The second coming of Microsoft

Right now Microsoft has all the pieces in place for a full revival, a chance to once again become the dominant software company in the world in reputation as well as cash flow. After years of getting everything wrong, the company at last appears to be doing everything right.

Gone is the smugness, the over-confidence, the arrogance, the Sony-like diversions into obscure product lines, and their annoying habit of releasing products long after their competitors that cost more and do less.

From the very beginning Microsoft has always tread in the footsteps of others, but still managed to win the race. Windows, and the concept of a graphical user interface, was an Apple concept. Office was a homage to Word Perfect and Lotus software. Internet Explorer was not the first browser, but followed Netscape Navigator and others. (now was not the first Internet search engine by a long mile.

But being second or third to market never stopped Microsoft from turning out a better product at a better price, while using their leverage with computer companies and third party companies to make their products the industry standard. According to the latest statistics compiled by Market Share, roughly 88 per cent of computers around the world are still using some form of Windows operating system. That's despite all the security issues, the poor reception to Vista, Apple's victory in portable devices and doubling of computer sales, the rise of Linux brands like Ubuntu and Fedora, the rise of open source software like Open Office and free Web 2.0 applications, growing competition from smart phones and ultra-miniature PCs running Linux kernels, and the company's own inability to put out a decent response to Apples "I'm a Mac" ad campaign.

Microsoft is so entrenched that it would probably take a decade or more for them to lose their number one position, but a decline is a decline. There's no question that the company has been on a path to becoming a niche player in the market, catering mainly to business users.

There are a lot of different ways the company is turning things around:

Windows 7 - After Vista bombed, at least in terms of public perception, Microsoft was under a lot of pressure to develop a fast, sturdy and sensible operating system that could compete visually and functionally with Apple's OSX. So far Windows 7 has been well received, both through the Beta and the recent "Release Candidate" version that will be most similar to the finished product. Windows 7 is expected to ship in the fourth quarter of 2009.

Xbox 360 - After placing a distant third in the last console generation, Microsoft was first to market with a next generation console by a full year. While the Wii is winning this round with its low price and unique controller, Xbox 360 is way ahead of Sony's PS3 and gaining every day. While Microsoft had issues with systems overheating and failing, the selection of games, the online and multiplayer experience, the controller and the reasonable price point was a winner. Meanwhile they've sold more games than any console, and their Xbox Live service is a hit with 20 million paid members.

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