Matters of Size

The other day Frank Shaw posted an interesting article on the Official Microsoft Blog that uses numbers to emphasize just how big Microsoft's business is. The article covers a lot of ground and is pointed pretty squarely at making the case that they're still number one even when rivals Apple and Google seem to be getting all the attention of late. This is especially true of Apple since they surpassed Microsoft in market capitalization in May and are in the midst of yet another wildly successful product launch despite some bad press. The post generated some modest response from some business and financial sites (The Motley Fool and Daily Finance both covered it) but I think TechCrunch did the best via a stat by stat breakdown of each statistic.

As a former Microsoft employee and stockholder, I have an interest in seeing the company be successful. As a designer that primarily uses Apple products for work I've often wondered why they didn't have a larger market share when compared to Microsoft. This in turn got me thinking about how to measure success. Is bigger better? I went looking for some other big numbers for comparison.

People in the US, spend about $1.6 billion every day eating at restaurants. In a recent Gallup Panel survey[1] the number one restaurant in the US by far is McDonald's. They have 32,478 stores globally and serve approximately 60 million customers a day[2] (the US accounts for a bit less than half of that with 12,000+ stores and 27 million served). They generate more than twice the revenue and net margin than their closest competitor. Based on those numbers I think it's safe to say that Micky D's has the largest market share for restaurants in the US. So, does that mean that they are the best restaurant? If you only base this on market share, then maybe yes, but I don't believe that equates to them having the best food, service, ambiance or quality. I could use WalMart to illustrate the point as well. It may be profitable to be big, but it doesn't mean you're producing quality product.

So, going back to the Microsoft article, I think it shows that they've missed a sea change in their industry. Apple has successfully changed the public conversation about computing technology from being about ubiquity (e.g. market share) to quality. I'm curious as to how they will adapt to that change, because so far they seem to be having a hard time staying in the conversation.

1. As a panelist I have access to results posted in a member site, but don't have a public link. If I find one I'll update.
2. Most of the numbers come from their 2009 annual report PDF. This site also had useful info.