Patents

Microsoft's biggest problem is innovation

It seems like Microsoft has a case of corporate Attention Deficit Disorder, attacking a new technical challenge with incredible gusto, delivering a robust yet unpolished solution, then abandoning the product when a modicum of effort would take the product from a slightly dysfunctional stone to a shining gem.

I'm not ashamed to admit that I'm one of Microsoft's biggest fans. While the ubertrendy dote on Steve Job's next iGadget and lambast the presentation skills of Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer, my heart skips a beat when I hear about the next iteration of Windows Server, or see leaked screenshots of the latest versions of Windows Mobile. Mac guys can drool over their flashy touch interface on the iPhone, but I'll keep my seamless Exchange synchronization on my Windows Mobile phone, thank you very much.

Raking Microsoft over the coals is about as sporting as shooting fish in a barrel with a Tank, but in this case provides some insight into a popular topic as of late: innovation. Arguably, no company in the past 30 years has been as innovative as Microsoft. A handful of techies created an entirely new business model and came to dominate corporate technical infrastructure from the desktop to the server room. They have made inroads in products as diverse as ATMs, video game consoles, and wristwatches. While its products are not as sexy as some competitors, anyone who has even a vague connection to technology likely interacts with Microsoft's products in some manner on a daily basis.

With pundits (myself included) citing innovation as critical to successful IT organizations, how can Microsoft's culture of innovation now be cited as a negative? At Microsoft, innovation seems to be missing its vital partner in crime: continuous improvement. Perhaps Microsoft has a case of corporate Attention Deficit Disorder, attacking a new technical challenge with incredible gusto, delivering a robust yet unpolished solution, then abandoning the product when a modicum of effort would take the product from a slightly dysfunctional stone to a shining gem. Imagine a world of products out of Redmond where one did not have to wait for the first service pack to arrive for it to function reliably, or where a bit more effort was spent on usability once all the technical challenges were worked out.

One of the most ubiquitous of all Microsoft applications, Internet Explorer, serves as a fine example of this tendency to focus too narrowly on innovation. IE repeatedly languishes until some other browser catches fire, at which point Microsoft shifts an army of product specialists and developers back to the browser until the competitor fades into the obscurity, defeated by a newly rejuvenated Internet Explorer. The hard work of exterminating the upstart done, IE departs the innovation train and stays stuck in its most recent incarnation.

The problem with this way of doing business is that innovation is expensive and distracting. Refining an innovation to take it from a flurry of excitement and newness to a shining example of "business as usual" is decidedly unsexy, but it's one of the biggest complaints against the software giant. While the work of refining and institutionalizing an innovative product or service will not win you cover stories in tech magazines, it does create a loyal cadre of customers, and incredibly reliable products. Microsoft is constantly lambasted for poorly executed ideas and products, from half-baked Tablet PCs to the much loathed and now abandoned "personal assistant" concept best remembered by the annoying talking paperclip in MS Word. The vast majority of these are conceptually sound, and Microsoft routinely overcomes the technical challenges associated with delivering the product only to leave it stillborn, when a modicum of additional labor would deliver a polished and reliable product.

Perhaps the closest contrast to Microsoft is Apple, particularly on the issue of innovation. While Apple is largely perceived as a trendsetter and technical innovator, most of its products are based on commodity technology. Apple's personal computer products use the same Intel silicon and architecture as every other PC maker, and the iPhone and iPod are churned out of the same factories in China and use the same commodity components as everyone else. Even the Mac operating system is a variant of Unix, a technology developed in the Jurassic period of computing technology. Apple really is not a fount of innovation; rather they take existing products and concepts and refine them, excelling in adding that last 10% to a product companies like Microsoft have abandoned.

While the big idea people make the most noise and leave a trail of sound and fury in their wake, a company's attentions must not focus solely on the innovations they create. Equally important to the innovation process are those who can continually refine a new concept and extract the last 10% of functionality and refinement from it. There are entire markets, whether it's Apple or a fine European auto maker, who look at the world not through a lens of innovation, but rather from a perspective of how rough innovative ideas can be refined. While stealing ideas for your own is unethical at best, companies like Apple have made an entire business out of refining the innovations of others, refining coarse concepts or applying them to new areas to define a market.

Whether you're a junior programmer or CEO, there are myriad opportunities for refinement of new and innovative ideas. There may be systems or processes that have recently been unleashed on your company and abandoned by the project teams that built them, after the excitement of implementation is over. A technical breakthrough may be applicable to other systems and processes in the company, and while the most innovative minds are chasing the Next Big Thing - the innovation can be vetted, refined, and institutionalized. Following the Microsoft example and fostering innovation to the point that you are running from one burning hot concept to the next and leaving a trail of half-baked products in your wake is a great way to burn cash and leave customers partially satisfied.

About

Patrick Gray works for a global Fortune 500 consulting and IT services company and is the author of Breakthrough IT: Supercharging Organizational Value through Technology as well as the companion e-book The Breakthrough CIO's Companion. He has spent ...

173 comments
PlanBForOpenOffice
PlanBForOpenOffice

Man, you are really dreaming. Were is Microsoft's innovation? Have you ever read any History of Microsoft's business strategies? The prevailing wisdom is that Microsoft is persistent in improving something in many releases/iterations, until it really succeeds in market penetration (domination), i.e. Windows, IE, Sharepoint, its business applications, ... I have seen hardly any break through innovation from Microsoft, unless you count using only 3 Gigabyte (640 KB of 1 MB) of 4GB addressable memory as such. In contrast, show me the other Computer/Laptop company the uses backlit keyboards, glass plates as touch pad with multi touch and pressure response (there are cell phones, though), All in one design (hardly a few) and they followed Apple, or a single aluminum block as basis for a stable Laptop chassis? Sorry I'm not an Apple fan boy, just make my first baby steps on a Mac. But as the famous politician quote goes "You might be entitled to your own opinion, but you are not entitled to your own truth."

rhon
rhon

Your dreams are sweet. It might be a rude awakening. Microsoft was build on bought and stolen products. Vapour ware and bad service. MS DOS was bought not developed. Windows 3 was taken from the likes of Apple and Xerox, and Vista is still build on the fundamentals of the rubbish called windows 3, if we talk about Jurrassic parc. Apple shows at least that American companies can stand for design, and quality. Something at least European car makers understand, but you only know that when you have driven both and when you are aware of the fact that even the Chinese do a better job nowadays. Nothing is wrong with Unix or Linux or Mac Os X for that reason. Microsoft is the Exxon of the computer Industry they bought any threat to their products and shelved them.

