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We join spokes together in a wheel, but it is the emptiness of the center hole that makes the wagon move.
We shape clay into a pot, but it is the emptiness inside that holds whatever we want.
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.
Jun Dong-soo, president of Samsung’s memory chip division, doesn’t think much of Microsoft’s latest efforts:
John Paczkowski, Windows 8 No Better Than Vista, Says Samsung Exec
“The global PC industry is steadily shrinking despite the launch of Windows 8,” Jun said. “I think the Windows 8 system is no better than the previous Windows Vista platform.”
No better than Vista? Too cruel, too cruel.
And Jun was just getting started. That Vista quip was part of a one-two sucker punch that ended with a slag of another one of Microsoft’s big new efforts.
“[Microsoft’s] rollout of its Windows Surface tablet is seeing lackluster demand,” he said. “Meanwhile, previous vigorous pitches by Intel and MS for thinner ultra-books simply failed and I believe that’s mostly because of the less-competitive Windows platform.”
A brutal commentary on Windows 8, which has so far utterly failed to catalyze PC sales.
When will Microsoft’s board finally get rid of Ballmer?
Jennings pulls together many rumors pointing toward a touchscreen Chrome OS hybrid tablet/laptop designed and developed by Google.
If the Android/iOS one-two punch is a precedent, the emergence of a Chrome OS laptop/tablet is more of a threat to Microsoft’s push on Surface than Apple. And the Surface looks like it’s heading nowhere, according to Piper Jaffray’s Black Friday stats.
An alternate universe – Marco Arment
Microsoft is gambling a lot for a chance to fight with Apple, Amazon, and Google for the proximal (‘mobile’) device market. They are pissing off their historic partners, like Dell and HP, by making their first computers ever. The alternative might be to simply become an enterprise software company, milking Office, Sharepoint, and Yammer for the next decade.
I admit I like the keyboard cover idea, but I expect Apple will respond to that quickly.
But it may be too late, since the clients they want to attract with Surface and later products have already moved ahead with deployments of Apple and Android tablets:
With New Tablet, Microsoft Faces a Balancing Act - Nick Wingfield via NYTimes.com
Rich Adduci, chief information officer of Boston Scientific, a medical device company, has more than 20,000 PCs at his company using older Windows. But he has also deployed more than 5,500 iPads to sales representatives and other employees.
A day late and a dollar short?