How Microsoft Will Die

by James R. Stoup Jul 01, 2005

Longhorn, by the features

WFS: Cut
.NET Framework: Cut
Integrated Search: Cut
Avalon: Who knows?
Indigo: Who knows?
IE7: You can repaint a Kia, lower it down, put rims on it and think you are cool, but at the end of the day it is still a Kia.

And so it goes, on and on. Feature after feature is cut, promise after promise is broken, and what do we have at the end of the day? XP SP3. If Microsoft fails to deliver something approaching decent with Longhorn then they will be in trouble. Big trouble. And most people haven’t even realized this yet. But they will soon enough.

Why are they in trouble?

Momentum. It all boils down to momentum. Google has it. Sony has it. Apple has it pouring out of its orifices, Microsoft though. . .not so much. 

You see momentum is what pushes that reluctant manager to go ahead and upgrade his system instead of waiting for something better or (very scary music plays in the background) switching to Linux. Momentum is what gets a word of mouth campaign going that convinces your everyday user to go out and buy the latest OS. Momentum is what keeps the media friendly, sort of. 

But lately MS has been getting all of the wrong types of momentum. They aren’t getting that “battering ram” momentum no, it’s more like at sinking ship momentum. You see the ram is going through, but the ship is going down. Big difference.

Right now Microsoft can’t even hold a press release about Longhorn without either saying its going to be delayed again or that they are cutting even more features. This really makes them look incompetent. I mean, I know they are incompetent but this really lets the rest of the world in on the joke as well.

And no matter how they spin it they have now reached the point where it’s impossible to make the situation sound any better than it is. Three years ago they could have made these announcements from a position of strength. Two years ago they could have made these announcements and then lied heavily in hopes of saving face. One year ago they made these announcements and it started looking really scary for anyone whose business depended on Longhorn. And now this year these announcements make them look like a company that is adrift, with no real vision, desperately trying not to drown. Congratulations Bill you have officially lost any momentum you thought you might have had. 

The 3 nails in the MS coffin

In order of importance:

1. Microsoft
They have always been their worst enemy. Shoddy software practices are forced on programmers due to incompetent managers which in turn produces the mess that is Longhorn. Even if the computing world was relatively quiet (which it isn’t, not by a long shot) then MS would still be in deep horse pucky over the gross stupidity that their leadership has shown. And to make matters even worse management has now realized that this time there isn’t going to be a “quick fix”. There are no more features left to cut. This time the deadline is real because their competitors are getting their act together in a way that hasn’t ever happened before.

2. Apple
Making matters worse is Steve Jobs. He has Apple humming like fine tuned violin. Tiger is everything Apple promised and its only been released for three months or so. And I imagine things are only going to improve.  And if that wasn’t enough Apple is going to squeeze out yet another OS before Microsoft can get Longhorn out the door. Ouch, yet another kick in the balls. Then you have this whole Macintel thing going on plus rumors about the iPod/ITMS/movie business all of which draw the attention of the media towards Apple’s successes.

3. Linux
Never forget Linux. They may be a disorganized, fragmented group who may not present a challenge on the desktop but they are chipping away slowly at MS’s dominance. Then on the server side Microsoft has finally realized that they are fighting a losing war. And this is evidenced by the growing number of MS backed “independent” research groups claiming Windows server is (pick one, cheaper, better, faster, more secure etc.). Those tactics speak of desperation. They are a smear campaign plain and simple.

This is a good indication of how bad the situation currently is and how much worse its going to get. Think about how much of a market share Apple has. Something like 3% of yearly sales with an install base of about 10-15%. Now, think about its mindshare. What is mindshare you ask? Well, its the extent to which people know about a phenomenon. The iPod has enormous mind share. You might not own one yourself but chances are you know someone who has does. The iPod alone has made Apple’s mindshare sky rocket. Now factor in the ITMS and how profitable it has been. Now think about the recent announcement of their switch to Intel. And then there is the ever present rumors about them starting a movie store much like the iTMS. People can’t stop talking about Apple and Jobs is just fanning the flames, trying his best to fuel the fires and feed the rumor mills.

And all the while the media focuses on Apple do you know who they aren’t talking about? Microsoft. Think about all of the buzz that MS has gotten in the past when they released a new operating system. And here they are about to release an item they claim is their most revolutionary product ever and . . . no one is listening. No one cares. Redmond is no longer where all of the news is coming from. If you are about to release a killer product, something that is going to save your company and allow you to ride its success for years to come, the last thing you want to hear are yawns.

News flash! Longhorn is going to be drastically overshadowed by Leopard and Macs running Intel. Make no mistake about it, Jobs is a master showman. As such, he will wait untill the best moment possible and then try and wow the world with all of Apple’s new toys. Who wants to cover a stripped down, bare bones, bug infested OS like Longhorn (which is already being called XP SP3 if that gives you any indication of how bad things are) when you can go look at Leopard running on a pumped up PowerMac with Intel’s latest and greatest chip inside?

