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The Microsoft Universe Gets Wackier and Wackier

When I used the term Psycho Talk in a recent article to describe the crazy claims made by Microsoft sycophants, I had a feeling that I severely understated the problem. The particular tech writer I criticized in that piece has since come out and struggled to explain why the iPhone is, first, not as popular as we’re led to believe, and, second, primarily a U.S. phenomenon. He evidently doesn’t realize that the iPhone is available in dozens of countries, and does quite well sales wise in many of them.

Such ignorance would be forgivable if it wasn’t repeated over and over again by the very same offenders. I mean you can expect Microsoft to want to spin the news their way, but even that’s becoming increasingly difficult. In a recently-published interview, for example, CEO Steve Ballmer waxed more incoherent than ever, and that’s saying an awful lot.

But rather than believe me about Ballmer’s irrational behavior, I suggest you read a three-part interview posted over at TechCrunch. It’s highly unfortunate that the publication didn’t really ask Ballmer the hard questions or follow up when he made a particularly foolish statement.

Take the claim that the market share of the Google Chrome and Safari browsers can be considered “rounding errors.” Now according to the September 2009 usage stats, Safari has 3.82% and Chrome 2.44%, and that’s no rounding error by anyone’s rule-book. Worse, Ballmer seems to believe that Internet Explorer’s current share is some 74%, which leads me to conclude that his math skills are seriously deficient. In fact, the most recent “median” survey gives Internet Explorer 64.66% of the browser market.

Now in all fairness, maybe Ballmer is only counting the stats at his company’s site, and ignoring everything else. But since he was never questioned about the source of his alleged data, we can only guess. I’ll go with the lack of usable math skills, since Microsoft has squandered so much money on failed projects, such as the Zune digital media player. They’ve also spent billions developing Internet Explorer, which remains a third-rate browser, with performance benchmarks way below just about everything else.

Even the new Bing search engine, after gaining a few points against Google early on, appears to be suffering from a case of buyer’s remorse. The latest StatCounter ratings show that Google is back above 80%, precisely where it was before Bing’s debut. In addition, Yahoo!, which is destined to incorporate Bing when that deal with Microsoft concludes, also lost share. I’ve long felt that any deal between these two companies would, at first, benefit Google, because of the time wasted searching for synergies, so enough resources won’t be devoted to actually improving their search engines and getting more users.

To add insult to injury, it’s by no means certain that this deal, which I label Ya-Bing!, will actually pass muster from the antitrust people in the U.S. and the European Union. Even if the U.S. authorities give the go-ahead, the EU has no love lost for Microsoft, and they’ll examine every nuance of the contracts with a fine tooth comb. Even if they alao approve the pact, they might also mandate some contract changes.

After all is said and done, the entire process will drag on until next year at the earliest. While both Microsoft and Yahoo! claim to be proceeding as if it’s a done deal, implementing Bing with, one expects, some Yahoo! technology, won’t be walk in the park. There are apt to be some trying periods until expected glitches are resolved.

While all this is going on, Google will just keep getting better and better, and don’t be surprised if they actually gain a larger piece of the pie as a result. Talk about laughing to the bank.

In the meantime, Ballmer will continue to fret over attacks from the “high end,” which is what he calls Apple, or attacks from the side, which is where he puts Chrome, Firefox and the other alternative browsers. Such rantings almost resemble the concept of thrust and parry in sword fighting. So maybe that’s it! Steve Ballmer things he is actually involved in a battle with dueling blades, not to preserve the market share of Microsoft’s products and services.

Now when it comes to the operating system wars, Microsoft has taken to referring to Windows 7 as “System 7,” perhaps in another lame attempt to remove the Windows connotation. This is, I suppose, another Microsoft attempt at innovation, but don’t they realize that the most familiar concept of a System 7 was an early version of the Mac OS, released back in 1991?

You have to wonder how Microsoft has deluded itself to believe that cribbing the name of an 18-year-old operating system that was rather buggy, I recall, is somehow going to ensure that Windows 7 will somehow prosper as a result. The very idea is absurd, but I’m even more concerned about the band of Redmond-following media pundits who are lining up behind Microsoft to present this Vista refresh as the second coming.

Yes, it’s a wacky world out there, and not just on extremist political talk shows. Microsoft is sure doing its best to confuse and befuddle the masses and I trust their efforts will be doomed to failure.