Thursday, October 19, 2006

Be Very Afraid

The big news a couple of months ago was Apple's announcement that it would ship a program (currently in beta) called "Boot Camp" that would allow users of the MacBook (with the new Intel dual core processor) dual boot between Mac OS X and Windows. I guess hell really did freeze over.

Maybe Steve & Company finally realized that they really do only have about 4% of the OS market. I guess they figured if people run Windows on Apple Hardware, then they would also finally be exposed to the "computing for the rest of us" - the elegant way that computer interfaces should be.

I guess they're hoping Windows users will wonder at the seamless way that a Mac will recognize peripherals, wireless networks, and other goodies that often require untold downloads and installs of various service packs, driver updates, "have CD" installs and all the other crap that is standard procedure on any Windows box.

If I were Microsoft, I would be "concerned."

Microsoft is busy missing shipping deadlines for Vista (their next version of the Windows operating system); heavily promoting "studies" (that they funded) slamming Linux as a server OS; and also readying a new update to Office; and Exchange; and SQL Server; and .NET; and Visual Studio; and... and... and... oh, never mind. Let's just say they're updating everything under the sun - in order to stay relevant. To keep their OS dominance in the marketplace.

Meanwhile, the world is a changing. Sun released their Solaris OS as open source. Open Office is gaining steam in new versions as a viable alternative to the Office suite. Red Hat just bought middleware maker JBoss (also open source) to beef up their Linux server platform. Oracle is buying up open source companies like they were going out of style.

If I were Microsoft, I would be "very concerned."

The cash cows of Microsoft have traditionally been it's Server operating system, Office productivity suite, and SQL Server database. With Linux (server operating system), Open Office (and cousin Star Office from Sun - productivity suite), and MySQL costing a small fraction of the price with 80%+ of the functionality - and all being open-source - the Microsoft cash cows are starting to look like hamburger.

Then, while surfing this week, I came across something - yet another open source, reasonably priced piece of software. It's called Zimbra. This app is delivered via a browser and uses AJAX. It comes with a "collaboration server" - and the web-based UI is optional. You can just as easily use Thunderbird or even Outlook. The AJAX-based UI is very cool and has drag/drop capabilities, a "reading pane" for emails, a collaborative calendar, supports an API that would allow developers to create "Zimlets" that would - for example - get information on a FedEx package when the cursor is rolled over it, etc.

Oh, and they also just announced they would be adding a word processing and spreadsheet to the suite as well. Cost? "Small Business Edition" at $1,450 per year for up to 50 users, or the "Standard Edition" at $28 per user/year (min 500 - then in blocks of 50). Included is access to their knowledge base, email, phone and 24x7 crisis support.

Can you say "Exchange killer?" Unlike Google's disjointed offerings and Microsoft's own LAME "Live Office" offering - this is looking very interesting. And cheap. And open-source. And browser-based. And cheap.

If one of the "big boys" (Google, Yahoo, etc.) picked up on this technology and were able to push it through their already huge network of users - well... it could be the beginning of the end of the Microsoft-dominated software era.

If I were Microsoft, I would be "afraid." Very afraid.

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