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Microsoft is dead

April 18, 2007

Paul Graham, the venture-capitalist who wrote Hackers & Painters, founded ViaWeb, and took a major part in the rise of Yahoo!, is one of my favorite essayists.  And he proposes that Microsoft is dead.  They’d better read this essay carefully unless they want to wind up as a negative example in business classes.

Categories: Geeky, Software
  1. james old guy
    April 18, 2007 at 08:59 | #1

    Well that is one view, pardon me if I don’t make funeral plans.

  2. April 18, 2007 at 09:07 | #2

    Just curious, did you read the essay?

  3. james old guy
    April 18, 2007 at 11:55 | #3

    Yes , DOF I read it. If all the people he works with use MAC’s and Linux operating systems then he has ignored at a minmum 90% of computer users. Google hasn;t killed Microsoft but Sony might.

  4. April 18, 2007 at 13:20 | #4

    Not sure how you think Sony has a chance to kill M$ or why you think M$ isn’t dead.  But either way I have news for ya James, when IT people start switching over to Mac or Linux and away from Windows… well that is certainly a sign of something.

    Not only is Apple growing and with large numbers, but so is Linux and Open Source software.  After only having a stable release out for a year and a half it was predicted that Mozilla Firefox actually grabbed 20% of the Internet Browser market.  This may seem insignificant but I can tell you it is not.  This happened in 2004 when Internet Explorer had about 80-90% of the market previously.

    I predicted a year and a half ago that M$ is dieing.  The reason for it is because people are getting tired of paying a butt load of cash for crappy buggy software.  If M$ doesn’t shift their paradigm, they will die off.  Open Source software will win out because everything that was a negative about it is shifting.

    Forum moderators are getting more accustomed to responding to newbs in a timely and friendly manner.  The software is getting easier and easier to use with each release, and more software is being written with a GUI.  The install process is getting more user friendly as well.  All of my complaints I had 3 years ago have just about been answered.

    But besides this, M$ is dieing because people realize they do not have to use M$‘s software.  I wrote about a Northern California school district that has moved the entire school district to Linux.  Not just one school, but all of them in the district.  This means no more M$ on servers, Teacher stations, or computer lab stations.

    The school sees this as a way to save money.  Our University spends $40,000 a year just in paying for M$ software alone.  The savings of switching to Linux would be monstrous.  At the moment I cannot recommend it due to various reasons, but the point remains that in the near future this is still a viable option.

    Explain to me how M$ competes with free

  5. April 18, 2007 at 14:14 | #5

    Yes , DOF I read it. If all the people he works with use MAC’s and Linux operating systems then he has ignored at a minmum 90% of computer users. Google hasn;t killed Microsoft but Sony might.

    Just curious.  He wasn’t saying MS is going out of business next year, only that they no longer have such invulnerability or irrestability that new companies need to fear them.  They’ll go on for years, making a profit but mattering less and less in the grand scheme of things unless they change.

    Explain to me how M$ competes with free…

    The standard explanation is that corporations want someone to sue.  The idea of using mission-critical software that just sort of grew out of an unpaid community seems wierd, alien, vulnerable to them.

    (Not that you could sue Microsoft for software that didn’t work.  Their license is pretty clear about that)

    The cost of the software itself is only one component in TCO.  Doesn’t take much wasted time implementing new systems to eat up the cost advantage of “free”.

  6. April 18, 2007 at 15:49 | #6

    The cost of the software itself is only one component in TCO.  Doesn’t take much wasted time implementing new systems to eat up the cost advantage of “free”.

    As things currently exist this is true to a certain degree.  But as Linux and Mac progress it is only inevitable that someone will create an importing tool that makes the transition seamless, or at least a hell of a lot easier.

    Especially since now there is a case study (the School District in Northern California).

  7. Abhilasha
    April 18, 2007 at 16:35 | #7

    Well….So, the evil empire of microsoft nears the end…

    and like every good story, everyone lives happily ever after :)

    “The cost of the software itself is only one component in TCO.  Doesn’t take much wasted time implementing new systems to eat up the cost advantage of “free”.”

    Well, Linux has been free since forever…Most people wont use an application or a software unless its friendly and not intimidating…

    Thats where google gets it and others dont !!!

