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Microsoft is Dead (paulgraham.com)
97 points by rajivn 2236 days ago | hide | past | web | 93 comments | favorite

According to analytics, I've had 20,000 hits to my website in the last 30 days. 75% of those are reported to be running a windows operating system.

As much as I respect the interesting point of view presented in the article, I sometimes wonder if sites like Hacker News and Slashdot don't put us all into some sort of exceptionally nerdy bubble-think.

Like with the last week or so when everything I read seemed to say "google sucks", "lynch google", "burn and raze googles offices so they can never spam search results again"

What was the rest of the world's reaction to this seemingly endless flood of histrionic blog posts about broken google search results? Crickets chirped and a tumbleweed yawned with boredom.

Microsoft isn't dead. From what I see, in the last 30 days Microsoft is a minimum of 75% alive and we'd all be very much richer if we didn't forget that.

With the utmost respect of course.

Without exaggeration, hyperbole will literally be the death of us all.

There's certainly some truth to what you say but I'd encourage you to look at the context of the conversation here. pg's blog and Hacker News appeal to people who are generally looking at the world from one of two perspectives: investing or as a startup.

Keeping that in mind shapes the conversation differently

In Microsoft's case I can absolutely see how 75% of the people visiting your website might be Windows Computers. But how many of those people want to be on Windows? How many are using it because there's simply nothing else or because they're just too lethargic to switch? How many are using it simply because they're on their work computer and no one's seriously challenged MS in the corporate space?

So Microsoft could very well be dead and not even know it (as pg's addendum to this post makes clear). If you accept that thesis it has very relevant implications to the intended audience.

From a startup's perspective it means you shouldn't rely on Microsoft technology and need to pursue a strategy that supports Microsoft's desktop but doesn't build on it (which probably means web apps). From an investing perspective it means looking down the line for any possible desktop competitor that could be viable. Because once that viable competitor comes along the bottom will fall out of Microsoft's profits.

"How many are using it because there's simply nothing else or because they're just too lethargic to switch?"

Isn't that true for any conceivable product? I am using cars because there are no teleporters. I am using a keyboard because I don't have a good brain to computer interface yet. If I had a tablet, it would only be because there isn't a nano computer in my eyeball yet that projects directly on my retina (the real retina, not the Apple display).

The point here is that most people who have the luxury (and information) to chose their platform won't use Windows.

If teleporters were invented today, chances are that you wouldn't be able to afford one for the next 20 years.

I know several people who willingly chose Windows 7, and who are knowledgeable about computers.

In fact, 75% of IT people I know could be about right.

I've intentionally chosen Windows 7 + Windows Server to run my IT infrastructure, but the majority of the factors that motivated that choice were not due to much real work on Microsoft's part. QuickBooks, an internal Access database, our bookstore's POS software, and CAD software. All are needed, none of them run on Linux (and most of them don't run on Macs.)

Windows being the best choice of operating system is an entirely orthogonal issue from Microsoft being dead.

So your reasons for choosing Windows have everything to do with third-party software that only supports Windows, and nothing to do with Windows itself.

From a strategic perspective, that should be scary to Microsoft and anyone who is betting on Microsoft.

I think it has been like that for most of the lifetime of Microsoft, though.

If Linux games would have been as good as Windows games, none of my friends would ever have installed Windows.

We switched an entire team of about 10 people to Ubuntu just because we couldnt afford to buy any more Windows licenses. The only thing the team missed was Office and had a few issues with audio/video plugins for the browser which we solved mostly without any headaches. They re now happily using Google docs and Open Office.

Unfortunately, we are a race of habit and being served tea instead of coffee every morning is gonna piss us off but eventually we ll get over it.

I would seriously rather switch OS's than switch to tea from coffee :)

Between switching to Windows and switching to tea, I would go with tea. Switching to *BSD, OTOH, would probably be better than tea.

I think you are missing the point. The summary of the article is Microsoft may be a monopoly but it is not a danger for fragile new technology startups. They retain their existing monopoly but world domination is not in their radar anymore.

Edit: Another way to look at it, dead here means the opposite of "Stay hungry, stay foolish".

Of course MS is not dead in a way that noone uses them. But think about what you wrote - 75%. In Y2K, you wouldn't even monitor it - of course 99,99% use windows. You might start being interested in the weird trend of some people not using IE by then. This is where they were - the default, good-enough and present everywhere. It's not the case anymore - people have choice and as soon as they realise it, they will not choose MS anymore (as far as OS goes).

