Windows investigate

Don't believe the farce that says 'Windows is collapsing'

The story 'Windows is collapsing' raced around the Web last week, repeated across the echo chamber of the blogosphere. TechRepublic's Jason Hiner was at the event where this story originated and says that many people are drawing the wrong conclusion.

Last week, Gartner analysts Michael Silver and Neil McDonald gave a presentation called "Windows Is Collapsing: How What Comes Next Will Improve" on April 9 at the Gartner ITxpo in Las Vegas. Several journalists attended the session and reported on it, including ZDNet's Larry Dignan and Computerworld's Gregg Keizer.

I was also at the Gartner ITxpo. I didn't attend this session because I was also covering IBM Impact 2008 and ManageFusion last week, but there was very little buzz about the "Windows is Collapsing" presentation while I was at the Gartner event. There was far more buzz about it online once the stories from Dignan and Keizer hit the Web.

Larry and Greg each wrote a sane summary of the Gartner session, including the arguments against Microsoft's current approach with Windows Vista and the ways that the next version of Windows could be better (including Gartner's recommendations). The problem came when bloggers saw the headline "Windows is collapsing" and then started furiously repeating that as a fact that made it sound like Windows was about to fold like a house of cards any day now.

That's not what Silver and McDonald were saying, and it's not what Dignan or Keizer reported, or even concluded at the end of their reports. The real "Windows is collapsing" argument is that Windows Vista is big, slow, and clunky and is not versatile enough to thrive in a new world with a huge diversity of computer form factors and devices.

Specifically, the "collapsing" metaphor was aimed at the legacy code base in Windows and the fact that it makes the OS top-heavy and difficult to innovate. Silver and McDonald used the two slides below to tell the story.

So the complexity of Windows Vista has finally tipped the balance and made Windows too difficult to work with and ill-suited to the versatile, mobile direction that computing is headed, Gartner believes. According the the second slide above, that has also directly resulted in the slow trickle of Vista deployments, even though many businesses have paid for the licenses.

The next version of Windows needs to be significantly streamlined, more virtualization-friendly, more licensing-friendly, and far more adaptable to different form factors. That was the conclusion. The conclusion was not that Windows was about to be swept away by Linux, a Google OS, or Mac OS X.

After all the craziness around this report last week, Dignan followed up with the article Windows is a glacier and glaciers don't melt overnight, and ZDNet's Microsoft pundit Mary Jo Foley chimed in with Reports of Windows' demise are greatly exaggerated.

Bottom line for IT leaders

The whole "Windows is collapsing" idea as it was passed around the blogosphere last week is a non-issue for IT departments. Windows isn't going anywhere any time soon, and I doubt that there will be any radical changes to Windows in 2008 that will make you want to re-think your current plans for desktop deployments or upgrades. However, IT leaders should join the call to Microsoft to make Windows simpler and more versatile, and, of course, you should always be looking at alternative options that could potentially make business sense.

Next Monday I will present my prediction for what Microsoft will do with the next version of Windows and when we can expect to see it.

About

Jason Hiner is the Global Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and Global Long Form Editor of ZDNet. He is an award-winning journalist who writes about the people, products, and ideas that are revolutionizing the ways we live and work in the 21st century.

29 comments
linuxiac38
linuxiac38

Microsoft has tracked the loss of user base in Quarterly SEC reports, 17% 3Q 2005 (also, in sworn court testimony), now, 26%, 1Q 2008. Growth is ~3% per annum, for Linux. Macintosh, at 4% of all users, has quadrupled in two years! SEC reports are public knowledge, and are submitted under severe penalty for perjury. Vista (aka, ME II), coupled with UAC and it's server failures, along with the difficulties and forced resource mis-management, and added to the difficulty of use foisted upon the users, cause acceleration of migration to Open Source OSes, such as the 175 FREE LiveCDroms at livecdrom.com and Distrowatch.com 30% loss of market IS "the sky is falling" in my book! Any business that suffers a loss of market of 30% would be taking drastic steps, but, the continued inaction, lies and FUD in the media, on Yahoo, and at conventions is proving to impinge what credibility Microsoft has remaining!

