Windows optimize

Was Bob Microsoft's worst product ever?

Microsoft may get a lot of heat about Vista, but it has produced many other clunkers. What was the worst? Cast your vote.

Microsoft may get a lot of heat about Vista, but it has produced many other clunkers. What was the worst? Cast your vote.

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People love to pile on Microsoft about Windows Vista being so bad, but as I pointed out last week, I think Microsoft Bob was much, much worse. It was painfully slow and so dumbed down that you could feel your IQ drop as you used it.

I had heard how slow it was but hadn't experienced it firsthand until I was doing screen captures for the Microsoft Bob Photo Gallery. In order to get the screen captures, I ran Microsoft Bob in Windows 3.1 under Virtual PC 2007. The host machine was a 2.8GHz P4 with 2GB of RAM, 16MB of which was dedicated to the Windows 3.1 virtual session.  Normally Windows 3.1 flies under that configuration, but you could actually see Bob doing screen redraws. I can't imagine how painful it must have been running Bob on a 486 when it was new.

Microsoft has made plenty of great products, but it's created its share of stinkers as well.  I don't think Visa is quite as bad as some people make it out to be. And beyond Bob, there have been products that make Vista look terrific. Some of the products that come to mind include:

  • MS-DOS 4.0: This version of DOS was buggy and slow. It broke many DOS apps and consumed so much of DOS's 640K RAM that many programs wouldn't run.
  • Microsoft Works: Microsoft Office for Home and the Small Business. The applications were limited in power and created data files that couldn't easily be shared by anyone who wasn't using Office.
  • Windows 3.0: Supposedly the first "successful" version of Windows, Windows 3.0 was slow and would frequently crash. It didn't multitask very well and required a lot of hardware. Windows 3.1 fixed a lot of its problems.
  • Windows ME: Take the shaky foundation of Windows 9x and add lots of overhead and no real improvements over Windows 98. Watch users flee to XP.

What was Microsoft's worst product ever?

What do you think? What was Microsoft's worst product ever? Take the poll below and make your voice heard. If there's something I forgot, mention it in the Comment section.

I thought about specifically excluding Vista from the poll to keep the Vista-Haters from piling on, but I decided to keep it in. There have been some legitimate complaints about it, and I wanted to have the discussion of its merits in context with other infamous products.

43 comments
The 'G-Man.'
The 'G-Man.'

SCEE are returning to a BOB style (3D) interface for the PS3, with the XBox not far behind.

radio1
radio1

I say Vista is definitely the worst. Technology has improved. If Bob was released this, year. I'd say it was the worst. With greater technological improvements, come greater expectations. Why release an operating systems every few years if you haven't made any improvements over its predecessors? I am not saying there are no improvements, but the extra resources consumed by Vista offer very little advancements over older versions of windows. And why have so many different versions? Was Home and Pro not enough? XP justs gets to the point it is a "good" OS IMO, and they can it for vista. Two words Microsoft "Beta Test." Don't release an OS until it is finished and works. Why should I as a consumer pay to test your products for you. I don't understand the constant need for Automatic Updates. If the product was right from the get go, there would be very few updates needed.

kclark
kclark

I have a fully-legitimate copy of DOS 4.0 (with manual!), including the Shell overlay. This text-based pre-cursor to Windows was certainly an experience, at the time. So, even though the OS may have had problems, the novelty of the Shell deserves some credit. Even for MS. :)

john.duffield
john.duffield

Microsoft's worst product ever was the one that could've made sure the company didn't get off the ground. Windows 1.0 Unusable is the only way to describe it.

