Friday, February 26, 2010

How Microsoft Lost the Platform War

I'm a big fan of Joel Spolsky's blog:

Joel Spolsky has a lot of software development experience. While having worked at Microsoft in the 90's it is clear from his writing that his talents are mutually exclusive from those days. Microsoft was just another employer on the road of life. Today he runs FogCreek Software in New York City. One of my favorite postings from Joel was entitled How Microsoft Lost the API War written back on June 13, 2004. In technological terms this is now ancient history. However, what Joel wrote back then is still relevant in terms of how Microsoft lost the hearts and minds of software developers. While writing that column Joel took a tangent:

Why Apple and Sun Can't Sell Computers
Well, of course, that's a little bit silly: of course Apple and Sun can sell computers, but not to the two most lucrative markets for computers, namely, the corporate desktop and the home computer. Apple is still down there in the very low single digits of market share and the only people with Suns on their desktops are at Sun. (Please understand that I'm talking about large trends here, and therefore when I say things like "nobody" I really mean "fewer than 10,000,000 people," and so on and so forth.)

I wrote to Joel Spolsky in the past year and mused how those words no longer hold true (about Apple anyway). I pointed out that half of my team members at work were operating with Apple Macbooks.  

Then today I caught this on the New York Times:

OS X Share Up 29% in Past Year, Slowly Chipping Away at Microsoft


Apple’s relative share has grown by 29.4% in the past year, while Windows lost 3.8%. Mobile increased the most in the past year, more than doubling its share of web consumption.

Adding fuel to the fire is another potential paradigm shift - tablet/slate computing. While there will be various Windows 7 based tablet products on the market, I have a very high degree of confidence Apple's sales of the iPad will likely marginalize these offerings. This is an opinion I immediately formed when the iPad was announced and it is write ups like that of Brian X. Chen from Wired that reinforce this, i.e. he didn't write "What the HP slate Means for the Future of Computing."

What the iPad Means for the Future of Computing

At this point you're guessing I'm writing this on a Macintosh. Nope. I use Windows 7 day to day. However, I'm not an ostrich with its head buried in the sand. I see reality. Microsoft ZDNet blogger Ed Bott seems to be on the same wavelength:

Like I said, apps matter.

So why is Microsoft incapable of responding appropriately? Read the words of a former Microsoft Vice President:

Microsoft’s Creative Destruction

In short, Microsoft is severely hobbled by a Balkinzation stemming from differing agendas among its product groups, a lack of vision (Ballmer at best is a Chief Operating Officer, he has no vision whatsoever and the longer he stays the more Microsoft is damaged) and the usual myopia found at a large company wanting to protect cash cows originating in the distant past (Office, Windows).

Until Microsoft has a come to Jesus moment (often precipitated by lots of layoffs & loss of market share) nothing will change. Except by then, it could very well be too late...

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