- 5 Feb 08, 08:07 GMT
There, I knew that would draw a crowd. In the maelstrom of comment and analysis that has followed Microsoft's bid for Yahoo, two extraordinary assumptions have been very common.
First, that this is a make-or-break deal for Bill Gates’ behemoth, second that it will fail anyway because Microsoft has been in inexorable decline ever since it failed to spot the arrival of the internet.
The reasoning behind this view often has more to do with emotion than analysis. It's hard to like Microsoft - it has been a looming, overbearing presence for so long. Much of the geek community sees it as the Establishment, and would prefer to avoid its products if at all possible.
There's a nice story in this morning's Financial Times about Yahoo finding it difficult to schedule meetings a few years back because so many staff refused to use Microsoft's Outlook.
Already, the opposition is organising, with Yahoo's own customers at its Flickr photo-sharing service making their views pretty clear. Commentators are suggesting it's just a desperate shotgun marriage of crumbly old giants – one of which failed to spot Web 1.0, the other never coming to terms with Web 2.0. The new media commentator Jeff Jarvis wrote one of the better pieces along these lines.
So just how much trouble is Microsoft in that makes it worth the huge aggro involved in going through with this deal? It was in 1995 that Bill Gates admitted that his business had failed to "get the internet" and it's been suffering ever since.
Well actually, no. In 1996 Microsoft reported income of $2.2 billion on revenue of $9 billion. This year it’s forecasting income of $24 billion on revenue of $60 billion.
Throughout the last decade, commentators have been warning that the growing impact of everything from search to open source to cloud computing would slow the ageing beast – and every year the Windows and Office profits machine has continued churning out ever bigger piles of greenbacks.
Google clearly doesn't share the view that Microsoft is doomed – just look at the sabre-rattling in Sunday’s blog, from a company which doesn’t make a habit of bad-mouthing its rivals.
It’s clear the search giant is determined to stop this deal. “We’re very nervous about it,” a Google insider told me. “Microsoft is so huge it can just hire a couple of thousand engineers at the click of its fingers and put them to work on any problem.”
And while the figures show that a MicroHoo would still have a much smaller share of search than Google, the spinners at the Googleplex are keen to point out that there are nearly 500 million Hotmail and Yahoo Mail users compared to the 51 million who use Gmail. That’s a big audience using your products every day.
The dinosaur description may be applied more fairly to Yahoo, which has lost out at every turn to Google over the last decade by failing to realise that winning at search meant winning at everything else. It is now in a very hard place, looking desperately for a suitor to keep it from the clutches of Microsoft.
But even if this deal doesn’t come off, don’t bet on a wounded Microsoft crawling away to die. The company is already planning a major assault on the mobile world, where all the internet action is now moving, and has got the cash and the muscle to make an impact.
You may not like Microsoft – or its products. But many years after the internet meteorite hit the earth, this particular dinosaur can still scare smaller beasts.
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