Lessons from the fall of the Windows monopoly

Remember when the Justice Department accused Microsoft of being a monopoly? Well, those days are long over, and the rapid change in technology speaks volumes about the market, as well as where companies should focus their priorities.

If you want to get a sense of how quickly the technology world is changing, check out Business Insider’s story on the end of the Windows monopoly.

The story is part history lesson in that it goes back over a decade to the U.S. government’s attack on Microsoft and its alleged monopoly on operating systems, and on the concessions that the government forced on the company.

It’s hard to imagine that today, but it’s a critical point for the story. In a rapidly changing technology world, no one really has a monopoly.

“Microsoft’s ‘Windows monopoly’ hasn't been so much destroyed as rendered irrelevant,” writes Henry Blodget.

The culprit wasn’t the Justice Department’s anti-trust team, but the rise of the Internet, cloud computing, smartphones, tables and everything else mobile. That’s been a major challenge for Microsoft, Dell, Intel, Hewlett-Packard and other tech companies, who rose to fame and fortune in the 1980s and 90s with the PC era.

Blodget has some pretty telling graphics that illustrate his story. Think about this one stat: three years ago, 70 percent of personal computing devices ran on Windows, today the number is about 30 percent as more devices use Apple's iOS and Google's Android operating systems.

In response, Microsoft has revamped its business to a licensing model rather than a “unit-driven” model, as Blodget describes it. The company is still profitable and innovating, but it will never approach a monopoly again.

But that’s some incredibly rapid change, and a warning to anyone who thinks they have a grip on the future.

For me, this rapid change is another call for prime contractors to focus on the mission of government over the technology. Of course, you have to learn and master technology, but it always has to be with an understanding of how it helps the mission.

It reminds me of the early days of the war in Afghanistan, when the military began training soldiers to use mules and horses. Those were critical skills needed to fight that war.

The numbers in Blodget’s story also make the argument that you have to constantly prepare for change. In fact, change is the only constant in this market.

No one can cling to a technology just because that’s the way it has always been done; you’ll lose sight of your mission and our business.