There's no shelter in size in the tech industry. Microsoft sits atop the software market, but its software-delivery model has lost favor. Cisco Systems is the king of networking, yet its software security needs attention. For customers, this amounts to more than spectator sport. Microsoft's dilemma and Cisco's challenge have implications for you, too.
Bill Gates saw it coming. With Microsoft developers hunkered down on long-term projects such as Windows Vista, nimbler companies like Google have been spinning out Web-based applications that enjoy quick uptake. Gates last week outlined a plan that puts Microsoft innovations on a faster delivery track and promises to do so without legacy licensing arrangements.
Some managers won't like the idea of Excel spreadsheets being shared via a public Web site or the loss of control when users access Microsoft applications outside a company firewall. But the flexibility inherent in Web-based software could be a breakthrough for Microsoft faithful. And creative combinations of old-school desktop software and newer Web apps are easy to imagine.
Likewise, the issue of Cisco security has been building (The Next Big Target). Researcher Michael Lynn demonstrated that Cisco's operating system was more vulnerable than many realized, and Cisco last week issued an advisory on what customers should do to protect their networks from a related threat. Unblinking diligence remains in order.
The lesson may be that yesterday's technology wonders morph into tomorrow's technology challenges. It's something many of you know all about.
Stephanie Stahl will return in two weeks.