Editor's note: The article referenced here is actually now available in this blog, here.
Some of you may be aware that I used to keep a personal blog back when I was in college. Don’t try to find it, it doesn’t exist anymore. Anyway, if you could look back at my older writings, you would find a post from October 11, 2005 at 10:22 pm.
I had just returned from a technology conference at the University of Illinois. After describing the parties and drinking during that week (hey, I was in college, after all), I wrote the following (emphasis added):
Microsoft’s slogan for their presentation was something like “Microsoft: Sucking Balls and Taking Names.” No wait, that’s wrong. It was more like “Microsoft: Looking to the Future” or something like that. Well, the presentation was about how NT was better than Unix-type architectures. However, they failed to convince me.
For the record I would now like to officially state that I believe Microsoft will be severely diminished within the next 5 years. They won’t go away, I’m sure, but I don’t think they’ll be nearly as big a player as they have been.
Here’s why: Everyone else wants to destroy them.
Recently, Sun and Google teamed up with the express purpose of offering free or inexpensive alternatives to Microsoft Office. And not just word processors and spreadsheets. They want to have full-featured programs that equal Office in power and ability. Whether or not they deliver it has yet to be seen though.
Apple is switching to Intel processors soon. This in itself has no great effect on Microsoft. However, though Apple says they aren’t going to allow it to run on non-Apple computers, many experts are saying that Apple is simply saying that now, and they will allow it later. This would be a truly Jobsian move. I just learned the other day that “Jobsian” was a word. Fewer experts, but experts nonetheless, are saying Apple will stop manufacturing computers altogether, and focus on mobile technology and software (iPod, Mac OS X, iLife, etc.) You might think this would be bad for Apple, and it would be, if not for my next point.
Dell and HP hate Microsoft. Dell has already been selling computers with Linux instead of Windows for years. Michael Dell has publicly stated more than once that he wants to sell computers with Mac OS X instead of Windows. If Dell and HP (former iPod distributor) start selling inexpensive Apple loaded computers, Microsoft will not be able to keep up.
Finally, my last point is more of my opinion, but I’ve seen early versions of Windows Vista, and I’m not impressed. The interface doesn”t look cleaner, it looks busier. I get the feeling that Vista is going to be filled with helpful things, like the paperclip or that word bubble in the corner that pops up and prevents me from scrolling windows until I close it. It seems like if I had it on my computer, I would treat my computer like that annoying kid, who won’t stop talking to you while you’re trying to get work done. And the rest of the interface seems to have improved eye-candy, and not improved anything else. It has a better core, but no one really cares about that. It’s still in early beta, so they may still put out a good product. It’s been 20 years, I’d say they’re about due.
So, in conclusion, if these things come true, Microsoft won’t enjoy nearly as much market share in the coming years.
You have to consider the situation at the time: Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger was out. Macs ran on PowerPC only. Vista was still over a year away. iPods were the big Apple product. Phones flipped open, and the RAZR was phone to have. They were competing to be smaller, not larger. Smartphones were for business people only. The iPhone was a vague collection of rumors. Windows Mobile 5 was new. Android had just recently been purchased by Google, and was being developed as a Blackberry competitor.
Clearly, I was wrong about Apple opening up Mac OS X for other manufacturers to use, and that they might stop making hardware all-together. This idea is laughable to me now. Also, OpenOffice (and it’s forks) is barely more prevalent today than in 2005.
What’s amazing to me is that in 2005 I couldn’t have predicted how much the technology landscape would change over the last 6 years. Microsoft is still the defacto OS for PCs, but I do believe their influence overall has diminished, in this new world where Apple and Google are the main players, and PCs are yesterday’s news.