This absurd notion that Microsoft could have ever possibly retained "control" of the future of computing (apparently forever would be the requirement) is non-sense.
It was a shitty period. There was a sense of futility to building software. You could build small software, but as soon as you reached a certain scale, particularly if you were a platform company, Microsoft would decide that they'd like to take your revenue, so they'd box your software out of their operating system with incompatibilities, launch their own competitor, and eat your lunch.
The only sane strategy at the time was to try to anticipate what areas of computing Microsoft would likely never enter. But even that is Russian Roulette.
So, in 2013, yes. It's "obvious" now that Microsoft couldn't have possibly retained the control they had. But many of us have deep recesses in our brain that are still shocked that we got here.
Sounds like Apple and the 00's.
The thing is, since Apple releases so many new features and software with updates while Microsoft leaves unfinished, crappy software for a decade, you can find dozens of stories like this about Apple.
So many of their default features were popular third party programs that got rebuilt by Apple in-house.
Who will be the MSFT of the '10s, I wonder.
When Windows was the only game in town, that was not true.
I thought Google had already established themselves there by pulling all the free APIs that people had built businesses on top of.
Microsoft happened to steal a very small part of IBM's monopoly, which got bigger over time, but IBM's revenues are still bigger than Microsoft's even 32 years later. (And IBM has been spinning off or selling whole businesses along the way, eg the PC business to Lenovo; spinning off Lexmark).
I was talking to one US corporate IT manager who said IBM was still a third of his budget cf 3% for Microsoft.
Big picture: Microsoft's monopoly has always been much smaller and less powerful than the IBM monopoly used to be. However, in time, all tech monopolies tend to get largely undone by new technologies.
Although in the case of Netscape, they just coerced all of the OEMs not to include it.
Microsoft did not have to do much with this type of competition.
Around 2000, Linux was on the scene and like a lot of people I got the hell out of the MS ecosystem and never looked back.
The iPhone could have been theirs all along, with all that that implies. But first they ignored the underlying technology, then Ballmer laughed at it (on national TV no less), then they fought it, and then they lost.
Ballmer will not be missed.
And they did move.
I was trying to create a startup based on PDAs at the early 00's (no luck, they were too expensive - the idea was flawed from day 1). There was Palm, and the two entrants: Windows and Linux. Palm had a once nice system that nobody wanted to program for anymore (accumulated too much cruft), Windows had a giant marketing campaign that made everybody hear about them (it was getting more known than Palm), but it was so bad that everybody soon learned to run away from it, and Linux got a steady monotonic growth from nowhere into almost-nowhere.
I felt like I was the only one in the world who realized
how great having Internet access was in my pants pocket.
Now Everyone is connected.