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Microsoft's obituary

Above: the best OS Microsoft ever wrote

Microsoft is dead. Vanity Fair has written its obituary. I’ll have a link to its obituary a little later in this post.

I actually can remember a time when I did not hate Microsoft. It was 1983, when I bought a TRS-80 Model 100 portable computer. Microsoft wrote the Model 100’s operating system. It was pretty good. But that was 1983, and the Model 100 was a pretty simple little device.

Since 1983, at home and in my job as editorial systems director for three different newspapers, I’ve used computers running on many different operating systems — AT&T’s System 5 Unix, DEC PDP-11, Tandem, Linux, Sun Solaris (the most highly evolved Unix, in my opinion), and of course lots of Macintoshes. I never touched a Windows box unless I had no choice. Not only were Microsoft operating systems primitive, but they were designed to promote Microsoft’s monopoly, to force you to do things Microsoft’s way. Windows 95 even refused to support the emerging TCP/IP standard (which now runs the Internet), because Microsoft — always fighting standards — hoped to kill TCP/IP and replace it with something from Microsoft. Microsoft did not innovate. They simply tried to extend their monopoly and to force people and corporations to upgrade to the next version of Microsoft’s crap. Sure, some people loved Microsoft. But that was because they’d never known anything else, and because they’d bought a bit of Microsoft stock.

No monopoly lasts for forever. Sooner or later it was inevitable that someone would bury Microsoft. The big moment was in May 2010, when Apple’s market capitalization exceeded Microsoft’s. Microsoft is now a zombie, stumbling around stupidly until the day comes when its head is finally smashed.

But zombie or not, we do now have its obituary, in the August issue of Vanity Fair. It’s a must read for anyone who wants to dance on Microsoft’s grave. Don’t miss some of the comments by the Microsoft apologists, who still can’t believe that Microsoft has lost and still don’t understand why, since they’ve never known anything but Microsoft.

Steve Ballmer had a great deal to do with the death of Microsoft, mainly because he’s not a technology person but rather a salesman, aggressive to the point of evil. The Vanity Fair piece reports on an outburst by Ballmer when Ballmer learned that a Microsoft employee was going to Google:

He threw a chair against the wall. “Fucking Eric Schmidt is a fucking pussy!” Ballmer yelled, according to the court document. “I’m going to fucking bury that guy! I have done it before and I will do it again. I’m going to fucking kill Google.”

That is a very succinct distillation of Microsoft’s business strategy — use its monopoly power to kill the competition. Microsoft software was that very attitude converted to code.

Contrast this quote from the late Steve Jobs, who created Apple and made Apple the enormous company that it is today:

Most interesting, however, is that Jobs put the ultimate blame on Bill Gates: “They were never as ambitious product-wise as they should have been. Bill likes to portray himself as a man of the product, but he’s really not. He’s a businessperson. Winning business was more important than making great products. Microsoft never had the humanities and liberal arts in its DNA.”

There you have it — a CEO talking about the humanities and the liberal arts as the key to success in business and technology. That’s worth meditating on. And let’s also hope that, now that Steve Jobs is dead, Apple never forgets.

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