Everyone Wants To Be Microsoft

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After the EU took Microsoft (INTC) out back and beat it up over anti-trust charges and then a European court upheld the EU ruling and fines, it would seem no one would want to be in Redmond’s shoes. The press is now full of articles about how Intel (INTC), Apple (AAPL), and Qualcomm (QCOM) might be the next Microsoft. Europe may look at their chips and iPods as tools of the monopolist.

Microsoft has become something of a corporate pariah.

That is unless one turns to the desktop. Eveyone still want to be Microsoft there. Google (GOOG) has started its Apps product, which has document, spreadsheet, and Powerpoint features. It hopes to take business from Microsoft Office which sold 71 million copies in the company’s last fiscal year.

Now, IBM (IBM) wants to be Microsoft. According to The Wall Street Journal "IBM plans to post on the Internet a package of its own software with applications that square off against components of Microsoft’s ubiquitous Office suite — a word processor to rival Word, a spreadsheet to go up against Excel and business-presentation software as an alternative to PowerPoint."

The new IBM product is based on Open Office, which is what Google and Sun (SUNW) are already using for their desktop suites. Big Blue wants to offer the free stuff to promote its own Notes product which provides email and instant messaging. Microsoft pretty much put Notes out of business over a decade ago.

Office has been challenged before,band with software that was close to free, if not just simply free. Linux desktop software has been available for some time. But, the interest in applications like Lindows began to fall off a few years ago. The product may have cost little, but it was hard to use and did not work well with Windows, which most PCs already have. There is usually talk about using a Linux desktop for low cost computers for under-developed countries. It never seems to materialize.

But, there is a reason that the Chinese pirate Windows in huge numbers. They could have Linux for free and not face prosecution (and, in China, execution). Windows has more features, more functions, and it only costs a little over $100.

Everyone wants to be Microsoft because they would like to sell hundreds of millions of something that companies and people will pay $100 for.

But, for better or worse, you don’t just get to be Microsoft overnight.

Douglas A. McIntyre