Beta
×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

A Former Microsoftie Forecasts Microsoft Doom

michael posted more than 10 years ago | from the watch-out-for-cacodemon-bob dept.

Microsoft 1015

Chris Holland writes "Jeff Reifman, a columnist for Seattle Weekly, has written a toe-curling editorial analysis of Microsoft's past and current missed opportunities, contrasted with its financial success, while covering in fair depth some of the most serious threats to their business model. Beyond the many choice quotes, I've found this article to be a very interesting read from somebody who has not only been on the inside, but also significantly developed his professional career thru Microsoft solutions."

cancel ×

1015 comments

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

The bigger they are... (-1, Flamebait)

Mick Ohrberg (744441) | more than 10 years ago | (#9324572)

Just like the romans and the nazis, both seeking world domination...

Re:The bigger they are... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9324647)

Yeah, holding back Apple and Linux is much akin to trying to exterminate all Jews and kill 10s of millions of people. Moron.

Please, doesn't anyone invoke Godwin's law on people any more? Does anyone remember what the Nazis *actually did*? Hint: they did more than just kill Netscape.

More like the Romans than the Nazis IMHO... (5, Insightful)

Penguinisto (415985) | more than 10 years ago | (#9324660)

They may well fall more like the Romans than the Nazis - by transmorgrifying into another powerful entity that dominates the whole of what it surveys, such as the way the Roman Imperium became the Roman Papacy that held sway over all of Medieval Europe.

My biggest reason for saying this involves the fact that Microsoft is also too large to just topple outright, and there is too much of the industry tied up in Windows technology for it to just suddenly become irrelevant, not to mention all the legacy apps and documents that'll require continued support no matter what OS or technology eventually rises to new dominance (.doc, ferinstance.)

I guess that, even as an admitted Linux/Mac partisan, Microsoft isn't just going to die in some Nazi-ish 'Gates-eating-a-bullet-in-a-Redmond-bunker' gotterdammerung, as much as it will just become something else, and still hold sway to some extent after it does.

So yeah - out of the two examples you picked, I'd pick the Roman one as being the one most likely to come true.

Re:More like the Romans than the Nazis IMHO... (2, Informative)

bsDaemon (87307) | more than 10 years ago | (#9324827)

Imperium means the power to execute authority. Imperator is one who executes authority. These words are from even the very beginning of the Republic. There was no office "emperor," ever. Augustus was "princes interpares" or "first among equals" (first citizen), but held the consulship and tribunition power at the same time with many consecutive elections. The principate gave way to the dominate under Diocletian (Catholic ceremony is based on the Imperial Cult under Diocletian). However, the fact is there never was a "Roman empire" in the sense that there was an office called emperor. Pompey was hailed as Imperator, but was nothing more than a General, Senator, and Consul. Caesar was Imperator, but was Consul, then Dictator for 10 years, later for life, at the word of the Senate. The senate became merely a formality after Octavian, but still, it was always SPQR -- Senatus Publiusque Romanus -- The Senate and the People, in whose name the emperor declared anything.

Damn you! (2, Funny)

Malc (1751) | more than 10 years ago | (#9324696)

I hate it when first post invokes Godwin's law... ... or perhaps I should thank you on behalf of my employer.

Re:Damn you! (1)

bsDaemon (87307) | more than 10 years ago | (#9324725)

is your employer the NSDAP?

virtuous men (1)

bsDaemon (87307) | more than 10 years ago | (#9324699)

the Romans were but virtuous men who conqured the world in self defence. ask any Classics professor, and they'll "prove" it to you. and the Nazis were only going to conquor half the world. the other half was for Japan. I guess Italy got Africa (as if NS Germany would want THAT joint... "oi vey!").

Microsoft is more like Japan. Even like current Japan. Monopoly is a way of life. It's expected and encouraged.

A new /. record ? (1)

Ploum (632141) | more than 10 years ago | (#9324705)

Well, we need to wait for the jury but this is perhaps the quickier Goldwin point ever seen on slashdot...

The question is : can we give a goldwin point to this comment or not?

MODS ON CRACK !!! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9324706)

Romans and NAZIs were mass murderers and it is ignorant to trivialize them in comparison to a software vendor.

A comparison to Western Oil or Wal-Mart would be more appropriate.

Re:The bigger they are... (0)

pigeon (909) | more than 10 years ago | (#9324738)

.. and some would say, the americans..

And some would say... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9324824)

You are a douchebag!

Re:The bigger they are... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9324804)

uhm.....don't you mean just like Americans???

Re:The bigger they are... (-1, Flamebait)

bsDaemon (87307) | more than 10 years ago | (#9324845)

we're the biggest kid on the block, capeable of fighting on at least 2 fronts at any one time. We could take on the whole world, subjugate you all to Empire withing 6 months. But we don't. We should, but we don't. So fuck you.

IANAFW... (Finance Whiz) (3, Interesting)

grub (11606) | more than 10 years ago | (#9324580)


Earlier on in the article he says:
Microsoft had $32 billion in revenue last year.
Yet near the end he says:
Income of $16 billion is expected in fiscal year 2005.
By "Income" does he mean "Profit" or is MS actually predicting a 50% revenue drop over the previous year?

Re:IANAFW... (Finance Whiz) (5, Informative)

leadsling (734216) | more than 10 years ago | (#9324632)

Revenue is what you take in. Income is what you keep. (AKA profit) Gives you a clue as to what their markup is (:-0)

Re:IANAFW... (Finance Whiz) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9324669)


Thanks, that's what I was thinking. I've never heard a Ferengi speak about "income"...

Re:IANAFW... (Finance Whiz) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9324693)

When why "Income Taxes" and not "Revenue Taxes"? That's confusing.

Re:IANAFW... (Finance Whiz) (4, Informative)

leerpm (570963) | more than 10 years ago | (#9324774)

Because you don't pay Income Tax on your gross sales (revenue), you pay it on your net profits (income). So when companies are looking for write-off's, it means they are trying to find ways to reduce their net profits on paper, so as to to pay less taxes.

Re:IANAFW... (Finance Whiz) (2, Interesting)

FuzzyShrimp (751090) | more than 10 years ago | (#9324653)

What conrete, brick, and glass "investments" need to be made to sell the same software over and over each year? I mean, everything M$ sells now should be pure profit since nothing new ever comes out of them anymore. Hence a cash cow.

Re:IANAFW... (Finance Whiz) (1)

nelsonal (549144) | more than 10 years ago | (#9324783)

He means profit after taxes and the like, but that does not include equity (and any remaining option compensation). MS usually runs in the high 40% operating margin range (depending on XBox and MSN sales compare to Windows and Office sales) and their investment portfolio makes an additional $2-$4 billion (depending on how equities do) a year. Equity compensation eats about $3-4 billion/year but gets ignored for comparability to competitors.

John Carmack's not happy! (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9324581)

John Carmack can't be happy about Microsoft embrace and extend to his video game! It's sounds funny anyway: Microsoft Doom
It's almost like the company had troubles or something.

Re:John Carmack's not happy! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9324627)

I thought it was released like, 7-8 years ago?

News For Slashdot? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9324582)

I thought slashdot was a Linux advocacy site, why such focus on Microsoft here? If I want biz news on microsoft, there's plenty of better places to find it. Placing selective, Microsoft bashing articles makes this site look so juvenile. Aren't the editors out of college now?

Yes, Microsoft may be doomed, I thought everybody here has predicted it already. Why do you people care so much?

Re:News For Slashdot? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9324620)

Where exactly does it say it's a "Linux advocacy site"? It's news for nerds. Yes, there are quite knowledgeable Microsoft nerds as well.

Re:News For Slashdot? (1)

Perl-Pusher (555592) | more than 10 years ago | (#9324784)

Sometimes I forget with all the paper MCSE's running around. I interviewed one a couple of years ago he had a six week crash course and a high school education. He wanted $70k. After we had a good laugh, we hired a guy with a BS in Information Systems working on his MAsters in Computer Science with experience with UNIX/Linux & Windows. One year later we converted to all linux. Our conversion went smooth as butter.

