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back to article Microsoft vision chief sees world without Microsoft PCs

Is Microsoft a dying consumer brand? That's the question CNN's Money has posed. Well, it's one thing for journalists, bloggers, and Silicon Valley–watchers to write off the company, as they frequently and easily do in this dawning era of tablets, Androids, and cloud services — but what about when Cassandra is your star software …

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Death by Monopoly

Microsoft by various means fair and foul has built itself the greatest monopoly since the British East India Company.

Unfortunately for them, when you have a monopoly, your business goals pretty quickly turn to finding ways to protect your monopoly.

Microsoft have had that goal as their primary focus for over a decade.

The problem is that defensive strategies will never lead to victory, they can only prolong your survival.

MS spend so much time and effort trying to maintain their own metaphorical Maginot Line that they tend to largely ignore the concept of going forward.

They have a bunker mentality.

Even when they do try and escape the bunker and get new products out they do it with the attitude of "How do we ensure that this doesn't damage our Windows+Office hegemony" or even better "How can we tie this into our Windows ecosystem thereby adding another section to the Maginot Line and make the monopoly stronger"

Because of this attitude, they are simply incapable of thinking outside of the bunker.

This is why they will inevitably fail*. The only question is how long will it take.

* I define fail as loss of the market dominance that they now enjoy. I doubt that they will ever completely fail (as in go bankrupt).

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Monopoly

Agree with Goat Jam. But with the "Windows Franchise" (ie. the desktop near-monopoly) bringing in $62 bn a year, can you blame them for protecting it in a bunker ?

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Not really

But the problem is that when the industry moves on and the existing monolithic desktop paradigm becomes obsolete then you are left with nothing.

It simply can't last forever.

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Anonymous Coward

I guess

that the metaphor could be extended to "the competition welding shut the blast doors on the bunker"- MS are hugely safe inside their bunker, but breaking out successfully will require a vast amount of work!

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What is the difference...

I am reminded that there is a video that shows off KDE-4 under Linux, and the silly dweebs think that it is the NEW "Windows". All the glitzy features were really cool.

The video is out there somewhere (it was done by some Aussies as I recall).

So, if your public thinks that an alternative is just as good as your (new) product, yes, there is a problem.

When you see "Office for Linux" we will know they have thrown in the towel!

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hi

""Office for Linux" we will know they have thrown in the towel!"

Herd of office online? There internet is now required, and all operating systems are fair game.

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Throwing in the towel

"When you see "Office for Linux" we will know they have thrown in the towel!"

How much would you be willing to pay for "Office for Linux"?

It's a serious question. We already have "Office for Mac" and may yet see an "Office for the browser" that isn't based on Windows-specific components. "Office for Winelib" probably isn't technically difficult and doesn't actually cross any new lines in the sand. The issue is what it would do to Microsoft's bottom line if the two halves of the Windows/Office monopoly were forced to stand on their own merits. There's a reasonable argument that it wouldn't be the end of Microsoft's world, and might actually be good for them.

With so many other apps only available for Windows (including many corporate "solutions") Windows can probably hold its market share against any other OS at any price. Certainly Linux has had plenty of time to turn its server-side market share into a client-side one and failed to do so. That's not all down to Office. In fact, Office suites are perhaps the easiest things to find a FOSS substitute for when you are planning a switch from Windows to Linux.

From Office's point of view, offering a Linux port would apply real pressure on the FOSS office suites, because it would almost certainly steal users from them. At present, each time Windows loses a customer to Linux, Office loses a customer as well. It is within Microsoft's power to change that and since a copy of Office brings in rather more than an OEM copy of Windows, they might just reckon it was in their interests to do so.

So it probably is all just down to pricing rather than principles.

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@Ken Hagan

How much? Probably £50-100 for word/excel/visio as those I use. Occasionally powerpoint, but not much.

I use Linux+OpenOffice mostly now, but actually prefer my copy of word97 (bugs and proprietary formats excluded) as it did everything I wanted fairly well. Sadly later versions at work *still* had bugs that were not fixed after 5+ years, so that would temper my desire to pay for something unless it was genuinely better than OO for my use.

