July 20th, 2016

Microsoft Isn’t Going Away Any Time Soon

When Steve Ballmer left Microsoft, the company seemed to be losing its grip and many predicted the company would slowly slide into oblivion. The company’s latest financials show the company to be healthy, and not likely to quit being a thorn in FOSS’s side for the foreseeable future.

Common knowledge is a funny thing. It’s often wrong and based on wishes instead of reality. Take the supposition that shows up in the comments on FOSS Force whenever Microsoft pops up in the news. Among many GNU/Linux desktop users, Windows is now irrelevant and Microsoft is a dying company that’s all but on life support. This is pure wishful thinking based on a passionate dislike of all things Microsoft by many Linux users.

Microsoft

Photo by Ben Franske [GFDL]

While it’s true that Windows’ base is shrinking and has been for a number of years, it’s share of the desktop market still stands at an estimated 84 percent according to StatCounter, To be sure, that’s a steep decline from the numbers the company enjoyed a decade ago, but it still represents a near monopoly. It’s also true that all indications are that Windows’ market share will continue to drop. However, Windows will continue to hold a commanding lead in operating system use for at least the next decade and beyond.

Besides, Windows doesn’t matter as much to Redmond’s bottom line as it once did and the company’s fiscal health seems to be robust. According to this week’s financial report from Microsoft, the company took in $22.6 billion during the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2016, for a net income of $5.5 billion. Revenues were down slightly but still beat Wall Street’s expectations by nearly a half billion dollars, and profits were up. For the entire year, the company grossed $92 billion, again beating the Street’s expectation, with a net of $22.3 billion.

Redmond’s biggest success these days is from the company’s cloud service, Azure, which is where it’s been betting most of its marbles. Azure’s revenue was up 102 percent from the same quarter last year, and Microsoft says that, also compared with the same quarter last year, Azure’s usage has doubled. This is an area that’s particularly a sore spot for FOSS advocates, as much of the service’s income is generated off the back of Linux, aided by key partnerships with Red Hat and Canonical.

The only major negative for Microsoft in this report comes from the usual suspect: mobile. Microsoft phone revenue fell by 71 percent, for a dollar loss estimated by the Register to be $870 million. Even search advertising, which forever was a big loser for Redmond, saw in increase of over a half billion dollars.

What this means, of course, is that Microsoft isn’t going to go away anytime soon, if ever. This is especially true given that enterprise open source advocates are embracing Redmond’s open source enterprise efforts. It would be nice to see these strategic partners, especially Red Hat, Canonical and other FOSS oriented companies, put pressure on Redmond to work and play better with the FOSS community. They could start by making some noise on Microsoft’s software patent policies.

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Christine Hall has been a journalist since 1971. In 2001, she began writing a weekly consumer computer column and started covering Linux and FOSS in 2002 after making the switch to GNU/Linux. Follow her on Twitter: @BrideOfLinux

Latest posts by Christine Hall (see all)

48 comments to Microsoft Isn’t Going Away Any Time Soon

  • Mike S.

    Thanks for giving an honest view of the situation. I agree with your assessment – no matter how much I want the company to collapse, it probably won’t happen in the next two decades and maybe not in this century.

  • Mike

    I’m more pragmatic. I don’t care if the company lingers around forever as long as they keep their sticky fingers out of the consumer/hobbyist space where they are nothing but a malignant nuisance.

    My take:
    They are already irrelevant to consumer computing.

    The consumer space is now dedicated solely to mobile, dominated by Android and iOS while Microsoft’s aspirations are in the toilet. Anyone who thinks consumers still need or care about laptops/desktops is delusional. Only a tiny minority of people need the facilities of a traditional desktop. The rest are just fine with a tablet or phone. As mobile devices grow more powerful, even more areas currently considered the purview of desktops will be swallowed up. As mobile OS’s mature, wireless keyboard/mouse/display tech will make traditional laptops/desktops completely obsolete. Getting ‘real work’ (the mantra of Microsoft types) done will be no more difficult on a tablet than desktop.

    Microsoft will not play a part in this future. They’re brand is tarnished (they can’t even keep Windows working on first party hardware). Microsoft will continue their current trend of becoming a back end services provider and their name will eventually mean as much to teenagers as IBM does now, i.e. nothing at all.

  • Mike

    Additional:

    As for the IoT, hobbyist, and maker space, Microsoft has already ceded that one hundred percent to Linux. (See: Raspberry Pi, et al.)

    Even Microsoft saw that happening and made a halfhearted attempt to support the Raspberry Pi 2 with Windows 10 IoT Core, but one simple look comparing it to the flexibility of Linux and it immediately looks like a joke.

  • @Mike: If revenue of $8.9 billion in the consumer computing industry is “irrelevant”, then I sure wish *I* could be that irrelevant.

    It’s certainly possible that desktop and laptop PC’s will become irrelevant to the consumer market. But to suggest that it’s already happened is a little on the premature side.

