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More on Microsoft

The New York Times has an article about the gates and ozzie memos. The article is brief but catches the high points of Ozzie's memo - which in my opinion is right on the money about what Microsoft needs to be doing over the next five years in order to maintain their dominant position - focus on delivering an internet platform which makes collaborative services development as easy as pie and which is seamless across devices and environments... As ever, Microsoft is both friend and foe for software vendors such as my company (Microsoft calls us all "ISV"s for Independent Software Providers - implying "indepent" of Microsoft of course! :)). The trick is to stay nimble and stay ahead of them in the value creation game or risk seeing everything you do delivered in the next release of Windows.

For those of you who are not familiar with Ray Ozzie - he is nowadays CTO at Microsoft - but he has something of a rock star past in the collaborative software world. He was an early developer of Lotus 1-2-3, and then founded Lotus Notes (groupware!) - which he sold to IBM, and later founded Groove Networks (web-based collaboration!) which he then sold to Microsoft in the process becoming CTO (the post once held by Nathan Myhrvold). He has a blog, which he appears not to have updated since before he joined Microsoft. MS of course already has Sharepoint and Groove out there in the market, not to mention Exchange and Outlook, and this memo of Ozzie makes it clear that they will be rumbling and/or lumbering ever futher into the collaborative software space in years to come.

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If you check out www.live.com, they have a beta version of their site, which at this point is a kind of Google meets Yahoo. It is obvious that they are trying to avoid being marginalized by Google, Open Source and collaborative web services. I think that Microsoft is finally going to get overtaken, yet it will be a slow and lingering loss of dominance, a battle of attrition with the bleeding of a thousand cuts. Make no mistake, they will continue to be a formidable firm, but in the same pedestrian way that IBM is today. They do not have a sustainable competitive advantage beyond a five-year window, and an alternate distribution channel of the Internet direct to cable/television/integrated entertainment devices combined with convergence in mobile/wireless devices will continue to impact their ability to grow and dominate. This is just one forecast scenario of many possibilities and it will be interesting to evaluate it from the perspective of hindsight five years from today.

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