    All of the google applications I have personally used are “idiot-friendly” just like microsoft…and free on top of it…

  8. Simon
    April 19, 2007 at 02:58 | #8

    I wonder;

    Who is going to persuade corporations to switch to all web based applications or move all their business critical servers in to open source applications which have sporadic support and undefined stability? When companies are looking to drive down the cost of IT, and Microsoft have aligned to their strategies by reducing software costs, and the M$ Support Personnel demand a much lower salary than their OS and web support counterparts.

    Who is going to persuade all the worlds gamers (and game manufacturers) that you can play all their favourite games straight from a web application?

    No I don’t believe M$ is dead, or even dying. But, perhaps its dominance has been receded now that others have caught up. Has Bill Gates given up his desire for making money? Is their no other in the M$ corp with the his vision? I doubt it.

  9. james old guy
    April 19, 2007 at 07:22 | #9

    Wow, $40,000 a year, excuse me that is chicken feed. How much do you think your government local, state and federal spends on computers, software, training, and employee’s to run systems each year? Do your really think that they are going to just throw up thier hands and bow down and shout MS is dead, long live Linux? I don’t even want to think about the taxpayer dollars it would cost. The other part of the article I found amusing was the part of fearing MS, if your company fears competition its not the competition that is the problem.
    As for Sony, read between the lines on the current war with MS, and the capablities of the PS3 and X-box 360, gaming is not the end goal.

  10. April 19, 2007 at 07:50 | #10

    But, perhaps its dominance has been receded now that others have caught up.

    I believe that’s about right.  MS was the gravitational center of the initial post-mainframe computer world, on the force of a monopoly they inherited from another monopoly, IBM.  Now operating systems and applications are becoming commoditized much as PC hardware has been, and MS has become one player among many.

    More importantly, MS is no longer a technological leader.  That’s serious trouble in the software industry, which I think is what Graham is getting at.

    James, in Microsoft’s case, it wasn’t just a case of “fearing competition”.  Microsoft engaged in some seriously predatory (read, monopolistic and illegal) practices and they did squash a few companies that had better products.  It’s water under the bridge now. 

    But you are right about the cost of a switchover.  The actual cost of the software is only one component in TCO, and usually not the largest one.

    Another component, however, is the institutional cost of large-scale software failures and security breaches.  Of these, Microsoft has quite a few on its record. 

    As I see it, the problem is the Windows kernel itself.  Maybe MS could revitalize itself by splitting its application division from its OS division (like the DOJ wanted it to do a few years ago) and developing its strategic alliance with Novell to make the next Windows into a *nix variant.  Then let the application division go nuts innovating all over the place.

  11. April 19, 2007 at 09:17 | #11

    Education sector is quite different than private sector James.  I should have made it clearer, but I work at a University.  $40,000 is a big deal when the federal gov pulls back funding every year.  And every year the University “higher ups” have to go negotiate for more funding.

    Do your really think that they are going to just throw up thier hands and bow down and shout MS is dead, long live Linux? I don’t even want to think about the taxpayer dollars it would cost.

    No I do not think this nor have I said this, however the school district in Northern California has already done this and they plan on saving $100,000s of dollars every year. 

    But this is not what I expect other educational institutions to do.  What I expect them to do is phase out M$ Office and instead implement OpenOffice, which looks, acts, and behaves just like M$ Office.  Doing this will save a ton of money and would be one step toward M$ dieing.  I think even you could agree with me on that one.

    The other part of the article I found amusing was the part of fearing MS, if your company fears competition its not the competition that is the problem.

    Individual companies are not fearing M$ and this is not what the article was referring to.  What the article was referring to was that start up companies no longer fear M$.  Which is true.  If you no longer fear M$ buying you out or stealing your idea, then you will go ahead and implement that idea and evolution of technology is going to take place.

    As for Sony, read between the lines on the current war with MS, and the capablities of the PS3 and X-box 360, gaming is not the end goal.

    I guess I am a little slow here.  What the heck are you talking about?  I understand the PS3 and X-Box 360 can be moded out and used as a media box, etc.  But what does this have to do with Sony taking down M$?

