Microsoft’s Decline: Chart (BI)

CHART OF THE DAY: Consumer Compute Shift – Business Insider.

Like many, I’ve been declaiming the imminent demise of Microsoft, and I’ve been doing that since about 2002. Partly, my argument was motivated by my desire to showcase OpenOffice as the better option, and open source ways of making and distributing software superior to the enclosed hive of Microsoft. But I also believed my propaganda. Microsoft’s business model, of putting Windows on enterprise desktops and limiting choice to its “office” products, worked fine in the days when the Internet was an academic exercise but self-destructive in the present age of the more capable Web.

The former age–whose persistent ghosts are not to be dismissed as old-CIO tales–was a heavy one, and, as we say, locked the user into the vendor’s product universe. The present age is much lighter, or will be, must be, inexorably. In this day and age, with mobile finally ascending (took its time, but more because of business reasons than technological), and with the cloud gaining the reality of being backed and invested in by enterprise-class businesses, the tools, the apps, are available and usable (provided there is the bandwidth) as the result of open standards, and other open protocols and technologies. This is good: the open market gives rise to new businesses. But it also threatens established ones, or at least those whose steps have been more clumsy than nimble and unable to grab the multiplexed audience’s attention as something other than a 20th century hangover. Yes, I’m exaggerating. This is a blog.

Of course, IBM was able to pirouette astonishingly effectively, as was Apple. And in the case of IBM, the analogy is suggestive, as it kept its legacy business while still opening itself to disruptive novelty. (Sun, of course, was hanged by its legacy businesses and obligations and though it proclaimed open source ambitions and even acted on those, it rather infamously failed to connect its claims to revenue in any convincing way.)

I see now a landscape that is actually not too different from what I’ve imagined for some time: A world where there is a burgeoning international field of interesting–and sometimes innovative–technologies, companies, projects, some open, some not, but all (or at least most) using tools that do not lock the user into the vendor’s product but rather appeal to the user on the basis of quality and character. In short, on the basis of what we use for any other commodity or thing we wish to use.

From my perspective, the growth of the cloud and the rise of a more level market (even profoundly weighted by Apple), is generally good. It also makes my own profession, as a community strategist, more interesting, as the one element that any organization actually needs to make its products collaboratively is a functioning community, and they quite often do not come spontaneously into being, at least not in the way that is desired by both the sponsoring company and the non-company participants.

2 comments so far

  1. P Shreepal on

    Most of the American companies still swear by Microsoft. Their IT is completely on Microsoft, even out side America (USA). Their entire businesses run on Microsoft platforms. They have locked themselves with Microsoft and are likely to suffer as much damage as Microsoft, when Microsoft’s decline becomes uncontrollable.

    Microsoft has been ‘me too’ at the innovations arena and has always followed the leader, trying to manipulate standards or industry established practices by using its monopolistic position.

    Linux/Open Source has taken over the server and internet market and has started to make a big dent in MS’s desktop market too.

    Kids are learning Linux in schools. More college labs now have Linux.

    Sooner or later, even the desktop market will be captured by Linux/Open Source. Mint, Ubuntu etc. are already much better and have better user interfaces than WIN 8.

    • Louis Suárez-Potts on

      I don’t see MSFT going away any time soon. It’s not like Kodak, at least not entirely, nor like Sun, thankfully. It is not the case that the threat comes form open source software, like Linux, at least not directly. Nor will Apple’s OS X replace Windows on the desktops of enterprises, which will continue to use MSFT and its spawn for some while. Rather, the point is that we are in the midst of a Kuhn-style paradigm shift in use and also–maybe–in the purchasing of software. That shift is not simplistically to “mobile,” which means a set of increasingly vague things now and will mean even more and vaguer things to come. It used refer to smartphones, then came to include tablets. (The technology races ahead of dull marketing .) A better (or at least more accurate) way of looking at it is that mobile means something closer to “remote,” and implies a set of user interfaces that depart from the legacy typewriter model of the desktop. Crucial to the mobile experience for actual work, however, is the need to have software that can actually be used both to read existing work and also to create new work that can be worked on collaboratively, concurrently, by the team. Otherwise, the mobile project will fail as anything other than a souped-up entertainment device or, at best, audiovisual recorder. But because we actually *have* productive technology now that can work on iOS (and to a degree, Android), and because mobile technology is far cheaper to make, distribute, maintain than desktops, legacy companies–companies whose business model is predicated on static enterprise use of their products–will fail, unless they change their model or add to it–fast. (Why is mobile cheaper? Energy, materials, distribution; even the software, because much of it will be accessed and relayed via the cloud, will be cheaper to update, maintain, push out, and one could even imagine that viruses may even see their end, but that’s wishful thinking in extremis.)

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