What Is Microsoft So Afraid Of?

Through the years, Microsoft grew accustomed (and complacent) to each new generation of Windows being quickly, and gratefully, adopted by that base. That model worked for 20 years, and upon its strong foundation Microsoft constructed the most powerful software company ever known.

But the world changed, thanks to open-source operating systems like Linux, to a resurgent and reborn Apple, and to the unique capabilities of the Web. Meanwhile, Microsoft did nothing to help its case: each generation of Windows, built upon the ones before, were buggy and increasingly unreliable.

Worse, the company -- apparently not learning the lessons of the semiconductor industry -- broke its tacit agreement with its partners and customers by not getting is products ready at the expected time. The nadir came with Vista, which was more than a year late, and nearly sunk Dell, HP, Sony and the other PC makers in the process.

So Microsoft only had itself to blame when both its hardware clients and its end-users began to look elsewhere. And when Vista, when it finally arrived, proved to be merely an evolutionary advance from its klugey predecessors rather than the revolutionary leap it was promised to be, the company quickly found itself on the path to its current predicament.

Looking at its behavior over the last few weeks, it's hard to not to conclude that Microsoft has passed some important tipping point … and that now even Microsoft employees realize it. And as stunning as these actions have been; what is even more telling is that almost nobody is surprised anymore by this kind of behavior from Microsoft anymore -- or indeed, even much cares.

This is the opinion of the columnist and in no way reflects the opinion of ABC News.

Michael S. Malone is one of the nation's best-known technology writers. He has covered Silicon Valley and high-tech for more than 25 years, beginning with the San Jose Mercury News as the nation's first daily high-tech reporter. His articles and editorials have appeared in such publications as The Wall Street Journal, the Economist and Fortune, and for two years he was a columnist for The New York Times. He was editor of Forbes ASAP, the world's largest-circulation business-tech magazine, at the height of the dot-com boom. Malone is the author or co-author of a dozen books, notably the best-selling "Virtual Corporation." Malone has also hosted three public television interview series, and most recently co-produced the celebrated PBS miniseries on social entrepreneurs, "The New Heroes." He has been the ABCNEWS.com "Silicon Insider" columnist since 2000.

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