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Tim Cook's Windows Phone Mention: Respect or Subterfuge?

In case you missed the news, Apple yesterday announced that it made a gajillion dollars while racking up sales of a bajillion devices of various kinds. Doesn't sound familiar? OK,look here. Back? Good, let's continue.

When giant publicly-held corporations like Apple announce their quarterly earnings, they generally hold a related conference call for financial analysts and press. But anyone can listen in, and now you can too, after the fact: The conference call recording is available now on Apple's Investor Relations page.

There was a lot of interesting information on that call regarding the iPhone, the iPad, the Mac, the iPod, and even the Apple TV, which Apple CEO Tim Cook admitted was, yes, still a hobby. But I'm particularly taken by a very curious mention of Windows Phone on that call, also by Mr. Cook. Why did he do that?

The mention comes at 57:18 in the recording. It came in response to a question about Android and whether the smartphone market was a "two-horse race". Here's what he says:

"I wouldn't say it's a two-horse race. There's a horse in Redmond that always suits up and always runs, and will keep running. And there's other players that we can never count out. And so what we focus on is innovating and making the world's best products. And we'll just keep on doing that and in some part just ignore how many horses there are. And we just want stay ahead and be the lead one."

Put in context, he was saying earlier that the smartphone market is not like that for PCs, where the Mac, despite huge quarterly gains, has never escaped single digit market share. (Yes, he admitted this.) And the "horse" thing came from the questioner, so he was framing the answer around that. 

But Windows Phone has, at best, 1.5 percent market share right now, while both Android and the iPhone are slicing up 90+ percent of the market between them. Suggesting that this market is somehow a three-horse race--between Android, iPhone, and Windows Phone--is a bit of a stretch. And that's even when you factor in perhaps overly-rosy predictions for Windows Phone sales this year and beyond by analysts from IDC, Gartner, and elsewhere. This has never materialized. We'll see if it does.

I just don't understand why he'd mention this. Does he know something we don't? Or is this similar to what Microsoft used to do with the Mac, mentioning its much tinier competitor as if it were bigger than it was in an effort to defend its own overly-aggressive behavior? I really don't know. I just can't believe he mentioned Microsoft there.

As for the "other players"--RIM Blackberry, webOS, etc.--I think we all know they're on the way down. Mentioning them is equally curious, especially when he specifically called out Windows Phone previous to that sentence. The smart phone market is indeed a three-horse race, but it's between Android, iPhone, and "other."

So. why did Tim Cook even mention that Microsoft was a competitor in this market?
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