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ECommerceTimes.com

Will The Next Millennium Be Windows-Less?

By Chet Dembeck
Nov 1, 1999 12:00 AM PT

It is being reported that major PC makers are responding to Microsoft's anti-trust troubles by busily working behind the scenes to develop a new line of Windows-less models.

Will The Next Millennium Be Windows-Less?

In fact, some industry observers believe that Gateway, Inc. and AOL are secretly collaborating on a line of computers that won't utilize any Microsoft software at all.

What seems to give this scenario some credence is the fact that AOL, which recently pumped $800 (US$) million into Gateway, has 19 million subscribers. That obvious natural market has not gone unnoticed by Microsoft.

Internet-Based Applications

Some analysts feel that Microsoft has always viewed AOL as its number one rival because of its dominance as an online access provider.

Microsoft's fear of a shift from PC-based applications to Internet-driven applications is underscored by its efforts to check AOL's online ubiquity by pouring millions into promoting its MSN.com portal service. Microsoft has also done nothing to promote the opening of broadband assets that AOL so desperately needs.

Operating System Gone In An Instant

For a moment, imagine a PC that loads instantly when you flip a switch, instead of the cumbersome Windows 95 or 98 operating system that sometimes takes more than three minutes to load. Also imagine crash-free computing and only paying -- on the high-end -- $199 (US$) for such a PC, because it didn't need a hard drive or a boatload of pre-loaded software.

This scenario is what I believe will come of the partnership between AOL and Gateway sometime next year.

Almost There

If you have used AOL's latest 5.0 software, then you know that it already comes with an Internet-driven calendar and planner. You also know that its e-mail application is basically a sophisticated word processing program, complete with spell check and thesaurus.

It would take very little to add a few accounting and other basic applications for an additional premium.

These features would also be the kind of value-added hedge that would bolster AOL's model against an onslaught of free Internet service providers.

AOL Not Alone

Even though AOL seems to be on the verge of creating such a Windows-less platform, some industry observers feel that the company is not alone.

It has been rumored that Compaq is also feverishly working on an Internet-driven PC that could preview at next month's Comdex computer show.

Additionally, it is believed that Dell will debut a line of Internet computers with and without Microsoft software.

The E-Commerce Catalyst

All the same, I think that the real catalyst behind a massive thrust into a Windows-less world will be e-commerce.

While the current e-commerce community often pats itself on the back for its skyrocketing growth, it is still in the embryonic stage.

E-c

ommerce will only reach its massive potential when the average world citizen can quickly and cheaply gain access to the Internet.

That's why I predict that e-commerce -- along with the strategic moves of Microsoft's competitors -- will soon catapult us into a Windows-less world.

What do you think? Let's talk about it.


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