“Is Microsoft dying? The health of established firms, especially great ones, is more difficult to diagnose. The balance sheet can give some clues, but, because it captures the recent past rather than the near future, it can fool you. Most veteran reporters look at more subtle clues, like the comings and goings of key employees, slippage in the release dates of new products (or missing features), and subtle shifts in the tone of company news releases, advertisements and executive speeches. But most of all, at least for me, there is the smell test: the faintest whiff of decay that comes from dying companies,” Michael S. Malone writes for ABC News.
“Great, healthy companies not only dominate the market, but share of mind. Look at Apple these days. But when was the last time you thought about Microsoft, except in frustration or anger? The company just announced a powerful new search engine, designed to take on Google — but did anybody notice? Meanwhile, open systems world — created largely in response to Microsoft’s heavy-handed hegemony — is slowly carving away market share from Gates & Co.: Linux and Firefox hold the world’s imagination these days, not Windows and Explorer. The only thing Microsoft seems busy at these days is patching and plugging holes. Speaking of Gates: if you remember, he was supposed to be going back into the lab to recreate the old MS alchemy. But lately it seems — statesmanship being the final refuge of the successful entrepreneur — that he’s been devoting more time to philanthropy than capitalism. And though Steve Ballmer is legendary for his sound and fury, these days his leadership seems to be signifying nothing,” Malone writes.
“Now the company seems to have trouble executing even the one task that should take precedence over everything else: getting “Longhorn,” its Windows replacement, to market. Longhorn is now two years late. That would be disastrous for a beloved product like the Macintosh, but for a product that is universally reviled as a necessary, but foul-tasting, medicine, this verges on criminal insanity. Or, more likely, organizational paralysis,” Malone writes. “Microsoft is still the dominant company in high-tech, the cynosure of all those things people love and hate about computing, the defining company of our time. It is huge, powerful and confident. But if you sniff the air, you can just make out the first hints of rot.”
Full article here.
MacDailyNews Take: We’d like to answer the headline’s question in bit of a sideways manner with a quote from WinInfo’s Paul Thurrott, “A Microsoft executive told CNET this week that Longhorn Beta 1 will ship by the end of second quarter 2005 (i.e., June)… According to my sources at the company, current build 5xxx versions of Longhorn look almost exactly like XP and don’t have many interesting new features. If Microsoft doesn’t pull a rabbit out of the proverbial hat soon, Longhorn is going to edge so far into joke territory that no one will be interested.” Thurrott’s full article here.
It seems that the odor of decay has finally gotten so bad that even the Microsoft Kool-Aid drinkers are now starting to report that something smells bad in Redmond. Moo.