Thursday, July 10, 2003

Stewart Alsop has an column lamenting the fact that -- Alas, Poor Microsoft ... You Used to Be So Interesting. Not sure how long this link is going to stay active, but for the time being, let me quote,
What has not worked very well for Microsoft is pretty much everything new that it has tried to sell in the past ten years. The most visible of these efforts has been its incredibly expensive quest to sell game machines under the Xbox brand. It also has been trying to sell PDAs in the Pocket PC family, cellphones in the SmartPhone family, set-top boxes in the WebTV and UltimateTV families, and Internet services such as Expedia and CarPoint.

I do not think MS was ever really considered to be a trend-setting company, just one that had occasional hits it *always* capitalized on and a relentless drive of a mad rhino. Among hits I would consider the Powerpoint, astutely acquired, and Visual Basic -- a language much derided but that put Microsoft into the enterprise and cemented Ms Excel as a must have behind the trading desk. Let's not forget the MS SQL Server -- pretentiously named but bought on the cheap from Sybase 10 years ago -- let's see the market shares for the products now. Expedia has actually done pretty well [confession: it's my personal favourite online travel site], and I am in no position to judge Carpoint. Xbox is a medium success as a gaming platofrm, but it always takes MS 3 or 4 tries to get things going, and PocketPC devices are steadily gaining ground on Palm-based handhelds.

Where I think Mr. Alsop is leaving the discussion off is the super-nice stuff that MS spends billions developing each year. The new and improved MS Reader is getting good reviews. Tablet PC is not dying, and as flat and flexible screens come around MS will be uniquely positioned to sell software for hundreds of millions of actually useful e-books and tablets. I see Microsoft going through a typical cash cow phase where most of what we see are old cash cows pumping money into a generation of new applications and devices that are a couple of years away from general public. I think that ClearType is going to have a very big effect on our future, both as an enabling agent and a legal barrier for open source to overcome.

I really think that Gates and Co. are not worried about Linux so much on the desktop, or even server market. What they are worried about is how easily and nicely Linux works on the appliance-level. With relatively lean footprint,if needed, and tremendous amount of functionality it becomes a serious contender in the future of appliances which do not make enough money to justify any serious OS licensing fee. Whatever MS can offer to these consumer electronics manufacturers is in its labs right now, and so it is hard to pass judgement on the value of that research.
[Listening to: 15-i_ve_got_a_crush_on_you.prev - - (03:06)]


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