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Can Microsoft Survive If Windows Doesn't Dominate? 497

Posted by timothy
from the plenty-of-companies-do dept.
Nerval's Lobster writes "In his latest Asymco blog post, analyst Horace Dediu suggested that Windows' share of the personal-computing market is declining at a faster rate than many believe, once Microsoft's cash cow is put in direct competition with Android, iOS, and other platforms built for tablets. In that context, Windows' share of the personal-computing market has dipped past 60 percent on its way to 50 percent. The big question is whether it'll keep plunging. 'If Windows tablets start growing as fast as the tablet market overall then Windows could stabilize in share,' Dediu wrote. 'But if Android and iOS tablets follow their phone brethren in growth then it will be far harder for Microsoft to maintain share.' Yet despite that gloomy scenario, Dediu doesn't necessarily see a market-share dip as a cause for concern on Microsoft's part: 'Even if Windows dips to only 20 [percent] of the world's computing market it will still be perfectly 'viable' for some time to come,' he wrote. But even if Windows can perpetuate, will its decline fatally undermine Microsoft as a company? All that Windows (and Office) money also allows Microsoft to launch projects that lose money for years before they gain traction. Without that monetary base, for example, it's possible that the Xbox (which bled money for the first few years of its existence) wouldn't have survived long enough to become a viable platform from a financial perspective—much less the center of Microsoft's future plans for living room domination."
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Can Microsoft Survive If Windows Doesn't Dominate?

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  • Yes they can (Score:5, Insightful)

    by buy59 (2930821) on Tuesday June 04, 2013 @12:16PM (#43905713)
    Microsoft owns both gaming and workplace PC's. Nothing is going to take that from them. Tablets aren't meant to replace PC's, they're just too different kind of devices. Microsoft has nothing to worry about.
    • by mystikkman (1487801) on Tuesday June 04, 2013 @12:30PM (#43905883)

      Not to mention the Server & Tools Division that sells Windows Server, IIS, SQL Server,Lync Exchange, Visual Studio etc. keeps getting record revenue every quarter.

      From http://venturebeat.com/2013/05/20/with-19b-in-revenue-microsofts-server-and-tools-chief-says-hes-just-getting-started-interview/ [venturebeat.com]

      Meet Satya Nadella, president of Microsoft’s server and tools division, a division that builds and runs the company’s computing platforms, developer tools, and cloud services. Nadella leads a team of over 10,000 employees, and his group alone makes $19 billion in annual revenue – which is more than the combined revenues of Facebook, Yahoo, LinkedIn, Zynga, Netflix, and a few others in the Valley.

      That doesn't even include Office and Azure recently became a one billion dollar business by itself. Microsoft is pretty well diversified, unlike Apple with it's reliance on iPhone and iPad and Google with 95% of revenue from ads. As usual, Asymco comes with shortsighted analysis that mistakes the trees for the forest.

      That's why the people with their own money on the line are buying up MSFT (stock went from $27 to $35 due to the last earnings report) instead of the air-headed armchair analysis that we see on here of 'lol my grandma ditched her PC and got an iPad so that means M$ is dying'.

      • by Rockoon (1252108) on Tuesday June 04, 2013 @12:34PM (#43905917)
        ding

        Microsoft is literally doing better than ever financially. Ignorant tools are worried about market share percentages instead of market volume.
      • by MightyMartian (840721) on Tuesday June 04, 2013 @12:41PM (#43905981) Journal

        I would imagine the reason for this is because of MS's enterprise penetration. I don't see Microsoft leaving the enterprise any time soon. But I can see its consumer market shrinking considerably.

