Microsoft is not the kind of company that is easily beaten at its own game. Moreover it has a disconcerting habit of barging into other people's games, changing the rules, and then running off with the ball. A whole new ball game is just underway, devised and refereed by Oracle supremo Larry Ellison, and for once there is no sign of Bill Gates anywhere near the pitch. It is early days for the Internet-linked network computer, but by late summer, various hardware parties will be churning them out. The market, of course, may choose not to respond, and PCs may continue evolving into ever more colossal islands of unwanted power.
Vars aren't going to make a cent from selling NCs, according to Ellison. At Oracle's recent User Group Conference in Amsterdam, he outlined a concrete future for the NC. Users may not have to buy the things, since they may be given away like cellular phones. They will bring computing to the masses, and will be based on totally open standards, with no company owning the market. Software functionality and data will be held centrally, in the same way that a bank holds your money. For Vars, a wealth of opportunity beckons. A world where hardware and software is not supposed to carry any sort of margin, and where universal connectivity is all, is a world that promises all sorts of value added possibilities. What's more, Microsoft may find itself not even in the stadium as the biggest IT game of all takes off. Those who foresaw a banana skin for Microsoft in the shape of the Internet may have been right.
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