View Full Version : Dvorak: Microsoft's business model is done

March 8th, 2009, 03:23 PM

Microsoft's business model is done

Commentary: The age of expensive office software may be near its end

By John C. Dvorak
Last update: 4:28 p.m. EST March 7, 2009

BERKELEY, Calif. (MarketWatch) -- I've been playing with one of many new systems that are hitting the market which allow the user to quickly boot the machine and go directly to a small version of Linux rather than wait to load Windows.
AsusTek, the Asian motherboard maker, began this trend with a boot off of a chip on the motherboard. And, more recently, Phoenix Technologies has introduced HyperSpace, a software subsystem that is similar to dual-boot (where you can choose what operating system you want to load).
HyperSpace is a compact Linux that loads almost instantly and gives the user a browser, word processor and a few other useful goodies that can easily be accessed in a pinch.
I've always liked this idea and describe its functionality as follows:
I'm going on a trip. I shut down everything in my office. The car service just arrived. I realize that I forgot some confirmation number I need. I cannot wait forever for a computer to boot just to go on the Web to look up the number. The instant-on feature of these new systems lets me get on and get off the computer in less than a minute. I'm on my way.
This is just pure convenience, and Microsoft has got to be taking notice, since this entire subsystem is a Trojan Horse (like the original one, not the computer virus type). What it is doing is introducing people to Linux and its desktop capabilities.
If people are using Linux like this routinely, how long will it be before they can be convinced that Linux is just as good as Windows?
And it's free.
With the advent of the small, inexpensive computer and the Netbooks that sell for around $299, the appeal of Linux becomes greater and greater because it costs nothing.
Right now, for example, I can get a complete Intel motherboard with an Atom processor, ready to install in a box, for about $100. All I need is a $30 memory module, an inexpensive hard disk ($50) and a case/power supply ($75). For $255, I can have a pretty nice cheap machine. Now I have to add the most basic version of Windows for $199? And Office for another $399 (standard no-frills edition)?
Let's add this up: Hot little computer: $255. Basic low-end Microsoft software: $598.
What's wrong with this picture?
With HyperSpace, the sinister aspect to it is the built-in word processor from Korea's Haansoft Corp. It makes a clone of Microsoft Office, and Haansoft Write is included with Hyperspace.
This product is an out-and-out, menu-item-for-menu-item copy of Microsoft Word 2003. It even uses the red squiggly line for spell checking.
Looking at this product, if I were Microsoft, I'd be totally freaked out.
This sort of thing, initiated by AsusTek, is not ending anytime soon. The HyperSpace product is one example of many yet to come.
I'm not sure any of these will be successful as products, but they will be successful in introducing more and more people to Linux and the Microsoft Office clones, many of which cost a fraction of the Microsoft products and, in most cases, are free for the asking.
Microsoft has pretty much done all it can do to make Microsoft Office a dead-end product with few improvements on the roadmap. This means it is ripe for copying.
The number of Office Suites is increasing daily. A list is maintained here.
Until now, the average computer user has been ignoring this trend. But the economic conditions and the emergence of powerful inexpensive computing has to make people rethink the Microsoft proposition.
If Intel can provide users with powerful little systems for $99 and has been pushing prices lower and lower over the years, why can't Microsoft? Intel makes elaborate hardware in billion-dollar factories. Microsoft stamps out a disk.
This discrepancy has to end soon.

March 8th, 2009, 03:27 PM
Funny comment in the comments section:

So how the hell did Linux manage to cost nothing and still be a viable replacement?


March 8th, 2009, 07:18 PM
I agree with him when he said that even those products may not be successful, they will expose more people to possible alternatives for Microsoft software. And that may be a bad thing for Microsoft if some of those people buy a little less from Microsoft because of it.

Wow, there's a lot of myths perpetuated in the comments sections. Like this one...

Finally, the availability of excellent freeware is infinitely greater with Windows than with linux.

Assuming the commenter doesn't know the difference between free and open source, I'll assume that *freeware* also includes open source. So not only is there more available in Windows, there's *infinitely* more available? I guess the 18,000 some software packages in the Debian repos must of been overlooked. Practically all open source software of any significant quality is available on Linux. There's some free but not open source software and of course they will likely only be available on Windows, but the best of the breed software is usually driven by the open source community and therefore available on Linux.

March 8th, 2009, 07:24 PM
It occurs to me in writing this post that I could get in an awful lot of trouble if I said what I really thought, so I'm going to leave it at this: There are statements in the article which contain truth, but I wouldn't rely or depend upon the source.