Microsoft’s Windows juggernaut is collapsing as it tries to support 20 years of applications and becomes more complicated by the minute. Meanwhile, Windows has outgrown hardware and customers are pondering skipping Vista to wait for Windows 7. If Windows is going to remain relevant it will need radical changes.
I’ve been watching the the Microsoft Vista saga unfold with much curiosity, not because I wish them to fail or am enjoying their quagmire status at the moment, but because this is a classic innovators dilemma moment.
Windows has been fantastically successful for Microsoft to date but I don’t think anyone would seriously argue that Vista has met with external or internal expectations, was much later to market than Microsoft would have liked, and in many ways is looking like a dinosaur just before the meteor breaks into the atmosphere.
Ironically, the coolest stuff that Microsoft was planning, like WinFS, are all the things that got dropped as Vista lurched forward to a release data. A lot of people, me included, are looking at Vista and questioning why I need or want it when it requires more hardware, has an irritating security model, and doesn’t have the hardware support that XP has. In other words, if it’s just incrementally better than XP why should I care?
Apparently a lot of people are asking Microsoft to keep XP on store shelves. In a new version of old coke vs. new coke, there is a petition circulating asking Microsoft to Save XP. Currently there are 111,000 signatures on the petition.
While it’s probably easy to point to their screwed up pricing strategy and a less than compelling feature set and steep hardware requirements as primary obstacles, it is far more likely that they need to go back to the drawing board altogether and break apart the server and desktop versions, quit insisting on every DOS program going back to 1984 being compatible, and, please, focus some development resources on building out applications that are included with the OS that are actually useful.
Lastly, Microsoft is going to be toast if they continue on the path of 5 year development cycles. If an automobile manufacturer can go from a concept drawing to design to engineering to manufacturing to dealers in 18 months, why can’t a software publisher? Microsoft has created an impossible position for themselves through their strategy of bringing everything forward with them when business physics would suggest that speed and mass are incompatible attributes without a tremendous amount of horsepower, something that Microsoft, like all companies, has a finite amount of.