Back four years ago (2002), a good friend who works at Microsoft told me confidentially that Microsoft is working on something called "XAML". "Very similar to Nexaweb - watch out", he said. To the contrary, I was actually thrilled. Regardless of what it means from a competitive perspective, XAML validates the declarative programming approach that Nexaweb has been championing for many years. A declarative programming model separates logic from presentation, enabling developers to use a declarative syntax (XML for example) to describe presentation (much similar to how a system administrator would use a configuration file to configure a system) while using a programming language like Java and C# for logic.

So I waited…from Avalon to Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF) to Windows Presentation Foundation Everywhere (WPF/E),  from Indigo to Windows Communication Foundation, from the fanfare of a new file system to the decision of dropping the new file system, …eventually all under the umbrella of Windows Vista. I installed the initial preview of “Longhorn” on a heavy duty desktop in 2003, built a few apps on it. Over the next few years, I installed quite a few follow-on releases and read a lot about Longhorn from press and Microsoft blogs.  While I am still sort of waiting for the release, I just realize that I don’t really care about when/whether Windows Vista is released anymore.

The realization came from reading an observation made by Atroon from TechRepublic recently:

I was discussing this with a friend the other day, and we noticed a pattern in Microsoft's software. All of it was launched with great hype and fanfare and touted as a 'good' product, but the results have been mixed. Going all the way back to 1986:

DOS 3.3: GOOD
DOS 4.2: BAD
DOS 5.0: GOOD
DOS 6.0: BAD
DOS 6.22: GOOD
Windows 3.0: BAD
Windows 3.1: GOOD
Windows 95: BAD
Windows NT/98: GOOD
Windows ME: BAD
Windows 2000/XP: GOOD
Windows Vista: ?

While I certainly enjoyed the humor in Atroon’s logic, the post caught my attention because I just realized that I have not paid attention to Windows Vista for a long time!  This realization makes me wonder:

Is Microsoft Still relevant?

There is no doubt that Microsoft is and will continue to be the leading software company in the world. There is no doubt that Windows dominates and will continue to dominate the computer operating system space. Microsoft Office is and will continue to be the productivity suite for information workers…In every sense, Microsoft is relevant and strong as ever. So what happened?

The world has changed. The traditional desktop-centric world that Microsoft dominates and thus commands everyone’s attention has been replaced by an Internet-centric world in which Microsoft is less relevant. Who is the company that commands everyone’s attention in this new world? It is Google.

In retrospect, I am amazed by how much attention I have given to Google myself over the last two years:

  •  I became a Gmail user early 2004, despite that I really did not need another web email account;
  • I am probably one of the first developers to download GWT and built an application on it following its 2006 JavaOne announcement. My opinion? GWT  is naively crafted and will never become a real product. If GWT is developed by another company other than Google, it would never have received any attention. I asked some very well known people about GWT and their reaction is “GWT is one of Google’s recruiting tool”.
  • I rushed to sign up for Google Spreadsheet when it became available early this year (was it alpha initially)
  • Again, I rushed to Google Docs & Spreadsheet the moment that it was announced.

Of course, like everybody else, I spent an insane amount of time reading about the Google/Writely acquisition, the Google/DodgeBall acquisition, the Google/YouTube acquisition, the Google/MySpace deal … It is funny that the website of a tube and roll form equipment Company’s website, www.utube.com, was brought down due by heavy traffic when Google/YouTube deal was announced.

Is Microsoft still relevant? Yes, it is relevant in many ways. However, I think the most “relevant” way is that “Microsoft” is probably the best phrase to characterize Google today. In this new age, Google is the Microsoft.