Curious about Microsoft’s next grand evil plan? You’ll be disappointed to hear that there is none.

Microsoft is at the moment just as confused and directionless as its industry peers. Microsoft has backpedaled on numerous strategic initiatives (software as a service: “we firmly believe in the destination but our course was off,”) sunk R&D money into fruitless new industry segments (PC and TV integration: “a difficult market to penetrate due to lack of consumer education,”) and shown outright schizophrenia towards its researchers (examples here must remain confidential.)

These are strange and interesting times for Microsoft and indeed the industry as a whole: traditional revenue streams will whither away within ten years; no new streams of true promise have yet to appear. Senior minds at Microsoft believe that the reign of MP3 music foreshadows the greater change to come: that ones and zeros - and anything readily transformed to ones and zeros – have no monetary future. Microsoft has frantically entered hardware and appliance markets as a result.

But Microsoft isn’t foolish. In the past, grass-roots efforts and technologies at the edge of innovation led to the next tidal wave of change in the industry. Microsoft missed Mosaic but they’re watching Linux with a magnifying lens. Despite Microsoft’s distaste for the open-source movement, the company is developing new strategic directions based not on technology but on reliability and community. The recent Trustworthy Computing initiative as outlined by Bill Gates is largely a response to the Linux threat; Microsoft genuinely intends to spend the next decade building a secure, stable, and likable computing experience for its customers.

That, in a nutshell, is the grand not-so-evil not-so-plan.