David Stultz, a Microsoft veteran, recently left the company. He posted his farewell letter on the Net, talking about Microsoft and the commoditisation of software. A few points he makes:
Most core Microsoft products missed the Internet wave, even while claiming to be leading the parade…Microsoft developer tools have yet to embrace the loosely coupled mindset that today’s leading edge developers apply to work and play.
Microsoft’s reluctance to adopt networked ways is understandable. Their advantaged position has been built over the years by adhering to the tenet that software running on a PC is the natural point at which to integrate hardware and applications. Unfortunately, network protocols have turned out to be a far better fit for this middleman role, and Microsoft, intent on propping up the PC franchise, has had to resist fully embracing the network integration model.
Will Microsoft continue to convince its partners that software is distinctly valuable by itself? Or will the commodity nature of software turn the industry on its head? The hardware companies, who actually manufacture the machines, smell blood in the water, and the open source software movement is the result.
If Microsoft is unable to innovate quickly enough, or to adapt to embrace network-based integration, the threat that it faces is the erosion of the economic value of software being caused by the open source software movement.
Open source software is as large and powerful a wave as the Internet was, and is rapidly accreting into a legitimate alternative to Windows.
There is a new frontier, where software “collectives” are being built with ad hoc protocols and with clustered devices…Useful software written above the level of the single device will command high margins for a long time to come.
The last line says it all: “Stop looking over your shoulder and invent something!”