        • by sneakyimp (1161443) on Tuesday June 04, 2013 @01:33PM (#43906521)
          MSFT benefits greatly from vendor lock-in at large enterprises, which is kind of brilliant as a business strategy, but that business is not entirely safe either. Many vendors are moving to cloud solutions to facilitate fluid hardware provisioning, easier backups, and computing on demand. I was recently involved with a project to modernize a VB6 application at a food processing factory and it was totally painful. It would have been cheaper, and every bit as effective, to go with a FOSS solution. The client instead chose to stick with VB.NET and will likely have to rewrite the whole thing again when MSFT totally alters their language to something completely incompatible. This periodic abandonment of their own technology is part of the reason why MSFT makes so much money. Everyone has to buy new operating systems and new workstations and new programming tools.
      • by snadrus (930168) on Tuesday June 04, 2013 @12:42PM (#43905987) Homepage Journal

        Sure, for a natural market, but lock-in is lock-out at low adoption rates:
        - Office requires (works completely in) Windows, and hasn't been able to un-require it despite trying for years. Sure there's a Mac & Online mode, but they're behind.
        - Lync, SQL, Exchange, IIS, Windows Server: Only Windows businesses care
        - Visual Studio: (Mostly) only Windows businesses care.

        Tie all those to a minor OS (instead of a dominant OS), and they won't be billion dollar businesses.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Gr8Apes (679165)

          You know - people say that about Office, and have been saying it for years. It doesn't make it any more true than saying it three times. I haven't used a MS Windows version of Office for at least 6 years, and yes, I do interact with Office for windows. You know the primary reason that Mac Office and OOO/LO are perfectly acceptable? Because the majority of MS Office users I deal with are still in the dark ages of Office 2003-2007. Even the minority who are somewhat current are only running 2010. Also, most o

          • by Belial6 (794905)

            Also, most of those users only use the basic functionality,

            That is the biggest thing. I know less than a hand full of people that need MS Office. That is mostly Excel. One of them would have a hard time without word (she could do it, but it would be a bit painful), and none of them need PowerPoint.

          • by sneakyimp (1161443) on Tuesday June 04, 2013 @01:37PM (#43906571)
            The fact is that most people don't need any of the advanced features offered by Word, Excel, or Powerpoint. They just need to add some numbers up or sort some data or print a letter (does anyone print letters any more???) or put up a slide show at a meeting or something. They don't know what a PivotTable is and they don't use the 500 statistical functions in Excel. They also don't need to buy Office to do this because they can use OpenOffice or LibreOffice or Google docs.
      • by CastrTroy (595695)
        Yeah, everybody seems to forget about a lot of the products that Microsoft creates. Sure they make a lot of money from Office and Windows, but they still make a lot of money from a lot of other stuff they sell. I really don't understand how anybody thinks there's a better IDE than Visual Studio. You can even use Visual Studio and .Net to develop apps for Android, iOS and Windows. I think that MS has the ability to do well, even if consumers stop buying windows PCs. Because they never made a lot of money
        • I would agree that Visual Studio is an excellent IDE. It's really stable and the autocomplete features and such are informative, useful, and stable. That said, I spend 99% of my development time using Eclipse and writing in FOSS languages because internet delivery of information services means I don't have to worry about platform compatibility at all. I also don't have to pay $1000 for it and I can write in C, C++, Java, Python, PHP, etc.

          If windows ceases to dominate the desktop PC market -- which is a
      • by sneakyimp (1161443) on Tuesday June 04, 2013 @01:23PM (#43906395)
        MSFT has been flat ever since a massive drop when Steve Ballmer [youtube.com] took over. How is that even possible in such a rapidly growing market? The company is a dinosaur compared to its rivals. Defenders of MSFT love to talk about 'record revenue' but meanwhile nobody even seems to mention it at GOOG and AAPL which, in addition to record revenues, are also growing their market share. AT&T used to also brag about record revenue while their rivals were gobbling up market share until the long distance market was utterly replaced by modern calling plans -- right before AT&T started to tank and got themselves bought by Southwestern Bell.

        It also makes no sense to slam Apple because they 'rely on iPhone and iPad' because the number of phones sold every year totally dwarfs the number of PCs sold every year. Furthermore, Q1 PC sales in 2013 were down 14% from Q1 2012. Smartphones and tablets, on the other hand, are in total growth mode.

