Jeff Reifman writes a fairly decent overview of the challenges facing Microsoft today, and pinpoints some of the major issues at the company. I'm a Mac partisan, but I think he should have toned down the Mac talk in his article--it sounds faintly evangelical, and he could use OS X as an example of building with open-source rather than a sort of religious conversion. Still, this remains a good groundwork for understanding where Microsoft finds itself today--just keep in mind that it's a powerful company with lots of brilliant folks, who can overcome inertia and bureaucracy by force of will when needed.
For my part I'm actually happy with Microsoft for the first time in years--they released a new version of Office for Mac, and this one actually responds promptly to commands and behaves the way I've always felt Office should. Granted, it's still a hellaciously complicated suite, and it still overdoes it on assuming what I want rather than making the options clear, but it's so much more usable than the last option that I'm finally using Word for actual writing--before this I'd do all my writing in TextEdit, a bare-bones text editor, because Word was just too crappy.
Also on the topic of optimizations, here's ten things Apple did to make OS X faster. Interesting reading if you use Panther, because each new release of OS X so far (knock wood) is actually faster than the last one, which has been a godsend in making older Macs viable for use in OS X.
Enough tech. Big day of rehearsals today--we're in the work up to our necks here.