  • wanderson

    Christine Hall’s “reality check” for many Linux and other Free/Open Source Software (FOSS) users is needed from time to time, as long as one remembers the truism of popular saying ” Just because you (Linux user/supporter) are paranoid (unrealistic about Microsoft demise) doesn’t mean Microsoft isn’t trying to get you.

  • Duncan

    Anything as big as MS was at the turn of the century (when I switched) isn’t totally going away any time soon. Even if their then-current primary income were to dry up within a year (an impossibility unless due to a world-as-we-know-it-ending catastrophe), with the billions they had, and have… they could simply switch to being a finance company and live off the interest. Or more practically, they’d do what the one-time monopolist IBM did, continue, but with the monopoly less and less influential until it’s broken or at least no longer the “all roads lead to Rome” barrier to others it once was as there’s now other ways to do the same thing, and they’re simply one company among many.

    Which is pretty much what we see happening. The power of MS on the desktop is down some and may well continue to drop, slowly, but it remains well above the 60% share that was determined to be critical in the courts and is near certain to remain above that critical 60% mark for a decade at least, and could easily retain it for two.

    But the “all roads lead to Rome” (Rome in this case being the desktop) criticality of the desktop itself is evaporating, and that’s turning out to be the more important factor. As that criticality lessens, with the current mobile duopoly supplanting it, MS is slowly sinking toward simply being one more still very big, but still just one more, company among many.

    As for MS being irrelevant, for me and I suppose many, it’s a personal thing. While they’re going to remain a huge factor in the general desktop picture, and a somewhat smaller but still significant factor in the server and cloud pictures, for some time, they long ago lost their /direct/ relevance /for/ /me/.

    And even their /indirect/ relevance isn’t like it was these days, as it has become far easier to maintain that direct irrelevance, taking the road /around/ Rome, as it were. OK, so some site I visit might have components hosted or even be entirely hosted on Azure… big deal, there’s other sites and other cloud providers, and I don’t see anyone predicting that Azure’s going to become a monopolist there, what with the other big players not standing still either.

    The big problem with MS these days is the patent problem. But fortunately or unfortunately, MS is just one player among many seriously abusing /that/ situation, so while while MS is definitely a serious problem in that regard, it’s simply one among many, so even there, the indirect monopolistic relevance is receding.

    And while it might be /nice/ to see MS “SCOified”, at least here, I don’t really have a problem with it remaining another IBM, still big, huge even (as SCO found out), but not the can’t-route-around-it monopolist it once was, as the world has moved on.

  • Mike

    “It’s certainly possible that desktop and laptop PC’s will become irrelevant to the consumer market. But to suggest that it’s already happened is a little on the premature side.”

    Nope, it’s ALREADY happened. Look at the continued slide of PC sales. Only businesses are buying them in any quantity. Just like businesses continued to buy IBM green screen terminals LONG after IBM lost relevancy in the consumer space. Microsoft can play shell games with reporting income (as they have been doing for years now), but they have already lost the masses.

    Duncan put it quite well, saying not only is Microsoft losing relevancy within the desktop market, but the market itself is losing its importance. The combined effect is much larger than either together would seem. Sure Microsoft will continue to make money, but that wasn’t my argument. My point was that even if they hang around forever as a multi-billion dollar company, their days of calling the shots in the software world are over, except as a patent troll.

  • Mike S.

    I think anyone that’s paying attention knows that mobile is king in the future. That’s why I respect the attempts Canonical is making with Ubuntu Touch – even if I think it’s doomed.

    I’m actually shocked Microsoft did not put ten times as much resources into Windows Phone.

    On the other hand, they still have a staggering amount of resources. They bought Mojang. I’m sure they have their eyes out for other upstart technologies and technology companies. Their death is not guaranteed.

    And while I think mobile apps and sites are eating away at traditional desktop computing a bit at a time, I think we’re a long way from the irrelevance of the desktop.

    One important factor to consider was that a top of the line PC from 1996 was useless in 2006 but even a mid range PC from 2006 runs Windows 10 just fine today. So much of the decline in PC sales is simply that the old stuff still works!

  • Mike

    “One important factor to consider was that a top of the line PC from 1996 was useless in 2006 but even a mid range PC from 2006 runs Windows 10 just fine today. So much of the decline in PC sales is simply that the old stuff still works!”

    That is another factor making Windows less relevant. How?

    Old PC’s last longer now because Intel CPU clock speeds have been stagnant for nearly a decade. Meanwhile ARM CPU speeds continue to increase and are becoming comparable. ARM CPU’s favor Linux because Windows loses its biggest advantage on ARM: Namely its huge library of application software and backward compatibility. Linux can spread to new architectures rapidly because FOSS can be recompiled by anyone. Proprietary software requires the original developer to spend effort on it. This is why Windows RT was a complete failure, when people realized it wouldn’t run any of their existing software.

    Windows today is where Blackberry was a few years ago. While Microsoft as a company may survive and possibly even thrive, Windows will continue to waste away. Mark my words.

