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Microsoft Vs. Apple: It's Now Life or Death

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- When it comes to software giant Microsoft (MSFT) and its status among the ranks of current technology powers, it has become a case of either you like the company or you hate it. There seems to be no in-between.

The company is often loathed for the fact that it is not Apple (AAPL) and praised for not free-falling in the manner of Research in Motion (RIMM). However, it appears that Wall Street has already made up its mind about which camp it falls under and cares very little if anyone has taken notice.

It is clear that in order for Microsoft to earn any respect, it has to be exceptional going forward in its execution. Not only has Wall Street demonstrated a gross dislike for the company's management, but it appears incessantly unimpressed and ready to issue a thumbs down at a moment's notice for things that would otherwise generate standing ovations for lesser-known companies.

Be that as it may, this is the company's new reality and as it prepares to launch its highly anticipated Windows 8 operating system. I think that it understands what it needs to do.

For that reason, its life now depends on its success, because I don't envision a scenario where it can screw this up and expect to live to talk about it -- particularly in a market that is ready to punish anything with signs of slowing growth. However, investors continue to discount that the company understands where it is today and appreciates what is at stake. Although Apple and Google (GOOG) continue to get all of the press coverage, Microsoft has been working hard to expand Windows outside the chassis of the traditional PC and into the realm of mobility which includes tablets and smartphones.

To that end, it has partnered with ARM Holdings (ARMH) to employ its chip technology in Windows 8 -- a product it's betting will bring back its lost consumer market share in the realm of mobile devices and restore its innovative prowess. In typical Wall Street fashion, analysts have decided to take a "wait and see" attitude, which is understandable considering the lackluster results of previous OS launches. For that matter, Microsoft is still battling demons from its Vista launch. However, it appears that Apple is not taking this lightly and has countered with its own announcement of OSX Mountain Lion that is due out this summer.

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