Microsoft recently announced that it has sold 175 million copies of its Windows 7 operating
windows-7-momentum-continues-175-million-licenses-sold.aspx). By the time you read
this, quite a few more copies will have shifted hands, as the official company line is that
more than seven copies are being sold per second, each and every day. Given the asking
price of Windows 7, that’s a serious chunk of change, although I guess it’s worth pointing
out that some of those copies will be bundled “OEM” versions that don’t generate quite as
much revenue as a fully boxed store bought copy.
No doubt the bean counters at Microsoft are rubbing together their platinum bars right now
in glee. Windows 7 has been a hugely needed hit for Microsoft after plentiful customer
complaints around Windows Vista and significant reluctance for customers to update from
Windows XP, an operating system that’s rapidly approaching ten years old.
To put that in perspective, if you were still running a ten year old OS when Windows
XP came out, you’d be running Windows 3.0 on the top of DOS. You’d also see a lot
of crashes, spend an awful amount of time mucking around with config.sys files and
wondering why none of your USB peripherals ever worked.
Ten years ago, however, Microsoft’s grip on the IT market, especially in the consumer
space, was pretty much iron-clad. A couple of months after XP hit the market, Apple
released its first iPod models, but they were Mac-only in a market that didn’t much care for
Macs. Ask people ten years ago to Google something, and they’d probably stare at you
blankly. Your TV was smaller and yet weighed a whole lot more than it currently does, and
hanging it on a wall would have involved some kind of industrial winch.
A lot has changed, in other words, and it does bear the question as to what the future
holds for Microsoft. The turbulent IT market is shifting with some users jumping over
to the Mac camp, others adopting the open source credo of Linux and plenty waiting
to see how Google’s Chrome OS pans out. A lot of actual computing is being done on
portable devices such as tablets and smart phones. Even the humble TV incorporates a
lot more in the way of IT. Within ten years a TV without Ethernet connectivity will seem
as technologically antiquated as DOS does today. To put it simply, operating systems
themselves aren’t likely to be the cash cow they have been historically.
Microsoft clearly still has lots of current market clout, not to mention spare cash. I doubt
that I’ll see Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer busking for pennies at my local railway station
any time soon. Still, the company will need more hits along the lines of Windows 7 in order
to simply maintain its market position, let alone expand it.