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How Google became Microsoft: A decade of hits, misses and gaffes

The Noughties weren't always nice

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Most wanted of the decade: MySQL and JBoss

Imagine the world without MySQL and JBoss. That world existed just last decade, when you handed over tens of thousands of dollars per CPU for a database or application server from IBM, Oracle, or BEA Systems. And you had no rights to the code.

MySQL and JBoss paved the way for an enterprise and web development boom during The Noughties because their small footprints and free code let developers get up and running in no time - and at little cost. JBoss with its colorful and outspoken chief executive Marc Fleury, and MySQL with its ever likable Finn CEO Marten Mickos, built and delivered stuff people wanted, liked, and actually felt good about using. Of course, neither made money. That was why they succeeded. But it was also their curse.

Such was their charm, their growing presence among developers and their disruptive influence that they soon caught the eye of, yes, corporate interests. JBoss became the subject of an intense courtship between Oracle and Red Hat, while MySQL fell into the arms of Sun, hoping a little of the open-source magic would rub off. Now, MySQL looks like it's headed to Oracle too.

Survivor of the decade: Windows XP

Windows XP shipped in October 2001, and according to the standard Microsoft roadmap, the plan was to replace it with Longhorn (eventually known as Windows Vista) in 2004. But only now - 2009 - is the end in sight for Windows XP, as Microsoft heavily discounts the new Windows 7 to persuade people to finally upgrade and move on.

How did it happen that a company that liked to deliver a new version of its core product every three years got stuck with something for eight? A combination of hubris, bad planning and fate.

First, there were the worms that slammed Windows XP and Internet Explored 6 out of the gate and crippled millions of PCs worldwide between 2000 and 2003. Microsoft responded with a service pack that rewrote Windows XP around security, thereby diverting from the work of Longhorn and delaying it while helping to perpetuate Windows XP.

Then, the Longhorn that Microsoft had started building in 2001 was dumped in 2004 after two years' work. Microsoft realized it couldn't deliver on the ambitious vision that Bill Gates had outlined without incurring further delays. When Longhorn shipped as Windows Vista, it broke compatibility with too many partner applications and hardware, and killed the performance of the average PC.

Naturally, customers and partners stayed on Windows XP. Then came the surprise arrival of netbooks. With their small form factors, they needed an operating system that wasn't a performance hog. Netbook OEMs opted for Windows XP too.

Throughout, Microsoft has had to extend the ability of PC makers and retailers to sell XP. Some, like Dell, publicly thumbed their nose at Microsoft by continuing to offer the aging OS. This, in turn, forced Microsoft to extend its own official support for the operating system.

Some might argue that IE 6 is the decade's great survivor, given that eight years after it shipped, it still has around 20 per cent market share. Many large corporations, like Orange, still standardize on the thing.

But IE is free, and it's Windows where Microsoft makes its money. Despite Microsoft's best efforts to replace XP and move on with a new wave of upgrades, Microsoft spent The Noughties stuck with a major product it was reluctantly forced to keep breathing new life into - a move that only further enhanced Windows XP's survivor status while keeping Microsoft tied to its past.

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