The Microsoft Era

In many ways, the “Microsoft Era” has been over for quite some time. The most important developments in technology, the ones that change the way we work as IT practitioners, have been coming from other organizations for at least five years, maybe a decade (first open source, then the cloud companies).

But Microsoft has held on, and even garnered some of the aura of the scrappy underdog as it tries to compete in the new “network is the computer” (so close, Sun: right slogan, wrong decade) world. The reason Microsoft has been able to hang in this fight for so long is the continuing “price of doing business” revenue it has been able to extract from its operating system and office automation franchises.

Why, despite its continuing technological failures to deliver useful new functionality into its offerings, is Microsoft still hanging in there, still receiving billions of dollars a year from operating system and office software?

Because it’s good enough, and because there is no alternative.

More realistically, because we BELIEVE it is good enough, and there is no alternative. As long as we believe that, we won’t spend any time evaluating alternatives to see if they too are good enough.

It is the self-reinforcing belief that Microsoft produces and supports good enough software, and has the business continuity to CONTINUE to produce and support good enough software, that allows conservative IT managers to get to sleep at night, safe in the knowledge that they have backed a winner.

But what if they are backing a loser? Or, more to the point, what if they begin to BELIEVE they are backing a loser?

They are going to start looking for alternatives. And suddenly Microsoft will BE a loser. And the feedback loop will intensify.

All this to emphasize the importance that even ZDNet, yes, ZDNet is starting to lose faith in the market dominance of Microsoft.

I think Microsoft could continue to dominate the important, but no longer growing, desktop market for years, even decades to come. However, I don’t think they will.

The analysts have already tracked the decline of Windows relative to tablet and phone operating systems. The CIOs are working on “bring your own device” policies, which will liberate countless desktops from Microsoft monoculture. The trends are not good, and as the trends are publicized more and more, they will only get worse.

Bye bye Microsoft, I wish I could say I’ll miss you.