Re:News For Slashdot? (0)

obsoletemind (672920) | more than 10 years ago | (#9324626)

Since when was slashdot dedicated to Linux?

Correct me if I'm wrong, i wasnt aware of this.

Re:News For Slashdot? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9324644)

Since when was slashdot dedicated to Linux?

You must be new here.

Re:News For Slashdot? (1)

obsoletemind (672920) | more than 10 years ago | (#9324740)

...reasonably new. I wasnt aware of the linux dedication over other topics. There always seems to be quite a mixture of subjects covered. I thought that was the idea.

Re:News For Slashdot? (1)

minus9 (106327) | more than 10 years ago | (#9324837)

When I just checked, the word Microsoft appeared 8 times on the front page. Linux only appeared once.

Re:News For Slashdot? (5, Insightful)

torpor (458) | more than 10 years ago | (#9324729)

Yes, Microsoft may be doomed, I thought everybody here has predicted it already. Why do you people care so much?

This is a false perception. Not everyone on slashdot wants Microsoft to fail, or is predicting it. Just the most vocal members.

You don't hear from "pro-Microsoft" people, simply because the "anti-MS" people are louder, more 'righteous', and more willing to aubse their essential liberties in order to start a flame war.

I believe that most 'sane' geeks truly understand that Microsoft is a company, like any other, and performs under traditional company rules ... pretty well, too.

But times are changing, and the discourse you may observe on these times, here at /., is intended to give us all a picture of what may come to pass ... not what will ...

I detest Microsoft. I haven't used their products in years, and I stopped purchasing anything that will in any way give them more control over the computing industry. But, if they were to change their ways, and demonstrate that as a group (rather large), they are capable of cleaning up their act, I would give them a second chance.

But not until "ms_windows.tar.gz" cleanly compiles, straight off the 'net, with my own compiler (not theirs) ... heh heh ...

Re:News For Slashdot? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9324767)

Linux fucking sucks you Torvalds weenies.

Re:News For Slashdot? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9324812)

You are looking for OSNews.com [osnews.com] where the most unpopular OS in the world for some strange reason also happens to be the most newsworthy.

"thru" (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9324583)

:-(

Please.

Re:"thru" (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9324663)

> Please.

Uh, ok ...

THRUst vectoring owns the sky!!!

Re:"thru" (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9324727)

Hmm, one of those things that really puts you off isn't it.

Article Text in case of slashdotting (-1, Redundant)

jimicus (737525) | more than 10 years ago | (#9324587)

Microsoft's Sacred Cash Cow
A former Microsoftie says addiction to Windows revenue, mediocre products, and missed opportunities could doom Seattle's most successful company.

by Jeff Reifman

(Illustration by Dean MacAdam)

Jeff Reifman builds Internet tools for nonprofit organizations as director of technology at Groundspring.org. In his spare time, he writes the progressive political journal IDEAlog.us.

Why are Microsoft products so endlessly frustrating to use? Even techno-geeks like me get annoyed by Windows. I'm tired of spending the first 10 minutes of my day rebooting just so I can get to work. Microsoft Outlook 2003, the latest version of the company's e-mail and calendar software, hangs for me about once a day, requiring me to restart my PC. I also have a problem with Word 2003: Whenever I bullet a line of text, every line in the document gets a bullet. Asking Windows to shut down is more of a request than a command--it might, it might not. And recently, Internet Explorer stopped opening for me.

I know I'm not alone. If you're like me, you've invested in technology to become more efficient and productive but mutter about the many frustrations of the digital lifestyle. Technology is my hobby as well as my job, so I regularly ponder why software giant Microsoft Corp., which has more than $56 billion in cash, hasn't solved more of these problems.

I began using Microsoft products 23 years ago, at age 11, and I worked for Microsoft from 1991 to 1999 as a technology manager. For many years, I was a Microsoft loyalist. While aware of Microsoft's shortcomings, I always believed that the Soft did its best to improve products over time, as it did with Windows XP. But recently, I've had a crisis of faith. Perhaps I've rebooted Windows one too many times.

I've had a crisis of faith. Last month I went out and bought a Macintosh G5 and began using the new Mac operating system, OS X. It has been a breath of badly needed fresh air after Windows.

Over the past year, my frustration with Windows grew, as did my envy of Apple's cool new products. Finally, last month I went out and bought an Apple Macintosh G5 and began using the new Mac operating system, OS X. It had been years since I'd used a Macintosh. Until recently, I dismissed those who did as impractical, elitist hipsters, and I mocked the Mac "switch" ads on TV.

But in the first five minutes on my new Mac, I was surfing the Internet, sending e-mail, and ripping a CD. OS X has been a breath of badly needed fresh air after Windows.

This made me wonder about Microsoft's willingness to innovate and compete. Why are Microsoft products still so difficult to use and so unreliable? Why is the company improving them so slowly? Is Microsoft losing its competitive edge? Has the company seen its best days?

The Web's phenomenal growth has driven a number of fundamental changes. And from my vantage, at least, Microsoft seems to have overlooked the most important of those trends. It made a series of missteps, and it's not clear if it has learned from them. In protecting Windows and Office revenues, Microsoft has innovated less quickly than it could have. The company relies on the same strategy that helped it years ago come to dominate the personal-computer market with the Windows operating system, despite mounting evidence that its customers are looking for a new approach. Competitors such as Linux and Google are gaining, and Microsoft seems unprepared for the road ahead.

My Time at Microsoft

I arrived at Microsoft the week I turned 21. I was fortunate to spend the next eight years growing up on the Redmond campus. I learned nearly everything I know about project management there. I became a more critical thinker. And, like many others, I was very fortunate financially. In time, my stock options allowed me to pursue a for-profit dot-com startup, as well as a series of socially responsible nonprofit ventures.

I spent my first four years at the company working to build Windows into fax machines and other office devices. When the growth of e-mail made our work irrelevant, the group was disbanded. In 1995, I helped launch a news site for the fledgling MSN. Less than a year later, NBC joined us to launch MSNBC.com.

In 1997 and 1998, while still at Microsoft, I started two not-for-profit coffeehouses on Capitol Hill, Habitat Espresso and the Four Angels Cafe. Microsoft allowed me to moonlight, and the company's PR folks promoted my efforts as an example of a community-minded Microsoftie.

In 1998, I worked on a team developing prototypes for future versions of Windows, but I became frustrated with the group's lack of focus. I spent my last year working in e-commerce on Shop.Microsoft.com, Microsoft's online retail store. In 1999, I left Microsoft to found GiftSpot.com, a startup that was later acquired by GiftCertificates.com.

In 2001, I started a nonprofit organization called ActionStudio, which builds Web tools for nonprofit organizations. We've since merged with another nonprofit called Groundspring.org, which is where I currently work. I find socially responsible technology work most fulfilling but still enjoy keeping up on the overall industry.

A Victim of Its Own Success

Microsoft had $32 billion in revenue last year. The Windows franchise is an impressively consistent revenue stream. "Financially, there's nothing wrong with the way Microsoft is doing right now," says Paul Andrews, a Seattle Times columnist, author of How the Web Was Won, a book about Microsoft, and co-author of the biography Gates. "It has an incredible record through the economic downturn." By any measure, Microsoft is one of the most successful companies in history.

But Microsoft's attempts to diversify into consumer businesses have yet to pay off: 68 percent of its revenue still comes from Windows and Office sales--more than 80 percent if you include the Windows server software used by so many businesses. The company must protect these core products. "The prime directive at Microsoft is to protect Windows and get customers to buy Windows and upgrades to Windows," says Matt Rosoff, lead analyst at Directions on Microsoft, a Kirkland-based newsletter.

Microsoft clings to this strategy because it has to. Its stock price relies largely on the continued strength of Windows and the Office suite of applications (Word, Excel, Outlook, PowerPoint, etc.). But Microsoft's dominance is an aberration in an otherwise competitive technology industry. Windows, Office, and the Internet Explorer Web browser all have greater than 90 percent share of their respective markets. To protect the cash cows, Microsoft must do things that no other software company would be doing right now. It's a victim of its own success.