  • Toney

    No offense, but like most media, the audience attracted are those that want to reinforce their own views. No offense, but most of you are a bunch of losers.

  • NonSequiTourDeForce

    While M$ still has the grip on the desktop, at every large company if you scratch the surface, you’ll find Linux underneath. All the infrastructure runs Linux, and as long as the suits don’t see it, they don’t complain about it. Many times they use services running on Linux machines without even realizing it.

    In the financial industry, what keeps M$ entrenched is Excel. I don’t know if anyone realizes the enormous amount of VBA macros that run critical services. I’ve seen attempts to replace the VBA macros with scripts written in more civilized languages (like Python), but the suits frown at anything that is not familiar.

    Another industry dominated by M$ is the publishing industry, but Apple is making serious inroads in that one.

    So, to get to the point, while M$ is enjoying their revenue stream now, one more subtle thing that is quietly slipping away is their relevance. That will be a lot more difficult to recover.

  • Yeah like the other comments, I don’t care if MS exists just so long as it lets the rest of us IT people breathe.

    The two good trends are: 1) On the inside, MS products becoming soaked with open source, and 2) on the outside, more open source competitors taking a bite out of MS market share.

    It makes sense for a deep-pockets company to win at cloud services. That’s mostly a race for who can buy the biggest fastest data center hardware. It just takes brute cash, open source can’t really leverage hardware away with cleverness.

  • Also, desktops won’t be irrelevant until you can create a feature length CGI movie from scratch on your android tablet.

    Tablets are for consumers, workstations are for creators!

  • rambo919

    Desktops are just as relevant as they were 20 years ago. It’s still the same kind of people using them for the same kind of reasons. Tablet users are the other non-technical people that never really wanted a PC anyway but likes a minority of the things it does. It’s not that the desktop is DYING it’s just that the growth has stopped because saturation has been reached. Nothing can grow indefinitely ffs, thinking it will is corporate delusion. TBH the desktop at the moment is as good as is needed for anything normal sane people want, and no one wants to keep buying everything all over again very 5 years, the idiots just think they do.

    I rather welcome a slow-down, should flush away all the junk that has become rather endemic to life in general. “Proper” games are really just violent bling and boobs, “proper” software is so bloated it barely makes it out of the door and the only actually interesting movies are about freaks in tights (no GoT is NOT good, it’s another example of violent bling and boobs).

  • Mike

    > “Also, desktops won’t be irrelevant until you can create a feature length CGI movie from scratch on your android tablet.”

    > “Tablets are for consumers, workstations are for creators!”

    Complete BS, parroted over and over again by people who don’t get it.

    If most people no longer have need of a desktop, then desktops are irrelevant to the consumer space. So what if a tiny percentage of people (developers and movie makers) need something more? 99.99% of users do not need to create a ‘feature length CGI movie’. Just like 99.99% of people don’t need a mainframe, or an AS-400, or a Cray supercomputer. They are irrelevant devices in the exact same sense, despite still being sold to those that do need them.

    You can create content on a tablet. Tablets and phones are good enough for most people…that’s what’s important. Even those high-end capabilities are not impossible to achieve on a tablet, just not easy at the moment because…wait for it…most people don’t need it.

  • rambo919

    That unfortunately says more about most people than the devices themselves. Just a bunch of idiot consumers feeding their minds with what others choose to make for them to think. This will lead to manufaturers responding by making more even more closed down devices which will end up being the only alternative unless you spend a LOT more money for a proper one. THAT is the real problem that a lot of people are actually panicking over.

  • Mike

    > “It’s still the same kind of people using them for the same kind of reasons.”

    That’s not true at all. Mobile has completely shifted the majority of the population away from needing a desktop.

    > “Tablet users are the other non-technical people that never really wanted a PC anyway but likes a minority of the things it does.”

    Exactly. They needed a PC to do a few things. Now they don’t need one. Just because they are non-technical doesn’t mean they weren’t ‘real’ PC users. People who need a PC today are in the extreme minority; ergo, desktops are irrelevant to consumer computing.

    PC sales will not recover. People will continue to keep what they have and it will moulder away in a corner, used less and less until it gets tossed after people realize they never touch it anymore.

    Just for perspective, I am a software developer and a gamer. Do mobile devices do everything I need? No, but I also have no delusion that I am a typical user. Additionally I find mobile devices are increasingly able to do the things I need and I am finding fewer and fewer reasons to use a full-size computer. As phone/tablet interfaces get better and specs increase that trend will only increase. There is no going back…nor should we want to.

  • Mike

    > “That unfortunately says more about most people than the devices themselves. Just a bunch of idiot consumers feeding their minds with what others choose to make for them to think.”

    Perhaps, perhaps not. But your feelings towards non-technical people doesn’t change the reality. Technical people have always been merely a statistical blip among the population.

    > “This will lead to manufaturers responding by making more even more closed down devices which will end up being the only alternative unless you spend a LOT more money for a proper one.”

    Spending money on a more capable device doesn’t guarantee an open one.

