Q: What's Microsoft's biggest strength?
A: The fact that it is the defacto standard in desktop environments and has a fairly customizable yet standard user interface.
Q: What's Microsoft's biggest weakness?
A: I can't answer this one directly, but one of the arguments against Windows has been the issue of stability.
My answer for years was simple: Microsoft should build a windowing system that runs on top of the Linux kernel. There's nothing stopping them from doing it. It could *probably* still be proprietary – sorry, not a lawyer, it would allow them to keep their huge strength and they could completely kill the stability argument.
After all, isn't this essentially what OS X is?
Well, finally other people are starting to catch up with me. As found on Slashdot today, John C. Dvorak of PC Mag sees this as Microsoft's chance to kill Linux. He believes that this would allow MS-Linux to become the dominant distribution of Linux and eventually developers would drop away from Kernel development due to hatred of Microsoft.
While I think the first half is a plausible scenario, I believe the second half is completely wrong. Sure it would tick developers off, but the kernel hackers are not newbies who will simply roll over and find something else to do. They're a whole different breed.
These people will see Microsoft's involvement as an invasion and will treat it as such. It will turn into guerilla warfare at a code level. There will be active analysis of the API and entire groups to determine creative ways of “breaking” the output of the API for some windowing environments and not for others. After all, look at clauses 11 and 12 of the GPL:
11. BECAUSE THE PROGRAM IS LICENSED FREE OF CHARGE, THERE IS NO WARRANTY FOR THE PROGRAM, TO THE EXTENT PERMITTED BY APPLICABLE LAW. EXCEPT WHEN OTHERWISE STATED IN WRITING THE COPYRIGHT HOLDERS AND/OR OTHER PARTIES PROVIDE THE PROGRAM “AS IS” WITHOUT WARRANTY OF ANY KIND, EITHER EXPRESSED OR IMPLIED, INCLUDING, BUT NOT LIMITED TO, THE IMPLIED WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY AND FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE. THE ENTIRE RISK AS TO THE QUALITY AND PERFORMANCE OF THE PROGRAM IS WITH YOU. SHOULD THE PROGRAM PROVE DEFECTIVE, YOU ASSUME THE COST OF ALL NECESSARY SERVICING, REPAIR OR CORRECTION.
12. IN NO EVENT UNLESS REQUIRED BY APPLICABLE LAW OR AGREED TO IN WRITING WILL ANY COPYRIGHT HOLDER, OR ANY OTHER PARTY WHO MAY MODIFY AND/OR REDISTRIBUTE THE PROGRAM AS PERMITTED ABOVE, BE LIABLE TO YOU FOR DAMAGES, INCLUDING ANY GENERAL, SPECIAL, INCIDENTAL OR CONSEQUENTIAL DAMAGES ARISING OUT OF THE USE OR INABILITY TO USE THE PROGRAM (INCLUDING BUT NOT LIMITED TO LOSS OF DATA OR DATA BEING RENDERED INACCURATE OR LOSSES SUSTAINED BY YOU OR THIRD PARTIES OR A FAILURE OF THE PROGRAM TO OPERATE WITH ANY OTHER PROGRAMS), EVEN IF SUCH HOLDER OR OTHER PARTY HAS BEEN ADVISED OF THE POSSIBILITY OF SUCH DAMAGES.
Now, I can't say that this was the intention all along, but it sure seems like a shield to me.