A little over 30 years ago Microsoft landed the role of being the operating system provider for International Business Machines (IBM), thus planting in the minds of the business community that Microsoft was the software company of choice if you do business. In the early to mid-80s there were other companies out there that had operating systems with greater capabilities than IBM PCs. Both the Apple Macintosh and the Commodore Amiga had impressive Graphic User Interfaces that Microsoft was just beginning to develop. But at the time the Macintosh was looked at as an educational computer and the Amiga was looked at as a graphics platform and game box. Both were not taken seriously by the business community.
In 1985 IBM sealed its fate when it asked Microsoft to write OS2. The problem was that at the same time Microsoft was writing OS2 for IBM, they were selling a Disk Operating System (DOS) for other manufacturers, and Microsoft quickly overshadowed IBM. From that time forward Microsoft controlled the operating system that the vast majority of business computers in the world used to do business, and Microsoft’s DOS became the Operating System norm.
Microsoft was in a great position, and if you wanted to be a player in the computer hardware or software game you had to play ball with Microsoft. Microsoft used its knowledge of its own operating system to make Microsoft Office outperform competitors like Novel’s WordPerfect to dominate the office suite space. If Microsoft thought you were getting too big for your britches then it would put you in your place. For example, when the Internet started making its way out of universities and into the living rooms of the general population, Netscape was your entry point to the World Wide Web. Microsoft saw Netscape as a threat and made it a priority to squash them. Microsoft created its own web browser, Internet Explorer that was derived from Spyglass Mosaic, and simply made it part of every version of Windows 95. When people purchased a PC, Internet Explorer was right there ready to guide them to the new World Wide Web, thus pushing Netscape out of the way. Using their OS muscle has been Microsoft’s way of doing business for years, forcing everyone to partner up and play ball. But things have changed, and Microsoft was caught off guard.
The internet has grown over the years and the speeds to connect to it have gotten so fast that in some places you will be able to connect to the internet as fast as 1 Gigabit per second with Google Fiber. This is 100x faster than the existing 10mps that most of us are using. This makes cloud computing super-fast, and makes your native OS less relevant. If a software provider creates a program that can run on their server through a browser then the browser becomes the OS and it doesn’t matter if you are running on Windows, MAC OSX, Google Chrome, Linux, or Android.
Gadgets other that the typical PC hook into the internet, and popular operating systems for those devices like Apple’s IOS that runs on iPhones and iPads, and Google’s Linux based Androids rule those markets. There is a fundamental shift going on right now, and Microsoft can’t stand it.
So how is Microsoft handling this shift in the world of operating systems and connections? They are betting everything on Windows 8 and the Metro interface. Microsoft is betting that their tablet/laptops, phones, and new Metro interfaced OS can dominate everything and let them once again flex their OS muscle to drive how people use technology. But how will the Metro Interface save Microsoft?
Windows phone 7 with the Metro Interface and its little squares and rectangles was a huge flop. It appears now that Microsoft is throwing their baby (Windows) out the window, and replacing it with the little squares and rectangles that the public has by and large rejected. If you look at Microsoft’s history, they have dominated not because their OS was the best, but because it was the norm. Microsoft led by Steve Ballmer, who has been with Microsoft since the beginning, is betting that they can force the Metro Interface down the world’s throat and make it the new norm replacing Android and IOS. Microsoft’s reasoning is that you’ll get used to it, business will get used to it, and they will be on top once again. Getting us used to the Metro Interface is the only reason they are offering cheap upgrades for $15 if you buy a PC with Windows 7 right now, or sell Win8 to you for $40 if you upgrade from any other version of Windows after it comes out.
I’m not a fortune teller, but I don’t think this is going to work for Microsoft. I think it will help to keep them relevant, but not as a dominator; they will be just another choice. I think this move is going to be enough to light a fire under developers to get busy. The public will be unhappy with Windows 8, and some hardware manufacturers are already unhappy with Microsoft building their own devices. I think you will see more alternative OS laptops like the Chrome Book, and laptops sporting Linux springing up. The tablet market will be more varied with Microsoft’s entries, but they are not going to push iPads, Galaxy Tabs, Nooks, and Kindle Fires off of the map. Whatever happens this will end up being an interesting year for technology, and I look forward to seeing how it all turns out. Personally I’d like to see Microsoft fall flat on its face, simply because I don’t like seeing bullies win, but I don’t think that will happen. Hopefully the events of this year will have a humbling effect on Microsoft who hasn’t always played well with others over the years, but I doubt it.
About the Author: Dan LaFollette
I'm a father first, and married to a wonderfully supportive spouse that works her butt off for our family every day. I'm also a writer, techno nerd, potter, and humorist. I always have more interests than I have time to explore. br> View My ProfileI'm an observer of the human condition, and a lifelong student. The day I stop learning, will be the day I fall over dead.