Most corporates have contingency plans to abandon Microsoft software if it does not prove itself, according to Research Board, a group that surveys the opinions of blue chip company IT chiefs.
Research Board discussed the issue of Microsoft exit strategies with Microsoft chief executive Bill Gates a few weeks ago, and claims he is "worried". It is an independent institution that assesses current thinking among corporates with over $5 billion turnover but does not receive funding from IT vendors. Its 40 European members include British Petroleum, Marks & Spencer and Unilever.
Abigail Kramer, partner at Research Board, said Gates expressed concern that customers feel too reliant on Microsoft and are prepared to move away from Windows if the vendor does not innovate or if its prices seem expensive. "Our members are being careful about Microsoft and are serious about an exit strategy. We asked Bill Gates about this and he is worried. That is why he is moved quickly to an Internet strategy and to deliver new products."
Kramer said no company has led the IT industry for very long and Microsoft is aware its hold can only be maintained or weakened. Customers are keeping a close eye on Microsoft's price and margins, she said. Microsoft's gross margins have risen from 83.1 per cent to 86.3 per cent in the past four years while other industry giants have had flat or falling margins at lower levels; IBM?s fell from 45.6 per cent to 40.2 per cent and Sun?s dropped from 45.3 per cent to 44 per cent over the same period.
Three Microsoft representatives refused to comment on the issue.
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