acdonovan
acdonovan

I think Microsoft Office Live Website Creator is one of the most complicated, and unusuable products there is, you save a domain site, create the website after much work and then there is no way I've found to transfer it to a finished product and use it

jgilmore
jgilmore

Double Space, part of MS DOS 6.2 I beleive

tyltotheler92
tyltotheler92

Windows ME, although a failure, did its job, and introduced many new (And maybe not loved features) that XP got later on. (Want examples? System restore, Integrated WMP, easy to understand intros, and WMM) People seem to forget take that into consideration, just as Vista has introduced many new features (Again, all not loved) Bob...on the other hand, was poorly designed, poorly programed, and a pain to use. My mother would be more confused with that, then plain windows......that is why i picked MS Bob.

catpaw
catpaw

Oh I think ME was far worse! But the absolute worse? Clippy the damn annoying paper clip that popped up everytime you started Word. Each time I was at a customer's place, the first thing I'd do was disable that annoying &*%! paperclip.

jmgarvin
jmgarvin

BOB at least had potential, ME and Vista are even potentially good, they stink on ice.

ReconTS
ReconTS

Could Be... But, I think that the worst (other than Vista - of course) was MS Windows ME. It crashed more often than it ran!

jwilsonjx
jwilsonjx

I am sure to get flamed for saying this, but on higher end systems, Vista runs fine. I have been running it on a gaming rig at home as well as well as my work laptop and have had no issues with drivers, performance, etc. I think a lot of the heat and bad press Vista has gotten is related to people trying to run it on older systems. With that being said, my recommendation is still not to deploy it in a enterprise environment :-) Flame on...

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Bob was a failure itself, but it was a pretty revolutionary product at the time. It introduced a couple of features MS continued to use. Some of those were even worthwhile, unlike Clippy. DOS 4 and Works both had successors and weren't the end of their product lines. The jury's still out on Vista. ME introduced nothing new and was markedly inferior to it's predecessors, the 9x family. It was intended purely as a stopgap to keep users on the farm while 2K was in development.

John Sheesley - TechRepublic Pro
John Sheesley - TechRepublic Pro

Microsoft has created some pretty good software, but it has created its share of clunkers as well. In Classics Rock, I've got a poll going where you can voice what you think the worst product was: http://blogs.techrepublic.com.com/classic-tech/?p=153 Vista's on the list, but if people are completely honest with themselves, I doubt that it would beat any of the others on the list. Vista may not be great, but it's definitely no Bob. Or Windows ME for that matter.

mamies
mamies

There is no way that any OS can be right from the word get go. I do believe that you are correct with the fact they need more testing. Although MS tested it hugely i think that it was more "controlled" to push the operating system out the door. All the testers needed was so it would meet their quality control. However in saying this any other release from Microsoft is the same and i still say BOB is worse. BOB was stupid with that bloody dog.

seanferd
seanferd

That was fun, while it lasted.

jgilmore
jgilmore

For some reason, my first response didn't post correctly. I vote on double Space, part of MS DOS 6.20 (I think Drive Space came out in 6.22 and was more improved) I've used both Windows ME and Windows Vista. I had more stability with windows ME. In my opinion, when I worked helpdesk back when ME came out, the biggest problem with ME was usually the software that shipped with the OEM computer and not ME itself. Altthouh I am not defending Win ME.. but example, look at AOL 4 or was it 5 that shipped on most PCs with Windows ME. Both the OS and that AOL Version were not compadible, If I remember the specfics. Someonce correct me if I am wrong. With Vista, I did a clean install and installed SP1 and Vista was MORE unstable. This was before adding any of my own applicaitons.

rolandlive
rolandlive

Windows ME was by far the worst product Microsoft ever put out. Windows ME was supposed to have been Windows 2000 Home Edition and been introduced at the same time as Windows 2000 Professional. When Microsoft knew they wouldn't make the deadline of early 2000 for introducing both products, they focused on Windows 2000 Professional first to make the deadline (the business version is far more profitable). Thus, the home version development suffered and that's why we got the stinker Windows ME later in the fall of 2000. Microsoft should have just improved Windows 98 and introduced it as the 3rd edition and let the home users wait one more year for Windows XP Home Edition. It would have saved themselves the headache and embarrassment and kept us from months of hell and torture trying to make something out of Windows ME.

