Linux not standing in wait as Microsoft sinks its own ship

Posted by tadelste on Jan 22, 2006 10:11 AM EDT; By Tom Adelstein, Editor in Chief
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With the traditional Microsoft news media turning their collective ear to the rest of the industry, you have to suspect a changing of the guard. But Linux companies don't seem to guage their efforts by what the industry says about Microsoft. Linux just keeps chugging along.

So what does the Industry have to say about Microsoft? They say that though many people will swear by the invincibility of Microsoft's ship, it hasn't maneuvered all the icebergs. Collectively, the competition has started ringing up wins. With alternatives in Linux, FireFox, and Apple the Microsoft floating casino has begun to list and sway. Here's how and some of it might surprise you.

According to Jonathan Krim of the "Washington Post", Microsoft has started showing chinks in its armor and more people have started noticing it. Please don't confuse this with something it can readily fix like improving the food quality at Starbucks or the 911 service at Vonage. Microsoft's trends appear systemic. What are some of the problems? For Microsoft:

  • Financial growth has slowed and its stock price remains flat

  • It missed the trends in Internet search and music download

  • It's still fighting anti-trust in Europe and Asia

  • AOL instant messaging continues to dominates the IM landscape

  • The verb for searching on the Internet is Google
  • Alternatives exist to Microsoft's core business

Google beat and outbid Microsoft for a stake in America Online. Microsoft had hoped a stake in AOL would have boosted MSN. Microsoft has shown that it doesn't fare well in running business ventures unrelated to its cash cows Microsoft Office and the Windows desktop.

File-sharing software and Apple computer's iTunes have redefined how the world obtains and listens to music and videos. Yahoo sits in the top position among Internet portals and the Mozilla Firefox browser has cracked the fortress of Internet Explorer.

The center of the computer world has started changing from the desktop PC which Microsoft owns to the Internet which Microsoft does not own and will not own. Even Forrester research has predicted that Microsoft will lose its monopoly driven 25 percent net profits and begin settling for perhaps 13 to 15 percent net profit as the executable Internet takes the place of stand alone PC software.

On the desktop, Apple appears poised to grab market share for the first time in ten years. Microsoft has decided to target that market instead of the server side where fighting IBM has taken a toll, HP has changed partners and Sun appears poised to make another run with a joint Solaris and Linux strategy.

Linux in the Data Center

Not many Linux advocates really care about becoming the replacement for Microsoft Windows. Linux owns the traditional information technology role today and if man-in-the-street types want to use Linux as the next ubiquitous desktop, so be it. Just don't throw Mac OS X or Windows up to traditional Linux experts who see end users as confused.

Windows servers may have taken away the dominance of Novell, Banyan Vines and IBM LAN Server but Microsoft never made its way into mission critical applications. In places where Microsoft tried they failed miserably. In a relatively short time frame, Linux won the battle Microsoft started in the server arena.

The Desktop Market

Microsoft made big promises to Independent Software Vendors back in the days when MS bundled the stripped down version of Windows and DOS with every PC. To get everyone writing applications for him, Mr. Gates promised to never cross the line between applications and operating systems. So, companies like Lotus, WordPerfect, Act, Intuit and others banked on Mr. Gates word. Microsoft then turned around and squashed their loyal ISVs. That won't happen again.

With the eventual release of Vista, Microsoft will stress its current customers' resources. Word on the street says that Visual Basic programmers haven't made a successful transition to C# and the .Net framework appears like just another development model - not the development model. So, unless an enterprise needs Microsoft media player and a few other replaceable items, the Linux desktop has much appeal in the corporate environment.

In places where Microsoft once had little to no competition, fewer consumers will continue to foam at the mouth over things like Microsoft XP Media Center. Wait until they see what Steve Jobs has for them on Mac Intels. And while many of us shake our heads in wonder over the price of Apple's new Intel offerings, consider the prices for similar offerings from Dell on true media center offerings. Apple has a viable competitor there.

Linux on the desktop will continue to evolve. A few years ago, few really wanted hardware offerings from China. But as China got a little better at creating PC components, consumers from Amman Jordan to Memphis Tennessee took advantage of the low prices.

With Intel moving its R&D to Shanghai and HP in Beijing watch for more consumer oriented desktop products to become available for Linux. Afterall, if people use Linux as their desktop in Asia, South America, India, the Middle East, Africa and Europe, then ISV and hardware manufacturers would seem stupid if they only produced products for Windows.

Microsoft's Old Argument Working for Linux

Not too long ago, Microsoft tried to sell us on the argument that if you used their software on the desktop you should use their servers too. It actually made some sense or let's say some people bought it. Then people bought NT and Windows 2000 and then Microsoft's knowledge base expanded exponentially as did their their customers' infrastructure problems. (That's also the time Microsoft started marketing their expensive support offering, too.)

With Linux running mission critical applications and replacing Microsoft infrastructures, doesn't it make sense to create seamless solutions and put Linux on the desktop?

It makes sense to put Linux on the desktop when the desktop no longer matters. As we move from PC centric infrastructures to an executable Internet. Linux begins to make more sense. So, the seamless solution works better today when proposed with standards based operating systems rather than with klugged directory services, etc. You could also argue that the leading technology deploys on Linux easily considering Apache runs 65-70% of all web sites.

Let's Make a Deal

Microsoft made $1.4 million in profit every hour in 2004. But at that time they didn't have:

  • Web based software competitors like, and numerous emerging application based competitors.
  • A mature Internet collaboration and open source collaboration model being adopted by mainstream technology organizations
  • Search engine companies offering desktop solutions similar to Google and Yahoo where their massive infrastructures have become ready made to deploy everything Microsoft has to offer.
  • A gaming venture where established rivals such as Sony will keep the X360 grounded.
  • Firefox,, OpenDocument Format and desktop platforms like Gnome and KDE maturing to a competitive level.

Many analysts and amateurs will cite how Microsoft has faced significant challenges in the past and came away winning the day. The times have changed however. Jack Abramoff no longer works magic and the lobbyists of Washington may be looking for a different kind of pin stripe suit soon- horizontal ones. Microsoft was never as big and bloated with bureaucracy as it is today. Finally, viable alternatives do exist and the marketing channel has started embracing non-Microsoft solutions.

Perhaps Microsoft will pull their rear end from the fire afterall. But, this writer doubts it. Gates and Ballmer have gotten older and let's just say they haven't aged gracefully. The rest of the Microsoft crowd doesn't look as formidable. But only time will tell, right? We'll see.

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Subject Topic Starter Replies Views Last Post
Nailed it! garyedwards 0 3,064 Jan 26, 2006 5:37 PM
Great article halfmnhlfamazng 10 3,373 Jan 25, 2006 7:54 AM

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