But really, there are a couple of MS product I would happily pay for to use under Linux, such as some of the office suite and the VisualC development environment.

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Title

Would be interesting to see if the FOSS version of Office really made a dint in FOSS alternatives. To me Office is the encumbant on works machines which then makes users THINK that it is the only office software and then their home pc's get it. The work environment is something FOSS can't get into because of the M$ OS and the licence issues of stagnant and often ignorrant IT managers who don't want to take that step. Or the director telling them they can't.

I don't think office FOSS would steal many users because those that use FOSS know the alternatives. When looking at both office and OOO I think the differences are negligible, the abilities of them are similar and you are really just talking now about looks and a stupid file type that is only there to annoy the FOSS people. Ten or so minutes and you can learn the differences of what something is called, and again what pressure is there that OOO would get from a FOSS version of office 2007, maybe something to do with bloat perhaps? I use both daily and other than the pretty ribbon (which is all it is) actual working is the same for both.

Still interesting experiement, but we all know M$ won't go there, to do that would mean embracing (and learning) what FOSS means and supporting it.

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FAIL

A Linux user paying for software, that'll be the day!

But Linux users are mostly freetards, they won't pay for software, so why do you think they would buy 'Office for Linux'?! And Linux on the desktop is such a tiny market anyway, why would MS bother with it?

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Linux users paying for software

Ok, I'd guess an average linux user is going to be less likely to pay for software as they are already aware that there is a lot of free (in both senses) software that does the job as good as or better than commercial software.

However, if some commercial software is better value for money (people's time is often the a much more expensive overhead then a few copies of some software) you would be foolish to stick with a poor free alternative, regardless of what operating system you like.

Of course you could also invest some money to the developers of some free software to improve it and save some future licenses.

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@Avatar of They

The functionality maybe roughly the same but devaluing the GUI is like saying that VS and Eclipse are the same if you're coding in C++. The two camps are split as to which is better, but each finds productivity reasons why they prefer their own one despite the fact that the overall function of the thing is the same - to compile code. Personally I find the ribbon saves a lot of time, but that might just be me or just might be perception.

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Linux

office was always overhyped.

I have already dumped msoffice on Windows. Why would I want to bother with it on Linux? There is this bogus notion that msoffice is the least bit necessary even in a corporate setting. It's the obscure vertical apps that keep people on Windows and will tend to do so.

Although cloud and web based applications threaten to undermine even that part of Microsoft's edge.

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Linux

Freetard vs. Retard.

> But Linux users are mostly freetards, they won't pay for software

Why should I pay for something that's a rehashed version of a tired old 20 year old idea?

That's just stupid.

That's just garden variety "retarded".

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But a PC user might.

Linux users know there are alternatives but one big hurdle to companies rolling out Linux on PC's is "No Office". Since you can make Linux look like Windows or at least function is a similar way the actual O/S becomes less important than what you can do with it.

If staff need to do Power Point presentations, connect to Exchange with all features (calendar, Communicator etc.) then you have to provide a platform that those tools work on. Take away the barrier and uptake of Linux on corporate PC's becomes much more attractive and another market for MS and others to work to.

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Headmaster

Freetard !

That's so 1999.

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Anonymous Coward

But most freetards won't pay...

I agree with you vic 4 but the reality is Linux users are reluctant to pay. Its all about getting it for free. After all, if Linux only gets users because its free. If Ubuntu et al charged for their distos, how many users do you think they'd have? (and I am not talking about business users here, that's a differnt ball game).

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WTF?

I paid for NeroLinux

If it offers value for money or a feature that can't be had for free then why not?

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Gates Horns

An interesting question

"If Ubuntu et al charged for their distos, how many users do you think they'd have?"

Yes, interesting indeed. If there was a truly level playing field and the market was allowed to operate in the way that we are all told is the best way then it would be interesting to see what would happen.

Unfortunately this will not happen while Microsoft is allowed to continue in their practice of forcing all PC manufacturers to pay for a Windows licence for every PC they sell, whether it is sold with Windows or not. The fact that they do this stifles the natural operation of the market and has the effect of locking out any and all competitive products.

