Thursday, November 16, 2006

Support for the Windows As Monopoly Argument

Faultline at The Register provides an interesting observation on Microsoft's monopoly of PC operating systems.

That idea is nothing new of course, but Samsung's SPH-P9000 device - running Windows but looking very little like a traditional PC-oriented PDA - highlights the key issue: will the PC's mobile successor be a Windows device in a new form factor, or an entirely new beast owing a greater debt to the cellphone?

For Microsoft, the answer is critical, since Windows is still not a natural fit for a mobile platform that has no PC heritage. Its future success lies not in religiously promoting the PC/PDA model of device - especially in consumer markets, where expectations of user interfaces and functionality are changing rapidly and are not dictated by Wintel - but in making Windows as adaptable as possible to devices of all descriptions, rather than tying itself to PC-style functionality or the Intel roadmap.

Microsoft argues that its OS runs on 95% of the worlds PCs because Microsoft provides superior product, service and "innovation".

Others argue that their 95% market dominance its due more to monopoly (or "heritage") than "innovation".

Faultline poses an interesting question: "If MS is so good, why hasn't it been able to translate its Windows success into a successful OS for mobile devices?"

Surely mobile devices present a completely different physical interface (small screen, limited keyboard/processor, etc.) than does the PC. The market also has not standardized on any one (or many, for that matter) interface(s). Arguably though, there was no standard interface (no interface at all, actually) for the PC before Microsoft was contracted by IBM to create one.

So far MS has concentrated less on creating a good mobile OS and more on shoehorning its current desktop OSs into mobile devices. An effort that has so far failed.

In any case, Microsoft is failing to "recreate the miracle" of Windows on the mobile platform. That seems to support the argument that Microsoft's OS success was due less to good design and execution than it was luck. Either that, or their design and execution isn't what it used to be.

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