10
Jan
09

Microsoft should buy Lenovo

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Back in the 80s Microsoft did something that made it the largest software company ever: licensing it’s OS to hardware vendors. Apple lost a huge opportunity by keeping it’s OS proprietary; IBM lost opportunity of a lifetime by outsourcing the OS for IBM-PC to Microsoft and letting them license it to others. Both of these will go down in historically as some of the biggest mistakes in computer industry.

But times have changed now. Back in those days software was not understood very well and the market for computer software was still nascent. In a way Microsoft was the first pure software company. The open source revolution hadn’t started yet. Today software is everywhere. Twenty year olds sitting in their dorm are able to roll out millions of lines of complicated software with a price tag of zero. It takes days to write code that used to take months and years earlier, thanks to the thousands of open source tools and libraries.

Today it is hard to remain competitive as a pure software or hardware company. The next generation of winning products will be sophisticated software finely tuned to run on compelling devices. Take the example of Mac and iPhone – Apple’s competitiveness lies in having the ability to squeeze the best out of it’s software and hardware because it has the luxury to control both. Why did Vista fail? Among other things, it failed because of lack of proper communication between Microsoft and the OEMs. Well intentioned features like Aero and Pre-fetch couldn’t perform well on weak hardware. Google G-Phone failed to impress for the same reason. To add to this most OEMs add a whole bunch of crapware in their bundle, making the PC experience more cluttered than it needs to be. While Apple is gaining market share every day, companies like Dell are losing ground. XBOX, PlayStation, WII, Tivo, Blackberry are more examples of products with great hardware/software interplay.

I think Microsoft should buy Lenovo, the makers of Thinkpad. Microsoft then can create a special version of Windows to run great on powerful hardware. Every component in these computers can be handpicked to perform best with the OS. OS components can be tuned to squeeze the best out of hardware. I think this is the only way Microsoft can get the ooh factor back in it’s OS. Microsoft can then demand a huge margin on these machine just like apple does.

So what should other OEMs do – well they either step up and try to compete with the Microsoft machines or continue to sell cheap crappy boxes. But I have a much better idea for them – create a superb Linux distro to work very well with their hardware. This is what apple did: OSX is a fork of BSD Unix. Smarter OEMs should force their device suppliers to create efficient drivers for Linux and then combine that with a already solid Kernel, GNOME, Compiz effects and Cairo applets, OO Office, Rythmbox, Audacity, Rosegarden and whole bunch of other multimedia tools, and it won’t be too difficult to outsmart OSX in their own game. By putting their resources on these open source projects, OEMs will be able to collectively give back to the Linux community. Now the rules of the game will be to produce the best distro.

I am not sure how it will work out at the end, but if the above happens the consumers will get to choose from a much better mix of competing products from different manufacturers.

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