Can Microsoft Really Change?
Like so many publications and Web sites in the IT industry, Redmond Developer
has spent a lot of time pondering the future of Microsoft after Bill
columnist Will Zachmann just
wrote a feature story
that looks at Gates' developer legacy. And frequent
contributor and Redmond
magazine columnist Mary Jo Foley has
an entire book
about what Microsoft must do in the Web 2.0 (and, by definition,
post-Gates) computing era.
Yet, I struggle with almost every scenario that involves a sharp divergence
from the status quo. The problem, in the short- and mid-term, is that Microsoft
seems to have a lot more to lose by changing course than it does by holding
tight to its vast, strategic advantage.
Sure, Microsoft has unleashed a torrent of valuable protocol
and API documentation under the aegis of its interoperability pledge. And
yes, Redmond has done once-unthinkable things like open its Office file formats
under an XML-based industry standard.
It's even found ways to play nicely with open source developers, extending
a hand to the Mono and Moonlight projects for Linux, and providing the CodePlex
and Port 25 sites to promote open source development for Windows.
But none of this answers an inescapable question: How is Microsoft supposed
to adequately monetize the coming world of free and services-based software
when it can apply a vast premium for its shrink-wrapped goods?
Every time I hear open source proponents argue the upside of a more open Microsoft
strategy, I feel like Tom Hanks' character Josh in the movie Big. Sitting
in a product meeting, the boy in a man's body listens to a rather badly considered
pitch for a child's toy (a building that turns into a robot). The adults all
quietly nod their heads, but Josh raises his hand and says flatly: "I don't
Maybe the future of Microsoft does include service-centric applications, modular
operating systems and hybrid open and closed-source software. Maybe the product
wizards in Redmond can scheme a way to ever higher profits and indomitable market
share. But I have to believe that an awful lot has to go just right for Microsoft
to see its way through such a transformation.
As a developer, do you believe Microsoft should open its business and its software
even further? And if so, do you see a way for Redmond to profit from such an
approach? E-mail me at email@example.com.
Posted by Michael Desmond on 07/08/2008 at 1:15 PM