As Bill Gates finally bows out of Microsoft to pursue his charity interests, BBC looks at some of the hits and misses of the software company he founded.
BBC NEWS | Technology | The hits and misses of Microsoft
Uncle Bill left a Microsoft not having beaten the Free Software movement and fighting to conquer new markets, like the mobile devices, where it is not a leader. I’ve played for a few hours with a Windows Mobile phone at Funambol and I remain skeptical about that OS. Anyway, it will be interesting to watch Ray Ozzie at work and see how he will play.
Lots of talking about Microsoft lately.’ As I expected, Ray Ozzie’s public appearances are increasing with declarations of love for the magic word interoperability and with a new, more open, attitude.’ I believe it’s true that “Microsoft fundamentally, as a whole, has changed dramatically as a result of open source,” as Ozzie said.
Roberto wrote a long post about Microsoft Open Source strategy. Having talked to him long enough, I know he sees the big potential for new Open Source firms to prosper on Microsoft ecosystem.’ I suspect he is right, given the fact that the *nix competitors have lost 15 years of evolution fighting each other instead of building a common (superior) platform. Only with GNU/Linux such common platform arrived, but it probably came a day late and a dollar short.
Contrary to Roberto, I think that Microsoft change is not sufficient yet for Free Software advocates like me to merrily lift the precautions. I can still hear Ballmer shouting threats and see him trying to twist the arms of the EU Commission (as Carlo remembers very well). I’m not confident yet that these moves represent a new strategy and they’re not merely tactics to penetrate the FLOSS market and break it from the inside (patent lawsuit?).’ If I were a developer I wouldn’t trust any promise not to sue by Microsoft, even if that promise uses the same (murky) words of IBM’s promises. I don’t care: Microsoft track records on Free Software is bad, bad, bad and worse. Microsoft must do better than IBM, it must be perfect (they can, if they want to).
I’ve placed a bet that Microsoft will change radically its business model when Gates will leave his chair to Ray Ozzie, so I was trying to get a clue from Ozzie’s speech at the MIX last week. I wasn’t too impressed by his keynote, though, it was too much in the old known ‘corporate style’, too much junk talking about the old products (still talking about zune? Office Live? Come on, that’s so old stuff). And about old strategies.
Even in the GigaOM Interview Ozzie reveals anything new. His comment:
The OS that we’re using today is kind of in the model of a ’70s or ’80s vintage workstation. It was designed for a LAN, it’s got this great display, and a mouse, and all this stuff, but it’s not inherently designed for the Internet.
repeats that Microsoft will focus on the web. And on social interaction through the web. Just like Google. There is nothing new: Microsoft is playing again being the second mover in the online market. With its financial power will try to crush the competition. Disappointing: there is nothing really new coming from there. I still hope that Ozzie will at least introduce respect for open standards.
Now I better put my hope for a revolutionary product in some nice startup, to have some fun.
I’m not sure that Bill Hilf’s declarations about Microsoft’s Open Source strategy give a complete picture of the corporate strategy in the near future to compete in a sector that radically changed since Windows came to light in the ’90s. I think that Microsoft is being disrupted and will have to split and go on two different paths. One will continue developing its flagship products (Windows and Office) the usual way. This path is the one that Ballmer and Mundie follow, I’d call it ‘Classic Microsoft’. We all know Classic Microsoft and I agree with Shaun Connoly’s (JBoss/RedHat employee) and Savio Rodrigues regarding its Open Source Strategy:
Microsoft has no plans on flipping any of its flagship products to open source. Period. […]
Microsoft will aggressively fight/compete with products (open source or closed source) that pose a threat to its core products.
It makes perfect business sense. The main problem with this path is that it can’t last forever as it’s being disrupted. A symptom is that Microsoft’s revenues grow slower than competing products: Microsoft growth is stable around 7%-8%, while Google sports two-digits growth and Apple almost goes off scale. Plus there are many signals of decreasing licensing costs under pressure from FLOSS (see Gartner’s report, for example).
Microsoft’s other path is far more exciting and it revolves around a main transition set to happen on July 2008. Microsoft Chief Software Architect (Bill Gates) has quit and has already appointed the successor, the visionary Ray Ozzie. Where is he and what is he doing down there? I couldn’t find many public sign of his activities after his last post on his blog. I heard rumors from Seattle that he is working silently with his group, waiting for gates to open and run free (bad pun 🙂 ). Fortune reports that “Ozzie’s assignment is to Webify everything” at Microsoft.
My guess is that Ozzie will lead Microsoft on the second path, the Disrupting Microsoft. On this path only speculations apply, but I bet that Disrupting Microsoft will be different: with a different strategy and a different approach to open source and the web revolutions than the one we are used to from Classic Microsoft. The Disrupting Microsoft will have to slowly take over Windows and Office, when they will be too tired (or expired) to sustain Microsoft’s hunger for revenues.
Realizing that Microsoft is being disrupted, Microsoft itself is creating its own subsidiary that will follow the disruption to eventually cannibalize Classic Microsoft (something Adobe should consider doing too). Bets are accepted, Ozzie will emerge from the salt mines next summer and we’ll see.