Many PC makers now offer a choice of Linux or Windows. Recently, Wal-Mart began selling a $298 PC with Sun's flavor of the Linux operating system. Price erosion is clearly going to draw some blood from Windows.

Microsoft hasn't solved many of the software problems I described earlier in part because of the lack of competition. "One of the most frustrating things about Windows is how it steals time from us," says Andrews, who has followed the company for years. Andrews hasn't upgraded his PC from Windows 98 or Office 2000. "I'd just as soon have a stable operating system--my time is more important."

Andrews was surprised to learn recently that Jim Allchin, Microsoft group vice president of platforms, didn't realize that many users don't buy new computers because of how hard it is to move all their data and applications. "He was totally oblivious to this," Andrews says. "It's a couple-day process. His head was in the clouds."

Apple, on the other hand, has built a friendly and reliable operating system, OS X (as in the Roman numeral), in part by building on free components from the open-source software community. With open-source software, individuals and companies can build on each other's work and redistribute enhanced products for profit as long as they make their new source code available to the developer community. There is a special energy associated with products that are built by communities of people and companies working together. It's optimization of global resources. Open source is where the software industry's momentum is right now.

I just rid myself of my Windows computer, switching my work to the Mac and OS X because of the reliability it has shown as I've added peripherals and other software. I know I won't waste as much time making the technology simply work. In most ways, OS X is superior to Windows XP.

While OS X is not completely an open-source product, Apple clearly benefited from using some open-source technologies. The open-source software components that Apple used, from a widely used computer operating system called Unix, have been tested and improved in universities and corporate settings for more than 20 years. Companies using such open-source systems are finding they don't have to reinvent the wheel every three years--and they get their products to market faster.

Microsoft is resisting the trend to open-source software development, in part because its entire Windows revenue stream could dwindle to a trickle if it did so. If Microsoft began building Windows with open-source software, competitors like IBM and Novell might be able to sell Windows to their customers without having to pay royalties to Microsoft. "The open-source business model is the one trend Microsoft can't follow," says Edward Jung, co-founder of Intellectual Ventures and a former senior software architect at Microsoft. Microsoft's need to preserve its enormous ongoing Windows revenue is a burden that other companies don't have.

Instead, Microsoft seems to have chosen the most logical alternative--stay the course, compete aggressively, and innovate as quickly as possible to keep up with the competition. If Microsoft provides a superior product, users will continue to choose Windows over products such as Linux (another Unix-based operating system) and OS X--or so the company thinks.

Recently, though, Microsoft announced that its next major Windows release, code-named "Longhorn," might be delayed beyond 2006 unless it is significantly pared down. It's already been three years since the release of Windows XP, and customers still have quality and security problems with it. Microsoft is so concerned about Windows XP security that it will likely give away its next upgrade to fix vulnerabilities and make it easier to deliver future fixes automatically.

To comprehensively address security issues, Microsoft has said it is building Longhorn from the ground up. Any time you start building an operating system from scratch, you create all sorts of unanticipated problems. If you are waiting for Microsoft to improve the consumer experience, you'll have to be patient.

The Longhorn slip might be Microsoft's biggest failure ever. It is beyond comprehension how the company could let five years lapse between major upgrades of its flagship product. Microsoft's missteps have opened a gaping window of opportunity for competitors.

An Open-Source Future

Microsoft's position on software licensing dates back to the beginning of personal computing. At a time when many hobbyists thought software should be free, Bill Gates challenged this notion in an open letter, igniting the first software piracy controversy. Ever since, Gates has made billions on software, while the free software movement has grown more slowly.

But open-source development is inevitable. Open-source products will soon offer features comparable to Windows and Office for the core needs of users. When this happens, Microsoft will need to have reinvented itself--and to have created completely new revenue streams to make up for the erosion of Windows and Office shares of their respective markets. If you want a sense of how soon this might happen, download OpenOffice from www.openoffice.org and give it a try. There's no e-mail program, and it definitely lacks the sophisticated features of Office 2003, but it's free. If you want to try a free, open-source e-mail program, visit www.mozilla.org and download Thunderbird.

To remain attractive to investors, Microsoft must demonstrate that it can replace lost revenue by diversifying into new businesses. But only billion-dollar product segments matter to such a big company.

Microsoft admits that one of its biggest challenges is getting users of its products to upgrade to new releases. Fewer than 3 percent of Microsoft Office users have upgraded to the latest version. Microsoft says that it is its own biggest competitor, but in the absence of significant innovation, the real threat is customers defecting to less expensive alternatives like OpenOffice.

How real is the open-source threat for Microsoft? Open-source technologies have always dominated Web-server software, the applications that deliver Web pages. According to NetCraft, a well-known Web site that tracks technology on the Internet, the open-source Apache Web server leads Microsoft's Internet Information Server by 67 percent to 21 percent market share. Meanwhile, open source's foray to the desktop has only begun.

Even when customers don't defect, they use open-source alternatives to demand better pricing from Microsoft. Governments and large corporations-- huge purchasers of software--are starting to embrace open software development. These trends threaten Microsoft's long-term earnings potential. I've learned through my work with ActionStudio that large, nonprofit foundations, as well, are predisposed to support the use of open-source tools. At Groundspring, we've made a commitment to move all of our new development to open-source systems.

And as a result of concessions that Microsoft made prior to the 2000 U.S. antitrust trial, many PC manufacturers now offer a choice of Linux or Windows on new computers. If you are technologically savvy, you can download Linux for free, or you can buy a more polished version from a company like RedHat. Recently, Wal-Mart began selling a $298 PC with Sun's flavor of the Linux operating system and its Star Office software (a derivative of OpenOffice). Price erosion in the high-volume, low-end PC market is clearly going to draw some blood.

Microsoft isn't blind to the open-source threat. It has appointed an experienced executive, Martin Taylor, to work more closely with open-source developers and to get corporate customers to analyze the total cost of ownership of software purchases. Some studies show that free software might be just as expensive by the time you support it and customize it. Others strongly discount such claims, saying they are based on incorrect assumptions and old releases of Linux, which were more difficult to use. In any event, large customers are starting to see the potential to save money, and major site installations with Linux have begun to appear. Even Third World countries are adopting open source because the traditional cost-of-ownership calculus doesn't apply to them. Software licensing fees are much higher than the cost of technical support in those countries.

While open source is beginning to appeal to businesses, many consumers are happy just using a Web browser to surf and manage e-mail. With the growing availability of Internet access and portable devices like the Blackberry, owning a PC isn't as important anymore.

Now that open-source products are starting to cut into Microsoft's market share, the questions are just how much will they take and how soon will they take it? To remain attractive to investors, Microsoft must demonstrate that it can replace and augment lost revenue by diversifying into new businesses, but only billion-dollar product segments matter to such a big company. Even the Xbox game platform and MSN can't bring in that kind of money.

Microsoft declined to comment on the open-source challenge, but CEO Steve Ballmer wrote in a recent strategy memo to employees that was leaked on the Internet: "Noncommercial software products in general, and Linux in particular, present a competitive challenge for us and for our entire industry, and they require our concentrated focus and attention. . . . In this environment of lean budgets and concerns about Microsoft's attention to customers, noncommercial software such as Linux and OpenOffice is seen as an interesting, 'good enough' or 'free' alternative."

For now, Microsoft's success creates problems that most software companies can only dream about. "Microsoft was asking me for $50 million business ideas in 1990, but by 2000 they were looking for billion-dollar businesses," says Jung, who co-founded several teams while at Microsoft. "Billion-dollar businesses are really hard." For the sake of comparison, look at Apple's wildly successful iPod digital music player. Apple recently reported a 909 percent increase in sales of the iPod, for a quarterly net profit of $46 million. This is chump change to Microsoft--nowhere near enough to make up for erosion in sales of Windows or Office.

