“Microsoft Is Dead?” What Is Paul Graham Talking About??

Posted Apr 8, 2007

I have never met Paul Graham, but he is obviously a respectable individual.  How many people can they say that they have sold a company to Yahoo! and are encouraging budding entrepreneurs to pursue their dreams through the concept of Y-Combinator?  However, I believe that Graham’s essay, Microsoft is Dead did not present his expected intellectual temperament.  The evidence that he used in his essay can be easily dismissed.

The first point that Graham made was that Microsoft had casted a shadow for 20 years in the software world.  “I didn’t notice when the shadow disappeared,” stated Graham.  “But it’s gone now. I can sense that.  No one is even afraid of Microsoft anymore.”

Evolution provided us with five senses.  If we were given a sense about when businesses will die or rise, then everyone would make millions on the stock market.

I wouldn’t say that Microsoft was casting a big shadow over others, I would say that it was Bill Gates himself.  He found something, it worked, and became the richest man in the world.  He is everyone’s benchmark.  Back when I was a kid, I used to say that I wanted to be richer than Bill Gates.  Given that Gates is still the richest man in the world today, I’m sure kids still say that they want to be richer than Bill Gates today.  Gates definetely raised the bar for everybody during the last 20 years.

Graham then honed in on four reasons why Microsoft is dead:
1.) Google
2.) AJAX
3.) Broadband Internet
4.) Apple

Are you kidding me?  The way I’ll organize my response is by taking every reason given and give my input on why these are not so-called “Microsoft killers.”

1.) Google
Google is definetely stepping up to the plate in the challenge against Microsoft’s Office suite, Microsoft’s e-mail system, and Microsoft’s MSN/Live search products.  There are so many companies out there that are creating some form of search engines, but how many are out there creating operating systems that are capable of replacing Windows?

Google and Microsoft are both very rich companies and can do whatever it takes to kill each other or use its earnings for the good of the people.  Google is elite at finding information and Microsoft is elite at helping users organize information.  Why should one kill the other?

In order for Google to be positioned to where it is today, Microsoft Windows and Internet Explorer is needed.

2.) AJAX
Graham said that “Gmail also showed how much you could do with web-based software, if you took advantage of what later came to be called ‘Ajax.'”  Ajax is a mash-up of JavaScript and XML, a programming language.  Why stop at Ajax?  Why not mention PHP?  How is a computer language going to take down a multi-billion dollar company?  If I said HTML was going to kill Microsoft back in 1990 when so many companies was using only that language, people would laugh at me.

3.) Broadband Internet
It is a given that broadband Internet is becoming more accessible and cheaper in both superpower and poverty-stricken countries, but that doesn’t mean a billion people are going to get online and say, “I just plain don’t like Microsoft Office anymore.  I think it is about time that I seek online alternatives.”

Online office applications are clearly riskier than creating Microsoft Office documents and sharing them within corporate Intranets.  Let’s suppose that I was depending on Writely before Google bought them and I was depending on their servers.  I needed to pull up an office document, but it turns out the Writely servers went down.  I’d have no way of retrieving the document unless I had a back-up of it as a .DOC file on Microsoft Word.

Broadband Internet… not a “Microsoft killer.”

4.) Apple
Apple and Microsoft have clearly had a tumultous relationship since the early days.  Apple swiped technology ideas from Xerox and then Microsoft swiped it from right under Steve Jobs’ nose.  Anthony Hall and Noah Wyle did an excellent job portraying Jobs and Gates’ youthful rivalry in the movie, Pirates of Silicon Valley.

As far back as I could remember, both Microsoft and Apple have been developing operating systems for years, but it was always Microsoft that came out on top for the largest market share.  Operating systems are Microsoft’s core competency and have been since they sealed a deal with IBM. 

Microsoft played it smart by hedging risks and by reinvesting their wealth into other products because they obviously knew that their operating system may face threats (aka Linux and Mac O/S).  Through this reinvestment, we as consumers had the ability to shop around between Microsoft XBox vs. Sony Playstation 2, Microsoft XBox 360 vs. Sony Playstation 3 vs. Nintendo Wii, Microsoft Office vs. Google Docs & Spreadsheets, Microsoft Internet Explorer vs. Mozilla Firefox, Microsoft Zune vs. Apple iPod vs. other video/MP3 players, etc.

Apple is obviously a formidable opponent, but it is clearly not a “Microsoft killer.”  Microsoft still has the strongest market-share in operating systems (94% in 2006), world wide web browsers, #2 in search behind Yahoo! (source: Alexa), and has the strongest market presence in the video game console market.