The Reports of Microsoft’s Demise Are Greatly Exaggerated…

I was having lunch with a good friend that I hadn’t seen in a while.  He’s a fellow Microsoft employee and we hadn’t caught up in quite some time.  We started at Microsoft at the same time and, as can be expected, we spent a lot of time talking about life in Redmond and our careers.  I think we were both fairly happy about how things had been going to date.  However, he mentioned he was a little concerned about the future of the company.  The interesting thing is—so is everyone else OUTSIDE of Microsoft...


The doom and gloom that I have been hearing about Microsoft has been around since I got here.  Actually, it's been around since well before I got here.   Admittedly, the stock price isn’t going anywhere and some products have slipped ship dates from original expectations.  I was reading Time a couple of weeks ago and the article made us look like this old, puttering machine that was ripe for Google or Linux to do to us what we arguably did to IBM 10-15 years ago.  After all, everyone loves a David and Goliath story.  Frankly, I don’t know what is going to happen.  Google is terrific and there are a lot of people out there who consider Linux a legitimate alternative.  But as Mark Twain once said, “the reports of my demise are greatly exaggerated.”  C’mon, folks!  29 years of consecutive revenue growth, despite all the economic highs and lows. Nothing exciting?   Since I've been at Microsoft (three years as of next month), we've released Windows XP, the .NET Framework, the Tablet PC, the Smartphone, Outlook 2003, and whole host of other awesome products.  How many other companies have come up with that many cool things in the last three years.  Looking ahead, we've got Yukon, Whidbey, Longhorn, the portable media player, etc.  Every now and then when I contemplate whether I should leave Microsoft for a new career move, it's amazing how much the innovation and excitement keeps me here.  Customer expectations are higher than they were 10 years ago, but we've consistently done a good job making our products better and giving people things to be exciting (yeah, I know what you're thinking--mmm, this Kool Aid tastes good :>).  


In the past couple of weeks, we’ve been hearing a lot about the late US President Ronald Reagan, who passed away at 93.  Now, I won’t go into the politics of Reagan and whether or not I was a fan.  However, I will say this:  that man led the most incredible life that mere mortals can only dream of.  A Hollywood actor that became the Governor of California and then the leader of the free world?  Wow.  But here is what is more amazing—he was a survivor.  He had colon cancer, skin cancer, an enlarged prostate and survived them all.  He was thrown from a horse that caused severe hemorrhaging in the brain--ha, merely a flesh wound.  Oh yeah, he even took a bullet to his chest!!!  Yet, the man kept on living and leading.   Eventually, he was stricken with Alzheimer’s, and even then, he lasted ten years before finally succumbing to the disease.  Now, I know that comparing a corporate entity to a human being is probably inappropriate in some way and I apologize in advance if that is the case, but when I think of Microsoft, I think of that same sort of resiliency.  That spirit that will keep us around for a long time. Now, I don't want to predict that we will continue to grow at this amazing pace or that the next ten years will be easy.  But you have to remember that the last ten years were anything but easy also.  People need to separate predictions from reality and recognize that this continues to be an amazing success story.


I leave you with this final sentiment about Microsoft:


“(The next Microsoft OS) will be either canceled or dead on arrival. Either way it will turn into a horrendous train wreck, the worst strategic disaster in Microsoft's history.“


That was Eric Raymond in 1998.  He'll contend that he was still pretty much right (he did a couple of years later).  Yet, Microsoft's Server & Tools Business has maintained continous growth.  Hmmm.  It's six years later-- Windows 2000 AND Windows 2003 shipped with lots of deployments of both all around.  The products that have leveraged the special features of this “disastrous OS“ (Exchange + SQL) have enjoyed outstanding growth and continue to make inroads in the corporate world where we were one considered a joke.  Meanwhile, his prediction of Netscape/Mozilla being the revolutionary force has, well, been less than revolutionary.  Object lesson?  Don't count us out!  Microsoft embodies the spirit of a fighter and I love being a part of that.  So to the friend I had lunch with and to all of the doubters out there, I highly recommend you remember that before you print the obituary. 


{Nirvana - Nevermind (The greatest album of all time)}

Comments (6)
  1. Steve K. says:


    realize two things about the media:

    1) Journalists who predict the demise of a technology/company never consider adaption. They usually apply the current situation to future trends and developments. Microsoft has been able to adapt quite well. They should consider that too in their predictions.

    2) Journalists are often opportunists. They know that the best way to get recognized is to predict the demise of the world’s largest software company.

  2. Jeff says:

    I got into ASP as my first Microsoft technology back in 1998, and at the time I thought everything was needlessly complex and not a great way to do things.

    Years later I’m writing a book on ASP.NET and get enough insight into the company (seeing as how so much of it is public anyway) that I can’t help but think things are getting easier for Microsoft in the long run, not harder. Everything on the horizon has ridiculous promise, and it’s not vaporware. Good times ahead, I’m sure.

  3. linklog says:

    The Reports of Microsoft’s Demise Are Greatly Exaggerated… Mhhhmmm. Actually no, the Guy’s got a point….

  4. Does anyone notice how people love to predict the demise of Microsoft?  It’s a series of Chicken…

  5. Does anyone notice how people love to predict the demise of Microsoft? It’s a series of Chicken Littles

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