Here’s the closing paragraphs of my weekly update at GigaOM Research. I started by looking at recent news about Zygna, Accenture, and Intel, who are all being whipsawed by the shift away from the PC and the rise of proximal devices (smartphones, tablets, and other ‘mobile’ devices). I finish with Microsoft:
Last fall, Microsoft CEO, Steve Ballmer, outlined his new vision for Microsoft in a letter to shareholders, and rumor has it that this week he will be announcing a major reorganization of the company to try to make that vision a reality. Bottom line: I think much of that reorganization will fail because he is still gambling on Windows and Surface to break through, and they won’t.
But what might emerge from the ashes of that house on fire could be a credible player in the very different world of enterprise IT coming down the pike. Let me characterize it:
100% Cloud — We are continuing to hear reasons why companies cannot move everything into the cloud, but in the final analysis they are quibbles disguised as prudence. Ultimately, anything that can be done on premise will be possible in the cloud, with the exception of physical on-site security (which is like pretending that your money is safer in the cookie jar under your bed than in a bank).
100% Proximal — There will be functionally zero stationary computing devices in just a few years, and people will be always on, wherever they are.
100% IT-less — The downturn in Accenture’s fortunes is the start of a collapse in enterprise IT consulting, and that will rapidly cascade across the industry. Why? The use of cloud-based enterprise software and proximal hardware cuts a huge hole out of the middle of what those consultants configure for their clients. Note that this won’t stop with outsourced IT staff: it means the end of IT internally, too. (Yes, companies will still own computing devices — on the factory floor, and in the hands of retail clerks. But increasingly they will be communicating with back office software running in the cloud.)
I am going to get a lot of flack for zooming ahead five years based on these trends, but I will stand by the prediction.
This is the deep background on the future of enterprise software in general, and specifically the form factor of future cowork (collaborative and cooperative) tools.
The enterprise software companies that will weather this sea change will be the ones that drop their efforts to stop the tide. They will have to make the change that Krzanich is making at Intel, betting on the future instead of fighting it.
One last prediction: Ballmer’s reorg this week — if it comes as expected — will be a hedge. The reorg that will indicate that Microsoft has turned the corner will be when Ballmer leaves the company, and a new CEO joins, shuts down the company’s hardware efforts, and deadpools Windows. I give Ballmer another year, at most, before the shareholders demand his head.