The aging giant

Since it decided to redirect its efforts toward the Internet, one particular company's "stock price has fallen by half, the portion of its revenue derived online has stagnated at about 5% ... and its online division has been losing money since 2005," observes Howard Weaver.

Sounds like a newspaper company? Actually, it's Microsoft.

Interestingly, both Microsoft and the newspaper industry have benefited, however temporarily, from the rise of the Internet.

Newspapers, especially the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times, experienced an advertising bubble that was closely related to the first Internet bubble.

Microsoft has seen a boom in Windows licenses as millions of people bought PCs specifically to browse the Web.

And for both Microsoft and newspapers, the seeds of destruction came along with those benefits.

For newspapers, it's an explosion of small competitors, each shaving away bits of time and attention and advertising money like an army of swarming ants.

For Microsoft, the Internet has enabled geographically scattered volunteers to collaborate on open-source software that is eclipsing the functionality of its expensive commercial wares. And it's enabled the rise of rich and powerful avowed enemies such as Google, which is funding projects aimed at unhorsing Microsoft in the nascent mobile networking space as well as disruptive Web-based applications such as Google Docs.

Many of us may think Microsoft deserves what's coming to them. It's worth keeping in mind that many people hold similar opinions about the "mainstream media."

The big difference, of course, is that Microsoft today is sitting on a mountain of available cash, while newspapers are experiencing an ownership crisis.