Are the Days of Windows Desktop Dominance Numbered?

Nothing lasts forever. Not even Microsoft Windows. Microsoft has been shoving Windows 10 up our behinds for a while now, but even they know that someday, they’ll have to go back to the drawing board and come up with something new. Wintel PC sales continue to slide among consumers. Cloud computing is on the rise for businesses and enterprise software that can run on browsers continue to increase enabling users to choose their platform. Microsoft recently announced SQL Server for Linux. Microsoft Office has versions for Macs, iOS, and Android. Office versions can be run on Linux through Wine, and enterprise software can now be run through browsers or remote software across platforms. Plus, Microsoft saying that Windows 10 is the last version of Windows somehow paints an ominous picture for Windows fans.

One would think that Windows is the lifeblood of Microsoft. It sure seems that way as many of its own products run on it. But surprisingly, Windows now amounts to only ten percent of Microsoft’s revenue according to the company’s latest quarterly numbers. During the Ballmer era, Microsoft has been pushing the Windows brand into all devices like PDAs and smartphones and not working on supporting other platforms except for Office for Macs. Under Satya Nadella’s leadership, Microsoft finally did away with its ten-foot pole and began touching other platforms, creating Office versions for iOS and Android. Recently, Xbox Live now allows cross-platform gaming with Sony. Even when its own Windows store is sorely lacking in apps, Microsoft’s Garage Project has churned out apps for iOS and Android.

The decline of Wintel PCs on the consumer market, the rising popularity of Macs, Linux and Chromebooks and the steady rise of cloud computing may have pushed Microsoft to the realization that Windows is now just an operating system, not THE operating system. Meaning that for the company to continue to profit, it needs to get its hands dirty and play ball with everyone else. Back in the day before Microsoft had its own operating system, the company’s source of revenue is creating software for other platforms such as the Altair, the Apple II and the Macintosh. That time has come again except, this time, its Linux, iOS and Android.

Under Nadella’s leadership and cloud-centric vision, Microsoft’s highest revenue-earner are its server and cloud divisions, followed by Xbox gaming, then by Microsoft Office, which includes Office 365 which encompasses Android and iOS versions. Should Microsoft create its own Linux distro with an Office version, Linux just might catch up to Windows on the enterprise and eat more into the profits of the company’s fourth revenue earner, Windows.

It’s all over the forums and comment sections of tech-oriented websites. People are switching, thinking of switching or are persuaded into switching to Macs, Chromebooks and Linux distros because of problems plaguing Windows, which began with Vista. Now, instead of putting up with Microsoft’s insistence of collecting telemetry, users prefer to keep using their old Windows XP, Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 licenses instead of buying into Windows 10 which could further erode any potential Windows 10 revenue.

But the days of Windows won’t end very soon. The Roman Empire didn’t fall immediately after Julius Caesar was killed. There are still a great number of businesses and consumers heavily invested into Windows-based technologies beginning with that airport in France still using Windows 3.1. Many businesses still use Windows-based SAP, Microsoft Dynamics, and SQL Server. Windows’ decline will depend on how fast enterprise software moves into the cloud or other platforms. SQL Server is currently on its way into Linux. There were reports of gamer dissatisfaction on Linux-based Steam machines, and Windows 10 is now part of the Xbox One system. So Windows will probably still be around in ten, twenty years tops. Perhaps replaced by Microsoft’s next big OS. Linux XP anyone?