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The Microsoft Killer

Yet another story about what’s going to kill Microsoft popped up on Slashdot today. This time it’s cheap solid-state computers running open-source software. I didn’t bother reading it.

Here’s what I think the Microsoft killer will be: Windows.

Say what?Yeah, Windows.

Computers are cheap enough now that the majority of people who want one have one. Even those who can’t afford to buy new can turn to the used market–used 1 GHz systems are now selling in the $100-$150 range without an operating system.

The biggest problem with a computer these days is keeping it running. People throw away VCRs and DVD players because it’s cheaper to buy a new one than to have one repaired. And had I charged fair market value for the last computer repair I did, it probably would have exceeded the cost of a $399 Emachine.

But there’s a problem. When a VCR or DVD player dies, you unplug the old one, plug in the new one, and get on with life. You’re looking at three or four cable connections. It takes most people less than 10 minutes, usually much less. When you go to swap out a computer, you have to worry about all your data and the programs you installed.

Most people don’t know that 99% of their data is in one place, and even fewer people know where that is and how to get to it. These same people are the ones who are most likely to inadvertently end up with their data in weird places.

The result is the cost to replace a computer is much higher, and it’s not necessarily something the majority of people want to undertake themselves.

The result is lost revenue. And an opportunity.

Google, if you’re the one who wants to unseat Microsoft, find a way to help users move their data from one computer to another. Someone else, if you want to beat Google to the punch, find a way to help users move their data and their programs. I know such a program won’t be foolproof, but if it works even 75% of the time, it’ll sell like crazy.

Of course if someone does it and it proves successful, Microsoft will just clone it and assimilate the market.

But if no one does, maybe Steve Jobs will sell a lot more Macs, because this is one task that’s always been easier on a Macintosh.

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