    This isn’t a mobile/desktop or technical/non-technical user issue. This is the fundamental problem that FOSS awareness seeks to correct. But how do you get a lot of people who don’t have any concept of how software even works to care about software/hardware freedom?

    The problem is huge (possibly insurmountable), as even among the technically literate FOSS advocacy is typically equated with religious extremism and dismissed by people who should know better.

  • rambo919

    As a gamer no mobile platform or even console has ever come close to reaching my standards. Civilization on console for example will never work as well as on a pc of the same power will for example, and playing a complicated rpg or rts with a controller…. no thanks. Playing an action game on a touch screen makes me scared I will accidentally press my thumb right through it…. also almost all android games suck horribly and I am not even talking about the pay-2-win garbage.

  • rambo919

    The cult-like zealotry of vocal FOSS evangelists does not help fight against religious extremism charges. A lot of these people are no different than Apple lemmings really. The other problem is anyone even remotely freaked about locked down anything gets knee-jerk accused of being a conspiracy nutcase because no one does the effort to actually think further than here and now any more.

    By spending money on a proper one I meant a more open device not a more powerful one. Power means nothing unless you can actually use it the way you want to.

  • Mike

    > “As a gamer no mobile platform or even console has ever come close to reaching my standards.”

    I happen to agree with you. I also believe it doesn’t matter to practically everybody but a select few.

  • RWF

    It does not really matter at this point. What matters is that Windows on mobile devices is dead. At best, it might be able to carve a niche for itself with some business users, but that’s all. This repugnant company no longer interferes directly with me, and can no longer bully me. I would get a lot of schadenfreude out of seeing it crumble and die, but that would just be the icing on the cake. As long as it stays where it – i.e. largely irrelevant to me – I am OK.

  • rambo919

    The problem there is that in a perverse way windows on tablets was also one of the best things for linux on tablets because for a while it pushed x86 cpu’s on those tablets… Unless a proper wrapper or emulator comes through it will take at least a decade for FOSS to get a proper mobile foothold because everything we already have will need to be arm-ified.

  • Mike

    > “The cult-like zealotry of vocal FOSS evangelists does not help fight against religious extremism charges. A lot of these people are no different than Apple lemmings really.”

    Your statement is exactly the crap I am talking about. People speaking about the importance of FOSS see the dangers of locked down software/hardware more clearly than most. Given the general level of ignorance/uncaring most people have, placing any visible urgency or importance on these matters is enough to get them branded a zealot or fanatic. It doesn’t make them wrong.

    > “The other problem is anyone even remotely freaked about locked down anything gets knee-jerk accused of being a conspiracy nutcase because no one does the effort to actually think further than here and now any more.

    This is the exact opposite of the argument you just made…either free/open is important or it is not. You can’t have it both ways.

    > “By spending money on a proper one I meant a more open device not a more powerful one.”

    If you don’t place an importance on open software/hardware then as I said before: Spending more money isn’t going to guarantee you anything except a more capable device. If the masses get locked down, eventually the stragglers will lose all leverage and be every bit as locked down. Getting people to care about software/hardware freedom is the ONLY way forward that doesn’t lead to virtual slavery.

    > “The problem there is that in a perverse way windows on tablets was also one of the best things for linux on tablets because for a while it pushed x86 cpu’s on those tablets… Unless a proper wrapper or emulator comes through it will take at least a decade for FOSS to get a proper mobile foothold because everything we already have will need to be arm-ified.”

    Linux doesn’t need Windows at all. Linux and associated software works just fine on ARM today. Windows is the one with the unhealthy co-dependence on x86 hardware due to its closed nature. Raspberry Pi’s and many other SBC’s are ARM and I can run a dozen different distros on them with huge repositories of software already available. Windows can make no such claim.

  • rambo919

    I did not contradict myself, there are many in the FOSS community who like stallman has zealously lost some measure of touch with reality, especially in the linux area. The most common symptom of this is the “repo’s are all” mentality married with a strange visceral fear of anything not completely open. The real world DOES have non-open linux ware to offer but these get ignored or even actively vilified. The strange thing is when it comes to games though all the cultyness magically disappears and these same idiots hypocritically fall over themselves to document how to get it to run and where/how to find it.

    As for arm, only a part of the open projects are active enough to even bother with it and almost all the closed down software will maybe only somewhere in the future bother to port to it.

  • Nonya

    Micro$shaft may not be going away anytime soon, but neither is the PC. Just because the PC market has reached saturation point, and new PC don’t offer much advantage (if any) over those a few years old don’t mean that they are going away any time soon. Today’s tablets cannot substitute for a laptop or desktop PC. Neither can “smart” phones. A tablet or “smart” phone may be all some folks need to consume content, bu those who create the content, and those who need to get real work done still need a laptop or desktop PC. If this changes in the future, it will be because tablets will have become much more like a laptop PC (with a touch screen). That means a real keyboard, more ports, faster and more powerful processors, more memory, larger screens, much better software, etc… In other words, a more portable and versatile laptop as opposed to today’s tablets and “smart” phones.