akayani
akayani

I doubt that complexity is the issue rather a failure to manage that complexity. This is where I think Linux has the upper hand (or potentially). If a file becomes corrupted it can be repaired online without fuss about 'rights to download'. Redownload the whole OS if required. Stable operating systems benefit from access to files that is not restricted. Obviously there is more scope to build better operating systems in environments where more openness and less restrictions are applied. Yani

RealGem
RealGem

Sure those three data points look bad, but compare it to SQL Server. MS release SQL Server 7 in 1999, SQL Server 2000 in 2000, and then there was SQL Server 2005 in 2005. If you plot the trend, you see that that the gap between 2005 and 2000 was five times the gap between 2000 and v7. Extrapolating, the next release will be in 2030, right? Wrong, the next release is 2008, of course. Three points don't make a trend. The lesson is that you have to read more than the headline, like Jason said, but when you read the article you have to apply some critical thinking and not just believe everything you hear.

mikifinaz1
mikifinaz1

I think that Microsoft failing at least shrinking would be one of the best things to happen to computing.

Andy Goss
Andy Goss

Which is still there, but not thriving. Vista sounds so much like one of those "yank tanks" of years gone by, big, flashly, thirsty, cumbersome, and with surprisingly little room inside. If Vista is a Chevrolet, Linux is a Volkswagen. Draw your own conclusions.

chaz15
chaz15

Windows is still obviously alive and kicking, and XP is it's stronghold. I'm sure we all believe Vista just to be a stop-gap pending Windows 7. Also MANY if not MOST networked computers run Win NT/ 2000/ XP Pro. Linux has particular problems. Some expertise in mounting drives and read/ write particularly for NTFS drives. More difficult file management and file searches if not set up correctly. May now be relatively easy to install, but not if/ when problems happen. Tech support is find it yourself on the Internet by and large, and quite or very technical user guides/ help files. You basically have to be very adept and tech savvy to run Linux and troubleshoot difficulties. Many windows programs are difficult or well nigh impossible to run under Linux. Yes some tasks are much easier now with Linux but if eg messenger programs won't install or operate properly, trying to find a local Linux expert may be extremely problematical!!!! Often with Linux, if it works, fine, if it doesn't and you're not an expert with Linux, you're scuppered!!!! As for Apple, depends on which side of the Atlantic you're on. The figures for Vista ie actually running on 1% of PC's and 3% of notebooks belies actual license uptake especially by large firms. XP or earlier versions are running on the VAST MAJORITY of PC's and Notebooks worldwide. Hardly a collapsing scenario!!!! Also many PC's are not required to be updated hardware-wise, hence either do not need or will not run Vista.... Linux has some way to go from it's specialist cult reputation, and Apple is only very successful State-side !!!! That leaves Windows pretty much rock-solid at the moment!

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[i]Linux has particular problems. [b]Some expertise[/b] in mounting drives and read/ write particularly for NTFS drives. More difficult file management and file searches [b]if not set up correctly[/b]. May now be relatively easy to install, but not [b]if/when problems happen[/b]. Tech support is [b]find it yourself[/b] on the Internet by and large, and quite or [b]very technical[/b] user guides/ help files. You basically have to be very [b]adept and tech savvy[/b] to run Linux and troubleshoot difficulties.[/i] All of those look like entry-level examples of the [b]minimum[/b] requirements of [b]getting paid[/b] in IT. If you're just a computer game-player, sure, all those things you mentioned are reasons to buy a Nintendo or Atari instead of a Windows PC. But if you're being paid, and all those things are too difficult for you, just what is it that you do for a living?

TripleII-21189418044173169409978279405827
TripleII-21189418044173169409978279405827

[B]Yes some tasks are much easier now with Linux but if eg messenger programs won't install or operate properly, trying to find a local Linux expert may be extremely problematical!!!![/B] I agree, when you give a distro CD/DVD to a newbie and turn em loose, any problems, it can be tough. The corrolary, give any nebie a clean computer and Windows media, and turn em loose, any problems, it can be touch. I have now, to date, 44 newbies I OEMed Linux for. I went cold turkey refusing to dedicate my life to Windows support and insist on Linux (I will set up a dual boot). These range from savvy to "what return key...you mean enter?" and once it is all OEMed, everything working, IM, wireless, printers, scanners, cameras, multimedia, just like Dell, and Lenovo and Gateway and Sony et all do, there is no trouble, no churn, and tech support calls to me are non existent. I would love to image Mandriva One, custom configured as much as any Windows OEM Vista/XP is and for any particular line of machines, it's absolutely turn key, everything just works. Kinid of like that Asus EEE PC we hear about, beyond easy and it all just works. The above is what MS MUST stop from happening at all costs (hence the free XP Home for UMPC agreement). They can't let corporate OEMs really sink their teeth into OEMing Linux for real. I figure they have, maybe, until Windows 7 (again, it must be so much better, real or perceived, than Vista) "grace" to prevent this. If the next version of Windows doesn't measure up, what's Dell, Sony, Toshiba to do, watch on the sidelines as Apple cleans up? TripleII

