Désolé il est en anglais et je n'ai pas eu le courage
de le traduire.
Mais si une bonne âme veut bien s'y mettre, elle en sera vivement remerciée ! :-)
Perform a supreme act of imagination : Envision a world in which Microsoft doesn't dictate your personal computer reality. Too much for you ? Stay with us - we're about to give you 83 reasons why Redmond is not invincible.
Microsoft seems like a fact of life. We know how the company took over the desktop. But how did it get to be standard equipment in our consciousness ? Omnipresence helps. Windows and Office are everywhere. Then there's history: To paraphrase a Confederate general, the company may not have been firstest to the software battle, but it came with the mostest, and it humiliated a huge, established power, IBM, in the process. And, to keep the list brief, there's return : If something seems too good to be true, it probably is, unless you're talking about Microsoft stock; a $1,000 investment in Bill Gates and company on the day they went public, March 13, 1986, had grown to $258,000 by this fall.
But here's news : Microsoft is just a company, not a force of nature. It's not the biggest company in the world, nor the richest, nor even the biggest seller of packaged software (that's IBM). We reel at the mere thought, but Microsoft can be dislodged from its place at the center of the software universe. How ?
Look at Microsoft today. It's beset by distributed-computing technology like Sun Microsystems' Java and Jini. It's threatened by the Internet, which is beyond domination by a single technology or set of tools. On dozens of fronts ranging from bandwidth to set-top boxes to handheld devices to embedded systems, innovation is accelerating. No company can be boss of all the new stuff.
Yes, Gates is writing about The Era Ahead and talking about a new miniature computer and data storehouses and hooking MS Office users on an online software upgrade habit. Like any good horse player, the company is spreading its investment bets across the board : WebTV, cable TV, freemail, streaming media, and portal services, among many, many others. The company is trying to extend its dominance into server software with Windows NT and to become the brains of the handheld universe with Windows CE. As for individual competitors, there's not a true dragon slayer in the crowd. Linux, a challenger in the server market, is still a geek's toy that no one in Redmond will really take seriously until they see developers lining up to write mass-market apps. Java and Jini are still mostly a dream (but one with enough substance that, a Sun lawsuit alleges, Microsoft has tried to take control of the language by promulgating a variant version).
So why worry if you're Microsoft ?
Well, it's a baggage problem, and the Redmond Twenty-Seven Thousand are carrying a real load. For instance : the history of shipping buggy software and of taking their own sweet time to get things right; the habit of adopting hardball as modus operandi for all seasons and of assuming that they represent a superior kind of being; a forecast slowdown in the sky-high earnings that built the company's $14 billion bank account; and, worst, the use of its PC desktop dominance as a works-every-time door opener to supremacy in new sectors.
For Microsoft, this dependence on dominance is a self-set trap. It has led the company to play rough not only with competitors, but with partners, too. It has given government antitrust prosecutors religion and emboldened legislators to consider whether the company's monopoly power has gone too far. It has given Sun, IBM, Apple, Novell, Oracle, and Netscape - as well as a new generation of competition - the resolve to continue to resist the corporate steamroller. Where do you want to go today ? Microsoft asks. Some of the toughest voices in the high tech world answer, "To war."
(1) Funky Karma.
I'll will could be Microsoft's most widely distributed product. The company's strong-arm approach to business has provoked prosecutors, competitors, and would-be allies. The result ? At October's Agenda Conference, for example, a non-wild-eyed audience of tech execs listened to federal trustbuster Joel Klein speak, then were polled on the question, "Do you believe antitrust regulation is necessary in the computer industry ?" Eighty percent answered yes.
(2) Monopoly Killer.
The Internet is changing the world. There's no way to dominate it, let alone own it. "Nobody is going to be a high percentage of all that anybody does on the Internet," says Microsoft president Steve Ballmer. "No level of investment by us would do that."
(3) Where Do We Want to Go Tomorrow ?
Microsoft has played the winning hand in the PC Era. It's still groping for a way forward in the Network Era. That's why Gates has left Ballmer in charge of the ranch and set off on his high tech vision quest.
(4) Talk to Me, God !
