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What can we learn from Apple, Microsoft and London taxis?

Three stories in the FT today showed how different firms are positioning themselves to meet the changing competitive landscape. First, Apple announced that it was shaking up its senior ranks after the maps fiasco on its latest iPhone.  Is this the first sign of unrest at Apple since the demise of the inspirational Steve Jobs? And, more to the point, would he really have condoned the launch of the iPad mini?  For the first time this looks like Apple is playing catch up with the competition rather than striking out and being truly innovative.  On the other hand, if Apple is facing competition from manufacturers of smaller devices, then maybe it’s better that it gets to do the cannibalising itself. 

Microsoft, on the other hand, has pretty much bet the farm on Windows 8 – its new touch screen OS will be almost totally unfamiliar to its one billion plus existing users but, if it is successful, this will reshape perception of the company entirely.  Last of all is Manganese Bronze the makers of the “iconic” London taxi which announced it will probably go into administration this week.  Its famous black cabs had regulatory protection because they were the only vehicle that could turn in a tight enough circle to cope with London’s narrow streets.  This monopoly was squandered as it failed to innovate, failed to reach outside its core market and didn’t adapt to new technologies and processes.

What does this have to do with my industry – capital markets? Well, plenty.  Global financial markets are undergoing fundamental and accelerated competitive change. Regulation and technology continue to melt away the distinction between asset classes, trading styles, venues, brokers and the buy-side. So, be Apple and out do the competition, be Microsoft and try to change the game but, if you do nothing, you might just end up like Manganese Bronze.

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