Some years ago, I didn't know people who knew about alternative OS-es. These days I don't know people using windows, who aren't considering buying an Apple product as their next computer. In this sense they definitely died recently.

I think you are making the wrong point. Windows is not dead and that's the truth but Microsoft is dead cause they are not doing any Web apps. They are not doing something innovative. They are just doing what they always did: writing Windows (a horrible OS) which comes with Internet Explorer a horrible browser which is not standard web conform.

They are still earning money but they are laying on their success AND I think that is what Paul Graham means as dead. They are dead because they are not playing the game anymore. They are just laying on their success with windows.

And thinking about more and more OSs are coming out this will not help them they need something for example to succeed on the tablet market and NO windows 7 and 8 or 9 is not the answer for a tablet.

because "innovative" = "we are copying something that's been around for decades on desktops, but now we're doing it ON THE WEB!!!/ON MOBILE PHONE!!!" ;P

(this is of course a great advance from the previous generation of thrilling innovation which was all about copying something that's been around for decades on mainframes/minicomputers, but ON A MICRO!!!) ;P ;P

I don't think Windows is a horrible OS in any meaningful way to the market. To the layman, there is not much difference in productivity, fun or functions between OSX and Windows 7, and most users don't need the features Linux provides.

Very well said. I'm a Linux advocate but you can't forget Window's has a massive market-share still, and will remain the case for a long time to come. I feel that most tech sties experience traffic anomalies, so they don't see what the true market share breakdown is.

The date of this article is April 2007.

My guess is that it was re-posted here for a some humor or entertainment purposes only.

I think everyone knows MS is far from "dead".

I think most people here know that MS is indeed dead in terms of not controlling things anymore (which is exactly what the article stated if you read it).

Who cares about browser percentage scores? People stopped making websites for IE-only years ago.

I was replying to the comment which argues MS is not dead because he gets a lot of Windows-based hits on his website.

And, to reply to your reply to my reply, I disagree. Microsoft is very much in control. I think Microsoft is the competitor you always have to worry about which makes them a powerful force, which puts them in control.

Yep, I thought you were agreeing with him, and that MS was still relevant in 2010.

To your second point: I disagree that Microsoft is the competitor you always have to worry about. They were in 2000. They stopped a long time ago. Perhaps you disagree, and that's fine, we'll leave it at that.

Remember IBM? From 1960 through ~1985, IBM was the only answer for enterprise computing. And there really wasn't any other kind of computing then. IBM Research did everything from semiconductor research to databases to virtual machines. IBM was the hottest stock in the market in the 1960s, passing $600/share. (That's about $4,000 in today's money.) They eventually faded, as their customers moved to a combination of desktop PCs and servers and other companies' servers.

IBM is still with us. They're having to reinvent themselves regularly, because the only concept they own is still "Mainframe", and they failed to hold on to "PC". But they're still a huge company selling systems and professional services.

I expect Microsoft to go the same way. There will be significant but dwindling demand for Windows for 30 more years. (But probably not Azure, Windows Mobile, or XBox.) They will stay alive, and even prosper moderately, on that business.

To me the cogent point is that IBM re-invented itself but only after it broke from a line of internally groomed CEOs leading all the way back to the Watsons. IBM was about to be split into pieces when Lou Gerstner was hired from the outside.

He's the one who saw the advantage in IBM's footprint and the value it could add to a service based business. He's also the one who put an end to several sacred cows like OS/2 and took IBM's focus almost completely off mainframes.

The parallels to Microsoft are actually pretty compelling (For example "Windows Everywhere" is Microsoft's Mainframe imho). I don't think Ballmer has been a bad CEO (like some do) but his time is done. The old tricks aren't working anymore. They need to find someone with a fresh vision if they want to survive.

This is a little off-topic, but I've heard a lot of bad things about Gerstner as well (read the one star reviews on Amazon for his book). It is pretty well accepted that he saved IBM, or is it controversial amongst people in the know?

I agree. The fact that you don't hear about an old big company that often doesn't mean it's dead. It has found it's business model and doing well in some not-that-hyped sector.

On the other hand, the fact that you hear about 'new-hot-startup' on all hi-tech sites doesn't mean it'll survive it's first year.

Possibly the most rational response I've seen on this thread yet.