Linux learns to game

More bad news for MS is called Cedega. And do you know why it is bad? Because it allows Windows only games to be played on a version of Linux called Linspire. Uh oh. Thats not good.

Gaming is the one area in which Microsoft can truly call their own. No one really even competes with them on the desktop as far as gaming goes. Anything else and Apple and Linux can put up a good fight but not when it comes to games. Until now. With the release of this product Half Life, GTA, Doom 3 and the rest can now be played in Linux. And if they can do it for Linux then they can do it for Mac.  And that simple fact should scare the heck out of Microsoft. Because if that program is ported to OS X then the top games in the industry can be played on a Mac, using Intel’s fastest chip, using NVidia’s best graphics card on a 30” aluminum display. Over night PowerMacs could become the best gaming rig in history.

And remember, its gamers who drive companies to produce the best product possible. Normal people don’t go out and buy the latest and greatest stuff just because it’s out, gamers do. When you are playing Doom 3 you want it to be as realistic as possible and if that means buying a $300 video card then they will do it. If that means buying the fastest processor they will do it. And if that means upgrading to the newest OS then they will do it. Say, we don’t know anyone coming out with a new OS any time do we?

Realistically how long do you think gamers will stick with Windows if it turns out that the best gaming experience can be had on a Mac? And if the rumors are true and Apple does bring AltiVec to the Intel side of things then it is quite possible that Apple may be the ones who very soon are producing the fastest computers anywhere. And remember, gamers always want more power.

Women and children first

Here is my best shot at what Microsoft could do to try and turn things around:

1. Admit defeat
If only to themselves MS has to admit that Longhorn is a complete and utter failure. To have come this far, spent this much money and wasted this much time to ultimately produce an OS which barely has any of the features that was to make it great, is a beyond pathetic. Time to own up to the fact that everybody screwed up.

2. Thin the herd
First one out the door needs to be Ballmer. He is an idiot on a good day and he has just reinforced that image with his bungling of the Longhorn situation. After he goes then its time to go down the line trimming the fat and doing some serious house cleaning. Once that is done then look outside the company for a few decent managers.

3. Do your best
Since Longhorn is the only thing you got at the moment that is what they are going to have to sell. Try to make the best out of a bad situation. This is the point at which you should be treading water while you work on something else.

4. Dump it
Throw all of the current Windows code away. All of it. Everything from 9x to XP to Longhorn, everything has to go. It’s all crap and its time to jettison those reeking piles of poorly written, buggy code.

5. Start over
This may be the hardest pill of all to swallow but the way I see it they have two choices. Plan A, try and make a new OS from the ground up. Just like the people who designed Unix, security and stability have to be your main goals. But that approach is going to take time, a lot of time in fact. And time is something that MS doesn’t have much of right now. So, they might want to look at plan B. Plan B involves doing pretty much what Apple did. Use BSD as the core of your OS then build around it. Now, I realize that doing this would be a major embarrassment and would require the biggest software company on earth to swallow its pride, but ultimately they would see that it’s the best choice.

6. Decouple
There is no need to make IE so deeply attached to your kernel. Bad things happen when you do stuff like that. Same thing with Media Player, uncouple it. Strive to make the system as small as possible. You build the basic system and then offer pieces that can be attached as needed.

7. Move on
It’s time to tell the public that if they want to use the newest applications for then they need to upgrade. Everyone who still uses 98 has to get real. All of you still using 95 need your head examined. And any of you using ME, God help you. Microsoft needs to stand up and inform people that they will no longer bend over backwards to accommodate their old, clunky, piece of crap software. Its time to update all of your applications. 95, 98, ME, 2000, XP and Longhorn are dead, move on. That step alone would make the OS much smaller, faster and more secure.

8. Accept the losses
Microsoft is going to lose market share no matter what they do. If they followed this strategy then they would lose market share faster than if they stuck it out with Longhorn but in a few years they would be in a much better position to come back and reclaim what they had lost.

Wrapping it up

So, there you have it. The current state of the Longhorn, a prediction of things to come and a few hints for the folks in Redmond. It will be fun to watch what happens in the industry in the next few years. We will see if I am right. What do you think? What did I miss?

Since I have received so many comments that seem to dwell on the same point let me clarify my position.  I don’t think Microsoft is going to go anywhere soon.  However, I do think that they are on the downturn.  They have reached their peak and now they are in decline.  It will take a long time for their influence to fade (a decade at least) and for a good part of that time they will still be a force to be reconded with.  But that still doesn’t change the fact that, as a company, they are falling instead of rising.

