Paul Graham made a simple statement that is stirring up a lot of commentary on the net…
His conclusion is: But it’s gone now. I can sense that. 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. He makes a pretty interesting case for his statement in his blog and provides four reasons for its demise: Google, Ajax, Broadband Internet, and Apple Mac OS X.
I have a different take on this subject though. Here’s my premise: Microsoft is a big company and different components are in different stages of age and health (not necessarily correlated, btw). So, here’s a start to a health report on the various parts of the Microsoft Community/Ecosystem. Feel free to jump in with your own health estimate on parts I mention or parts I left out. I’m structuring my list more-or-less on Microsoft’s own list of Products & Related Technologies.
- Windows Vista - Currently Stable but showing signs of ill health: I’ll go on record on saying I like it. And, I say that as someone who often uses Mac OS X too (and looking forward to Leopard 10.5). But, it definitely has not caught the attention of either the consumer market or the enterprise. This is a bit puzzling since it actually has a lot to offer to both groups. But, I’ve been using it regularly for over a year as a beta-tester. So, I’m probably not a good judge of the general public’s take on it.
- Internet Explorer 7 - Stable but not vibrant: Here’s another oddity. I actually wrote off IE7 before seeing it. But, after using it for a few months I actually like it but I’m not sure why. Firefox seems faster and offers a great community of add-ons. But, I still use IE7 now and then.
- Windows Mobile - Starting to show signs of age: Let me preface this by saying I’ve been awarded the Microsoft MVP designation in this area for the past 7 or 8 years. So, I like the product and look at it closer than most other Microsoft product areas. However, the Windows Mobile Pocket PC/Phone Edition and Smartphones have not fundamentally changed for several product generations now (unless you are also an Exchange Server user). Windows Mobile 6 is just a warmed over Windows Mobile 5. It would have been better had it been called Windows Mobile 5 Second Edition. It isn’t even based on Windows CE 6. It still uses Windows CE 5 as its core OS. And, Microsoft itself does not support it as shown when they dropped products like Pocket Reader, Pocket Money and Pocket Streets & Trips.
- Office 2007 - Very Healthy: The Office team has done a remarkable job in reviving what seemed like a tired old product line. It isn’t so much the addition of features as the re-juggling of existing features to make Office much more usable and interesting. Look at it this way. If you, like me, are not in 100% tip-top Olympian caliber shape and somehow got a personal trainer, dietitian, and life coach team to reevaluate your total being, you might take what you already have and make it the best it can possibly be. I think Office 2007 is like that. The ribbon bar is a radical new approach to user interface for previous generation Office users that somehow works well. It exposes features you probably never knew existed in Office and makes them easy to use.
- Windows Server 2003 R2 - Healthy: Although most of the servers I run are Linux based, I still run Windows Servers too. But, it may be that what I’m really evaluating are the add-ons for Server that will be integrated fully in the next generation: PowerShell and Virtual Server. These two add-ons are really make Server interesting to me.
- MSN & Microsoft Live - Dazed and confused: What is going on over there anyway? Some of the products look interesting (I actually use live.com itself a lot since I like the way it manages RSS feeds). But, I just don’t understand their strategy. Live Search is too slow. Office Live isn’t Office. Hotmail was becoming Live Mail but is now Hotmail again. And, where’s the support for Microformats that Ray Ozzie talked about at the 2006 O’Reilly Emerging Technology Conference?
- Xbox & Xbox Live - Healthy but needs watching: I bought the first generation Xbox because I got tired of hardware requirements and driver side effects when I played games on a PC. But, I think the Xbox 360 and Sony Playstation 3 have both priced themselves out of competition for all but serious gamers. The Nintendo DS and Nintendo Wii seem to offer a lot with a much lower entrance fee for the millions of casual gamers like me.
- FrontPage - Dead (replaced by Expression)
- FoxPro - Status Unknown: It is being moved from a commercial product to a CodePlex project status.
- Zune - Cough cough cough :-)
- Hardware - Healthy: The Microsoft keyboards, mice (mouses?), and webcams all look reasonably solid to me.
That’s just my personal take with no particular in-depth knowledge regarding revenue stream/contribution and market share. What’s your take on this?
Components that still need health reports:
- Exchange Server
- SQL Server
- Microsoft Dynamics
- Visual Studio: I mostly write software using Ruby on Linux boxes folks. Let me know how Visual Studio is doing these days
- Money: What happened to Pocket Money for Windows Mobile?
- Streets & Trips: What happened to Pocket Streets for Windows Mobile?