Yes they're dead if you're looking for the next hot new thing. But if you're looking at profit---they're the 3rd most profitable public company in the U.S. behind just Chevron and Exxon. No other software/hardware tech company makes more money.

I remember when pg first wrote this. A lot of people misunderstood the headline. From the pg's Cliffs notes: "What I meant was not that Microsoft is suddenly going to stop making money, but that people at the leading edge of the software business no longer have to think about them." That's at http://paulgraham.com/cliffsnotes.html

So the two definitions pg gave in 2007 were "You don't have have to be afraid of Microsoft" and the definition above.

When this came out I was still at Microsoft with a charter of "game changing strategies". There were (and still are) quite a few things that MS could do to reinvigorate itself, but the corporate culture keeps them from gathering momentum: the company's success came in a PC-oriented world, so they don't think from a phone, device, or web perspective; and the lack of understanding of win/win dynamics (which Google rode to success) means they're not able to leverage their huge assets. Since then, the ongoing loss of great people has deepened a huge generational hole. So yeah, this essay has held up real well.

Jon, as someone from MS (and with great repute), I'd be curious to get your take on something I've heard from ex and current MS employees I talk to regularly.

One issue that seems to come up a fair bit (often not directly) is that MS has a hypercritical culture, where there's always a reason NOT do something. Since they had big money makers in Office and Windows, no one really noticed for a long time..

I hear constant grumbling that people with ideas get their ideas shot down with lots of criticism. Many of these people say that MS would have killed the iPhone, iPad, and Wii had they been proposed at MS in final form.

It sounds like a company made of bright people who have no problem finding issues with products, but less good at fighting for new innovation against these same critics.

Very true -- in fact Microsoft's values include being self-critical, but not being self-aware. Also, it's a very competitive culture, and the easiest way to show you're smarter/better/more powerful than somebody else is to attack them. The net result is that it's an incredibly negative culture, and it really affects people both on the professional and personal side.

Seems to be a Seattle thing. I feel Amazon has a similar culture too.

Or perhaps it is just a big company problem. When the two ways to get ahead is: 1. Do something and brag as much as you can about it (shameless self promotion) 2. Criticize everything about everybody around you, even for the most minute details (make your self look good, by putting down everybody else ideas or way to do things).

Not helpful behavior, all disguised in the name of the company's 'good' of course.

there are two ways to build the tallest building; build it higher, or destroy the buildings around you

I haven't worked for Microsoft for long, but I don't find this to be true. My team is very cooperative and positive.

Certainly there are some groups that are more negative than others. You may not have been exposed to it yet, but politics there can be terrible. Either politics between groups (often working on similar/competitive technology) or within groups, where people jockey for stack rank. MS "grades on a curve" so there's always a winner and loser, regardless of how great your team is. This sets up a very bad intra-team dynamic and it's been one of my principle complaints about MS since I left over 10 years ago.

Why should innovative engineers who cost a lot to hire have to fight so hard in the first place? If out-of-control critics are creating an innovation-hostile environment, shouldn't their aggressive suppression be a basic problem for management? Something like cleaning the toilets and taking out the trash; constant chores that turn into genuine health-hazards if ignored, but easily handled when reduced to systematic housekeeping.

I'm also wondering how many of the accurate "it'll never work" calls are based on internal realities? As in "this awesome tablet won't fly because there's no way the Windows 7 people are going to allow us to create our own dedicated OS."

Also, about the criticism - what form does it take? Does it sound like people saying "Due to my lack of imagination and generally fearful demeanor, I say it can't be done for this BS reason"? Or does it carry the more savvy and well-informed tone of "Doing that at Microsoft will get you killed, and here's where you'll find the bodies to prove it"?

It's because in large companies you don't get promoted (and so more money, escape the next redundancy axe) by producing good stuff but by being ranked higher than everyone else on your grade.

So you do this by pointing out to your manager all the good things you have done and shooting down anything anyone else does - since everybody knows this and everybody does it you have a catastrophic situation.

Ultimately the only solution if to have them crash their cars into each on the way to work to decide who gets the corner office (gratuitous Richard Morgan link)

Isn't this why the stuff out of the Entertainment & Devices division is doing so well? My understanding is that E&D are not as strongly shackled to corporate culture and runs as a semi-autonomous unit making its own decisions, albeit with a healthy cash flow. This is why Xbox has done so well, and Windows Phone 7, for all its critics, is really the epitome of something Microsoft simply couldn't have designed when this article was written. I mean, WP7 actually has a design. You can like it or not like it, but you can't claim it to be a copycat or not show any aesthetic talent at all.

