Microsoft’s Decline: Chart (BI)
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.