People are often surprised to discover that I rarely watch television. Make no mistake, though. I’m no culture snob. It’s just that tracking tech companies is so much more fascinating. None more so than Microsoft.
No, not Apple, not Oracle, not Google or Facebook, not even a Marissa Mayer-led Yahoo. Microsoft stands alone, equal parts The Office, Lord of the Rings, and and a really bad, big budget Tom Cruise flick. The stories tumble out, one after the other, always somehow both a shock and painfully obvious.
Founder Bill Gates, we all know, has gone from despised to beloved. Once the face of the evil monopolistic digital land baron, now the big data soul of 21st century philanthropy.
Next, of course, there’s Steve Ballmer, Gate’s Salieri. Ballmer has spent most of his adult life fighting Gate’s wars, living in Gate’s shadow. Small wonder that, despite his many billions earned in sweat and blood and equity, he is now loathe to relinquish his role as lord of Microsoft.
Ballmer is worth as many stories as Gates, and most of them even better. For decades, Ballmer has faithfully spent his days and nights aggressively, angrily growing Windows – convinced it was the very same thing as growing Microsoft. Too late, he discovered the truth. No. Comically, he has yet to discover this truth even though everyone else has.
There’s so much more…
How many billions has Microsoft poured away in its futile efforts to catch up to Google?
How many billions more will it spend now that it has decided catching up to Apple is also necessary?
How many worthy competitors has Microsoft destroyed over the years – obliterated, in fact – only to suddenly later find itself rebuffed by a bumbling Yahoo, or scorned by a geeky Mark Zuckerberg, who decides to stake the future of his company on something as inconsequential as an Android launcher?
I cannot be the only one that finds watching Ballmer transform from an angry grizzly to a toothless Pooh Bear far more entertaining than anything put out by Hollywood.
I cannot be the only one who lived through the Microsoft Terror, watched as Microsoft took on GM, IBM, GE, even governments, now staring dumbfounded as Microsoft runs to France, crying about Google.
The stories write themselves…
The biggest, baddest personal computing company of our age spent years talking about, developing, showing off and building all manner of mobile computing devices. After years of toil they arrived at the gates of the promised land, inexplicably turned around, then mocked Apple and Google as they passed through that magical portal.
Then were turned away when they finally got mobile religion.
Microsoft destroyed Netscape, yet somehow missed out on the Internet’s greatest riches.
Microsoft rode in on a white horse and saved Apple, only to be mesmerized by the wizardry of Steve Jobs.
On its mighty shoulders, Microsoft alone raised up PC companies to the heavens – like Dell and HP – only to sit idly by as they quickly fed upon themselves in a foolish race to the bottom.
The company spent a king’s ransom to destroy Sony only to discover – too late – that Apple was the future of music, movies and gaming.
Microsoft developed the best ever PC operating system – after PCs became damn near irrelevant.
Worse. The company may no longer possess even the ability to right itself as Ballmer has spent the last decade swiftly excising all who possessed even the hint of challenging him.
But you want to see what’s on Netflix?
The company continues to earn ungodly profits – yet their stock refuses to budge.
Their software licensing model, once considered impervious to attack, is now beaten and bloodied. Only, not by free and open but by pricey consumer hardware.
They’ve spent so much over the years on media relations that now no one in the media can stand them.
Microsoft is everywhere yet ignored. Microsoft is giant yet mocked. Microsoft is rich yet may have no future. There is no better story in tech, in fiction nor on the silver screen.