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Saturday, December 31, 2005

Bidding Goodbye To Microsoft Monopoly

Between Jan 1 2005 & Jan 1 2006, Microsoft appears less and less powerful - hardly looks like the tiger getting stronger - but looks increasingly challenged on several fronts. Slashdot's Roblimo has written an interesting essay titled - Is Microsoft Still a Monopoly?. He writes,"Microsoft Windows still dominates the desktop. But in many other areas, including Web servers and supercomputing, Microsoft is just one player among many, and often a weak player at that. On the gaming side, despite the latest xBox getting all kinds of media buzz as "the" console to buy, Sony's Playstation outsells the xBox at least two to one, and many analysts expect Sony to widen that gap even more when Playstation 3 comes out in the Spring of 2006. On the Internet, MSN and MSN Search are so far behind AOL and Google that it isn't funny. And even on the desktop, Linux keeps getting stronger, while Mac OS X is commonly accepted as more reliable, secure, and user-oriented than Windows. He has assessed various factors that are making Microsoft dance and concludes that - “No matter what Microsoft does, it will never have a software monopoly again. Nor will any other company". The barriers to entry in the software business have become too low for that to happen, and too many skilled software developers are learning that they can earn at least as much working for themselves as they would by working for big software companies”.
My Take : Microsoft has not been able to show its strength in the enterprise segment - look at the status of Project Green, its impact with .NET(limited success), Biztalk, in the BPM space etc - all shows that it is another type of corporation with massive strengths no doubt - but certainly can be competed against successfully. I certainly agree with most of Roblimo's observations – except on opensource. First of all – Roblimo is putting so much emphasis on the opensource movement’s ability to roll out worldclass applications out of garages in different parts of the world – I am not so convinced –as I wrote here - am yet to find a credible response to the query where’s innovation in opensource. Secondly – the battle ahead lay in terms of who would control the standards in web services – for instance search patterns, information usage/dissemination patterns, digital footprints etc. Microsoft is vulnerable on multiple fronts – it lost significant hold when it lost the api war. After all it was felt months back that bandwidth is microsoft’s enemy. Most of Google initiatives for the desktop have really diminished the hold of microsoft in the desktop, but still the much expected WebOS or office killer app are yet to arrive – these are awaited for several months(the delay itself clearly highlights the challenge of even coming with good alternatives – let aside dislodging microsoft. Moves like that of Apple are yet to make an impact – some said that microsoft would anyway benefit out of this. Microsoft is also fighting back admirably – look here, here. Roblimo – if you ask me is Microsoft monopoly closer to an end – most probably yes –but that would be in large measure due to efforts of competitors and changing business dynamics and opensource is only a very small part of it – but clearly Microsoft has a bumpy road ahead. But I sincerely hope that when we close the new year 2006 – we are able to say with credibility and confidence – Goodbye to Microsoft monopoly (through field proven alternatives) – in all aspects – This is definitely possible - all it requires is very concerted action through tighlty bound corporate initiatives at this stage and not through loosely coupled free-form initiatives.

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