Microsoft's court testimony: people want PCs, not operating systems

Microsoft sees the writing on the wall. Too bad it's not admitting it to customers.

I'm reading through the unsealed court documents, including internal Microsoft e-mails (PDF), from the federal lawsuit over the "Windows Vista Capable" program. It makes for fascinating reading at times.

As Todd Bishop of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer discovers, Microsoft clearly knew that it had serious compatibility issues on its hands. Microsoft's new Windows chief suggested that "people who rely on using all the features of their hardware...will not see availability for some time, if ever, depending on the (manufacturer)." What a cheery vote of confidence. Can I get some software from that guy?

But I found another e-mail (page 153) from Brad Goldberg, general manager of Microsoft's Windows Client Product Management Group, much more telling. Why? Well, Goldberg seems to understand that the value of his Windows is dwarfed by the real value of the computer:

Let's read that again:

...(Customers) are in the store buying a PC, not an OS.

I wonder if Mr. Goldberg appreciates both the truth and the difficulty inherent in his comment that consumers are looking for a PC, not an OS. To me, he could not more clearly state, "Windows is a commodity. The end of (our) world is near."

It's true. I strongly prefer the Mac, but there's little that I do with my Mac that I couldn't do on Windows, or Linux. Ninety-nine percent of my work day is spent in e-mail or a browser, both of which are hardly differentiated experiences on Windows, Linux, or the Mac. Indeed, it's really only my "play time" that affects which operating system I use. (I like to make videos and the Mac is by far the easiest platform with which to do this because of Apple's excellent video and photo editing software.

Microsoft: You have much bigger problems than Vista compatibility. It stinks. You know that. You admit it over and over throughout the 158 pages of e-mail the federal court has unsealed. This is hardly your biggest cause for concern.

No, you should instead be worrying about what Mr. Goldberg admits: You're just a commodity with no real differentiation. Your online business is rubbish. Your Windows business is thriving but even you can't see a reason why. Eventually the market will catch on and all you'll be left with is the Office monopoly...except that people care less and less about "productivity" applications and prefer instead to use e-mail, IM, browsers, and "consumer" applications like Apple's iPhoto.

Sorry. Wish there were better news. There's not.

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About the author

    Matt Asay is chief operating officer at Canonical, the company behind the Ubuntu Linux operating system. Prior to Canonical, Matt was general manager of the Americas division and vice president of business development at Alfresco, an open-source applications company. Matt brings a decade of in-the-trenches open-source business and legal experience to The Open Road, with an emphasis on emerging open-source business strategies and opportunities. He is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not an employee of CNET. You can follow Matt on Twitter @mjasay.

     

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