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Monday, March 27, 2006

Closing Windows of Opportunity?

The LA Times has an op-ed on the principal topic of my last post: whether Ms Windows is losing some of its relevance:

"Since XP was released in 2001, however, there has been an accelerating shift away from programs that run entirely on your own computer, such as Microsoft Word, to applications and services based on the Web, such as Google's Blogger. You can tap into your corporate computer network, communicate with friends, assemble photo albums, listen to music and manage your finances using little more than a Web browser. And the list of Web-based applications is only growing.

A good example is the Rhapsody music service from RealNetworks Inc. Launched in 2001, Rhapsody lets subscribers listen to an unlimited supply of songs for a flat monthly fee. For the first four years, subscribers could connect to Rhapsody only through a program that ran exclusively on Windows. In December, however, Real released a Web-based variation that works on Macs, Linux-powered computers and even older versions of Windows.

Another factor is the spread of computer-like power and functions to devices that don't need Windows. Videogame consoles, digital recorders, iPods, BlackBerrys and cellphones are encroaching on the PC's turf, and Apple Computer Inc. has demonstrated considerable flair in using its own software.

As a consequence, operating systems and the desktop programs they support just aren't as important as they used to be. Meanwhile, the task of assembling a new version of Windows has grown steadily more difficult, given the variety of software and hardware it needs to support. Microsoft originally promised a successor to XP by late 2003. That upgrade, dubbed Windows Vista, now won't be available for home computers until at least early 2007.

The longer it takes for Vista to emerge, the harder it will be for Microsoft to persuade people to make the switch. Already, competitors such as Google and Mozilla are making available for free some of the Vista features that Microsoft is touting.