TripleII-21189418044173169409978279405827
TripleII-21189418044173169409978279405827

No one can look at the massive revenue generation MS has with the OEM market and say MS is going to fail as a company. Even if Vista is absolute garbage (it isn't), it will still be generating a boatload of revenue for MS. I test drove Vista, and simply put, I believe it is a resource intensive OS to work at the same level as XP does/did on 5 year old hardware and a lot of confusing change for not a lot of good reasons. (no, not UAC, all the rest). What is changing, however, and where Gartner is correct is in the enterprise. The ultra fat required client is giving everyone pause. They simply have to preserve the client side in the enterprise, and that requires a complete rework or optimization of Vista/Windows 7 to run on "mediocre" hardware, include a real (modular) compatibility layer (Virtualized). I have been saying they should seamlessly virtualize XP/2K for a couple of years. That means all the new code can move forward. If, however, Windows 7 is not (real and perceived) to be better than XP and light years ahead of Vista, the revenue stream WILL come under severe pressure. Now that mainstream adoption of Linux (desktop) is happening (i.e. will grow to the 1-5% range here in the US, already there overseas), the competition will be Linux as it exists 2 years from now, and OS-X as it exists 2 years from now. MS can certainly compete against those two, however, Balmer MUST refocus away from one of the several hundred wars he is veinly trying to win. So, in more pragmatic terms, MS being unable to lock customers in, and see desktop penetration fall to the 80-85% level would be an unprecedented implosion (all the while putting $Billions in the bank). Look at all the fronts MS is competing on, which one has to give? 1) Vista 2) Windows 7 (and how to make it better than Vista as above) 3) Enterprise 4) UMPC (critical they forestall any Linux penetration) 5) Asia desktop (red flag and ALL the OEMs selling Linux pre-installed, especially China) 6) X-Box 7) Zune 8) Office Suites 9) Security Services 10) Search 11) Online/Offline/Office Live 12) Almost Manic Depressive in language output. COnflicting developer toolsets, etc. Now, if all the large OEMs truly OEMed Linux (Dell does 95% of a stock install leaving 5% for the new owner), as Asus and others are (i.e. as fully OEMed and "working" as Windows) today, I would say that MS needs an emergency plan, but for now, they really really really need to focus on the end user and NOT other interested parties. TripleII

itpro_z
itpro_z

Have you considered that for Microsoft to move forward they must lose market share? Dropping down to 80% - 85%, or even lower, could be a good thing for Microsoft, as it would remove the burden of monopoly status and allow them to compete fully as they haven't been allowed in years. Many of us think that Microsoft would also benefit from some serious competition. Even if the large OEMs offer Linux, at this point in time there is little demand. Many of us have tried Linux in our operations, and found it wanting. I recognize that Linux has improved, and recently spent considerable time working with Ubuntu in organization. In the end, I rejected it because I could not get everything I needed to work. I came close, and will give it another try in about a year, but for now we are still locked into Windows by our critical apps. Regarding Vista, we have had few issues there. Some of our critical apps had to upgrade, but than happened last summer, and Vista is working very well for most of our users. I still have a few running obsolete apps that are stuck with XP or 2K, but that is a small number of my users. Considering that it was only last year that XP finally outnumbered 2K on our network, I am not worried about those older apps or the demise of XP in June.

