So it looks like this... Microsoft is PacMan, gobbling up the software patent dots, one by one. Paying off its lawsuits, one by one. Bribing its antagonists, one by one. Enough software patents, enough dropped anti-trust cases, enough settlements, and it'll be able to stand up to IBM, and maybe even castrate Linux.
But there are ghosts chasing PacMan. A year ago, under a different Slashdot alias, I wrote about the impending disaster called "spyware". Then, there was an estimate of 10-15% infestation of domestic Windows PCs. Today, the estimate is 80% and it's a fair bet that by this time next year, most Windows PCs - behind a firewall or not - will be infected by spyware, trojans, worms.
The ghosts are unstoppable. Visit one web site and 15-30 of them pile into your PC. Ghosts like CWS are so... incredibly malign. No simple viruses, these. Extraordinarily invasive, they get into every corner of the Windows OS, dozens, hundreds of hooks. In 12 months, it'll be the rule, not the exception, as more and more of the over-complex and under-protected Internet infrastructure gets subverted by the dark side of the force, turned into payload-delivery agents. How do you know that page you're reading isn't silently exploiting a new exploit in MSIE? Answer: you don't, and eventually, so long as you're on Windows, it probably is.
Someone, somewhere, wants control of your Windows PC, and they are going to get it. "Windows Security" has turned into a sick joke.
Today's ghosts are in the "hot" phase of a parasitical life-cycle. That is, they take as much of the host's resources as they can, eventually killing it. At some stage, the ghosts will adapt, simply because a dead host is not much use. Later, they will start to compete, fighting each other. Much later, they will start to actively defend their hosts, turning the cycle around from deadly parasite to essential partner. This is how all immune systems develop. It's not an organic process, simply an economic one.
Meanwhile Microsoft chases its little dots...
There are several possible end-games here. One: Microsoft manages to create new markets where it can make new money and leave its crippled and rotting domestic market. Ha! Two: the ghosts catch up. Three: the ghosts adapt and learn to co-exist as the price for having an ecosystem to inhabit. Might take... 10-15 years.
My money is on scenario two. And faster than you'd expect. We're about 1 year from what could be considered "plague" for most Windows users. Microsoft will not survive that unscathed.