Vulpinemac
Vulpinemac

Allow me to play on a current cliche: comparing OSes to Autos. First off, if nothing ever changed, there would be no reason to buy something new until the old simply died of old age. This is as true of OSes as it is of cars. The product needs to be continuously improved and updated or there simply would be no demand for it. Back in the late 50's, Chrysler developed a reputation for producing the most the most advanced cars on the road. Before them you had Tucker, who produced a car that was remarkably safe but was so advanced that nobody understood the need for it. Chrysler, however, in its attempts to be first to market with these new innovations also developed a reputation of poor reliability throughout the 60's. By the time they got the bugs fixed, nobody would by that model any more. True, when they did have a successful model it tended to stick around a while, but the reputation they'd developed forced them to go to some extreme efforts to rescue the brand. Microsoft, in some ways, is following the same track. Up until the middle 80's there were several computer brands on the market, most of them running their own OS, though Microsoft had managed to cover a group of brands that were known as IBM clones/compatibles. Because of this particular level of standardization they managed to grab a 50% market share pretty quickly and because of the IBM platform name was almost immediately adopted into the enterprise as a true "corporate" machine as compared to the other brands' "toy" label. However, Apple and Microsoft execs were invited to Xerox to look at a new interface technology called a Graphical User Interface. Xerox execs themselves didn't see a market for such a system and even Microsoft seemed to think it unimportant. But Apple wrangled an extended review of the GUI and shortly thereafter announced that they were promoting a GUI as the next advance in computer control. Microsoft scrambled and managed to just beat out Apple in releasing Windows... though comparing the two side by side when the Macintosh came out showed very different capabilities. Ten years later, Microsoft has tweaked Windows several times, but very little different from the original until they released Win 95. Oddly, Win 95 looked and worked a lot like the Macintosh OS, now almost 10 years old and up to version 6. Three years later, Win 98 comes out adding new features... that brought it up to an equivalent capability to MacOS6. Meanwhile the MacOS has moved up to version 8 and added yet more features and capabilities. Windows? Buggy and unstable on average, the BSOD the norm rather than the exception. No, Apple's OS wasn't perfect, but it seemed more stable and seemed always several years ahead of Microsoft in adding new function and new features. Ok, by now you're wondering where I'm headed. Is Apple the Chrysler of the OSes? No. But Microsoft kept trying to do on the x86 platform, struggling with a built-in bottleneck what Apple was doing on a completely different processor platform without that limiting factor. Then, when Apple, IBM and Motorola worked together to design a completely different processor architecture that demonstrated a massive operational speed increase which allowed even more functions and features to run, Microsoft again had to play catch up... and honestly didn't do very well with their standalone version of Windows. On the other hand, their NT platform, somewhat stripped out and fine-tuned for the corporate world not only realized its own speed boost but also demonstrated more reliability. Their biggest successes were Win2K, still being used by many very large corporations, and WinXP, currently and still holding their single largest share now two years after the release of Vista. Microsoft is the Chrysler of the OS world. Why? Because they haven't been able to truly innovate on their own. Every time they try to jump ahead, they end up years behind. I don't know why. Or maybe I do. Microsoft has almost always been run under 'old school' concepts; "if it ain't broke, don't fix it." The problem is, they have rarely realized it was broken until someone else showed that it could be done better a different way. Then they have to rush to catch up, and end up having to push something out before it is ready. Win95, Win98, WinME and now Vista are all proof of this. In each case the next version seems to fix the problems of its predecessor but introduce new problems along the way. Apple, in its efforts to regain what it lost in the 80s have made its own mistakes along the way. The worst so far was the attempt to run under the old corporate rules. Apple jumped ahead when it was a private company owned and operated by Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak; but the latter Steve wanted nothing to do with actually running a business and I don't blame him. He is an engineer and a designer; corporate politics and engineering really don't mix. So they sold the company to a conglomerate of investors and became Apple Computer, Inc., run by a stereotypical corporate board. Apple ran under this management style for roughly 15 years and couldn't move forward; everything they tried kept them ahead of the game as far as technology was concerned, but couldn't move them as far as market was concerned. Microsoft had made the leap ahead and wasn't going to let go if they could help it. Their last-ditch effort to regain share-- licensing other companies to build to the MacOS--ended up almost stripping Apple of hardware sales while having absolutely no effect on market penetration. They needed a change, and Steve Jobs, long out of the company and running a platform called NeXt, looked like the only chance to turn things around. They bought NeXt and put Jobs back on the board of directors. Here's where Apple showed that innovation could work. With a small investment from Bill Gates of Microsoft and a promise that MS would continue to release an Apple version of Office for 5 years, Steve Jobs had the cash to build an all new concept, well, not exactly. He returned to the All-in-one platform emulating the original Macs but put it into a colorful and stylish new cabinet, naming it the iMac. The concept reversed Apple's slide and generated more sales in one year than Apple had seen in two years prior. Apple's management isn't the stereotypical corporate image. Apple has innovated in both operational style and in product design. As a result, Apple has its highest market share in over 20 years and is gaining ground at an accelerated rate. The point of this long discussion is the fact that it is not Microsoft's "Innovations" that are hurting it, but rather the lack thereof. Without innovation, you start down that long slide into oblivion. If Microsoft wants to remain viable, they [i]must[/i] change, and change for the better. If they wait too long to do so, they may slide into oblivion.

