Microsoft Makes the Right Moves to Stay on Top

By Don Reisinger  |  Posted 2010-01-03 Print this article Print

5. Marginalizing Mac OS X

Apple's Mac OS X made significant strides over the past 10 years, but it's important to note that its rise in the market was largely inconsequential to Microsoft's bottom line. Through smart strategies and partnering with third parties, as well as vendors, Microsoft did a fine job of limiting the impact Mac OS X's rise really had on Windows. Did Apple's operating system steal market share away from Windows? Sure. But did it really change the OS market? No way. Microsoft is still on top by a wide margin.

6. Keeping Linux away

Some would argue that Linux is the operating system that more people should use. After all, most distributions are safe, they are generally lightweight and many are free. But the past 10 years haven't helped Linux gain a substantial footing in the OS market. I would argue that Linux is more well known than it was in 2000, but to say it is any more appealing to the mainstream is a bit of a stretch, even though more distributions have become user-friendly. That can be mainly attributed to Microsoft's ability to keep the OS at arm's length. Simply put, Redmond didn't allow the Linux craze to get out of hand. It was a smart move.

7. Addressing the Web

For too long during the past 10 years, Microsoft allowed Google and others to innovate on the Web. It might also be argued that the company has yet to do enough to stop Google's rise in that space. But over the past year or two, Microsoft has done a better job of realizing that the Internet is the future and it had better be in a position to capitalize on it. That's most evident in its acquisition of several online sites, as well as the launch of Bing and Bing Maps. Microsoft is getting ready to focus on the Web in the new decade.

8. The smooth transition

When Bill Gates announced that he would be stepping down from day-to-day activities at Microsoft, it sent shock waves through the industry. Bill Gates was the face of Microsoft. Investors placed millions of dollars in Microsoft stock because of their faith in its co-founder. It was a dicey situation. But Microsoft handled the transition of day-to-day activities from Gates to Steve Ballmer, the company's CEO, with aplomb. It made Ballmer a more vocal evangelist of the brand, while limiting Gates' influence. It reassured investors. It also proved that Ballmer was up for the job. Kudos, Microsoft. It could have been much worse.

9. Maintaining profitability

Being an extremely profitable company over a period of 10 years isn't always easy. In the tech industry, things change so rapidly that companies can be dominating a market one year and wondering why all the cash dried up the next-just ask Sony. But Microsoft maintained strong profitability numbers throughout the past 10 years. Today, Microsoft still earns billions of dollars of profit each year. And all that cash is being socked away for big acquisitions or investments the company might need to make in the new decade.

10. Cornering the netbook market

Although it failed to see the writing on the wall in so many markets over the past 10 years, Microsoft made one big move that will substantially improve its chances of maintaining profitability into the next decade: It cornered the netbook market. At first, netbooks ran Linux. But in a very short time, Microsoft was able to steal netbook-OS market share away from Linux to such a degree that today, it's in a dominant position in that space. That's no small feat. Netbook popularity has grown rapidly over the past year. Most analysts believe that that growth will continue. By solidifying its position with netbooks, Microsoft is positioned to profit heavily off those lightweight PCs.

Don Reisinger is a freelance technology columnist. He started writing about technology for Ziff-Davis' Since then, he has written extremely popular columns for, Computerworld, InformationWeek, and others. He has appeared numerous times on national television to share his expertise with viewers. You can follow his every move at

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