So long as Gates doesn't want to fire Ballmer, and Ballmer doesn't want
to fire Gates, and Paul Allen doesn't want to fire either of them,
Neither of them can be fired.
That triumvirent, is the key to Microsoft's success.
Microsoft may be flagging in the Windows/PC/Applications market, but
the company is also reinventing itself, with an emphasis on games, game
machines, and hardware/software fundamentally focused on entertainment.
If Vista flops completely, and Microsoft suddenly finds itself shut out
of the corporate market in favor of Linux/Unix. They still have a
future in X-Boxes, 3D porn, and amusement focused technologies.
Microsoft has not been really effective at driving the corporate market
for years. Attempts to force companies to replace all of their Windows
3.1 machines with Windows NT 3.x didn't go very well. Attempts to push
forced upgrades from Windows 9x to Windows NT 4.0 didn't go very well
either, and Microsoft had to throw in NT 5.0 (Windows 2000) as part of
the deal. When they tried to triple revenues with Windows XP, many
corporations began developing the migration plan to Linux/Unix.
Microsoft is probably acutely aware of these plans, and realizes that
if it pushes too hard to get too much too soon, and doesn't deliver
flawlessly, in the first GA release, that Linux will become firmly
entrenched in the corporate desktop (first as a VM, then as a VM
Master, and finally displacing Windows altogether). Furtheromer,
corporate customers may have been saving up the OEM license stickers, a
bit like trading cards, with the intent of using XP as the clent and
Linux as the host OS, eliminating the need for Vista features.
One of Microsoft's biggest problems may be that it will have to make
Vista run lean-and-mean, to be accepted. If corporations do decide to
go with VMs that run Linux and Windows concurrently, a memory hungry
pig like Vista is likely to be ignored in favor of a "light" version
like Windows 9x, Windows 2000, or Windows XP, which have fewer
restrictions and lower overhead).
There is even the possibility that Linux vendors may deploy crossover,
Win4Lin and other emulations to eliminate the need for OEM licenses of
Windows entirely. At that point, Linux would be a better Windows than
Windows, and a much better Windows than Vista.