It's never ceases to shock me how bad the Microsoft commentary is on HN, not because I don't agree with the conclusions, but rather because it mostly operates on so little information.
> Microsoft has a wonderfully lucrative cash cow that allows them to not be successful at their other endeavors (with success for this argument being defined as a similar market share as their primary business).
Even though you say "cash cow" I'll give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you mean both Windows and Office. It's fine that you haven't heard of all of MS's other billion dollar businesses, but perhaps that should leave you feeling unqualified to make sweeping commentary?
Here are some products off the top of my head that you've clearly never heard of:
* Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS)
* Office Communications Server (OCS)
* Dynamics CRM
* SQL Server
Exchange's market share is comparable to that of Google's market share of search (~70%), so I'm assuming that meets your definition of success based on market share.
BPOS has 40 million paying customers compared to Google Apps' 25 million total customers (which presumably only a tiny fraction of which are paying).
SharePoint is part of the Office division but is an entirely new product driving billions of dollars of revenue.
There's no reason for you to have heard of any of this. I only know all about MS because I work for MS. But there's also no reason for you to talk about how MS reminds you of the "starving artist dilemma."
By "cash cow", I was referring to the Windows and Office business units as defined by how Microsoft releases their breakdown of finances. I'll cop to forgetting about the Server business unit, not because I'm not familiar, but because I genuinely just forgot about it in my statement.
Of the products you mentioned, the only one I've never heard of is Dynamics CRM. I use all of the others daily.
But you are correct in your general summation of my statement. I made a generalization about Microsoft based on public consensus; that their biggest success is in markets which they've already saturated.
That statement doesn't hold up as well when you actually start to break down all of their products and services.
Look, MS is a powerful company for a lot of reasons. They have a lot of talented people and they have profitable divisions. But the fact is that the market buys stock in companies which they expect to expand into other markets. MS has tried hard to follow on markets it has experience with and so far has generally fallen behind. So when we're talking about MS' ability to enter into markets or to keep its stock prices high, they lose.
But that doesn't mean they're going to close their doors.
But at the same time it doesn't make Ballmer look very good to investors and the directors should be thinking about this since they are responsible to the investors (so is Ballmer).