(An email to John Naughton of the Observer, London in response to his article.)
Microsoft has been moving away from the DOS platform since the release of .NET. The underlying vision of .NET is precisely: a world without Windows. The Google model is certainly the future, at least to an extent. The only technology that provides a comparable capability to .NET is J2EE. Yes, a lot of the basic concepts behind .NET were lifted from Java. Microsoft has made most of their money taking the innovation of others to another level. With .NET, applications are written for the framework, not the underlying OS. Therefore, the issue of Windows dominance has already been addressed by MS long before the public would contemplate moving to another platform. While Java is one language, many platforms; .NET is many languages, many platforms. The most important part of having the dominant OS, is the vast development community producing titles for it. Why do persons buy Wintel machines when they would like to by a Mac or try a Suse machine? Because they have nothing to run on it.
MS saw the writing on the wall after being beat to the punch by Netscape's browser and Sun's Java. They saw that between these two technologies, a high-bandwidth day would come when the OS was a non-issue. .NET will be the Phoenix that rises from the post-Windows ashes. Now the layer between the OS/browser and the Internet is the issue. The .NET languages will retain the dev base, including disenchanted Java developers. They also wanted to leverage the free development of the Open Source Community by letting them write their own implementation for other platforms, namely Linux. If you have followed the Mono Project (http://www.mono-project.com), you know that a fully functional implementation is already being deployed for Linux, OS X, Solaris, and UNIX. MS can also do this without hastening the end of Windows, which will still be dominant for years to come, since they are not signaling its end by recognizing publicly the relevance of the other platforms. They just let the OSC develop behind the scenes, without condemning or endorsing (or funding).
I have never been a big fan of MS, but learning more about the real strategy behind the .NET framework has given me a newfound respect for them. If you have written any Java, you know that it takes hundreds of lines of code to perform simple tasks. (See: http://www.oreilly.com/catalog/beyondjava/) Visual Basic programmers have been spoiled by a helpful amount of required functionality for an app being built into the language. The conveniences that have kept coders writing with MS technologies will be carried over into .NET, almost flawlessly.
With a comprehensive framework in place on the net, and its accompanying legions of developers, MS is in a very strong position to continue to dominate. Google, after all, is still just a good search engine. They will need to partner with or purchase companies for their online offerings and services if they are going to be anything other than a text page with information on it, or a map. or an email address.