Archive for September 1st, 2011


Can Microsoft Survive the Cloud?

We’re ranging a bit afield from our usual SEO-related topic today to ask an important question: has Microsoft positioned themselves right out of relevancy in today’s internet? We ask this because, having just spent 2 freaking hours trying to recover from an epic “automatic update” fail, it occurs to us that perhaps MS’s business model is in trouble.

MS built their Byzantine Empire on a bedrock philosophy of intimidation. They intimidate their suppliers, their competitors, their potential competitors, their employees, and their customers. They always have and it’s always worked. Being the biggest bully in the room is how Papa Gates and Co. sewed up the operating system market, the office software market, the email client market, the server software market, and the browser market. The resulting tsunami of cash did nothing to persuade them to try any other path.

But here’s the thing: having the power and weight of numerous lucrative near-monopolies has calcified them. They are slow to market, slow to respond to missteps, and most importantly, slow to react to changing market dynamics. In a world where open source alternatives abound, Microsoft’s captive markets have begun to evaporate. First, Firefox (joined later by Chrome) chipped away at ponderous MS Explorer’s 70% market share, now at 50% (and falling). Their office suite dominance suffers threats from Open Office and now, more dangerous perhaps, Google Docs.

MS no longer can claim to be the only dog in the fight. They’re still the biggest dog, but the others are growing and MS is withering away.

And now, introducing the Cloud. All of the applications you will ever need are—or will soon be—available at no cost to anyone with decent internet access, which is fast becoming a basic human right. Word processing? No problem. Spreadsheets? Gotcha covered. Slide shows, drawing, calendars, email, messaging? Already to go. The last thing—and the giant killer—will be the operating system. Up to now, MS has used their Windows systems to beat back every challenge. But this one’s gonna be a bit tougher.

Because the Cloud’s operating systems are agile, flexible, multi-platform, and open source.

Here are five reasons MS will find it hard to migrate its dominance to the cloud:

  1. Tablets and smart phones and netbooks are browser based and don’t need Windows;
  2. Open sourced applications are inherently more adaptable and quicker to react to changes, technological, cultural, or legislative;
  3. MS software is bloated, ungainly, and unnecessarily paternalistic—how many “critical updates” per day are too many?
  4. Freeware and open source development is typically decentralized to the extent that buying the intellectual property (a standard MS tactic) is useless;
  5. Google has already built a solid foundation for the future: a gigantic, friendly, all-seeing, all-knowing, and above all useful temple in the clouds that MS will find virtually impossible to keep up with.

Unless Bill thinks of something dramatically different and desperately soon, Cloud computing will break MS’s back, unless they find a way to compete with free, easy, simple, and convenient. And find it fast. Because this cloud is getting darker and pretty soon it’s gonna rain.