Quick Hit: Microsoft Lives in Interesting Times

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It is apparently unclear whether “may you live in interesting times” is actually an ancient Chinese proverb/curse or the product of a SciFi author’s imagination; whatever the source, it’s a phrase that probably resonates all too well in the halls of Redmond these days.

There’s no question that Windows still dominates the desktop. Windows will continue to be the major player on the desktop for some time to come. It’s started to get interesting, though.

When the CIO of AT&T tells a reporter that “any CIO would not be doing due diligence if they are not looking at their options now” when considering what OS to deploy on corporate desktops, he’s probably just sending out a warning shot to MS — letting them know that they’re going to have to be really, really aggressive on price in the upcoming negotiations.

What’s interesting, though, is that it’s no longer an empty threat. AT&T will almost certainly go with Windows in the end, but it’s within the realm of possibility that they could choose to do otherwise. Choosing Linux or OSX would be…well, ballsy for a big corporation, but it’s possible these days. It’s a threat that MS has to take seriously.

Three years ago a CIO might have said that he was considering “all available options” on the desktop, but an MS rep could still walk into that first meeting secure in the knowledge that he would eventually — inevitably — walk out with a big, fat contract in his hands.

Now, in 2004, it would take a combination of real arrogance and inflexibility (on the part of MS) and deep conviction and willingness to take on the uncomfortable position of leading the pack (on the part of the corporation) for that to happen, but it could happen. Everybody involved knows that it could happen…and many of them believe that it will happen in the not too distant future.

Makes for some very interesting times.