Business After Windows: Why the Microsoft Desktop OS Model is Irretrievably Broken and What the Future Holds, Part II of II

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by Merrill R. (Rick) Chapman, Softletter Managing Editor

In Part One of this article, we took a look at the impending demise of the desktop monolith as epitomized by Microsoft and the problems it’s had with the industry’s most successful product of all time, Windows. In the interval, it’s easy to see that Microsoft itself understands that the current Windows model is in trouble. A couple of weeks ago, Microsoft announced “Universal Windows,” a write once, run on all device strategy. Windows for smartphones is now free to developers. Office is now available on the iPad. A few days ago, ZDNet writer Preston Galla highlighted speculation in his column that Microsoft may stop charging for Windows in the future. Galla doesn’t think Microsoft will ever do that. I think they will within 24 months.

The Technology and Markets After Windows

To achieve the goal of the portable, transportable computing environment will involve the creation of multiple, device-independent service layers. While we can’t say with certainty at this time what these layers will be, we will make some guesses. Our best encompass:

  • A device independent workspace (also currently known as the desktop, UI, GUI, etc.). This workspace will be highly customizable in terms of layout, color choices, content and file management, custom alterations and tweaks. It is certainly conceivable to think that the workspace could be further abstracted into an appearance layer and an application layer. (Apple and Microsoft both entangle the two.)
  • A security layer. The Heart Bleed bug drives home the need for this. For years, this virus has infected servers worldwide and no one knew about it (at least, as far as the public was concerned). Now, millions of people are expected dig through their passwords and update them (and how many people out there know all their passwords? For all the sites and services they subscribe to? And where is the storage locker for all these passwords? In the cloud? That might work out. But what happens if the password storage provider goes out business? Is hacked? Maybe you’d prefer to have your passwords move across your devices in a highly encrypted little box in tandem with an external service. Just in case?
  • A data layer. More and more data is being stored about you in the Internet of Things (IoT). Some of that data can be processed remotely. Some of you may want (or require) to be processed and displayed locally on a device. Once this process is completed. You will want to preserve over time and devices.
  • A social management layer. This will be useful in helping you and everybody else gain control of all that personal information that Facebook, LinkedIn, and even Twitter spill out about you on a continuous basis, often without your realizing it.
  • The layer of things owned. Such as books. Music. Videos. Any form of content. Purchased content should be transportable against the devices of today and of tomorrow.
  • The mirror layer. The snapshots of your online resources and applications that enable you to keep working even when remote access is lost.
  • A privacy layer. Privacy in the age of the monolith is a nightmare. Every device you currently used represents a major security risk which must be managed in often very different ways.
  • The hosting layer.
  • The device layer. I don’t want to overstate the case. A hobbyist market will always exist. There are many people who enjoy owning a supercomputer in their house and exercising absolute control over their hardware and software down to the bare iron. This is also not an argument for (or against) Open Source. We expect layers to be marketed and paid for. The WordPress commercial model, where a core product is often given away but a company charges for additional functionality, updates, and technical support, seems likely.

The problems with not developing a commercial market around Open Source are illustrated by the recent Heart Bleed mess. The “community” of people developing OpenSSL consisted of 17 unpaid volunteers. If you’re currently scrambling to secure your online life from danger, it appears you got what you paid for. From the standpoint of the cloud, the ultimate financial goal is to sell or monetize your services. The most successful SaaS and mobile systems do this. However, the device dependent model ultimately works against financial growth (over time). Currently, while Apple enjoys large market shares in mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones, this share is shrinking as Android’s market share increases. This limits the opportunities for Apple-oriented firms, a problem plaguing the Apple market since the 1980s. Android, OTOH, has bought its market share by creating mass confusion and the potential loss of a complete workspace when moving from one device to another. It is becoming difficult for the market and software firms to support and even identify the different versions of Android (including the hacked ones) now running on the millions of tablets sold. Transferring an older Android workspace from one tablet to another can often put you in

However, the device dependent model ultimately works against financial growth (over time). Currently, while Apple enjoys large market shares in mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones, this share is shrinking as Android’s market share increases. This limits the opportunities for Apple-oriented firms, a problem plaguing the Apple market since the 1980s.

Android, OTOH, has bought its market share by creating mass confusion and the potential loss of a complete workspace when moving from one device to another. It is becoming difficult for the market and software firms to support and even identify the different versions of Android (including the hacked ones) now running on the millions of tablets sold. Transferring an older Android workspace from one tablet to another can often put you in the same dilemma as upgrading from Windows XP to whatever—your environment is destroyed— providing a strong disincentive to not buy.

The device independent workspace beckons you.

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