Lately, this has become a popular question.  What is going on with Microsoft?  One could argue that it's been all down hill for Microsoft since Windows 95.  Windows 95 was truly a landmark product.  It vaulted Microsoft to the top of the heap, and the Wintel (Windows/Intel) PC platform still remains dominant.  However, Microsoft may now be in its weakest position since its infancy, with Google and Apple pressing them hard.

The Windows platform has stagnated.  Very few non-Microsoftees would debate this.  More and more, the difficult-to-manage platform relationships (between Microsoft, software developers, and hardware developers) are making PCs too difficult for average users to deal with.  Apple has certainly taken advantage of this dynamic, as they entice users to switch over to their more integrated platform - Apple controls the hardware, operating system, and many other key components of their landscape.

With Bill Gates now gone, Microsoft appears to be somewhat rudderless. They're inway too many areas, in my opinion - XBOX, Windows, Office, BING, Zune, browsers, etc...  They appear to lack focus, and many are confused with what their strategy really is.  What are they trying to be?

No doubt, Microsoft will not disappear from the landscape any time soon.  They are here to stay.  But, in what form?  Only time will tell.

Perhaps the most troubling issue is that Microsoft may not even know what's coming.  For example, consider the commentary from noted Windows-ologist Paul Thurrott during this week's episode of Windows Weekly. During the podcast, host Leo Laporte suggest that Microsoft is headed down the same road as IBM - the once dominant technology leader that still exists as a large company with a known brand, but no longer as a tech platform leader.

Paul's response - "...but Microsoft is not the same as IBM...IBM didn't even try."

This is plainly inaccurate.  IBM certainly did try to stay on top once they had realized they missed the PC boat.  Have we forgotten about the colossal failure of the micro-channel architecture, the PC Junior, and OS2?  IBM certainly did try.  I was there in the mid-1990's as well as the early 2000's, and for sure, IBM did try.  But, after a near-death experience, IBM bailed out and morphed itself in to the #1 technology services player on the planet.  So, they still exist, but in not nearly the same form and function that brought them to dominance.  If you ask me, I see Microsoft destined to follow a similar path...which, by the way, isn't all bad.

What some may fail to realize is that even if Microsoft suddenly wakes up and "gets it", much of the damage is already done.  They probably can't recover.  The Microsoft brand is so heavily connected to client-heavy Windows and Office, that it will be difficult for them to overtake Google in the cloud or Apple in creative media integration, just to name a couple of areas.

While Microsoft may emerge as a large player in the business world, their days as the Microsoft we remember may be numbered.