Friday, December 10, 2010

Could the Unthinkable Happen to Microsoft?

This year has been a pivotal one for the OS business. A few key stats caused my mind to fast-forward to a possibly unthinkable scenario –- Within the next 5 years, Windows will not be the dominant OS, and in fact is set up to be this millennium's OS2.


You’re probably thinking; “How could Jack possibly think that? Has he lost his mind?”

The latter question is hardly up for debate. However, the aforementioned radical scenario is far from certain, but in my view, certainly plausible. Here are some stunning data and some logic immediately thereafter to make my compelling argument. I end the story with all the reasons why Microsoft should maintain their coveted pace in the OS market.

How Microsoft Could Lose Their Place

From a Morgan Stanley study published in April 2010, there are four stats that I think support my dire Windows scenario (not prediction).

1. By 2015, there will be more mobile than desktop Internet users.


2. Social network users have surpassed email users indicating the preference to communicate in the context of online collaboration.


3. People are using their mobile devices more as computers than as phones.


Couple those stats with these by Gartner showing the growth of Android and Apple and the decline of Windows in the context of mobile devices.


Mobile technology is moving at a break neck pace that consumers and businesses alike are adopting virtually immediately. More and more, those mobile users are using their mobile devices in the same way as their desktop computers. With the advent of the iPad and it’s competitors, one can fast forward to a day where a user’s mobile device IS their desktop by virtue of plugging their device into a docking station to enable additional sets of ports, a bigger monitor and/or multiple monitors, a keyboard and mouse, and to charge their battery.

One can also make the argument that over the next 2-3 years, the mobile OS business will trim down through attrition to only a few big players; right now the trajectory favors Apple and certain flavors of Android. A side note … doesn’t Android’s story remind you of Linux where at one point there were lots of players that ultimately trimmed down to a select few best of breed?

With only 4%of the mobile market, is Microsoft too far behind to catch up in the requisite time? Could metaphors introduced by Android and/or Apple provide well known and soon-to-be intuitive features where Microsoft could be frozen out of the mobile OS market and thus by extension the desktop market?

Why Microsoft Is Likely To Maintain Their Place

Here are some reasons why the unthinkable Microsoft scenario may not happen, many of which should be attributed to a colleague of mine who counter-pointed me at every turn as I laid down the potential demise of Microsoft.

Android, by nature of it being open source, is not a single, consistently deployed OS but in actuality many flavors of the same OS with a different feel to each one. By contrast, Microsoft, as usual, will continue to provide a singular vision of it’s Windows mobile OS providing a consistency across devices.

Businesses and consumers alike use their devices to be continuously connected and to easily collaborate with one another. Outlook, Microsoft’s email client, is well known and well liked by it’s users making adoption by primarily email users highly likely.

So you say that with a current 4% market share, Microsoft is too far behind and too late the to the game?

Well, the throw away, appliance-like, aspect of mobile devices means that users will be upgrading to new devices every two years or so. As a result, the ability to enter the market with a better mouse trap and convert audiences from one OS to another is constantly available.

My colleague also makes the point that the rapid nature of new, unforeseen, and game changing devices being introduced every 5 years  or sooner requires a constant introduction of new OS’s for the foreseeable future.

We’ve gotten used to Microsoft letting others break ground then usurping control of said ground. However, with the speed at which mobile devices are being adopted and replacing desktops, one has to wonder if waiting has put their place in the OS market in jeopardy.

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