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Tech Savvy for January 29, 2009

by Aaron Harper

    I was recently asked by a magazine for an opinion piece on where Microsoft will be in 10 years.  For the readers of the Huerfano Journal, here′s my take on the future of the richest company on the planet:

    Microsoft is no longer the master of their destiny. The mainstays of the Microsoft empire, their operating systems, office suites, and visual programming languages, are in trouble, but only in small part due to the bugs of their latest offerings.  The barbarians at the gate are MacOS, Linux, Open Source Software, and LAMP applications.  While I wouldn′t call them The Four Horsemen of Microsoft′s Apocalypse, they′ll have enough effect to make major changes necessary for Microsoft′s survival.

    Linux is already a very usable product.  Some find it easier to use and more stable than Vista.  If Linux continues this trend, primarily by improving the desktop, and Apple decides to release a new operating system that you can buy and install on any PC, Microsoft will lose even more market share.

    Open source is “a development method for software that harnesses the power of distributed peer review and transparency of process.  The promise of open source is better quality, higher reliability, more flexibility, lower cost, and an end to predatory vendor lock-in.” LAMP stands for Linux, Apache, MySQL, and PHP.  Together they form a programming framework for any application you can think of.

    Open source software is usually developed by an organization or person to “scratch an itch”… to solve a problem.  What happens when corporate America finds out that they can have an application written in house for less than the cost of the current licenses?  Because there are usually no per seat fees on LAMP or open source applications, government and industry who are (belatedly) trimming expenses will soon see the advantages.

    Most open source software is either quite specific or work in progress.  Some are arguably better, more mature products than their Microsoft equivalents. More software is in the queue, which will yield a glut of open source and LAMP software making it a “buyers market”.  Estimates put well over 150,000 open source software projects in active development, so that day is coming fast.

    While the software is free, the expertise is not. Open source software support will become a cottage industry, one which local companies will provide. This works well for local economies, since you′ll be spending money to solve problems on people you know rather than help buy some executive′s third Ferrari.  Once CompTIA and other certifying bodies have certifications for open source software and LAMP application support, it′s a sign of the end.

    Microsoft will have limited options if these things come to pass, and many of these are already in the works.  With the economy the way it is, and likely will continue through a recovery phase, they must rethink their product line and business model if they intend to survive.