While there are technical and legal reasons why M$ will retreat from their monopoly position on the desktop, the manner and timing of their demise is uncertain. A stock analyst has written a good piece about the economic/market forces keeping M$ afloat.
- When desktop PCs dominated, M$ had a virtual competitor in small businesses and individuals building their own PCs from parts and installing illegal copies of M$’s stuff. Now that notebooks dominate that is more difficult. There are still relatively few notebooks produced without that other OS, mostly netbooks. Except for the netbook this is a big up-side for M$.
- That other OS is tricky to move from one PC to another so large deployments keep a few prototypes and do disc copying to install/update/repair systems. GNU/Linux loves to run on anything so this is a huge threat to M$.
- The virtual machine makes it much easier to run other OS with the stability/reliability of MacOS on Apple and the low cost of GNU/Linux.
- GNU/Linux is more than ready for the desktop.
TFA is an initial assessment of the status, not a conclusion. I tend to conclude that in the long run, M$ cannot win and the desktop will be free. M$ can do lots of holding/delaying actions and with enough spending can drag the end out for more profitable years but as the netbook showed, large hits can come quickly. One point the authour missed largely is the continuing growth of malware as an industry attacking M$. The cost of that other OS as licensing and maintenance is large enough. Fighting the malware is an even larger cost. For the time being, GNU/Linux has a free ride on malware and in the end will do better against malware. Further, while TFA may be a great analysis of existing markets, the future is huge for small cheap computers which squeezes M$ out completely. They cannot put $200 licences on $100 netbooks. When a large part of the market will use such machines, M$ will lose share. Even today, “7″ is appearing on netbooks which sell for less than the licence for “7″. That means M$ is paying OEMs to install “7″ which is not a good long-range win for them. It is a delaying tactic. The next down-turn will end that practice and they will immediately lose a good share of production.