Bing is run the same way, is it not?

It seems that Microsoft might finally be learning that if it acts as a loosely coupled set of components rather than a monolith with everyone getting veto on everyone else, things work a lot better (and presumably cheaper too). They have all the talent, they just kill it with middle-management (see: Kin).

Yes, when XBox started out they very intentionally decoupled it from the rest of corporate culture. I'm out of touch with the more recent reorganizations so not sure about where Bing and WP7 are these days, but agree that they're showing positive signs as well.

It was an extremely efficient monolith, while Bill Gates was managing everything. But than he concentrated on the Sun anti-monopoly suit and MS become a regular stupid corp.

I feel like I should add that I have a very healthy respect for Microsoft and their continuing influence/power. It's unwise to underestimate Microsoft.

agreed. tens of thousands of committed, passionate, and persistent people -- along with multiple billion-dollar businesses that have held up longer than expected -- mean that they'll continue to be a force to be reckoned with.

that said, Paul was completely right: it's been a long time since they've inspired fear.

There are two Microsofts:

- The one that does interesting, innovative stuff but a failure/modest success in the marketplace (online, xbox, sync interface for cars, zune, windows phone 7)

- The "legacy" one that makes windows, office, and server apps, which makes a ton on licensing.

Nobody likes "legacy" microsoft, and it's the most vulnerable, but also has the most momentum behind them. People develop on or support the dominant platform to earn a paycheck, thus the dominant platform stays in place.

Until the PC goes away, and there's a huge shift to do real work off our phones/tablets/other non-legacy devices, MS will most likely be dominant in terms of market share.

I feel like products like Windows 7 and the Kinect among other things are a sign of a rally from the Microsoft camp.

Agree / disagree?

I don't think Win7 is a sign that MS is making a comeback; it's the final product that Vista was a massive public beta for. I don't know anyone who loves it - the usual opinion of people who choose to use it is "good enough".

The Kinect is pretty impressive though. I wonder what the per-unit cost is for MS - are they making a direct profit on sales?

I disagree. I know lots of people who love it but, really, neither of us are being scientific and we're both just making sweeping generalisations on an internet forum that are based on hear-say.

You have to compare Windows 7 to XP instead of Vista. The only difference I noticed is that 7 is slower and looks more like OS X compared to XP. If there's any "innovation" going on, I haven't noticed it.

>Until the PC goes away

I have a sneaking suspicion this may happen much sooner than I initially expected. Currently working on business software for a non-U.S. market, word is that our customers have more smart-phones than PCs.

I just came back from Kenya, and it was interesting to see how everything was done with featurephones using quite primitive (but efficient) menu-based applications. Banking, etc. In every village there were kiosks with diesel generators or car batteries selling phone charging.

Being a developing country means they have been able to skip unnecessary dead-end technologies like landline phones and desktop computers, and go straight to an untethered personal computer: the mobile phone.

That is a really interesting observation (about skipping dead-end technologies). I wonder how many business opportunities there are like that that are unexploited, even in first world countries.

I've added it to my brainstorming list. Thanks!

>"Until the PC goes away, and there's a huge shift to do real work off our phones/tablets/other non-legacy devices, MS will most likely be dominant in terms of market share."

In the past year with Windows Phone and "the next Windows" support for ARM, they have shown just how competitive they intend to be in those markets. They have spent the last 10 years moving toward hardware independence via .NET, and they are shipping it.

How portable is .NET?

Is it as simple as with Java - ie, the same .jar that has minimal requirements, such as a CLI-only program, can be taken from one platform (say Windows) and run on another (say Mono on Linux) without a recompile?

Or is it more complex than that?

.NET compiles everything down to an intermediate language which is then JIT-compiled to assembly - the assembly can either be generic (something that will run across a wide array of Intel 64bit processors, for instance) or it can be something that takes advantage of very specific chip features (like special math instructions or caching features.) Depends on the build instructions you send to the CLR.

I believe the issue with porting is that there's some key components in the .NET framework that rely on the Windows OS kernel behavior and won't play nice with POSIX, but I haven't taken a close enough look under the hood to say that with 100% certainty.

From a package viewpoint, generally you can use the same .net dll built on windows in mono and vice versa.

There are some considerations to make when writing code for both platforms, just to ensure you won't use features not yet implemented in mono.

