Microsoft is Dead

A few days ago I suddenly realized Microsoft was dead. I was talking to a young startup founder about how Google was different from Yahoo. I said that Yahoo had been warped from the start by their fear of Microsoft. That was why they’d positioned themselves as a “media company” instead of a technology company. Then I looked at his face and realized he didn’t understand. It was as if I’d told him how much girls liked Barry Manilow in the mid 80s. Barry who?

Microsoft? He didn’t say anything, but I could tell he didn’t quite believe anyone would be frightened of them.

Microsoft cast a shadow over the software world for almost 20 years starting in the late 80s. I can remember when it was IBM before them. I mostly ignored this shadow. I never used Microsoft software, so it only affected me indirectly—for example, in the spam I got from botnets. And because I wasn’t paying attention, I didn’t notice when the shadow disappeared.

But it’s gone now. I can sense that. No one is even afraid of Microsoft anymore. They still make a lot of money—so does IBM, for that matter. But they’re not dangerous.

Microsoft’s biggest weakness is that they still don’t realize how much they suck. They still think they can write software in house. Maybe they can, by the standards of the desktop world. But that world ended a few years ago.

I already know what the reaction to this essay will be. Half the readers will say that Microsoft is still an enormously profitable company, and that I should be more careful about drawing conclusions based on what a few people think in our insular little “Web 2.0” bubble. The other half, the younger half, will complain that this is old news.

  1. GregA says:


    Here suck on these pictures of my new lake cottage that I paid for out of that $75,000 dollar bonus I got over xmas.

    That by the way, is the beginnings of my half million dollar vacation home.

    Btw, my share of my business is worth 10.5 million dollars, not only am I my own boss, but I tell other people what to do. That asset alone means my net worth is more than 10 times greater than the average lifetime income of the average American.

    I just had my birthday, and I am 35 years old. I will be effectively retired by the time I am 40. At this point I am just keeping score, seeing how much cash I can rake in. Quite frankly, I would be bored if I didn’t have my job. I make things, you are just a parasite on the stockmarket, at the whim of the instutional investors.

    99.95% of Americans only dream of the sort of success I have had. You list your assets as a few cars. My latest endeavor is a building that I purchased for $500,000 less than a year ago, and now appraises for over 2.5 million dollars, and I am only half done with the project. Sure I put a million dollars worth of improvements in it, but still that is a million dollars in less than a year.

    But the assets are only part of that. When I call city hall, they connect me directly to the mayor, in two different cities. So not only do I have wealth, I have power.

    So while you have a few cars, I can have any car I want for the rest of my life. As it turns out, I am not into a cars, and my business provides my cars for me. I am picking my new XTerra up this week. Watch out I might crush you in your tiny little hybred car driving 50 mph down the highway.

    (I will make sure to post pictures when it is fresh and new, just to spite you)

    Woo, whatever you say about Lauren, that guy can afford a car! BTW since school I havent ever worked for less than 50k. What pays 36k a burger flipper job? Maybe the sales guy at circut city? Heh, good luck with that, let me know when you have real wealth and power.

  2. Lauren the Ghoti says:

    Wow. How very impressive.

    Funny thing, I don’t remember listing my assets. Oh well, my mind must be playing tricks on me.

    BTW, Mr. Trump, I’m surprised a rich guy like you would assume this is a “tiny little hybred (sic) car.” That’s the kind of mistake common among wage-slaves who live rich fantasy lives – but you couldn’t be one of them, since you already told us you’re rich, right?

    Oh – and all the rich guys I know also know how to spell ‘hybrid.’

    Here’s a tip for future attempts to impress strangers who can’t see you in your undershirt, sitting in front of your almost-paid-up Compaq at the particle-board kitchen table – try to keep it believable, instead of ramping up your claims X10 with every post. At the rate you’re going, in two more posts, you’ll have Bill Gates delivering your pizza. As it is, you’ve been spending a little too much time sitting on the john, looking through old Robb Reports lifted from your supervisor’s reception area.

    If someone gave you an enema, they could bury what’s left in a shoebox. 😉

  3. Peter Rodwell says:

    So, please tell me how Microsoft “dominates” the internet. Thanks!

    I didn’t say “dominates,” I said “dominated.”