    Simon: Who is going to persuade corporations to switch to all web based applications or move all their business critical servers in to open source applications which have sporadic support and undefined stability?

    You think Open Source has sporadic support and undefined stability?  You must be a MAC user!  Man M$ takes the cake when it comes to poor support and stability.  Have you tried GIMP or Open Office?  Both are open source and both beat the living hell out of their counterparts, respectively Adobe Photoshop and M$ Office.

    It doesn’t matter what CEO or Exec in M$ thinks, if they continue down their same path without a paradigm shift, they will die.  If you don’t believe me fine, but I am already tempted to give my grandparents a MAC or Linux machine next time it comes up.  And I no longer recommend PCs to people, but instead I say get a Mac if you can afford it.  On top of that I am just about finished completely migrating myself and my girlfriend from Windows.

    Linux is so easy to use nowadays and it continues to get better and better.  The old arguments of, “It has poor support.”  Or, “I went on a Linux forum one time and got hated on by everyone cause I am a noob.”  Is just not true anymore.  And if these are one of your reasons for not using Linux, then you just haven’t taken the time to try it out.

    I agree with DOF.  Splitting up the company is probably one of the best ideas, and it is something M$ should have done awhile back.  They probably would have a wonderful OS instead of this Vista crap.  But I guess Bill didn’t want to because seriously, which company would you have chosen if you were him?

  12. April 19, 2007 at 10:55 | #12

    Linux is so easy to use nowadays and it continues to get better and better.  The old arguments of, “It has poor support.”  Or, “I went on a Linux forum one time and got hated on by everyone cause I am a noob.”  Is just not true anymore.  And if these are one of your reasons for not using Linux, then you just haven’t taken the time to try it out.

    Corporations and to a lesser extent, educational institutions, can benefit from corporate support of Linux.  IBM and Novell are each promoting their corporate-backed distros and this is a very good thing.  As fuzzy-warm as the “forums” full of programming hippies might be, paying a bit more for dependable (which is to say, contractually obligated) support is well worth it. 

    As you know I blew my Windows laptop away and put SUSE 10.x on it, persuant to writing a Linux review similar to the Apple OS-X review I just finished.  So far “easy to use” isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. 

    BTW Gimp compares favorably with Photoshop 6.x.  But 6.x was three versions ago.  In a high-end graphics work in a corporate/publication setting, the current Adobe Creative Suite totally kicks ass.

  13. Ted
    April 19, 2007 at 12:42 | #13

    …persuant to writing a Linux review similar to the Apple OS-X review I just finished. So far “easy to use” isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. 

    Linux has never been developed with the desktop end user in mind, but most Apple products are. That is the “value-add” of Apple products, if you want to call it that—the interface and hardware control. After 30 years, Apple owns a very small percentage of the desktop despite the pandering to the “easy to use” academic and artistic crowd. Mind you, I agree that it is powerful for some tasks, and can do the job, but why does it not have greater penetration? If Apple can do anything at all, it can do marketing; they’re not babes in woods.

    It is not fair to compare Linux and Apple in the same market because the focus of Linux has been on various functionalities, and very seldom on the desktop end user (unless prepackaged through a canned distribution) or even for laptops.

  14. April 19, 2007 at 13:08 | #14

    It is not fair to compare Linux and Apple in the same market

    Oh, I’m not trying to be fair, and I explored my understanding of the reasons for Apple’s (lack of) market penetration in previous posts.  To mangle a phrase, it may not be possible to compare Apples and Penguins.  But I happened to get a loaner Mac so I reviewed it, and now I’m reviewing Linux because that interests me too. 

    In the end I’ll probably end up pissing off the partisans of each platform.  ;-)

  15. April 19, 2007 at 14:56 | #15

    Linux has never been developed with the desktop end user in mind

    You need to qualify this statement with used to, because this is simply not the case anymore.  In fact if you read what is being said on the forums, this is exactly how distributions are being developed or expanded upon nowadays; with the end user in mind.  Why?