V
V

There's a long trail of technologies from MS that were never fully exploited, or maybe through a lack of attention weren't documented to a satifactory level. In a TV interview with Steve Ballmer, he justified some of this behaviour with the comment "we let the market decide."

jbyrd
jbyrd

Sure, MS buys, pilfers and otherwise markets other people's products for the most part, but how is that their biggest problem? I'm the first to admit I am not a huge fan of MS, but I certainly enjoy not having to spend $800-$1000 for an OS like in the early days. They have risen to be a huge reckoning force in the computer world, based on marketing strategies and capitalizing on other people's innovations. The result? Great tech that would otherwise sit in the bargin bin at Walmart, now has huge marketing bucks behind it. The consumers benefit enormously. "Not understanding" the technology is far from reality. Ok, so you dislike Bill, but how about the thousands of very skilled hardware and software people working in Redmond? Are they all eTards? I think not. Let's face it ... at some level most people are a bit jealous of Microsoft's success. It is a testament to US capitalism at it's finest. In every industry, the innovator gets very little financial gain, while the marketers and distributers make a killing. That's how it works folks. So, if Microsoft had of been an innovator, they would likely not be the monstrous giant they are today. Most all big companies use other people's innovations to some extent. They borrow ideas, improve on existing products, or bring new ones to market. Microsoft's success had nothing to do with innovation of technology in the first place, and with them having billions in holdings, I just can't quite see what the innovation problem is. It is nearly impossible in the normal course of the day NOT to use Microsoft technology. The next time you hit an ATM for some quick cash, whine real loud, because it's probably running an MS OS.

markmolinari
markmolinari

"... Unix [sic], a technology developed in the Jurassic period of computing technology." This is an incredibly ignorant statement. UNIX, the C programming language and other technologies created at Bell Laboratories were true innovations developed by some of the greatest geniuses of modern computing. The fact that UNIX (and its derivatives) is still a major force in the IT world nearly 40 years after it was invented is a testament to its timeless design.

zinc1024
zinc1024

What the author describes as "innovation" at Microsoft isn't innovation at all: it's fast following. Let others blaze the trail, when it appears they are being successful, catch up quick and overwhelm them, through a combination of force of numbers and leveraging the Microsoft market lock. That's NOT innovation...it is a viable method of continuing to dominate in markets, while reducing risk of investment in areas that won't/don't pay off.

avidtrober
avidtrober

Before leaving Microsoft, for months I was saying there's no innovation here. And, I was only one voice in many. There's a lot of bureaucracy over the guys in the trenches waiting to snag up any idea, claim it their own. There's plenty of *marketing* muscle to get a half-baked idea out the door anyway, you don't have to be entrepreneurial-grade material to develop software for Microsoft. The average Program Manager is hidden from the true metrics of product-to-market by Microsoft subsidizing their projects. (Who wouldn't like several years and several billion dollars to "get it right" by version 3). There's plenty of smaller scale numbers and years beside those that large. It is very ironic the #1 software company in the world (as some claim) knows so little about HOW and WHAT to build. Microsoft does not innovate. (Please reply with explicit innovations vs. some general "no way" remark if you're going to reply at all). They wait for something to catch on, put out a half-hearted, bastardized, many times even a plagerized copy of it, then use their marketing muscle to push it out the door.

ben
ben

refining the innovations of others: $3.4B earnings on $24B in revenue; corporate Attention Deficit Disorder: $17.6B earnings on $60.4B in revenue. Bill Gates on TV making light of himself: Pricesless Apparently ignoring that last 10% of refinement is worth $14B a year net ($40B gross)

samsonsource
samsonsource

You could apply this lesson to other industries as well. The current financial crisis was started by the domino failure of a proliferation of innovative and increasingly arcane financial products. Everyone thought about innovation, and no one thought about robustness, reliability and possible failure scenarios. Come to think of it, much of the software that the whole world now relies on was built in a similar environment...

dmm99
dmm99

In Outlook's calendar, you can have a daily view, a weekly view, or a monthly view. Which sounds real nice and user-friendly, but it isn't. Oh sure, it seems great at the BEGINNING of the day/week/month. But as you get to the END of a day/week/month, you'd like to be able to see what's coming rather than what has already occurred. Do we get that choice? NO. We're stuck with the computer version of a physical calendar/Daytimer, all because nobody at MS realizes that they should be offering a choice between 24-hour view, 7-day view, and 4-week view. This is a VERY common question/complaint on the internet, and they have had 10 years to address the problem, but -- and here is the whole point -- Microsoft does not listen to their customers. That is their whole problem, end of story.

johnywhy
johnywhy

the problem you described is not lack of innovation. in their rush to bring their latest innovation to market, they are famous for delivering buggy first releases. i don't agree that their stuff is not "sexy". true, they "borrowed" many of their innovations from others, but to me, software which is highly- professional and uniform, delivers rich features, and includes deep documentation and broad support options is sexy. that is how i would describe microsoft products. despite their buggy first releases. the times i've struggled with linux, i felt like i was working with something homemade, and it was way to easy too break. just did not give me that rock-solid feeling that mature microsoft OS's give me, out of the box. of course a linux pro would do better than me. but to each his own.

jeff
jeff

I dont think MS ever had a truly innovative culture. That is problem 1. They focused on creating a monopoly in which they dominated the kind of OS put on most mainstream computers. Their success using well honed monopolistic business practices made them lazy, arrogant and complacent. Now they are faced with the consequences of their traditional corporate status quo business approach and they lack the innovative ability to truly development useful and easy to use programs and systems but instead deliver bloated and clunky software that collapses under its own weight.

