Last time I talked about why I think Microsoft is going to die and what I think they should do to save themselves. I got the response that I expected to get, disagreement, but that is ok because I like to argue.
Today I would like to talk about who could kill Microsoft and how they could do it. I want this to be from a neutral point of view from the part 1, meaning that I don’t care if it is likely for Microsoft to die I just want to talk about who could kill them if they really were going to die. What I mean by that is if Microsoft dies who is going to be the one to edge them out? Oh and this one isn’t a foss vs Microsoft thing like the last one.
Community driven linux distros are really good but they aren’t going to take on Microsoft anytime soon because they don’t have the organization, or resources. People want to get their software from a company that they can go to if they have problems. Sure they can go to a third party to get tech support but most people won’t want to mess with that because lets face it people are lazy and don’t care if the third party would be better or not.
I want to break this down to four(4) questions:
1. Who could defeat Microsoft In the home pc/workstation market?
2. How will they do it?
3. Who could defeat Microsoft in the Server market?
4. How will they do it?
There is a pretty big list of people that could compete with Microsoft for the Home pc/workstation market: Apple, Sun, Novel, Red Hat, and Canonical. I previously Talked about my feelings towards Solaris. So I think I can safely say that as long as sun doesn’t drastically change directions with solaris you will not find a Solaris box in every home until everyone becomes Masochistic computer geeks. However, Sun can not be counted out of the Workstation business because as long as there is an in house IT presence willing to work with Solaris it will have a place in the work environment. I could be completely wrong and Solaris is the best thing since sliced awesome. And yes I know I’m doing them out of order.
As you may know if you’ve ever read the blog, my main computer is a mac running Mac OS 10.4. I like Mac OS because it makes some things easy, easy generally means less options though. Oh, and I also know that using a Mac makes me a hypocrite, but that is a story for another time. The average user will have no problem using a Mac as long as they are willing to learn that it is just different from windows and not just wrong because it isn’t what they are used to. Apple is pretty self explanatory so I’m not going to go on any further about them, except to say that Apple isn’t that strong in the workstation area.
Novel is a lot like Sun except that their product is more user friendly. Novel seems to be going more for the workstation sales more than anything else, which makes sense. I personally don’t like Suse that much but that isn’t to say it isn’t a great piece of software. With Novel’s stupid patent agreement thing with Microsoft they may well end up being the go to guys for businesses that fall for Microsoft’s saber rattling. I assume that Novel also offers some kind of tech support for Suse so that will bring in people that don’t care about the patent deal as well.
The thing that makes these next two different form the previous three is that they are community driven, with backing from a corporation. RHEL isn’t Community driven but fedora is so actually Red Hat fits into both, kinda. For Workstations RHEL is the best option from Red Hat if you want them to support it, but in the Home PC market RHEL is not really worth it because you can’t buy just a single license, or at least I don’t think you can, so Fedora is your best option. Red Hat doesn’t sell tech support for Fedora as far as I know but if they wanted to market it to home users in an attempt to make money they probably would offer it. If your wondering how they could make money off fedora hang on just a little bit because I’m going to explain that in answering question two.
Canonical is probably the best choice of all of these for a non-technical home user. I haven’t used the newest version of Ubuntu (Gusty Gibbon) so I can’t comment of its usability but I can comment of older versions so I will. Historically Ubuntu has been more user friendly than other distros (this is actually very arguable) but I don’t think that if I gave me dad a copy of Ubuntu he would be able to use it very well. Maybe Ubuntu has become the most user friendly (idiot friendly) OS known to man since last I used it, but I doubt it. So anyway, Canonical is in the best position of all the companies that I have mentioned to take over in the home user market because they already have a presence with Dell. If dell offered pcs that were significantly cheaper due to Ubuntu in a way that made it just as easy for your average Joe to get them as it is to get a windows box from Dell I think a lot more people would go for the machines running Ubuntu.
2. How will they do it? If I were put in charge of one of these companies and asked to try and gain market in the Home the first thing I would do is to through it in a box and ask Walmart, Best Buy, Circuit City, and who ever else I could find to sell my stuff. I would sell it as cheaply as possible and since all of the Companies I mentioned are selling Free Software (excluding apple) as cheaply as possible means free. Of course, I would charge something for the box but I wouldn’t actually charge for the OS. So I would charge a few bucks to compensate the money I spent to make the physical box itself (paper, cd, ink, shipping) and I would charge a fee for tech support. As long as the price is lower than windows and you can make money off of tech support this should work. The major advantage this has over windows is that tech support is not included when you buy windows, If you want tech support from Microsoft it will cost you on a per call basis. Like I said before people like tech support, but they like “free” tech support better.
The next thing I would do is try to get an already established hardware vendor to sell my product. I’ve already discussed why I would do that so I’m not going to do it again.
3. The list of contenders in the server market is about the same as the home pc market. you have, Sun, IBM, Novel, Apple, Red Hat, and Canonical. Microsoft is not as strong in the server business as they are in the home/workstation business so it wouldn’t really take much to beat them. The only place where I can think of windows servers being dominant is file servers or windows domain for a businesses and organizations that don’t know better. Because I feel that a lot of this is obvious and this is starting to get long and I don’t want to split it into another post I’m only going to talk about the exceptional companies.
I would not use Ubuntu as a server for any purpose at all. Ubuntu isn’t designed to be a server it is designed to be human friendly which is a direct con tradition of what a server is. Ubuntu is designed for people that don’t know what they are doing and not for people that want to do it themselves or do it right. Now I’ve never used Ubuntu sever but if it is anything like the normal version what I have said is true. If you want a Linux server you need a Linux for geeks not for human beings.
4. How will they do it? simple Charge less. If Microsoft is charging a $10000 per year site license fee for a host to run Windows give them them your OS with hardware included for the same price in a one time deal. Or you could just show them your uptimes ;).
I did end up talking a lot about free software but that is just because there is very little non-free software out there that isn’t Unix. Unix is great but is it becoming less important as business move away from it towards Gnu/Linux. On top of that the one Unixen I did mention is free; the world seems to be moving towards free software so that is what I had to discuss.
If I forgot anything let me know.