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Microsoft Wins Again

9:00 AM -- I have to confess up front that I am no fan of Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT). The company has made it clear that it exists for one reason and one reason only -- to enrich its shareholders. As a capitalist, I have no problem with making money. I just think firms should do this by providing more value to their customers than their competitors do.

Of course, Microsoft has no competitors anymore. It dominates the computer industry. It is the most important firm to consider in formulating an IT strategy. I find that sad, because I believe the complete lack of innovation in the personal computer industry today can be traced to Microsoft's dominance in the marketplace.

Wireless and mobility, on the other hand, remain hotbeds of innovation largely because technologies continue to improve, and because Microsoft has not been pervasive in this space. That's about to change. Windows Mobile is poised to become the only mobile OS that matters. Palm OS? Stick a fork in it. Even Palm Inc. sells a Windows Mobile product now. Symbian Ltd. ? Still a player, but what do they do that Microsoft can't? BlackBerry ? Watch your back. Java? My personal favorite, but the OS mentality that pervades most IT departments, coupled with clever marketing from Redmond, will relegate Java to a peripheral role. I do have some hopes for Linux, based on my experience so far with the Nokia 770.

My personal favorite approach, of course, is thin clients built on browsers and Web services. But even I'll admit that there are times one needs code running on a highly mobile device. And the OS for that device will come from... Oh, my, it pains me even to write that word. Really.

And yet, even as I curse the wretched mess that is Windows on a daily basis, I hold out hope that MS will learn to build usable, maintainable, functional products that enrich their customers and not just their coffers. For those of you who remember the early days of Saturday Night Live, this is the part where Steve Martin jumps out and yells "Nah!"

— Craig Mathias is Principal Analyst at the Farpoint Group , an advisory firm specializing in wireless communications and mobile computing. Special to Unstrung

belikejones 12/5/2012 | 3:53:48 AM
re: Microsoft Wins Again Craig - I like your articles. However, I disagree with your latest diatribe and I think you disagree with yourself too. You state that innovation has been rampant in wireless on notebooks/laptops because msft is not involved but somehow msft's mobile os will kill innovation for mobile devices (phones, pdas). Those two statements contradict each other (msft has always been dominant in the notebook category and as you say, innovation has been robust there). I believe that as Mobile OS becomes more prevalent, innovation will increase as there will a standard around which entrepreneurs can start to add value. I don't think entreprenuers are looking to add value on the OS front. But for innovative apps, services, infrastructure etc, it helps a lot to have a standardized device. May be it would have been better if linux or symbian won the race, but I think the bottom line is that the faster we decide on a winner, the better for innovators. I, for one, am glad its msft. With any luck, we will be able to re-use a bunch of the stuff we did for notebooks/laptops and leverage it to attack the mobile device market.

- blj
peter_rysavy 12/5/2012 | 3:53:30 AM
re: Microsoft Wins Again Though Symbian has little presence in the US, it did just post 11.7 million phones for Q1 2006, (73% growth year-over-year) and a total of 70.5 million Symbian OS smartphones shipped to date.

Who's buying all these phones? Is it all consumer, or is Symbian getting business traction? I agree with Craig about Microsoft dominating this space, but the Symbian factor can't be completely ignored.
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