You may have a good point in there, but my parser chokes on your assertion that the Zune is innovative.

Yes, you're correct, and that's how it should be for any successful technology company I think: they should have their legacy products which may or may not be fading into irrelevance, and their new stuff which embraces the future.

There's nothing wrong with that, though. No aspect of technology remains dominant forever and the web is not the end-all of computing, just as the mainframe and the desktop were not the end-all of computing either. Something else will inevitably emerge in the future which will supersede the web, however slowly it may occur...

I agree with that. However, Microsoft's problem is that the volume of its new products is too low relative to the volume of its established products.

It is a bit like population pyramids; every country has one, but some are signs of (future) population decreases. Microsoft's, according to one viewpoint, looked like it was on track to expand forever and occupy the whole world (oops; mixing metaphors here), but now looks as if it will/already has reached a plateau, or even will/already has started shrinking/collapsing (there are many variations here; I think they still have chances to win big in another field (for example, XBox or .NET seen as 25-year investments may turn out to be huge cash cows) but I doubt whether that 'big' will be big relative to their current size.

How is xbox and sync only a "modest success"?

Perhaps only in the context of Microsoft where they're not a billion dollar business so therefore their success is "modest."

A few years ago I read that xbox had lost $10 billion so far.

That's the nature of the game; loss on the razors (consoles), profit on the blades (game licenses).

Microsoft ate a huge amount of cash to push Sony into a game they thought Sony wouldn't win: they invested heavily in the Xbox being a software hub that connected with media over the Internet. I would argue they were pretty much successful.

The belief is that 360 launched with HD-DVD not because Microsoft didn't think Blu-Ray was a worse bet, but because Microsoft wanted to delay HD physical media long enough for digital distribution to take hold. They made a huge loss on marketing and manufacturing a losing piece of hardware, but like I said, it probably worked.

So, by the games Microsoft was playing, I would say they view Xbox as a major success.

They are now making a profit [1], but the cyclical nature of console lifespans means money is now going to have to get sunk into R&D then the marketing of a new console, which will push profits down in about 2-3 years. I'd also expect the WP7 push to eat up revenue as well.

[1] http://www.businessinsider.com/chart-of-the-day-microsoft-op...

The Entertainment and Games division started turning a profit in 2008. They may still be in the red overall (I don't know for sure), but they're turning a steady profit now.

I like your analysis, but this statement is self-contradictory: "it's the most vulnerable, but also has the most momentum behind them". I think that Windows, Office... is the least vulnerable part of Microsoft, but it's also low-growth.

There's a format lock-in in place. Microsoft's greatest asset is the fact that it controls the file formats used by business (.doc/.xml, and the new xml based ones aren't better or more open).

This creates a de-facto requirement to buy microsoft software - in many cases you need a copy of MS Office to render or interact with a document in a way they're used to, and all the documents in a company already are in that format, so the path of least resistance is to buy another copy of MS Office.

The web avoids the issue as it embraces non-proprietary formats (or ones that are well understood). Once people get their data in a better place, that's the beginning of the end for MS.

Office is low growth with respect to percentage growth. It makes massive money now, and needs massive new revenue to grow quickly. With that said, their growth in absolute dollars is money that every other company would love to have, including Apple, Google, and Facebook.

1) Yes, it still holds.

2) Don't editorialise the headline. It gives a distinctly Reddit-like feel to the place. The correct way to post this would have been to do an Ask HN and include the link in the body.

3) "How many...?" is obviously a poll question, so create a poll.

Microsoft still matter: they control Internet Explorer and they control Windows. If they were to add SNI support to Windows XP, for example, https sites could be hosted more cheaply.

But Microsoft is not the monopolist it used to be. PG used "dead" to mean "is not scary any more", not "is slowly going bankrupt". So I think his conclusion still holds.


I think the key point of the article was this phrase: 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.

And I think that's still true, even with the popularity of their latest hand-waving thing. Back in the day, almost everybody writing a business plan had to answer the question: "What will you do if Microsoft decides to crush you?" Nowadays, I imagine they ask that question about Google or Facebook.

Actually the climate has fundamentally changed in a way that is even bigger than the article.

Nowadays people no longer generally fear companies at all. In the 80s companies were much more prone to just crush you outright. Now companies "seem" more likely to buy you out. There is a lot more positioning now for acquisition. When I talk to founders they aren't worried about Google or Facebook crushing them, but are more focused on acquisition, even when attacking core businesses like search.

