Is Microsoft Windows "Collapsing"?: Page 2

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One Size Fits All?

When MacDonald refers to the need for Microsoft to develop a modular approach, he’s not referring to, say, the umpteen versions of Vista. The list is long: Ultimate, Home Premium, Home Basic, Business, Enterprise.

“That’s a fairly superficial top down packaging exercise,” he says. “That had gotten a little ridiculous.”

The real challenge goes deeper. What the company is struggling with is: how do you make a business model out of something that’s as fluid as today’s computing landscape? A world in which a legion of mobile devices communicates with an army of desktops, which communicates with a heterogeneous data center?

In this world, a single, lumbering code base – first conceived of a generation ago – necessarily struggles.

The possible changes could take many forms. For instance: “Maybe they consider forking the enterprise code base from the consumer code base,” MacDonald says. “So that enterprises ultimately get something that’s more manageable and customizable to what they need. If one set of workers only runs a specific set of applications, why can’t I thin it down and configure it much more like a kiosk?”

“This one size fits all – it’s designed for everyone, but works perfectly well for no one because it’s trying to be all things to all people.”

Will Microsoft Change Before the Tipping Point?

Although MacDonald (and the IT managers he addressed) feel that Windows needs a course correction, it’s unclear whether Redmond is of the same opinion.

Microsoft has the ability, if it felt threatened, to make these changes, he says. However, “There is currently nothing serious that threatens their position on the desktop, or their position with Office, and therefore they are not highly motivated to embark on such radical innovation.”

While the company feels some pressure to change, it’s the depth of the change that’s in question. “Microsoft is aware of the trends that we talked about, they acknowledge that the trends exist,” MacDonald says. “They disagree about whether radical change is necessary…I think they feel they can contain this, with continued incremental improvements in the modularity of the underlying operating system, repackaging different SKUs.”

“But I think there’s a disconnect between Microsoft and its customers on how bad it’s gotten.”

The difficulty, in essence, is one of legacy business model. “I think the problem is, they hold themselves hostage to the business model, where they have to ship with the hardware, and anything that breaks up this monolithic stack is a threat.”

So the next major release, Windows 7, is on track to be “more of the same – incremental changes.”

Yet the company may not have unlimited time to change course. The sands are shifting underneath its feet. “Our projection is, 2011, there’s a tipping point where more organization have applications that are designed to be OS agnostic. And it really does change the equation, so backward compatibility is not the big issue that it was, because we’re trying to wean ourselves slowly off Win32 apps.”

Next page: Who Gains if the Giant Falters?

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Tags: Windows, Microsoft, iPhone, Vista, OS X

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