    I for one have done all that I can to educate those less technically oriented than myself about Micro$haft’s attempts to take over users computers, lock them into Micro$haft’s products and take away all choice and control from them (via Windows 10), and point out that they have choices other than Microshaft, and/or Windows 10. I don’t say (or think) that everyone should use Linux. For many, Windows 7 works just fine (as long as the spyware updates are not installed).

    Choices are good, but M$ wants to and will keep trying to take choices away from as many as possible. And I will keep trying to educate others on their choices and how to avoid M$’s digital slavery!

  • Bobo Moreno

    Revenue is not profit. Their profit margins will come under huge pressure as they are now no longer able to rely on a monopoly and underhand business practices.

  • > “You can create content on a tablet. ”

    I know zero professionals who would make that choice. I will concede the obvious that mobiles have eaten a popular subset of what desktops do, but calling workstations irrelevant means you are huffing glue. Ask Pixar, DreamWorks, Sony, Google, GM, Steam, etc. etc. to switch to tablets and they’d slap your face.

    > “Even those high-end capabilities are not impossible to achieve on a tablet, just not easy at the moment because…wait for it…most people don’t need it.”

    And when they add those features to a tablet it’ll be called.. wait for it.. a workstation!

  • Mike S.

    @Mike,

    As usual, I find myself in strong agreement with you. But I think the point rambo919 was trying to make was that for x86 phones and tablets there were more Linux device drivers already in existence. The one massive problem with ARM and mobile is that so many ARM mobile devices need proprietary firmware for the device drivers. At least, that’s my guess at what he or she meant. Cyanogenmod uses proprietary firmware everywhere. Even Replicant sticks with proprietary firmware for the cellular network connectivity and by skipping it elsewhere it renders the device only as useful as a $10 feature phone.

    With respect to gaming, desktop still beats Android but that gap is slowly narrowing too in all respects – performance, graphics, clever and challenging use of touch inputs, fun. My kids split their time between their Android devices and a gaming PC and a Playstation.

    Also think in terms of cost. Just about everyone above the poverty level in the first world has a smart phone, so the Android gaming device is already in their pocket and their budget. The separate game console or gaming PC is an additional expense. I predict the number of people willing to spend the extra money will diminish over time.

  • Mike S.

    @Rambo919,
    Actually, I’m one of the FOSS zealots that doesn’t go for proprietary games, either. My kids do, and I don’t force them to do otherwise because they’ll only hate me for it. But proprietary *anything* software – drivers, games, media – always infringes on user freedoms.

    @Nonya,
    You have an insulting attitude towards the average technical person.

    @John,
    Pixar, DreamWorks, Sony, Google, GM, and Steam all together employ, what, 0.03% of the US workforce? Less? My wife works in the medical field and her only work “computer” is a Samsung Galaxy Note 5. My brother-in-law runs his contracting business, complete with a team of employees, from his Android phone and a bluetooth printer. My neighbor runs his entire landscaping business from his iPhone. The food truck down the street uses an iPad as a cash register and has a USB gadget that plugs into it for credit card transactions. The coffee shop I like has the exact same setup. The only program installed on the computers at my local library is a web browser – which means they could switch to Chrome OS or Android without problems.

    So what percent of workers need a true desktop PC to be productive? System administrators. Software developers. Accountants. Photo and video editors. What’s that, maybe 4% of the population? 2%?

  • Ricardo

    Obsolete: having passed its time of use or usefulness -Merriam Webster

    By definition, the desktop is NOT obsolete.

    Mobile has created a fork, whereby consumers gravitate towards tablets and people that need to get work done prefer desktops.

    That makes sense to me 🙂

    I’m a software developer. I would not be able to do what I do in a tablet or phone. Heck, I cannot run a server on a tablet/phone to have a proper test environment.

    I do foresee a time though, when tablets/phones will be so powerful that it will be possible to “link” a phone/tablet (Canonical style) to a big screen and a keyboard and THEN I would agree that the desktop as we know it will become obsolete.

    We are not there yet … but we are getting close.

  • Mike

    @rambo919

    > “I did not contradict myself, there are many in the FOSS community who like stallman has zealously lost some measure of touch with reality, especially in the linux area. The most common symptom of this is the “repo’s are all” mentality married with a strange visceral fear of anything not completely open.”

    So to you: To reject closed software/hardware as harmful is to be a zealot…

    > “The real world DOES have non-open linux ware to offer but these get ignored or even actively vilified. The strange thing is when it comes to games though all the cultyness magically disappears and these same idiots hypocritically fall over themselves to document how to get it to run and where/how to find it.”

    …yet to partially embrace closed source software in niches where open source might be lacking is to be a hypocrite.

    No way to win, eh? You sound like a Microsoftie.

    > “As for arm, only a part of the open projects are active enough to even bother with it and almost all the closed down software will maybe only somewhere in the future bother to port to it.”

    …Closed source software is equally harmful as locked down hardware.

