Just because there has been a lot of talk lately about how Microsoft will come out of this quicksand that some people say it has fallen, I've decided to write something about it myself. Yes, I know I'm far from being an expert analyst on Microsoft, or on anything at all. But I do read and have opinions of my own.
Will Microsoft buy eBay? It would be an interesting move by Microsoft, with a lot of money involved, but I don't think that MS management really thinks this way. They always have this idea that MS can do something much better with MS technology.
There are few counter-examples that actually prove the point, but I'll cite only one: Hotmail - one of the WORST free email systems out there because it seems that nobody even maintains it any more. You can't search your email, its spam detector is absolutely terrible, it tends to be slow and has some strange restrictions like if you don't pay for it and don't access it for some time, they clean all your messages! What is Microsoft's answer to it? Create their own Windows Live Mail from scratch.
Then you have Windows Live Shopping, still in Beta. The most AJAX-intensive shopping site out there (out of the real ones, and not small stores or front ends to other stores, as far as I know), and one of the ugliest in my opinion. Also, it doesn't accept a lot of browsers. Anyway, not a great site at all, but built with MS technology by MS people.
So, my conclusion: I don't think so... The proud Microsoft will continue working on their own projects and never get anywhere. What do I think they should do? I never liked eBay and I'm not that big of a fan of Microsoft, so go ahead!
Will Microsoft buy Yahoo!? That's actually a new idea that I've read yesterday... Yahoo? That's way a lot of money and a lot of people! Surely it will be great to get almost 40% of the search market in one move, but the management headache that it will be to merge the monster that Yahoo is with Microsoft will be something that I don't think the "great" MS management can do correctly. I would be very scared if they decide to go with this idea. Scared for the quality of the internet.
So what is the future of Microsoft? In my opinion is a much smaller and leaner company. Break it apart (not necessarily in completely independent companies on the outside, but certainly on the inside), restructure all its management for this new reality and focus on core technologies like its operating system, database, email system, office suite; and open it so that people can use your system in the backend and not try to create a competing system. It might dilute the Microsoft brand recognition, but it will keep it in the market and not as this hated example of who you should beat.