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商业 - 科技

微软收购诺基亚的另一种解读

Kevin Kelleher 2013年09月06日

过去的10年里,软件并没有完全取代硬件,它仍需要硬件作为一项辅助业务。软件与硬件之间的界限越来越模糊,软件公司兼任硬件公司角色的现象越来越普遍。谷歌收购摩托罗拉是这样,微软收购诺基亚也是这样,而苹果早在30年前就已经走上了这条路。

    想象现在是1999年。不对,想象它是2006年。

    你办公室里电脑的牌子是……好吧,牌子并不重要。除非你从事的是创造性职业,否则你的电脑上运行的肯定是微软(Microsoft)的Windows操作系统。而你口袋里的手机是诺基亚(Nokia)的,或者如果你赶时髦的话,就是摩托罗拉(Motorola)的。你的mp3播放器是苹果(Apple)造的(是的,在那个时候我们还称呼它们为mp3播放器),而显示器或(和)电视机屏幕,则是三星(Samsung)造的。

    闭上眼睛,回到那个疯狂的2006年的状态(如果需要帮助回忆,请点击这里)。这一年,苹果大获成功,创造奇迹的是iPods和iTunes,而不是个人电脑这个最初的使命。谷歌(Google)还只是一个搜索引擎,一个超级有钱的搜索引擎。虽然摩托罗拉的Razr手机代表了流行文化,但诺基亚仍统治着手机领域。而微软?它还是那个微软,那个正如比尔•盖茨构想的,在个人电脑上发出刺耳白躁声的公司。

    此后七年来,许多事发生了变化,不过这在科技界算不上大不了的事。让人觉得奇怪的是,这些变化是怎样发生的。苹果的mp3播放器发生突变,一下成了手机,改变了一切;进而它又突变成为iPad,颠覆了个人电脑。而三星的智能手机却莫名其妙地卖得更好了,使用的还是谷歌的操作系统。

    至于摩托罗拉?它的移动设备业务已经被谷歌收购了。而诺基亚?微软买下了它的核心设备业务。软件公司开始吞并硬件公司,因为它们要表现得跟苹果一样,成为软硬件结合的公司……哦,不过苹果在三十年前就这么做了。因此,搜索公司收购了摩托罗拉的智能手机,Windows收购了诺基亚的智能手机。至于三星,这家在2006年就以生产优质屏幕而大获成功的生产商,坐在那向所有其他公司吐舌头。

    不过,没有人——科技格局棋盘上没有哪位大师——预见到了这样的局面。也许有人看到了其中的一部分,但都不是全貌。因为如果你只是活在过去或现在,这样的发展对你而言都说不通。这都只是一些关于未来的胡乱猜想。

    那么,我们要怎么理解微软和诺基亚呢?过去的一天里,到处都在讨论他们。对于这项交易的观点,从赞成、嘲笑到纯粹摸不着头脑,层出不穷。(不过大多数持嘲笑态度。)但是我们真的懂多少呢?正如桌面网站当年出乎所有顶尖技术产业内人士的意料一样,移动互联网的演进也令长期研究网络的人士感到吃惊。只不过移动网络在一些方面带来的惊讶甚至更多。

    那些在2006年无法预见2013年会给像微软、谷歌、苹果、三星、诺基亚和摩托罗拉这些科技巨头带来什么的人,正在有十足把握地用Twitter评论着微软和诺基亚的未来。两年前无法理解谷歌和摩托罗拉的人们(我打赌当时的拉里•佩奇也是其中一位),现在对微软和诺基亚将怎样发展已经有了确定的观点。这对他们来说是好事。

    是的,这项交易很可能被当成是把两个下沉的砖块绑在一起,或者类似的说法。而且,微软和诺基亚都面临着艰苦的战斗。但同时,在2013年9月初,你能给出的唯一诚实的分析是,一个每个人都看到即将到来的移动网络,引出了一个很少有人预见到的竞争格局。而且,如果我们无法预见在未来几年里哪家公司将领先,我们能做的最多是参考近年来发生的类似交易。

    这就使我们去看两年多前宣布的,谷歌对摩托罗拉的收购。当时,人们难以理解这么做的原因。人们推测这可能与专利有关,微软对诺基亚的投资可能也是如此。人们认为谷歌可能会简单地对摩托罗拉的制造业务进行分拆。当时,这看上去像是最有可能的理由。

    Imagine it's 1999. Scratch that, it's 2006.

    The computer in your office is made by ... well, it doesn't matter who it's made by. Unless you are in a creative profession, that computer is run on Microsoft Windows. And the phone in your pocket is made by Nokia (NOK), or -- if you're feeling stylish -- Motorola. Apple (AAPL) made your mp3 player (yeah, back when we still called them mp3 players), and Samsung made your display screen, or your TV screen, or both.

    Just close your eyes and go back to that crazy 2006 mindset (here's a link to help, if you need it). Apple was killing it on iPods and iTunes, not in its original mission of personal computers. Google (GOOG) was just a search engine, a filthy rich search engine. Nokia still ruled mobile phones, although Motorola's Razr owned popular culture. And Microsoft (MSFT)? It was still Microsoft, the grating white noise of personal computing that Bill Gates designed the company to be.

    In the seven years since, so much has changed, which in the tech world isn't notable. What's strange is how it changed. Apple's mp3 player mutated into a mobile phone that changed everything. And it mutated again into the iPad, changing the personal computer. Yet somehow Samsung sold more smartphones using an operating system powered by, of all companies, Google.

    And Motorola? Its mobile-device business was bought by Google. And Nokia? Its core devices business has been bought by Microsoft. The software companies began to eat the hardware companies because they needed to act like Apple, which married software to hardware ... oh, three decades ago. And search ate Motorola smartphones. And Windows consumed Nokia smartphones. And Samsung, the maker of those excellent TV screens in 2006, sat there sticking its tongue out at everyone else.

    And no one -- no great master of the chess board that is the technology landscape -- saw this coming. Maybe one part of it, yes, but not all of it. Because if you live in the past or the present, none of it could possibly make sense. This is all about a bunch of wild guesses about the future.

    So what are we to make of Microsoft and Nokia? In the past day or so, there has been so much to say. Opinions on the deal run the gamut from approval to scoffing to the purely perplexed. (Mostly scoffing, however.) But how are we really to know? The evolution of the mobile web has surprised longtime web observers the same way the desktop web surprised everyone involved with the tech industry that preceded it. Only, in some ways, the mobile web has offered even more surprises.

    People who in 2006 couldn't predict what 2013 would bring to tech giants like Microsoft, Google, Apple, Samsung, Nokia, and Motorola are now confidently tweeting the future of Microsoft and Nokia. People who could make no good sense of Google-Motorola two years ago (I'd wager Larry Page was among them) have a sure view of where Microsoft-Nokia will go. And good for them.

    Yes, this deal may very well amount to tying two sinking bricks together, etc. And both Microsoft and Nokia face uphill battles. But at the same time, in the early days of September 2013, the only honest analysis you can give is that a mobile web everyone saw coming yielded a competitive landscape few expected. And if we can't foresee which company will be on top in another several years, the best we can do is look at similar deals that have happened in recent years.

    Which brings us to Google's purchase of Motorola, announced a little more than two years ago. At the time, people struggled to understand the sense of it. People speculated, as they do with Microsoft's Nokia investment, it had to do with patents. That Google would simply spin offMotorola's manufacturing operations. At the time, it seemed like the most likely explanation.

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