Microsoft's desktop prowess: Blessing or curse?

Tethered to its Windows operating system, the company has desktop power that has been a financial blessing but is becoming a strategic curse.

Tech Culture

"The die is cast," declared Julius Caesar, anticipating Microsoft's fateful decision to protect its Windows cash cow at all costs.

Years later, as Joe Nocera eloquently opines in The New York Times, Microsoft has tethered itself to its Windows operating system and almost certainly lost its way on the Internet as a result:

Windows is already dying a death by a thousand cuts. Yes, Microsoft still makes billions by selling pre-installed Windows via computer manufacturers. But ever-so-gradually, the Internet is upending its business model just as surely as it has upended models for the music, television and newspaper businesses....Bill Gates saw this coming many years ago.... But in the subsequent decade-plus, the company has been unable to keep it from happening. Think about it: do you really care anymore which operating system you use?

Microsoft opted to try to harness the Web to accompany its desktop monopoly, but the Web is too big to serve as handmaiden to any one company's monopoly. Microsoft needs to learn to serve the Web, not the other way around.

The more Microsoft seeks to protect its past (i.e., desktop monopoly and all the revenue that comes with it), the less relevant it will be to the future. Microsoft hopes to straddle the two, and maybe it will succeed. But its desktop anchor may well end up sinking the ship.

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