Ghost Story: Fear of Microsoft Fades

Ghost Story: Fear of Microsoft Fades

Summary: As Halloween fast approaches, Apple is producing more good-natured fun, poking fun at Microsoft's decision to end the use of Vista as the name of its Windows operating system for PCs. It probably didn't cost much to produce the latest three commercials in its "Mac vs.

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As Halloween fast approaches, Apple is producing more good-natured fun, poking fun at Microsoft's decision to end the use of Vista as the name of its Windows operating system for PCs. It probably didn't cost much to produce the latest three commercials in its "Mac vs. PC" series. But their effect appears to be much greater, across the Web at least, than what Microsoft is able to generate in its $300 million campaign about Life Without Walls .

It's not surprising, really. Microsoft is not known, even yet, for pulling off memorable videos, no matter how much it spends. Jerry Seinfeld, the $10 million pitchman, was given two weeks, then retired.

In fact, it's exactly 10 years ago this week, that a live audience of Microsoft watchers was trying to crowd into Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson's court room in Washington, D.C., so grab a glimpse of Chairman Bill Gates' video deposition on whether Microsoft had used the monopoly power of its operating system to drive Netscape and its Navigator browser out of business. Here's an excerpt of that testimony, called non-responsive by the judge, and whose action came mainly from Gates' tendency to rock back-and-forth in his chair.

The intervening time has given way to a slow fade of Microsoft power and the fear of it. Gates' "Internet Tidal Wave" memo in fact came in 1995 and the company has basically worked its way toward a point of irrelevance on the Web. The company's browser still dominates, but the open alternative, Firefox, is gaining ground and Google, unknown a decade ago, is now trying to accomplish what Netscape failed to do, by making a commercial success of its alternative browser, Chrome. Microsoft has talked about "software as a service" for years, but has failed to come up with a way to provide versions of its Word, PowerPoint and Excel office products online, in an effective manner. In the meantime, effective alternatives are springing up, albeit gaining ground slowly.

Sure, Microsoft will be powerful and profitable for another decade, at least. It has a market worth of $210 billion, even after all the turmoil of this year. That's basically equivalent to the worth of Google and Apple, combined.

But there's the rub. Microsoft can't rely on fear or forced loyalty any longer.

Google just got founded 10 years ago. Now, through search and text ads, it's worth half as much as Microsoft. And there is not enough fear to stop it from launching its own online office suite or its own browser. In the intervening time, the most significant new Microsoft product, you could argue, came in hardware: the Xbox video game machine.

Apple was basically presumed to be either on its way to slow death or at best in limbo, 10 years ago. Now, it's worth almost $100 billion -- even after losing about that much in value in the stock swoon this year. Even with that, its stock -- pushed by the iPod, the iPhone and improved products across the board -- has gone from $10 to $110. Microsoft's has dropped from $30 to under $24.

Even its operating system supremacy doesn't seem so intimidating, any longer. For ease of use and overall quality, Apple's Leopard operating system gets the blessing of The Wall Street Journal's Walter Mossberg. And, he even gives a nod to Linux, the openly produced operating system, which is favored by the same kind of folks who liked the command line interface of the original PC approach, the Quick and Dirty Operating System, redubbed the Microsoft Disk Operating System.

Microsoft will still produce prodigious cash flow, for years to come. But all its money cannot bring back its ability to dictate how computing will evolve, by tying features in Vista or Windows 7 or Azure or whatever operating system(s) it develops next.

That's why you likely will see Microsoft trying, successfully or not, to put more of its money into marketing what it's already got. Whether it gets the same bang for its bucks as Apple. Or not.

Topics: Browser, Apple, Microsoft, Operating Systems, Software, Windows

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126 comments
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  • It's funny...

    These kind of articles are coming just in time for the PDC. CNET has one too.

    http://news.cnet.com/8301-13505_3-10077866-16.html?part=rss&subj=news&tag=2547-1_3-0-20

    MS bashers are really desperate. Is this because of what Microsoft announced (Azure, Live) on PDC is something that will make them even more successful?

    Just a thought.
    silent.griffin
    • desperate?

      Where do you get that notion that the people that know the
      truth about windows are desperate? The desperate people
      are those that know how painful it is to use windows but
      still rabidly support it. The only thing that windows has
      done is train people to believe that their computer is an
      unstable device prone to crashes.

      I feel sorry for the people that are so blinded by the MS
      (read that as a substitute for BS)

      I know that once I switched to a mac I have much less
      stress from computer crashes and just plain stupid
      behavior from a computer.

      We are not desperate MS is. The apple store continues to
      sell more and more macs with 50% of them being sold to
      people switching to a MAC... how does that make a MAC
      user desperate?

      I love how people try to ridicule MAC users as if they are
      stupid for using a computer that just plain works.

      So go put your head back in the sand.
      jahrends
      • Why do some Mac users...

        ...write in long columns with really bad grammar, spouting the same old delusional rhetoric?