What Microsoft has achieved is the *illusion* that Windows is "free" to the consumer. Every PC comes with it after all and it never shows up as a line item on the invoice so ergo they are not paying for it. It's a very clever tactic and one that has serverd Microsoft very well, but it is not good for the rest of the planet. It allows MS to hide the cost of Windows from the consumer completely and this in turn allows them to charge whatever they like with no scrutiny at all.

Even if you are a Windows fanboy you should be annoyed at being ripped off when you purchase your OS.

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FAIL

ITs always 1s and 0s insn't it - how about some less fuzzy logic.

So tedious listening to the debate. It's all cloud, its all social services, its all this, its all that.

A balanced view is that there is an area of growth in social services cause that is the 'thing of the moment', cloud has its uses and those will be enormously enlarged by goverments spending billions on fibre to the home projects - kind of a semi hidden goverment hand-out to that type of business really. Tablets and phones have their uses, as do TVs and all the other gadgets and junk we love to collect. But similarly PCs will also have their uses - maybe not one for every citizen any more, that makes sense. But there will still be clever people that want to have machines that can interface with the world, do tasks and report results. Then there is 'legacy' - business advantage is not paying twice for what you already have. So tired of the 'thats old and boring - everyone must chuck it all out for the new shiny thing mentality.

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Happy

Title

What goes around comes around. The Cloud might be the 'in thing' at the moment but we've been here before. Anyone remember centralised mainframes and dumb terminals? Anyone that's been in computing for a decade should be able to see that most things are cyclical. MS just has to wait until the concept of a dedicated personal computer comes back into vogue.

I'm betting it will. Shortly after the first major cloud burst :)

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Paris Hilton

On the other hand ...

Maybe MS invested just enough to make the PC a business machine saw domestic user potential to turn it into a home PC that did "kool" things and that success blinded them?

The upturn and present successes in the market seem to be consumer devices that are hardware, firmware and operating system driven yet try to do things in a non-PC manner?

Theory of conservation of complexity:

The more difficult a user interface is the easier it is for developers to develop apps, the easier a user interface is the more difficult it is for developers to develop apps?

(If so, it seems that Apple's approach is a winner)

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Not to mention lock-in

There's also a trend at the moment of locking consumers into hardware. Linux and its lightweight ilk have allowed software to become a cheap commodity that is just a component. That leads to a walled-garden mentality. Want the latest features on your mobile? Buy new hardware - maybe we'll even help you transfer the data for a fee. Initially some would have thought that Android was offering to break this cycle but it hasn't really turned out that way.

Eventually consumers will get sick of that attitude. They'll want to return to hardware that can take new features because the software is a known and publicly accessible quantity. Something any developer can write for without having to worry overmuch about target platform. Hardware that doesn't need replacing every year.

Ironically Windows is now one of the better platforms in that respect. There are some features not available on older versions but look how much of the world is still getting by quite nicely(*) on Windows XP. Heck - most stuff still works on Win2k.

Sure it's ugly and not very secure - but I can write an application for Win32 and unless I'm doing something really weird I can be sure it will run on any version of Windows currently in use /and by inference any PC/.

(*)Nicely being defined as 'does the job' rather than 'bloody fantastic job'.

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The desktop PC isn't going anywhere

The advent of mobile computing (as in tablets, netbooks, smartphones, etc) will be an adjunct to the well-established desktop paradigm, not a replacement. In the past, mobile technology hasn't eliminated desktop/lounge technology. The Walkman didn't destroy the inline tape deck. The CD Walkman didn't destroy the inline CD player. And the mobile phone hasn't done away with the venerable landline. While many people might only have a mobile phone at home, there will always be a need for desktop phones in the office, and there will always be many who want a landline at home as well.

So while tablets and smartphones are the new wave, it doesn't follow that desktop PC's are headed the way of the dinosaur. They will always be needed and people will always buy them, at least until such time as we all embed ourselves in the Matrix or something...

