01-25-2007, 10:27 AM
I will dare to raise a contrary voice here. Let me first establish my credentials though! I grew up with Microsoft, with the first computer I ever owned being delivered with MS-DOS 5.0 and Windows 3.1. I've used all of their offerings since... WFWG, Windows 95, Windows NT, Windows 98, Windows 2000, and most recently (and for a unnaturally long time!) Windows XP.
Over the years, I grew more and more disgusted with Microsoft. Their business practises are odious, their products bloated beyond belief and their innovations... well, not very innovative. In late 2004 to early 2005 I had had enough, and cut my ties with them, moving to Linux.
Ahhhh, Linux. Fresh air at last. Breakneck evolution, total freedom, true innovation... at a price though. Linux is not for the faint of heart, even now. If I were not an engineer with long unix experience, I would have never made it. But I did, and I prospered in the Linux environment ...and boy did I enjoy thumbing my nose at Microsoft.
BUT, I couldn't get rid of the Windows millstone around my neck. I use Photoshop extensively, and I LOVE my iPod - couldn't live without iTunes. For both, I needed my PC/Windows machine. There simply is no support for these on Linux. So, I lived and worked day-to-day in Linux and booted up Windows when I had to. I hated it though and dreamed of a better way.
Of course it was out there all along. It is called Mac OS X. Mid last year that realization dawned on me, along with the FreeBSD heart that beats inside every Mac. It occured to me that I divorce myself from Window PERMANENTLY *and* get a truly innovative state of the art machine and continue to enjoy the best of open source software - all on a Mac!
I did just that, and I am typing this very post on that Mac. I love my Mac as much as I love my iPod. I will never go back to Windows.
Good enough, I hope I have convinced everyone that I am no Microsoft fan. Quite the inverse to be perfectly honest.
So, where is that contrary word I dare to raise? Here it is: I am not sure that this thread addresses Microsoft's business model. Microsoft isn't about selling to consumers, it is about selling to businesses. That is what its strategy has been all about for a long time. This is where the golden egg (i.e. the BIG money) is. Microsoft is the safe boring choice for safe conservative businesses. Say what you will about Windows, it works, and is quite stable. I may not like Windows, but even I have to admit that Windows XP is very, very stable. So, Microsoft products don't have to be innovative, they just have to be safe. They need not to rock the boat, and enable business to keep on doing business. Microsoft is all about money, and this enables them to continue making money. Continuing to be safe and boring has allowed business to continue to view Windows as the safe choice that will keep the minions successfully toiling away at their desktops without interruption.
With that objective in in mind, Microsoft's products have been a spectacular success. Windows XP, with its multi year life time, has been very successful in providing a stable platform for business. This is the "computer as a tool" mode of operation.
NOW, I see that changing quickly in the near future. Microsoft is under attack on all fronts. Web 2.0 promises to abstract most major services from the underlying platform. Mac OS X is resurgent and Linux is becoming more and more of a choice. With the major services moving out to the web, the web becomes the "platform" that needs to be safe and stable, and the underlying machine need only provide access. OpenOffice/NeoOffice are now successfully competing for the Office suite and Linux and Mac OS X are competing for the desktop.
Ultimately however, I agree with the general thrust of this thread. Windows will ultimately fail, or at least completely lose its current stranglehold. When the desktop is no more than the access vehicle to the web platform, real choice will shine through, and competition may well start to modify the picture. I would argue however that Linux is better positioned to win the enterprise business away from Windows than Mac OS X, because this is all about business. Linux is simply cheaper, and it is very good - good enough for business.
That leaves Microsoft's engine sputtering on all cylinders. Its OS business will erode, its office business will erode, and Microsoft's cashcow revenue streams will start to fade away. The realization of this has has led to Microsoft's most recent forays into consumer electronics, office telephony and the like. You are looking at a fading giant thrashing around desparately looking for new sources of revenue.
As Windows starts to fade, the battle for the consumer desktop will become very interesting. Here I expect Mac OS X to dominate over time. Ultimately I see Linux and Microsoft duking it out in the enterprise, and Mac OS X and Microsoft duking it out on the consumer desktop. No matter what, the Wintel hegemony is over.