Eight Years Later, Is Microsoft Still a Monopoly?
Eight years ago this week, Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson
I should note at the outset that I'm not a lawyer and I haven't talked to any lawyers about this topic. I'm less interested in the narrow legal case of whether Microsoft violates antitrust law than in the state of Redmond's power. Does it still carry a big enough stick to make the rest of the technology market cower?
The PC Market
You could certainly argue that in one area directly addressed in the antitrust suits--Microsoft's alleged
But whether because of the antitrust suits or because of other market factors, Microsoft doesn't seem to be using its power to muscle competitors off the desktop.
Windows in Decline?
Trends suggest that the power of Windows may decline over the next few years. Most reviewers of Apple's new Leopard operating system have noted that it's superior to Windows Vista. And as virtualization products such as Parallels make running Windows software on a Mac seamless, individuals, at least, probably won't feel as tightly bound to the Windows platform.
Long-term, however, the greater threat to Windows' continued dominance is probably the Internet itself. As so much of our work--sorting through e-mail; finding information; organizing our lives; creating documents, spreadsheets, and other files--migrates online, the Internet becomes in effect everyone's operating system. What makes any particular PC that you happen to be
In other software areas, Microsoft's dominant position is similarly threatened. Corporations will probably continue to use Exchange and Outlook for years to come, but do individuals need Outlook anymore? A Gmail or Yahoo Mail inbox is virtually as powerful and
Though I still use Word, Excel, and PowerPoint to create complicated documents, I find online alternatives like Google Docs more useful for simple jobs like
As online applications become more and more powerful, the role of Microsoft Office will inevitably decline. And if Microsoft has a winning strategy to get its own piece of the movement toward online apps, that fact certainly isn't obvious from such confused and ineffective efforts as Windows Live and Office Live.
All of this points to Microsoft's great glaring weakness: the Web. Redmond has never come to terms with the Web, and perhaps it never will. Do a Google search for "Microsoft Internet strategy," and even the first page of results will leave no doubt that the company has
On the Web, Microsoft's institutional mass--the thing that makes it a potential monopoly--doesn't help, it hurts. Despite having only a tiny fraction of Microsoft's resources, Zoho has managed to build a stable of online apps that are light years ahead of any Web programs from Redmond .
So what do you think? Is Microsoft still pushing companies around, or is no one afraid of the Big Bad Wolf anymore?