Tearat
Tearat

You have to do things the way Microsoft decide you should with their OS on your computer There is only one way to do things Which way? The MS way of course No other choice is necessary Don?t forget now its their OS not yours

mac
mac

Do you think Microsoft wants to make a perfect product? I've been stuck with their products since near the beginning of personal computing when other good companies like Ashton Tate were innovating and one thing I've learned, they don't want to make a product too good because then you wouldn't buy the upgrades. They always keep you one step behind by changing the interface, locations of operations, bloat ware, etc. By the time you figure out how to use it, they have changed everything. Take Access 97, a good product, They have made it very difficult to continue using it by not allowing it be installed with a newer versions without major hacks; same with other products, you either buy the new products or you can't function. It's called planned obsolescence and it makes them tons of money! Take a small company like PowerBasic. They make a terrific software development product that is tiny compared to Visual basic yet they don't make money like Microsoft because their product doesn't require continuously fixing. Another thing I've learned is you can't fight Microsoft because they have all the power and even if your product is better, you will lose in the end.

avidtrober
avidtrober

Well put, Microsoft is a software *sales and marketing* company, not a software company. > Microsoft has almost always been run under 'old school' concepts; "if it ain't broke, don't fix it." I think they explicit mantra was "good enough, consumers don't know the difference anyway". > The problem is, they have rarely realized Exactly. They hord cash for the purpose of lurching over the market waiting for what takes off next, then use the cash to subsidize their competitiveness against it. Well put.

avidtrober
avidtrober

> but how is that their biggest problem? msft uses support to close the gap between competitive functionality and making the sell. > The consumers benefit enormously. Really? Compared/contrasted to exactly what? We get IE, 2 or 3 versions of competitive functionality behind the curve. business gets...Sharepoint? Biztalk? and, has to put it on a resucitator just to keep it alive. or, going waaaaay back... msft gave us COM when losely-coupled services-oriented paradigms were firmly established yet lost due to mktng an effective monoply. It's great to build cr*pware if your goal is $$$ in support, services due to simply being problematic and overly complex. Other options were not so, and the proof is there in many, many verticals. and, more. Even better innovation with leading time-to-market suffers due to msft subsidizing its crappy competitive offerings that come in later with less features that hardly work when put to a real test...until maybe version 3, sometimes never. The computer revolution was inevitable. *HOW* it came about is where the real benefits to gain, or lose, were. > at some level most people are a bit jealous of Microsoft's success. Sure. And, some are also sick of seeing innovation put on the sideline b/c of msft tactics. > US capitalism ... That's how it works folks. Total cop-out. It's arguable that it really does work. Very long, complex topic. And, a snapshot in time vs. longterm (something the U.S. is very poor at, long-term) is a significant context to discuss it. > So, if Microsoft had of been an innovator, they would likely not be the monstrous giant they are today. What? This makes zero sense. Marketing and innovation are not mutually exclusive. > with them having billions in holdings, I just can't quite see what the innovation problem is One reason the big get bigger and the small get smaller: US paradigm = they have a lot of $$$, they MUST be the best.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

As mentioned elsewhere, the GNU project was well under way by the time Micro-Soft saved the masses from IBM overpricing strategies. GNU was a response to Unix which was the platform that MS displaced in the business. An OS would have become available for less than 800$ regardless of Bill?s penchant for poker and business strategy. The point is that MS quickly developed into the very monster it originally saved computer users from; bloated and overpriced software meant to maximize benefits of the corporate entity not the customer. The issue is also not that MS tended to buy it?s wares from others (note the lack of Z) and resell them. It?s that they often failed to continue that products evolutionary development. What was being developed for a love of pushing the technology to it?s maximum ability was instead hocked at ?good enough to sell? quality and left to go stagnant. IE did not warrant further development until the loss of the browser market kicked MS in the wallet and made it a very real threat. MS more often took great tech and resold it as good tech instead of putting that billions a year budget towards seeing how far it really could go; that would cut into shareholder equity after all. Also, Bill is a technology guy as much as a business guy. He?s greatest triumphs are on the business side but he did write the Dos boot loader and ported Basic mostly on his own in the early days. And, MS absolutely does get some of the brightest minds in the industry from other companies and directly out of school. The rest of the MS culture and monolith work against that ability though. I?m not willing to blame the individual developer but the overall company fights itself as much as the competition does. You loose me at the bit about how most people are jealous of MS success. I sure wouldn?t complain about having shares early on and the wealth they would provide now but complaints about MS purely because of there success is a very shallow reason. That minority of people are the same one?s that cry out against other successful companies also. Claiming that the majority are just jealous is very dismissive of the reasons for why different groups of people take issue with a company that has time and again, harmed the market to benefit it?s own profit margins. Last, do you really thing that ATMs could only run on MS software? With the ongoing security history of MS, do you really think that this is a good thing? What, if MS hadn?t saved us all from grunting and hitting each other with stone axes, no other OS would ever have been chosen to run behind ATM and other specialized systems? I?m an end user, I care about how that benefits me. DRM and share holder profits do not benefit the end user. Stifling emerging technologies and better quality competition does not benefit me, the end user. Being gouged for the cost of a Vista Pro license I can agree that MS innovation has been in business and that it hasn?t hurt there success at all to be less than innovative within the products the sell but your other points really need some reconsideration.

avidtrober
avidtrober

Volume of sales is not innovation. "refining the innovations of others" - wrong. They're enterprise support business is growing, OS and Office still bringing in $$$. They're not "refining" anything. They're taking late-stage product/business lifecycles and making money on it. "corporate Attention Deficit Disorder" - they're not ADD, just lacking vision. And, full of squatters there for the benes and able to hide in the gigantic bureaucracy that's developed there. "Bill Gates on TV making light of himself" - wrong. A $300 million cleanup of Vista's image. And, again, looking at competitor's innovative marketing/advertising and trying to imitate that. aka lack of innovation. "ignoring that last 10% of refinement" - pays off in terms of volume sales. And, the $ is what it's all about. However, you're missing the point of this thread: INNOVATION. Not volume of sales.

danfrancie
danfrancie

We are free people and we have the right to do things freely. In the case of your comparison between your first usage of Linux with your saying "MS mature OS's", which ? You have been struggled by Linux just because you are not no longer free to do things your own way. Using MS product is to accomodate to do things their way, not to have the choice to do thing your own way or as standard. It's that i class the MS virus!

avidtrober
avidtrober

msft monopolized the PC market channels with their licensing programs. this dried up capital in the open source software OS market. however, OSS has been maturing all along is quite capable of competing in terms of quality, but not support. Because, who's going to do it for free? This is why Microsoft hordes cash reserves, to have the ability to squash competition by not having to actually perform, just use cash already made (and not return it to investors and the 1000s of workers who made msft products what they are. Bill Gates is not giving away his money, he's giving away other's money).