What will Bill bring back from his wanderings ? Divinely inscribed tablets ? A magic decoder ring ? A new business plan ? His strategic acuity has driven the company - witness his Saul-on-the-road-to-Damascus enlightenment about the Net. Now that Gates has reserved the post of visionary, Microsoft's future in the fastest-moving industry in history rides on whether he's still up to the job.
"Microsoft has never been an innovator -
it's a fast follower. And when you're as big and dominant as Microsoft,
and growing at 30 or 40 percent a year, it gets harder and harder to find
people to be fast followers of."
- Paul Saffo, Institute for the Future
Eighteen years of history in the company aside, Ballmer as a company leader is an unknown quantity.
(6) Joy's Law.
"No matter who you are, most of the smartest people work for someone else." Even if your name is Microsoft.
For more than a decade, the Wintel duopoly has allowed mates Gates and Grove to control the PC industry's direction and pace. But now Intel, aroused by home wreckers (and competitive challenges) such as Java and Linux, sounds like it wants to move away from its happy partnership. As Tammy Wynette would sing it, a split would be "pure H-E-double-L" for Redmond.
(8) The Un-Innovator.
Legal posturing aside, Microsoft has hardly been a front-of-the-pack innovator. Instead, it excels at following, at seeing the importance of others' breakthroughs and capitalizing on them. Exhibits : Windows, a knockoff of Apple's knockoff of Xerox's desktop GUI, and Internet Explorer 3.0, a homely cousin of Netscape's Mozilla.
(9) NT ? No Thanks.
Windows NT, the company's attempt to seize the lucrative network server market, is a bug-infested mess that, in its upcoming 5.0 version, could run to 35 million lines of code. Does it scale ? Microsoft is still figuring that out - take a look at the endless snafus afflicting its attempt to switch its recently acquired Hotmail service to the home-grown platform. In a world of ever more varied, nimble, and ubiquitous computing, bloatware is dead.
(10) The Unforgiven.
To date, Microsoft has operated in a forgiving environment - the land of the PC desktop. There, bugginess is an annoyance, not a calamity. Its habit of shipping rough-cut software and letting users catch all the splinters won't fly when it's trying to sell NT and CE to customers that must have failure-proof reliability.
(11) Internet Time.
The Net poses a problem for even the quickest study and fleetest follower. Net players armed with big market caps - like Yahoo!, Amazon.com, and America Online - are moving so fast on so many different fronts that Microsoft will have a hard time choosing which to chase.
(12) Microsoft Time.
Monopolists get used to taking their time. Consider NT 5.0. Anticipated this year, it has been delayed and delayed again. Judging from a GartnerGroup report, it won't be available until 2000 - and probably won't be usable until 2001.
Slowly, relentlessly, it's coming. Performance issues dog it, speed first and foremost. But Windows and NT now indisputably face a platform that's drawing a big crowd of developers. And Java's underlying premise - write once, run anywhere - is a paradigm shift aimed straight at Microsoft's proprietary OS heart.
This fast, stable, and free Unix-based OS is widely used (on 7 million mostly high-end desktops) and has won support from tech heavies including IBM, Oracle, Informix, and Intel. Still too geeky for prime time, Linux is nonetheless a threat to NT.
(15) One Big Computer.
Sun's Jini. IBM's Pervasive Computing. Even Microsoft's Millennium project. All are looking beyond the necessity of operating systems to a radical new reality in which computing is universally distributed. Microsoft says, "We believe it is time to reexamine the operating system's role." We'll go them one better: Check on your business model.
(16) Always Open.
The movement toward open-source software is expanding. The world's most popular Web server software, Apache, is open sourced and free. IBM has announced it will support and install Apache for clients who want it. Open source lets developers and corporate IT managers customize software and build their own applications.
(17) Always Semi-Open.
Redmond's response: "You'll see us start publishing more of the NT source code," Ballmer told developers in September. "But can we provide our products for free ? The answer is no."
(18) Razor-Sharp Freeware.
Freeware doesn't need to take over Microsoft's $7.6 billion-a-year platform market to inflict damage. If it creates enough competition that the company is forced to slash prices, Redmond's balance sheet goes up in flames.
(19) Candy, Strangers, Et Cetera.
Make no mistake. When Netscape gives away Communicator and opens its source, it's trying to keep developers happy and sow its product. When Microsoft lets you have something for free - Internet Explorer, say - the tactic takes an ugly turn. It's usually a way of knifing a competitor, and the bill will come due later.