mwhipple
mwhipple

How many of the "new" features in ME weren't preexisting as either extensions/external apps or in the already released Windows 2000. In that light, did any of their additions justify the shortcomings. ME was a horrific bastard child of the 9x and NT lines which effectively captured some of the worst aspects of both (far more than virtues). ME also seemingly derailed a streak of MS OS's somewhat improving. The biggest difference that I see is that if you didn't like Bob, you could stop using it. If you didn't like ME you'd have to go out and open up your wallet again. I certainly view most MS software as mediocre, but when there's an implied dependency on a weak piece of software it raises the significance of its failure.

mamies
mamies

one of the features of word was the "Interactive Characters". Clippy was just one of many that done the same thing

mamies
mamies

MS just need to fix some of the bugs in it, Most people bag it out because others do, realistically its not a bad operating system when nothing goes wrong

mkoelsch
mkoelsch

You had to dredge up memories of that POS...Oh the humanity. I also forgot about DOS 4...a very bad version.

Derek Schauland
Derek Schauland

I wonder if Me was bad to push users toward XP more quickly... since Microsoft wanted to move away from the 9x product line, they introduced ME and hyped it as a better version of the line... maybe they knew that it would get users onto XP

jgilmore
jgilmore

But also there were some major issues with Double space and data corruption. There were issues with both products (Double Space and Drive Space) having data loss issues with Smart Drive running if you turned off your pc before smart drive had a chance to finish writing the data to disk. But this issue was different than the compression issues that Double Space had. I never personally witnessed this issue (Data corruption with Double Space) and I would use it. However, I would only use it on a second partition that had data that wasn't as important. In additon, this increased performance of apps running on c:\ (Such as windows 3.1) I read, back in the day, in PC World and other magizines about the issues people had with Double Space in MSDOS 6.2 causing huge data corruption.

John Sheesley - TechRepublic Pro
John Sheesley - TechRepublic Pro

DoubleSpace was the name of the first disk compression software that Microsoft included in DOS 6.0. Microsoft initially wanted to include Stacker from Stac Electronics in DOS, but when Stac wouldn't play ball with Microsoft (ie license the technology for next to nothing), it essentially ripped off the technology and called it DoubleSpace. Microsoft was sued by Stac for patent infringement and lost. Microsoft dumped DoubleSpace, went back to the drawing board and came up with DriveSpace. Stac floundered for a while and wound up going out of business.

Scholia
Scholia

See my comment above. Windows Me wasn't the home version of Windows 2000. It was an extended version of the DOS-based line: in effect, it was Windows 98SE2. Also, Window Me wasn't that bad if correctly in stalled on good quality hardware, except for the fact that it had some bad memory leaks. If you remembered to reboot it every three days or so it was fine. I kept a clean install of Me running (with reboots) for more than four months without a single crash. A major problem with Me was that it didn't suffer fools gladly. The minor benefit was that you could spot the, ahem, less competent PC users by the problems they had running Me ;-)

jmgarvin
jmgarvin

Vista just is. It's got numerous issue as far as enterprise deployment, application support, hardware support, and third party integrations. So, rather than read the tea leaves, I'll just say it stinks on ice until it doesn't.

mwhipple
mwhipple

I once read an MS tech at one point saying that Windows never crashes, that other programs crash Windows. Strangely other OS'es seem less subject to that problem, almost as though they protect themselves. Stability is certainly one of, if not the, most important aspect in an OS. More than anything else people just want their computers to do what they expect them to do, not a bunch of other stuff that is suggested that they should want them to do. The fact that MS is a massive corporation, has controlled the OS market for years, and has therefore had a chance to adapt with the industry makes their consistently releasing unreliable software ridiculous. Vista may end up as a decent operating system after however many service packs (just like most other MS software) but I'd think that there's a certain responsibility to start off on stable ground.