    @John

    > “I know zero professionals who would make that choice…Ask Pixar, DreamWorks, Sony, Google, GM, Steam, etc. etc. to switch to tablets and they’d slap your face.”

    They have specialized needs, like I said. Consumer computing gives zero figs about their needs. In that respect, desktop workstations are already irrelevant.

    > “And when they add those features to a tablet it’ll be called.. wait for it.. a workstation!”

    The name is irrelevant. It’ll be a high end computing device in a tiny package using a mix of wireless IO and display tech. It will NOT be running Windows.

    @Mike S.

    > “The one massive problem with ARM and mobile is that so many ARM mobile devices need proprietary firmware for the device drivers.”

    This is indeed a problem…but Intel is an even bigger one. The entire platform is cryptographically locked into running Intel’s management engine containing not just drivers, but an ENTIRE OS RUNNING IN PARALLEL with total access to the entire machine. It can supersede anything Windows or Linux does on the box and keep them from seeing what’s really going on, even down to acting as a completely SEPARATE machine on a network. ARM has problems, but is a much better bet on the future in terms of open hardware than Intel is.

    @Ricardo

    > “Obsolete: having passed its time of use or usefulness -Merriam Webster

    By definition, the desktop is NOT obsolete.”

    It has definitely passed its time of usefulness for most people, meaning it is functionally obsolete for the vast majority of the consumer computing industry.

    > “Mobile has created a fork, whereby consumers gravitate towards tablets and people that need to get work done prefer desktops.”

    Specialized work only…much work can be done on a tablet. More all the time. Desktops are slowly losing their hold on even specialized uses.

    > “I’m a software developer. I would not be able to do what I do in a tablet or phone. Heck, I cannot run a server on a tablet/phone to have a proper test environment.”

    Developers are few and far between compared to the general population. I am a developer and I can do some of what I need on a tablet…more all the time. An ARM tablet is not that different from a Raspberry Pi and you can run KVM virtualization on those. Sure the CPU’s are kinda slow still, but that’s changing rapidly. Tablets and other ARM devices will increasingly become attractive development platforms over big, bulky Intel boxes. Eventually only Windows developers will need big boxes…just like Cobol developers.

    > “I do foresee a time though, when tablets/phones will be so powerful that it will be possible to “link” a phone/tablet (Canonical style) to a big screen and a keyboard and THEN I would agree that the desktop as we know it will become obsolete.”

    Agreed that it will be obsolete for EVRYONE then. It is obsolete for MOST EVERYONE right now.

  • Mike S.

    @Ricardo,

    Before your comment, “Obsolete” came up once in the discussion, and the sentence was, “As mobile OS’s mature, wireless keyboard/mouse/display tech will make traditional laptops/desktops completely obsolete.” I don’t think anyone is arguing that the desktop is obsolete or irrelevant today or even soon.

    We’re just making the point that for the great majority of the population – not everyone, but probably for literally 90% – the market is shifting towards mobile.

  • >”So what percent of workers need a true desktop PC to be productive? System administrators. Software developers. Accountants. Photo and video editors. What’s that, maybe 4% of the population? 2%?”

    It doesn’t matter. What does matter is that the entire *rest* of the computing world would grind to a halt without content creators and engineers. Therefore not irrelevant.

    So you really think lawyers are writing 100-page contracts on their phones? And students everywhere write their term papers and homework on phones? And doctors write up patient medical histories on their iPads? And all of those models in Shapeways and Thingiverse and Blendswap were made on phones? And on and on. ‘Cause I think we’re getting a little higher than 4% here.

  • Basically Msft is losing the desktop war and going to cloud services, that is what has saved them. GNU/Linux will end up taking over for device, desktop/laptop operating systems.

  • Mike

    > “So you really think lawyers are writing 100-page contracts on their phones?”

    Lawyers just copy & paste (I know a few). That can be done from anything.

    > “And students everywhere write their term papers and homework on phones?”

    All the students I see are using Chromebooks or tablets, so yes?

    > “And doctors write up patient medical histories on their iPads?”

    Seen that.

    > “And all of those models in Shapeways and Thingiverse and Blendswap were made on phones? And on and on. ‘Cause I think we’re getting a little higher than 4% here.”

    I’ve made and modified a bunch of models for my 3-D printer (which is run by a raspberry pi) on a raspberry pi. Do you consider little Linux ARM machines that are practically tablet hardware without a touchscreen as ‘workstations’?

    Since this discussion started about Microsoft and has morphed somewhat, I’ll take it back:

    Question: Is Microsoft relevant to the consumer computing industry?

    Answer: Not anymore.

    They may continue to be relevant in business, the same way IBM AS-400’s are. But young Microsoft developers are becoming like young Cobol developers…hard to find, and largely useless except in large foot dragging enterprises.

  • Henry Kurth

    “Meanwhile ARM CPU speeds continue to increase and are becoming comparable. ARM CPU’s favor Linux because Windows loses its biggest advantage on ARM: Namely its huge library of application software and backward compatibility. Linux can spread to new architectures rapidly because FOSS can be recompiled by anyone. ”

    I would tend to agree with the above quote.

