In our opinion, we’re about five years into the a decade-long destruction of one of the most powerful and profitable monopolies in history.
The latest EU decision, in which Microsoft will offer European PC buyers a choice of browsers, is not a big deal in and of itself. Many of the users offered a choice will still choose IE, and Europe isn’t the world. Also, since Microsoft makes no money from selling the browser, the decision won’t have a financial impact.
But the move will hasten the erosion of IE’s global share. And this, in turn, will inhibit Microsoft’s ability to drive people to its own online services. And it comes as Microsoft’s influence is waning in several other critical areas:
- Desktop operating systems. The “operating system” is gradually being reduced to a set of drivers designed to run a single app: The Internet. Microsoft is struggling to maintain its pricing and profit structure in netbook sales (the fastest growing segment of the market), and “desktops” are no longer the centre of the computing universe. As more and more resources are shifted to the cloud, and users access the same info and apps from multiple devices and locations, the role of the desktop operating system will be further reduced.
- Mobile computing. Relative to Apple, Research In Motion, and other mobile leaders, Microsoft is nowhere here.
- Cloud computing. In a world in which the processing and the apps live in the cloud, the operating systemon any given device is much less important.
- Office apps. Yes, Google Apps are still weak, especially for professional users. But Google has grabbed the low end of the office app market, and they’ll presumably build from there. Meanwhile, Microsoft’s features and functionality in Office have vastly overshot the needs of the mainstream market. This makes Office ripe for disruption.
So, by itself, the EU decision won’t mean much. But viewed from the perspective of Microsoft’s overall competitive position, it’s yet another step in the wrong direction.
We’re experimenting w/ some video here at SAI. In the clip below, former Goldman analyst Heather Leonard and I discuss the EU news. Please let us know what you think of this format:
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