Monday, March 30, 2009

Apple Browser: Still Tweaking

Odd. Microsoft bulldozes Netscape in browsers and produces IE, and its various iterations. MSFT has the muscle to make a good browser, no? I mean, it's got the money, the engineers ... but, no.

But let's see what a non-monopolist does. After doing very nicely against Google (see comments), Apple further boosts its browser to improve Javascript performance 300%. Since Apple is fighting to dominate the high-end of low-power devices (phones, etc.), this performance improvement will do great things for the appearance of horsepower on efficient little hardware.

This summer Apple will have a chance to continue a pattern of annual iPhone hardware updates, and in the process may be able to increase battery life, computing power, and a whole bunch of things -- including use of coprocessors to make wee little hardware look butch, to the benefit of Apple's bottom line.

Meanwhile, Microsoft is fighting to make second-tier computational hardware seem good enough if the screen is big.

While the screen on things like this ...

... are 17", the horsepower isn't up to the standard of the sub-$1000 notebook perky "Lauren" dismissed in front of the Apple Store as not meeting her specs. Sure, the cheap-o machine may be good enough for someone ... but for people who want to do what Apple advertises people should be doing with their computers?

Apple's success in selling to the high end is part of how its margins remain high. I think the "buy a PC" ad campaign illustrates how frightened MSFT has become, and is an effort to prevent PC manufacturers from finding a lower-cost operating system now that the margins on PCs have gotten so thin that pre-installed adware means the difference between per-unit profit and loss at high-volume vendors like Dell. Commodity PCs will certainly remain highly-demanded commodities -- but so long as they remain commodities, they won't be a business worth fighting for.

Apple's doing the right thing in sticking with the high end -- in phones as in computers.

But there are other ways to measure value. Cheap MS-OS laptop with 17" screen? $799. Supplying intel to Communist hackers and account information to Russian mobsters? Priceless.

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