Editor 15-Jun-06
It's Over!
Bill Gates Steps Down


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There can be no more eloquent statement that Microsoft is growing irrelevant than Bill Gates' announcement on 15 June 2006 that he is stepping down from daily operations. Ray Ozzie has already taken over as Chief Software Architect.

It could have been different. Had Microsoft accepted a break-up after losing the antitrust trial, had the Supreme Court not appointed George Bush President bringing in a more agreeable Department of Justice, Microsoft could today be several dynamic, market dominating companies - but that's not what happened.

Microsoft could not accept breakup, and can't accept it now. The company's core philosophy is monolithic integration - that was it's strength and that is it's weakness.

One of the most eloquent dispositions on how badly things have gone wrong within Microsoft was by a Windows group insider (3). It describes the state of paralysis within the company caused by the horrifying complexity of monolithic integration, and persistent denial of reality by Microsoft's development management.

"Every once in a while, Truth still pipes up in meetings. When this happens, more often than not, Truth is simply bent over an authoritative knee and soundly spanked into silence"

The computing world is now far too large, complex and fast moving for monolithic integration. If you don't take time to reconcile all the pieces, the system falls apart. If you do take time to reconcile all the pieces, the world will have passed you by.

So what did Bill Gates see?

  • Microsoft faces an ongoing security disaster that Windows Vista is unlikely to solve - Vista uses band-aids to fix architectural problems.
  • Practically nobody wants Vista anyway. It's years late and the great new features it was supposed to deliver have been dropped - except a confusing new user interface. Adopting Vista will require all new software, mostly new hardware and a lot of retraining - major expense for little or no gain.
  • Analysts are referring to the near simultaneous release of Vista, Microsoft Office 2007 and Longhorn Server as "Microsoft's perfect storm" - and FEMA isn't going to be much help here either.
  • The Microsoft Office document formats will lose their monopoly hold because commerce is moving to XML, and the XML format of choice is more likely to be Open Document than Microsoft's proprietary Open XML.
  • SUSE's Linux Desktop 10 has already been declared by a number of testers and analysts to be fully competitive with Vista / Office - at less than 1/10 the price.
  • Microsoft has failed to conquer the Internet - it still roams free - and they've failed to dominate mobile devices as well.
  • The XBox is still struggling to break even and just about about everything else except Windows and Office is losing money. If those two monopolies are broken, the money's gone.
  • Microsoft's plan to dominate small business accounting has proved "more difficult than we expected". It's failed. I don't know a single site using any of their accounting software. Monolithic integration was a significant factor there too.
  • The entire development philosophy and process is clearly beyond the end of the line. There will be no successor to Vista.
  • Microsoft faces serious antitrust problems not only in Europe and Asia but in the U.S. as well where the presiding judge is becoming quite irked that Microsoft can't produce documentation required by the settlement. Justice Department oversight has been extended 2 years, and will probably be extended again.
  • Microsoft can't get coherent documentation together because they don't have any. When they teach new hires network programming they use the open source Samba code, not their own, because Samba is clear and properly commented.
  • Linux is eating a lot of the server market Microsoft expected to be theirs, and that's accelerating, not slowing. "If Vista isn't released, that's good for Linux. If Vista is released, that's good for Linux".
  • Microsoft is now, as it has always been, completely committed to the PC - but the PC is just another office machine now. It's no longer anywhere near the leading edge of technology.

There's a whole lot more where these came from, so this looks like a really good time for Bill Gates to step down. He'll be able to say, "I built Microsoft into what it was, but I wasn't there while it crumbled".

Sure, many of you have allowed yourselves to be locked into Microsoft software, and many of you depend on software publishers who've allowed themselves to be locked in, and many of you are just very resistant to change. It'll be a long process, but the handwriting is on the wall. Those who don't have an exit strategy, the world will pass them by.

- Andrew Grygus

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©Andrew Grygus - Automation Access - www.aaxnet.com - aax@aaxnet.com
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