"Once you've locked in a huge user base -
DOS, Windows, whatever - you have to keep the technology backward-compatible.
That slows you down in terms of innovation. It's like Napoleon trying to
take Moscow : The further you go, the longer your supply lines get. A fast-moving
start-up with a new technology doesn't have to worry. For Microsoft the
problem gets worse every day."
- W. Brian Arthur, Santa Fe Institute
(20) Shrink-Wrap RIP.
Notice any hot IPOs for companies making prepackaged software ? How many brand-new desktop applications has Microsoft launched lately ? Software development has moved down to the Net, where consumer and business apps often show up as freeware, or high-priced custom jobs for corporations.
(21) Free's Still Cheaper.
Bill says that Windows is a bargain - "less than 5 cents a day." (He's not counting the cost of psychotherapy for frustrated users.) Note that gratis is even less than pennies a day, and that's what code costs on the Net. Would you want to have to sell against that ?
(22) Brand X Factor.
You don't need Windows to use today's killer apps - Web surfing and email. In fact, the OS that happens to be running in the background is losing its importance for most computer users.
"Even as Microsoft is relentlessly integrating
more and more features into its software, the Internet is just as relentless
breaking the delivery of code down into Java-style objects. Component software
will do in Microsoft, just as surely as smaller hardware - the PC - brought
down DEC and IBM."
- George Gilder, Gilder Technology Group
(23) Best 9 Out of 17 ?
Microsoft has won a couple of early sets in its antitrust match with Joel Klein. But it looks like the company is facing a foe determined to keep the game going until he finds a way to prevail : You won the first two ? Fine, let's make it three out of five ...
(24) Tora! Tora! Tora!
The government lawyers aren't the only ones blasting Microsoft in court. Posing just as serious a threat are competitors and partners who are dropping legal bombs. The biggest of the bunch : Sun Microsystems' suit alleging Microsoft breached its Java license and is trying to hijack the language. Also on the docket : Caldera's Ray Noorda and his suit alleging illegal efforts to scuttle DR-DOS, and Bristol Technology's claim that Redmond has engaged in anticompetitive behavior by cutting the company off from the NT source code it needs to make developer tools.
Whatever the outcome of the antitrust marathon, the suit has already forced Microsoft to back off a key business tactic : the ever expanding web of licensing agreements and contracts that shoulder out competitors.
Attorney David Boies put a big notch in his antitrust Colt by defending IBM against the Justice Department in the '70s. But he's wearing a badge now, serving as Justice's special trial counsel, and he's drawn a bead on Microsoft.
(27) Emancipated Pixels.
Gateway, Compaq, and other PC makers have used Microsoft's legal troubles to win a place for themselves on the sacrosanct Windows desktop. The immediate payoff is links to their company sites or to Microsoft portal foes like Yahoo! Longer term, this could thwart Redmond's ambition to shepherd Windows users through an all-Microsoft, all-the-time network experience.
(28) Your Stigma Is Showing.
Monopolies are at first praised for bringing order to markets and then blamed for eliminating choice. And once a monopolist, always a monopolist - unless you're broken up. However the trial goes, Microsoft will be on parole - at least in the public mind - for years.
(29) Hearts and Minds.
Polls suggest that though computer users like Bill Gates and his company well enough, they're not thrilled with it rolling into new territory. In a Time/CNN survey in May, half of the respondents thought Microsoft's dominant role in the software industry was a good thing. But half also said it would be a bad thing for the company to become dominant in providing Internet services.
(30) DC Rules.
The Net has made the PC desktop a global media device. That puts Microsoft at the intersection of Big Money and Power Politics, where you make the signal turn green by figuring out which levers are pulled when. The Washington State crew has been slow to learn the Washington, DC, rules.
All Microsoft's market power aside, building World HQ near Seattle has not shifted Earth's axis or altered gravitational fields. The Evergreen State is still the sticks, and the company's physical isolation breeds technological and political problems. Redmond has acknowledged as much with its crash program to build an outpost in Silicon Valley.
(32) Hired Guns.