        MSFT has become a creaky, reactive company and always seems to be following the market rather than defining it. They might well dominate the PC industry for some time, but their bread-and-butter is in a rapidly declining market (desktop PC OSes and applications) and even there they are losing market share.
      • by 140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) on Tuesday June 04, 2013 @01:35PM (#43906543) Journal

        That's why the people with their own money on the line are buying up MSFT (stock went from $27 to $35 due to the last earnings report) instead of the air-headed armchair analysis that we see on here of 'lol my grandma ditched her PC and got an iPad so that means M$ is dying'.

        The time constants of slashdotters discussing future of MSFT and the traders are vastly different. Slashdotter think 1 year is short term, 5 years is medium term and 10 years is long term. People buying MSFT @ 35 think 1 quarter as short term, 1 year as medium term and 3 years as long term. And the hedge fund honchos think 1 micro second as ultrashort term, 1 second as short term, and 1 minute as medium term and 1 hour as long term. And these hedge fund honchos will happily risk 1 trillion dollars for 1 micro second to pursue a possible profit of 25 dollars. And they will happily do it 1000 times a second. No wonder we are hosed.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      They'd do just fine. In fact, I think they'd do better.

      Windows is a good product. I mean, the windows ecosystem as a whole. XP and 7 are great. The server OSs are fantastic. Office and exchange are de-facto business standards.

      If they had a bit more competition they might actually start listening to their customers a bit more. That way ever-other windows release won't be an unsellable pile of garbage. Vista had a business adoption rate of less than 9%. Windows 8, which is completely inappropriate for a busin

    • Enterprise computing is very profitable for Microsoft, not so much their gaming division.

      .
      That said...

      Microsoft has everything to worry about,.

      Unless and until Mr. Ballmer is removed from CEO, Microsoft will never know how to compete in a profitable manner without having the benefit of a dominant, monopolistic marketshare to leverage.

    • by sjbe (173966) on Tuesday June 04, 2013 @12:51PM (#43906083)

      Microsoft owns both gaming and workplace PC's. Nothing is going to take that from them.

      In the short run you are quite correct. In the long run though the picture is far less clear. Microsoft has viable competitors in gaming both in hardware and software which they have been unable to drive from the market. While not likely, it's hardly inconceivable they could lose their grip on the gaming market in time. The biggest source of Microsoft's dominance in the work place isn't Windows, it is Office. Specifically the Office file formats (.xls and .doc especially) are the main source of their dominance. That isn't going to change in the near future but history shows that office product dominance doesn't always last. Wordperfect, Lotus 1-2-3, etc used to rule the office and eventually they were pushed out of the way. There are some very real threats to the Office monopoly (Openoffice, Google docs, etc) out there. Whether any of them will eventually push Office out of the way I honestly cannot predict but it isn't impossible in the long run.

      Tablets aren't meant to replace PC's, they're just too different kind of devices,

      You forgot the key word "yet". No, tablets don't compete directly with PCs now but in time they unquestionably will. Remember that PCs didn't compete directly with mainframes back in the day either but eventually they did. There is no fundamental reason a tablet couldn't be put in a dock and used as an office computer and in time the probably will be. A tablet is just a general purpose computer which focuses on a touch interface rather than a keyboard/mouse interface. I think it is only a matter of time before someone figures out how to adapt them for office work.

      I would love the ability to plug my phone into a dock at my office (possibly with some extra processing horsepower/storage and connection to the office phone system) and have it be my work PC as well. Think something along the lines of a Mac version of OSX when docked and IOS when undocked. Done well that would be hugely useful.

      • by Belial6 (794905)
        Agreed. Tablets and PCs are fundamentally the same thing. The differentiator is basically just a question of accessories and software choice.
    • No they can't. Oh, I thought you were asking about my hopes..
    • Tablets are good at replacing, the average Consumer PC. And they should, PC's for well over a decade now have been more powerful than what average web user needs. However the PC will still be around, when people say the Death of the PC, it will be the Death of the Idea that you will need a PC to function in society, that is becoming less true. However you will still Need PC's for Software Development, CAD, Research, etc... For real work. Just because you need the extra horsepower to get the work done. A

    • by X.25 (255792)

      Microsoft owns both gaming and workplace PC's. Nothing is going to take that from them. Tablets aren't meant to replace PC's, they're just too different kind of devices. Microsoft has nothing to worry about.