    Here’s an interesting thread over on the BSD side:

    Shawn Webb posted this to freebsd-arm@.

    Anyone know how the current FreeBSD aarch64 code would run on it?

    g

    ——– Forwarded Message ——–
    Subject: ARM64 Desktop
    Date: Wed, 20 Jul 2016 17:13:57 -0400

    Hey All,

    If I were to buy the below-linked desktop, what kinds of things would I
    be looking at to implement support for it? Alternatively, since it
    supports UEFI booting, would any work be needed to support it?

    Link to desktop: https://shop.softiron.co.uk/product/overdrive-1000/

    Thanks,

    Shawn Webb
    Cofounder and Security Engineer
    HardenedBSD

    GPG Key ID: 0x6A84658F52456EEE
    GPG Key Fingerprint: 2ABA B6BD EF6A F486 BE89 3D9E 6A84 658F 5245 6EEE

  • rambo919

    To make it closed source vs open source with one being evil and the other being good in absolutely all circumstances is zealotry yes, this is not some holy war and there are niches for both. Forcing FOSS in all circumstances is the same as forcing closed source in all circumstances, the sword cuts both ways.

    The hypocrisy comes from vilifying closed sourced software in everything but embracing it when it comes to games.

    When hardware is locked down this is equal to software drm NOT the software being closed source. Hardware being purposefully designed so that it cannot be physically modified or repaired is equal to closed source software.

  • Mike

    @rambo919

    > “To make it closed source vs open source with one being evil and the other being good in absolutely all circumstances is zealotry yes”

    No it isn’t, it’s self-protection.

    Closed source software cannot be independently verified to do only what it claims to do. Commercial forces ensure it WILL eventually end up doing something the end-user doesn’t want: i.e. Windows 10 upgrades acting like malware, as a recent example.

    > “this is not some holy war”

    Agreed, using only open source is just plain common sense if you care at all about your security or your privacy. No religion needed.

    > “and there are niches for both. Forcing FOSS in all circumstances is the same as forcing closed source in all circumstances, the sword cuts both ways.”

    I doubt anyone in the history of the world has ever been forced to use all FOSS. The reverse is not true. Saying they are equal is nonsense. Once values freedom, one does not.

    > “The hypocrisy comes from vilifying closed sourced software in everything but embracing it when it comes to games.”

    The ones you brand zealots (like Stallman) do not play closed source games and are not hypocrites. The ones who do are (like you) claiming that not all closed source is bad. You seem to want it both ways…they are both zealots and hypocrites…and that just doesn’t ring true with anyone I’ve ever met.

    The truth is that people fall all over the spectrum of caring about FOSS. Some (like me) feel it is a requirement to have any hope of actual security or privacy. Others think they are being more pragmatic by just accepting the most convenient piece of software for a particular job, and are willing to take their chances with closed source, be that a game, Skype, or Adobe Flash videos. Others don’t know or don’t care at all.

    Your attempts to pigeonhole people based on your obvious preconceived notions are silly and hold no water.

    > “When hardware is locked down this is equal to software drm NOT the software being closed source. Hardware being purposefully designed so that it cannot be physically modified or repaired is equal to closed source software.”

    Locked down hardware, DRM, and closed source are kissing cousins. DRM can’t exist on a truly open platform because people will modify the code/hardware to remove it. This is because DRM is effectively just bad software/hardware. It really is https://www.defectivebydesign.org/

  • Mike

    Closed source software is just primitive DRM.

    🙂

  • Henry Kurth

    If someone offers me $90 an hour to do SAS, which is a closed source software, and much easier to code & maintain than say R, how is one being a hypocrite for doing the job? Why should I bother with R, when I can make $3k a week easily with SAS? Are you FOSS advocates claiming we should all dump SAS for R? Thats not only ridiculous, it’s plain stupid thinking.

  • Mike

    @Henry Kurth

    > “If someone offers me $90 an hour to do SAS, which is a closed source software, and much easier to code & maintain than say R, how is one being a hypocrite for doing the job?”

    Only rambo919 is calling people hypocrites for using closed source software, and I don’t see it coming from the perspective of a FOSS user, but rather someone who dislikes FOSS users.

    > “Why should I bother with R, when I can make $3k a week easily with SAS?”

    You can make money with R. Are you suggesting that people can’t?

    > “Are you FOSS advocates claiming we should all dump SAS for R? Thats not only ridiculous, it’s plain stupid thinking.”

    Did someone say that? There can be reasons to use closed software…it’s a choice everyone needs to make on a case by case basis. However, someone who makes that decision lightly with no real thought into what they are giving up by using closed source is making a mistake even if they don’t realize it. FOSS should always be the DEFAULT choice, and closed source only considered if it offers a specific and direct advantage over open source offerings that is not offset by a) The loss of freedom and control over the software and possibly your data, b) The loss of security and privacy protections, as closed source software cannot be effectively audited. Making those kinds of decisions without considering the full ramifications of what you are doing is not only ridiculous, it’s plain stupid thinking.

