Is Apple (or some other tech company) about to repeat Apple's great mistake? This is a question that keeps coming up. See Henry Blodget in January, for example. Just yesterday the idea had another outing in Apple's Second Date with History in the WSJ.

Apple almost went out of business 14 years ago, and many would have blamed what seemed one of the seminal business blunders in history.

Bill Gates was chatting with students at Stanford at the time and recalled letters he'd written to Steve Jobs begging him to allow cloning of Apple hardware. Had Mr. Jobs complied, Apple's operating system might have become the de facto universal standard, the one everybody wrote software for--a role that fell to Windows instead... If you think missing out on the riches that Microsoft created for its shareholders was an error, Mr. Jobs erred.

Did he, though? In the spirit of Zhou Enlai, it might be too early to say. The WSJ published its piece yesterday, just as Apple's market value surpassed Microsoft's.

Microsoft is a hugely powerful and profitable company in the tech world. Its Windows software runs 9 out of every 10 computers, while more than 500 million people use its Office software to perform their daily tasks, like writing letters or sending e-mail messages. These two franchises account for the bulk of Microsoft's annual revenue.

But Apple has the momentum. "Steve saw way early on, and way before Microsoft, that hardware and software needed to be married into something that did not require effort from the user," said Scott G. McNealy, the co-founder and longtime chief executive of Sun Microsystems.

Apple looks expensive at its current price, and Microsoft cheap...but still.

A couple of months ago I speculated that Apple had got the iPad wrong and said it wasn't for me. It arrived about a week ago and I'll share my impressions shortly. 

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