      Number of Macs in 'workplace' has increased dramatically. Windows based PCs are not the only 'choice' for small/medium sized companies anymore. Enterprises still, of course, have to run Windows. For how long, we'll see.

      And when it comes to gaming PCs - you are just being funny.

    • by silviuc (676999)
      They may have the King's share of gaming PCs now but they really want people using their consoles because they also get a cut of the (digital) sales also they would very much like for people to give up their PCs and use tablets and Office 365. Cloud! Cloud! Cloud! you can't have enough of it...
    • by DickBreath (207180) on Tuesday June 04, 2013 @01:23PM (#43906397) Homepage

      Microsoft owns both gaming and workplace PC's. Nothing is going to take that from them. Tablets aren't meant to replace PC's, they're just too different kind of devices. Microsoft has nothing to worry about.

      Let's rewind to a previous millennium long ago swept away in the sands of time. Let's go way back to . . . 1990.

      IBM owns both mainframe and PC's. Nothing is going to take that from them. PCs aren't meant to replace mainframes, they're just too different kind of devices. IBM has nothing to worry about.

      Then the sudden realization hit. IBM's PCs were priced at monopoly prices and people were not buying them. The company was in crisis and had to reinvent itself. It got new management. Times got leaner. And they weren't committed to past management decisions.

      By 2000 we had a much nicer IBM that was focused on its profitable mainframes and was friendly to both Linux and Java.

      After Microsoft reinvents itself, it will have retreated to and focus on its profitable business. Microsoft has a very profitable and serviceable business with its Enterprise software Windows, Outlook, Exchange, Office, SQL Server, etc. Like IBM before it, Microsoft has already begun embracing open source (Apache, PHP, etc etc) that enabled its enterprise customers to do what they do.

      Like IBM, Microsoft won't go away. Probably ever. But it will become a smaller and gentler Microsoft without the nastiness and bullying once it has been de-fanged of its monopoly power.

    • by Junta (36770)

      Well, the premise of the headline was *if* windows doesn't dominate. You are technically rejecting the feasibilty of that precondition.

      In terms of MS owning both gaming and workplace PCs, that's not something I'd want to bet on. For one, you have Valve throwing some weight behind Linux. For another, you have consoles that include, among other things, Android platforms that are fungible. Think about how the Wii, despite exceptionally mediocre capabilities dominated share in the wider game industry. The

    • They don't own gaming. Globally they're fighting not to be in third place and that was with an advantage of being cheaper than the ps3, out a year early and more powerful than the Wii. They just have nothing special to offer.
  • What is stopping MS from creating an Android and/or Linux distro? Their own phone (running Android)? XBox seems to be doing well - we'll see how XBox One does.

    Mice. Keyboards. Legacy support for Windows.

    MS has lot's of life in them yet.

    • Most of Android is under the Apache License [apache.org]. If Microsoft customizes Android for its own hardware and distributes it, Microsoft becomes a "Contributor", and a Contributor gives up some power to assert its patents against other distributors of the software.
    • by gstoddart (321705) on Tuesday June 04, 2013 @12:50PM (#43906077) Homepage

      What is stopping MS from creating an Android and/or Linux distro?

      Their own pride, and probably corporate policy which says "all things must be Windows".

      If Microsoft announced next week they were doing an Android or a Linux distro, their stock would probably tank because that would be interpreted as basically saying "we're losing the fight, so we're looking into other things".

      I agree that Microsoft is far from dead, and are likely sitting on huge cash reserves. But I don't see Linux and Android as a way forward for them.

      They'd do a better job of actually listening to what people want out of their products, instead of just releasing a much hated Win 8 only to have to reverse course with the changes in Win 8.1.

      Me, I'll be curious to see how they fare with the next XBox -- because I suspect lots of people are reading these press releases and thinking "gee, that doesn't sound like what I want".

    • by sjbe (173966)

      What is stopping MS from creating an Android and/or Linux distro?

      Margins. It would be quite impossible for MS to create a differentiated product from Android and/or linux. Basically they would be at Google's mercy at that point. If MS were to ever do what you suggest it would be as a MUCH smaller company, probably post bankruptcy or buyout. There would be little value in yet another Android/linux distro from MS.

