Experts have been predicting the demise of Apple for decades. It’s about time somebody predicted the demise of Microsoft. Here it is: Microsoft is dead. It’s old hat. It’s over. Move on. Install Linux. Install BSD. Get a Mac. Get a PlayStation. Get something. Just throw away your Windows box while it still sells for more than US$50.00 on eBay.

In his recent Newsweek interview, Microsoft founder Bill Gates should sound upbeat, because he’s just released his newest and best operating system (called “Windows Vista”). Instead, he sounds particularly peevish about Apple. He claims that Apple stole his interface ideas and recklessly rushed them to market while the Windows crew meticulously nailed down security issues. He also claims that hackers publish root-level exploits daily for Mac OS, but Windows takes months to crack. If these claims weren’t so transparently laughable, it might be worthwhile to point out that they’re bald-face lies, and that they reverse the truth nearly 180 degrees.

Toward the end of 1997, Price Waterhouse published its 1998 Price Waterhouse Technology Forecast. It predicted that by 2001, all servers would run Windows NT. It predicted that Unix would never break out of its niche market and soon would cease to be a major player. The words Linux and BSD didn’t appear in the guide once (I’d been using it for 4 years at this point, and NetBSD for 2 years). The perception everywhere was that “The World is Windows.” Or at least if it wasn’t, then it soon would be.

Today, serious servers run Linux or a BSD variant (e.g., FreeBSD, NetBSD, OpenBSD, MacOS X). Even mainframes run Linux (e.g., one of the hottest high-end solutions runs Linux servers on IBM zSeries mainframes). Windows is less well documented, less tractable, less stable, and less secure than any major Unix or Linux implementation. This was just as true in 1998 as it is today. The difference is that now, everybody knows it.

Windows’ second-rate performance in the server market isn’t news. Since 2002, the Linux market share for server units shipped has grown faster than Microsoft’s — by as much as three times. There’s no reason to suppose that Microsoft can reverse this trend. Many pundits agree that Linux will eventually overtake Microsoft in the server space.

Microsoft’s peripheral market is suffering as well. Do you know anyone who owns a Zune? I don’t either. I was recently at a trade show, where there were jars jammed full of business cards beneath signs reading, “Leave your business card to enter drawing for iPod.” At one booth, there was a jar beneath a sign that read, “Leave your business card to enter drawing for Zune.” There were three cards in that jar.

Of course, Microsoft has always been strongest in the desktop market, but customers are souring to Microsoft there, too. The new Windows “Vista” has been the largest marketing flop since the Microsoft’s Zune. The biggest news on that front is that “Vista” copies the Mac. Truth is, in 23 years since the Macintosh was first released, this is the first time that I’ve ever seen widespread recognition in the press that Windows is a rip-off of the Mac OS. Windows is no longer the coolest new thing for everyone who pretends there’s no alternative — it’s yesterday’s news.