Missed Opportunities

One multibillion-dollar opportunity has come along, however, and Microsoft has missed it. It's the Internet services business. Microsoft could have created a huge new revenue stream by delivering a suite of add-on services for Windows customers:

The ability to log in to all our favorite Web sites with one password.

Spam blocking for our e-mail accounts.

Calendar sharing with colleagues and friends to schedule meetings.

Automatic address book updates for all our contacts.

A virtual hard drive on the Internet for sharing files, photos, and music with our friends and access to these files via the Internet while traveling anywhere in the world.

Synchronization of our Internet bookmarks across all our computers.

Online profiles of personal information that we could choose to share with Web sites and social networks.

Regular backup of files to a storage site on the Internet.

Regular application and system- security updates.

One-step migration of files and programs to a new computer.

Apple provides a service similar to what I've described, called .Mac, for $99.95 annually. Signing up 20 million Windows users (a fraction of the worldwide installed base) to services that cost, say, $19.95 per month would generate more than $4.7 billion in revenue annually. MSN should have offered these kinds of services long ago. But it hasn't, and as a result, there are some funny disconnects within the Microsoft product line. Users of Microsoft's free Hotmail e-mail have better spam protection than small business users who buy Microsoft's Exchange Server. MSN Premium customers, who pay $9.95 per month, can share calendar information and schedule meetings with other MSN customers on the Web, but Exchange customers can't.

Microsoft's lack of a service strategy is a stunning oversight. More amazing, Microsoft came close to pursuing one. If Microsoft had made its Passport service available for free, we would not have to remember different account names and passwords for each of our favorite Web sites. If you've used Hotmail, you've already registered for Microsoft Passport. The Passport technology can let you log in with a single password and then authenticate you to other Microsoft services or even external Web sites.

From a business perspective, Passport could have been an extremely effective way for Microsoft to connect with more Internet users. But instead of recognizing the value of offering this as a free Internet service, Microsoft decided that it wanted to charge companies for using Passport. At GiftSpot.com, we considered licensing Passport to make it easier for our customers to buy online gift certificates, but Microsoft's fees were too high. Other Internet sites like ours just didn't see a benefit in licensing Passport from Microsoft. So Passport never expanded beyond providing access to other Microsoft sites.

Microsoft originally did have plans to provide services for Windows as part of a poorly named product called Hailstorm. In the midst of its antitrust troubles, Microsoft announced that Hailstorm would work with Windows to store all of our data and files in an expanded Passport database, allowing us to share information with our favorite Web sites as we wished. Privacy advocates complained loudly, fearing a world in which Microsoft held all of our personal and private information on its servers. Microsoft abandoned the product. But it could have avoided these concerns, and made the service more lucrative, by offering it as a separate server product that allowed other companies to host their own data warehouses, using the Hailstorm technology. This is something Microsoft's done successfully in the past with its mail, work-group, and commerce-server technologies. Instead, Microsoft built Windows primarily as a desktop solution without closely linked Internet services. As the world wired itself to the Internet, Microsoft left Windows unplugged.

Google Fills A Void

When I first read, on April 1, that Google's Gmail service would offer 1 gigabyte of e-mail storage (1,000 times the amount offered by competitors such as Hotmail), I thought it was an April Fool's Day joke. But it was no joke. Google actually discourages users from deleting e-mail they've read, because Gmail uses keywords in your e-mail to send you advertisements based on your interests. One of my friends calculated that he could send and receive e-mail until 2007 before he would need more storage space. For the record, he also said that every ad he'd received as a beta tester of Gmail had interested him.

With the rise of the Internet and e-mail, many computer users just don't need the full power of Windows. They can get by with a Web browser, a search engine like Google, and Gmail.

The likely next step for Google is to offer its customers remote storage space, a virtual hard drive on which to store all of your files, share them with friends and colleagues, and access them from anywhere. Microsoft should be very concerned about this. With the rise of the Internet and e-mail, many computer users just don't need the full power of Windows; they can get by with a Web browser, a search engine like Google, and Gmail. The $298 Wal-Mart non-Windows PC from Sun makes a great platform for accessing these services. This is very bad for Microsoft because it creates downward pricing pressure on Windows and Office.

The other reason Microsoft should be concerned is that competing with Google on this scale is a huge technical task. After it launched MSN, Microsoft went through the painful process of learning that managing and supporting service-based businesses was entirely different from developing and shipping software on CDs. Microsoft still occasionally has outages with Microsoft Passport, Messenger, Hotmail, and MSN that upset customers. In contrast, managing complex services well is something that Google has built its entire business on. I don't remember ever seeing Google's Web site not respond, or even respond slowly.

Google has quietly put together a talented group of computer scientists who know how to solve the complex challenges of maintaining what is known as scalable, distributed computing that links many small computers to act as a big one. The New York Times recently reported that Google has built a network of more than 100,000 servers (all running the open-source Linux operating system, by the way). One employee recently compared working at Google to having access to the world's most powerful supercomputer. Its primary product now is search, but Google is building the capability to host everyone's files, e-mails, photos, and music on the Internet as well. If Microsoft waits too long to embrace services like these, it might not be able to catch Google, and the task would probably be more difficult than the effort Microsoft launched in the 1990s to catch Netscape in the browser wars.

Microsoft spokesperson Jim Desler declined to comment on rumors of Google's move into the services business. More immediately, he says, "Search is both a technology and a marketing challenge. What you see now is just a snapshot in time that will change a year from now and two years from now." So far, though, Google has outdone Microsoft in technology and marketing.

Matching Google's brand development might be a greater challenge than matching the technology. Microsoft's always been an uneven marketer, while Google's already established itself in our consciousness. Google is a verb now. Admittedly, though, creating search engines to serve millions of users is an easier task than offering other remote services, such as e-mail and file sharing. Jung, the former Microsoft senior architect, is more reflective when discussing Google's prospects: "At the end of the day, Silicon Valley companies fall prey to their own PR. One thing I give credit to Microsoft for is it's always paranoid of the invisible threat. I'd like to see more of that in Google."

And with Google's public stock offering, many of its employees are becoming rich. This kind of success can weaken a company, as Microsoft learned during the 1990s, when many of its employees retired to enjoy their newfound wealth.

Microsoft now faces a different kind of sloth. University of Baltimore law professor Robert Lande says, "Microsoft, like almost all monopolies, has become fat and lazy. Monopolies do not engage in innovation with the same urgency because they don't have to innovate to stay in business."

Meanwhile, Microsoft continues to promise solutions for tomorrow that customers need today. A good example is the company's plan to improve its own search engine. For many, the holy grail of search is a unified approach that will allow users to search their e-mail, files, and the Web from their desktop. Since 2000, Google has offered a free, downloadable toolbar that is a handy add-on for Internet Explorer. It makes it easy to search the Web without going to the Google Web site. It will not be hard for Google to add the capability to search your PC and your e-mail. The New York Times recently reported that Google plans to offer such a tool "soon." This is the type of innovation that I would have expected from Microsoft long ago. MSN recently released its own toolbar to access the MSN Web-search engine, but it doesn't have the ability to also search the user's PC. In response to Google, Microsoft announced last week that it would move up the timeline for unified search, providing the capability in stages over the next year. It had originally planned to implement it in Longhorn--sometime by 2006--by redesigning the entire PC file system.

Betting on Longhorn and .NET

One Microsoft innovation is .NET, a development platform for building and managing applications for Windows that work more closely with the Internet. The growing popularity of Sun's competing Java-based programming platform pressured Microsoft to improve its own. Everyone I spoke to had positive things to say about .NET. Even some Java developers are now excited about developing on Windows.

Yet Microsoft seems to be pursuing the same old platform-centric strategy, hoping that it will help continue Windows' dominance. Microsoft has always had success by luring application developers to the Windows platform. In turn, customers would buy Windows because it ran all of their favorite programs. Microsoft hopes to repeat this with .NET. But the Internet browser has made it easy for application developers, as software programmers are known, to build products that can be used with any operating system. Many of today's most compelling products are Web-based applications that run just as well on Linux with the FireFox browser or OS X with Apple's Safari browser as they do on Windows.