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Gates Horns

Drifting away from MS

You are right that the desktop PC won't die, and for a lot of situations it is still best. Neither will MS die completely as too much is already invested in Windows-based software worldwide.

But the mere fact that people are looking away from MS Windows at the iPhone, Android and (to a lesser degree) Linux is a big problem for the traditional MS approach of "everything with Windows". Remember how anal BillyG was about not allowing non-MS branded start screens? That was one of his approaches to keeping people from looking at the competition (when not screwing them with illegal or at least immoral business moves) and 'monkey boy' Balmer is just following that.

I really hope their oligopoly on the desktop is broken, and we see a fairer split and a *choice* of pre-installed OS, that would be good for competition, hardware support and document longevity.

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Paradigms lost

You still own an inline tape deck? Is there a Usenet group for that sort of thing?

DEC remained the principal vendors of Minicomputers, right into the 1990s. Even in 1989, if you wanted a Minicomputer, you bought a VAX.. IF you wanted a Minicomputer... Maybe what that's the point? Sometimes your position becomes unassailable, simply because no one actually wants your hill any more.

Now, some people can think of nothing cooler than having their own personal mainframe - buzzing away in some room, somewhere - but as someone who is actually paid to work with mainframes, I don't particularly want a computer in my own house, at all: I certainly don't want to have a special room, where I go to do 'computer things'.

Like most people, I want what computers can do, but I don't particularly want the computer (I want to have sausage and chips, but I don't want to have to own a supermarket).

The computers I am paid to use, can do staggering amounts of work, but it doesn't bother me that they are in Belgium, and I'm here in North Tyneside. It troubles me not, that I will never lay eyes on any of the computers I work with, every day. I don't need to be able to touch them and stroke them: they're just big, mat black boxes, stuck in some concrete room, somewhere. They could be fridge-freezers, for all I'm concerned: why would I want to look at that? The laptop I use, to interact with them is just a dumb terminal that sometimes gets a bit too dumb for it's own good. The operating system that's on it, only gets in the way.

As for your files? A one hundred terrabyte disc array can fail, whether you are ten feet away from it, or ten thousand miles from it. You'd prefer it not to, of course - and might take the matter up with the supplier, if it did - but if you're worried about your files, make backups, because when it dies, your data's just as gone. It's no argument for wanting to keep it all in your own house, in some special room with a 'Keep Out' sign on the door.

However, even if you do end up as the only guy in your street who still owns a PC, don't worry: the Internet exists for people like you. It's there, to reassure the people who still solder their own electronics, or maintain 1960s two-stroke motorcycles, or collect Charles and Diana souvenir china...that they're not alone in the world. Now that we live in a 'Global Village', even the village idiots get to have their own club.

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Anonymous Coward

Drift is fine...

Let a few people drift away. Its inevitable when you dominate the market that you will eventually lose market share. For eaxample, people are drifting away from the iPhone towards Android. That's what competition is all about. But since MS have already sold 240 million Win 7 licences, I don't think they are doing too badly ;-)

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Go

Huh?

oligopoly = Sole buyer; many suppliers. The British government is essentially an oligopoly in that it can have/has more than one maker of battlefield tanks. Seen any civilians driving an FV4034 Challenger 2 lately? Now, Vickers Defence Systems make be called a single source, but in time or war when many items are needed quickly, the sole source can farm out the manufacturing process to increase production. But the concept stands: military equipment has a single buyer, the govera-ment, with any number of makers. That's an oligopoly.

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Boffin

@Huh?

I understood the term to be as wikipedia has:

"An oligopoly is a market form in which a market or industry is dominated by a small number of sellers (oligopolists)"

MS dominates the market in OS to such an extent that all PC manufacturers do what MS want, and thus the market is so skewed that other OS have little chance of success* irrespective of their merits.

[*] success here is being available pre-configured by the PC manufacturer so Joe Average can buy a box from PCWorld, etc, that works when they turn it on.

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@Doug

You're thinking of a monopsony, mate.

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FAIL

Dear Microsoft shareholders,

You are all – every last one of you – complete idiots. Ozzie should be running that company, and Ballmer should have been fired five years ago. He has just proved it, damning you all in one move.

