A very big company
actually makes more money from playing the stock market than from software these days. Without wishing to drag this writeup down to Slashdot
, there are some key points I would like to mention:
Microsoft do not, at present, produce any products that I would term "good". Define good by any criteria that fit that area of the market. This includes their optical mouse, touted as a great innovation (which it might be - for HP). The Windows platform (all 6 or 7 mutually incompatible fragments of it) is still used by me for some things because, while it is deplorable for many reasons*, it does do a large range of client-side tasks relatively bearably. If my machine was just used for coding and word processing, or just used for graphics and DTP or just used for gameplaying, I'd pick out a different OS accordingly. Currently Linux can't do all these things without a major time investment, and even then there are gaps. (I have a dual boot machine to allow me to migrate as the gap closes, and my focus shifts to different applications).
The other point is that Microsoft's business practices are indefensible. Muddying the water with politics or does not alter the fact that while they profit, everyone else suffers. They sunk upwards of $500 million dollars into trying to destroy Netscape. They are supremely arrogant - their insufferable belief that they have done no wrong, and their persistence in commiting large-scale crime dwarf the posturing of even the hardest Un*x zealot. (Their shady financial activities also dwarf any half-assed attempt at philanthropy by their top brass.)
In the US, they've bought enough congressmen to keep the government at arms length, but they will find the European and Japanese administrations rather less easy to buy off. (The European Commission in fact have recently mooted imposing the highest penalty in law - a fine of 10% of the company's value - should they be found guilty of anti-competitive behaviour. Youch.)
Microsoft are currently working on .net, an attempt to catch up with Sun's Java Platform, and the xbox, an attempt to imitate the original Sony Playstation's penetration of the home market. As you can see, the "innovation" never stops. They are also vehemently denying that they will be split in two by the Department of Justice (but Gates, Allen and Ballmer are selling off their stock just in case).
* If the Windows source code was leaked, what do you think would happen?