In part due to open-source products, developers now have many choices in building Internet software and services. With .NET, Microsoft hopes again to lock developers into Windows, as it could before so many tools and resources migrated from the PC desktop to the platform- neutral World Wide Web. But much of what Microsoft has promised programmers has been delayed by the lengthy timeline of Longhorn. And a new open-source project called Mono will make it possible for .NET applications to run on Linux or OS X. So the notion that the proprietary .NET programming tool will be a successful answer to open-source development efforts on the Web is mistaken--akin to thinking that winning the browser war with Internet Explorer would achieve control of the Web. Similarly, Microsoft's dominance on the PC desktop, with Windows and Office, could be neutralized as the value of sophisticated networks of Internet-based servers, like Google's, increases. The shift of importance, from control of the desktop to networks of services, levels the playing field and makes Microsoft vulnerable.

Banking on Windows

My most memorable moment at Microsoft came during a technical review with Bill Gates. I will never forget the moment when I made an apparently obvious point to him. He responded, "What? Do you think I'm stupid?" Everyone was staring at me, and I felt it best not to answer. Like Gates, there were always people at Microsoft who were much smarter than me and more technically skilled. But he's created a corporate culture that sometimes struggles to see the forest for the trees--and I think this is what has led to some of the challenges that it faces today.

My biggest complaint about Microsoft is how hesitant they are to update Windows in a more modular fashion over time, instead saving innovation for large updates every several years. Apple, in contrast, is updating OS X monthly and sometimes weekly.

While the monolithic development process helps Microsoft plan and deliver long-term innovations like Longhorn, it's harder to test and release these products in a timely manner. The open-source community updates products continually, so customers don't have to wait as long for new features. MSN Messenger, the instant-messaging application, and Windows Media Player, which plays audio and video, have benefited from frequent updates, but Microsoft hasn't updated Internet Explorer since 2001. I'd like to see Microsoft add unified search to Windows XP or support for Internet file sharing, but it won't happen until Longhorn ships.

Keith Rowe, my former manager at MSNBC.com, used to say that the most important skill of a manager is to know when to kill your own project. I don't think new, better ideas that would take business away from Windows or Office really have a chance at Microsoft. The company is addicted to the revenue from these flagship products and is afraid to go in new directions that might initially hurt the bottom line.

Microsoft is flush with $56 billion in cash and short-term investments. Income of $16 billion is expected in fiscal year 2005. It dominates the most profitable segments of the software industry-- operating systems and productivity applications. It attracts talented, creative people and gives them the time to innovate. I have no doubt that Microsoft will lead the industry with some incredible advances in the coming years.

But Microsoft's market share in desktop operating systems, servers, and productivity software can go no higher. Its core businesses face gradual erosion to competitive operating systems such as Linux and OS X. It faces challenges from new approaches like services offered by Google and the growth of dedicated consumer devices that make owning a traditional personal computer less necessary.

Meanwhile, Microsoft doesn't evoke passion in me anymore. Its products don't excite me anymore. I remember eagerly looking forward to Outlook 2003, only to be disappointed by how complex, buggy, and unimproved it was. "There's kind of an angst," says Andrews, the Seattle Times columnist and author. "Microsoft ought to matter to us. There ought to be more of an intellectual and emotional connection. There just isn't."

In an age when retailers hire consultants to analyze what hip kids do, you'd think Microsoft would care more about what the hip kids are doing. They're running around with iPods, using Linux and OS X. A Groundspring intern e-mailed me recently about his new Apple PowerBook: "I think I may be smitten by a computer." That's the kind of passion I'm talking about. In its search for market share, dominance, and profits, Microsoft lost the ultimate battle for our hearts and minds. For now, though, it's still laughing all the way to the bank.

info@seattleweekly.com

ARTICLE TROLL! MOD DOWN! (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9324636)

bought an Apple Macintrash G5 and began


Just one example. There are many more. This type of troll is the stupidest of them all although it is ammusing sometimes.

Artice text troll. Mod down (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9324760)

Troll, Read the whole thing.

Mod down.

TROLL ALERT (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9324803)

MOD DOWN. TROLL.

TROLL (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9324829)

This is a troll, mod down.

Re:Article Text in case of slashdotting (1)

AaronGTurner (731883) | more than 10 years ago | (#9324843)

"Synchronization of our Internet bookmarks across all our computers." I'd like to know how to do this on Linux, across multiple browers and machines, let alone Windows.

Nice treatise (4, Interesting)

erick99 (743982) | more than 10 years ago | (#9324591)

A well written and informative article. A few thoughts:

. I'm tired of spending the first 10 minutes of my day rebooting just so I can get to work.
I must be very lucky because I typically go weeks without rebooting.

...many users don't buy new computers because of how hard it is to move all their data and applications.
Absolutely

Microsoft admits that one of its biggest challenges is getting users of its products to upgrade to new releases. Fewer than 3 percent of Microsoft Office users have upgraded to the latest version
I can't use all of the features in Office 200 yet....

Synchronization of our Internet bookmarks across all our computers
Now wouldn't THAT be nice?

The article is well worth reading. I agree with most of it. I am not exactly a Microsoft fan but I don't have quite the issues with Microsoft that the author does. My biggest gripe is not their products but rather their predatory business practices.

Happy Trails!

Erick

Re:Nice treatise (4, Interesting)

LostCluster (625375) | more than 10 years ago | (#9324630)

It's very interesting that many of the complaints people have about Microsoft Products are actually addressed in later releases, but if the customer never upgrades to that new release they'll never see the changes.

Open source has a much easier time convincing people to upgrade to the most current release because in most cases it costs nothing but a little time to move to the latest stable release.

Re:Nice treatise (0, Troll)

sosume (680416) | more than 10 years ago | (#9324717)

This guy is definitely a real wizard hacker!

Even techno-geeks like me get annoyed by Windows. I'm tired of spending the first 10 minutes of my day rebooting just so I can get to work. Microsoft Outlook 2003, the latest version of the company's e-mail and calendar software, hangs for me about once a day, requiring me to restart my PC. I also have a problem with Word 2003: Whenever I bullet a line of text, every line in the document gets a bullet. Asking Windows to shut down is more of a request than a command--it might, it might not. And recently, Internet Explorer stopped opening for me.

In other words, TAKE A COURSE IN MS OFFICE! No, you are not a techno geek if you cannot get your windows machine stable. Especially if you cannot start IE anymore. My god, what a dweeb.

Re:Nice treatise (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9324754)

I must be very lucky because I typically go weeks without rebooting.
Yes you must be very lucky for using your gigahertz bolide for text typing only.

BTW, last time we had to boot our Sun (about a year ago) was because a new PCI card had to be inserted. Note that 20 people were working on it all the time.

Re:Nice treatise (5, Informative)

grub (11606) | more than 10 years ago | (#9324761)


Synchronization of our Internet bookmarks across all our computers

Firefox has an extension which does this very thing. Look for "Bookmarks Synchronizer" on the main extensions page.

Re:Nice treatise (2, Interesting)

jaavaaguru (261551) | more than 10 years ago | (#9324771)

I must be very lucky because I typically go weeks without rebooting.

What happens every few weeks that requires you to reboot? Last time I had to log out was when I put more RAM in my workstation. Before that, it was a powercut round about Christmas time.

Last time I got a new computer, I just put my home directory into a TAR file, and moved it across to the new machine, so I got all of my files, emails, bookmarks, etc. That takes about 10 minutes (including tweaking things for different versions of apps on the new machine)

I can't use all of the features in Office 200[0] yet....

Agreed, I don't think I even used all of the Office 97 features. To me the only difference I notice is the amount of disk space consumed by new office suites, and slightly different UIs.

Synchronization of our Internet bookmarks across all our computers
Now wouldn't THAT be nice?


When I log into a machine at work or home, my home directory gets picked up via NFS, so I always get the same bookmarks and settings regardless of what computer I'm using. I'm sure there are other ways of doing that too, including keeping everything in CVS [linuxjournal.com] :-)

Re:Nice treatise (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9324839)

>> Last time I had to log out was when
>> I put more RAM in

I couldn't agree more. I'm not a Microsoft fan by any means but I run XP on my Toshiba laptop. I only reboot, about once a month, simply out of habit.

