I had an interesting conversation with someone at the office today who asked about the MS reorg and some Surface pricing changes – What happens if Microsoft shuts down?
Its an interesting question, and one that made me, as well as some people around me and my friend, shudder – What if Microsoft doesn’t fare well after the reorg and everything continues to tank for them? More than 80% of the world’s enterprises run on Microsoft clients and servers. What would happen if they just evaporated?
Now, I don’t want anyone to panic. This isn’t very likely to happen, so don’t go getting your undies in a bunch. However, when you start looking at how many businesses run MS software – servers, clients, middleware – it’s a legitimate question. Where does the world turn if Microsoft and Windows dies?
Yeah… I’m at a bit of a loss too. I have no idea what viable alternatives are REALLY out there. Now, assuming Microsoft is TOTALLY out of the picture (again, possible, but not probable…for now), some companies would likely adopt the same strategy with Windows 7 as they did with Windows XP and ride it as long as they could, hiring as many software engineers and developers to patch their enterprise implementation of the OS for all their clients as necessary. They’d have to do their own security patches, as again, MS wouldn’t necessarily be around 5-7 years from the finalization of their demise.
Thankfully, the problems at the OS level aren’t there when it comes to a productivity suite (meaning, Office). There are many alternatives available, despite the fact that Office is the defacto choice at this time. Things like LibreOffice, OpenOffice.org, and SoftMaker Office offer free or affordable, robust alternatives to Microsoft’s classic office suite, without imposing online, subscription restrictions or requirements on users. Regardless of what happens in Redmond, I don’t see this area being as big of an issue as the lack of Windows would create. All three of the products I cited are MS Office compatible, AND have versions available for Windows, OS X, as well as numerous Linux distributions.
So what does this get us at the end of the day? Not much… The level of speculation here is crazy-huge. But it’s one that a lot of people have had wander through their minds, especially at the large office I work in. Many of the PC’s that are in use here today are still using Windows XP. Windows 7 should be fully rolled out over the next 6-12 months – 4 years after its release in October of 2009.
If Windows were to evaporate, there’s no clear heir-apparent for an enterprise client OS out there. OS X and Linux both have an enterprise presence, but its miniscule in comparison to what Microsoft has. If I were Tim Cook or Jim Whitehurst (the CEO of RedHat) I’d be watching Microsoft like a hawk and step up the enterprise marketing at each and every opportunity.
My friend Preston Gralla says that MS has to kill the Windows brand to succeed. Greg Keizer, also from ComputerWorld, doesn’t give Ballmer a good chance of making the recent Microsoft reorg a success. Part of that is Ballmer. Part of that is clearly based on industry data of past reorg and culture change success rates.
The odds just aren’t in Ballmer’s favor; and any way you cut it, there’s definitely blood in the water. The only questions left to be answered are when and how badly will the shark attacks be…