Microsoft Tipping Point ?

Microsoft may be at a tipping point – a quality tipping point just as founder Bill Gates gets ready to leave this summer. And the whole problem is that huge, bloated Brobadingnang known as Vista. I have heard people who say that even after 300 fixes – Vista Service Pack 1 will a)not squelch some of the many hard core bugs and b)certainly will not remove the wide range of hardware and software compatibility problems (3rd party vendors are primaily responsible for these) c)almost certainly will not remove the huge memory bloat that makes Vistas memory requirements twice the size of Windows XP and almost four times the size of Linux – both running comparable startup programs, and d)if the Vista Service Pack itself is unsteady/buggy will surely sink Vistas approval ratings, already challenging President Bushs, even lower.

Now Microsoft is steadfastly citing that they have “sold” (in the Toronto Best Buy, Futureshop, Staples, and Computer Circuit Stores I cannot find any PC desktop or laptop that offers anything other than 6 flavors of Vista – no XP anywhere)over 100 million Vista licenses – so who is complaining ? Well David Pogue at the NYTimes cites some counter evidence: the burgeoning sales of Apples full line of computers. Remember that just 2 years ago Apple had 3% market share – it is now up to 6-7%. David cites a whole range of other notable evidence:
1)At this week’s Macworld Expo, there were 475 exhibitors. That’s 100 more booths than last year. There were 50,000 attendees. That’s 10,000 more people than last year.
2)A book publisher told me that 2007 Macintosh book sales were up by double-digit leaps over the previous year.
3)According to Net Applications, use of the Mac’s Web browser, Safari, climbed 32 percent in 2007.
4)Apple sold 2.16 million Macs in the last quarter–a new company record.

And I can find articles in Infoworld, PCMagazine, PCWorld, and other IT press that cite the growing luster of new Mac offerings such as the new Apple Xserver lineup and the new ultrathin Mac tablet with iPhone-like touchpad gestures. In short Apple is surging in no small part due to the fact that Vista (and Office 2007 and IE7) are just not People Ready, are no longer lowest cost and pose burdensome learning curves and “getting repaired/running” tasks just when people dont want these added to their daily work burdens. On the other side Apple offers greater security, familiarity and ease of use, and “cool”panache.

Things Could Get Worse for Redmond

But Apple is not alone. WalMart and Sears are selling $200 Linux-PCs with 1GB of RAM, 80GB hard drives and a full regalia of very good Open Source office, email/internet/messaging, graphics, and gaming software. And OLPC has Intels attention. So alternatives to Windows in the home/consumer sphere are very evident.

But the real test will be Windows Server 2008 . It is the key to the whole SQL Server 2008, Visual Studio 2008 and associated MS Servers rollout for this year. And Redmond admits that Server 2008 is built on a Vista core. The same core that Network Computing Magazine says has very deep (and hard to reproduce let alone debug) networking, security and integration issues. Now I know that Server 2008 has been touted to be 45 times faster than Server 2003 – but that might as well be a Mission Accomplished statement in the light of recent “Eat your own Dog Food” tests of Server 2008 on the Microsoft Website. There has been a rapid series of switches between Server 2003 and 2008 as users and services are reporting response time in the lower quartile for Microsoft.com

So in the February intro of Windows Server 2008 if any two of the following happen:
1)Server 2008 shows performance problems in Web site settings relative to Windows 2003 or Linux/Apache;
2)Server 2008 continues to exhibit the learning curve problems of Vista;
3)Server 2008 exhibits software and hardware incompatibility problems like Vista;
4)Server 2008 demands “double the hardware resources” of competitive servers;
5)Redmond response time and clearing of customers problems approximates the consumer Vista experience;
then Microsoft will have reached a tipping point.