Since the announcement last week of Steve Ballmer’s pending retirement as CEO of the mighty Microsoft, the blogosphere has been reveling in the visible struggles of the controversial head of a controversial company.
Despite the skyrocketing value of Apple and Google – really the only two companies in the same category as “big clippy” – Microsoft has kept things cool by not really growing its market value during this time, say 10 years or so. Thus the accelerated change at the helm.
Well, there is one quick move that would set the tech world on its ear and revitalize the sagging App Store and fanbase.
With one fell swoop MSFT could get back in the game…
Open source all versions of Windows under something like the GPL3 and just sell value added software like windows server or terminal services virtualization etc.
This also incentivizes carriers and lowers the cost of windows phones, just forgo carrier fees on operating system licenses.
Its just a copy of Android’s/Chrome’s loss leader business model.
Sure it will cost a lot in lost license revenue, but this one move could quickly reignite competitiveness in Redmond and that is worth a lot of scratch.
Not to mention finally silencing the security community about transparency, and gaining the huge benefit of code review and patching by basically millions of windows developers globally.
Development and support costs could possibly decrease while quality and security improve.
It could tamp down a bit on the legions of haters and trolls that target the closed code and corporate monolithic behavior of Microsoft mercilessly.
With a completely free and open operating system to build on and redistribute, the app developers and IT would come like bees to honey.
Then Microsoft could become the cloud platform company they probably need to focus on being, offering PaaS highly secure virtual windows appliances targeting vertical segments they already serve aka education, finance, back office, etc.
Because, as I see it, for the first time Windows is really on the verge of cashing in the hatred chip that users have stashed away for the company during the monopoly vendor lockin days of the 90s especially. Linux was borne of this pent up anger at the “Wintel duopoly” as it was quaintly called way back then…
Now, Android is free and open source, and Mac OSX is like $30.
Other than the definitely superior file system handling of windows explorer, why would someone choose Windows today?
If the answer contains the idea “works great with XYZ MSFT app,” then it’s a fail. Because largely nobody cares anymore.
If it doesn’t support my favorite XYZ mobile app is now becoming the user’s main concern. The operating system is becoming redundant, almost irritating.
At this point users don’t want to even think about new OS features because of a lifetime of dread built up around dealing with security patches, driver installation, botched OS upgrades, blue screen of death, deleted files, learning the damned tile thing.
Users have embraced the productivity of simple and mobile… And there’s no going back!
I believe this plan to open source Windows should have been put in motion in secret 5 years ago when the hooks into Office still mattered, then launched publicly as a part of the Windows 8 launch.
This fate has always been inevitable. Since Linux, open source has killed the operating system profit margin.
20 years later, it is time to recognize a good run, and reboot into a new, less glamorous role. Basically, Windows has been commoditized Microsoft, deal with it!
In fact why not adapt the wise founder Bill Gates’ advice and “embrace and extend” the OS commoditization?
I was taught that as a CEO, you must cannibalize your own products *before* your competition can… that concept from the innovators dilemma is like biz school 101, right?
Anyway, you heard it here first…
Open Windows Edition