Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Why Microsoft is Dying

By now, everyone has heard that Michael Dell is trying to take Dell Computer private

He recently threw in his lot with Microsoft, but not forever.

Microsoft is a big debt-holder for the new private entity, but not an equity partner. In the short term, it can use that influence to keep Dell on the morphine drip of Microsoft software.

Whether or not the acquisition goes through, Michael Dell should see the writing on the wall for Microsoft and Windows. The monopoly status of Microsoft means that it will play a huge part in a growing market long term, but in the end, Windows will become a relic.

Want to know why? First a recent history of the evolution of human knowledge.

Crowd-sourcing has become a buzzword. At its core is the concept of sharing creativity. That concept is at the core of knowledge and learning. Academic standards for writing allow, no require, citation of other relevant works and foundations. They also require review by experts. The more experts like a work, the more it is cited, the more influence it has. Thus was formalized the evolution of ideas, memetic evolution. (Interestingly, the structure of this network of knowledge is theoretically similar to that of the Internet. In network theory, they are both considered small-world networks.) In 1969, the Unix operating system was born of this system at AT&T Bell Labs and UC Berkeley. Strictly speaking, UNIX is a kernel. It controls the low level function. Users can't talk to it directly. Windows and buttons and command prompts talk to the kernel–they are called chrome. Berkeley's version of Unix (BSD Unix) allowed any person anywhere to modify the code for their own use. Furthermore, they could redistribute the system for profit or free as they liked. If users liked, they could submit their changes. If the changes were good, they would be incorporated into the source. Suddenly users and individuals could incorporate changes that would benefit them the most. Better yet, others would make improvements to those improvements!

The Unix OS is still the standard for much scientific computation, but Linux systems (which are very similar to Unix ones) have replaced them as the engines of E-commerce. Linux uses a very similar license to the BSD license, but it goes even further in promoting the OSS model. If users modify Linux, they cannot redistribute changes without redistributing the source code. For this reason, the Linux license is considered "viral" by many.

In 1998, Steve Jobs made the bold decision to ditch the two decades old Apple written operating system and build on top of the BSD system. This allowed Apple to crowd-source the low level engineering of its consumer operating system! Apple was free to focus on a shiny new user interface that "just worked". The BSD Operating System has always been far superior to Microsoft windows, so OS X steadily gained marketshare while maintaining higher margins. The freedom to focus on user interfaces has allowed Apple to spend engineering dollars building amazingly intuitive consumer gadgets. The decrease in manufacturing costs driven by the rapid industrialization of Southeast Asia has given allowed Apple to extract ever fatter profit margins from Customers and Partners.

Windows will become a relic because Apple uses more reliable software to run the innards of all its devices. Apple has superior chrome and performance. It pays more money for better hardware, too, and users are happy to pay. Linux and UNIX are given away for free to anyone--and they are becoming easier and easier to use everyday. They will eat into Microsoft's license fees, too. Microsoft still pays tons of expensive developers tons of expensive money to do what thousands of Linux and UNIX contributors are do for free everyday. And because of Microsoft's bureaucracy their devs don't do as good a job as their unpaid counterparts. (To be fair, Apple, IBM, Google and countless other countries pay developers to contribute to these products. But what code gets in is managed by dedicated experts who know their projects inside and out. No pointy-haired types are involved.) Google is assailing Microsoft's market dominance on all fronts. It now offers two OSes, Android and ChromeOS, with more planned. It also offers cloud based office software to compete with MS Office. Sooner or later Microsoft will wash out.

Steve Ballmer is largely responsible.

Under his leadership, Microsoft's culture of innovation has died and its place in the market will, too:

Ballmer should be:

  1. Fired
  2. Tarred
  3. Feathered
  4. Set on fire
  5. Set adrift on Lake Washington

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