Robert Cringely on Apple's next step:
Here's where I go out on a limb, but I think Microsoft's clearest threat still comes from Apple, though not the way most people expect. Yes, Apple is about to take Microsoft to the woodshed when it comes to Internet movie distribution. Yes, Apple already super-dominates the music player market where Microsoft doesn't even really exist. But the real jewel is one Microsoft has to lose, not gain -- the PC platform, itself.There's also an interesting speculation on what Google's doing these days.
What could Apple do to take down Windows, with or without the help of Intel?...
Here are the clues. Microsoft is woefully late with its next Windows upgrade, while Apple is far ahead with even the current version of OS X. Apple is moving to Intel processors and hackers have already shown that OS X can run fine on non-Apple hardware....
Every one of those iPods is a bootable drive. What if Apple introduces OS 10.5, its next super-duper operating system release, and at the same time starts loading FOR FREE the current operating system version -- OS 10.4 -- on every new iPod in a version that runs on generic Intel boxes? What if they also make 10.4 a free download through the iTunes Music Store?
It wouldn't kill Microsoft, but it would hurt the company, both emotionally and materially. And it wouldn't hurt Apple at all. Apple hardware sales would be driven by OS 10.5 and all giving away 10.4 would do is help sell more iPods and attract more customers to Apple's store.
But I think this could hurt Microsoft more than even Cringely thinks. I've started using a version of Linux because of my frustrations with Windows, but I don't yet have the money to pay the Apple hardware premium. I'm not the only one - there must be millions of potential users who would die for a free alternative to Windows, but want the brand reliability of an established computer company AND can't afford to replace their hardware. Releasing an Intel-compatible OS X free of charge could turn MSFT's market dominance in to a smoking crater sooner than you might think.