It is far past time for a vote of no confidence.

BALLMER. MUST. GO.

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Who cares?

Who cares if Microsoft dies?

For all the good they have done with making computers cheap for the common man, they have done plenty of evil in preventing competition and locking people into using Office and so on.

Over the years other companies have shown us better alternatives only for Microsoft to kill them off with some dodgy practice (see DR DOS and the AARD code).

Desktop computers are already dying, laptops have taken their place. Laptops are still flawed in terms of battery life and their lack of usability while not sitting down at a desk or on a chair.

Computers have only really needed to be on desks and plugged into the mains due to their size and power requirements. Once you shrink them down and reduce power needs (by stripping out all of the pointless bloat a desktop OS comes with) there's no need for them to be tied to the desk.

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Go

Spot On

I'm an idiot all right. My investment in Microsoft many years ago has, well, paid HUGE dividends. "Dividends" in the general sense as well as financial. You have to know when to hold and when to fold, but that was not all that hard. But, happily, that initial investment in MSFT made me a pile so I'm very content in my idiocy.

Yeah, Balmer needs to go, but for more reasons than you think. But hey, $62,000,000,000 is working out for me pretty well so I can't complain a whole lot.

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Pint

Yay for MS

MS helped shape my career. Nearly a quarter of a century churning out code for their OSes and still going strong. In fact the evidence is that I'll retire in about ten year's time (55) having done very nicely out of them thank you.

I did have a brief skirmish with OS/2 Warp for a while but that taught me that straying off the main path into side streets didn't pay. So long live MS..at least until I'm 55.

Beer:Because there's no champagne icon to toast MS.

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For all the good?

"For all the good they have done with making computers cheap for the common man.."

That wasn't Microsoft. They were quite happy to charge you more than half the price of the machine for an operating system and office suite back in the day, and it's only comparatively recently that "student and teacher" versions of Office have become available, priced at the sort of level that the non-restricted version should be. Except these days you don't even get Access with it unless you pay silly money.

Making computers cheap for the "common man"? Amstrad probably did far more work there than Microsoft ever did. Netted Alan Sugar a pretty penny, too.

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@Doug Glass

It's all bout ROI though, isn't it? Ballmer hasn't maximised the potential ROI over the past five years. Worse, he does look set to continue not maximising the ROI for as long as he's in power. There was a perfectly suitable candidate allready with the company that was far more likely to enhance shareholder value by increasing the ROI.

Making X% when you could have been making YX% (where both X and Y are positive values) is dumb. No matter how large X is. You may be content with X, but the ability to have obtained YX for the minimal additional work of replacing the chieftain just makes no sense at all.

Microsoft are worth a pile of money, and make a chunk every year. They are also totally stagnant. Google and Apple came screaming out of nothing and in ten years have provided growth beyond Microsoft’s wildest dreams. From an investor’s standpoint, that is what it’s all about: having the value of the shares increase. IF your shares are going to remain relatively flat, you’d have been better off investing that in bonds.

Constantly Increase ROI or die!

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WTF?

Shove your cloud

Am I the only person who cares not a jot about cloud computing. I want my OS, my apps and more importantly my documents firmly planted on my own desktop located in my own house. For many purposes cloud certainly has it's uses and I'm happy enough to upload the odd photo as much as the next guy, but ultimately I want control of who will see what.

People keep writing MS off, and yet they still sold a staggering amount of Windows 7 copies on pre-order and after it's release. I'm not even talking about OEM's sold with machines, but the genuine retail copies sold separately.

They certainly have a huge image problem they need to shake off but to discount them as a dying behemoth is certainly a big mistake in my opinion.

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Not titled either

"I want my OS, my apps and more importantly my documents firmly planted on my own desktop located in my own house."

Why? Presumably so you can get at them any time you want, no questions asked? The way I see it though, putting your documents in the cloud is no worse then putting your documents in a proprietary format; Microsoft/Apple/Oracle/whoever can, at any time, revoke your rights to use whatever application you need to read those files. That's just as bad as having your cloud service removed, and all the data therein forwarded to /dev/null.