TripleII-21189418044173169409978279405827
TripleII-21189418044173169409978279405827

MS has lots of talented developers, they have tended to be handcuffed by marketting and management contraints (help the lock in) that at times, obviously, run counter to what should be the ultimate goal, high quality software. An example: WGA. It probably has lost them 10X more than they ever hope to gain in development costs and PR, and all the effort all those coders spent had zero bennefit to the end user, at it's very best, improved the system 0%. Had they let them do what they should, well, net bennefit. Your point being that losing marketshare could (and probably will be) the thing that motivates MS to really get back to just coding and competing. In two sentences, you summarized what I *wanted* to say, lol. TripleII

lastchip
lastchip

What I find interesting about your post, is the fact that not only have you evaluated Linux for your needs, but even though at the moment is deemed unsuitable, you are prepared to try it again in a year or so's time. As you correctly say, "Many of us have tried Linux in our operations". This would have been unthinkable five years ago and is a measure of how enterprises are now looking at *all* the alternative options *and* how Linux has developed in the recent past. Linux may not be suitable for everyone at this point in time and I have no argument with that. But for a small business that simply wants "office" functions and perhaps accounting and payroll, there is little left to argue against. The real battle is with the preconceived mindset that Windows users have adopted and *that* is going to take some shifting!

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

I'm told the latest release of SUSE integrates well with Active Directory, but I haven't had a chance (or reason) to test it yet. Are you using Exchange, and what are you using for an e-mail client?

itpro_z
itpro_z

I started on computers with Unix on a Dec PDP11, and have used various versions of Unix, Xenix, AIX, and Linux, so trying Ubuntu was not too much of a stretch. Linux has come a long way, but there are still hurdles to overcome. Getting Ubuntu to authenticate on our AD domain was more trouble than it should be, and installing some apps not as straight forward as it could be. In the end, I got everything to work except for one app that every user on our network needs: retrieving documents from our doc management system. It is designed to generate and pass documents to Word on our Windows machines. I have been able to tweak Open Office and get it to work on Windows, but not on Linux so far. Oh, well, I'll try again later. Open Office is another story. I have it running on systems from 2K to Vista, and working very well for most of my users. It is not yet ready to replace MS Office for everyone, but for most it is good enough. While there is little difference in cost between Windows and Linux when buying a computer, using Open Office can result in real savings.

Forum Surfer
Forum Surfer

Like the previous poster mentioned, I too looked into using SuSE or Ubuntu for our more mundane workstations. These platforms don?t utilize our in house apps written strictly for windows. I thought at the very least I could save some money to be put to ?cool new stuff? in other areas. In the end though, I found it wanting as well due to one program that interacts with a mainframe via 3270 in an outside source. I could have gotten it to work I?m sure given more spare time, but I grew tired of searching for a 3270 client to work with either distro that could handle vsam transactions. I found a couple that weren?t free, but my interest was in a totally free solution otherwise I?m just spending money with another vendor. I?d rather keep the status quo as opposed to redirecting my wallet, lol. My other complaint was interaction with aduc, which the latest incarnations of SuSE seem to be attempting to correct. You can at least join a domain and see the pc in aduc from what I?ve researched. Admittedly I haven?t had time to play with it much. I thought I would give it a few months, or better yet a new release then attempt SuSE again. Hopefully there will be some management options that will make it more appealing to a windows organization looking to deploy Linux alternatives by that point.

JCitizen
JCitizen

but even good reporters have to cover the hype once and a while. Liked the charts; keep up the good work.

HAL 9000
HAL 9000

Only an Idiot and Gartner would say something like this. :D But the fact of life that very few outside the industry can accept is that if Windows Sales stopped tonight and that isn't about to happen by any stretch of the imagination Windows is going to be with us for a very long time to come. In business they have a Life Cycle of their Computers and that will continue regardless of what may happen. If a new solution was found that didn't involve Windows it just wouldn't be adopted because Business isn't about to dump all their existing Hardware to go with a new OS just like that are not about to dump existing hardware to deploy Vista. Sorry but the whole idea of this is Insane and only a Moron would write like this. Granted they where out to make a Splash but the title of the entire thing is wrong and would be seen as such by anyone who took the time to look at it no matter what they think about Windows. It's here now and will be here for a very long time no matter what happens. Col

