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Paul Graham declares Microsoft dead.

Date/Time Permalink: 04/07/07 04:08:32 am
Category: General

I guess with the focus I have on my site, I can't let this go uncommented. Ordinarily I'd be inclined to paraphrase Frank Zappa and say that Microsoft wasn't dead, but it does smell funny. The only problem is that I can't contest it, because Paul Graham said it.

This is a new event. Paul Graham has been a very prominent voice in technology for quite a few years. If somebody like me says Microsoft is dead, it's wishful thinking or hyperbole. But when Paul Graham speaks, people listen. Most especially people with a lot of money.

Interesting that he talks in terms of which company is 'dangerous'. I like that; it's the continuation of the Darwin metaphor, with the picture going with it of a jungle with various animals preying on and being preyed upon. IBM was dangerous, but now that they bat on Linux's team they're just the most cuddly fuzzy bears you ever saw. And now that Microsoft is no longer dangerous, the question becomes 'Well, who is King of the Jungle right now?' Google.

Google, the Everything Technology company. News breaks today of the new Google phone-based voice search. Just call it up, tell it what you want, and it connects you to a local business selling that item. For free, of course. Let's see Redmond do that! Oops, they bought one.

I find myself thinking less in terms of 'Web 2.0' and more in terms of 'Old Guard/New Guard'. Microsoft, AOL, Yahoo are Old Guard. Google is New Guard. Perl and PHP are Old Guard, AJAX the New Guard.

And where does Open Source and Free Software fit in? Well, if the current buzz over OEMs distributing Linux pre-installed comes to fruit, picture in a few years the death of the distro. Instead, every machine comes with bare-bones Linux base, with nothing but a seed of a system capable of downloading the rest of the system through package management. Plug it in, answer some questions, and whatever kind of custom-built system you need materializes before your eyes. Debian does this already, from a floppy disk - I still have a Debian disk image floating around somewhere in my laboratory. I think it might be on the bookshelf between the skull and the stuffed raven. I'll have to check.

Would that make Linux a New Guard technology? After all, the Internet is cited as the chief influence over Linux's development; it's all those wired geeks collaborating over the lines that made it evolve in the first place. Now if we could just get the AJAX without the need for a web browser... then who says we'd even need the software installed?

But sorry, I haven't talked myself into accepting it quite yet. Microsoft isn't dead; nobody with as much cash and clout as it has could be dead. But it smells funny.

UPDATE: This link has a follow-up in which he clears up what he meant. In other words, he's now saying that Microsoft just smells funny. By the way, one can only imagine how much harassment he got from asstroturfers about it, which is after all the whole problem with flaming trolls online: the rest of us have a hard time having a coherent conversation over the noise.

So, if Paul Graham can get away with declaring Darth Redmond DOA, can I now be forgiven for declaring Ubuntu not to be a Linux distro? Sometimes we who actually blog because we care (as opposed to those who do it for the glamorous spotlight and fabulous prizes) try to make people slow down and think. After all, if you wanted to channel-surf, you'd be watching television right now.

UPDATE: Perhaps we all spoke too soon. I especially found this comment ominous. More than a thousand Paul Graham articles, this is a bad sign for MS. When the SalesBorgs of the corporate matrix break their programming to rebel against you, you ARE toast!

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