Apple has famously taunted Microsoft during the company's Worldwide Developers' Conference (WWDC) the last few years, using lines including "Redmond, Start Your Copiers", in the mindset that whatever new features and products Apple was to introduce would soon be absorbed into the Redmond, Washington-based software monolith in short time. This year, Steve Jobs went so far as to withhold some of the newer features of Mac OS X 10.5 (Leopard), in part due to fear of co-optation from competition. But recent developments have shown that Microsoft isn't solely focused on Apple for ideas to borrow - er... steal.
Just a week or two after Microsoft imitated Apple with its announcement of its Zune line of MP3 music players, tomorrow, Microsoft is slated to introduce a service called "SoapBox", which mimics the extremely popular YouTube, in that it will allow users to load videos and share them for the Web. While it's currently in lock-down mode, open only to a select few, the doors will be opened to the general public soon, and I don't expect they'll be all that overwhelmed.
If Microsoft were to focus, they could make some amazing software. They have some of the brightest minds in the business, and more money than God (I checked, he's overdrawn...), but their idea of innovation is imitation - whether it was the Palm PC copying the Palm Pilot, Internet Explorer knocking off Netscape Navigator, MSN aimed at AOL, or most recently, the introduction of Live Search (copying Google), Zune (copying Apple) and now SoapBox. Surely, consumers are smart enough to see right through the smoke screen.
Given how Microsoft stock (MSFT) has been relatively flat for the last twelve months, twenty-four months, or even five years, the idea that this is a growth company has been absolutely shattered. You'd have been better off taking your cash and putting it in a low interest rate savings account than aiming to support the leader in imitation. This story is spread so thin, it's got holes.
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