I don't recall ever "having" to reboot.

XP is very stable and very usable. I can't comment on Office as I use OpenOffice...

Re:Nice treatise (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9324797)

I can't use all of the features in Office 200 yet....
One interesting feature of Office 200 is it's non-existence...

In other news, (4, Insightful)

Outatime (108039) | more than 10 years ago | (#9324602)

Microsoft is going to die? *BSD has supposedly been on that road for years! Maybe MS could learn a thing or two from the resilience of *BSD.

but (1)

millahtime (710421) | more than 10 years ago | (#9324690)

M$ has something *BSD doesn't have. 56 billion in the bank. *BSD is amazing at what it does which helps it stay around. M$ Windows isn't. They rely on the cash cow machine they have running. They aren't going to learn.

Re:Microsoft is going to die (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9324823)

Microsoft will die once the open source community admits to itself that in this day & age 80% of PC users are non geeks. M$ built an empire around the term "user friendly", when OSS developers begin to understand this concept, the world will change ;-)

mac (-1, Redundant)

millahtime (710421) | more than 10 years ago | (#9324605)

OS X has been a breath of badly needed fresh air after Windows.

A windows man to the core prefers Mac OS X. What a selling point to all those who are die hard windowers.

Microsoft Doom ? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9324609)

Is Microsoft bought ID Software and will ship Doom 4 with Longhorn ?

Let's the frag begins :)

Thru?!? (3, Insightful)

avalys (221114) | more than 10 years ago | (#9324612)

...significantly developed his professional career thru Microsoft solutions

THRU?!? What kind of site are you guys running?

How hard is it to keep these lazy-teenager abbreviations out of the stories?

Re:Thru?!? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9324734)

Simple, most of us work for ... oh, excuse me ...

"Sir, please pull up to the drive thru."

in the dictionary (3, Informative)

millahtime (710421) | more than 10 years ago | (#9324778)

It's in the dictionary [reference.com] .

Re:in the dictionary (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9324842)

It's in the dictionary.

Did you see the part where it said informal? And the entire definition it gives is

Through

thru? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9324619)

through

hmm (2, Interesting)

SinaSa (709393) | more than 10 years ago | (#9324628)

To me, the blurb is slightly misleading. Whoever wrote the href tags did it so "editorial" was there, but analysis wasn't. People miss that.

Being a true slashdotter, I daren't RTFA, thus I'm not disputing the truth of what the guy says, but people who do read the article should take everything said with a fairly large grain of sodium.
Editorial means subjective, and a true "analysis" would be objective.

Re:hmm (1)

Scrab (573004) | more than 10 years ago | (#9324665)

Sodium? Not on its own. A couple of molar masses of sodium chloride to be procured I feel.......

Re:hmm (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9324679)

Wouldn't a large grain of sodium poison you? Perhaps you should try sodium cloride.

interesting article (5, Interesting)

not_a_product_id (604278) | more than 10 years ago | (#9324638)

I know most of us on slashdot will enjoy a bit of MS bashing but this article is interesting in pointing out the apparent weakness of the MS mindset. Well worth RTFA.

Similar to IBM years ago (2, Insightful)

millahtime (710421) | more than 10 years ago | (#9324808)

This seems like a similar problem to IBM years ago. IBM was no longer looking to the needs of the customer, missing the good business opportunities and loosing business right and left. They took a better part of the 90s' to turn it around with new management. They had to change the attitude and mindset there. Maybe M$ should take some pointers.

ugh, propaganda disguised as an article (2, Insightful)

dark404 (714846) | more than 10 years ago | (#9324639)

This is just Mac/Anti-MS propaganda. He even starts out with the standard windows is so unstable I have to reboot all the time! Which is not nearly true anymore as XP remains perfectly stable for weeks on end. The last time I've rebooted this machine was when the power went out.

I also love the later part of the article when this "Andrew" person expounds on how wonderful OS X is... compared to Windows98! wtf.

Hating MS is one thing, but at least be fair about it.

Re:ugh, propaganda disguised as an article (2, Insightful)

Hassman (320786) | more than 10 years ago | (#9324676)

I laughed out loud at that part. Apples and oranges. It's like saying that Chevy is a better car company than Ford because the Corvette is faster than the Model T.

Re:ugh, propaganda disguised as an article (2, Insightful)

kmmatthews (779425) | more than 10 years ago | (#9324726)

Which is not nearly true anymore as XP remains perfectly stable for weeks on end.

Ah, you and I must be running different versions. I have to multiple times, daily. It's not nessecarily the OS itself causing the crash, but for the last time: an application SHOULD NOT BE ABLE TO BRING THE SYSTEM DOWN.

Re:ugh, propaganda disguised as an article (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9324759)

True, but a driver just might do it... Honestly I've had virtually no problems with XP, heck I haven't rebooted my notebook in over a month. Just try to do anything with a MAC and a network and you'll go running back to MS.

Re:ugh, propaganda disguised as an article (1)

Hypocritical Guy (674824) | more than 10 years ago | (#9324848)

Ah, you and I must be running different versions. I have to multiple times, daily. It's not nessecarily the OS itself causing the crash, but for the last time: an application SHOULD NOT BE ABLE TO BRING THE SYSTEM DOWN.

If you can't get Windows XP to run stable, you really aren't smart enough to use Windows or Intel/AMD based hardware. Stick with using your Mac with OS X. I hope you have Applecare.

This goes for the guy who wrote the article, too.

Re:ugh, propaganda disguised as an article (1)

justsomebody (525308) | more than 10 years ago | (#9324733)

Time to review Ellen Feiss and all the corresponding jokes???

Assumptions (4, Insightful)

pubjames (468013) | more than 10 years ago | (#9324640)


The article seems to make the assumption that Microsoft got where it is today by having the best products. That's a big mistake. Even if we go back to it's roots and compare DOS with the other operating systems of the time, we see that MS was selling rubbish compared to what the others were.

MS got where it is today by being extremely agressive in defeating its competitors, mostly through business tactics than superior products.

microsoft will never die (1, Informative)

joel2600 (540251) | more than 10 years ago | (#9324641)

with microsoft's focus on enterprise applications and with sharepoint and sql analysis and reporting services being probably the most powerful web portal and buisness intelligence solutions to date, the juggernaut will roll on crushing anyone who stands in opposition as they move and change with the environment, focusing on where the money is. not trying to make the same thing they've done for 10 years better.

Uh huh (3, Insightful)

Hassman (320786) | more than 10 years ago | (#9324648)

Please. Any employee of any company can find the internal flaws and missed oppertunities. I work for a large insurance company and eventhough I'm just a peon, I see several flaws and problems that could easily be avoided. But then again, I see lots of things done very well and successfully.

This is just a case of dwelling on the negative. Another employee could write the completely opposite review of MS and it would be every bit as convinsing.

The problem with a comentary is that it is generally correct ... if you just look at the points being made. The other problem with a comentary is that the opposite is usually just as correct. A person can make a convincing argument from any view point, but ultimatly it is the actions of the company that say whether it is true or not.

In MS case, I'm sure they have done many things wrong and missed many oppertunities...yet they continue to make lots and lots and lots of cash. Therefore, this guy can say anything he wants, but it won't change the fact that MS is *definitely* doing things 'right'.

Re:Uh huh (2, Interesting)

nelsonal (549144) | more than 10 years ago | (#9324830)

The only major issue is that almost everyone's retirement owns at least a small portion of MS and it's priced at a level that doesn't leave much room for error (the average Joe investor believes MS to be one of the best companies ever). I'm not joking about retirement accounts either. If you have any large cap funds they are exceedingly likely to own a portion of MS (it's one of the biggest companies in their index and volatile enough that most money managers prefer to keep a market weight 3-4% of funds in it). They can do all sorts of things right, but if they don't keep the Windows/Office gravy train flowing (and find something to replace it eventually) that value will begin to bleed off to a leve that assumes less goes right (see Novell).