The interesting thing about these new devices, though, is that people will become increasingly aware of the 'openness' of their files. Open format files can be read easily and accurately on any number of these devices. Closed formats - you take your chances.

Microsoft isn't going bust, just like IBM didn't go bust. However, they may no longer have a monopoly in either office or operating system spaces. That's a bad thing for Microsoft, but a good thing for the rest of us.

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There's a job going

Large software company, Seattle.

Prerequisites: Lack of strategic thinking, Tunnel Vision a must, as is a liking of monkey-boy dancing.

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Oops

Read your post and thought the job was at Apple. Then I noticed the location is in Seattle ;-))

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Anonymous Coward

No I agree...

Like most trendy ideas, lots of people get carried away on the hype and think that everyone should put all their eggs in the new shiny basket, or get left behind. Those of us who have seen a few over hyped ideas before realise that hype != reality. Yes MS, as they are doing, should get into 'The Cloud' but to abandon Windows, Office and the myriad of other software they produce would be madness. Balmer realises this, Ozzie whatever his name is, didn't!!

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So?

I use OO.o myself...on Windows 7 (sorry, but I'm a gamer). There's simply too great a software selection to ignore Windows for the time being. But that being said, Win7 is the last thing I've bought from Microsoft. I don't need anything else from them, as I have my personal software needs taken care of elsewhere (and some are even FOSS). I avoid the Microsoft monoculture and simply let Microsoft take its small but significant place in the microcosm otherwise known as my PC.

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Happy

Simples

"Why?"

Because in my experience I've lost more information in the cloud than from my computer. I still have an entire website floating around in the intersphere somewhere, up and left for no apparent reason, just up and left it's house and hasn't been seen since. Luckily I had it's twin brother on my desktop which managed to stand in. If I want to store large amounts of data I really need to pay, and upload. If I find the service is not up to scratch I have the hassle of relocation.

Like I said, it has it's uses and I am not a dinosaur who is happy to remain with the status quo, I just don't need it or want it for my purposes and I'm pretty sure there are quite a few million who are of the same opinion.

I am certainly not a dancing monkey either or an MS fanboi. I have a triple boot system, and enjoy playing about in my hackintosh and ubuntu, but I really like Windows 7 and am not going to bash MS just because some people think I should. Have they made mistakes and been monopolistic, of course but then so do most companies as they get larger. Even "cool" Apple is going that way now just as IBM as someone mentioned did in the past.

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Anonymous Coward

Said it before

....and I'll say it again. Ray might have been mediocre at MS but he ozfrwas still a great mind and the loss of the CSA role will be one that will haunt Microsoft on the long run.

While the terms are horribly overused, the twin concepts of ubiquity and convergance are alive and well... and for a company that has hitched their wagon to a bloated, overpowered, and inefficient desktop/not-very-portable-laptop architecture this represents serious challenges. FWIW, I'm writing this comment from my mobile.

Ray brings up another good point in that it hasn't been Microsoft's vision at fault but more of a failure to execute. How different was the UMPC from the iPad... other than one being a miserable failure and the other somehow attaining "magical" status? If Microsoft doesn't start executing better - even if it's just at shoving Windows into innapropriate form factors - they will, at best, be facing a long period of stagnation if not serious decline.

I know plenty of folks at Microsoft, and they're always the smartest guys in the room... just ask them! That, IMO, was Ray's downfall... he never had a chance. Between their institutional ego and the dureaucratic/organizational dysfunction that a company of their size (or my company's size for that matter - which is a lot bigger than Microsoft) always tends to have, if there were a smarter/better way to do something they would have thought of it already. They were/are comfortable in their castles with no interest in someone coming in and challenging the status quo.

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FAIL

Complexity kills?

From Mr. Lotus Notes, the apex of simplicity?

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I've thought they're stuffed for years

My opinion (which hasn't really been proved either way yet) has been that Microsoft's biggest problem is the fact that they need to keep the revenues going for the shareholders - that means keeping selling all those CALs that don't make much sense any more, the difficulty of developing new techniques without impacting existing cash cows - hence the netbook debacle with XP having to be revived and the question of how much should a web-enabled office be able to do - and the forced "innovation" in Windows so that there's something to sell every couple of years for the usual range of price tags.

