Published on July 27th, 20090
Time for a new operating system?
Windows continues to be the operating system of choice for business but with viable alternatives available, and industry heavyweight Google set to wade in, will we reach a point where Microsoft’s dominance is shattered?
Windows has a massive market share, a huge installed user base, an abundance of support expertise, and remains the most widely supported platform for business software. For these reasons, it will remain the leading operating system for now.
However, there are signs that with Windows 7 soon due for release, business users may at last have a choice to make. Microsoft’s financial results show a fall in revenue of 17 per cent, with net income tumbling 29 per cent. Of course, you must view these results in light of the recession, which has hit the PC market hard. But Microsoft has traditionally battled on regardless of the economic climate; a three per cent fall in overall revenue last year is the first time since 1986 that annual revenues have declined. The software giant’s woes are most apparent in the client division, which sells Windows, with sales falling 13 per cent in 2009.
It takes no great analysis to realise that Vista has damaged Microsoft. Pre-sales for Windows 7 may be strong and the blip may be temporary, but does anyone really think that Microsoft has survived recent years unscathed? We can point to security fears that won’t go away, concerns over Microsoft’s focus in terms of what people want from an operating system, and a feeling that Windows absolute dominance has led to arrogance and complacency, but these factors are not definitive. The best evidence indicating Microsoft to be wobbling comes from looking at the actions of its competition.
Depending on whose research you favour, Apple has roughly doubled its market share from five to 10 per cent in the last five years. Yes, it is still a small figure compared to Windows share but the figure is significant, and in some key areas (high value computers, student usage), Apple’s share is far greater. Fuelled by smart marketing and the proliferation of Apple Stores which promote the brand and address many of the questions that customers have about switching platforms, Apple may not have won any wars, but has at least succeeded in proving that there is an alternative for many people who might have perhaps assumed it is Windows or nothing.
Further confirmation of Windows wavering dominance can be gleaned from the news that Google is launching its own, web-based operating system. Google is a smart company that has grown efficiently and impressively quickly. For it to contemplate creating an operating system surely proves that the weakness in Windows is real, and that in promising to give users a secure, trouble free, unintrusive experience shows that Google knows where the weak spots are.
Google’s master stroke however may be that the software will be web-based. The Software as a Service (SaaS) model is gaining momentum as a way of quickly and relatively cheaply enjoying the benefits of business software, and it is a model that throws up many interesting questions for support teams. If you take away the need to support software installed individually on each PC, and changes and fixes are offered remotely by a third party such as Google, the role of the service desk will have to be drastically reviewed.
Shifting a business to a new operating system is a massive undertaking, so much so that many will refuse to even contemplate it. Yet nothing lasts for ever, and if alternatives continue to make headway it would only need a few major companies to make the jump and suddenly there would be a greater level of interest, an upsurge in skills hitting the market and the flood gates might just very well open.
Do you think that Windows is seriously under threat? How would you adjust if asked to support a new operating system? And if the new software was web-based, how would it change the focus of your support team, or would it even become redundant? Have your say below.