I have been through several technical generations in the computer industry. When a product becomes obsolete and is faced with competition from a new product which is faster, cheaper, more reliable, easier to use, etc the new product does not replace the old product instantly. There is usually a conversion cost to switching to the new product. For some users the conversion cost may be low enough that they switch immediately. For others the cost of conversion is too high to be justified by the ongoing savings of the new product.
This means that there is a big difference between the rate of uptake for the new product between old and new applications. The old applications' conversion rate is slow. But for a brand new application the developer will always choose to build on top of the latest, greatest technology. Microsoft is old technology which cannot compete with Linux. So Linux almost always wins in competition for new applications. After Linux became mature enough almost all new server applications were built on Linux. After a certain point in time all supercomputers have been built on Linux. Linux is taking the lead in the mobile phone market. And so on. These are markets where there is a constant large entry of new applications.
In old applications the conversion rate is slow. Carrier grade computing converted to Linux, but that is an exception. Such applications as word processing have a very slow conversion rate because of the tremendous cost of converting all of the existing files and retraining the existing staff. A new company with no existing staff and no files to convert would choose Linux and Open Office but such companies make up a small part of the word processing market.
Linux is well ahead of Windows in cost, technical excellence, ease of configuration (try to configure Windows to run on a mobile phone), reliability, and range of available functions. Given Microsoft's horrible development practices Windows will fall further behind Linux (and Solaris, HP-UX, Symbian, AIX, OS X and so on). Bill Gates is so egotistical that as a part time Chairman of the Board he will continue to destroy any ideas within Microsoft about software development that did not originate with him. So the Microsoft development model will continue to deteriorate and increase the rate at which inferior ideas are incorporated into Microsoft software. As the quality difference between Microsoft software and all of the competition, including Linux, increases at an accelerating rate the number of applications that are worth converting will also increase. Even so, I can see Windows and Word lasting for another 20 years.
I can see Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer lasting another 5 years before the stockholders throw them out. (Between them they own about 14% of Microsoft.) At that point the new management will try to straighten out Microsoft. If Microsoft fails to reinvent itself in two attempts then I see Microsoft going bankrupt in about 20 years. That scenario is very likely. IBM reinventing itself the first try is very unusual. Most dinosaur industries take several tries before they successfully reinvent themselves, if ever. More typical is the steel industry or the American car industry both of which have had far more reinvention failures than successes.
But Microsoft's disasters will not necessarily result in Linux's domination of the computer industry. IBM, Sun, Apple, Nokia, and HP, among others, all produce competitive software. They also all have their developmental heads screwed on right and are nobody's patsy. So Microsoft will probably fade into oblivion and how the market is divided up among the rest of the players is anybody's guess but Linux is a good bet to run away with a large portion of Microsoft's existing market share.
P.S. As other posters have noted Microsoft is trying to force their customers to pay a high conversion cost while converting to Vista which is an inferior product even compared to XP. This erodes the conversion cost barrier for a customer to convert to something other than Microsoft.
Last edited by jailbait; 06-27-2008 at 10:44 PM.