Catastrophe Theory: Microsoft on the verge of a sudden collapse?

“Last week, usability expert Jakob Nielsen wrote a devastating critique of Windows 8 on his Alertbox blog,” Anthony Wing Kosner writes for Forbes. “Okay, so Microsoft overreached on this one. They’ll fix it for Windows 9, right?”

“But will it get the chance? I know that sounds extreme, and it never would have occurred to me if I hadn’t read Charlie Demerjian’s piece, ‘Microsoft Has Failed,’ on his SemiAccurate blog,” Kosner writes. “Demerjian lays out a scenario for a precipitous death spiral: ‘The problem is that if you are locked in with a choice of 100% Microsoft or 0% Microsoft, once someone goes, it isn’t a baby step, they are gone. Once you start using Google Docs and the related suites, you have no need for Office. That means you, or likely your company, saves several hundred dollars a head. No need for Office means no need for Exchange. No need for Exchange means no need for Windows Server. No need for Office means no need for Windows. Once the snowball starts rolling, it picks up speed a frightening pace. And that is where we are. The barriers to exit are now even more potent barriers to entry.'”

Kosner writes, “The first thing this reminded me of was Catastrophe Theory, a branch of mathematics developed by René Thom in the 1960′s that describes, ‘phenomena characterized by sudden shifts in behavior arising from small changes in circumstances, analysing how the qualitative nature of equation solutions depends on the parameters that appear in the equation. This may lead to sudden and dramatic changes, for example the unpredictable timing and magnitude of a landslide.'”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Even when misguided fools lined up for upside-down and backwards, insecure, pretend Macs in 1995, some us never lost sight of the fascinating, slow-motion train wreck called Microsoft. We’ve been waiting for the acceleration and the pileup of smoking wreckage for quite some time and we will relish it with complete satisfaction; all the while toasting Ballmer T. Clown while wishing Steve were here to see it, too.

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      1. Sucker – I agree with the thrust of your comment. 

        However, consider the remark above: “… Catastrophe Theory, a branch of mathematics that describes … ‘phenomena characterized by sudden shifts in behavior arising from small changes in circumstances [that] … may lead to sudden and dramatic changes, for example the unpredictable timing and magnitude of a landslide.’”

        For this to happen, some other company (or companies) must include parameters in their sales/profit equation which would lead to explosive growth as Microsoft melts down.  I don’t mean 40% growth in iPad demand, for example, but more like 100% year after year. 

        Currently nobody is making such predictions.  So for now Catastrophe Theory is a possibility, not reality.

    1. I sure hope Apple doesn’t make Vista/Win8-like decisions with the next iterations of OSX. The lack of support for Mountain Lion’s new features in Lion and Snow Leopard may catastrophically fragment the platform.
      I am thinking of FaceTime, iCloud features.

      Apple should add support for those new features by providing the necessary updates to previous systems.
      Partial support such as the lack of 3D for iOS6 Maps on the iPhone3GS may be reasonable as a gradual approach.

      Oddly enough, Windows XP and Vista still receive a lot of support for iCloud etc.

        1. The problem for Apple with supporting older versions of OSes that won’t run on somewhat modern hardware, is that they make their money primarily from selling hardware. By keeping the requirements for the latest OS to only allow fairly recent Macs to use it (usually ~4 years old, as I’m typing this on my Late-2008 MacBook running Mountain Lion), they are driving the market for hardware sales.

          Somewhat on the flip-side, some users with not-so-old Macs that do support older versions OS X that need to run those older versions for compatibility with their apps get the shaft. I’m also in that boat when iCloud features became Lion (or later) only – I would have loved to stay on Snow Leopard but I relied on things like Address Book, Calendar, and Notes syncing with my iPhone and Back-to-my-Mac for connecting to my home Mac (and remote access to help my kids when they needed it), which required me to upgrade (which I have just recently done – straight from Snow Leopard to Mountain Lion). Yes, I could use Google or Yahoo to sync those things, but I’ve found them to be finicky at best and totally unusable at worst – ironically they do work better with Mountain Lion (as an aside, I’m kind of sick of the big cat OS names).

          So, I guess Apple is willing to alienate those who’d rather use an older OS for the sake of (maybe) more hardware sales rather than to continue to support them – and really, it’s not like they don’t have the resources to do so (SOOOO MUCH CASH).

    2. What I’ve been saying for some years. By 2020, I predict that Microsoft will be like IBM: Still with us, still important in back office settings, but not part of your immediate, recognizable day to day computing experience.

      1. @qka – IBM changed its business model a couple of years ago and now is more of a service company than a hardware company.  It’s profitable with a bright future.

  1. I like everyone else LOVE to HATE Microsoft. I would LOVE to jump on the bandwagon cheering MS demise, however EXCEL alone will keep MS rolling in cash for many years. While most folks can use some other application EXCEL is the ONLY option for serious financial users. We’ve all been burned trying to use Numbers or Google. Only Excel will support the macros and add-ons the financial community uses. BELIEVE ME I wish this was not so but try to do a pivot table in Numbers, or work out a Bond calc – just doesn’t work like Excel does….

