These 4 companies has software and products that's part of my everyday life even though I'm in Tokyo. Of course Rakuten and Amazon are also 2 big ecommerce companies that affects my everyday purchasing decisions.
I own many things apple (2x iPad, 1 Macbook Pro, 1 Macbook Air, Apple TV, 3x iPhones), however the thing that I found the most useful has been the iPad or more specifically the "applications" that are on iPad and iPhone. I've tried many times to use applications that are actually built by Apple but I've found all of them to be very limited . The big win for Apple is that they truly have great hardware that doesn't crash as often and that all of your information is well integrated in an easy to use fashion. I hope that Apple comes out with a 27 inch touch screen iMac, i think that'll be their next killer product that can replace the TV.
PRO: Apple Hardware, Single ID access to all information
Maybe I'm biased since I did work at Microsoft before but I feel the productivity tools and developer tools are the best in the industry. Microsoft has always been able to deliver the features that enterprise users need and in a way that's manageable in large scale. I've tried to use open office, google docs, iworks, they all fail short drastically if you try to do something that's outside the normal 80%. Interestingly enough, i feel Microsoft OS, products is between general users (Mac OS, google) and super geeks (linux, unix). The big problem that Microsoft faces is system stability and performance since they don't control any of their hardware distributions. Hopefully Microsoft Surface will show that if they do control the hardware they can achieve the same level of quality and experience as Apple.
The big win for Microsoft still is their developer tools, there is nothing else better than Visual Studio. The hurdle before was the upfront cost in purchasing the licence but for a long time now they've offer the express (free) version. You can also get third party software to support other programming languages like PHP. I've used many different environments emacs => vim => eclipse => dream weaver => Visual Studio => Aptana => XCode => Online... Of course, each tool and environment has it's pro's and con's but assuming everything is free and you development machine is really a developer machine, and each of the environment support all programming languages... Visual Studio would win hands down 100% of the time.
PRO: Developer Tools, Real Enterprise applications
My team used the entire suite of Google Apps for business for over 4 years. We are extremely satisfied with the seamless integration between all the applications as well as how little foot print it has on your computers. Microsoft has the much better applications however they lose out to seamless integration of google applications. I still can't get use to using gmail. it seems like it's a glorified tagging system that you can "search" but it's definitely extremely hard to do advance processing of your documents.
Unfortunately, i haven't had a chance to use a good Android phone yet so can't comment on the integration of Google with every use experience but it does seem like it's an inconsistent experience at this point given that various vendors do customize Android differently.
PRO: Easy, well integrated 100% online application environment
Whether I like it or not... all people related information are all in facebook. They have done a great job in making a sticky community where everyone enforces everyone else to put the data into their network and make it super easy to organize and share. Their big value is really the user generated content and i think they are smart is not allowing people to share it outside of their wall garden, because once they do... the entire value of facebook would be lost.
PRO: Capture personal content that matters and get people's mind share.
So why did I write this random blog entry? There are 2 main reasons. One, i tried to post simple blog entry via Squarespace iPhone application, it failed... not sure where it went. I tried again via iPad application, it failed as well. Not sure where my blog entry and the pictures that I took went so doing this entry via PC, so i hope it finally posts.
Second reason is really help me think about the product strategy and value for the next thing that I'll be building. So i thought about what things impact me the most everyday and why. If the next product/service can be something that people will use everyday of their life, i'm sure it'll be a huge success!
As these big companies battle it out, i do feel they have very distinct value proposition to the general population. It'll be interesting to see if any of them will decide to double down in specific areas and/or continue to spread itself out to dominate in all areas.
In my perfect world, I'd like to have Apple hardware running Window OS and applications, deeply integrated with Facebook and Google.