Microsoft Windows: The Report of My Death Was an Exaggeration
April 11, 2008
The Gartner Group, the publicly-traded consultancy, made headlines with its interesting assertion that Microsoft Windows will collapse. Like other blue-chip consulting firms, generating buzz is good business. I know because I worked at one of the bluest-chip firms in the world, Booz, Allen & Hamilton a quarter century ago.
At a Gartner symposium, Gartner pundits asserted that Microsoft is big, fumbling, and “overburdened”. Therefore–and this is the part I admired–Windows is “collapsing”. My former boss at Booz, Allen would have swizzled the words, but that’s the difference between a blue-chip and a bluest-chip consulting firm.
Please, read the Computerworld story before it disappears from the public Web site. Also, scan the essay at Read Write Web. Both of these summaries provide useful information about the Gartner pundits’ remarks.
The thought that crossed my mind was that a large number of companies in the technology business are floundering. IBM is a baffler with $96 billion in revenues. Microsoft took advantage of IBM’s skepticism about personal computers, teetered on the precipice until a cookie expert taught the elephant to dance. IBM’s still with us, still pretty confusing to customers and competitors, still in the game.
Hewlett-Packard made what may be the most spectacular non-decision in the history of computing. HP owned AltaVista.com and orphaned it. Along came the Google, hired Jeffrey Dean and a cast of former AltaVista.com wizards. Messrs. Brin and Page–courtesy of HP–had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and were savvy enough to seize it. HP floundered, discovered ink, nuked Ms. Fiorina and now the company is digesting its $1.2 billion acquisition of Exstream Software. HP is an ink and printing company which technology enables. HP is in the $100 billion in revenue territory.
For Microsoft to blow a 95 percent share of desktop / notebook operating systems and applications in 24 to 36 months is a big job. If Microsoft tried to make these customers go away, I don’t think the company could do it. My father is in his mid 80s. He has one PC which runs XP. He will never upgrade, and he has minimal trouble. True, he has access to free technical support in the form of my visits. Most of the small businesses with which I am familiar aren’t likely to make any big jump to Macs (too expensive for today’s budget) or to Linux (not for the average bear).
Every year, I get at least one call about IBM mainframes, DEC 20s, and AS/400s. I’m amazed at how much of this hardware is still in use. Microsoft has problems, but what company doesn’t today? Did you used to work at the fifth largest bank in the US? Well, BearStearns is history. Software on lots of computers doesn’t collapse in the same way as a bank with other bankers wanting some cash pronto.
Kudos to Gartner for getting more media coverage than the AOL-Yahoo and Google-Yahoo tie ups. Some Microsofties will be annoyed. But there will be plenty of Windows users in 2010 or 2011 when the meltdown, implosion, or collapse occurs. Bet you a bowl of burgoo that Gartner’s wizards will still be using Word and PowerPoint to crank out their prognostications.
Stephen Arnold, April 11, 2008