    1. While that is true, what Google Spreadsheet and Apple Mumbers will do is put severe downward pricing pressure on Excel thus crimping Microsoft’s revenues severely.

    2. Don’t mean to sound rude, but the state the “Financial Community” has left the world economy in, perhaps it’s time you all ditched Excel and went back to school to learn the basics of economics before you do any more damage.

      1. Overly simplistic blaming here… sorry, Rasta. I think the world at large, including their citizens, need to head back to school for the basics. When you have people buying houses they can’t afford because they couldn’t bother to read the fine print, you experience both math and reading comprehension-based failures. Sure, financial institutions that ignored reasonable risk warnings for the sake of greed should share in the blame, but math is math, and if you don’t bother to look at your contract and your numbers then don’t add up, then shame on the buyers, too.

        Oh, and government policies predicated upon the twisted theory that everyone has a right to own a house (HUD) – not to be mistaken with housing, for which I believe there is a fundamental human right – forcing banks to make risky loans in order to maintain good policy posture, has greatly contributed to this mess we’re finding ourselves in.

        My point: We need to stop blaming everyone else and take shared ownership in the problems we’ve created as a world. Only together can we solve them. Deflecting ownership and accountability only exacerbates the issue and delays positive, lasting resolution.


        1. But who were the ones pushing these loans with no requirement of verification of income? Who were the ones signing off on these loans? Who sold the nonsense that home values always go up? Who were the people pushing for deregulation of the financial industry? Don’t blame people who don’t have a degree in finance that they don’t understand these complicated contracts. The industry makes it complicated to commit fraud. This idea that people know what’s best for their money is nonsense. The financial industry lobbyists, or bribests, who own the government pushed this to make a cheap fast buck on the ignorant masses. And yes, Americans are willfully ignorant no doubt. Remember the golden rule – Those with the gold make the rules.

          1. Clark, Tom has debunked your point much better than I ever could.

            Lets make no mistake, the blame for this financial disaster lies squarely at the foot of the economists, no matter how loudly they protest their innocence.

      2. The errors and excesses of the financial community are intrinsinctly linked to the error and excesses of humanity only exacerbated by the errors and excesses of government.

    3. Maybe Google and Apple will be inspired to put forth a bit more effort in their Apps to strike the death blow to the ‘sloth. Both companies have enough money to divert some resources to that cause. It might be time to invest in it, both are half way there at least.

  2. Amen

    I miss Steve. I bet he will be looking down upon the wreckage with a grin, saying “whose running Microsoft? right, the sales guy case closed”. 🙂

    Go Apple.

  3. The absolute apex of Microsoft OS usability and friendliness was Windows XP. Everything that came after that was a devolution into complexity without adding any benefit to the user. This complexity had to be built into incremental versions of the OS because Microsoft thought that if it didn’t make significant enough changes, no one would buy or upgrade. This kind of thinking leads of increasing layers of complexity that throws users off their familiarity with the OS and adds additional hours to having to relearn simple tasks.

    Case in point is how Apple approaches tabs within dialog boxes and how Microsoft approaches the same problem. Microsoft adds complexity by making tabs ‘context aware’ in that tabs that are at the back are brought forward when you click on them so there is no positional context in the user’s mind. It makes for a confusing interface as the user is constantly searching for the other tabs whose positions have changed in the meantime.

    Another layer of complexity is the Ribbons concept which takes ‘context aware’ tab positioning to absurd levels so that commonly used icons are hidden and then displayed depending on use case. It makes for a confusing mishmash because the user has to constantly look for these icons when all he wants to do is get on with his work.

    When I first used an Apple product, the iPhone 4, I found that there was consistency and simplicity in Apple software. I became aware that Apple made a conscious decision to make things easier and better for the consumer and did not add layers upon layers of complexity to sell new software.

    I think Microsoft’s preoccupation with unneeded complexity with Windows 8 tiles and throwing away the Start button will be its demise.

    1. But in another typically Microsoftian move, the Start menu isn’t totally gone. If you look hard enough, you’ll find it living under a rock somewhere in Windows. It’s still there, having a little tea party with the parallel port.

    2. Actually, Windows 2k was the apex of Windows usability. It was in XP that Microsoft added the hiding menu options: “You mean I have to click this extra button to see those options that were there 5 minutes ago?”

        1. Actually, I suspect there are a few of us on this forum who think that Word 5.1a was the best version. I remember that when Word 6 was introduced, people demanded (and Microsoft eventually provided) a downgrade path back to 5.1a.

          1. I remember.

            The problem was that MS made Word 6 for Mac look just like it did on Windows – butt ugly and awkward. That didn’t go over well with the Mac crowd.

            On the other hand, I’ve long thought that Excel on Windows didn’t look like a Windows app and was somewhat like a Mac app. Which makes sense, since Excel started on the Mac and migrated to Windows. Ditto PowerPoint.

      1. Screw that. Windows 95 was the apex of Windows usability. It was the tightest, lightest clone of the Mac OS/NeXT OS that Microsoft ever made.

