When I wrote that Microsoft was dead,
I didn't mean it literally.
I couldn't have. Companies aren't alive, so they can't die.
In fact "Microsoft is Dead" was what we in the trade call a metaphor.
I meant something else. Over the last couple days there has been
some disagreement about what I meant. Some people who were scandalized
by the essay convinced themselves I meant something rather stupid:
that Microsoft is about to go out of business. This they
So maybe I'd better explain exactly what I did mean. What I meant
was not that Microsoft is suddenly going to stop making money, but
that people at the leading edge of the software business no longer
have to think about them.
There are plenty of companies in that category that make decent
profits. SAP for example. They make a lot of money. But does
anyone developing new technology have to worry about them? I doubt
it. When I said that Microsoft was dead, I meant they had, like
IBM before them, passed across into this underworld.
Ceasing to matter doesn't mean a company is going to go out of
business next year, any more than it means a pop star will suddenly
become poor. But it probably means there is trouble ahead. Actors
and musicians occasionally make comebacks, but technology companies
almost never do. Technology companies are projectiles. And because
of that you can call them dead long before any problems show up on
the balance sheet. Relevance may lead revenues by five or even ten
People have given me various disreputable motives for saying that
Microsoft was dead: that it was linkbait, or even that by publicly
ridiculing them I hoped to turn them into a "customer" for YC-funded
startups. (I'm not that bad at sales.) My actual disreputable
motive was that I wanted to be the first to call it. But that does
at least entail some risk. If you're the first to call something,
you'd better be right. If the monster turns out not to be dead
after all—if they can somehow morph themselves into something
startups have to worry about again—I'll look like a fool.
But I'm willing to take that risk.