      MS has lot's of life in them yet

      No question. I can't conceive of any scenario whereby MS isn't a huge player for at least the next 10 years. There are some serious threats to them out ther

  • by gestalt_n_pepper (991155) on Tuesday June 04, 2013 @12:32PM (#43905909)

    A real challenge to the Microsoft hegemony would squeeze out the idiocy and arrogance that currently dominates the company. Forced to pay attention to users and developers, Microsoft would never have created a disaster like windows 8, or the developer-hostile policy of allowing languages and platforms to "dead end."

    Heck, someone at Microsoft might actually wake up and figure out that the policies and strategies that benefit Microsoft in the long run are those that benefit users and developers, not the marketing department, or upper management bonuses.

    I joke. I joke. Of course this will never happen.

    • by Shados (741919)

      On top of what you said, not having a "monopoly" status and eventually being able to properly integrate/bundle stuff without the euro fining them over and over will help them be more competitive. Having to compete with companies that can make 1 stop shop solutions, while doing the same gets you fined for countless millions every time, is.... "tricky". Sure, they deserved it, but once they're done paying for past mistakes, they can finally go back to being on par.

  • I think... (Score:3, Funny)

    by Synerg1y (2169962) on Tuesday June 04, 2013 @12:34PM (#43905921)

    Microsoft makes more money on Xbox & business licensing than in the consumer market.

    Consumer MS has been declining for a while now.

    Doesn't stop some dumbass author from writing an article, or an editor who can't distinguishing between Windows desktop OS and Windows Server, from "predicting"/praying for the death of Microsoft via their lynx browsers.

  • by walterbyrd (182728) on Tuesday June 04, 2013 @12:39PM (#43905961)

    Of course msft can survive.

    But, can msft continue to dominate the industry the way they do today? Can msft continue to vendor lock everybody? Can msft continue to force so-called "upgrades?" Can msft enforce their proprietary documents format?

    Sure msft can survive, but will they be anything like the msft of today?

  • Sometimes i wonder whether we might come to a point, like 10-15 years from now, where it might make more economical sense for MS to just rely on the Linux kernel (perhaps contributing just some resources to it, the way that other companies do) instead of having to develop and maintain their own. That could free up resources to do other things, and potentially help to gain some share in the mobile device market, where it looks like NT-based kernels might never be as efficient as Android or Macs.

  • Long term the trend is going to be to move away from Microsoft. Businesses just aren't there yet. But if I can sell my bosses on dropping in Samba 4 instead of AD Domain controllers, and we no longer use Exchange for communication because we've chenged to web based mail. Microsoft's days as a major driver in business are numbered. People talk about support and Microsoft and how they're amazing, but the reality is Microsoft doesn't support businesses with Windows deployments. Only third party vendors really
    • Samba 4 has a ways to go before it can replace AD. Believe me, I'd love nothing better than a drop in replacement for Windows Server, but I think Samba has at least another three or four years before it reaches that point.

      • Samba 4 has a ways to go before it can replace AD. Believe me, I'd love nothing better than a drop in replacement for Windows Server, but I think Samba has at least another three or four years before it reaches that point.

        Web based mail is great until you don't have access to it due to an outage, etc. At least with Exchange and outlook you have an off-line copy to work from.

        Also, if you think that Email is THE killer app for Exchange, think again. THE killer app for Exchange is Scheduling (both people and resources) and I have yet to see any other product do it as well.

