This is going to be a long term prediction much like the one that Dave Winer made with Martin Nisenholtz of the New York Times about RSS but I think that the possibility of 2008 being the beginning of when Microsoft will start to feel the shift of consumers away from both the operating system and Office suite.
While their enterprise market share will be safe for a very long time the same cannot be said for the general consumer market and while Google Apps may be the winner on the web side of things I believe the really big winner will be Apple.
I’ve been around for computers for a very long time and of that Microsoft has been my only platform; other than the occasional foray into the different flavors of Linux, for that time. I remember when Apple was declared dead and buried. I remember as well all the snickering when it was announced that Steve Jobs was returning to bring Apple back from the dead and here we are at the end of 2007 and Apple is far from being dead and buried.
As MG Siegler points out in two posts today on his ParisLemon blog Apple has sold 5 million iPhones in six months and that he believes this is just the first step to mobile computing exploding in 2008 with Apple leading the way. This may be true; and I don’t doubt that the iPhone will make us rethink the whole mobile computing landscape, but I also think that we will see a growing movement to the Mac as a preferred consumer desktop.
For this Microsoft only has themselves to blame and for a number of reasons other than the typical anti-Microsoft fanboy type of nonsense. The main reason though is because of the concentration on their enterprise business and the cash cow that it is the consumer has begun to feel like an over used hooker on a Friday night with nothing other than some bloated eye candy to show for it.
But the real blow to Microsoft had to be the release of Vista this year and the great big thud that was heard echoing everywhere in the weeks after the WOW campaign failed to get Windows users all hot and bothered. It even got to the point that Microsoft had to back step on its usual policy of killing off the previous version of Windows to OEMs. At the point when XP should have been marking its retirement date on the calendar Microsoft had to breathe some more life into it.
During all this Apple brings OS X Leopard to the marketplace and even though it too had its problems the anticipation for it was palatable with just about everyone in the tech blogosphere talking about it. This was one of the first times that I had ever seen such interest outside of the Mac community over a release.
The other big thing that has worked in Apple’s favor is the fact that with recent versions of the OS X platform the ease of being able to run Windows and all its applications from within OS X has never been simpler. No longer are users feeling tied to running just Windows in order to do what they want. Along with this is the rising popularity of the Apple laptops which have seen the largest increase in sales in the laptop market.
While Microsoft may consider its core business being corporations and their massive workforces Apple is all about the consumer. From the iPod right through to the MacBook Apple has shown that the consumer wants more than just a collection of parts that runs the latest flavor of Windows on it. Granted you can’t blame Microsoft for the ugliness of the typical PC box that gets shipped out but that doesn’t change the fact that people want something more than a utilitarian desktop.
The consumer market may only be the gravy for Microsoft’s business but that gravy is starting to seriously look elsewhere. Sure Vista maybe a stellar product but the fact is that people are coming to realize that it isn’t the only kid on the block anymore. they are beginning to see that like the iPod they can have function and form and not be consistently gouged in the pocketbook for forever growing bloated software.
They are beginning to see that they have an alternative and that is one that doesn’t require running Windows. So while Microsoft continues to chalk up its volume licensing deals with corporations the consumer is beginning to step out from the weight and expense of Windows. This consumer marketplace is Microsoft’s to lose and I only hope is that MinWin (Windows 7) is where the real WOW is and that it comes to market before the shift become more substantial.
Oh and yes I am a once Vista but now XP user and have been a faithful Microsoft customer since my first day on a computer.