Microsoft Endures

You can almost feel the pendulum swinging back from so, so far left – whether it is politics or religion and definitely technology. I often wonder where we would be today if the government hadn’t forced Microsoft to unbundle the browser and open the door to also be bludgeoned by the European Union. How better off would the economy be and how many more jobs would have been created? Better yet, why or to be fair when are Apple and Google put under similar shackles?

I’ve used Microsoft products since 1985 and have been a Microsoft Certified Professional and part of the Microsoft Partner Program since 1994. Some have accused me of being “too Microsoft” in the past, but the reality is I was generally using or supporting another product and had to follow the market on any changes during the various technology wars over the years. Although I’m product agnostic, Microsoft is usually the main ingredient for a host of hardware and software.

It’s easy to forget history. Microsoft Basic was one of the first languages for a programming thought process with much more functionality than COBOL. IBM learned the hard lesson that software drives hardware with the Personal Computer. Some of the first versions of Word were like Lotus 1-2-3 with quick menu shortcuts using slash and dot – and it was bye-bye Wordstar my first editor. Apple sprung from the IIe to a Mac with graphical computing, but never became more than a novelty as Microsoft adjusted with Windows. Lotus was winning at the spreadsheet, but Excel took off in Europe capturing larger worldwide market and then got bundled with Word. Not only did Lotus lose at its core offering, but the industry learned another important point that several disparate products cannot compete as a bundle versus applications built to work together – ditto for Corel and WordPerfect. Windows for Workgroups was an evolution that doomed Lantastic for small networks. Novell was flat-out a tremendous file and print server that I cut my teeth on until it had to run any back-end application which would cause a daily crash. Windows NT Server was graphical, ran back-end applications, and did file and print – enough said Utah Orangemen. Who can win a technology war without caffeine anyway?

AOL at one point was the Internet and Navigator caught Microsoft behind. Internet Explorer got bundled in for free and was predatory when today Google regularly gives services away free versus established media competitors using the mantra do no evil. Somewhere in there it’s also been lost that Microsoft started Exchange when there were only a few hodge-podge e-mail clients on the market – it’s still the dominant mail server and maybe that was innovation? And how about SQL Serer versus Oracle becoming the defacto standard for databases?

Remember the buzz and midnight release of Windows 95 and 98 and how Apple Computer nearly went out of business, if it wasn’t for Microsoft propping them up with cash? It’s amazing how removing “Computer” from your name to become a proprietary media company with MP3, Smartphone, TVs, and tablet devices is somehow the greatest thing ever. Since they no longer make servers and Macs make up a small portion of revenue, it will be interesting to see what Apple will be or do post Steve Jobs.  Though a surprise to many, Microsoft did not miss a step after Bill Gates began his humanitarian non-profit several years ago.

While Xbox came from nowhere to be a top contender in gaming, Google swooped in during the dark days of the Internet and indexed sites with no idea of how to make money. Despite the SPAM,  Google still leads for text search and mapping. However, Bing does much better if you’re looking for something social, music, or video.

A few remember when there was only Blackberry hanging on and giving away server licensing after Microsoft released free ActiveSync as part of Exchange along with Microsoft Mobile. iPhone and Droid currently rule, but must continually adapt with new features for Exchange/ActiveSync. Windows Phone 7 will likely follow the Excel historical example using Nokia in Europe to leverage eventual win worldwide. By the way Apple and Droid reviewers, you don’t build several tiled screens to swipe for contacts, press the button and say “Call John Mobile” without any training or configuration.

Years before “Cloud” was popular or Gmail existed Microsoft provided free e-mail to millions of Hotmail users. Today, Skydrive for consumers and Office 365 for business may not get the skateboarders to say “cool”, but customers regularly say “YES” to familiar technology with more features, better productivity, and significant cost savings. While the non-sensical chatter about browser wars continues, most industry players are oblivious to the huge strides Microsoft has made in various lines of Accounting/ERP software.

Hopefully, Apple can transition well after Steve Jobs and Google decides to focus back on great offerings around data. Unlike Microsoft, Google has never fought multiple wars at the same time (or had to compete at all) and Apple must fully make the leap to the new business model of media before their devices are an iCommodity.

Mostly, I wish people would remember that technology is the remaining industry in which America leads the world – and it doesn’t have to be a zero sum game where Google, Microsoft, and Apple destroy each other and open the door for a foreign startup. In the previous 5+ years, extreme rhetoric, blame, and wild speculation has been too much in vogue. While President Obama is a great orator and we caught Bin Laden, I’ve never heard any other President blame a previous administration in my lifetime. The press was so fanatical that they somehow thought Vista was associated with George W. Bush and castigated the product while people in the industry had few problems with it.

Now we regularly hear “No one get’s fired for using Microsoft” or Microsoft is slow/boring/un-innovative. All of this negativity in spite of record profits and obvious innovation on all fronts? Just like the U.S. is just now beginning to recover from horrendous terrorism, Microsoft continues to endure making tremendous contributions to the economy and our competitive edge.

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