JohnMcGrew
JohnMcGrew

How have consumers benefitted? Drastically over the last 25 years. In the ?80s, a comparatively primitive OS would cost you $500 to $1000 in today?s dollars. There were no such things as ?office suites?, so you?d have to individually buy a word processor, spell checker, spreadsheet, database, etc. Each would be easily over $800 in today?s dollars. Compared to this, a cheap Windows PC plus a copy of Office for less than $800 looks like a comparative steal, plus you no longer have to be a geek to get it running. (keeping it running may be a different matter, and topic) Capitalism: Always amused when pressed for an explanation as to why it?s not working, the protagonist defers that it?s a ?long, complex topic?. That?s usually a code for ?I haven?t a clue as to what I?m talking about, but I heard a person who I?m convinced is smarter than I am say it, so it must be true?. Odds are that the person he heard was doing the same thing. I?m not the world?s greatest fan of Microsoft. (I always cringed when I head Bill Gates go on about ?innovation?) But that doesn?t mean that I?m not about to give them credit where credit is due. The big get bigger for two reasons: The government sanctions it, or they must be selling something that people want to buy. Which is it?

Tearat
Tearat

?US paradigm = they have a lot of $$$, they MUST be the best.? A lot like If it costs the most to buy it must be the highest quality If it costs the least to buy it must be the lowest quality Another The person with the most money must be the most successful The person with the least money must be the least successful Not if the most successful is a crook spending time in jail just before the husband or wife runs off with the money Not if the least successful has invested all their money in the stock market on low price worthless shares in a company that is about to release one of the biggest products in the next ten years

apotheon
apotheon

"[i]> US capitalism ... That's how it works folks. Total cop-out. It's arguable that it really does work. Very long, complex topic. And, a snapshot in time vs. longterm (something the U.S. is very poor at, long-term) is a significant context to discuss it.[/i]" No -- the cop-out is in the fact that someone thinks capitalism is basically equivalent to old-school mercantilism as made manifest through corporatism. Almost everybody seems to think so, for some asinine reason, but the popularity of a mistake doesn't make it any less mistaken.

HAL 9000
HAL 9000

M$ didn't save the world from IBM in the PC Market I was working for IBM when PC's hit the streets but not working with PC's as they where nothing more than Play Toys in the eyes of most of the people involved with computers them. IBM actually saw a potential Market in what Apple was doing and built an Open Architecture System using freely available components to compete with Apple. The hardware side was the easy bit but as Apple was offering a complete package of Hardware & Software IBM Needed a Software Company and an OS M$ fitted the bill quite nicely for the first but didn't have anything even remotely suitable for the second so they sent IBM onto DR DOS. Depending on who you talk to from that point on things get more than a bit fuzzy and there are many different stories as to what actually happened but suffice it to say that DR DOS threw out the IBM boys without talking to the Suits that arrived trying to dictate the Law to the small fish in the form of DR DOS. DR was literally nothing more than a Husband & Wife operation back then and really where small taters compared to IBM's turnover DR wouldn't have made as much in a decade as IBM made in a day back then. Amway after blowing it with DR IBM returned to M$ and called the deal off as they couldn't use M$'s product without an OS. Bill in an act of complete Desperation went out and purchased a form of DOS called the [b]Dirty Operating System[/b] which had been badly hacked from a DR DOS Destruction Manual. M$ then recoded this offering to remove any reference to Sun Micro Systems and returned to IBM with something that looked as if it might actually work and that was as they say it Where M$ really began. If anything IBM Rescued M$ for almost certain Bankruptcy and provided competition to Apple who where the Big Boys in the then small but growing PC Market. IBM having produced a winner that very quickly took over the PC Market and really started the whole thing running didn't want to spend any more Money as they had not as yet recouped their expenses in developing the Open Architecture Computer but M$ wasn't having any of this and wanted to continue the fight against Apple who by now had a GUI and made the M$ Offering positively archaic in comparison. If the truth be told IBM actually made the PC market as it is today by producing a cheap easy to use alternative to Apple with a Marketing Distribution Arm that was impossible to equal buy any other company and way beyond Apples Manufacturing ability. They built M$ to a point where they could go their own way and leave IBM behind in the dust along with Apple and made a Monster that is now known as M$. Yep IBM has a lot of blame to accept for that but even still it's better to have the PC now even if M$ has held back development by at least 30 years in their software. Now all that has to happen is some place come forward with a Fully Featured alternative to Windows and M$ will not know where to turn. Granted it will take time and M$ will not go easily but they are incapable of developing like Apple did and can. They are just as Inflexible now as IBM was way back then and if history tells us anything they have no alternative but to fail. It just depends how much longer they hold back Software Development not if they will cease to be a viable business model but when. Granted it's going to take longer to replace M$ as they are established when M$ started there was nothing else and they didn't even have a market for their product. What eventually replaces M$ will have to unseat M$ and undoubtedly will be just as inflexible as M$ themselves. You do not replace Giants with nobodies so who ever eventually replaces M$ will have to be as big as them or have the backing of a Company as big as IBM was way back when this all started. Col

avidtrober
avidtrober

> The point is that MS quickly developed into the very monster it originally saved computer users from bingo. > MS absolutely does get some of the brightest minds in the industry from other companies and directly out of school. Means nothing if a bureaucracy ties their hands; and it does indeed do that very well. msft needs wholesale cleanup, and many would agree starting with Ballmer. > Stifling emerging technologies and better quality competition does not benefit me, the end user. Exactly. > Being gouged for the cost of a Vista Pro license really. Dell's offer to let you have XP if you BUY Vista. THAT is not true competition. Msft holds Dell hostage on license prices if they don't what they say. msft OS's are not on-par with *nix versions; they are subsidized and monopolized. Consumers WOULD, and WILL, go with alternatives when given the chance.

avidtrober
avidtrober

The last 10% is more like the last 50%. e.g. Sharepoint is growing, but can't even stand on it's own w/o constant handholding. The same for numerous other products. Microsoft half-bakes a product then picks up *service* revenue to make it capable of even operating worth a flip. Sales guys are instructed to push hard for support agreements, not just for the revenue, but for the fact customers get so frustrated with using it they drop it or look for alternatives = half-baked releases.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

um.. The help forums provide support for free. The documentation can be very good too in more popular project cases. Now, the general model is to provide software for free the sell support service and/or more advanced features on top of the free version of the software and that's just fine too as it's done to aid the end user. Red Hat and Novell seem pretty comfortable this way as is IBM, Mandriva, Cononical.. You may also purchase books and provide your own support by learning that way if forums and support contracts are not your thing. It's not like MS provides free support beyond webforums either. Have you looked at the cost and various levels of support contracts from MS?