        MS Lync is also a nice little add-on as you can see if the email recipient, assuming it is someone internal, is online and can IM them instead. It makes co

  • by ErichTheRed (39327) on Tuesday June 04, 2013 @12:47PM (#43906043)

    In my opinion, the whole "PCs are dying, everyone will be on tablets and in the cloud by 2017" meme is a little overhyped. It's true that PCs are no longer the only computing devices available, and tablets are definitely getting good enough to replace PCs for most "read only" tasks. However, even with suitable Bluetooth keyboards and other accessories, creating documents and content on a tablet is still very difficult. I'm sure it will continue to be this way until some new UI paradigm pops up like 100% fluent voice recognition, wildly gesturing to type, etc. For writing software, messing with spreadsheets and even playing high end games, PCs still have a place. It's just not 99% of the market anymore. A good example of this is the Surface. It's amazing to have almost a full fledged PC in a tablet form factor and lets you build some really cool applications that the previous Tablet PC form factor didn't address well. But I wouldn't use it to write anything longer than an SMS, tweet or quick email...it's just not built for huge gorilla hands. :-) On the other hand, it's great for watching movies, surfing the web, and other Millenial-approved social media tasks.

    Microsoft seems to have missed this fact with Windows 8, probably because they were panicked about Apple and Android dominating the tablet market. Or their marketing department came in and said "zomg Millenials and hipsters are chooing a tablet-first approach to computing, we must capture this market." And that makes sense -- people of a certain age have been raised with Facebook and smartphones, so they're used to it. However, they also have jobs, and probably use PCs and laptops at these jobs to create content. Windows 8.1 appears to be backtracking on their tablet bet a little bit, but not totally -- the Metro "app" ecosystem is here to stay. (As a side note, my primary complaint with Windows 8 was not the Start screen, though it's nice they're bringing the button back -- it was the awful 2-D Windows 2.0 user interface, and it looks like they're not bringing back Aero in Win8.1, so that sucks.)

    Microsoft will continue to have decent market share in workplaces. Desktop PCs will most likely fade out as laptops get more powerful, but the idea that the tablet form factor works for every situation is crazy. Even when hardware begins shipping with touch screens by default, some people will prefer not to use them. Windows Server 2012 (and Windows 8 under the hood) are actually very good products. But they do need to listen to corporate customers. How hard would it have been to bring back the classic Start menu for companies who are deploying on desktops and laptops? Why wouldn't you allow your customers who were happy with Windows 7 to keep most of what they liked while having the option to use the new stuff? In my mind, not listening to corporations who buy millions of licenses will make them less relevant, not the rise of the tablet.

  • by PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) on Tuesday June 04, 2013 @12:50PM (#43906081)

    In the early '90s, everyone said that IBM couldn't survive. Look where they are now.

    In the late 80's, everyone said that DEC would crush IBM. Look what happened to them.

    So I guess it could go either way:

    Megasoft Business Services . . . ?

    . . . or iSoft . . . a division of Apple Galactic Life Systems . . . ?

  • The way I see it, there are no really good answers to the questions in the original article. Will MS market-share keep plunging? A *lot* of that hinges on the long-term popularity of the trend of people using tablet devices in place of computers.

    If you're the type who likes to bet on future results based on current trends? Then yes, you have a lot of statistical data in your corner. "John Q. Public" and "Jane Doe" who were never really very good with computers to begin with absolutely LOVE devices like the

  • They can survive just like any other non-dominate company. They could resize to moms basement size and just give support to grandma and her friends and survive.

    The real question is if they WANT to do that.

    Most likely at some point they rather sell then resize.

  • Marketshare (Score:4, Insightful)

    by A Friendly Troll (1017492) on Tuesday June 04, 2013 @01:29PM (#43906465)

    I have a PC running Windows. My household has a 100% Windows marketshare.

    I buy a tablet and a phone. Suddenly my Windows only has 33% marketshare, while Android went from 0 to 67%!

    But I still have a PC running Windows. So does a billion other people.

    Gotta love 'em analysts.

  • by Animats (122034) on Tuesday June 04, 2013 @01:48PM (#43906699) Homepage

    When Bill Gates first discovered the Internet in the mid-1990s, he spent three hours on line, and wrote in a memo "I didn't see a single Microsoft file format". Microsoft's dominance has relied heavily on proprietary file formats. But now, if it won't work on a tablet or phone, it's useless. This reduces Microsoft's control.

  • The magic answer (Score:4, Insightful)

    by symbolset (646467) * on Tuesday June 04, 2013 @02:31PM (#43907061) Homepage Journal
    Windows can't be used to crash Android apps that compete with Microsoft's.

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