Retired judge Robert Bork wrote the book on the evils of antitrust. Bob Dole thrived in Washington by learning how to be friends with big business. Heads turned when the two Bobs showed up earlier this year as front men for a DC-based anti-Microsoft lobby group, the Project to Promote Competition and Innovation in the Digital Age. With enemies like these, do you have any friends ?
(33) Earnings Slope.
Every year for 23 years, Microsoft has racked up record revenues and profits. But earnings are slowing from the 43 percent average rise between 1993 and 1997 to a forecast 23 percent or so over the next five years. Extra troubling : Earnings growth in the software sector overall is expected to rise from 19.6 percent over the last five years to 32 percent over the coming five. "Our expectations of the future - can they be equal to past performance ? No way," chief operating officer Bob Herbold said in July.
"Microsoft dodged a bullet with the Internet.
But a lot of people inside the company wonder if Bill can do it again -
either because he won't see what's coming, or because this time the company
won't be able to turn in time."
- Microsoft product manager
(34) Arithmetic 1A.
A $14 billion company with 27,320 employees cannot keep growing revenue 40-plus percent a year - the kind of performance that keeps investors drooling. Smaller competitors have an easier time producing magic numbers.
(35) Multiple Problems.
Never mind Microsoft's $249 billion market cap - lower earnings could send MSFT tumbling. One sign the issue is vulnerable is its high P/E, the ratio of a stock's share price to a company's annual earnings. MSFT's multiple is very high compared to those recorded by traditional blue chips and other tech heavies. A P/E glance as of October : Ford, 9; GM, 15; Apple, 18; Hewlett-Packard, 19; AT&T, 20; IBM, 23; Sun, 26; Intel, 26; Microsoft, 62.
(36) Pricey Nightcrawlers.
Microsoft is constantly trying to lure smart new people to Redmond, and stock options have been good bait. But MSFT's sky-high stock price can be a turnoff. "Recruits have said, 'I don't think there's as much upside to Microsoft stock,'" chief financial officer Greg Maffei told analysts in July. "[They say] 'I want to go to a company that's smaller, that's not as highly valued, where there is more upside.'"
"Hubris is the death of all great companies.
They think they can do no wrong. Or that they can always buy their way
out. Where's the new horizontal market for Microsoft to dominate? The market
is still expecting them to produce 40 percent growth. Well, you can't do
that without creating - and then dominating - whole new markets."
- Vinod Khosla, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers
"At a certain point IBM wasn't the place to interview," says one source. "You get that sense about Microsoft now."
(38) Pay Bomb.
Recruits aren't the only ones casting a cold eye on options. With the rise in the share price slowing, options lose their appeal for current employees, too. To keep its human assets happy, Microsoft might have to shell out much bigger paychecks - an expense that will hit the bottom line hard. Said Herbold: "It's a big, big issue."
(39) Too Rich to Innovate.
In his "The Era Ahead" encyclical this September, Gates himself raised another side of the compensation conundrum : Motivating longtime employees who have grown wealthy, and perhaps complacent, on their Microsoft shares.
(40) Trickle-Down Hubris.
It starts at the top : the belief that you're smarter than the rest, that no one will ever quite get the world the way you do, that it's infuriating that anyone among the lower orders would presume to offer advice or direction. A corporate culture built on a belief in innate superiority is ripe for a fall.
(41) Buyback Cul-de-Sac.
With a $14 billion bank account, Microsoft has the cash to prop up its shares. As many cash-rich companies do, it could go into a down market and buy back stock. But that's only a short-term fix : Buybacks don't grow the earnings that Wall Street craves.
(42) Insiders and How They Trade.
Bill G. sells a lot of stock from his 20 percent stake in the company (as of August, that was about 515 million shares). But is there a message to the increased volume of his trades ? In August 1997, Gates sold 1.7 million MSFT shares; in August '98, 4.3 million. In the first eight months of '97, he moved 6.5 million shares; through the same span in '98, he had sold off 13.5 million.
(43) As the Index Turns.
Microsoft is a big ingredient in the wildly popular index mutual funds; the billions poured into the funds have been one factor pushing MSFT ever higher and higher. But the Dismal Market of '98 scared a lot of investors out of the indexes. Microsoft could take it on the chin.
(44) The Wrong War.