Tearat
Tearat

I have fixed it It was not well written I was saying the cost of the old software in the new package was less I was not saying the cost of the old previous software was less I have also fixed the cost verses value error

JohnMcGrew
JohnMcGrew

Vista will only work out like XP if the IT world cleaves on to it because they decide to reject Windows 7.

apotheon
apotheon

It looks like you agree with me. That just boggles my mind. How do you arrive at the conclusions in your previous post while agreeing with everything I said to rebut it?

JohnMcGrew
JohnMcGrew

The "old stuff" was never cheaper. It was far more expensive, and you had to buy it all piecemeal. Heck, you even had to buy your fonts one-at-a-time, and they weren?t even scalable. (meaning you had to buy a separate 10-point, 12-point, etc) And it?s even more absurd to compare the capabilities of today?s software with that of 20 years ago. Out of the box, the most basic version Windows offers more software and capability that you could have purchased 20 years ago, for any price.

JohnMcGrew
JohnMcGrew

First of all, I've never claimed that Microsoft has ever "invented" anything. MS is a marketing company, not a cell of "innovation" as Bill Gates wishes the world to think. I vividly recall the debate that took place in the mid-80s about the direction of "desktop" operating systems. What the world was looking for was development of an OS that was as lean and unbloated as most of the primitive OSes were, but one that was also secure and stable as the mature mainframe OSes were. Various flavors of UNIX were seriously proposed and considered, but were rejected by the marketplace at the time because even in their leanest forms they?d choke the hardware of the day. After the rejection of UNIX and other minor players, Microsoft and IBM co-joined on their infamous OS/2-Presentation Manager debacle. At this point, IBM forced what was probably the most fateful decision of the mid-PC era on us all. IBM?s new PS/2 line included 8086, 286, and 386-based machines. IBM insisted that the new OS be compatible on the 286 as well as the 386. This meant that compromises had to be made since, as we all remember, the 286 did not support protected memory. The Windows architecture pays unfortunate homage to this fateful decision to this day. The unforgivable result is that a dozen years later, the PC world ended up with an OS that was the worst of both worlds; both bloated and insecure. Believe me, I?m no MS fanboy for this reason alone. 2nd, IBM, albeit still a large company is a shell of its former self, both in market capitalization and influence. (http://finance.yahoo.com/q/bc?t=my&s=IBM&l=off&z=m&q=l&c=msft) Vista: Wasn't it just last week that even Steve Balmer suggested that it was "okay" to skip Vista for a future better version of Windows? (http://blogs.techrepublic.com.com/hiner/?p=868) And finally, it seems to me that the hapless "consumers" are capable of making choices contrary to Microsoft's wishes. They rejected Vista.

Vulpinemac
Vulpinemac

[i]The only reason I didn't recommend a Linux or BSD based system for this relatives machine is because she specifically needs MS software for school courses. The courses are teaching brand names not function skills so the brand name tools have to be on her machine.[/i] Personally, if I were her, I'd consider a different school; it seems obvious that if a school is pushing brands instead of function skills, they're trying to lock people into those brands. I don't know what subjects she's studying, but I highly recommend finding a way to learn other methods as well. Otherwise she might find herself stuck in a dead- end career. Granted, for some processes maybe "branding" is better, but even the most ubiquitous image editor, Photoshop, can be run on more than one OS and has direct competiton with almost identical capabilities that runs in all three major OSes.. In fact, I don't know a single app outside of games that can't be platform-agnostic. In general I agree with what you say; Microsoft needs to get its act straight and stop trying to force people into working the "Microsoft Way."

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

I don't think you missed the meaning but for anyone else who might; I meant industry standards not government intervention. Industry agreed standards like the ports on the back of the computer are what allow healthy competition to work through providing a better product that will work with the rest of the consumer's setup. Sadly, the alternative products currently are the little guys without political weight to throw around. It's not good enough to be as good as the market dominator, one has to be far better and have a way to survive the politics of old school management and marketing spin. Here's hoping the rest of the consumers can one day enjoy the benefits that the geeks have known about since AT&T's code got jailbroken.

Tearat
Tearat

But not always Someone decides the companies have gone to far and does something that they think will fix the problem Those people are usually part of the government They usually try to impose a standard on the industry It can be someone else?s standard Most of the time it is the end for the companies with a monopoly Some will rise to the challenge by improving their product It always costs them market share and/or profits The PR wars can be fun to watch I like how the monopolies try to make it look like it will hurt or damage the market more than the monopolies already have I like how the politicians will try and convince the market and its customers it will be better than it is before the change It shows the monopolies were stupid to think they were safely in control of the market It shows the monopolies were stupid to think that it would last for a long time or foreverr The corporations never learn Paying off one person does not guaranty they will be able to do what they want them to do Some people cannot be bribed or want to much Some will call the cops

Tearat
Tearat

OS and office Got cheaper because people were paying for the extras They already had what they needed Software companies had to drop the price on the old core software in the new package But they had to charge for the extras, which were of much less value to most people The value of old core software in the new package was less The new stuff in the new package was of less value to most but not all customers There was more competition All of those pushed the price down Integration was just part of the process of getting people to buy all their software from you There is no way to tell if it was a factor in pricing