Forum Surfer
Forum Surfer

Windows isn't going away, plain and simple. What's that? We need new hardware? That's fine, I'm on a four year cycle anyway, I can handle it. I just buy new machines that could handle Vista, in case we do go that route. If we don't, no big deal. Frankly from an enterprise perspective it's cheaper for me to upgrade hardware at the end of it's lifecycle and roll out Vista along with Server 08 than to rethink my entire network and roll out some other OS. Not factoring in downtime that may occur. If you're running an enterpise level shop it's not feasible to rule out Windows because you're not a Vista/2008 Server fan. You're forced to deal with it and move on...much like with the release of Xp and Server 03.

itpro_z
itpro_z

Do you try to keep everyone on the same OS system wide? In our operation, we don't upgrade the OS on existing machines, that is just too much work. We upgrade the OS when we upgrade the hardware. As a result, we still have about 40% of our users on 2K, and it is those machines that we are replacing with Vista as we cycle their hardware. I have only replaced XP machines with Vista when we had a failure, or were giving a new system to a deserving user before recycling their older system to another desk. Some want to keep everyone at the same level for support reasons, but we haven't found that to be an issue. The differences between 2K, XP, and Vista are mostly cosmetic from a support point of view, and our techs are all experienced, so we haven't had issues supporting multiple versions.

Forum Surfer
Forum Surfer

As well as trying to keep all platforms the same. Some workstations require CAD so naturally those get upgraded processors, memory and graphics cards but I try to keep the platform consistent. We do use Microsoft's imaging client so it takes about 20 minutes to have a new pc imaged with all of our basics apps on it. I order all pc's with the capapbility to handle Vista, no matter if we go that route or not. Quite frankly, Xp can get a little demanding with system resources once you load a few basic apps, your av client, office and a cad or photoshop application so I kind of used Vista as an excuse to buy all machines with 2 gigs of memory standard, something I've wanted to do anyway. I don't plan on doing that until all my Domain controllers, backup domain controllers, dns servers, print servers, dhcp servers and the like are running 2008. I prefer to plan on upgrading, if I need to. If I do once I get a base image that works properly established it would just be matter of a couple of hours for each department. It really wouldn't be that big of a deal for me even with close to 1000 terminals. Of course I'm also evaluating SuSE every 6 months or so to see how it is progressing now that there is at least some aduc integration...though not much IMO. I like to keep alternatives open, but even with all of Vista's downfalls and associated upgrade issues, it would still take less work and money (especially considering man hours for myself, the rest of our staff and my techs)for me to migrate to Vista than to switch to a new OS platform. Like most medium to large enterprises I've been locked into Microsoft since my arrival and I see no viable way out without major backend redesign. Honestly though, it doesn't bother me and I don't see it as a bad thing. After all, my network is up, it stays up reliably and for the most part my job is transparent as far as the employees/management are concerned. I have no desire to change for the sake of change when everything works as is and I am able to meet and exceed my organization's expectations and requests.

Craig_B
Craig_B

HAL - Very Well Said!

RationalGuy
RationalGuy

With Vista getting such a bad rap, both at home and in the enterprise, enterprising competitors have an opportunity to take a chunk of MS' market share. I don't think there is a serious competitor who could actually manage this though. GNU/Linux requires a steeper learning curve than most people want. There is more traction in the enterprise than at home generally but idea of deploying GNU/Linux as the standard desktop OS would terrify most CIOs. Apple is potentially in a better position to convert MS users to their OS. Popular perception is certainly on their side, and most are used to their products because of iPod, iTunes and iPhone. The downside is adoption of their OS is tied to their hardware production. Furthermore, Macs are priced as premium style products, not commodity computers. This is not to say that licensing their OS to OEM vendors is the answer. However, even if they lowered prices, or came out with a truly affordable Mac model, they would have to restructure their entire production supply chain in order to fulfill the orders it would take to truly push their market share in a significant way. So, for now MS gets a pass simply because, despite all the problems with Vista, no competitor is truly in a place to grab a sizable portion of MS' market share.

Locrian_Lyric
Locrian_Lyric

Much as I'd like to see M$ get taken out to the woodshed, Windows is simply far too entrenched to die. The solution for M$'s Win-woes is simply to delay the release of it's next OS until all the necessary changes are made. People and industry will hold on to the latest version of M$ windows until the next one comes along.

