Microsoft in a post-Gates world

27 Jun 2008

Bill Gates retirement video

Bill Gates, co-founder of the Microsoft kingdom, home computing visionary, Harvard dropout and world’s wealthiest geek, recently stepped away from the helm as chairman of the company and leaving it in the hands of his CEO and long-time friend, Steve Ballmer.

Microsoft is now entering the second phase of its existence. Its fortune and reputation was made on the Windows operating system but the role of software has been changing for many years now in the face of the online space and the back-and-forth squabbling between Yahoo! and Microsoft is not doing Ballmer any favours.

This on-again/off-again partnership, deal or acquisition, or whatever it may be, is giving the industry a clear picture: Microsoft is not giving up easily, ergo it needs Yahoo! to gain traction in online advertising and search.

Microsoft is far more profitable than Yahoo! and Google combined but taking a look at its reputation gives us insight into where it’s headed in the future and everything points to the fact that it will no longer have a monopoly across much of the tech sector.

Take Internet Explorer (IE), Microsoft’s web browser. It is the dominant browser worldwide but open source organisation Mozilla is gaining ground by the month. In November 2006, Firefox held a 29.9pc market share in comparison to IE’s 60.6pc, but by April of this year Firefox as at 39.1pc with IE at 54.8pc.

Now let’s look at online search and advertising. Microsoft has never been a big player here, dawdling at No 3 behind Google and Yahoo!. ComScore’s latest stats for June 2008 show Google has 61.8pc of the US search market, while Yahoo! has 20.4pc. Microsoft’s share was a mere 8.9pc.

What about user-generated content? Yahoo! owns the most popular online photo sharing service Flickr, while Google has the modestly successful Picasa. Microsoft has the photo sharing element of its social networking service Windows Live Spaces (I know, I’ve never used it either).

However, Microsoft has always been dominant when it comes to its operating system, which is why the less than enthusiastic public reaction to the Vista OS and public outcry over no more XP was a blow.

Previews of Windows 7 and the inbuilt touchscreen interface has been favourable, so if Ballmer keeps his US$47.5bn in his pocket and guides Microsoft along by sticking to the basics while hoovering up small promising start-ups like in the old days, he may thrill Bill.

In memory of Bill, we will leave you with some of his classic quotes:

1980: “There’s nobody getting rich writing software that I know of.”

2004: “Spam will be a thing of the past in two years’ time.” (I wish, Bill)

And finally in 1984 he uttered this gem: “The next generation of interesting software will be done on the Macintosh, not the IBM PC.”

By Marie Boran

Bill Gates retirement video