The suits at IBM must kick themselves every time they see a Windows desktop.
One thing that always fascinates me is how successful companies develop antibodies which prevent them from succeeding when market conditions change – case in point is how IBM gave Bill Gates the biggest gift of all time when they thought the PC was a joke. IBM’s operating system called OS/2 was drubbed by Windows 3.0 and Microsoft dominated the PC OS market ever since.
As “cloud computing” (IMHO what we used to call “time sharing” in the dinosaur days) continues to take hold and economic conditions are stressing companies to reduce costs, IBM, Virtual Bridges and Conanical Systems (the Ubuntu folks) are marketing a Ubuntu based virtual desktop suite which is claimed to be far cheaper than the typical Windows based desktop productivity suite. IBM claims costs ranging from $59 per user for a minimal configuration to $258 per user for a robust desktop productivity suite.
IBM claims that this is about half what a comparable solution would cost from Microsoft’s Office Exchange. Combine this with hardware savings using emasculated PCs (so called “thin clients”) and severely reducing the need for desktop support and you have some powerful incentives among large companies to cut the Microsoft umbilical. Contrary to Microsoft’s denials, Vista is still not popular among businesses mainly because the perceived value does not justify the upgrade; same can be said for Windows 7 which is looking a LOT like Vista rev2.
Ordinarily I would look a this with a jaundiced eye were it not for my son’s Dell Mini experience. My son who is a systems architecture guru uses his netbook exclusively, carrying it around to meetings and using it from home. All he needs to do his job is on their network and all he needs is access, not a desktop with lots of CPU horsepower. In this environment, eye-candy heavy Vista and Windows 7 looks like a non-starter.
Could it be that Microsoft has jumped the shark? It is not inconceivable that Microsoft’s worse competitor is not another Microsoft but rather a combination of events and technologies which mitigates the desktop horsepower-heavy solution as the business norm. Couple this with Microsoft’s tunnel vision that the desktop OS is the best solution and the “more is better” strategy will win the day and I begin to see some cracks in Microsoft’s business model.
Will success spoil Microsoft? Like IBM and the current management in Detroit, turning Microsoft’s entrenched OS centric view of the world is no easy task and just might require a thorough management house cleaning.