Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Windows Live

MSFT last week launched Windows/Office Live which moves the platform on which access Microsoft products to the web. The following are the immediate implications:

  • Microsoft accepts 'Software as a Service' is the way to go for the future. This is significant because of its huge user base and could actualy affect all its offerings in future.
  • Microsoft believes ads will the future revenue driver. Many services on Live might be free.
  • Microsoft wants to put Live on a perpetual Beta. What it means is will keep releasing/adding features as and when they appear testable by users. This is a radical shift considering the Vista scenario where competitors claim to offer features which Vista will supposedly offer year end 2006.

In terms of future possiblilities, the possible scenarios (if MSFT's point of view is right) are interesting, some actually scary for some companies in the industry. The assumption is that the future world will be something like this:

Prophecies of a WebOS will become a reality. The Operating Systems running our applications will be hosted by big servers run by companies across the world. Our laptops/desktops will be no more than terminals which support only an Internet browser. Of course, you will need powerful machines for 'Entertainment' needs.

Intel/Dell: If all we do moves to the web, the current desktop machines with their powerful configurations will become obsolete. We will actually need only skinnier machines which at least only support a web browser. No one is going to pay extra for that 'Intel Inside' and actually margins on desktops should disappear. If Intel/Dell have to survive, they would have to sell home computers as 'Entertainment Centers', which actually they have already started doing.

Microsoft-Vista: What will be the role of Vista in such a scenario ? Vista as a packaged/bundled software will not make sense. MSFT might try and tie-up many Live features with Vista. Given the current move, it looks more like a hedging strategy from Microsoft, not being ready to get left behind.

Geo-Strategy: This is actually a crazy scenario, but imagine all our data and all our applications are on Servers run by big US multinationals and all these servers are in the US. And, one fine day the White House decides to impose a software embargo on Iraq. It can effectively turn off all software services to Iraq !!

IPR: This is more of an obvious change. You can no more use Office XP for free in India. You would have to pay for all features you use on Live. You cannot walk across the hallway and borrow that Windows CD from your friend.

Big Brother: Of course, all this is another step towards exposing more of what we do to the people running popular applications and effectively to the government. Web Search, Desktop Search and now Software Services on the web.

(P.S.: I had actually predicted MSFT could offer such a service during a conversation with my friend a coulple of years ago.)

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