Ever seen/read one of those plots where the survivors of some disaster struggle to survive and turn on each other as push comes to shove over the last food/water/plan for survival? Wintel has come to that.
In the early days of Wintel, M$ put itself forward as the saviour of mankind dictating the rules to loyal or somewhat disloyal followers. They largely got their way. At the height of its power M$ could tell Intel to lay off on development of software or set OEMs a long list of conditions. Now, however, everyone knows the music has stopped and M$ does not get to call the tune.
The world of IT is scrambling to fill the vacuum left in the place where M$’s power once was immovable. Every OEM and retailer has options to get the last milk from the cash cow and to plan moves to diversify IT. The last flotsam that the survivors of SS Wintel cling to is the retail monopoly. Large parts of the world have had nothing but Wintel on acres of shelving for a decade. There was plenty of cash-flow so that even if margins were small it was worthwhile for OEMs to pump the supply chain full of Wintel PCs.
Now, the retail shelf space is not growing. Instead ARMed smart thingies are intruding, smart phones, tablets, all-in-ones, even TVs and music players and GPS navigators are all able to satisfy consumers’ needs to be connected and to communicate and to be entertained. Most of these new devices run Linux underneath a GNU system, or Android. People are making cash from selling other products with good margins and good growth while the Wintel flotsam is shrinking. Survivors are planning their escapes or finding ways to steal share from fellow survivors.
The breakup of the Wintel monopoly has been going on for about a decade. First, some early adopters and former partners jumped ship to GNU/Linux on servers and desktops. They were mostly self-contained and not selling into the market so the shrinkage was tiny. Then a few OEMs boldly started selling just a few desktops running GNU/Linux, mostly to businesses and techno-geeks. Now OEMs are publicly selling GNU/Linux and Android/Linux on the web and in stores and many millions of units are shipping and many $billions of revenue are being made outside of Wintel while Wintel is stuck and FLOSSed products are growing in double digits.
Now, the leader of the survivors in the lifeboat has decided two survivors must be thrown overboard, GOME and Buy Now, two huge retail chains in China whom M$ accuses of selling illegal copies of that other OS on PCs. Whoa! Is there anyone left in the lifeboat who sees long-term survival with M$? How long will it be before the survivors see it is better to throw M$ overboard than to wait to see whether or not M$ will come after them? How long will it be before retailers see life would be safer for them not selling that other OS? How long can M$ stay in business suing its partners?
M$ needs retail in the BRIC countries to be partners or M$ will never have any more growth. Most of the growth in sales of PCs is in those countries and the market is global. Lenovo operates in China and in Brazil. Dell is in China already selling GNU/Linux in stores. Are they not tempted to approach GOME and propose an escape? That’s what I would do if I were a salesman in China.
M$’s most stalwart partners are the OEMs who have offered little to OEMs but that other OS for decades. They would turn on M$ in a heartbeat if the retailers begin demanding GNU/Linux and there’s nothing like the clarity of being sued by a supplier to make that happen. The retailers are in the business of selling stuff and they don’t care whether M$ benefits from it or not. Being threatened by M$ can cause a few retail chains to ban M$ from the shelves and the monopoly disintegrates and sinks forcing the last survivors to swim for it.
“Gome declined to comment on the lawsuit. Buynow said in a statement that the company is committed to protecting intellectual property rights, and already takes steps to ensure its vendors do not violate them. In this case, Microsoft failed to understand Buynow’s procedures, and rashly filed a lawsuit, the company said.”
“Rashly“. That says it all. It’s the term a father might use to straighten out a foolish son before taking him to the woodshed or grounding him for a month. Retailers have a huge lever to use to correct M$, acres of retail shelf-space. Chinese suppliers can fill those shelves with GNU/Linux within a few weeks.
From BuyNow’s website, “We do not sell counterfeit products. Our partners emphasize integrity, seek truth from facts, to create the most standard, the highest quality, most cost-effective IT sales platform.” BuyNow is part of a conglomerate including Clevo, and Chicony who make notebooks and peripherals in Taiwan. BuyNow was the most popular computer store in China in 2011.