Check out my views on all of Microsoft’s business endeavors (present and future) here:
Microsoft’s Future Prospects


  • would you choose an XP to surf the web…? or a Mac…?

    For just surfing the web, I don’t think it makes much difference.  I don’t use IE in Windows or Safari on the Mac.  I use Firefox in both, so the OS is relatively transparent to me when browsing.

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Jul 04, 2005 Posts: 2220
  • If you’re going to just surf the web, then why spend hundreds more on a Mac? Get a cheap Dell or other computer for 500 bucks with a monitor that works fine, instead of 800 on a Mac Mini in which you need to buy the monitor, buy the keyboard and mouse, and, in order to get a good speed, install more RAM. Just seems worthless.

    Not to mention compatability. Chances are, if you have kids, they want to do homework at home and at school, so there will be a compatability problem. And the computers at the school are probably Wintel machines.

    TaiyedMan had this to say on Jul 04, 2005 Posts: 4
  • Taiyedman, the problem is that XP machines, Dells in particular, crash every hour on the hour, lock up when you look at them, and explode in a fireball when you hit the “alt” key.  smile

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Jul 04, 2005 Posts: 2220
  • Huh… really now? I’ve built several computers, all XP, and never had any of those problems. Normally when I see those happen, its often a bad hard drive or PSU or bad heatsink/fan. Go make yourself a computer and get SP2 installed on it right away, before ever connecting to the internet. Oh, and try not to accept ActiveX controls that are blocked.:D

    TaiyedMan had this to say on Jul 04, 2005 Posts: 4
  • I agree with TaiyedMan, you should not install XP without the second service pack handy. It solves a LOT of potential problems. Last time I checked, Microsoft allowed people to order, completely free with no shipping charges, a CD with SP2 plus all of the patches up to the day the CD was made. Do a search on the Microsoft site and see if you can find the order form. The CD also comes with Direct X 9.0c that can be installed with the click of a button.

    If you already have service pack 2, you can Slipstream the package into a Windows CD and burn it off so you can install Windows XP SP2 directly instead of upgrading afterwards and having to stay offline while you do. If you want to get a little fancy, you can also slipstream individual applications and hotfixes onto your custom XP CD, using the program nLite they mention in the article above. For example, you can have Windows automatically install your anti-virus solution.

    megamanXplosion had this to say on Jul 04, 2005 Posts: 11
  • gosh megaman that IS the very model of simplicity. A quick trip to microsofts website, a wait for a CD in the mail, an extra step to instal direct X 9.0c (and to think I was fond of DirectX 9.0b). Plus the abiltiy to slipstream! My oh my, you’re absolutley right, Macs just can’t compete with that level of ease of use. I, no really, had to click three of four times to upgrade to TIger. Three or four clicks, man apple is asking a lot from their users.

    isawbatmanfirst had this to say on Jul 04, 2005 Posts: 1
  • Simpleuser

    If I was just considering a computer for internet access (web surfing, email), it would be a Mac simply because I wouldn’t have to worry about malware such as viruses, trojans and spyware. Yes, you can get a Windows PC cheaper, but peace of mind and not having to become a pseudo-techie is worth it (i.e. learning about viruses, spyware, trojans, drivers etc).

    And all the PC users can argue all they like, but you do need to learn more technical stuff when you own a PC than a Mac.

    I can be confident that I could give a person an off the shelf Mac and leave them alone for 12 months and it would still be running fine.

    Can’t do that with an off the shelf PC.

    Chris Howard had this to say on Jul 04, 2005 Posts: 1209
  • “gosh megaman that IS the very model of simplicity. A quick trip to microsofts website, a wait for a CD in the mail, an extra step to instal direct X 9.0c (and to think I was fond of DirectX 9.0b). Plus the abiltiy to slipstream! My oh my, you’re absolutley right, Macs just can’t compete with that level of ease of use. I, no really, had to click three of four times to upgrade to TIger. Three or four clicks, man apple is asking a lot from their users.”

    First of all, where did I say this made Windows easier to use than a Mac? That’s right, I did not say such a thing. I suppose it is rather easy to topple an argument you pulled from thin air - that’s a logical fallacy. You used several forms of logical fallacies in your post: ad hominem (trying to attack my credibility), ad populum (fanboyism), red herring (changing the subject with a completely irrelevant argument), and straw man (misrepresenting my position to create an argument to easily topple.) If you are going to engage in an argument, at least make sure you come off with a tad bit of credibility.

    Second, slipstreaming is completely unnecessary for those who simply want to upgrade one machine or two. Slipstreaming makes it easier to install an up-to-date version of Windows on a whole network of computers and have it automatically install applications the network administrator wants to see on every computer (anti-virus, anti-spyware, favorite web browser, software that relates to the jobs of the people, etc.) Slipstreaming is completely optional and is intended for mass-installation procedures.

