[FoRK] Quarters needed for Apple to put Microsoft out of our misery?

Stephen D. Williams sdw at lig.net
Thu Jan 29 17:27:28 PST 2015

How many more quarters like this last one would it take for Apple to comfortably buy Microsoft? Not many it seems. I give it 4–6 to 
be comfortable.

I frequently cringe just seeing the headlines of Microsoft gaffes, which is mostly against my will these days. [1][2][3][4] I am 
sure Microsoft is staffed by great people, although often stifled I’ve heard and read. Besides long-standing corporate culture that 
exhibits signs of significant ineffectiveness, the glaring problem seems to be the severe, perhaps epic technical debt that many of 
Microsoft’s products frequently seem to exhibit. Poor design decisions and bull-headed avoidance of better or more accepted 
solutions have often been adhered to out of what sometimes seems like pure spite or greed.

Now, with the already pervasive use of Linux, cloud services, etc. on servers being boosted to explosive levels by container 
technology such as Docker, along with related services, there’s little doubt where things are heading. Coupled with browser, app, 
desktop, tablet, and development evolution, we’re only a few cycles away from true user and developer freedom. For some of us, 
there’s no trust left with Microsoft and the gap between the best approach and Microsoft’s is too great to foresee any bridge. For a 
long time, those apparently best approaches were often somewhat theoretical or otherwise not practical. Now, they are often 
immediately, easily, and very inexpensively available with evolutionary momentum that is simply fun to experience. While those still 
immersed in the Microsoft technology world view may not see it, the other technology realm predictably experiences a lot less angst 
nearly every step of the way.

Perhaps, ironically, the purchase of Microsoft would be perceived to have anti-trust issues. Or perhaps, as US and other governments 
have an inexplicable fondness for using what is arguably the most complex, least secure, and most expensive operating system, 
preservation of the current security stance may be asserted. Nothing could be further from the truth, but these biases and inertia 
run deep.

Microsoft’s market cap is about $337B, with Apple said to be about $700B. Apple made $18 profit in the last quarter with $178B cash 
on hand, with significant amounts held overseas. Microsoft had about $80B in cash in January 2014.

  $337B market cap

  $672B market cap ($700B in articles)

  $18B profit in last quarter

  $178B in cash

  $80B cash

“Microsoft sales are growing for just about every product it makes … except for Windows.”

Simplistically, at 51% of ownership, you could vote for a merger. That’s only $168.5B. Presumably the stock would rise as it was 
purchased at that scale, so it would be more. Probably chunks could be spun off or sold to some other big players in a multi-party 
bid. Once 51% was reached, the Microsoft cash on hand should help. I for one would personally contribute a significant sum to end 
the pain for myself, those I care directly for, and the world at large.  Should I start crowd funding for this? The cumulative 
unnecessary pain caused by Windows and associated products is immeasurable.

There are other interesting paths to a solution, but I don’t expect Microsoft to seriously consider them.

The most obvious problem and opportunity is at the operating system level. How would a merger there work? Here’s one interesting 
scenario: First, create a compatibility layer starting with the Linux kernel and GNU / open source subsystems, which already run on 
everything. (Linux is also the basis for Android and ChromeOS on Chromebooks.) This kernel can then host the rest of OS X with 
Windows APIs supported as an ABI (Application Binary Interface) alternative in the kernel. At that point, Linux, OS X, and Windows 
apps could run side by side, natively. Ideally, for users, this would be open source and also host ChromeOS and Android, but getting 
all of that would be a twisty path.

The only things that fundamentally hold this back now are patents, proprietary details, and the fact that the official version of 
Windows will, currently, evolve, invalidating any imitation or port. A merger could end the quagmire that is Windows while 
supporting current apps and unifying mundane operating system details so we can concentrate on more constructive efforts.

The drift of Windows, and Microsoft it sometimes seems, toward obscurity is painful and suboptimal in many ways. There are probably 
not enough good reasons for Apple to take on such a burden, but it might be better for everyone. Use offshore cash first, do the 
right thing for users, and get on with the next generation of technology. Microsoft shareholders would likely be happy to have Xbox, 
Azure, and perhaps Office separated from Windows. The Surface 3 looks like impressive hardware, and innovations like Kinect and now 
HoloLens are great, but much of the market isn’t going get much benefit if they are Windows only.




[4] http://www.infoworld.com/article/2855039/windows-phone-os/windows-phone-heading-back-to-deaths-door.html


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