Microsoft has now taken the wraps off its successor to Windows Vista with Windows 7. Despite Vista's utter failure, however, it says something of Microsoft's market position that several years of media, consumers, and enterprise customers rubbishing Vista has done nothing to touch Microsoft's balance sheet.
Think about that. How many companies do you know that could get away with releasing a complete dud...with little apparent negative effect?
Sure, Procter & Gamble could release a new deodorant and have it fail without bringing the company down with it, but Vista, or Windows, is the heart of Microsoft. To have one's central cash cow completely fail and not pay the price? Now that is power.
It's also distressing. Windows users, which account for the vast majority of computer users, have seen little innovation on the desktop over the past few years, unless one calls Vista's UAC nagware functionality ("Did you really intend to download/click/run that?") "innovative." Or how about Microsoft's "innovative" efforts to allegedly bribe and cajole Africa into abandoning Linux for Windows, as reported in the Wall Street Journal?
Mac users are more fortunate, but it's unfortunate that so many should be held ransom to the lack of creativity in Redmond.
On the other hand, Microsoft's failed leadership on the desktop has emboldened companies like Google and open-source projects like Firefox to expand the definition of desktop to include the Web. Microsoft is playing catch-up and seems quite proud of its progress, but it is still a lightweight in a heavyweight bout.
Therefore, let's take a moment to thank Microsoft for the Web. Not because it has done so much, but precisely because Vista and other Microsoft technology have delivered so little. Without Microsoft's failure to grok the Web, we might still be stuck looking out of Windows.