Ppl are no longer not afraid of MS because of something inherent in MS, but because the world has changed.

I think this applies to Microsoft these days as well. With hindsight, it seems like a lot of the anti-Microsoft sentiment that bubbled up in the 90's and persists to this day coincided with their highly predatory business practices.

It always seemed a bit odd when you heard another story of them rifiling through a small startup in "due diligence" only to drop the offer and duplicate in house. In most of those cases the purchase price would have been peanuts to them. I'd say it had more to do with a culture at Microsoft than it did with good business practice. It seems like they realized this and toned down the jackassery.

I'm sure someone can point to some counter examples (every megacorp has to have some) but it's undeniable that things have changed.

Microsoft Research is one of the top 10 computer science research organizations in the world. Some of the work done there (such as the Kinect) is game changing and will continue to be a resource Microsoft can draw upon.

As an MIT PhD student, I know many people who are eager to work at Microsoft research.

[1] http://academic.research.microsoft.com/RankList?entitytype=7... [2] http://www.wired.co.uk/magazine/archive/2010/11/features/the...

But aside from vacuuming up some talent, Microsoft Research isn't going to be a part of any startup or VC's equation.

The perception of who's 'alive' really depends on the perspective. If you're dealing with software solution consultants you can't get around IBM - but if you're a small software developer you might just as well never have heard of them.

just for the record, take a look at the revenue and employe numbers to see what has changed since the 1960s (big blue is still on top):

IBM $95.75 billion / 399'409 (2009)

Microsoft $62.48 billion / 89'000 (2010)

Apple $65.23 billion / 49'400 (2010)

Google $23.65 billion / 23'331 (2010)

Notice that IBM and Apple revenues are higher, because they selling mostly hardware. MSFT selling mostly software with exception of XBox.

This isn't true for IBM. In 2009 IBM's revenue from hardware was less than 17% from total revenue.


Services revenue is mostly consultants salaries too. What I mean, that software and advertisement margins are generally higher, than for hardware and services.

I remember reading somewhere that IBM makes something like $8bn per year still from mainframe computer sales. If IBM are doing that - two major computer architecture iterations along the line - (client-server and now cloud coming along), then that bodes well for Microsoft's survival, but perhaps not their relevance.

Startups aren't going to go after highly conservative organisations like banks who won't risk changing from mainframes for no obvious gain. So there will be a market for Microsoft technologies (their OS and Office in particular) for a long, long time; long after consumers are mainly using Android/Linux/Macintosh-based tablets or other portable devices to do their personal computing.

For pure transaction throughput, it's still hard to beat a mainframe. The hardware is optimized for it, and so is the software. They are a niche product but a very profitable one.

> like banks who won't risk changing from mainframes for no obvious gain. So there will be a market for Microsoft technologies

Comparing Microsoft products with the kind of reliability banks require from mainframes misses the point. No product Microsoft offers can match 5 nines outside a controlled environment (and most probably, neither inside one)

Perhaps the point I was trying to make wasn't clear.

Certain enterprise customers will always want to work with what they know, (i.e. typically Windows XP and Microsoft Office currently.) So this will be the long tail that Microsoft will coast along, if/when consumers migrate their personal computing to other platforms. Granted, there are certain situations when using an older technology such as mainframes makes complete sense, and there is little benefit to risk a major system upgrade; but there are many other situations where not upgrading seems lunacy (e.g. in an era when people want to have much of their banking online, the old mainframes in the background struggle to cope with the demand.)

As an aside, I interned at a bank where one of the tasks I did was adding HTML tags to predefined paragraphs that were in plain English. I did this in Excel, manually, line by line, on a PC sporting Windows XP and a 15" monitor. This could have been done in seconds with a shell script if anyone there had a clue. This kind of ignorance is a godsend to Microsoft who will continue to sell software licences to clueless companies for the foreseeable future.

This sentiment is not new. See "Microsoft at Apogee" by John Walker (founder of Autodesk, and a really brilliant guy): http://www.fourmilab.ch/documents/msapogee.html

Note the date: 9 Feb 1997 (!)

