Google chairman Eric Schmidt caused a bit of a stir last week when he said he didn't rank Microsoft as one of technology's Big Four – a statement you couldn't imagine hearing as little as five years ago.
Yet if Microsoft is to turn that around and become one of the major players again five years from now, the next few months are pivotal – in fact, we're entering arguably the most important time in Microsoft's history.
Not only are we about to see both Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 emerge, but there's also the imminent arrival of the Microsoft Surface tablet, which sees Microsoft cast in the unfamiliar role of tablet manufacturer.
It's a brave move, but one Microsoft seems willing to back itself on – to the extent that it has reportedly lined up component orders consistent with building 3 to 5 million Surfaces by the end of the year.
So says the Wall Street Journal after consulting with its component supplier sources in Asia, with production of the Windows 8 slates reportedly having got underway earlier this month.
If the numbers are accurate, and it seems feasible given that another recent rumour claimed a figure of 3 million units, it puts the Microsoft Surface in the same bracket as Amazon's Kindle Fire and Google's Nexus 7 in terms of initial production run.
That's still well short of the kind of numbers the Apple iPad is racking up – and the ballpark figures we're expecting from the iPad mini when it launches in the next couple of weeks.
But when you consider the Kindle Fire and Nexus 7 are the two top-selling Android tablets of all time, Microsoft is clearly taking this whole tablet business seriously.
Whether the Surface will actually sell anything like that number of units remains to be seen. Price is one obvious unknown, but there are others.
The two Android tablets it's being compared to are both 7in models coming in at under £200, but the Surface is a 10.6-incher, which means – in terms of size at least – it's pitched directly at the full-size Apple iPad, and we know how that's worked out for other tablet pretenders in the past.
Then of course there's the issue of Microsoft's other Windows 8 hardware partners. They've been kept waiting for a long time now for Microsoft to provide a version of Windows that's actually designed for touchscreen UIs, and are probably more than a little put out at having to build market share for the new OS while fighting off an unexpected hardware challenge from Microsoft itself.
At this point there remain more questions than answers, and by the end of the year we'll have a far clearer picture of what the future holds for Microsoft.
But to hazard a guess – and it is just a guess – I'd say regardless of whether Microsoft is actually building 3 to 5 million Surfaces or not, when it comes to actual unit sales it'll be lucky to get anywhere near that figure.