Microsoft is gradually shedding its reputation as the industry's evil villain. The company has already been raked over the coals by overeager antitrust officials worldwide. And it has become well known that Microsoft wealth is funding the largest philanthropic organization in history. Plenty of people hate this Microsoft product or that Microsoft program, but the vilification of Microsoft itself has been reduced to a smattering of isolated die-hard Linux and Apple fans shouting in the wilderness.
The company may also be getting a clue about effective marketing. After the Mojave and Seinfeld fiascos, Microsoft came out with a marketing campaign for Internet Explorer 8 that people actually liked.
And let's not forget about cash. Long-term opportunities exceed hazards during recessions for those with cash. Competitors fall, and the price of acquisition plummets. Those with the most cash can buy customers, technologies, executives and mind-share for pennies on the dollar.
With nearly triple the operating cash flow as Google, and double that of Apple, Microsoft is in an excellent position to spend some of its $20 billion buying up hot and potentially hot properties that will dominate the future of computing and the Internet.
One minor example. What if Microsoft bought Yahoo, Facebook, Twitter *and* Hulu this year? How would all this position the company for next year? You can really do a lot with $20 billion during a recession.
I'm not predicting these acquisitions. But I am predicting massive consolidation during the recession that will favor cash-rich companies -- Microsoft above all.
My prediction in a nutshell: Windows 7, an improving reputation and $20 billion in cash will bring Microsoft out its doldrums and into a position of industry leadership once again.
Also see (a classic from the archives): Vista Expert: Why I Don't Like Vista