Microsoft Finally Shows AOL Respect

A few months ago, America Online had a serious problem.

Despite the fact that it had grown its user base to 20 million, the company had been frozen out of bandwidth assets, leaving it with no high-speed Internet pipes.

This weakness in the online giant’s midsection invited the scorn of those who had been predicting its demise over the years.

Microsoft in particular, which chronically ignored AOL’s comings and goings, continued to snub its would-be rival and went about its business as if it were unassailable in every regard.

“AOL doesn’t have it in their genes to attack us,” Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates wrote recently.

Blinded By Ego?

The proposed merger with Time Warner has changed all of that.

Somehow, Gates managed to not see it coming. In the meantime, AOL’s appetite to dominate e-commerce and the Internet grew exponentially, and Case has pulled the industry one step closer to the day when PC-based applications may become obsolete.

If the merger comes off as planned, individuals and businesses alike will soon be able to connect to a customized AOL/Time Warner online service that provides telecommunications, content, applications, Web hosting and all other e-commerce capabilities for one monthly fee.

Caught Off Guard

Three days after the AOL Time Warner announcement rocked the world, Gates also decided to shake things up by handing Microsoft’s CEO reins over to his marketing guru Steve Ballmer. Gates will remain as Chairman of the software giant he co-founded, and will become Microsoft’s new chief software architect.

During the news conference, Gates made a few remarks that proved once again that AOL had taken him by surprise. “I didn’t predict it,” he said. “I can understand why they did it. It’s an absolutely gigantic company, it’s a fierce competitor of Microsoft in many, many ways.”

The Sleeping Giant Awakens

AOL has drawn real blood this time, so look for renewed energy from Gates and Company.

Over the years, I have had the opportunity to closely examine Microsoft’s grass roots software partnership programs in several different regions throughout the United States. I was always amazed at the thousands of thriving consultants and resellers who had become successful at selling and servicing Microsoft software solutions.

The other impressive aspect of Microsoft’s network of partners was the quality and intensity of training that the software giant provided for them. It is not uncommon for Microsoft to hold 700 training seminars a year in one area.

Additionally, Microsoft is also known for keeping its cards close to the vest, which means it is definitely holding an ace or two that nobody knows about.

Real Battle Has Just Begun

With his army of faithful software partners — who all have a vested interest in Microsoft’s future success — Chief Software Architect Gates will be a tough general to beat on the battlefield of technology.

Another given is that Gates will definitely not underestimate his chief opponent ever again.

What do you think? Let’s talk about it.

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