Microsoft’s Future

Steve Gillmor writes after watching a Jim Allchin video:

There is somebody to whom Gates and company can compare themselves– an updated version of Microsoft, a hungry team of up-and-comers and alumni hitching a free ride on their browser platform, unencumbered by a business model that limits its platform to a subset of the network and innovation around RSS and other disruptive technologies.

In a world of Longhorn Interruptus, a free, advertising-subsidized, combined e-mail and RSS aggregator client will have an even better chance of eating away at Microsoft’s control of the desktop. Gates inadvertently acknowledged as much when he summed up the new plan: “So now, we’re doing the search stuff in Longhorn ’06, and then we’re releasing WinFS off-cycle as a development platform and as sort of an information management shell synchronized with a release of the database server.”

Meanwhile, Sun’s Java Desktop System, Mozilla Firefox, Apple’s SafariRSS, and even Chandler, Mitch Kapor’s long-awaited open source collaboration system, will interconnect with Alchemy, peer-to-peer VoIP messaging services such as Skype, and componentized enterprise apps delivered as services by an alliance of software-as-a-service vendors.

In other words, Microsoft will spend 2005 and 2006 competing against itself with what will likely be a free downloadable (a la XP SP2) pruned version of Avalon and Indigo while delaying a competitive response to the Google-led hosted alternative to the Office “information management shell” to 2007 and potentially beyond. No wonder Allchin asks: “Does that make sense?” If Longhorn, the latest incarnation of Allchin’s 1995 Cairo unification of Windows and SQL Server, slips again, he may not be around for the answer.

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.