In response to a colleague's email about this article I decided to write this blog post.
Is Windows Collapsing?
A pair of Gartner analysts this week called the situation "untenable" and described Windows as 'collapsing'. They said Redmond must make radical changes to its OS or risk becoming a has-been. They basically accuse Microsoft not having responded to the market, is overburdened by too much legacy code and faces serious competition of a whole host of fronts.
Many of you responded to my question if Bill Gates' departure might be the cause of Microsoft's sharp brand decline. And what you told me was very similar to the above observations. Microsoft has stopped listening to you, is more interested in what is good for itself than what is good for its customers, and that the current Windows Vista backlash is a good example of the problems. They are riding (temporarily) on just the inertia of their defacto monopoly. I'm not a Microsoft basher and I make my living in their ecosystem, but I'm wondering what the majority of you thinks about this, so please vote in the current SunPoll!
CNet article here.
It's Not So Much That Windows is Collapsing As It Is The World Is Changing.
The world is changing. Philosophies are changing. Business models are changing. Software is changing. Microsoft can still ride on their inertia for quite some time however and they probably won't feel any sting. They have such a huge market share in office suites, operating systems and server OS's. People still need Microsoft whether they like it or not. I'm not sure that "Windows is collapsing" as Gartner suggests, but rather "right-sizing" is in order. All big companies face this issue at some time. Microsoft will learn to trim some projects to remain competitive in their core. At this time their core has been: Windows, Office, Internet Explorer. They have succeeded so far. But as I said, the world is changing.
Firefox, OpenOffice and Linux must only feel like a bee sting to Goliath. But Google, the juggernaut that it is, remains to be a force to be reckoned with. If Google and OpenOffice team up somehow, Microsoft may need to start worrying. Many years ago the phrase from the Sun CEO was "the Network is the computer". Google is poised to make that happen with or without Sun's Java or Adobe's Flash. In 10-15 years it won't matter what your OS is, as long as you can browse the Internet and have a standards-compliant browser, you will be able to do business. This scares Microsoft because they'll lose their share in the OS market, and Internet Explorer has not been known as a standards-complaint web browser. Two of the barriers preventing it from happening today are issues about Java and Flash - two of the most ubiquitous web applications (keys to the next phase of "Software As A Service (SaaS)". When these things become open source, or an open source alternative reaches critical mass - watch out!
I suspect this is why Microsoft is now pushing their "Silverlight" web application as an alternative to Flash applications. They did the same with pushing Internet Explorer to force Netscape out of the browser business (but the Mozilla project lives on, which has ties to the Netscape project). They did the same with pushing the Microsoft Java Virtual Machine to force Sun's Java out of business, but Sun opened up some of its source code and Java still lives on! They bad-mouthed Linux, but its still strong; however server deployments of MSFT are increasing in markets where Linux has remained flat or is losing ground. Now they're pushing Silverlight over Adobe's Flash.
Unless they can get enough developers to write applications in Silverlight instead of Flash, I can't see this as succeeding. But they have money to throw at it. However, so does Adobe. Adobe is no slouch. They have PDF files, they have Shockwave and Flash files - all ubiquitous on the Internet. Micrsoft has tried to compete against Adobe's Photoshop and Dreamweaver applications and have largely failed (though FrontPage is certainly a better application than it was years ago). Microsoft would have to throw away some serious cash to be competitive in these areas. I think shareholders would balk at that - I would if I had MSFT stock.
MSFT throws its money at many projects which do not generate revenue: Xbox, Zune, MSN search engine (not sure if this is actually a money loser though), etc. They have their hand in hardware (gaming hardware) and other software (gaming software). MSFT has its hands in everything it seems. Now they want to throw money at Yahoo! in an attempt to be competitive against Google in the search engine market. Good luck!
Bottom line: Microsoft has some house cleaning to do, but don't count them out just yet. They are still key players - like it or not. They still have a lot of muscle. They are still huge! The question is: in these rapidly changing times, can this Titanic navigate these icy waters?"