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

Put a basic driver in the NT kernel where it belongs then provide added value through printer specific kernels. Sort of like the LPT days. This aproach works for GPU with the generic VGA driver and added value chip specific drivers. The only reason I didn't recommend a Linux or BSD based system for this relatives machine is because she specifically needs MS software for school courses. The courses are teaching brand names not function skills so the brand name tools have to be on her machine. Really though, my comment was meant more to add on to your points though I did open up with venting about the hour phone conversation that should have been a five minute task including the driver download time. I hope the slow wheels of history keep turning to force MS to produce better products or replace them with something superior. There is a lot of politics in the way of that happening at the moment but let's hope for the best as it can only benefit the end user in the long run.

apotheon
apotheon

"[i]...what does 'capitalism' mean, since you seem to think I don't know?[/i]" I didn't say you don't know what "capitalism" means. Why do you think I said such a thing? I don't know enough about what you know to make a determination about whether you know what "capitalism" means. I do, however, think that anyone who believes the success of Microsoft is due to unperverted effects of capitalism is missing some important understanding of the situation. Our current economic system in the US and many other Western "democracies" is as closely related to mercantilism as to any kind of market capitalism. "[i]I'd argue that they exist because of Microsoft. They probably would not if Microsoft was the theoretically perfect company.[/i]" If you think that, you don't know the history of open source software very well. For instance, I'm typing this on a laptop running FreeBSD -- which is descended from the original Berkely Unix, which existed because of [b]AT&T[/b]. Its existence has nothing to do with Microsoft. The same is true of the other modern BSD Unix systems. The same can be said of Linux, which exists in large part because of Minix, which in turn exists in large part because of the original BSD Unix, et cetera. OpenSolaris is a direct descendant of AT&T Unix. OpenDarwin, currently on the back burner ("dormant" but not "dead"), is derived primarily from BSD Unix and NeXTSTEP, the latter of which existed because of MacOS X and Unix. Then, there's Plan 9. While it's not really up to standards for general distribution yet, it could be quickly, and it's the closest we have to an everyday usable general purpose OS that is anywhere near that advanced in terms of its design concepts. It was created by the efforts of some of the same people involved in the original creation of Unix at AT&T. Can you see where this is going? Inferno spun off from Plan 9, so it shares the same roots. Are you seeing a trend? Then, of course, there's Haiku -- descended from BeOS, which in turn inherited much of its design characteristics from AmigaOS. AmigaOS basically existed because of Atari -- not Microsoft. Syllable is a fork of AtheOS, which was inspired by AmigaOS. In the cases of Unix-like systems getting ported to personal computer hardware, the only thing that caused most of them to take as long as it did is that they were basically waiting for a PC system as powerful as the 386 to appear. The 386 ports arrived on the market pretty much at the same time as Windows 3.1 (1993 was a busy year), having been developed to a release-worthy point on 286 systems. Don't ask me why -- I don't know everything. Claiming Microsoft is the inspiration for all the modern general-purpose OSes misses most of what actually happened in the world of OS development for the last thirty years. So . . . if you're going to argue that they exist because of Microsoft, you need a really convincing argument. Anyway, if you really spent a lot of time studying economics, you should probably realize that the "argument" you made (and that I quoted above) about how Microsoft "inspired" all these other OSes can only be regarded as an endorsement of Microsoft if you buy into the broken window fallacy. "[i]They're a shell of their former selves, aimlessly looking for a purpose to still exist.[/i]" IBM is [b]huge[/b], and is making excellent profits in areas completely unrelated to desktop/personal computers. The PC is not the center of the IT world, believe it or not. "[i]Like Vista? And how well has that worked out for Microsoft?[/i]" How about like XP? That eventually worked out for Microsoft, despite a lot of initial resistance. "[i]Yes, consumers are constantly being sold crap they really don't need. But that's up to the consumers to decide. Not you. That is 'capitalism'.[/i]" 1. When did I say I needed to be the guy making up others' minds for them? 2. The fact I don't doesn't mean Microsoft does.

apotheon
apotheon

"[i]Sooner or later history will repeat and they will be replaced by something better.[/i]" Good -- I can't wait for some flavor of BSD Unix to "rule the world".

JohnMcGrew
JohnMcGrew

...what does "capitalism" mean, since you seem to think I don't know? I'd hate to think all those years in school chasing an economics degree went to waste. "a highly advanced OS is now available for free, no thanks to Microsoft. In fact, hundreds of such OSes are available for free, in several different families of OS." I'd argue that they exist because of Microsoft. They probably would not if Microsoft was the theoretically perfect company. Every argument made here against Microsoft was made against IBM in from the '60s through the '80s. And is IBM controlling every aspect of our lives today like the protagonists feared they would be 30 years ago? Hardly. They're a shell of their former selves, aimlessly looking for a purpose to still exist. They got big and arrogant just like Microsoft, and eventually became irrelevant to consumers. The same will happen to Microsoft. Some say it already has. "selling something people want doesn't necessarily mean you're selling anything of value. You might just be using marketing techniques to convince them they want something they wouldn't otherwise care to have." Like Vista? And how well has that worked out for Microsoft? Yes, consumers are constantly being sold crap they really don?t need. But that?s up to the consumers to decide. Not you. That is "capitalism".

