This is a tale of two software companies (or maybe three).
They were the best of companies, and they were the worst of companies. And they’ve yet to go to a far, far better place to peddle their software.
To get back to my story, corporations, like people, have a lifecycle with a beginning, middle, and end.
Once upon a time, a long time ago, in a land far far away, Big Blue - IBM - was the be-all and end-all of everything to do with the computer industry. Beaurocratic, ponderous, rich, and powerful, IBM watched the nimble Mister Softee - Microsoft - steal the software side of the computer business out from under it.
Mister Softee was everything Big Blue wasn’t: a teenage rebel, improvising like crazy, able to turn on a dime, handing out stock options like candy in a bowl near the cash register of a restaurant where the food isn’t so good.
Now Mister Softy has grown as soft as its nickname and frumpy, with middle-aged love handles to match. Stock options are long gone. Microsoft pays a dividend!
Microsoft wants to climb the enterprise.
This company is no longer nimble, and takes literally years to pass software through its beaurocratic process before release.
We didn’t love Mister Softee when he was young and agile, but he always impressed us with his vigor and chutzpah (though we always wished he built better, less buggy, software).
Now Mister Softee is as rich as Croesus and out-IBMs IBM. He’s dangerous! He’s fat! He’s rich! His speed of innovation is falling way behind compared to younger rivals like Google. More than ever, he’s fun to despise.
Maybe, just, maybe, Mister Softee is also starting to become irrelevant (thanks to Open Source, Linux, the Web, and Google).