    Third, upgrading to XP SP2 only requires about 4 clicks as well (double-click to open, a few clicks to accept the license agreement and everything else a user does during a normal software installation.) You can download SP2 and DirectX 9.0c from their website if you want to download it (that’s a LOT of downloading for someone on a 56k and doesn’t want to tie up the phone line for hours.), ordering the update CD is unnecessary - it’s just nice to have laying around.

    megamanXplosion had this to say on Jul 05, 2005 Posts: 11
  • isawbatmanfirst, none of that is necessary to upgrade to SP2.  My machine notified me that the update was available, asked if I wanted to install it, then installed it.  Not too tricky.  Granted, it’s not as pretty as an OSX update, but it’s about the same ease of use.

    What I don’t really understand is why the Mac-fanatics seem so personally offended that someone can use XP and be happy with it or not suffer any problems.  Why is it necessary to like Macs and also hate and spread around FUD about XP?

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Jul 05, 2005 Posts: 2220
  • I agree, Chris Howard, that it is perfectly simple to give someone a Mac off the shelf and have them perfectly content for months and months. But let’s remember what the point of this ARTICLE is, not a banter of comments about what OS is better. Sure, XP has its faults, no doubt, but Longhorn is supposed to fix a lot of the current problems, like integrated spyware and adware detection/prevention, and integrated anti-virus, and a lot of other security features. What Gates has envisioned is a unity of everyone digitally, where everyone is connected in a whole. With Longhorn, he’s getting more towards this unification, and trying to prevent people using this connectivity to cause complications on other computers. This means extensive security features that currently do not exist. Currently there are problems, but Longhorn is to revolutionize and prevent these problems and future ones in advance.

    TaiyedMan had this to say on Jul 05, 2005 Posts: 4
  • Big Brother is watching you, the computer is your friend…

    I cannot imagine a more horrible future than “What Gates has envisioned is a unity of everyone digitally, where everyone is connected in a whole.”

    Now you are all my slaves Bwahh haaa haah hah ha!!!!!!!

    No thanks

    I thought the artcle was about whether or not Longhorn is actually going to deliver any of these “wonderful” things or just be another layer of spaghetti on top of yet another version of NT4 held back from being a real next gen OS by legacy code, support for ancient hardware architectures etc.

    I’d really love Longhorn to be very very good, because then using a Microsoft OS machine might stop being such a nasty experience for me.

    Serenak had this to say on Jul 05, 2005 Posts: 26
  • LOL.  No actually the article was about Microsoft beginning to die.

    Like a Chinese whisper we’ve got a long way off track.

    Chris Howard had this to say on Jul 05, 2005 Posts: 1209
  • Yeah, so it was - but I think you and I agreed way back in post 3 or 4 that wasn’t likely to happen even if Longhorn is an unmitigated disaster… smile

    Still it has kept my in box full with notifications of new posts…

    Serenak had this to say on Jul 05, 2005 Posts: 26
  • Serenak: NT4? lol, you’re a bit behind the times buddy (almost a decade, in fact.) Windows XP was on NT 5.1 and Windows Server 2003 was on NT 5.2. Longhorn is being built off of Windows Server 2003 so it will probably be using NT 5.2 or a newer version.

    megamanXplosion had this to say on Jul 05, 2005 Posts: 11
  • Ok, I wasnt going to replay to this thread b/c its dumb, but, I couldnt resist to so many wrong arguments here. First of all, sorry about my poor english, its my third language, so Im not that good, and before anyone start saying shit, try to research.

    1 - Kernel modifications on Windows XP

    Kernel modifications on Windows 2003

    So stop talking that they are the same

    2 - MSDOS doesnt exist anymore, even after the super developer told that it does, if youre talking about command prompt (or command shell), go back and start studying again, its not MSDOS

    3 - Just to let you know that I have a little knowledge, I have 40.000+ computers, 5.000+ servers (windows, unix, mainframe), 3.000+ distributed sites around the world to keep runing, so I think that mine network is a good place to use as example. Im graduated as developer also, (C++, C#, VB, Java)

    4 - Virus, yeah, thats a problem, but nothing that an AV software like NAI cant do it witout any intervention (even with 40000 computers)

    5 - Spyware? The biggest problem isnt really it, but dumb users who open any program that he get from e-mail. Just an another example, on the past we had lots of problems with it, almost every week, then we just turned of webmail access to yahoo and this kind of sites, know we have like 1 case/year (our e-mail internal server has a bultin AV).

    6 - Im not saying that any of the plataforms are better, Im just saying that u dont know what are u talking about.

    7 - Im not even loosing time talking about the article, someone who write this kind of shit should get fired.

    Rodpheus had this to say on Jul 05, 2005 Posts: 1
  • Page 5 of 7 pages « First  <  3 4 5 6 7 >
You need log in, or register, in order to comment