Penultimate column! This week at The Independent I’ve been musing on how quickly everything is changing about what companies portray themselves as doing online.

A few years ago, you knew where you were in computing. Microsoft made the software that powered pretty much everything computer-y you’d come into direct contact with, such as PCs. Palm did handhelds. Mobile phones were just phones. And Google did a web search engine.

Now? Well, where to start… Google does maps, satellite photos, e-mail, instant messaging, voice-over-internet phone calls, a free program to analyse website traffic (Google Analytics, launched this week), news searching, a shopping service and free blogging software (through

Palm is vanishing into a rump, and Microsoft is becoming dominant in handhelds. Mobile phones are getting more computer-like every day, taking pictures and playing music and videos; I now use mine for all my personal calendar and to-do lists, superseding my old Palm.

And Microsoft? Well, Microsoft is gamely trying to transform itself into something that doesn’t just do bits of software you have to stick into a computer’s CD-rom drive, or download off the internet. It’s trying to transform itself into a “services” company – in effect, to become a new Google or Yahoo!.

But can Microsoft really transform itself? Or will the Live project tear it apart – as a judge once wanted to do?