Microsoft has spent heavily to eke out the tiniest of leads in its browser war with Netscape. In the meantime, America Online, Yahoo!, and Excite have won a lot of eyeballs and dollars. Now Gates & Co. are spending hundreds of millions more to build their own full-service portal.
(45) Deep Doo.
Once upon a time, Bill G. whupped IBM. But like the proverb says, what didn't kill Big Blue made it stronger. IBM is now trying to use its unmatched range, depth, and experience to thwart the Windows Everywhere crusade. Exhibit : Big Blue has committed big bucks to turning Sun's Java into the world's open computing platform.
"The performance of most Microsoft products
way overshoots the needs of most of the market, which is the classic recipe
for disruption by a cheaper, simpler technology. It has already happened
twice in the computer industry - first with IBM and then DEC."
- Clayton Christensen, author, The Innovator's Dilemma : When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail
(46) Deep Doo II.
Never get on the wrong end of a holy war. Redmond rivals like Sun, Netscape, Oracle, and Novell have launched a jihad because they're convinced the software superpower wants to annihilate them. That belief inspires competition so fanatic that it's certain to do some damage to Microsoft.
(47) The Action Must Be Shared.
Last year, according to The New York Times, CFO Maffei outlined Microsoft's business perimeter for a meeting of Valley venture capitalists. After hearing Maffei list everything the company considered to be potentially competitive territory, the Times said, one VC partner turned to another and said : "I guess that leaves us washing machines and toasters." Listen up, Bill : New entrepreneurs want a piece of the action; competition will out.
(48) The Search for El Dorado.
As Bill G. says, "The potential financial reward for building the 'next Windows' is so great that there will never be a shortage of new technologies seeking to challenge it."
(49) The Heart Thing.
Caldera backer Ray Noorda on talking things out with competitor Microsoft : "To have a heart-to-heart, you need two hearts." Redmond, we've got a problem.
(50) Failure Virgins.
Can the corporate culture in Redmond survive an IBM-style Waterloo ?
(51) Planet of the Apes.
Microsoft wants to be the 800-pound gorilla of cyberspace. The problem is that America Online, weighing in at 801, is already there. AOL, having weathered its own legal and PR troubles in the wake of the Flat-Rate Fiasco of '96, already has 13 million members and continues to grow rapidly. Memo : Bill, it's no fair to just buy it.
(52) Let's Make a Web Site !
More time online means less time for special-purpose desktop apps. So Microsoft will spend more (so far, the Interactive Media Group has burned through a reported $1 billion) on its fine family of sites : MSN.com, Hotmail, CarPoint, Expedia, and Investor, among others. Like any other new media player, all Microsoft has to do now is figure out how to make all that nifty stuff turn a profit.
(53) Jobs Won.
Don't laugh. A survey sponsored by Mac-only retailer ComputerWare found that 12 percent of new iMac purchasers were Windows defectors; 16 percent were first-time computer buyers. In a world of networked devices, style, superior interface, and ease of use are enough to make Apple a heavyweight again.
Ecommerce will be utterly ruthless and hugely expensive. Gates says, "It's going to be hypercompetitive." Although Microsoft will spend billions to play, it's not likely to find monopoly-style margins. Bill, meet Willy.
(55) They Got Courage.
Netscape, RealNetworks, Yahoo!, and the rest of the Internet rockets show that it is not suicidal to compete directly with Microsoft.
(56) Thud and Blunder.
MS spends $100 million dollars a year on its unenchanting consumer advertising. The company has an uncanny ability to miss people on the emotional level : Its presence is big and heavy, like the Pentagon's. But massiveness doesn't make you feel good about paying $700 for a toilet seat - or for paying full fare for overpriced software.
(57) It's Connectivity, Stupid.
Quick - which would you rather have : Windows 98 running on the latest Pentium II PC or your tired old machine and a T1 line ? Wintel is about leveraging processor speed. The future is about leveraging connectivity.
(58) Saturated Fat.
Increasing returns let you create and then dominate a whole new market - the PC desktop, for example. But unless you can keep the paradigm shifts coming, returns shrivel as the market gets saturated. How many PCs do you want to own ?
(59) MS TarPit.
Now 20 years old, the PC desktop is a technological Jurassic Park. And Microsoft is trapped in it, fenced in by 182 million active Windows 95 users demanding backward compatibility.
