If I were smaht and I worked at Microsoft, I might consider the freebie that Apple’s put out in Bootcamp as an opportunity to really stake my claim on the future. Think about it — the most proprietary hardware in the world can now run Windows. Boy I’d take that software — the Windows OS that is — and give it away for free.

Think about it — the browser market’s price was set at zero many years ago, leading to Microsoft’s monopoly. If you give your product away (as Google does) can it be considered a monopoly? Furthermore, the value of an OS, ignoring the cost of development, is rapidly diminshing as more apps migrate to the web.

So why not do something totally whack and just give it away, interupting the whole OSX onslaught? I mean, I’m not much good with math or economics, but could it really hurt at this point?

Author: Chris Messina

Head of West Coast Business Development at Republic. Ever-curious product designer and technologist. Hashtag inventor. Previously: Molly.com (YC W18), Uber, Google.

10 thoughts on “—”

  1. Chris,

    I absolutely agree with you and think you’ve brough up a good point. This would be one great way to counterattack Apple in this market. Not only that, but your point speaks to a new way of thinking and if most businesses would only get the fact that zero value isn’t a bad move on certain products (esp since some things have zero preceived value) then they might be able to move faster and compete better.

  2. ” If you give your product away (as Google does) can it be considered a monopoly?”

    interesting point there !! Does it ??

    After all they host my email, webpages , groups , pic’s, contracts, calender etc etc.. for free !! Are they sucking us into a vortex of no return ? is google the blackhole of information in the world as we know it ??

    whewwwwwwwwww.. you spawned a whole new ball of wax for me.. Wonder what others think.. will post back a link here to see what other think !!

  3. Well — Google doesn’t give it away per se given the advertising they subject you to, but nevertheless… they have a virtual monopoly on a product that they don’t directly charge you for… is that a defensible position against what became Microsoft’s Achilles heal?

  4. In 2005, Microsoft made $12 billion in revenue from client-side operating systems alone. So yes, just giving it away would hurt. 🙂

  5. I do not really see why Microsoft needs to do it right now. The only two serious competitors to Microsoft in the desktop OS space are MacOSX and Linux. But they have their own share of issues.

    Steve Jobs doesn’t want to sell the OS alone (which I think is quite stupid especially after they have moved to x86 themselves!). Some people argue that the price of MacOSX is very less and hence does not justify it being released as an individual product to be used on non-Apple hardware because Apple tries to think of itself as a hardware vendor. Why not just have two different price plans – cheaper version for Apple hardware and a more expensive one for non-Apple hardware?

    Linux has really bad driver support to start with (ok you don’t have to flame me – I’m a Linux user myself). And it is not Linux’s fault anyways.

    So with no serious competitors, why should Microsoft give away Windows for free? Google and the potential threat of a WebOS running web2.0 apps you might say? Unless network connectivity costs come down to a level where it is negligible, I do not see this happening. There is also the problem of lack of ubiquitious connectivity and general unreliability of remotely-hosted apps.

    The cost of a Windows XP SP2 Home Edition amortised over a 3 year period comes to around $5/mo. But the cost of a high-speed internet connection is way more than this. Why would anyone give up a conventional OS and pay ridiculously high amounts of money to logon to the internet to access their apps which don’t actually need network connectivity?

    And with ‘net neutrality’ receiving a blow, I do not think consumers are safe hosting all their data remotely. Basically the telcos will become the next Microsofts of the world – they can regulate the markets anyway they want.

    I think Microsoft can afford to sit and enjoy the revenue that comes off Windows for atleast another 5-6 years meanwhile doing whatever is necessary to realign their strategy for the post-Vista period.


  6. I don’t really think that they will — I’m just saying that, hey, it would be interesting. Microsoft doesn’t exactly need the money — though they are still squabbling with the EU over settlement terms.

    I mean, AOL wants to offer free high speed internet… Skype and others offer free calls… even though applications will still need client-side processing power, the connectivity issues with this first generation of web apps will slowly diminish as browsers finally gain some real features (like better offline support and unbroken back buttons in AJAX apps).

    The OS just seems like a losing place to be fighting the battle — and adding spyware to the system isn’t going to stem the piracy. With Windows Live, better support for RSS and a new widgeting system, it seems like the place to win is in web-based services that run on an open and free OS. But hey, that’s just me — and big bucks, while interesting, aren’t really what I’m all about. 😀

  7. Chris, 48 hrs ago Stephan Hawkings asked a question , during that time there were over 15,000 answers by the community. The question was “How can the human race survive the next hundred years?”

    Now, humanity by itself has infused itself into information technology and are able to transfer infromation and knowledge at a community level. But this is only possible of the tool set is there.. correct ??

    Now I’ll hold that ‘toolset’ thought here, why do we look at google/yahoo/msft as a s/w service compnay ? thats jsut because they provide the s/w tools. But tools by itself have no value unless there is matter that can be worked on. This matter is simple data that is kept somewhere – its pretty silo’fied in terms of generic “company” services, yet its community based to (like groups). I think the shift in thinking here– Is that these companies are spawning ‘herds’ of users into a specific silo and then those herds become locked in.

    If these companies permit exhange of community data then it will progression, else I am aligned to my former thoguht process being “silos = blackholes”.

  8. oh btw, I forgot.. “a new widgeting system, it seems like the place to win is in web-based services that run on an open and free ” —

    You are locking the community into a widget tool based paradigm too :)-

  9. I was having this exact same thought yesterday. I think it is very much a case of giving the razor away for free and making a mint on the blades. In this case the razor is Windows and the blades are the Office suite of products. If Microsoft loses OS-share it will also take a tremendous hit on Office revenues. By giving the OS away they can preserve platform dominance and make it up on their software packages – after all, corporate IT managers are no were near ready to turn sensitive things over to fly-by-night Web 2.0 startups; there will be a large business need for on-the-desktop software for at least the next five years.

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