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April 30, 2008

Why I’m Still a Fan of Microsoft

The downpour of negativity towards Microsoft is beginning to wear on me. I feel the need to stand up and voice my reasons why I still believe in Microsoft. After all, weren’t they the darling of the media just 10 years ago? Bill Gates was a capitalist icon. He was the geek that proved everyone wrong. He was the one that made being a nerd "cool".

Let me take you down a trip to memory lane. Apple was the big boy, with Steve Jobs at the top. Macintosh and its powerful word processor were destined to replace the typewriter. It was a far better platform than those of us that played around on the old Apple IIe. Its GUI interface was mind-blowing, and floppy disks were rumored to hold entire megabytes someday. Any office place worthy of being in business had to have one.

A decade later, Apple was faltering, and almost half the homes in America had a PC. Microsoft was innovative, and above all else it was cheap. Mac lovers were either dinosaurs or were working on graphic designing at the universities. Billions of dollars were spent on hardware upgrades for PC’s, while Mac’s had a hard time being upgraded. It really didn’t matter that Mac’s didn’t need to upgrade much, since they were top-of-the-line to begin with. Computer geeks were able to fiddle with IRQ’s for hours, while Mac users rarely knew what an IRQ was. Working on a broken PC made a geek seem smart in the eyes’ of others.
Working on a broken Mac was short and simple. It was no coincidence that Steve Jobs’ tenure at Apple was also short at the time. Steve Jobs has only achieved great success since he came back to Apple because he learned one valuable lesson; don’t challenge Microsoft’s dominance of the desktop market.

All of the major failings of PC’s became huge selling points, while Apple struggled to market to a small percentage of the population. Why was that? Simple: It was the price of the Mac. Apple was determined to make the Macintosh the Mercedes Benz of the computing world. Microsoft wanted their computers in the home of every home. Here’s a simple fact: the Volkswagen Beetle (Bug) was the most sold car in the history of cars. It was also one of the cheapest, and easiest to fix.

I might own a Mercedes Benz, but I will probably buy numerous cheap cars in the meantime. I don’t have to search for parts for cheap cars, just like I don’t have to search for PC software. It is the exact opposite for Macintosh and Mercedes Benz. If most people used a Mac, most viruses would target Macintosh computers. Is my point becoming clear? For the many awful mistakes that Microsoft has made through the years, there is a reason why they dominate the computing market. Without Microsoft, most homes in America would not have a computer at all.

April 17, 2008

What to Make of the Yahoo Buyout

It's hard to tell how big of a deal it would be if Microsoft buys Yahoo. You see, Yahoo's old search platform, Overture, used to power MSN Search. Anyone remember a couple of years ago when Yahoo's search totals took a huge dive? I mean the really big dive, not the other big ones. You see, much of that was due to the loss of the MSN contract. It wasn't that people stopped using Yahoo so much as it was that Yahoo could no longer count MSN's numbers towards their own totals.

If Microsoft buys up Yahoo, this is likely to reverse trend. Anyone that has used Live Search, the engine that powers MSN Search, then you already know how much of an improvement this could be. I am like many people in that I do not care for Microsoft adCenter. The interface is not user friendly, and the documentation leaves a lot to be desired. Yahoo, now powered by Panama, could simply resume powering MSN Search. That would make one less stop to make when managing pay-per-click campaigns and it would be easier.

Of course, if Microsoft is unsuccessful at buying Yahoo then the remaining players would most likely be Apple, Google, or no one at all. Yahoo and Apple together would be awesome. My Yahoo combined with iTunes? There's some marketing power. What if Google bought Yahoo? It's hard to imagine the government allowing such a merger for monopoly reasons. But hey, Google is becoming the future Skynet (and probably will be once they complete their search for Sarah Connor!). Heck, AOL could even jump in and show Yahoo how mismanagement is really done.

I think Yahoo would be making a bad choice if they stayed put, but I thought the same thing when Nintendo turned down Microsoft's buyout offer for their game console biz. Nintendo knew they had a core market that was profitable. They only needed to change the way they operated. Then again, how likely is it that Yahoo could replicate the success of the Wii?