10 things that should scare you about Microsoft

Happy Halloween!

It's fun time at Microsoft's expense, being trick-or-treat today and Day of the Dead tomorrow. To celebrate, I've got 10 scary things about Microsoft to ponder. I encourage you to add to the list in comments. It's all meant to be light-hearted, so keep that spirit when adding to the list.

On a frustrated side note. I had prepared this list as a slideshow, but there's some bug preventing the plugin from working correctly. I had a better treat for you but I got tricked instead. Grumble. Grumble.

1. Steve Ballmer. Need I say more? I laugh when reading any of the ongoing blogs, news stories or other online posts demanding Ballmer be fired. Surely, he laughs at them, too. Mr. "Developers, Developers, Developers" is an imposing figure. For those folks demanding Ballmer's head should be very afraid, because he might still be Microsoft CEO Halloween 2020.

2. The Lawyers. Microsoft's legal hit team is amazing. Ten years ago, an appeals court upheld a dozen adverse antitrust findings against the company. The lawyers got Microsoft off US District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson's death sentence and negotiated a fairly favorable settlement. More recently, they've convinced Android licensees to pay Microsoft royalties -- all without filing one court case (#3). Apple has to sue everyone. Microsoft's legal team blinks and its opponents ask where's the agreement to sign. Now that's scary.

3. Android patents. Microsoft has cunningly signed up about half the Android licensees for its "You pay us so we don't sue you program". I did some quick math a few months ago and reckoned Android patent licensing could be a $6 billion business for Microsoft by 2015. That's pure profit, with no ongoing costs. But surely Microsoft paid dearly up front in lawyer fees.

4. Antitrust oversight. Microsoft's decade of house arrest is over. Finally the company can innovate the way it likes, and how competitors have done it for years -- cross-integrating products and features. Antivirus inclusion in Windows 8 foreshadows lots more to come. Additionally, Microsoft bulked up in prison and is showing through its Android licensing program just how much the bully it can be (again). Be very afraid.

5. Stock price. Despite consistently strong earnings for about a decade, Microsoft can't get a break from investors. The stock is moribund. Microsoft shares traded at $29.08 on Halloween 2001. By comparison Apple was $8.78. Oct. 31, 2011, Microsoft opened at $26.80 and Apple $402.11. Now that's scary.

6. Windows Phone. IDC claims that Windows Phone will go from obscurity to second place in smartphone shipments by 2015 -- behind Androids but ahead of iPhone. You must understand what this means. Microsoft's design philosophy is "glance and go" -- the idea being you spend less time on the device and more living life. That means interacting with REAL people, rather than texting, tweeting or posting status updates to them. That's not scary?

7. Skype. If you Skype on any platforms other than Windows or Windows Phone, be very afraid. Microsoft now owns Skype and claims commitment to platforms like Android or Mac OS X. But we've heard this talk before. Skype is destined for deep integration into Microsoft products. It likely will continue on other platforms for awhile but with nowhere near the same feature set.

8. The Office Ribbon. It's coming to Windows 8 whether or not you want it. If you think the operating systems' new tile motif is scary, wait until the Ribbon you fear in Office is part of Windows. I know some of you like the Ribbon -- yeah, some people obsess over the "SAW" series and vampire movies. That's not most of us.

9. Kinect. Do you think that dad looks goofy dancing in the new Microsoft family TV commercial? Wait until that's you motioning to your refrigerator or living room light switch -- or, gasp, ATM on the street. Apple chose voice commands with Siri, Microsoft is going for the whole body, and, whoa, will you look like the dork.

10. Internet Explorer 6 and Windows XP. Pick your favorite zombie movie or TV show. Microsoft has been trying to kill off these undead products for years. But they won't die. IE6 may literally be dawn of the living dead, allowing hackers to control millions of computers into botnets spewing spam and malware.

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