Competition With Microsoft Isn't Just Possible, It's Commonplace starts out with the assertion that the view of Microsoft as invincible is "wrong, wrong, wrong". Yet, by the time he's finished, the author seems to accept the view that "No one can challenge a multi-billion-dollar war chest"
I have a few thoughts about this. First, I'm quite old enough to remember when IBM was the big bully on the block, and DEC and Wang were, while not quite so large, seen as pretty much entrenched forever. Well, IBM is still here, but no longer a bully, and there are probably people reading this who don't even know who DEC and Wang were.
The mighty were brought low (or at least lower, in the case of IBM) by innovations and circumstances they never saw coming. Clayton Christensen wrote about that sort of thing in The Innovator's Dilemma, and there is absolutely no reason to think that Microsoft is immune to that sort of challenge to its dominance.
Multi-billion dollar war chests don't do you a bit of good when you are pouring the dollars into projects that just aren't going to happen. Microsoft can spend all the money they have on Tablet PC's and not change the basic fact that most of us don't need 'em, don't want 'em, and aren't going to buy them. At https://www.nytimes.com/2003/08/31/technology/31MICR.html?pagewanted=1 we find this comment:
"The critical issue for Microsoft now is that the businesses that really matter for Microsoft are flattening out, and nearly everything else is losing money," said David B. Yoffie, a professor at the Harvard business school.
He's not the only one to have noticed. Microsoft is making money in Windows and Office, and losing it everywhere else. Windows isn't growing because PC sales are flat - there are very few people or businesses left that have yet to buy their first computer. There is a large potential market overseas, but that market is much more vulnerable to Linux. The Office market, once seen as impenetrable, is at least distracted if not actually threatened by Open Source alternatives. Microsoft itself is in a Catch-22 in that area too: they'd like to move to xml for their file formats, but doing so would make competitors able to read and write Office files much more reliably.
There are more and more reports of Microsoft having trouble eating their own dogfood. When threatened by MSBLAST recently, Microsdoft had to turn to Akaima's Linux servers for protection.
Microsoft has internal problems too. Its founders are getting older, and as the first link in this page tells, starting to have other interests beyond running the Empire. Succession is always difficult, whether it is kingdoms or corporations, and many a strong company has sunk fast when new hands take the helm. Microsoft employees aren't what they used to be either: many of the experienced folk got quite rich through stock options and have retired or moved on to their own ventures. The new kids (and they are mostly kids, apparently) are underpaid and are NOT going to get rich by way of stock, so while they may be putting up with brutal work weeks and verbal abuse now, they may not be so wimpish when the economy turns around and better opportunities open up.
Am I still buying Microsoft stock? You betcha. I figure that if they do lose, I'll be so happy I won't care a bit about losing my money. If they do succeed in spite of all this, well, the world will not be a better place, but at least I'll have some extra cash to console myself with.
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More Articles by Tony Lawrence © 2009-11-07 Tony Lawrence
The difference between e-mail and regular mail is that computers handle e-mail, and computers never decide to come to work one day and shoot all the other computers. (Jamais Cascio)