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Will Apple or Microsoft Be Under More Pressure?


NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Owing to events over the weekend and while markets were closed, two big tech bellwethers will be under pressure when trading opens as expected Wednesday: Apple (AAPL) and Microsoft (MSFT).

What investors, as opposed to traders, should be asking is whether each company deserves the punishment.

First, let's set the scene.

Microsoft's problem is the Windows 8 launch. The words John Carter come to mind. If you're if a certain age, think Ishtar. The company was laughed at -- not with, at -- over the weekend.

CEO Steve Ballmer's impassioned speech in defense of his company's creation played to a mostly silent hall, and when it turned out many "in line" at Microsoft stores were employees, as Geekwire reported , the story line was set.

Apple seems to be in turmoil. Senior Vice President for iOS Scott Forstall was shown the door, writes , as was John Browett, head of retail, adds the blog Cult of Mac .

Forstall took the fall for Siri and Apple Maps, "a huge disaster" writes Gdgt. He was also considered abrasive, an empire builder. The Guardian writes that Browett had lost the confidence of his troops at the Apple Stores.

In the short run, I think Microsoft will fall harder. Remember, $1 off a $28 stock is $8.4 billion, while $1 off Apple's $604 stock is less than $1 billion. Microsoft's rise came in the 1990s when stock splitting was in vogue, while Apple's came in the last decade when it was not.

Because it has been better for investors over the last decade, Apple has more fans in the trading pits than Microsoft. There is more sentiment to catch dips. But I honestly think that, right now, Apple has a bigger problem.

While Apple dominates devices and is taking bigger shares of what was the desktop market, there's not much beyond that niche. Sure, its iTunes store is Wal-Mart (WMT) to everyone else's Family Dollar (FDO), but at best that's mildly accretive to earnings.

How quickly will fans of the iPhone, iPad or even iPod upgrade? These are sturdy devices, running the latest software Apple can push to them. Apple can expect more volume sales in education and the enterprise, but is it staffed up to handle those kinds of contracts? No, it's not.

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