Internet Tidal Wave

By Stan Gibson  |  Posted 2008-06-25 Print this article Print

The high-volume, high-profit model gave Microsoft a financial foundation that was far larger and more stable than any competitor could cobble together. It would have been easy to be lulled into a false sense of security and go soft. Gates fought that tendency ferociously over the years, repeating the mantra that any company is only two years from going out of business.

Gates was nonetheless blindsided by the Internet, which emerged in the early 1990s to transform business as no force had since the computer itself.

Initially seeing the Internet as subordinate to desktop and server systems, as networks of all kinds had theretofore been, Gates had a revelatory series of insights that culminated in his famous "Internet Tidal Wave" memo of 1995, in which he declared the Internet to be the highest priority and that it must permeate everything the company did.

It was a turn in the road that Gates and Microsoft almost missed. Doing so would have been a crippling, if not fatal, error. Once again, Gates would enter a market pioneered by others, only to gain a major and in some ways dominant position.

Stan Gibson is Executive Editor of eWEEK. In addition to taking part in Ziff Davis eSeminars and taking charge of special editorial projects, his columns and editorials appear regularly in both the print and online editions of eWEEK. He is chairman of eWEEK's Editorial Board, which received the 1999 Jesse H. Neal Award of the American Business Press. In ten years at eWEEK, Gibson has served eWEEK (formerly PC Week) as Executive Editor/eBiz Strategies, Deputy News Editor, Networking Editor, Assignment Editor and Department Editor. His Webcast program, 'Take Down,' appeared on He has appeared on many radio and television programs including TechTV, CNBC, PBS, WBZ-Boston, WEVD New York and New England Cable News. Gibson has appeared as keynoter at many conferences, including CAMP Expo, Society for Information Management, and the Technology Managers Forum. A 19-year veteran covering information technology, he was previously News Editor at Communications Week and was Software Editor and Systems Editor at Computerworld.

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