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'Death of Microsoft,' compressed GIF at 11
By Scott Bradner, Network World, 06/06/05
Pundit Clayton Hallmark recently wrote a rambling rant (and a good one as anti-Microsoft rants go) with the eye-grabbing title of "BIG NEWS ON MICROSOFT: Slavery to It Is Ending." Not surprisingly, the work popped up all over the place, with a Google search getting more than 1,500 hits, so far. I do not agree with all of his rant, but there are some interesting observations in it.
It seems more than a bit callous to equate the general need to use Microsoft products with slavery, considering the history and current extent of slavery of the humankind, and I think it takes away from the messages in Hallmark's article. That said, his basic message that Microsoft does not have a way to effectively compete in software for cheap or very cheap personal computers against open source offerings has merit. Hallmark particularly focuses on the current very low-cost computers already available from Wal-Mart and similarly priced systems from India. The Wal-Mart offerings cost less than $200 without a monitor, plus $40 for a copy of Linux. Hallmark says he expects that there will be systems available for even less in the future - maybe as low as $100, including software.
Microsoft currently charges manufacturers between $70 and $83 per system for Windows but that does not include editors, etc., Hallmark says. Microsoft has a $30 "starter kit" version of Windows for entry-level computers in developing countries, but Hallmark considers this a trap and provides links to analysis by folk like Gartner that warn against using the kit.
Hallmark points out that there is no room for a $75 operating system in the cost structure of a $200 computer. Hallmark argues that the advent of these very cheap computers running Linux instead of Windows will become a real threat to Microsoft. That seems to be a bit of wishful thinking, as I doubt that super-cheap computers will eliminate the market for more upscale systems. I also doubt that enough corporations will decide to switch to Linux on their desktops to worry Microsoft.
(I won't bother mentioning Apple even though I think its offerings are better than Windows and Linux, because I doubt it will ever be a big enough player to be statistically significant.)
But I do agree that there soon may be a lot more people using non-Microsoft-running computers than Microsoft-running ones.
Hallmark seems to be part of the Microsoft-is-evil camp. That is a camp I've stayed in from time to time when thinking about some of the company's business practices, but I use Microsoft software on my Apple computer. I use the Office Suite and some other software. In fact, I'm editing this column on MS Word while listening to KHYI on Windows Media Player.
Microsoft is a very powerful player in the computer biz and I doubt it will fade away anytime soon. But Microsoft might find the going harder in some areas - which I would not find troubling.
Disclaimer: Harvard is an old (and maybe powerful) player in the education biz and learns from changing times, but it has not expressed a view on Microsoft's future trials.
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