  • Mike

    Incidentally, R is far more powerful and flexible than SAS.

    Just sayin’

  • @Mike: “Nope, it’s ALREADY happened. Look at the continued slide of PC sales.”

    Those two sentences are a contradiction in terms. The latter refers to a process that is currently happening; the former suggests that the *same* process is complete.

    The desktop’s relevance is declining; that much is certainly true. But you are mistaking a process that is still ongoing for one that has finished.

    Windows 10 is underperforming MS’s generous expectations (largely due to the failure of Windows Mobile), but it’s still got an install base of 350 million devices. Approximately 20 million of those are Xbox Ones, there are bound to be a few million people still using Windows Phones, but that still means there are over 300 million desktops and laptops running Windows 10. And if you think the majority of those are business users, then you don’t have a working idea of how long it takes business to adopt a new operating system.

    Windows 8 is running on roughly half as many devices as Windows 10; we can likewise conclude that the majority of those are end users’ desktops and laptops. Even if we were to write off every single Windows 7 and below installation as a business device (that’s certainly not the case, but just for the sake of argument), we’re looking at a consumer userbase for Windows that exceeds the population of the United States.

    Home consumers are shifting focus to mobile devices, it’s true — but that’s shift*ing*, present tense. Most people, at least in developed countries, still own, and regularly use, a traditional desktop or laptop computer, even if they’re using it less than their phone.

    You’re mistaking “less relevant” for “irrelevant”, “is happening” for “already happened”, and “falling” for “hit bottom”. You’re not wrong about the shape of the curve, you just think we’re farther to the right on it than we actually are.

    I’m not saying any of this because I’m eager to defend Microsoft; I’d *love* for Microsoft to go away and become something I don’t have to deal with anymore. (Not that Google and Apple are ideal replacements, but that’s a separate conversation.) But Windows is still a going concern, whether we want it to be or not.

  • Mike

    @Thad

    >> @Mike: “Nope, it’s ALREADY happened. Look at the continued slide of PC sales.”

    > “Those two sentences are a contradiction in terms. The latter refers to a process that is currently happening; the former suggests that the *same* process is complete.”

    Not a contradiction at all. PC sales have fallen dramatically because no one is buying new machines except businesses, meaning consumer purchasing of PC’s is bottoming out. People simply are not buying new Windows machines any longer. Sure, lots of people still have PC’s. They may even use them from time to time and Microsoft can definitely take advantage of these people by forcing updates to Windows 10 to make adoption numbers look less crappy.

    Thus my statement that Windows desktops (and by extension Microsoft) are now irrelevant to consumer computing. PC sales to businesses will continue for who knows how long, but nothing will bring consumers back to Windows desktops.

  • wumpus

    “>”So what percent of workers need a true desktop PC to be productive? System administrators. Software developers. Accountants. Photo and video editors. What’s that, maybe 4% of the population? 2%?”

    What boggles my mind is just how long businesses are going to keep slapping [Microsoft] desktops on these people. Presumably google (and its Android division) understand that all businesses (with the possible exception of MPAA/RIAA see their IP as worthless and won’t pay an extra dime for security (so somehow managed to make an even more malware-friendly than the “execute by default” windows platform). I guess it is a thing where “the more you spend, the bigger your turf” and nobody is remotely interested in saving a dime.

    Expect the death of the consumer desktop (for values of desktop that include notebooks) to be slow for different reasons. Last summer my mom bought a “win10 upgradeable” that couldn’t, and promptly exchanged it for a “real” win10 machine. Turns out what she really wanted was a chromebook. So there is the problem: people who have zero need of windows also have zero understanding of the options (which shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone).

  • For corporations, all it takes is an inflection point. If you’re not constantly growing, you’re dying as far as the market’s concerned. MS maintains a lot of dead weight it can rapidly cut loose (like a hot air balloon with sandbags) if it needs to boost its margins to meet market expectations. Similarly, it dumps money into weak options when it’s earning too much. If MS hits the no-longer-growing inflection point, it’s sliding into oblivion. That’s cool by me.

  • Henry Kurth

    I would not be so bold as to say that R is better than SAS; but it is a very different animal for sure. SAS just celebrated 40 yrs. Dr. Goodnight is quite a genius and he funds many NC education initiatives. Many SAS modules now interface with R code. I have worked with R code at Merck on a monte-carlo project – it was very interesting work.

    But I think as computer & memory prices continuously slide, as has been duly noted in this thread, and as more and more data analysis centers on the cloud, in memory processing of R & python become more and more routine, and over time, SAS could lose out the way MS has lost out on newer technologies. But to plug SAS one more time, they have a new platform, “visual analytics”, it uses a hadoop framework, and its quite interesting, although I’ve never had a chance to use it.

    Most companies still are stuck in legacy SAS mode.

    Newer analysis needs seem to be spotfire or tableau focused.