    Because Linux would rather have a user friendly distro and less M$ users than a geeky underground platform that no one understands.  Why do you think DOF has blown away Windows on his laptop?  If you ask him I am sure he would say he would of never thought of doing this 5 years ago.  And if you would have asked me 5 years ago if I would be teaching a class in Linux and speaking on a website about how user friendly Linux has become I would of laughed at you.  In fact I only started working heavily with Linux because DOF brought it to my attention as a possible solution to a project I was given.  Otherwise I may have never gotten to the point where I am today because I had the same fears and questions about it that everyone else has.

    Sorry DOF, I am not trying to call you out or speak for you. I am merely implicating that techs have primarily grown up on Windows and so because of that if they are going to branch out to something new, not only is it going to be compared to Linux, but it needs to be almost as easy to use.  This is because Windows is second nature to techs and we don’t really want to learn something new.

    The only last major roadblock Linux needs to get around, which is something they are working on, is to figure out how to get hardware manufacturers to develop drivers for their hardware.  Once Linux figures this one out the last “I won’t use Linux because…” argument will have been destroyed… “I won’t use Linux because of hardware compatibility issues!”

  16. Ted
    April 19, 2007 at 18:05 | #16

    You need to qualify this statement with used to, because this is simply not the case anymore.

    Maybe.

    Did they change the Linux distros to pare out the server services? There are many distros out these days and I haven’t reviewed them all because of my day job, but most of them appear to have the basic functionality of a server jammed into a bulging box and held together with tape. Does it still have runstates and runlevels? Single user mode? etc.

    I have a hard time thinking of Linux as suitable for secretaries or clerical workers or the average Apple user. Is it useful in CS? You bet. Is it mature and robust in doing what it’s supposed to do (by itself)? I think so. Is it a great toolkit for IT with its own compilers and a sh*tload of available languages and shells? Yes. But I wouldn’t torture ma, pa or granny with it unless it was an appliance (like TiVO).

    Why do you think DOF has blown away Windows on his laptop?

    As a learning exercise.

  17. April 20, 2007 at 08:24 | #17

    Ted: Sarcasm alert:

    Did they change Windows to pare out the server services? If you look closely, you’ll find a few, although the trend has been towards increasing castration since NT4.

    There are many versions of Windows out these days and I haven’t reviewed them all because of a lack of interest, but most of them appear to have the basic functionality of a server jammed into a bulging box and held together with tape.

    Does it still have Startup folders, HKLM\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run, ..\RunOnce, and whatever else there is? Recovery mode? etc.

    I have a hard time thinking of Windows as suitable for secretaries or clerical workers or the average Apple user. Is it useful in CS? No.

    Short of being the schoolyard bully, Microsoft is becoming increasingly irrelevant. The company isn’t going bankrupt anytime soon, but they are their worst enemy and they’re incapable of reform.

  18. April 20, 2007 at 08:38 | #18

    To add to what Elwed typed:
    “Does Microsoft still need firewalls, antivirus scanners, and spyware protection.  I haven’t used Windows in awhile so I am not sure, but last time I did use it I had to spend an hour installing these types of applications…”

    Ted I understand your points and they are valid, but I think you should really consider giving it another try.  You may find it to be a suitable distro, and you may find a few comparable items to Windows. 

    I can’t say for sure your experience will be as wonderful as mine, but I have been willing to devote time to understanding Linux.  And I can certainly understand if that is not something others wish to do.

  19. April 22, 2007 at 14:39 | #19

    The significance of Novell moving their products to Linux is overlooked by most people.  Novell has had one of the best support mechanisms (both phone and web-based) of any vendor.  As the NetWare platform migrates to OES and the Linux desktop matures, the viability of Linux as a corporate platform becomes better and better.

    NetWare was always a better server platform than Microsoft ever made availability in terms of stability and value.  Its “shortcoming” was as an application platform.  Novell did not make it friendly enough to developers, that was their only flaw.  There are still NetWare 3.x servers out there running, some of which literally can’t be found, i.e. the IT support might have a hard time finding the physical machine.  I’ve heard of cases where the server had been enclosed behind drywall as a result of a renovation.

    Combined with Apple’s server offerings (I have no experience there) and OS-X for the desktop, it’s easy to see why no one in their right mind should fear Microsoft, or fear not using M$ products at all.

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