Eight Years Later, Is Microsoft Still a Monopoly?

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Office Hegemony

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 as fast, and it's available anywhere.

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 writing documents that don't need much formatting, or opening an e-mail attachment for quick review. When someone sends me a spreadsheet and says, "Take a look and let me know what you think," I don't want to wait around while Excel slowly opens, and then locate the appropriate folder to house that spreadsheet on my hard drive. With Gmail, I can open spreadsheet attachments quickly in Google Docs--and it's still available in the same place if I need to refer to it days or weeks later.

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.

Net Vulnerability

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 had lots of them: .Net, the Live concept, Web TV, Internet appliances, and more. But you won't see a bonafide winner.

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?

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