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12/20/2004 Archived Entry: "Still no pity for Microsoft"

One could almost feel pity for Microsoft. Almost. Instead, I think I'm experienceing schadenfreude to read all the following on the same day.

Linux is now shipping the new, version 2.6 kernel. A research project has found that Linux has significantly fewer bugs than proprietary software, 42 percent of Argentina's companies are now using Linux, and IDC has forecast that Linux will generate $35 billion in revenue by 2008. Meanwhile, the next-generation Windows, code-named Longhorn, has had the much-touted WinFS file system yanked and still won't be ready for two years. (So many features have been trimmed that some wags are calling it "Shorthorn.")

The Firefox web browser is a roaring success, so popular that donations have paid for a two-page ad in the New York Times thanking the 10,000 contributors. For the first time, Internet Explorer is losing market share, and Microsoft is desperately trying to bolt on anti-spyware features to IE to win back customers. (Too bad about the new IE security flaw that hit even Service Pack 2 systems.)

Microsoft won't update IE until Longhorn, and probably won't release a new Office until then either. Meanwhile, Open Office 2.0 is in the preview stage, and will include the missing piece of the Office suite: a database program (like Microsoft Access). It's also said to offer improved Office compatibility. Given that OpenOffice, like Firefox, is available for Windows, Mac, and Linux, I expect users concerned about cost or portability to start switching to OpenOffice rather than shell out for Microsoft's latest.

Since Windows and Office are Microsoft's two money-makers, all of this is going to hit the Knights of the Blue Screen in the pocketbook. Microsoft can no longer compete on features, technical superiority, or reliability, and they sure haven't built customer loyalty. Expect action on three fronts: a continuing FUD campaign to discredit Linux, backroom deals to lock Windows into new PCs, and no end of lobbying for government favors (in the form of expanded patent laws).


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