Sustainable Software


Windows ecosystem

In a recent episode of the Exponent podcast, the host mentioned Microsoft’s approach to the Windows ecosystem.

I haven’t found reference to it elsewhere, so take it with a pinch of salt.

The point he made was that Microsoft aimed to capture no more than 30% of the total value of the Windows ecosystem. The ecosystem consists of resellers, installers, support people, app developers etc. Many people make a living based on Windows software.

If Microsoft took more than 30% of the total value of the ecosystem, it would be dangerous. Other parties wouldn’t be motivated. They’d start recommending other products, or go out of business - leaving their customers underserved.

It’s a bit like in the natural world, where the population of one species gets too large, causing another to collapse. For example, the number of foxes in an area grows too high, which causes a rabbit population to collapse. The foxes then struggle as a result.

Mobile apps

This number of 30% has almost become accepted wisdom for the maximum cut a company can take. This is the same cut that Apple takes in the App Store, and Google takes in the Play Store. It isn’t linked to the underlying costs of running the app stores - instead it’s the max they can take without destroying any incentive for developers to actually make apps.

Even at 30% there are serious questions emerging about the health of the app stores, and whether developers can build sustainable businesses.