Two moves by Microsoft: One good, one not so good
Suzanne Deffree - May 11, 2007
Microsoft this week snatched up an opportunity, but also let one slip through its fingers.
On the up side, the company today announced that it is working with SanDisk on a next-generation hardware/software solution that basically allows users to carry around the contents of their PCs on a flash drive.
Spelled out, the technology will allow users to place application programs and personal customization on USB flash drives and flash memory cards. The string attached, however, is that the computing environment will be accessible only on Windows XP and Windows Vista-based computers (big surprise there, eh?).
The immediate plus that came to my mind was business travel. There would be no need to carry around my laptop and its accessories if I could pop a thumb drive into a PC the show provided (there are usually a few in the press room and down on the floor). Personal travel would also be made easier. My husband — a techie who does all sorts of Web design and programming in his down time — and I frequently bring a laptop with us when we visit friends and family so he can show off his work. It’s a hassle.
Of course there are security issues with doing this (which SanDisk addresses with its TrustedFlash security, but we’ll see) and it’s an idea that’s been tossed around the industry for a while, so I’m not getting too excited just yet. But if the duo pulls this off, there’s a good market opportunity for the product. For the news story, see “Microsoft, SanDisk team for next-gen flash offering.”
On the down side, the Redmond Giant is missing a huge opportunity. I’m sure by now, you’ve all heard of the “One Laptop Per Child” program, which aims to supply low-cost portable PCs to underprivileged children. The laptops are set to run on open source — a plus for the open source movement, as these PCs are expected to go out to some 3 million kids, and a plus for the kids, as they could potentially get into operating system development because of open source’s open structure. Meanwhile, it’s a big loss for Microsoft. The company stands to lose some 3 million customers. Instead of these young minds building tech foundations on the Windows OS, they’ll be doing so on open source.
The issue is in part one of space. Microsoft has said it is not sure is it can fit Windows on the laptops because of the limited storage space. The company also has said that other original elements on the One Laptop Per Child program's "XO" computer aren't Windows friendly.
But here’s the thing, MS is big enough to encourage change here. Whether it’s a change to the XO’s build or some slimmed down version of Windows, with some effort it could get a crack at 3 million next-generation decision makers.
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