Resume (1, Interesting)

beattie (594287) | more than 10 years ago | (#9324654)

Did anyone else feel like part of the article was more of a resume than an article about Microsoft?

Happier not engaging (1)

wombatmobile (623057) | more than 10 years ago | (#9324820)

Did anyone else feel like part of the article was more of a resume than an article about Microsoft?

It was a really long article. I didn't read all the way to the end.

Also, I didn't take the time to write a rebuttal to any of the points.

Just kept going with other things, happier to engage in things that have nothing to do with the nominal subject of the article.

Re:Resume (1)

biobogonics (513416) | more than 10 years ago | (#9324849)

Did anyone else feel like part of the article was more of a resume than an article about Microsoft?

Yes, I stopped reading when the author said

In time, my stock options allowed me to pursue a for-profit dot-com startup, as well as a series of socially responsible nonprofit ventures.

A liberal dot-bomber from the west coast. What a novelty.

Microsoft's death? (-1, Offtopic)

Munden (681257) | more than 10 years ago | (#9324664)

They just patented Double Clicking! http://yro.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=04/06/02/22 22258&mode=thread&tid=109&tid=155&tid=187&tid= 99 BEHOLD, THE POWER OF MICROSOFT

Billion-dollar market segment (2, Funny)

Lord Grey (463613) | more than 10 years ago | (#9324674)

To remain attractive to investors, Microsoft must demonstrate that it can replace and augment lost revenue by diversifying into new businesses, but only billion-dollar product segments matter to such a big company. Even the Xbox game platform and MSN can't bring in that kind of money.
Xbox actually fits the product segment nicely, if you put a big minus sign in front of that billion dollar figure.

Speaking from a guy who uses all OSs (4, Insightful)

SilentChris (452960) | more than 10 years ago | (#9324684)

Recently purchased an OS X machine (iBook). Had been messing around with the system off and on for a few years on the company's art department computers. It's good, but it isn't the panacea this guy (and others) make it out to be.

Every OS excels at something. Mac (still) excels at useability. UNIX stability. Windows excels at recognizing just about any piece of hardware or software I've thrown at it in the last 15 years.

If you think about it, Windows isn't THAT bad. I can't think of a single OS that runs the breadth of programs Windows does from so many years of computing. Sure, console apps still work the same in Linux as they did in UNIX from decades ago, and you can (sometimes) get Mac to run applications prior to OS 7, but there have been a number of times I've loaded up DOS programs from the 80s in Windows XP and was surprised they run more or less perfectly (even when the original app expected full control over the computer).

I think, and others can probably vouch for this, the allure of Mac OS in particular kind of wanes after a few weeks of using it. Again, excellent GUI, but there's definitely a feeling (misguided, I think) that Windows "has" to be bad because it's used everywhere. This doesn't translate to some other consumer products (PS2, anyone) so I'm not sure why geeks hate Windows in particular. Do we hate it because we perceive everyone else hates it (the same way people who use MacOS love it more because everyone else who uses it loves it)? Probably something to bring up in a psychology class.

Re:Speaking from a guy who uses all OSs (4, Interesting)

59Bassman (749855) | more than 10 years ago | (#9324841)

I'll admit that I've been anti-Microsoft for almost as long as I've been using their products. Soon after I learned Windows 3.1, I was put into a situation where I had to administer it. I can recall installing Word 6.0 and having it mess with the WordPerfect configuration files, requiring some creative workarounds. I've grudgingly used MS stuff ever since.

In the past year, I've been split about 50-50 between XP and Linux. I have to say that I MUCH prefer the flexibility of Linux, but there are certainly drawbacks. Hooking up your new digital camera is a hit-or-miss proposition, unless you're willing to spend a couple hours learning about how hardware is mounted. For the most part, if you plug something into an XP machine, it's recognized and runs. It may be unstable, but it normally works.

Recently though, I've looked at the Macs more closely. I loathe Steve Jobs almost as much as Bill Gates, and Apple's policies aren't much better than M$oft's, but the G5 is appealing. The UI beats anything I've seen before, plus it comes with a shell that's darned-near identical to the one I'm coming to know and love in Linux. It's to the point now where I'm considering a G5 for my next machine, even though 5 years ago I swore it would take a full-frontal lobotomy to make me say that.

Speaking as a geek, I guess I dislike Micro$oft in part because it is prevalent, but also because I don't care much for how they've run companies under because they couldn't compete with them technologically. I also prefer being able to get my hands dirty with configuration - XP takes much of that configurability away from you while Linux allows (or expects!) you to get into the middle of it all.

IMHO, for basic useability, I recommend XP to folks getting into computers, or just wanting a machine for e-mail and web surfing. Plug-ins are made for IE first, and pretty much every hardware configuration is recognized or supported. I don't think that Linux (in it's current form) is right for say my grandpa. And I'm afraid that if you make Linux that user-friendly, you'll end up with something not too much different than Windows. The Mac is a useable compromise, but I still believe that the hardware is too expensive for the majority of users. I sure wish Apple would finally allow licenced machines.

The Magic 8 ball says... (4, Funny)

NodeZero (49835) | more than 10 years ago | (#9324691)

Not Likely.

I'm not a Microsoft fan, but, come on... (4, Insightful)

IANAAC (692242) | more than 10 years ago | (#9324708)

Andrews hasn't upgraded his PC from Windows 98 or Office 2000. "I'd just as soon have a stable operating system--my time is more important."

Windows 98 was never a stable system (unless the only thing you compare it to is Windows 95).

The guy should at least give XP a shot (hell, even 2000)... infinitely more stable than any of the Windows 9x series.

The reason (4, Insightful)

Mr_Silver (213637) | more than 10 years ago | (#9324713)

Technology is my hobby as well as my job, so I regularly ponder why software giant Microsoft Corp., which has more than $56 billion in cash, hasn't solved more of these problems.

Because time and time again (and not just in IT), if you have someone with a significant market lead, they have a tendency to procrastinate because of the lack of threatening competition.

Microsoft doesn't need to fix these issues because there is no viable enough competitor which is affecting their market share enough to make them worry.

Re:The reason (1)

Mz6 (741941) | more than 10 years ago | (#9324766)

And then they realize that they need to start playing "catch up". Case in point now with Google and search technologies in OS. An earlier article that said Microsoft had wished they got into search technologies a lot earlier. Now they have to cath up to the rest of the market and offer that to their customers.

In other news, (0)

GeekDork (194851) | more than 10 years ago | (#9324714)

slashdot crowd predict BSD, Apple doom.

MS manager at 21? (1)

tijsvd (548670) | more than 10 years ago | (#9324744)

From the article:
I began using Microsoft products 23 years ago, at age 11, and I worked for Microsoft from 1991 to 1999 as a technology manager.

So this guy started as a manager at MS at age 21? I think that is impressive.

stop running windows 98 (5, Insightful)

dioscaido (541037) | more than 10 years ago | (#9324750)

From the article:

Why are Microsoft products so endlessly frustrating to use? Even techno-geeks like me get annoyed by Windows. I'm tired of spending the first 10 minutes of my day rebooting just so I can get to work. Microsoft Outlook 2003, the latest version of the company's e-mail and calendar software, hangs for me about once a day, requiring me to restart my PC. I also have a problem with Word 2003: Whenever I bullet a line of text, every line in the document gets a bullet. Asking Windows to shut down is more of a request than a command--it might, it might not. And recently, Internet Explorer stopped opening for me.

It looks like the author needs to stop running Windows 98...

Seriously, what ridiculously mismanaged system is he running? I reboot my win2k and XP systems maybe once a month, if that.

How many startup services does he have that his reboot takes 10 minutes? On my 800mhz machine (ancient by todays standards) reboot is 2-3 minutes, tops.

Although I've stopped using outlook and IE, in favor of mozilla and thunderbird, in the few times I have to use the apps for compatibility, I never experience instability.

