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Bye Bye Windows?

April 11th, 2008 - Category: Cloud Computing, Google | .

Microsoft Windows is still amazingly ubiquitous. To a good approximation, everyone uses Windows. The actual figure is above 95%, measured by people’s browsers. (Compare this to opinion polls: nothing ever gets 100 % support. There’s always the 3 % who don’t agree to anything.)

It may therefore come as a surprise that two Gartner analysts are quoted as saying that Windows is ‘collapsing’ (also here). The Windows software platform is too bloated and inflexible to be competitive, they say, not least because of backward compatibility. The Windows codebase is Microsoft’s Iraq – a quagmire.

To those woes can be added Microsoft’s relative absence in the web space. I, for one, don’t use any of Microsoft’s web services. Not because of any ideological opposition, but because they’re not competitive. I try Live Search from time to time, to see how it stacks up against Google. It doesn’t. HotMail versus Gmail – puh-lease. I even signed up – in good faith – for Office Live when that came out. Nice try.

That’s why Microsoft really needs Yahoo. People live their lives inside their browsers these days. True, the web does not yet solve all the problems that desktop apps do. I don’t know how many people do their video editing online, for instance. And Microsoft maintains its stranglehold with Office. But check out some of the features that are coming out on Google Docs: offline access, email notifications, gadget integration, and form support. The latter lets you publish web forms that submit directly into spreadsheets. Pretty cool. So Google is not only copying Office, they’re adding innovative, web-enabled features. Stiff competition on the horizon, in other words.

But don’t underestimate market inertia. It’s going to take time to eat into Microsoft’s market share. With 95% market dominance, rumours of Windows’s imminent death are clearly somewhat exaggerated. I have a feeling we’ll be having much the same discussion in 10 years time.

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