OK, I know that I won't win any awards for the mixed metaphor that headlines this column. But, as I flipped through a recent issue of The Wall Street Journal and saw, first, a piece about Microsoft's woes with Internet Explorer and then a piece about the delay of WinFS beyond 2006, that is what came to mind.OK, I know that I won't win any awards for the mixed metaphor that headlines this column. But, as I flipped through a recent issue of The Wall Street Journal and saw, first, a piece about\u00a0Microsoft's woes with Internet Explorer and then a piece about the delay of WinFS beyond 2006, that is what came to mind.The story behind the story, in both cases, is that Microsoft is becoming a victim of its own success.The victory over Netscape in the browser wars left Microsoft with virtually all of the browser market. It thus became the sitting duck - target of choice for hackers worldwide. And despite Microsoft's best efforts, it remains the leading conduit for mischief and mayhem on the computers of Microsoft users worldwide.Now many security experts - with no malice toward Microsoft - recommend switching to another browser just to, in effect, "move into a better neighborhood." And waiting in the wings (to twist the duck metaphor even more) is a re-energized, open source alternative - Mozilla\u00a0Firefox.The Mozilla people know that Job No. 1 is stealing market share from Internet Explorer. Taking a page out of the Microsoft playbook, they've helpfully provided easy import of Internet Explorer bookmarks, cookies, etc.The browser is to today's applications as the 3270 terminal was to Enterprise applications of old. In fact, given the intelligence built directly into the browser, it is an even more important element than its older counterpart.Unlike the complex change from Microsoft Office to, say, Open Office, switching browsers is a relative snap. There are no back-end file issues to worry about, and most Web sites either rely on a common subset of capabilities or employ scripts to recognize the browser type and thereby adjust for its idiosyncrasies.There is a lot at stake here for Microsoft. Losing control of the ultimate portal software will undermine the company's ability to promote both front-end and back-end "Microsoft-preferred" technologies.For starters, Firefox has a Google search bar built in. Given Microsoft's stated intention to compete in this arena, this is bad news.Worse, Microsoft would lose the ability to control "extensions" to the browser. By keeping tight reins on the various APIs of its products, Microsoft (unlike IBM in the glory days of the mainframe) has been able to direct (or limit) the activities of third-party developers. That has given the company enormous power.Even though it has not yet reached Release 1.0, Firefox boasts some 145 extensions. These do everything from control what happens to ads to let one view a page written using Internet Explorer-only attributes.On the trailing edge, Microsoft continues to wrestle with the baggage of its ancient file system. WinFS, originally promised to arrive with Longhorn in 2006, will\u00a0arrive at some, more distant, unannounced future date.Some time ago Microsoft apparently realized that NTFS (an extension of the original 8.3 "FAT" file structure of the original MS-DOS) had reached the limits of what could be done with it.WinFS, which uses a database as its underlying structural element, would get us into the 20th century (if not the 21st) as far as file systems are concerned.But a massive task it is. I wonder if Bill Gates ever reflects on the fact that he now has to deal with issues that IBM had to deal with 25 years ago. Perhaps Microsoft should study how IBM migrated the mainframe from keyed VSAM files to relational databases in the 1980s.I was an IT manager during that time, and I can tell you that it wasn't a pretty sight. Moving a massive, installed user base of applications truly is a daunting task. But such are the perils of success.