(60) Nothing But Niches.
Microsoft's omnipotence over users and desktops is an anomaly. Chips and bits have exploded in so many directions that there's no longer a single market to dominate. The corollary is ...
"Like any dictatorship, when things start
to get tough Microsoft is going to discover that it has lots of allies,
but very few friends."
- Dan Gillmor, technology columnist, San Jose Mercury News
(61) Niches, Niches Everywhere.
Microsoft must try to win the niches to keep adding the billions in revenue that Wall Street expects. But it will have trouble creating and mastering myriad new markets. Creating one market once was hard enough.
(62) Officed Out.
MS Office is the big kahuna - its sales and licensing accounted for 40 percent of company revenue in fiscal 1998. But what's the growth potential ? As CFO Maffei told analysts, "How many companies don't have a copy ?"
(63) Win07! It's Got Fins !
Quoth Ballmer in '93: "Upgrading software is insanely profitable." But how do you get the rubes to keep buying ? As updated software delivers less and less good (and needed) new stuff, it gets harder to sell. Microsoft's answer: pile on the features until you get something that looks like a '57 Cadillac - hey, check out the fins !
"As Microsoft moves further and further from
its core, it starts to run into competitors who are extremely good at what
they do, know their domains a lot better than Microsoft, and are extremely
proactive. Companies like Sun and IBM and Oracle don't just roll over and
- Michael Borrus, Berkeley Roundtable on the International Economy
(64) But Who Needs Fins ?
Now you have your fully loaded OS - browser, Java, channels, groupware, messaging, you name it. You've also got an unwieldy, unmanageable product that might collapse of its own weight. "The PC has continued to accrete complexity faster than people can absorb it," admits Craig Mundie, senior VP of Microsoft's consumer platforms division. "The problem is, there's no IT manager for the home."
(65) Squeeze One.
One way of dealing with reluctant upgraders is to just raise prices and worry about the consequences later. One example : Companies must now license two "seats" for employees who use Office software both at work and at home.
(66) Squeeze Two.
Microsoft's answer to its bête noire, the network computer, is to migrate corporate users to NT and sell them thin-client software. But to avoid a decline in revenue, a source says, Microsoft will probably charge as much for a thin-client seat as for a full NT license. Linux, anyone ?
(67) Too Complex.
The stress of maintaining the complexity of Windows and NT threatens to overwhelm Microsoft's ability to incorporate the Next Big Thing. Dynamically assembled, specialized software components that publish their interfaces and adapt to the environment in which they find themselves are a good bet for the Next Big Things. But that can't be incorporated into the Windows OSes without crushing them.
(68) Billions Not Yet Served.
Most Earthlings have yet to buy a PC and probably never will. But they will buy plenty of smart electronic computing stuff. Who will supply it ? Why would anyone bet on a company that has taken 14 years to reproduce the usability levels of the 1984 Macintosh ?
(69) Software Devil, Go Home.
Does anybody seriously think that any of the world's huge developing markets will cheerfully ship billions of dollars to an American company forever ? With its potential market leverage, China, especially, might be able to give Microsoft a taste of its own medicine : Play by our rules or get lost.
(70) Cheap PCs.
In 1997, 21 percent of consumer PCs sold in the US cost less than $1,000. By the end of this year, the figure is expected to hit 31 percent. Great for you, bad for Bill. Low-end PCs ship with fewer and cheaper applications, and low-end buyers don't upgrade much or buy a lot of "after-market" software. With PC prices still plunging, Microsoft's profits fall, too.
The 21st century's most common PC will not be a desktop box. It will be a handheld, something like the PalmPilot or digital books. It's a market that's up for grabs, and Microsoft's bid for the small-device OS, Windows CE, is struggling just to get a foot in the market door.
(72) Wireless? Clueless.
Another crucial unPC battleground is the fusion of telecom and small computing devices - phone/computers like the Nokia 9000 Communicator. Ericsson, which liked WinCE enough to choose it for its PDA, picked Symbian's EPOC OS for its smart phones. One reason : WinCE isn't optimized for low power consumption. Another : Manufacturers are reluctant to get in bed with Goliath.
(73) Set-Top Freeze-Out.