JohnMcGrew
JohnMcGrew

25 years ago, you'd be coding the print driver for that printer yourself. Or better yet, you could have gone the Linux route if you feel that MS has too many driver issues. Hey, I never said MS was great. Far from it. IMHO, they've become a bloated, out-of-their-own-control mess. But you have to keep things in perpective. They are in the same spot IBM was in the '70s & '80s. Sooner or later history will repeat and they will be replaced by something better.

apotheon
apotheon

"[i]In the '80s, a comparatively primitive OS would cost you $500 to $1000 in today's dollars.[/i]" . . . and a highly advanced OS is now available for free, [b]no thanks to Microsoft[/b]. In fact, hundreds of such OSes are available for free, in several different families of OS. "[i]There were no such things as 'office suites', so you'd have to individually buy a word processor, spell checker, spreadsheet, database, etc.[/i]" Yeah, I miss the good ol' days when the desire for a word processor and a spreadsheet didn't mandate giving up half your hard drive space to a monstrous, unstable, sub-optimal heap of misfeatures, too. Oh, wait -- you were saying that was a good thing, I guess. In fact, I find myself boggling at the fact you seem to think something like Access qualifies as a "database" in any way that matters. "[i]Each would be easily over $800 in today's dollars.[/i]" . . . except that you can get all that stuff for free. "[i]a cheap Windows PC plus a copy of Office for less than $800 looks like a comparative steal[/i]" You can even get a laptop with far more software than that -- none of it from Microsoft -- for around $300. "[i]Capitalism: Always amused when pressed for an explanation as to why it's not working, the protagonist defers that it's a 'long, complex topic'. That's usually a code for 'I haven't a clue as to what I'm talking about, but I heard a person who I'm convinced is smarter than I am say it, so it must be true'. Odds are that the person he heard was doing the same thing.[/i]" Agreed. About the only thing I find even sillier on the subject is people who "defend" capitalism but don't even know what the word means. "[i]But that doesn't mean that I'm not about to give them credit where credit is due.[/i]" . . . or, in some cases, where it [b]isn't[/b] due (evidently). "[i]The big get bigger for two reasons: The government sanctions it, or they must be selling something that people want to buy. Which is it?[/i]" The entire body of corporate law is a case of government sanction -- to say nothing of the fact that you forgot about another possible reason: the big use their power to undercut, buy out, or otherwise crush the competition, regardless of selling anything people would want if they knew they had other options. . . . and selling something people want doesn't necessarily mean you're selling anything of value. You might just be using marketing techniques to convince them they want something they wouldn't otherwise care to have.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

Ah.. that's why I was on the phone for an hour yesterday with my University graduate non-geek relative trying to get her new printer to be recognized by Windows; because MS has been kind enough to provide an "it just works" OS that you don't need to be a, or call a, geek to get working. ;) One of my issues with MS is not that they are successful but that the only goal is profits through whatever minimal expenses they can get away with competitively. There is so much room for improvement from the world's largest software vendor and the brain trust they could afford to hire that it's truly embarrassing. I get that business exists to generate profits but when product quality is held to the bare minimum that will sell units, I take issue. The profits should be an indirect result of the passion for developing high quality and evolving the product. Sadly, that business model usually looses out to the legalized robbery that is the modern software market. I'm all for giving MS credit where due and they are due credit within some topics but they could do a great deal to improve the product even if it means the executives have to wait more than a year before their next yacht upgrades.

apotheon
apotheon

That's the way bureaucracy works, of course.

HAL 9000
HAL 9000

While I didn't play with the PC's back then or pay them much attention it was sort of hard to ignore them as well. We had these Pimply Faced Account Types tell us all how to do things their way. Of course when the Brown Stuff Hit the fan they ran away and hid and left the Hard decisions to others and then complained that we didn't follow their rules. They acted as if we should know what their rules where and I for one certainly didn't. But when I got hit with a PC Owner who put his PC out of it's misery with a Double Barreled Shotgun I sort off thought it was a better idea to replace the dead unit and give him free lessons rather than have him walk in and shoot the place up. Wouldn't have worried me on little bit because I didn't work with PC's and I was hardly ever in the office let alone that part of the building. But I just loved the way that the PC Manager ran away and hid and then when I fixed up his mess he wanted the Main Frame Side to pay for it. :D Col

apotheon
apotheon

"[i]I thought that form the consumer side, MS was considered the company that saved everyone from having to buy from only IBM and only big iron though too. By licensing instead of selling the OS, MS was able to license to other hardware vendors also breaking IBM's 'only we do computers' hold on the market.[/i]" That would only make sense if there were other people who wanted to sell computers, but couldn't, because DOS was the only OS anyone wanted and it only ran on IBM systems. Quite the opposite was true: OSes were relatively easy to come by, as long as you had something on which to run them, but hardware cost a lot of money. It was, in fact, the threat of competition from other hardware vendors that prompted IBM to open up its PC architecture -- and it was the opening of the architecture that caused computer prices to drop so much, so fast. Microsoft was just along for the ride, in the right place at the right time.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

They've been one of the most interesting developments within the computer market that I've seen since the PDA emerged. I think they've come closest to threatening Microsoft's self esteem. They prove that you don't need an Alienware quade core gaming notebook to surf for porn and sent email to Aunt Edna. They prove that you can push a battery charge for a day and carry a mobile computer in your pocket. They prove that you don't have to use windows or osX to do what most people want with a computer. They also prove that what MS had on the market was as bloated as the geeks have been claiming for years. They had to modify Windows quite a bit or jack the hardware specs to make it run on the Eee class machines. Other OS are able to provide more functionality on more limited hardware resources. They also don't need to resource to bizzar contractual obligations for hardware specs to justify their existence and compete. MS seriously had the gal too say "look, if you make the hardware too usable by using that larger display screen, it's not a low resource class machine and we're not going to sell you the Windows Lite licenses at discounted prices."

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

I knew that the IBM deal was what took MS from failing obscurity into success with Bill's idea of licensing the OS rather than selling it over outright. He baught it for ten or fourty grand and flipped it for a million through IBM. I thought that form the consumer side, MS was considered the company that saved everyone from having to buy from only IBM and only big iron though too. By licensing instead of selling the OS, MS was able to license to other hardware vendors also breaking IBM's "only we do computers" hold on the market. Here's hoping the already better alternatives quickly pickup the last bits of consumer hardware support and missing features. I think real competition without barriers to entry and barriers to switching would return the software market to one that benefits the end user. Either MS will change and place the end user above the share holder or it will parish at the hands of better market solutions. Sadly, MS has the budget for a long dirty fight. The company could probably take a year or two off retail and marketing and coast purely on what it has in the back; few other companies could do such a thing with any hope of survival. I do like hearing the history from people who where there though. Thank you for that long post.

Tearat
Tearat

Sony and LG are two that come to mind Sony is more than capable of dislodging MS Any of the giants could back a new or existing software company Some of them have their own software company