Sunday, May 19, 2013

Is Microsoft doomed? I'll let you know when Windows 10 comes out.

A lot of folks believe that the Microsoft empire is doomed, and that the rise of touchscreen computing and mobile devices will lead it its inevitable downfall.

This may very well be true; it certainly is true that to date, Microsoft's attempts to enter the touch and mobile markets have been poorly received.

Yet much of the time, the smart folks have it wrong.

In the 1980s, Apple's Macintosh product introduced the graphical user interface (GUI).  It was light years ahead of Microsoft's DOS, and Apple's brilliant founder, Steve Jobs, openly sneered at Microsoft's crappy software.

Microsoft tried to catch up by introducing Windows.  It was a failure.

Microsoft brought out a second version of Windows.  It was also a failure.

Finally, Microsoft brought out Windows 3.1.  It was still a crappy knockoff of the MacOS, but it was executed well enough to be a major upgrade over DOS.

The rest is history.

In the 1990s, Netscape's Navigator introduced the commercial Web browser.  Everyone agreed that the Web would change everything, and doom desktop software.

Microsoft tried to catch up by releasing Internet Explorer.  It was a failure.

Microsoft brought out a second version of IE.  It was also a failure.

Finally, Microsoft brought out IE3.  It was still a crappy knockoff of Netscape, but it was executed well enough so that people didn't really care.

The rest is history.

My point is that it's very easy to write off Microsoft.  It's never been a cool company.  Here in Silicon Valley, it's the closest thing we ever had to an Evil Empire.

But Microsoft has vast resources, and armies of smart people.  Even today, when it is supposedly in its death throes, it has double the staff, revenues, and profits of Google.

And it has a history of bumbling its way to "good enough" when tackling new markets.  Bill Gates may yet have the last laugh.

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