Two Microsofts: Mulling an alternate reality

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Two Microsofts: Mulling an alternate reality

Post: # 143824Post DaFoxx
Tue Jun 18, 2013 3:26 pm ... 000016916/

Summary: What would the technology world look like today if the 2000 ruling by the recently deceased Thomas Penfield Jackson -- that Microsoft be broken into two companies -- had been upheld?
Thomas Penfield Jackson has died. The former U.S. District court judge ruled in 2000 that Microsoft was a monopoly that should be broken up into two companies. This part of his decision was over-turned, but what might have happened had the U.S. Court of Appeals upheld his decision to break up Microsoft?

Jackson took this approach because he couldn't stand Microsoft. The irony is that many experts over the years believe that had Jackson been allowed to break the company up into "Baby Bills," Microsoft actually would have done better.

Certainly, Microsoft in the last few years has been on a decline and there have been frequent calls to break the company up into more agile, responsive divisions. These plans usually involved dividing it into a desktop and a server side. That wasn't what Jackson had in mind.

Jackson's plan would have led to two Microsofts. Let's call them Microsoft Blue, which would have stayed in operating systems business and, Microsoft Red, which would have retained Microsoft's software programs and products such as Outlook, Internet Explorer, Office, and the Microsoft Network (MSN).

In this alternative reality, Blue would have been forced to be more efficient. I doubt we would have seen operating system flops such as Vista and Windows 8. Blue couldn't afford such blunders. They would have to have listened to their customers more closely.

At the same time, since Blue's entire focus would have been on operating systems, Blue would have been more innovative and more aggressive about supporting its new inventions. So, instead of Apple creating the mass-market tablet with the iPad in April 2010, perhaps Blue would have started it with the Haiku. In the real world of tablets, Microsoft lags far behind Google's Android and Apple's iPad.

On the desktop Blue would probably still dominate, but Apple with Mac OS X probably would have a larger market share, say low double digits. I suspect other alternatives, such as Ubuntu Linux, would also have a bigger share of the market, say two or three Linux distributions with single digit marker-shares. Or, perhaps Red Hat could have gained a significant business desktop market share with Red Hat Enterprise Desktop.

I think Red would have had a more difficult path. Blocked from working hand-in-glove with Blue, programs like Microsoft Office would have had a far harder time remaining the default office application. Software such as Lotus SmartSuite, OpenOffice, and WordPerfect would have had a real shot at remaining viable office programs.

IE, on the other hand, had already beaten Netscape into the ground by the time the courts ruled against Microsoft. I'm sure IE would have continued to be the dominant Web browser. Netscape might have made able to stage a comeback. Had it done so, though, Firefox -- which was built from Netscape's code -- might not exist at all.

Without Firefox to spur Web browser innovation, I find it very hard to see how the Web browser wars for the last ten years would have worked out. There would have been others, but instead of Firefox and Chrome being IE's main contenders, perhaps it would have been Opera and Safari.

Still, Red would have had a far harder time of it on the desktop since it could no longer be developed in sync with Windows. Red would have had to work harder on back-office programs and servers. As it happens, I've long thought that Microsoft produced far better back-end products than end-user programs so I'm not sure how much better they could have done. I suspect that they would have been more open to alternatives.

What do I mean by that? Well, today, Microsoft has finally gotten more open-source friendly than it would have.

For example, on Azure, its cloud platform, you can run Ubuntu, CentOS, and SUSE Linux. It took years, but they're in there. But, Red might well have embraced Linux and open-source software far earlier. For example, I could easily imagine Active Directory being made available as a service on Linux by as early as 2003. After that, who knows...

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Re: Two Microsofts: Mulling an alternate reality

Post: # 143828Post rapier57
Tue Jun 18, 2013 6:55 pm

Well, MS has a market cap at close to 300 billion bucks, so they aren't going to die any time soon. While their performance hasn't been the best in recent years, it has more to do with the fact that Balmer canned or lost (drove out) all the great MS engineers and lost the company focus. While there are things that MS excels at (like the digital crimes unit), the Office and OS sections have languished. MS just doesn't have the engineering clout it once had and cannot innovate without solid, creative engineering.

IE: well, that is just scary.

MS needs to abandon the consumer desktop environment to Apple and Linux (or whoever comes along with a new mousetrap) and focus their efforts on their core competency: The Enterprise. Active Directory and MS Enterprise servers are the best anywhere and will keep MS on top for many years to come. They can leverage cloud services to consumer desktops via their enterprise products and Azure and continue to be at the front. They have a great, free desktop security product and for those who must have MS on the desktop, well ... well, we can hope MS moves beyond Win8, or builds a better one. Win8 just shows that MS doesn't get the consumer desktop.

If Balmer gets religion or the board brings in someone else and MS regains its focus, there will be no stopping MS. If not, we'll continue to see the flakey desktop, browser and phone efforts that are the joke of the industry.

Before you come back on me about the servers and enterprise stuff, remember, I worked on large WinTel systems. Properly architected, scaled and implemented, Windows Servers with AD can handle billions and billions of objects without breathing hard and provide impressive services and service (securely) for many years. There just isn't anyone offering enterprise level systems and services that can be as well integrated as MS. MS just needs to get back on track.

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