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[i]Much as I'd like to see M$ get taken out to the woodshed, Windows is simply [b]far too entrenched to die.[/i][/b] Bear Stearns was just bailed out for $30 [b]billion[/b] while homeless borrowers are left to rot, freeze and starve in the streets. Microsoft will not soon be subjected to free market competition, either. They repeat "impeachment" until the sheeple bleat their satisfaction with the theatrics of an "inquiry." http://bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601109&sid=aN.cnCGH92GQ&refer=home Reminder for you there Janet: [i]The average recovery on failed bank assets is 40 cents on the dollar over a six-year period, according to Drexel's Mason, a former official at the Treasury's Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. Nobody knows if that historical benchmark will hold for the Fed portfolio because the assets haven't been disclosed, they have already been marked down and the Fed has 10 years to recover value. "Over 10 years, you might eventually get your money back," said Janet Tavakoli, president of Tavakoli Structured Finance Inc. in Chicago.[/i] You do know I charge interest, not 40 cents on the dollar. We're fighting mad about corruption at the highest levels of the nation's banking system... http://digg.com/political_opinion/Bear_Stearns_Buyout_Illegal_Grounds_for_Bush_Impeachment_2 And we're going to type about it until the next celebrity divorce, addiction announcement, or invasion of privacy (nude pix or stalker news, whichever the "journalists" find first). http://market-ticker.denninger.net/2008/03/articles-of-impeachment-bear-stearns.html Rubbish. We let slide the administration's failure to take al Qaeda seriously from January to August 2001 despite repeated, urgent warnings from the director of CIA, with the farcical 911 Commission, picked by those whose failure was to be investigated. Even they could not paint a favorable picture of their sugar daddies, but we tolerated failure as duty, imposed by other voters. We let slide the forgery of "intelligence" indicating Iraq posed a credible threat, with "we made a mistake," in essence, "oops." We continue to permit illegal, un-Consitutional wiretaps in direct violation of the Fourth Amendment despite all of the former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' deception and evasion before the Congress, excusing the administration which ordered it, for making him their fall guy and firing him. Microsoft has not-so-recently also attained "elite" size. They are above the laws of immigration and the laws of supply and demand. Through government favor, they are not subject to new competitors for markets in which the [i]status quo[/i] is unsatisfactory and technically inferior, and will never be held accountable for its failures, unless and until Ron Paul's message is understood by Americans to be the Gold Standard for government. Read my lips: no new special exceptions for any corporation.

jb123
jb123

The only problem with that is that the latest version of Windows is the problem. So there is nothing to hold on to moving forward after June 30. I wonder if the Dell's and HP's have thought about how this is going to hurt new sales for those of us that buy OEM version of the OS with PCs and don't use MS open licensing.

HAL 9000
HAL 9000

Companies who use XP predominately now and buy Dell, HP, Gateway or whatever will not be bothered in the slightest they will continue to buy the hardware that they want and use XP Pro till they are ready to change to something different be that Vista or 7 when it gets released or at least the companies need to adopt something different. Just because M$ is not offering any support doesn't mean that the Platform is dead it just means that M$ isn't offering any fixes for holes found in it. Companies who use Windows whatever don't rely on M$ support to Secure their Systems so what difference will m$ no longer supporting XP do? If that was the case all the Business who are still using 2000 would have switched to XP when 2000 Support stopped. Instead they just continued on without missing a beat and continue to do what they need to to stay in business and do whatever it is that they do. The only people who really will be affected are Students who attend Schools who do not offer any Vista Support to log into their Systems. Even then if it works great not a problem but if it doesn't work with the existing Infrastructure the IT Departments of these places don't loose any sleep as they just do not offer support for Vista. The real problems will arise when Students attempt to log into areas that do not support Vista and when that happens it's the Students Problem and the Students responsibility to find a solution. New Computers will continue to get sold and with M$ supporting the Ultra Cheap end of the market with XP Home these will be the computers more likely to be sold to the Students. @ $500.00 per NB they are cheap and disposable which will fuel sales if anything. Those who buy at the higher end of the Market will look at what they can buy and may start buying other OS machines. This can only be good for Apple with their Mac's and these tend to be supported everywhere. So we will see New Computer buyers looking more closely at what they get for their money and this can only be a good thing. It will probably hurt M$ but as they are so big who really cares and if they get some serious competition we'll all benefit from M$ picking up its game and offering better software instead of what they are doing now which is providing more Eye Candy on what is effectively nothing better than what they where selling previously. Col