September 04, 2013, 3:27 PM — Did Microsoft Kill Windows By Buying Nokia?
Slate has an interesting analysis of Microsoft's decision to buy Nokia, and it's not a positive prognosis for the future of Windows as we've known it. In short, Microsoft is moving to the Apple model of vertical integration.
That’s why the Nokia purchase signals the end of Windows as a standalone business. There are now only two ways to sell software. Like Apple, you can make devices that integrate software and hardware together and hope to sell a single, unified, highly profitable product. Or, like Google, you can make software that you give away in the hopes of creating a huge platform from which you can make money in some other way (through ads, in Google’s case).
But you can’t do what Windows did—you can’t make profitable software on other companies’ commodity hardware. Thanks to Android, code is now a commodity, and Windows is dead.
I tend to agree with Slate's take on this, but it shouldn't shock any of us that Microsoft is having to change their business model. For far too long they've coasted on the old one, with Windows and Office being their main cash-cows. Those two products will still generate significant amounts of money going forward, probably for a long time.
But the growth is in mobile, not in desktop computers. And that is where Microsoft's current strategy with Windows phone has utterly failed. Just making the software and then licensing it out isn't enough when you factor in Android's no-cost option for mobile hardware vendors; and Apple's design expertise, bulging app store, and devoted fan base.
The real shame in all of this is not that Microsoft is changing, it's that it took them so long to figure out that they had to do it in the first place. I suppose we can chalk this up to Steve Ballmer's cluelessness, or perhaps it was just general arrogance on the part of the company as a whole. They've been so steeped in the past, that they missed the fact that the world was changing all around them.
Regardless of what caused it, change is coming to Windows. The old model doesn't work any more, and it's time for Microsoft to move on if it wants to survive in the years ahead. Windows will still be with us, for a long time. But it will never again be what it was back in the days of Bill Gates, and thank goodness for that.
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