This morning, I saw an article about how Microsoft was talking with Adobe and might even want to form a merger to deal with Apple in the mobile space.

What’s wrong with this thinking?

It turns out, something that causes many businesses of any size problems.  You’re having problems in the marketplace.  A competitor is kicking your butt.   Should you:

(a) Try to hire away all their talent, putting them at a disadvantage while granting yourself quite a bullpen (baseball strategy)

(b) Look for any mistakes they made and try to get the press and government involved to kick them in the sensitive parts  for you;

(c) Look to merge with mutual rivals because together, you can make a more divisive marketplace;

(d) Take a close look at your own product line and see if you can’t come up with your own innovative, market changing products that are even better than those of your rival;

(e) Keep making crap and then trying to market your way out of the mess.

Gee.  This is a tough one.  Of course, the real answer is the first rule of business- You get more sales if you don’t suck.  Now with the net, we’re all more closely connected than ever before, and no one has a license to be mediocre for forever- people can easily find better substitutes, and price, while relevant, is no longer the only decision comparison factor.

Microsoft teaming up or even buying Adobe is like school yard kids conspiring to gang up on a classmate- we can’t win by looks or inherent value alone, so we’re gonna go for the spiteful and silly route and try to beat you up together.

This all of course has to do with Flash.  Flash is easy for developers to use on the web, but it is a space and resource hog, and tends to crash on mobile devices, which is why Apple has said it isn’t supporting Flash on the iPhone or iPad.  While I won’t pretend to understand everything about that argument from a tech perspective, it does make me advise clients that they should have a mobile-friendly website and minimize the use of flash as much as possible, so their website looks fantastic whoever tries to access it , wherever and on whatever device they have on them.  That only makes sense.

Microsoft talking to Adobe about mobile need to think back to the very basics:  How can we make a really great device, with the end user, not the engineers in mind, that meets the needs of an increasingly mobile populous, at a price that makes it easy for folks to say yes?

Apple has surged in the marketplace because their devices are beautiful.  They are designed well, top to finish.  The software and hardware are designed to be as user friendly and hassle free as possible. Unlike my new PC, which while lovely and memory rich, has all sorts of device driver issues with my existing gear which has made the transition to Windows 7 rather like an airline losing your luggage- you’re fine, and get to your destination, but all your parts aren’t there, putting you in a bit of a bind.

I’m writing this on my PC, while I’m writing my book on my Mac and iPad.  I’m not just an Apple fanboy.  But listen up Microsoft:  Apple is winning because their end products are well designed and user friendly.  The iPod is a joy compared to the Zune.  That’s why people like it.  The iPad is a joy, because it has an intuitive user interface.

None of these Apple products are perfect, either, but because they work and I can concentrate on the doing rather than on the “how the heck do I….?” portion of my interactions with the thing, I get more done, and I’m less aggravated when I do it.  (And yeah, for the record- all the crappy weird icons and submenus on the updated version of Microsoft Word just made it harder to use, not easier, okay?  I default to Google Docs or Pages whenever possible as a result.  Let’s not even talk about the docx compatibility problems…)

The point here is you compete best when you do the best, not when you try to submarine the other guy, gang up on them, try to add “Whipped cream” on the Meatball Sundae, as Seth Godin would say.  Adding snazzy marketing to cover up the fact your product is, well, only okay doesn’t win you repeat business.  And if you’re in the business for the long haul, you’ve got to be in the “making my customers happy with my ideas and innovation” business.

Be the best is a sure way to win.  Focus on what you do best, and then the marketing and decision making will be easy for the consumer.