mkoelsch
mkoelsch

I am not sure about that. Obviously MS had stated that they wanted to move towards a single silo of desktop products i.e. combine the NT/9x platforms. In a sense they have never succeeded in that they still had XP Home, XP Professional, XP Media Center, and XP 64. Who knows how many versions of Vista there is? I think it was more a matter of wanting have something new in the pipeline to enhance revenue with very little work on their part. What they should have done is push all of their product development into Windows 2000 Pro...skip ME entirely. I have no gripe with XP...at least once SP2 hit.

jgilmore
jgilmore

I totally agree.. but I played around with Drive Space when I was just in 9th grade, I couldn't afford a new harddrive so I had to make due with my 170 mb drive lol. Im now 29 yo and have more space than I ever needed (for now!) : )

John Sheesley - TechRepublic Pro
John Sheesley - TechRepublic Pro

Was the fact that it was so slow. Running any of those compression engines was a sure way to kill performance on your machine. The CPUs just couldn't keep up with the compression and do real work at the same time. Easiest way to increase disk space then was to just install a new hard drive... Still is in many ways.

mamies
mamies

For todays standard since XP raised the bar it does stink. Just wait for the future, Vista will raise the bar in a huge way. It already has IPv6 intergrated into it which is going to impact on how networking happens in a hugely positive way

mwhipple
mwhipple

And what state was the firmware in when you got the router? Debugging is a normal part of the development cycle but releasing unstable code as a finished product is irresponsible. We're not talking "the first time" here, it's the consistent replacing of stable software with what appears to be software prematurely let out of beta and which seems to abandon previously established stability. Revisions and new versions are also 2 very different things.

aaron.ebertowski
aaron.ebertowski

You mention that the typical trend for MS is to release "however many service packs (just like most other MS software)" but that is the trend of software in general! I don't know a CIO/CTO that has ever been fired for buying Cisco, but look at their firmware revisions some time. My lab router at home is 12.1.0.... (you get the picture). Patches are a normal part of ANY system. I've never met a software developer that writes code perfect the first time. If they do, then there'd never be a need for anything else.

mamies
mamies

I admit that they will need to bring out a heap of patches to make Vista as stable as XP but then look at XP when it first come out. It was just as bad, I remember the nightmares i had with it.

John Sheesley - TechRepublic Pro
John Sheesley - TechRepublic Pro

Actually... Microsoft was hoping to create a Home version of Windows 2000 just like it ultimately did with Windows XP. That's why it's called Windows 2000 Professional. There was supposed to be a Windows 2000 Home version as well, but Microsoft was having such a hard time getting Windows 2000 shipped in any version, that they took the stuff that was supposed to have been in Windows 2000 Home and slapped it on top of the Windows 98 code base, creating Windows Millennium. It was faster and easier to concentrate on one Windows 2000 desktop OS and then refocus the Home version for the next Rev - Windows XP.

Scholia
Scholia

There were always two lines of development: DOS-based and NT-based Windows. Windows 2000 was actually released in December 1999, and was usably stable well before that. Windows Me came out in June 2000. Microsoft kept trying to move people from DOS-based to NT-based Windows but the market resists change, even when it's for the better. People complained about incompatible software (badly-written software, mostly) and a lack of drivers, so Microsoft had to keep the DOS-based line going with Me. People are now using 32-bit XP instead of 64-bit Vista for many of the same reasons.

gordon
gordon

ME was born as the result of industry pressure to produce a new operating system for the year 2000. Ideally it was to be Win 2000 but that was behind schedule so ME was born, a mix of a few innovations and old 9x ideas, blame the industry and not MS (IN THIS CASE) although the blame for bowing to industry pressure rests squarely on MS shoulders

mamies
mamies

whoa they were the scary days. You can be doing something, BLUE SCREEN OF DEATH, restart and before you get back into windows BLUE SCREEN OF DEATH, lol alot like when we had ME really :)