The Smartest, Richest Companies Can’t Crack Mobile. The Future Belongs to Anyone Who Can – BY MARCUS WOHLSEN 01.30.15

The world’s smartest and richest tech companies posted their quarterly earnings this week, and if you had to draw one lesson from the results, it’s this: mobile matters—more than anything.

Fackbook Acquires WhatsApp For $16 Billion

 Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

The companies seeing the strongest growth—Apple and Facebook—are the ones with the most successful mobile strategies. The companies seeing declines, missing expectations, or falling short of their former glories—Google, Alibaba, and Microsoft—are the ones that can’t quite make mobile work for them. And in that faltering, opportunity opens up for the next great business idea—an idea not weighed down by the legacy of the desktop.

Yes, these are all huge companies with many moving parts that make the math behind their business successes and failures complex. But sometimes, applying Occam’s razor can be instructive.

Apple and Facebook On Top

Take Apple. It pretty much invented the current iteration of mobile as a category—as a business all these other companies had to bother to figure out in the first place. It makes the hardware that people want to always have with them. And on Tuesday, it posted the biggest quarterly profit by a public company in corporate history.

While Apple invented the modern-day mobile device, Facebook invented the thing people most want to do on them. The same day Facebook posted record revenues of $3.85 billion—including more than $2 billion in mobile ad revenue—app analytics firm App Annie released a report that found the top four mobile downloads of 2014 were all apps owned by Facebook.

Facebook Messenger, Instagram, and WhatsApp joined the original Facebook app itself at the top of the chart. Of those four, Facebook has only really figured out how to make money off of one: Facebook proper. But by investing deeply in teaching machines to understand how well those ads are working, Facebook seems poised to make the rest of its app roster pay off.

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