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Microsoft Is Not Dead, It Just Has A Flu

Who's the #1 software company in the world now?

From Yakov Fain's Blog

One of my favorite bloggers, Paul Graham, has published an essay called “Microsoft Is Dead.”

He starts, “A few days ago I suddenly realized Microsoft was dead”, and then explains why he thinks so.

Obviously, Microsoft circa 2007 is not the same as 10-15 years ago. It’s weaker now, but it’s far from being dead.  I’m not a Microsoft developer, but during the last twenty years I use their products daily – Windows OS, MS Word, MS Excel, PowerPoint, and Visio.  Last month, I’ve attended a very interesting technology summit for a small non-Microsoft crowd at Redmond, WA. I’ve posted a number of more or less technical blogs with my notes from this event, but this time I’d like to explain my vision of this software giant as a respond to Paul’s blog.

About fifteen years ago, Microsoft could afford to do a lot more than any other software company. They could hire the best people in the industry. I remember these urban legends about their job interviews with questions like “How would you count all lakes in America”. The interview could last for an entire day, and any interviewer from the team had the right of veto. This was a very desirable employer, and those who were lucky enough to get in and smart enough to stay there for fifteen years were set for life. They do not need to work anymore. Microsoft insiders call them volunteers - they go to work, because they do not know how not to work.

During the nineties Microsoft was killing their competitors without thinking twice. They used the fact that they owned THE OS, knew its API internals better than anyone else, and used this knowledge to their fullest advantage. The classical case was their victory over WordPerfect, a very popular word processor of the early nineties.

Microsoft was so strong, that they’ve accustomed to the fact that they were in the league of their own. The rest of the software world was somewhere down below.

When Java was invented, Microsoft decided to bite a slice of this pie too. So they created Visual J++, Java IDE and decided that they can quietly add some extra features to the Java API, so people would start using them thinking that they were programming in Java. This would tie them with Microsoft platform for a while…
This did not fly with Java, Microsoft paid their penalties, no big deal. They created their own language called C#. It was interesting to read license Microsoft's license agreements - they stated that Java failure could lead to death .

At that time Netscape was a clear leader in the Web browser space. Microsoft created Internet Explorer. Microsoft knows how to create software.  Oh, by the way, the next version of Windows will come with a free IE browser. No, you do not need to install anything, just click on the icon. Netscape did not have such a luxury – they did not control THE OS. Netscape? What Netscape?  Microsoft rested on laurels, and for years they did not even bother to improve IE.
But these Mozilla guys were pretty stubborn and in a couple of years they came up with FireFox.  It took years for Microsoft to realize that FireFox is here to stay, so they started to invest into IE Web browser again.  A little too late, but…the enterprise world likes standard tools, and in most cases IE is still your only choice at work.  Will it last? Not sure.

Here’s yet another parallel development …What is that little annoying thing that you can see here and there on the enterprise floors? What Linux? No worries. Nothing can beat Windows. May be not beat, but bite and pinch for sure.

Microsoft Office has been THE flagship product for years, but some crazy scientists came up with this idea of making free downloadable word processor and a spreadsheet. A competitor of the PowerPoint is coming up this Summer from a company whose name starts with G, ends with GLE.

Microsoft is still a leading software company in the world, but it just does not generate that many original ideas any longer.

They are trying to catch up with all these smaller guys that are popping up here and there like mushrooms after the rain.

During Technology Summit at Redmond engineers have presented their products, and this portfolio is strong and impressive. But I’ve also learned a couple of things that you can see only during personal contacts: Google is a problem.

Google is Microsoft’s main problem for several reasons.  Microsoft has missed yet another boat called Internet Ads.  For decades, Microsoft was sharpened for selling licenses. In the summit, several speakers openly stated that they’ll do anything to sell more Windows licenses. For example, last year they’ve invited people from JBoss to collaborate in the area of integration with IIS…to be able to sell more IIS licenses. But now they need to catch up again and learn a new business model with making money by selling ads, like Google does.

Microsoft lost to Google the image of the coolest company to work for. Google hires the best brains. Young people run Google – BG was in a similar position twenty years ago.  Microsoft has overlooked the Web, but Google did not.

Google does not try to catch up, it generates ideas.

Paul Graham concludes, “I'm glad Microsoft is dead… “.  I do not think Microsoft is dead, but it rather has a flu, which is curable.  Or re-phrasing Mark Twain, "The rumors of Mictosoft's death have been greatly exaggerated". Also, I do not want Microsoft to be dead, because if they die, Google may get a flu, if you know what I mean.

More Stories By Yakov Fain

Yakov Fain is a Java Champion and a co-founder of the IT consultancy Farata Systems and the product company SuranceBay. He wrote a thousand blogs ( and several books about software development. Yakov authored and co-authored such books as "Angular 2 Development with TypeScript", "Java 24-Hour Trainer", and "Enterprise Web Development". His Twitter tag is @yfain

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