The Marginalization of the Operating System

It occurred to me that the phone marketplace is like a microcosm for what is happening in the desktop world. It’s a little like watching the common cold mutate through a season. The gestation period for something so small is so short, that huge changes can occur in an extremely short period of time. As such, we’ve seen huge market share swings from Blackberry, Apple, Microsoft, and Google. Google’s Android lately has been pushing out other market players with (arguably) sub-standard, but cheap software and placing the consumer’s focus back onto what they can hold in their hands – good quality phone hardware.

Although not to the same extent, much the same thing is happening in the desktop world. Although still king of operating systems, Windows is being eroded ever so slightly in market share by MacOS (and to a much greater extent in mind share). Once people start getting used to the idea that their desktop can be something other than Windows, the floodgates will open with cheaper alternatives like Linux – just as what’s happened with iOS (providing a compelling user experience through good design) and then Android (by being good enough at no cost). I also think Microsoft knows this and it has been the driving force in some of the newer software platform decisions.

We’re seeing the foundations being laid for true software as a service in the form of Silverlight, a platform that will extend Microsoft’s reach across all operating systems and allow them to retain the crown as THE platform provider. It will allow them to continue their main software platform business by providing a common API to all operating systems and allowing their software to continue to be sold to everyone. The technological specifics of the platform allow some very interesting business models for selling software as a nice bonus as well, to be discussed another time…

Besides writing a plugin for the most of the major browsers across both Windows and Mac, Microsoft has also been collaborating with Novell by providing source code, specifications, and test suites towards the creation of Moonlight – the open source implementation of Silverlight for Linux and Unix systems. If that’s not a clear indication of what Microsoft considers their “platform”, I’m not sure what is.

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