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RIP Microsoft?

2005-02-11 21:29:15.61576+00 by Dan Lyke 5 comments

[ related topics: Business Microsoft ]

comments in ascending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment Aw... made: 2005-02-12 01:39:55.741166+00 by: baylink

<kick> <shuffle>

#Comment Re: made: 2005-02-12 10:19:58.919105+00 by: radix [edit history]

<argh> fatfingered after typing a very long message, not sure I can regenerate all of my thoughts/words (periodic save in web forms, anyone? :)

I think it would be premature to declare Microsoft out of it. It may take them some hard knocks to reorient themselves (I think future generations will have a very different perspective on OSes and the role of technology in the workplace, just think of how different our workplace is from our parents and grandparents experiences), but there are some smart people over there (Bill Gates included, I do give him his due as one of the most successful entrepreneurs ever. Yes, I know the story of how he hustled and got the original IBM contract/relationship for PCs. Gates' genius was understanding ahead of time how businesses and the people who run them see software in their business plan/strategy/how they do business.)

GE is a good example of a company that found new ways to leverage their position and resources to re-invent themselves (at one point, GE's motto was: we're in the business of building businesses. And they were and to an extent are, very good at it) Microsoft will adapt to the environment. Remember that Microsoft still has the main founder in the loop (if those hard knocks I mention happen, Ballmer could move on). Even in the article Dan mentioned, it says that Gates is returning to a more active role in the company. He knows the business environment and more to the point, the understanding and perspective of people in business (how much change the business community is ready for in terms of a context or paradigm shift (yes, paradigm shift is a worn out term, but cut me some slack :) )) is changing. I'm in my mid-30's and discovered the internet in 1989 at college. The next generation in high school and college have pretty much always had the internet and cell phones and have been socialized to a different environment (that's in social, business and news/informational spheres but generally in terms of information communication, connection and the forms of organization (meta-entities?) ) from the prior generations. The generation gap is going to be widened by the 'Future Shock' effect. (I find Toffler still relevant, if slightly dated.)

Adapt or die has been the fact in capitalistic economies that embrace the cycle of creative destruction. This is going to happen more and more in social ways than the primarily financial ways it has happened already. And honestly, it's going to be a bit hard to deal with. I honestly think that predictions beyond five years in technology and social trends (and even more aspects of our existence as things accelerate and impact more aspects of our lives) are mostly wrong. I don't think I have (or can have) any concept of what life will be like when I get to the twilight of my life. Microsoft, for all of it's faults, has recognized change and adapted. (IE: I remember installing Trumpet WinSock on Windows machines and when IE was referred to as Internet Exploder instead of being the browser you had to have because so many websites depending on IE specific behaviour) As long as Gates lives and controls MicroSoft, he will drive the company to adapt and survive. He is personally invested in the company in more than one way. I expect he has learned a thing or two watching and interacting with Steve Jobs (a brilliant man technically and a super-savvy man in adapting to change and delivering new concepts/products when the market is ready for them (other than his idealistic crusade at NeXT (although everyone I knew in academia who used them swore by the IDE))). Microsoft will be a different animal when Gates passes on (unless medical and biological advances stave that off indefinitely, more possible than you might think), but until then, I wouldn't count them out.

Microsoft's threats right now are 1) managing the complexity of their OS codebase (which is the real issue at the root of their security problems, IMHO) 2) maintaining a business case to compete with the changing environment of computing environments (I'm thinking of commodity computing, blade servers are part of that picture, as is the 'don't fix it, just rebuild it' model you can read up on at infrastuctures.org.) Once computers are super-cheap and JAVA and open source code free you from being bound to one platform, the days of tuning and refining a server will go largely by the wayside. No production system will run on just one server.

Even if Microsoft fails in the short term, their human and financial capital will afford them a bunch of swings before they could possibly be out. Again, I cite IE as an example.

The main point of agreement I have with the article is that Microsoft is no longer 'cool'. The really smart people want to work on other things and Microsoft must reorganize itself and redirect its resources to become a serious source of innovation. But when they can't beat them, they join them. I found it striking how much the .NET model resembles the Java model (Visual Basic, Visual C++, Visual C# (I might be wrong about C++) all can compile down to .NET binaries that can be run on multiple Microsoft platforms. .Net code = java bytecode, .NET platform = JVM (roughly). Microsoft couldn't beat the Java model, so they co-opted it. I'm watching closely to see how and when they successfully (even if only partially) adapt to the Open Source challenge.

I'll throw out one more idea and then quit (it's late and I'm not sure how lucid this comment is going to seem tomorrow): Just to appreciate the scale of change that I anticipate (IMNSHO), I see it as possible that Microsoft could leave the OS business entirely in 15 years. I don't know that it's likely, but the main driver that I see changing the landscape is going to be high-bandwidth, low-latency wireless (nearly ubiquitous in knowledge worker environments) that will obsolete many models of technology interaction (portable computers.. why carry a big, hot, power-hungry CPU when you can easily use one (or many) that sit elsewhere, well connected and provisioned? Okay, one more idea: I think the keyboard will eventually go (and this is from a CLI devotee as a Unix admin). What I've been interested in for a while is sign language. Currently one physical motion (finger) allows you to enter a character. (yes a mouse and GUI can be more efficient, but the functions you can perform are very narrow. Ever composed an email with just a mouse?) With sign language, a physical motion, hand, arm, multiple fingers signifies at least a word once the user is literate. The efficiency goes far up. Having watched the development of voice recognition, I don't think sign language recognition by machines will be much of a problem.

Thanks for reading. Hope this contributed to your mental models and increased your capacity for adaptation. :)

good night radix

#Comment Re: made: 2005-02-12 22:23:07.49215+00 by: Dan Lyke

The recurring theme in Jay's statements has been that Microsoft[Wiki] is going to have to be radically changed or that they'll be out of business, not just that they'll be out of business.

Robert Scoble, who is a professional cheerleader for all things Microsoft[Wiki], says this about the Malone article:

I'm not going to disagree with him. Why? Because that would prove his thesis correct.

Which shows that someone up there is paying attention.

Radix, I think you nail the issues that they're going to have to be concerned with. The complexity of the code base is huge, and they're not talking about incremental improvements, they keep talking about huge ground-up changes. That's a sign of decay.

The bigger one is that when you don't have a nicely modularized base to play on, adapting to new platforms and new paradigms (yes, I'll use it too, Kuhn wasn't stupid) becomes that much harder. When everything is intertwingled, building something that'll run in an as-yet unforeseen way is tough. I think Microsoft[Wiki] has shown that they can do that with business processes, it'll be interesting to see if they can do it with the platform.

But I'm making no bets in this race. There are things I want to have happen, but long experience has shown me that I'm not likely to get those wishes fulfilled.

#Comment Re: made: 2005-02-13 20:56:12.215706+00 by: concept14

IE still is referred to as Internet Exploder.

Microsoft's security problems arise not so much from the sheer size of their code base as from its roots in a single-user environment. Security was not baked in from the beginning.

#Comment Re: made: 2005-10-19 16:48:17.474607+00 by: baylink

> Yes, I know the story of how he hustled and got the original IBM contract/relationship for PCs.

Yes, but do you know the story of how he *stole* chargeable mainframe time at Harvard to run an emulator to write his BASIC interpreter on top of? :-)

> As long as Gates lives and controls MicroSoft, he will drive the company to adapt and survive.

He will try. Once you're not a monopoly anymore, monopoly reflexes will kill you deader. And they're next to impossible to shed.

> they keep talking about huge ground-up changes.

They keep talking about it. They never *do* it.