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Death of Microsoft, compressed-gif at 11
By Scott Bradner
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 (Google gets more than 1500 hits so far). I do not agree with all of it 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 human kind and I think it takes away from the messages in Hallmark's article. (http://argentina.indymedia.org/news/2005/05/295338.php) But, that said, Hallmark's basic message that Microsoft does not have a way to effectively compete for software for cheap (very cheap) personal computers against open source solutions.
Hallmark particularly focuses on the current very low cost computers already available from Walmart (http://www.walmart.com/search/browse-ng.do?ref=125875.126125+500500.4293898611&path=0%3A3944%3A3951%3A41937) -- under $200 (w/o monitor) plus $40 for a copy of Linux -- and similarly priced systems from India. He also expects that there will be systems available for even less in the future -- maybe as low as $100 including software. Hallmark points out that Microsoft currently charges manufacturers between $70 and $83 per system for Windows but that does not include editors etc. Microsoft does have 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 starter kit). Hallmark points out that there is no room for a $75 operating system in the cost structure of a $200 computer.
Hallmark feels that the advent of these very cheap computers running Linux instead of Windows will become a real threat to Microsoft in the future. That seems to be a bit of wishful thinking to me, I doubt that super-cheap computers will remove the market for more upscale systems and I doubt that enough enterprises will decide to switch to Linux on their desktops to worry Microsoft. (I'll not bother mentioning Apple even though I think it is better than both 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 in this world 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 their business practices but I use Microsoft software on my non-Microsoft Apple computer. I use the Office Suite and some other software. (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 they will fade away anytime soon, although they 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 has not expressed a view on Microsoft's future trials.