Operating systems wars have been skirmishes. They haven’t produced any major upsets. Microsoft dominates the OS completely and despite the Linux aficionados, Microsoft’s strong hold remained unchallenged especially at the low to medium end servers and in desktops. It is a different story in the mobile space though.
But things are slowly changing and my sense is that in the next couple of years, Microsoft will face more heat compared to anything that it has ever faced on the server front.
Microsoft will have to increasingly contend with VMWare which has bolstered its arsenal with its acquisition of Springsource – maker of open-source software development tools which can analyze and optimize the application performance. This could allow VMWare to undermine the Windows operating system.
Despite all the talk about the huge growth of virtualization, the untapped market is still large. Currently virtualization has been done mostly at the data centers (which is where the complexity is and where the cost savings are) and even there the current estimate is that less than 25% of the servers are virtualized. This creates a big opportunity. It is no surprise that Cisco wants a piece of this market and it is targeting them with its Unified Computing system.
Well, there’s a desktop market and a notebook market and it will require a different approach to tackle this market. Currently the focus seems to be on the servers.
Microsoft cannot afford to ignore this market. In fact it announced Hyper V Virtual machine as part of its Windows Server 2008 and it is likely that it will offer several enhancements in time to come. Moreover, Microsoft can afford to give its Hyper V free. With other contenders like Citrix Xen, Virtual Iron remaining in the fringes, it is going to be a battle between Microsoft and VMWare. And again, this battle is not just one of functionality or product features, but increasingly fought on a business model.
In some way, it could very well resemble the browser wars of the nineties.
But from Microsoft’s standpoint the battle for the OS has another contender. Google with its web based software for office and productivity applications is also undermining the Windows operating system.
The early impact on Microsoft is here to see. However it is too early to announce the demise of Windows.
So, the skirmishes are over and the battle is being fought on many fronts.