Can Microsoft fail?

I saw an article with this title over at PCWorld, essentially a house organ for Microsoft and talk about living in the past. John Dvorak explains that the world isn’t going to switch back to GEM (ever heard of that) and Macs cost too much (the favorite refrain for decades) and Linux is only for geeks so Windows will rule forever even if Windows 8 sucks.

I rarely write posts on software business issues, maybe because I spent my whole life in it and it’s boring now. But the Dvorak article is proof itself of how Microsoft has fallen, completely lost its way, and unlikely to come back. In their nostalgia trip Microsoft and Dvorak are looking at the good old days when Microsoft killed everyone in sight (Bill, you shouldn’t have bailed out Apple, even though they were worried about anti-trust, put a silver stake through that vampire’s heart or otherwise they’ll rise again, like did you hear up in Redmond, when Pony Express got there that Apple stock just hit a new high in anticipation of iPhone 5) (Note to Microsoft, an iPhone is a not so new anymore piece of hardware and software that people now use as their UI so they won’t be needing Metro).

The article claims Microsoft owns the world and therefore can’t die, no matter how stupid it is, is exactly what everyone said about IBM (and that turned out well, didn’t it). No, you’re right, the desktop OS wars are over, few are switching to Macs or Linux. But IT DOESN’T MATTER, because it’s not another desktop OS that is the threat, it’s all those tons of mobile devices. Even if someday Google can figure out how to make Android into anything but the free and bad imitation of iOS, mobile devices are going to eat your lunch, Microsoft. Dvorak, do you have any idea how easy it would be to package up an iPad or Galaxy as a laptop or as a desktop? The mobile devices are winning the war the same way PCs beat out 3270s and Microsoft is standing around with its thumbs in its ears the same way IBM did. Even Apple is converging the Mac and iOS because they know which will win long-term.

Having been part of Silicon Valley mindset I was naturally a Microsoft-hater, but my last job had me spending a lot more time in Redmond and at least on the server side I became a Microsoft fan. But it will be the server side that is all Microsoft will continue to own. The app model and HTML5 mean the client doesn’t have to be the same OS as the server. And if Microsoft wants to stay in business it will be forced to migrate the Office suite to other devices, or it will just lose that business to the cloud.

Microsoft needs to do two things (and Windows 8 is not one of them): a) when they’re the follower (which is what they’ve always been) they need to follow well and actually build better products than the leader (or at least find a way to use those gutter fighting tactics you used to use to force people to use your copy), and, b) get off your ass and for the first time in your history take the initiative – take the fight to the other guys instead of always playing defense. IBM thought it was invulnerable with all that cash and scrubbed salesforce and yet you beat them. Now you have to forget the past and nostalgia trips of how you beat GEM and start winning now. I actually hope you do because Apple is acting a lot like you did a decade ago and without someone to keep them honest they’ll slide into mediocrity.



About dmill96

old fat (but now getting trim and fit) guy, who used to create software in Silicon Valley (almost before it was called that), who used to go backpacking and bicycling and cross-country skiing and now geodashes, drives AWD in Wyoming, takes pictures, and writes long blog posts and does xizquvjyk.
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