Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Bill Gates just gave a talk at a Gartner symposium where he predicted that hardware would get so cheap as to be essentially free. This is a pretty visionary idea -- and, I think, plausible enough; you can buy a $0.99 singing greeting card today with more computing power than all the world's digital computers at the launch of Sputnik (multiple Soviet space-programs' worth of cycles for under a buck!), so the idea of powerful, useful hardware going ubiquitous and cheap is pretty nifty and pretty credible.

In the same breath, though, Gates predicts that software won't be free -- though he has no good explanation for this (presumably, it's because universal free software would be bad for his buiness, so he can't bring himself to contemplate the possibility). This kind of blinkered thinking does Microsoft -- which could be capable of pursuing lots of profitable strategies that don't involve fighting the future tooth and nail -- no credit. If the senior management at Microsoft is this head-in-sand over production trends in software, maybe it's time for the Board of Directors to think about hiring a new chief architect and CEO.

I suspect that it was this kind of thinking that led Microsoft superstar David Stutz to write his blazing resignation when he quit the company last year.

Digging in against open source commoditization won't work - it would be like digging in against the Internet, which Microsoft tried for a while before getting wise. Any move towards cutting off alternatives by limiting interoperability or integration options would be fraught with danger, since it would enrage customers, accelerate the divergence of the open source platform, and have other undesirable results. Despite this, Microsoft is at risk of following this path, due to the corporate delusion that goes by many names: "better together," "unified platform," and "integrated software." There is false hope in Redmond that these outmoded approaches to software integration will attract and keep international markets, governments, academics, and most importantly, innovators, safely within the Microsoft sphere of influence. But they won't .


(via /.) [Boing Boing]

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