Even 3 years later, this is still true. The only thing MS has is Windows and Office (the only MS product, in my opinion that is real quality). MS will not die but will become irrelevant. The way they kept jacking up PC hardware requirements for Windows, Internet bandwidths will keep becoming bigger and better and "thick" clients will become irrelevant. Everything eventually will be on the web and that day is sooner than we think it is. (For some its already here)

> I know they seemed dangerous as late as 2001, because I wrote an essay then about how they were less dangerous than they seemed.

Didn't get it. They seemed dangerous because Paul wrote an essay?

The 'because' refers not to them seeming dangerous, but to his knowing, in 2007, that they did seem dangerous in 2001.

If they hadn't seemed dangerous, Paul wouldn't have written the essay.

Can someone please make a website ismicrosoftdead.com similar to http://isitchristmas.com/.

I doubt that anyone working at Sony or Nintendo shares this apathy toward Microsoft's continued ability to enter and disrupt an industry.

"A few days ago I suddenly realized Microsoft was dead." haha that's a great sentence to start an article.

I find pg's proposed way of Microsoft becoming a contender again interesting. I don't doubt that he'd like Microsoft to start buying up more Web 2.0 startups. Granted, that doesn't make him wrong. I just find it interesting.

What means death of Microsoft? It means fragmentation on the desktop (similar to what we have on the mobile):

  * MacOS X on x86, maybe even desktop version OSX/iOS on ARM?
  * Wintel (Windows on x86), WARM (Windows 8 on ARM)
  * ChromeOS on x86 and on ARM
  * Linux on x86 and ARM (Gnome, KDE, Unity, etc.)
I predict that native desktop software will become more expensive, while generic HTML5 versions will be ad-supported or subscription based. Assuming, that HTML5 family of standards will be fully adopted.

With all these new AppStores and Marketplaces ISVs will be able to save money on marketing and sales, but they will need to spend several times more money on developing for several desktops platforms/CPU architectures.

Checks post date. Noticed it is 2007. Moves on

Wow, lots of hatorade on the drinks menu today. I of course had the same reaction as everybody else to the sensationalist headline... but when I read the article I agreed with pretty much everything he said.

I suppose that is fair and preserves my strong PG contrarian streak, the articles everyone else loves I hate, and the articles everyone else hates, I love.

==== From the article:

So if they wanted to be a contender again, this is how they could do it:

(1) Buy all the good "Web 2.0" startups. They could get substantially all of them for less than they'd have to pay for Facebook.

(2) Put them all in a building in Silicon Valley, surrounded by lead shielding to protect them from any contact with Redmond.

I feel safe suggesting this, because they'd never do it. 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.


This is brilliant. And when we look at the Microsoft Kin Phone Debacle of 2010, we see that indeed they splashed the cash to buy a startup (Danger) to get into the smartphone game, but they critically failed the second part of the plan, which is the lead shielding bit.

This is why PG is a genius, and this is why we can say that Microsoft is dead. Because they are the problem. The problem with Microsoft is Microsoft. Because they are irrelevant, and to Microsoft being irrelevant is worse than death.

One of the things I've noticed about Microsoft over the last couple of years, is that when someone leaves Microsoft, and they blog about it (as you do), and then you get ex-Microsofties arguing with current-Microsofties, is that they have their own weird sub-culture and language that is incomprehensible to anyone on the outside. The more inward focused they become, the less and less relevant to everyone on the outside they will be. This is another sign of their decline.

Joel Spolsky said some interesting things about this, on the topic of hiring programmers. Someone asked him how much a programmer should be paid, and he said that across the industry there was a pretty uniform amount of profit that a company can make per programmer - something like $100k-200k, but that there are a couple of exceptions to this rule, one is Microsoft, because the Windows and Office parts of their business are ridiculously profitable, and the other is Google. And that Microsoft makes millions per programmer, so they can afford to go out and hire the good and the bad, in order simply to prevent them from working for their competitors. So they hire all these people, and then ignore them or put them to work on bike sheds. I think it is very dangerous for a company of any size to ignore their smart people, and this is another sign of their decline.

Replace "Microsoft" with "Google", and this article suddenly captures the zeitgeist of today's startup environment.

I understand he meant that nobody is scared of Microsoft anymore. I guess the question I have is, is there a company that exists that everybody IS scared of? No. So I rather chalk it up to a sign of the times.

As recently as last year I was reasonably scared of Apple because they appeared to be accumulating a market power that was transforming the industry itself into something I didn't like.

Fortunately, however, Google came to the rescue with Android and I'm now far more relaxed about it.

A lot of people claim to be scared of Google though ...

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