Mike Malone writes that Microsoft is dying, albeit very slowly:
Great, healthy companies not only dominate the market, but share of mind. Look at Apple these days. But when was the last time you thought about Microsoft, except in frustration or anger? The company just announced a powerful new search engine, designed to take on Google â€” but did anybody notice? Meanwhile, open systems world â€” created largely in response to Microsoft’s heavy-handed hegemony â€” is slowly carving away market share from Gates & Co.: Linux and Firefox hold the world’s imagination these days, not Windows and Explorer. The only thing Microsoft seems busy at these days is patching and plugging holes.
Microsoft has always prided themselves on being an innovative company, but they’ve utterly failed in that regard. Longhorn is supposed to bring Windows light-years ahead of the competition – too bad that ambitious projects like the Avalon graphics layer and the WinFS database/file system won’t make Longhorn’s possible 2006 ship date. Meanwhile, MacOS X 10.4 “Tiger” will have a new Core Graphics system and the “Spotlight” system that will do what Longhorn was supposed to do at least a year before Longhorn will even ship as a stripped-down version.
IE’s rendering engine is still broken. Windows XP Service Pack 2 contains several major unpatched security vulnerabilities. Office 2003 is both ugly as sin with a garish color scheme and toolbars and doesn’t have enough new features to make it a worthwhile upgrade.
Meanwhile, Firefox continues to get better, Mac and Linux both use the more secure UNIX permissions model, and Open Office does 99% of the things Office, and does them all for free.
Microsoft has essentially gotten to the point where they no longer have the agility to do what they used to do. The PC is becoming a commodity market. Paying $400 for an operating system or an office suite when computers are being priced at $500 or less no longer makes economic sense. MacOS X is already easy enough to pass the Grandma test, yet more than powerful enough for dedicated hackers and programmers. Linux is still not quite ready for the mainstream, but in the server space Linux is quickly taking over the major UNIX server market. Desktop Linux is rapidly becoming a viable alternative in niche markets like CRM and call center software. Again, why shell out hundreds of dollars per seat when Linux works just as well for free and is infinitely customizable, down to the kernel level.
Microsoft isn’t going to die off in our lifetimes, but it is where IBM was around 1984. They used to rule the roost, but now they’ve become inflexible while other smaller companies are taking the lead. As millions of users have to deal with spyware, viruses, worms, trojans, and the like, whatever goodwill Microsoft had is rapidly dwindling.
It’s a new era, and Microsoft remains mired in the past. Even though they have enough cash on hand to purchase a small nation outright, they’ve lost their innovative edge, and in technology once you’ve done that it’s extremely difficult to capture the magic once again.