Gates May End Up an Underdog

Silicon Valley me be softening towards the monster that is Microsoft

Since 2004, Google's shares have risen in price by over 400 percent, while Apple's have leaped at an even more astounding clip of over 600 percent.

Microsoft's? Flat, at around $40 a share.

Granted, while Apple and Google enjoy market capitalization between $180-190 billion, Microsoft stands at over $260 billion.

But increasingly, the monster from Redmond may no longer be the evil empire it once was, or at least was once perceived as being.

The stock ticker tells the story on Wall Street, but the story on Sand Hill Road and in Cupertino and Mountain View is different, and while not an underdog to root for yet, it's no longer the 800 pound gorilla either.

Right now mobile computing is hot, and in that game, Apple is beating everyone. While Microsoft was once a smartphone leader with the Windows Mobile operating system, it has been crushed by Apple's iPhone.

And while Microsoft charges handset manufacturers for Windows Mobile OS, Google is giving their competing mobile operating system Android away for free to companies like Motorola, which has sold a million units of its new Droid smartphone.

And Google may be joining Apple in creating a smartphone designed specifically for its OS, long rumored but now reported to be a "certainty."

Meanwhile, Microsoft is fending off terrible press over problems with the T-Mobile Sidekick, which experienced a data loss incident when something went horribly wrong at Microsoft subsidiary Danger.

In fact, in the long and sometimes bitter feud between Microsoft and Apple, it seems the tables have really turned -- with Apple now being called a "bully."

It seems manufacturers of flash memory chips used in mobile handsets like industry leader Samsung feel that Apple is unfairly ordering more chips than it intends to buy in order to increase supply and thereby lower the prices on the chips.

All of which serves to keep margins high as iPhone sales continue to increase, with gains in Europe and even in Asia, where Windows Mobile has long dominated.

Jackson West can hear Steve Jobs cackling maniacally all the way from Cupertino.

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