        Subsequent versions would go on to increasingly ruin the UI with ridiculous bullshit like Internet Explorer integration(Metro is just an extension of that, actually) and increasingly take users’ control over their own computers away from them.

    3. I absolutely HATED Windows XP. Loathing it initially for it’s Swiss cheese security issues and always hating it for it’s total ugliness. Plus complexity. Windows 7 at least looked nice and was the best of the lot, not that I used Window that much at all. However it will not be missed if someday gone. And with Steve Ballmer still in charge it’s not a matter of if but when.

  4. is it any wonder MSFT reached the stage of Greek/Roman Decadence?!

    failed OS since XP (2001-10-25) incl. Me/LongHorn/Vista/Win7/Win8
    failed mp3 (Zune)
    failed web (bing was 3rd attempt & is way below google)
    failed hardware (Big AsSurface + Surface tab)
    failed Retail Store
    failed ads i.e. “I’m a PC” etc
    failed business strategies
    failed marketing strategies
    failed concepts
    failed law suits (monopoly+©)
    failed everything in last 2 decades
    failed innovation
    loss: 50%+ fortune, stock miserable $26! (AAPL $574)
    ceo pig

    in 1990s MSFT’s Billy Gates of Hell hired 100 of the world’s biggest brains, paid each $1M salary + bonus.
    in 2 decades they have produced & innovated: nada!
    yet at every expo Bill & Ballmer scream benevolence & innovation?!

    so how did MSFT get so big if they suck so much?
    simple: Billy was top marketer. he licensed Windows to ALL manufacturers, the got corporations stuck with long licensing deals that are expensive to break. IT staff lied to management about alternatives to keep their jobs! it took 30 years for firms & public to realize they’re stuck but in today’s mobile world, which started from scratch, Windows had no advantage anymore and the world is freeing itself from old shackles. MSFT meanwhile, hangs onto the old licensing deals, but soOn, will have no more glue and fail just like IBM’s PC biz. IBM now sells commercial carpets & tiles!! (apart from successful IT consulting biz).

    MSFT is the most stubborn, closed-minded, loudmouth, annoying, arrogant, ugly co. in the world, so even if they supplied 1000s of jobs to asia, sorry, but this co. has to go, it’s an embarrassment to human accomplishment – no wonder no ET’s stop by our planet!

    MSFT is also the most wasteful co. on earth. Billions that could improve infrastructure or educational systems are wasted in projects that never could fly and that over 2 decades!!

    MSFT is a danger to society.
    to the economy.
    sense & sensibility.
    there’s nothing worthy “inside”

  5. It is easy for the King of the Mountain to revel in his position and for his followers to look up and reassure the King that all is well…BUT

    When you are on top, one single misstep puts you on a downhill slide.

    MS has been fortifying the walls at the top of the mountain to the point where it is now top heavy and ready to slide…down.

  6. Apple itself is heading down the Microsoft path of mediocrity with disasters like .Mac/MobileMe/iCloud, FCPX (aka “iMovie ’11), and Lion (aka “Vista for Macs”).

    1. Spot on, JB Tipton!

      10.6.8 remains the high-water mark for OS X. Despite some improvements, overall iOS6 was a turd too, and not just because of the mapping fiasco. Users simply are no longer realizing clear benefits from “upgrading”.

      Just like Win8, Apple’s social media integration is undesired and its iAds are a step in the wrong direction. If Apple wants to do successful battle against MSFT & Google, it’s going to have to offer a cleaner, more efficient OS and ecosystem without “features” that nobody wants. Something that doesn’t require constant “cloud” tethering to provide value. Something more impressive that an application store with 500,000 “programs” that are nothing more than adware and marketing tools designed to suck data from users under the guise of “gaming” and entertainment.. Offer a platform where value-added applications developers aren’t competing against Adware, and can be paid an honest compensation for offering high-quality software, INCLUDING trial-ware without annoying ads and “social media” intrusion and bloat.

  7. Though I’m a 25-year Mac loyalist and truly detest most Microsoft products, even I don’t want to see Bill Gates’ computing ecosystem collapse entirely. That would put a lot of Americans out of work (and not just in Redmond or at Microsoft). Rather, I hope to see Apple’s desktop market share continue its gradual rise, so that Apple can manage the growth and manufacturing without compromising quality and service, which will be a trick in-and-of-itself.

    Ultimately, I’ll be very happy if Apple’s desktop market share rises to around 50% globally, (perhaps more in the U.S.) — and achieves true parity. A balance of computing power would serve the world (and Apple customers) well.

  8. No, no, no… You are all wrong! Everything is fine. MSFT is doing great and is still relevant and important to the business community.

    … And Balmer is my favorite. 🙂

    … “As long as it takes. ”
    (Don’t let yer guard down folks)

  9. I must admit, I got cold shivers reading Demerjian’s damning article. And I’m 100% Apple. Imagine how hardcore PC enthusiasts must have felt…! Their world is crumbling as we speak and it can no longer be stopped. It will become a house of cards sooner rather than later.

    Somebody recently asked on YouTube: “why do PC guys always seem so angry when talking about Apple or Macs?”

    This is why.

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