Is Microsoft still worthy of the 'Evil Empire' crown?

Summary:Forget programmer Paul Graham's "Microsoft is dead" headline. It got the desired effect: He's gotten links on TechMeme, Slashdot and a lots of other news-starved sites this weekend. But don't dismiss Graham's question as to who (if anyone) is afraid of Microsoft any more.

Forget programmer Paul Graham's "Microsoft is dead" headline. It got the desired effect: He's gotten links on TechMeme, Slashdot and a lots of other news-starved sites this weekend.

But don't dismiss Graham's question as to who (if anyone) is afraid of Microsoft any more.

It wasn't that long ago that a decision by Microsoft to enter a market spelled death -- sometimes sooner, sometimes later) for other vendors in the same space. Microsoft has browbeat PC makers, competed with its "beloved" software reseller/integrator partners; and stuck it to its customers.

I know of several companies who claim to have showed their products and technologies to Microsoft only to find themselves squeezed out of a market by the Redmond software vendor sporting an almost identitcal solution. (VOIP vendor Agere Systems is only the latest in a long line.)

But in 2007:

* A "simple" lawsuit -- or even just a threat of one -- can get Microsoft to rethink its positioning and/or packaging plans in a heartbeat.

* Many new startups are more cautious about entering a market if Google, not Microsoft, is the already in it.

* Even in cases where Microsoft fielded a first or superior solution (think Outlook Web Access in the Ajax world in the first case; Microsoft Live Maps/Virtual Earth in the latter), many analysts, partners and customers dismiss Microsoft in favor of other, hipper players.

Does this mean Microsoft an irrelevant $50 billion pushover now? Or is it still worthy of its "Evil Empire" moniker?

Make no mistake: Microsoft is still The Evil Empire. Just when you're ready to count Microsoft out, company officials do something so ruthless/dastardly that it reminds you why Microsoft is still around after more than 30 years. You'll never see Microsoft backing a "Don't Be Evil" platform. After all, CEO Steve Ballmer IS Dr. Evil....

And if my arguments don't convince you, check out Softie James O'Neill's list of the "Top 10 things people thought would kill Microsoft and haven't."

Topics: Microsoft

About

Mary Jo Foley has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications, including ZDNet, eWeek and Baseline. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008). She also is the cohost of the "Windows Weekly" podcast on the TWiT network. Got a tip? Se... Full Bio

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