        Just askin'.
        Sleeper Service
        • Because they are doing so on a Mac

          and they lose their train of thought after every reboot :)
          GuidingLight
          • Funny

            You want to compare how often you have to reboot a mac to
            how often windows needs one?
            jahrends
          • With Vista

            I maybe have to reboot once a month, and that is only because updates need to be installed requiring a reboot.
            soonerproud
          • Even with XP

            When I leave work, I just switch my monitor off. My PC hasn't been rebooted now for over a month and there's no problem what so ever. Performance is excellent, and I'm happy.
            General C#
          • @General: That's the whole problem

            You are using XP at work.. and you are happy. That's no income for MS.
            TedKraan
          • EXACTLY!

            Same here! I haven't had to restart my work computer or my home PC with Vista, and my parents PC with Vista.

            Seriously, the guy made the comment because of the Apple propaganda... remember Apple's [funny] "Restart" commercial? That's where Apple fans get their "facts", from Apple commercials.

            I watch Apple's commercials and laugh at the sheer stupidity of their claims... the actor's are also really funny.
            twisterjosh
          • Havn't rebooted

            I havn't restarted my xp pro since the last power failure.
            drayner
          • > 1 month on XP

            I use XP in my home. I reboot once a month. I don't even shut sown my PC, I just Hybernate. I reboot only when I need maximum performance (not that I notice any difference... but just in case...). XP works fine. It only requires to know how it generally works.
            Mac is designed for intermediate users (only by comparing screenshots of the 2 OSes is enough to tell that this is true).

            An other interesting comparison, however, is to check how many different components are installed in the OS...
            Just look for example the shell extensions in Windows shell... (That really makes me dizzy). Then check the same thing on Mac and Linux... (Empty)!
            ghost_ghost
          • Did you guys vote for change? Doubt it, still stuck in yesterday right?

            ;-)
            fr0thy2
        • Just askin what?

          Explain the delusion?

          I am deluded that I know my mac works better than
          windows? I am deluded that Windows is unstable? I am
          deluded that as a mac user I get bashed for supporting an
          OS that just plain works? I think the delusion is on your
          part for attacking people smarter than you. A mac user
          has to be smarter than a PC user considering the fact that
          the PC user stays on the sinking ship just because of peer
          pressure.

          The only thing keeping people on windows is fear.

          Fear of change.
          Fear of being different.

          The proof of my argument is that the only thing you have
          is my bad grammar... OMG
          jahrends
          • ...

            Actually you cannot compare stability issue between Windows and Macs because while Windows can uses a wide variety of software and hardware, Macs are restricted by what their "lord and master" Jobs tell them to use.

            My own computer did not crash for several years. And it's running 24/7. (It's running Windows althrougth I'm gonna do a dual Linux/Windows setup next computer I get).

            Attack aggainst the person is not an argument, and no your not smarter then me because you chose to use Macs and I chose to use an OS that can actually run stuff.

            The only thing keeping me on Windows is actually the fact that most software I use has no equivalent on other platform(althrought I will try to run them in wine).

            I dont fear change, that's why I moved from Macs to Windows a long time aggo. I dont fear being different... or else I would have do what other "cool" kids where doing while I was still young

            I know I dont have good grammar... I suck at writting and English is not my native language.
            Ceridan
          • Interesting.

            "Attack aggainst (sic) the person is not an argument...."

            "'lord and master' Jobs..."
            msalzberg
          • It's not just your grammar...

            ...it's your false generalisations too.

            Just so you know.
            Sleeper Service
          • Heres the delusion

            " I think the delusion is on your
            part for attacking people smarter than you. A mac user
            has to be smarter than a PC user considering the fact that
            the PC user stays on the sinking ship just because of peer
            pressure"

            Get it right, it just works so thats why u use it, anything remotely challenging and ur running scared. Mac users switch to Mac because they can't/don't want to know about computing other then using a computer.

            Why do they switch? because windows is unstable?? thats what u say to hide ur lack of common sense and ability to actually understand whats going on inside ur computer and repair the error that YOU caused in the first place by not reading or understanding what ur doing.

            So what do u do, u buy a system that is screened to ensure the user doesn't install or setup hardware or software that may cause problems if not installed/configured properly, an open OS but a closed system. Talk to an Apple Engineer and the motto is, "see every user as dumb and design the system to be dumb proof" that includes limiting hardware and software to ensure the system doesnt crash because the user installed the wrong driver or failed to read the specifications and act accordingly.

            And u wanna say ur smarter
            mrjoctave
          • Well at least...

            ... he knows enough to use "you" instead of "u". What are you, twelve?
            914four
          • You are delusional

            Just because a [b]few[/b] non-Windows users say a few nasty things about Windows, doesn't make it a sinking ship. I as well as many others have been running the various versions of Windows over the past several years that it's been in existence without a crash. My Vista machine is rock solid and not unstable as you put it. So in essence you're just full of crap, trying to convert people to your religion.

            [i]Peer pressure[/i]? What are you 5?
            General C#
          • unstable

            windows is a bit of an old story.

            Just as old as having to compile stuff under Linux to be able to use it.
            TedKraan