  4. Peter Jakobs says:


    my point was this: Microsoft lives of the inertia of their customers. Those that will “look no further”. There’s always a cliffhanger in Windows that will pull in some other MS product. You mentioned ADS? Certainly not the world’s strongest directory system, but have you ever tried to manage Exchange without it? And why Exchange, why not notes? Certainly not because of it’s superior functionality (and I’ve worked with both) but because “everyone knows Outlook”. Of course they do, and that’s a good reason to “look no further”?
    If you bring up provisioning: users don’t just live in Exchange and the logon directory. How about a serious company that might be running SAP, Oracle, Siebel, a telephone switch, an access control system, an external supplies provisioning system, a host based application and who knows what more. Now we’re talking provisioning. Add a workflow to that, who will you be talking to? IBM, Sun, Siemens, Oracle and Novell. Microsoft? Well, they’ve bought a metadirectory provider in 1999 or so and even productized it, but no mention of them in the market.
    I’m not really bashing Microsoft here, I’m just trying to show that they’re a terrible innovator. They’re sitting on their monopoly, riding it hard as long as they can. And the harder they’re riding it, the more people are looking for alternatives.
    I know of a few world-class businesses that have started projects to investigate at least a partial Linux desktop rollout. You may think it’s ridiculous, but it’s not. Linux is closing the gap.
    What’s keeping anyone from replacing typical knowledge worker desktops with Linux? I say it’s just inertia!
    Many of the applications have moved to web based anyway and in the last 12 to 18 months, Firefox has become the gold standard for web developers again.
    If you need the classical office applications, Open will do just fine for the vast majority of users. For the rest, those macro coders, Office was the wrong product to start with. I’ve done desktop migrations where the IT department was truly amazed to find out how many “applications” existed in VBA or Excel Macros, how much company data was stored in Access databases or, more commonly, Excel sheets out there that they had no knowledge of and, worse, could not backup, manage or otherwise support. Those apps really belong into the network, and we usually tried to find a way to provide them web based.
    So you take all those Office based desktops away, what’s left with a Microsoft lock-in? Just a few, in my experience, and on many of those, the lock-in is not very hard either.

    Now, what’s Microsoft doing to counter that trend?
    What were the large strides forward in productivity from 2000 to XP? The only difference I noticed was the bubblegum-colored interface (which I usually immediately switched back). Other than that? Shuffled some entries around in the start menu, hiding away those you use less (and thus annoying at least me, because I know where those I use most often are, but the others, I need to search for).
    For Vista, where’s the large producivity improvements there? I can’t say, because I don’t have Vista and from what I hear from customers, they’re ticked off by the huge hardware requirements for Vista as well. Let’s remember that businesses are not in the game to provide their users with nice optical effects. If they come at no cost like with Linux XGL, they’re acceptable, but if they come at a premium like Vista, they’re not. Businesses also usually won’t just run the OS that came with the hardware, they will try to standardize on a desktop they can manage. In many cases, this is still Windows 2000, the real large ones have started their XP migrations one or two years ago. That’s about the acceptance curve that Vista will be facing, if it will be accepted. Because when you go to Vista, you can just as well go to any other OS running on the same hardware, which mainly means Linux. Ubuntu and Novell are targeting the desktop and it will show over the next few years who has the better tools to actually manage those desktops.
    Microsoft has been the choice of the lazy for a long time, partly due to the fact that there was no real competition, but that’s changing. Linux is closing the gap and if MacOS was available on no name PCs that would be another prime contender for a successful desktop platform, as long as I have to through out my whole hardware investment to get it, it won’t fly.

    Let’s see where this will lead to. Microsoft has braced itself with patents and might choose to go the SCO way, don’t innovate but take it to the courts. I’m not sure if that has ever been a successful business strategy, but as the XBox example shows, Microsoft can run an unsuccessful strategy for quite a while before they even notice that money might be flowing out instead of into their pockets.


  5. Peter Jakobs says:

    Oh, let me add one example here:

    1980s: “nobody ever got fired for buying IBM”, then IBM launched the PS/2 series. A system that brought a technological advance (32 Bit bus) at a price (lock in, especially for hardware manufacturers). Result? We all know it and the long term result is that you can buy “Lenovo” PCs today.
    1990s and 2000s: “nobody ever got fired for buying Microsoft”, now Microsoft ships Vista. Minor technical advance but major lock in features. Let’s see if the market might create a parallel here.

