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I'm no Ballmer fan but there is one very interesting correlation not highlighted here: Apple started surging and Microsoft stopped from around the time when Microsoft came under anti-trust pressure. Microsoft has been enormously handicapped for the last decade by their monopoly status. They have been completely unable to leverage synergies between their multiple platforms because of it.

Now, I happen to agree that Ballmer is a disaster. I hate the fact he is 100% about screwing money out of businesses and zero about love for technology. There is nothing in him that is beautiful, nothing that inspires a vision of the future. Jobs, as much as I detest him, has at least a love and vision for technology. Gates had these latter as well, but unfortunately, not the force of personality nor the aesthetic sense to drive his vision to the core of the company the way Jobs has.

Your first paragraph makes an underemphasized point. I remember at the time of the antitrust litigation against MS reading interviews with former IBMers about IBM's comparable experience years earlier. They all said that what MS had to fear was not losing the case but rather a slow strangulation due to the climate change (so to speak) that protracted antitrust action would evoke within MS internally. It seems that this is exactly what happened. Hindsight is 20/20 of course, but given that this was widely predicted at the time, I wonder if it was a failure on Gates' part not to settle quickly. MS were at the height of their power then. But as the I Ching says, it's precisely at the height of one's power that one should worry about the coming decline.

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