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TheStreet Open House

Microsoft Moves to Copy Apple and Google

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Microsoft's (MSFT - Get Report) acquisition of Nokia's (NOK - Get Report) smartphone business should come as no surprise to those who have watched Microsoft over the last year. The strategy has turned into copying Apple (AAPL - Get Report) Apple and Google (GOOG) more and more, and for good reason.

Let's count the ways:

Stores: People have been making fun of the Microsoft stores because nobody seems to be actually buying anything there. I think that's a little bit unfair as it's still early in the game. Microsoft has made the only serious attempt at copying the fantastic Apple stores, and it just needs to drive this strategy with hundreds of more stores combined with more attractive products.

Basically, ask yourself: Why shouldn't Microsoft copy the Apple stores? Of course it should! In fact, it should have had hundreds of them by 2007-2008. Hey, better late than never.

What about Google? The good news for Google is its products -- Android and Chrome OS -- basically don't need any customer service. They're so easy to use and set up that you don't need to deploy an army of stores and "geniuses." So that's the good news.

The bad news for Google is its products remain unknown to most people, despite its mushrooming Android smartphone market share. Most people, for example, don't know Google sells laptops. Therefore, Google needs stores not so much for customer service but as showrooms. The logical thing to do in order to get a quick start here would have been to acquire Best Buy (BBY). I guess Google wishes it had done that in December.

Phones: Apple and BlackBerry (BBRY) have their own hardware. Google owns Motorola, but Motorola is only a tiny percentage of Android sales. In addition, Google makes its own laptop while relying on Samsung, Acer, HP (HPQ) and Lenovo for the bulk of its laptop sales. Google also makes its own Glass and Chromecast hardware products.

Microsoft has its own Xbox, and has made peripherals such as keyboards and mice for a long time. One year ago, it launched the Surface tablet-with-a-keyboard. Basically, it was a disaster resulting in a huge write-off. A new Surface family is expected to launch in mid-October, optimized for Windows 8.1.

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