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Microsoft Prepared To Fight The Last War

Microsoft can try to replace the failed Vista brand with lucky 7, but apparently it can't sell anyone on Windows anymore. And at this point, it doesn't even matter if Windows 7 turns out to be a huge improvement on Vista -- desktop operating systems are like the cavalry. There will always be a use for the cavalry at military parades and crowd control, but there's this new thing called an armored personnel carrier...

As Stowe Boyd put it in the context of search -- another one of Microsoft's losing battles:

They say that generals are always prepared to fight the last war, and [you could] diagram how the last era's war might play out again, with Microsoft having the dominant position on the desktop. But when the field has changed, and there is no desktop, what then?
Boyd is referring to a new paradigm where the Web replaces the desktop and the browser replaces the operating system -- which is where Google envisions Chrome is taking us. There will certainly remain some people chained to desktops, traditional operating systems and on-premise software, particularly for applications where solving the latency issue is more imperative than solving the cost problem. (That's where the cavalry comes in, incidentally.)

Microsoft is actually trying to adapt to some of the changes swirling around it, which is an improvement over the days when it talked about software plus services as "additive" to its income from desktop software. But even when introducing a few online elements of Office 2010, Microsoft displays the kind of arrogance that foreshadows its approaching obsolescence. According to Chris Capossela, a senior vice president in Microsoft's business division, not only hasn't Microsoft fallen behind the competition at all, those other companies can only dream of having the number of customers Microsoft boasts:

"Lots of competitors are doing nothing beyond copying what we have done in our product for years... They have weekly releases to add things like bold and italics and more than four fonts. We have to redefine what productivity means to 500 million people."
I hope all you other guys like Google and Salesforce and whatnot are properly chastened.

The problem Microsoft refuses to address is that its future is inextricably tied to Windows, and the world has now seen through Windows to another reality. Speaking of the future hinted at by Chrome, Boyd writes:

It will all rapidly shift into a very different world. We will all be reformatting our hard drives in the near future, and never looking back.
Microsoft, however, is still looking back, and seems content to fight old battles that are increasingly irrelevant. Where is Microsoft's mobile strategy? Where is Microsoft's netbook operating system? Where is Microsoft's next generation of Web-based applications? That future is being fleshed out by Apple, Google, Intel, and even Nokia. It's with Facebook and Twitter and Zoho. It's just not at Microsoft.

[Image source: Wikimedia commons]

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