The company's biggest burden -- the weight of all of those existing users who see Windows and Office as an intrinsic part of their lives, and who resist any change -- is also its greatest strength: those folks, like all of us fools who still stick with AOL for no other reason than inertia, will not switch to a competitive product easily. But in the end, perhaps before the end of this decade, and perhaps quite suddenly, they will -- and Microsoft will die, perhaps like IBM to be reborn as a different kind of company. And then, as with the old Big Blue, all that will be left is a legacy: in Microsoft's case, it will be having universally popularized the personal computer and, perhaps, for having funded the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
[As I noted last week, I was lucky enough to be one of the participants in a recent Oxford Union debate -- and though my speech wasn't the best of the night, it did have the advantage of being the shortest.
The debaters in support of the resolution ('Resolved: This House believes that the problems of tomorrow are bigger than the entrepreneurs of today') were: Ian Goldin, former vice president of the World Bank and the director of the James Martin 21st Century School, leading economics commentator Will Hutton, and Dr. Angela Wilkinson, director of scenarios and futures research at Saïd Business School.
In opposition were Julie Meyer, CEO, founder and co-founder of Ariadne Capital and First Tuesday, Reid Hoffman, Chairman and Founder of LinkedIn, Jerry Sanders, Managing Director and Founder of San Francisco Science, and Biz Stone, Co-founder of Twitter. I spoke in support of the opposition.
Here is a video of that debate. I show up about 45 minutes in.]
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.