The fractious cable industry is united on two points : the need for open standards in new digital set-top devices, and a reluctance to give Microsoft too big a piece of that action. Case in point : TCI's early '98 deal to let Microsoft supply only 5 million WinCE-equipped set-top boxes; but much of the business will go elsewhere - chiefly to Sun and Sony.
(74) Y2K Diversion.
Much of the treasure that corporations will spend bugproofing themselves will be money not spent on Microsoft wares. Laments one analyst : "They are diverting IT resources, not just from projects like NT, but from the 'Why do I need the next Office upgrade ?' department."
Memo to Microsoft: 10 Tips for the Era Ahead
1.Preempt the antitrust crusade. Break up the
company now, on your own terms.
2.Spin off Windows as a separate company.
3.Put the OS into the public domain. Sell support and service.
4.Turn NT into a corporate/enterprise service firm. Make this the last upgrade ever.
5.Create distributed network software that's better than Jini and Java.
6.Get connected : Move software headquarters to Silicon Valley.
7.Learn to play politics.
8.Exploit what good will there is left. Give the Microsoft brand some real meaning for the consumer.
9.Strip the geeks out of the media/interactive group and pack up the bunch to LA or NY.
10.Send Gates up the mountain to find a business model that works for commercial software, because all OS software will be free in the future.
11.Start the Microsoft Charitable Foundation with an initial endowment of $25 billion - while you still have it.
(75) Y2K ? It's Your Fault.
The more software you've sold, the bigger your potential liability when things go awry. And it is certain the Year 2000 will go awry to some degree. Who'll be in the tort lawyers' sights ? "Large companies who have deep pockets," says Microsoft CFO Maffei.
(76) Global Flu.
Getting more than half your revenue outside the United States sounds like a great idea - until the rest of the world's currencies start crashing. As Maffei says, "There is nothing we can do to stop it."
(77) Software Freebooters.
The world's emerging markets are vast, but software pirates have torched a lot of the profit potential. Look at what the buccaneers have done in China despite an aggressive effort to shut them down : The country's PC market is a bit bigger than France's, but Microsoft's sales in China are less than a tenth of those in France.
"When you're the first one out there and
you're ubiquitous - especially in an industry that involves networks -
people inevitably will start talking about antitrust. The first and biggest
company is the one in the bull's-eye."
- Peter Huber, Manhattan Institute
(78) Skimmed Milk.
Because Microsoft doesn't own the Net, it's forced to work in open standards like TCP/IP, HTML, and XML. The upshot : It's harder to create any kind of proprietary system, and harder to keep existing proprietary systems going. That's a problem for a company fed on the rich cream of Windows.
(79) That Insecure Feeling.
Microsoft has yet to show itself prepared for the security challenges of the Network Era. As legions of crackers have gleefully demonstrated, the MS habit of constantly integrating new features into its operating system is inherently insecure.
(80) That Other Insecure Feeling.
Some federal officials say they're wary of having too much critical infrastructure dependent on a single company's minimally secure products. A ban on Microsoft software for critical uses isn't practical. But hardliners have suggested the government avoid depending on Microsoft if possible.
(81) VAR Wars.
Microsoft eschewed IBM's model of building a service army to make its products work for corporate users. It outsourced that chore to value-added resellers and systems integrators. But as enterprise software gets more customized and job specific, value is shifting closer and closer to the client. That leaves Redmond's strategists with the unhappy choice of screwing loyal distributors or letting them pocket cash that would otherwise help its bottom line.
(82) Bill's Billions.
Accumulating a $50 billion fortune, even one that exists mostly on paper, puts a human face on greed. So does building a $60 million pleasure dome (which shows off a host of ultra-tycoon features, such as a 20-car garage, and flaunts dazzling touches of personal wealth, such as the 16th-century Leonardo da Vinci Codex Leicester). The result : Microsoft bears the brunt of any hard feelings people harbor for America's richest man.
(83) Muddle Age.
What does it mean when your chief technology officer, Nathan Myhrvold, has enough time on his hands to spend 16 months researching the purchase of his own Gulfstream III jet ? And follows up by writing an anonymous account for Vanity Fair and trading in the dreamcraft for a $38 million Gulfstream V ? A Wall Street Journal reporter wanted to ask, but Myhrvold was off fly-fishing in Mongolia.