Seattle Smackdown: The PI Bites Back

Following Steve Ballmer’s comments last week that print newspapers will be dead in 10 years, Seattle PI columnist Bill Virgin retorts that it will be Microsoft’s weakened position that is more evident. He uses Vista’s weak reception, the Wii’s dominance over the Xbox, and MSFT’s failed takeover of Yahoo! as artillery, among other things.

By 2018, there will be no more Microsoft …

… over those three centuries the American newspaper has grown with the country, survived wars, economic panics and depressions, adapted to and adopted technology ranging from photography to the telegraph to high-speed presses and survived the emergence of competing information technologies, including radio and TV. Rocky though the learning has been, print is even figuring out how to compete against, coexist with and make complementary use of the Internet. What is there in Microsoft’s track record that would suggest it is capable of the same longevity, adaptability and resilience? …

… Is it absurd to write off Microsoft as a has-been in waiting? No more than it is to assert that print is in its twilight. Ten years from now it could turn out that both have thrived — or that both have failed. Or that Ballmer was right. Or that we were. Meet back here in 10 years and see whose prediction was closer to the mark.

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Related: The New Yorker had a good story a few issues back that I finally got around to reading over the weekend. It examines the changing state of journalism and the newspaper industry’s woes over the past few years at the hands of Internet culture, Craigslist and the blogosphere.

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