Monday, July 20, 2009

More Signs of Schumpeterian Weakness At Microsoft

In a rather innocuous article in last Tuesday's Wall Street Journal, the paper reported that Microsoft is set to offer a free, online version of its Office software in the first half of next year.

It doesn't get much more Schumpeterian than that, does it? Google's intense pressure on Microsoft, including helping starve the former of search revenues, then offering its own free online suite of applications software, has finally caused the software titan to buckle on maintaining Office's conventional product strategies and policies.

Despite the company's insists that it will continue to grow Office revenues at a healthy rate, I'm rather more suspect about this.

My own children have learned to subsist nicely with web-based spreadsheet and text programs. Most people don't even use 80% of what Office products contain anyway. I have never bothered to upgrade from Office 2003, which has precious little advantage over my prior copy of Office2000, and contains copy limitations, too.

It's unclear to me that I'd shell out over $600 again for a private copy of the professional version of Office. There just doesn't seem to be that much comparative advantage anymore. As it is, so long as Office2003 is compatible with a next Microsoft operating system, I would have absolutely no need to upgrade.

I'm sure I'm not alone. Microsoft didn't come to be so reviled by good product management. Like many companies and other individuals, I'm always open to ways to avoid paying the Redmond giant another buck. Especially when no new significant value has been added to its products.

With their imminent admission that the web is a required distribution channel for Office, and on a free basis, at that, I think the end of Office as a main revenue growth engine at Microsoft is in sight.

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