This results in a licensing headache for companies that the "Microsoft ecosystem" tries to fix, but the problem really needs to be tackled at source.

Simplification is what's needed, but that is undoubtedly going to mean ripping up their existing licensing and development playbook and sacrifcing short-term cashflow which the shareholders might not like so much.

The question is how long the slide has to continue - will they wait until they've lost enough market share across all markets that the switch is easier because fewer customers are affected, or will they take the hit and transform into something relevant before that slide reaches a tipping point.

I think the answer to that question will determine the relevance and success of Microsoft in the future.

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No You're Not

@CmdrX3. I agree with you.

Cloud computing is aptly named. Fluffy, insubstantial and looks pretty. Then dumps a load of stuff on you that ruins your day.

It's happy clappy new age crap for the i generation.

All this tosh about Microsoft being a dying brand. End of the PC. Desktops will be replaced by laptops this time next year. This is the year of Linux on the desktop. Ubuntu is the Windows killer. Round and round it goes and has done for years. None of it has come true.

It's easy, not to mention fashionable, to criticise MS. But regardless of what the open source crowd keep repeating ad nauseum they're still on top and succeeding.

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Except

----

But regardless of what the open source crowd keep repeating ad nauseum they're still on top...

----

Except in the server market of course - probably supercomputing as well - oh and graphic design studios, post production in movies perhaps - oh and mobile devices, best not forget mobile devices or anything that uses an ARM processor (like car engine management systems - though why you'd want a window-based GUI on that is beyond me).

So if by "on top" you mean "on top of the office environment", yup - spot on - they've also done pretty well in the world of gaming (I think the XBoX can be described as a success these days) not to mention "Games for Windows".

The problem though is that the market has grown WAY beyond desktops and games consoles so MS are now the dominant force in a shrinking market - they're still "top dog" on desktops and they're one of the big 3 on consoles but there are sooo many more devices out there now from smartphones to set-top boxes and tablets - and MS are playing catch-up in all these areas.

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Fashion

I think writing of Microsoft and the PC is going a bit far, I suspect that the PC will now live on as just that, a personal computer, as a back-up and docking device for mobile devices, and a domestic general purpose computer.

There will also always be a need for isolated computer systems where security, or processing demands make distributed computing nonsensical. The various computing paradigms all have their place in IT, and Microsoft provide some good tools, for which there will be a continued demand, well basically forever.

Where Microsoft, like many businesses in many industries are going wrong, is that they are still trying to be all things to all men and dominate all markets, partially I suspect because their workforce believes in them, and partly because of the continued financial drive to grow revenue, margin and profit. Intellectually, they have never really changed the game since Windows first appeared, sure they have commoditized a lot of technology, but it's always been the same technology, embracing a new paradigm by extending their existing one. If Microsoft really want to stay fresh, then they need new products to compete with and then replace their old ones, so that the industry can realize the full potential of new chip architectures and processing capabilities, rather than lose any hardware performance gains in compatibility bloat.

Mostly us techies wot wrote the software tend to get caught up in the fashion of the day, and we tend to be highly tribal for our favoured technologies, very few of us really think about what our applications really do from tapping on the keyboard to putting a byte on the disk, we gloss over the detail, and we ignore the complex, so take the cloud, do you really want your private data held in a cloud, by Google, or Amazon, subject to the whims of the DoJ and others on disclosure, or would you rather have it on a computer that you control, that you know who has access to it, and that gentle reader is why we'll see Microsoft, Apple and others in the PC market for a long, long time to come. That's why there will continue to be Secure Private Clouds, and Mainframes as well. If any major technology company fails to continue to re-invent and innovate, it will fail, unless it just buys its market share, which is to a great extent where Microsoft, Oracle, IBM, HP and others are.

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"I want control of who will see what"

That sums it up perfectly. And that is also why businesses will never use cloudy storage - too much of a security risk.

Personally, my opinion is the less of my data is on the Internet, the better.

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