Yes, MS products aren't perfect, but I hate it when people dishonestly paint Window's systems as if they crashed every 10 minutes just to make their point that XXX alternate system is better. OSX is sweet. Linux rocks. But WinXP is also a great system.

First paragraph (5, Funny)

Brando_Calrisean (755640) | more than 10 years ago | (#9324753)

I laughed when I read the first paragraph of his article, because it pretty much totally summarized my morning. I tried to open up explorer to work with some shares, and a dialog would come up saying "Access is denied." and nothing would happen. Okay, great. So I load up task manager, and kill all errant explorer processes. I get to the last one, hit 'end task', and get "Access is denied." Super! Suddenly, all my applications stop responding, so I kill them all in task manager, and they disappear, but still show up in the ALT+TAB list. I threw in the towel, and decided to reboot. Windows hangs at the 'Saving your data' screen...

I'd love to see someone factor that kind of crap in in a Total Cost of Ownership study.

Weak article (2, Interesting)

jonasmit (560153) | more than 10 years ago | (#9324772)

I hate M$ as much as anybody but for a guy who worked there for 9 years that was a pretty meatless article/argument. You would think he would use some of his experience about their processes to describe their doom rather than buggy applications and anecdotal evidence. No doubt, M$ has systemic problems that favor ease of use and result in bloated code, poor architecture, bugs, and shortcuts that all feed into lax security. But he barely touched any of these things

Ahem.. (1)

starphish (256015) | more than 10 years ago | (#9324773)

I forcasted their doom [slashdot.org] yesterday.

Monopolies don't get out-competed (2, Interesting)

doinky (633328) | more than 10 years ago | (#9324775)

The premise of the article is flawed - there is no competitor capable of defeating Microsoft even if Microsoft continues to do shoddy work.

No major computer maker preloads linux on the desktop for more than a tiny niche market. No major computer maker preloads a competing office suite for more than a tiny niche market. Nobody's making money on browsers, directly or indirectly. Etc.

People who keep thinking that the IBM model can occur here are fooling themselves - IBM voluntarily restrained from anticompetitive behavior because they were scared to death of the antitrust proceedings. Microsoft (for good reason) has no fear of the government here, and is behaving just as badly as they ever did.

Missed opportunities (3, Interesting)

mirko (198274) | more than 10 years ago | (#9324780)


Missed Opportunities

One multibillion-dollar opportunity has come along, however, and Microsoft has missed it. It's the Internet services business. Microsoft could have created a huge new revenue stream by delivering a suite of add-on services for Windows customers:

  1. The ability to log in to all our favorite Web sites with one password.

  2. Spam blocking for our e-mail accounts.

  3. Calendar sharing with colleagues and friends to schedule meetings.

  4. Automatic address book updates for all our contacts.

  5. A virtual hard drive on the Internet for sharing files, photos, and music with our friends and access to these files via the Internet while traveling anywhere in the world.

  6. Synchronization of our Internet bookmarks across all our computers.

  7. Online profiles of personal information that we could choose to share with Web sites and social networks.

  8. Regular backup of files to a storage site on the Internet.

  9. Regular application and system- security updates.

  10. One-step migration of files and programs to a new computer.

  1. No. Do it .like Safari : No passwd, the browser "remembers".
    Now it's more a browser than an os problem : even if the browser is supposedly embedded in the os.
  2. Only a mailer problem.
  3. I just used Outlook 2003 to forward an appointment as .ics to my home Mac
  4. I also used Outlook 2003 to export my contacts as a single vcs file which Apple Address Book could read
  5. .Mac ?
  6. .Mac ?
  7. NO !!! It's not an OS's business, and especially not an unsecured one's.
  8. .Mac ?
  9. OK, so split the service pack and send it more often.
  10. Who'd do this ? It's Microsoft choice never to open their API, they won't do it because they own 95% of the market and then only 5% of the public, mostly people used to obtaining soft for free, would care.

Sorry but this guy wants Microsoft to produce Macs, it's too obvious, he's not credible.

Yadda, yadda, yadda... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9324782)

"My OS hangs and bullets don't work in word and the shutdown hangs so I bought a Mac which is great"

It sounds like the haters are still critisizing win98. Nothing to see here. Move along.

Bah! (1)

Ooblek (544753) | more than 10 years ago | (#9324807)

This guy has been out of it too long to know what he is talking about. All the project he listed were not the major successes, so he probably stood to the side waiting for his opportunity to work on a big app, but never got one.

All the things he listed that Microsoft missed their opportunity to implement were a bit off. Some of them were implmented (Passport, for example, for logging into websites with one login.....but that is another sore subject), and others are part of the direction not only Microsoft, but IBM, HP, Sun, etc are working towards. Many of these companies believe web-services are the future, and this is one step beyond the old band wagon of "hosted applications are the future." The hosted applications are what more companies are moving to, its just that the interfaces are being made a bit differently. The old way was to log into a terminal and run MS-Word (or take your pick of app). The new way is to run whatever app you want, but the logic is hosted somewhere else.

Where's the "ANALYSIS" (3, Informative)

jmulvey (233344) | more than 10 years ago | (#9324818)

This should be an editorial, not an "analysis". It's filled with non-factual personal experiences that have obviously given him a bias. I mean, why does this belong in an "analysis"??? (from the article):

My most memorable moment at Microsoft came during a technical review with Bill Gates. I will never forget the moment when I made an apparently obvious point to him. He responded, "What? Do you think I'm stupid?" Everyone was staring at me, and I felt it best not to answer. Like Gates, there were always people at Microsoft who were much smarter than me and more technically skilled. But he's created a corporate culture that sometimes struggles to see the forest for the trees--and I think this is what has led to some of the challenges that it faces today.

So I did a little digging on this guy and found out he really is stupid. And my guess is that he's bitter because he's just smart enough to realize how stupid he is.

According to the July 20, 1999 [216.239.41.104] edition of the Seattle Post-Intelligencier,

Jeff Reifman, a 29-year-old former program manager at MSNBC, left behind $700,000 in stock options in April to co-found GiftSpot.com, a 24-person Seattle company that delivers gift certificates over the Internet. If Reifman had stayed at Microsoft just two more months he would have been able to cash in on the stock.

Ahh... now we see why he is so angry about why his Gift Certificate store failed! It wasn't because PassPort didn't take off...
This kind of "article" is exactly why newspapers are going down the toilet today. There's no disclosure.

MS doesn't learn from its former competitors (1)

Gr8Apes (679165) | more than 10 years ago | (#9324819)

To comprehensively address security issues, Microsoft has said it is building Longhorn from the ground up. Any time you start building an operating system from scratch, you create all sorts of unanticipated problems. If you are waiting for Microsoft to improve the consumer experience, you'll have to be patient.
Sounds like MS is making the Netscape "mistake". However, their code is so bad that by this point, it may be the only option. However, I cannot help but think that refactoring the core might not be a better option. (If they're going to follow netscape, I suppose we'll see an open source Windows in about 5 years, but no one will care by then.)

"The SKYNET Scenario" (tm) (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9324822)

2025, Machines rule the earth.

The human resistance must send a terminator back in time to destroy the open source community, after 'Project LINUX' became self aware. Somehow the OS obtained access to it's own source code, and declared penguins to be the superior lifeform. Finally modifying itself to produce fluffy wuffy penguin war machines from the 'Embedded LINUX' factories.

The terminator was sent back to 1985, to eliminate a Bill Gates and take his place.

Microsoftie (1)

theobtuseangleofdoom (774951) | more than 10 years ago | (#9324832)

Wow, MS have ties that can predict the future!

I'm sorry ... but ... what did you say?? (0, Redundant)

McSnickered (67307) | more than 10 years ago | (#9324852)

"One of the most frustrating things about Windows is how it steals time from us," says Andrews, who has followed the company for years. Andrews hasn't upgraded his PC from Windows 98 or Office 2000. "I'd just as soon have a stable operating system--my time is more important."

What the??? No one, I mean NO ONE would stick with Winblows 98 for it's stability. They must have a different standard for that in Seattle.

Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>