these two technology companies has to get better at the part of the equation it is no good at.

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