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Friday, October 24, 2003

Microsoft Thoughts

Jon Box wrote an interesting little piece on open source and the Windows OS. Also see Scoble's rant on How to Hate Microsoft and the following feedback for some enlightening views.

My own take is that:

  • Standardization is good for everybody since it allows developers and customers to shoot for a common target in the same way that economic stability promotes liberal democracy. I'm with Jon on getting the source code for the OS. Why in the world would I want it? I'm certainly not going to change it since it takes me out of my core competency and therefore increases the cost of my products and services. Open Source is not the answer, proprietary products from organizations that implement solid and secure code based on standards is.

  • Microsoft embracing and promoting W3C standards is a logical extension of the standards they brought to the desktop by gaining market share. In the desktop world of the 1990s computers were disconnected and the shrink wrapped software model predominated. In that kind of market a single platform (the Windows API) was the only way software developers could write software that took advantage of economies of scale. In the internet world, the economies of scale are tied to internet standards (HTML, XML, SOAP etc.). Therefore Microsoft's ablity to compete in the long term is directly tied to their ability to incorporate and adhere to standards in their products (such as IE). This is why the book "Breaking Windows" by David Bank was so interesting. It shows how Microsoft almost missed the boat.

  • Most of the upgrades in products such as Office (and perhaps Longhorn?) are unncessary except those that relate directly to W3C specifications that allow other software to integrate with these products and that better enable users to work in a connected environment (like DRM). This is because the standard software products that will need to run on the desktop are now well-defined and mature (word processing, spreadsheets, games). Everything else is internet related.

  • Developer tools must move in the direction of subsuming all of the infrastructure for writing applications (navigation, caching, load balancing, personalization, security, UI widgets). I as a developer should only have to specify business rules and point the app at a datastore. Whidbey is making the first steps in this direction with the inclusion of a set of enterprise design tools and a more robust framework for ASP.NET applications.

  • Microsoft makes money by convincing users and businesses to upgrade their products. Until a different revenue model comes to the forefront, don't expect Microsoft not to continue to produce upgrades and market the hell out of them (like Office System).
  • The nature of software (being essentially free to copy and distribute) makes it unlike other industries where a monopoly of the physical infrastructure truly stifles competition (the robber barons of the 1890s). So a 95% share of the desktop doesn't necessarily make a monopoly.

  • Just my two cents.

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