Five reasons why it's not business as usual for Microsoft

Bill Gates will be leaving Microsoft for good at the end of the month and Microsoft would have you believe that it will be business as usual for Microsoft. I understand they also have a great bridge between Manhattan and Brooklyn that they'd like to sell you. Cheap!

1) You can't replace genius. Steve Ballmer is moving into the top slot, but I've met Bill Gates, and Steve Ballmer is no Bill Gates. He's a big, bouncy sales guy.

Can't you just see Ballmer selling used cars on a local TV ad spot? Instead of running around a stage shouting: "Developers! Developers!" just visualize him running around a car lot shouting, "Cars! Cars!" I find it far too easy to do just that. This is the man who's going to replace Bill Gates? I don't think so.

Besides, he already has a track record as acting head of the company, and it's lousy. Fire Ballmer now, why wait for him to fall on his face?

2) Microsoft has already dropped Vista. Microsoft officials will never admit it, but there's no question about it: They've given up on Vista.

In its place, Microsoft is talking up with Windows 7. It's beginning to sound more and more like Windows 7 will show up in 2009.

My question: How is Microsoft going to get Windows 7 right in two years of rushed development when they made such a flop of Vista with five years? I can't see it.

3) Microsoft's already lost its technical expertise. How do you think Vista became such a mess in the first place? If you read Mini-Microsoft, the answer's clear: Microsoft has become mired in big company internal politics and -- The horror! The horror! -- meaningless process.

It's not just Vista though. Take, for example, the miserable fiasco that is Windows Home Server. All this stupid software/hardware package was supposed to do was operate as a basic file server. How could you blow this? Don't ask me, but Microsoft managed it with software that managed to corrupt files when you tried to edit or save them... with Microsoft's own programs!

Come on! I can create my own Linux home server and it will work just by clicking a few buttons on any modern Linux distribution. Which reminds me: What's the point of Windows Home Server anyway when I can just buy a terabyte or so of NAS (network attached storage) for a few hundred bucks?

4) New leadership will step forward to rescue Microsoft. OK, like who? I happen to like Ray Ozzie, Microsoft's chief software architect, but he's not a dynamic leader. As for the rest, well, who do you think have been 'helping' Ballmer steer the good ship Microsoft into shoal waters anyway?

If there's a real next generation of leadership, as opposed to middle managers, I sure haven't seen them. You?

5) Last, but not least, Microsoft has lost its vision. Think about it. Microsoft didn't see the shift coming to cheap, lightweight laptops. So, now Microsoft has had to reverse itself and give XP Home a new lease on life. I'm quite sure that they'll also soon have to bring XP Pro out of retirement too.

Even when Microsoft knows darn well what's happening, like its constant erosion of Web browser share to Firefox, it seems to be unable to play catch up. Here's a small bet. By year's end, there will be more people using Firefox 3 than Internet Explorer 8. Do I have any takers?

What do all these things have in common? They're all going to happen or have been happening because Gates is no longer in charge. If you think Microsoft is the "can do no wrong" economic Goliath of the late 90s and early 00s, you are so wrong. It's only going to get worse for Microsoft, a lot worse.

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