    Both, IBM and Microsoft have made their way to their respective monopoly in their markets by commoditizing their products. Once they had the monopoly, they tightened the screws. IBM in one big yank, Microsoft in a series of smaller turns. But even that will ultimately start to hurt the customers and with Vista, the point might be here.


  6. John Scott says:

    Like most big companies Microsoft has entrenched itself in a self inflicted demise. Walmart seems to be doing the same thing in the discount retail sector. I think the real problem is the feeling by upper managemet that you need to keep building. Walmart could have just been just great at being a discount store. But they are pushing always for more. Same goes for Microsoft. Is it not enough to have 90% of the free world using your OS and Office software! Im really not sure that XP was finished. I think maybe a 5 year replacement of a OS is a bit overdone. Maybe a supplement upgrade for XP for those who needed and wanted improvements would have been better.
    It appears most consumers do not see a need for a new OS to surf the web.

  7. mark says:

    Lauren- I think I just saw you get your ass stomped son. I am laughing so hard my side hurts. GregA thanks for the show.

  8. ECA says:

    WOW, some smart people here….
    Many machines and OS, have had a run at MS and windows…
    some were VERY very good…
    But MS plays the GAME…
    Overwhelm them with FREEBIES.
    Give everyone an Intel based machine, and Look around…What do you find, except Windows and GWBasic(go look at the hardware, auto parts stores and Arbies…).
    Raise THE BAR.
    Add a few tech advances that SHOULD have been there 10 years ago.
    Look, Hard, and see WHO made USB, Firewire, ANd SCSI…It wasnt Intel or MS..
    BUY them out…
    REALLY….look at ALL the great software of the past. MS didnt make 90% of it…The Buy them out, so they dont need to pay a ROYALTY for making something Compatible..

  9. BubbaRay says:

    [off topic]
    Wealth? Just wait until you lose a daughter, your mom, you’ve outlived lifelong friends, you lose some of your health, your uncles and aunts, and your pets. Perhaps you could go buy some new friends and family. Enjoy that money while you can, it won’t buy you any extra days. Of course, I plan on taking all mine with me. Lordy, there’s just nothing ‘ like a good p*ssin’ contest.

    [somewhat on topic]
    Wish I could remember the name of the guy who was so full of himself he went boating instead of meeting with IBM — he later committed suicide, and now we’re left with with the guy that _did_ meet with IBM — Bill Gates. Talk about being in the right place at the right time…

    Comment by Peter Jakobs — 4/8/2007 @ 12:24 am — Bingo, thanks pj.

    And to all, thanks. What a great Easter show. 🙂

  10. ECA says:

    the problem comes when the GAME makers go to DX10 WHICH will only run under Vista…

    I said before and again…
    It has nothing to DO with business apps…
    Its GAMES and the pretty interface.

    Even Protection, is NOT involved except for the Protection OF MS for the product.
    A password is a password…I dont care if its 8bit or 128 bit…If you only use A-Z, a-z, and 0-9….Add special charactors and CTRL, SHIFT, ALT charactors into it…And you have ALOT of protection.

  11. ECA says:

    41, let me REWORD that…
    The ONLY reason Business and others would WANT vista, is AFTEr MS Buy, stomps, and KILLS all the other Programs that ARE used for business.
    They will STOP making OFFICE for anything, except Vista.

    And if you WANT to be paranoid, I WOULDNT update the older versions… As it wouldnt be very hard to render them NOT WORKING. Even if MS paid someone 1/2 the world away to Spike the software.

  12. Frank IBC says:

    Do you talk the same way you type, ECA?

  13. ECA says:


  14. Steve S says:

    “Wish I could remember the name of the guy who was so full of himself he went boating instead of meeting with IBM — he later committed suicide, and now we’re left with with the guy that _did_ meet with IBM — Bill Gates. Talk about being in the right place at the right time…”

    You are thinking of Gary Kildall, the co-founder of Digital Research, Inc and the developer of the popular operating system CP/M. His dealings (or lack of) with IBM have assumed an urban myth status and the odd circumstances surrounding his death didn’t help.

    This would be a good subject for Dvorak to comment on!


  15. BubbaRay says:

    #46, Steve S, thanks. I knew someone from this group would
    remember !!


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