I recently noticed that Paul Graham of ViaWeb and Y Combinator fame wrote a new essay entitled Microsoft is Dead. And I realised that not only did I strongly disagree but that it was the last Paul Graham essay I needed to read.
Paul Graham’s essays we my first foray into the mind of an entrepreneur and as such I remember reading them with a certain fondness. In fact I recently read Founders At Work by Jessica Livingston (also of Y Combinator) based on her connection with Graham.
Founders at work is an excellent read by the way and I would fully recommend it to anyone interested in creating their own start-up or just interested int he start-up scene or Silicon Valley history. It even covers Graham himself…
But back to the point. Even when I was reading Paul’s earlier essays I noted quite a lot of loathing for him. Maybe its because of his constant LISP plugging or his more idiotic ego-stroking pieces like Hackers and Painters (shudder… that was bad). But I always thought that it was just a kind of envy that he had made it where they had not.. or something.
But… with his recent essays I found myself disliking his attitude more and more. And in his latest offering ‘Microsoft is Dead’ I think I’ll be un-subscribing. Why? Because in it he highlights how out of touch with reality he has finally become, sure he’s got a bunch of fledgling companies under his wing with Y Combinator but what multi-millionaire couldn’t. Sure some (and a very small some but the looks of it) will succeed, but some would have anyway. What is Paul Graham contributing? Paul has, like Joel Spolsky, Jumped the Shark.
But I’ll let you decide: In his latest offering he writes of talking to a ‘young startup founder ‘:
I said that Yahoo had been warped from the start by their fear of Microsoft. That was why they’d positioned themselves as a “media company” instead of a technology company. Then I looked at his face and realized he didn’t understand. It was as if I’d told him how much girls liked Barry Manilow in the mid 80s. Barry who?
What? Who cares what some 21 year-old kid thinks about the software industry? If some punk said he wasn’t afraid of Great White Sharks would dive into the water with find out if he was right? Muppet.
And later on who replaced Microsoft:
The most obvious is Google. There can only be one big man in town, and they’re clearly it. Google is the most dangerous company now by far, in both the good and bad senses of the word. Microsoft can at best limp along afterward.
Muppet! Google are an Ad company with a net-worth of around $14 Billion. Bill Gates alone is worth ~$50 Billion not to mention is his meta-minted co-workers personally worth more than Google.
And the final nail in Microsoft’s Coffin?:
The last nail in the coffin came, of all places, from Apple. Thanks to OS X, Apple has come back from the dead in a way that is extremely rare in technology.  Their victory is so complete that I’m now surprised when I come across a computer running Windows. Nearly all the people we fund at Y Combinator use Apple laptops.
What a Goober!
I might be being overly harsh, and if so goody, but that’s complete rubbish. Microsoft a no more in danger of being whipped out by apple than Apple are of being whipped out by Linux. How narrow minded to think that these people represent a uniform cross-section of computer users.
Paul makes a number of grave mistakes in his piece but the main one is assuming that the Internet is the World. And although for him and people like him it is. Lots of people still think it’s for Shopping and Dorks and until the current generation (at least) are not at the heart of the economy that’s the way it will stay.
Paul Graham did well and has help others do well and I have no doubt that his insight into stating a business in invaluable to the start-ups he helps. But in this case he’s talking about what he doesn’t fully grasp; the reality of the software industry not it’s bleeding edge.