Back in the early 2000s, I was a given an expert report that outlined the future of computing. Regarding software, the report foresaw the absolute and uncontested dominance of Microsoft operating systems.
Back then Apple was basically dead. Linux was a niche player on everything but servers (and it still is). Sun Microsystems was struggling (it is now dead). Palm was selling mobile handhelds (nobody remembers them). Oracle and Sun were touting “thin clients” to replace the PC, but nobody was buying.
I remember being slightly depressed. I like Microsoft, I like Bill Gates, but I think that software is too important to be ruled by one man.
Microsoft was covering all the bases. It had tablets. It had mobile handhelds. It had PCs. It had Office. Microsoft had economies of scale, it had a lock-in effect. In effect, it was unbeatable.
But the prediction favoring Microsoft was still fundamentally wrong. Tablets alone (either iOS or Android) sell as much as PCs. Apple’s iOS (tablets and iPhone) outsells PCs. Android mobile devices outsell PCs many-to-one.
Apple, the same company that was basically dead in the early 2000s, has been worth more than Wintel (Microsoft and Intel) for years now.
As far as I can tell, in the early 2000s, no expert foresaw any of this.
Yet Microsoft did not lose its dominance because it was particularly foolish and incompetent… it also did not lose to competitors that set out to destroy it. When Apple launched the iPhone, they were not trying to disrupt the Wintel fortress. They were bundling an MP3 player with a phone.
Apple simply made Microsoft’s monopoly less relevant. Sure, you can still send Word documents, but if they don’t open on an iPhone, they are broken.
This is a common pattern. When faced with very difficult challenges, too many people go on desperate offensives.
Yet openly attacking a superior enemy on its own turf is the last thing you want to do. It is irrational.
Don’t beat them, make them less relevant.