Wednesday, January 16, 2008 - The Progress & Freedom Foundation Blog

Four Dimensional Squeeze?

See BusinessWeek's take on "EU-Microsoft II: The Rematch."

This time, the [EU's] allegations concern Microsoft's core operations and, if they stick, could disrupt the company's Internet strategy and weaken its dominance of desktop software.

Is yet another round of antitrust investigations targeting Microsoft really necessary?

Think about it. Big technology and business forces are already severely squeezing Microsoft on at least three sides.

(1) Linux and open source software in general continue to gain traction, especially out on the Web, where IT experts administer the infrastructure.

(2) After decades as a 5% market-share alsoran, Apple is surging. Its iPods, iPhones, and new iMacs and MacBooks sporting Intel dual-core processors have catapulted Apple into the big leagues. No longer just for graphic designers and artists, businesspeople and average consumers are now widely adopting Macs. Apple just sold four million iPhones in 200 days, and even with the latest market plunge, the stock is up over 200% in the last 18 months.

(3) Perhaps the biggest threat to Microsoft is the transformative new paradigm of cloud computing, most conspicuously manifest in Google. When network bandwidth meets or exceeds backplane bandwidth, the computer -- the PC and its hardware and software -- gets distributed across the Net. Two decades ago Sun Microsystems said "The Network is the Computer." Many thought Sun, Java, and thin-clients would disrupt and even do-in Microsoft. It didn't happen. There wasn't enough bandwidth. But today Google and thousands of other Web companies are taking advantage of growing wired and wireless bandwidth and making Sun's mantra a reality.

These new options -- in software, hardware, and "netware" -- have mixed and muddled this fast growing market, yielding a wild array of new innovaitons, and nearly too many choices for consumers to fathom. No one knows just which computes, bits, applications, and transmits will be shuffled and stored locally on your device, on the edge by a network service provider, or by a cloudsource platform in the core. In many cases, it will be a multilayered combination of all three.

Microsoft still retains a host of advantages -- people, profits, cash, a foothold in gaming with Xbox, and an apparently terrific new Office product, which could ward off online app challengers like Google Docs.

But with Microsoft facing a serious and fascinating three-dimensional technology squeeze, do we really need to add an arbitrary fourth layer of Eurocracy?

UPDATE: The Wall Street Journal comments on "Europe v. U.S. Business."

posted by Bret Swanson @ 12:32 PM | Antitrust & Competition Policy