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Microsoft Operating Systems Software

MS Dissatisfaction High, Users Consider Switching 815

Posted by timothy
from the fish-in-a-barrel dept.
chriscooper1470 writes "Almost two-thirds of respondents to a recent InternetWeek Reader Question said they are dissatisfied with Microsoft software, and 41 percent of respondents are at least thinking about switching away from Microsoft software. Only 28 percent of users responding to the poll described themselves as satisfied Microsoft customers. There are some great comments at the bottom of the article discussing why people voted the way they did. My favorite quote: 'At the end of the day, I still wish we had a viable alternative. There isn't one -- yet. We'll keep looking.' - Sure."
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MS Dissatisfaction High, Users Consider Switching

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  • by dreamchaser (49529) on Sunday October 12, 2003 @03:44PM (#7195473) Homepage Journal
    The fact is there are really no alternatives for most people. Macs are expensive, and it's hard to find a good x86 box with Linux preloaded. Until reliable, powerful PC's with alternate OSes and applications suites are easily obtainable, the unwashed masses will continue to buy MS. Sad, but true.
  • by bloggins02 (468782) on Sunday October 12, 2003 @03:44PM (#7195479)
    So, in both Gnome and KDE 3.1 I can click on an icon and.... nothing. The cursor doesn't change to an hourglass or anything, so I click again thinking I just didn't doubleclick fast enough. Of course, this opens two instances of the program.

    See, it's just little things like this, but boy are there a LOT of these little things. Fix them, and maybe we'll see people treat Linux and OSS as a serious alternative.

  • Monopoly (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Uruk (4907) on Sunday October 12, 2003 @03:46PM (#7195494)
    ...And this type of dissatisfaction my friends is why monopolies suck. The lack of options is a problem, but it's the secondary problem. Options are needed when the products are no good. The so-called invisible hand of the economy is supposed to ruthlessly punish companies who produce crappy products that don't give customers what they need. In monopolies, the invisible hands are handcuffed. This in turn really robs the company in question of any motivation to do it right.

    I mean, what's the difference? People are going to buy their stuff whether it's good or not. This reminds me of the South Park episode where Mr. Garrison comes up with an alternative to the airplane industry. The only problem is that it has serious, terrible drawbacks. (To say the least) Still, people go after it because even if it's terrible, it provides an incremental advantage to how terrible the airlines were.

    Part of the lack of choice isn't Microsoft's fault. Computers are new, and society at large is sorely lacking in the skills necessary to use them effectively. Computer education at all levels (not programming, just training on effective use) is vital if you ever want people to take an alternative to Microsoft, even if it is ever presented.

  • by trompete (651953) on Sunday October 12, 2003 @03:47PM (#7195498) Homepage Journal
    Part of it is also that we all pay the MS tax when we buy a computer from Circuit City, Best Buy, Comp USA...etc. If users could get MS-free machines (subtract Windows XP from the price) at retail stores besides Walmart, I think people would go for em. I know I'd try to get customers to switch at my store.
  • The *best* quote (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Sinus0idal (546109) on Sunday October 12, 2003 @03:48PM (#7195510)
    "I read that Linux has issued 25 patches so far this year, so what is to be gained by switching?"

    Yes 'Linux'. No distro, no particular installed apps/services, no particular kernel, just 'linux'. Linux, the company, you know..

    Well done Chris Schlehein... I think you really deserve your title of "Enterprise Network Administrator". Your obviously SO clued up in the world of computing.

  • by slipgun (316092) on Sunday October 12, 2003 @03:49PM (#7195516)
    My favorite quote: 'At the end of the day, I still wish we had a viable alternative. There isn't one -- yet. We'll keep looking.' - Sure

    If people don't consider Linux a viable alternative, the problem lies with Linux, not with said people. Attitudes such as this will do nothing to help Linux.
  • by be-fan (61476) on Sunday October 12, 2003 @03:54PM (#7195559)
    a) The only reason that most people can setup a Windows box is because it comes set up already. Configuration is a non-issue these days. When RedHat 8 came out, it was easy enough for computer nephytes to do anything they could in Windows. Intermediate users will still have problems (because intermediate users have problems that RedHat doesn't have nice GUI solutions for) but that's a seperate issue.

    b) Windows nerds are just as rude as Linux nerds. By and large, nerds (unfortunately) have poor social skills. Windows nerds are just as rude as Linux nerds.
  • You Know.. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Pave Low (566880) on Sunday October 12, 2003 @03:56PM (#7195568) Journal
    If this same useless unscientific poll were conducted on Linux users and found dissatifcation high, the slashdot text would be blasting it immediately.

    Instead, because it is Microsoft, the editor (namely that tool timothy) takes it as self-evident and obviously true since it confirms his own biases.

    Exhibit #15432 why Slashdot can't be taken as more than a joke.

  • by SmallFurryCreature (593017) on Sunday October 12, 2003 @04:00PM (#7195599) Journal
    Yup people hate change. That is why we are still working on dumb terminals attached to mainframes. Change can happen. It is sorta like pushing a train. If it is standing still then it will be hell to get moving. But once it does stopping it will be even harder and a lot more likely to get get you squashed.

    Don't forget that not so long ago is you suggested using MS software in an office you would have been kicked out by both IT AND management.

    Then again this kind of poll is useless. Sure they are dissatisified. You always says you want a better/cheaper product. If you say you are 100% satisfied they will up the price.

  • by 91degrees (207121) on Sunday October 12, 2003 @04:00PM (#7195600) Journal
    What people want (and MS seems to be slowly taking away from them) is a simple easy to use OS with a fast responsive GUI, that you can easily install applications on.

    Linux doesn't fit the bill. While it is simple to use at a basic user level, the various applications are not at all integrated. Applications are fiddly to get to work properly. X is slow unless you work at it.
  • bias (Score:4, Insightful)

    by snarkh (118018) on Sunday October 12, 2003 @04:03PM (#7195619)
    We asked the question: "Microsoft users are getting fed up. They're battered by worms, viruses, security patches and increasing enterprise licensing costs. Aggravation has users talking about switching from Microsoft software to something else. We're trying to figure out how much of that talk is just talk, and how much is serious action. Do you seriously plan to dump Microsoft software?"

    That's one loaded question. Why would anyne who disagrees with the premise even bother to answer this?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 12, 2003 @04:04PM (#7195623)
    If you took the time to do an actual cost comparison between Mac's and Window's machines, plus time, hassle, and value added...not to mention warranties, you would find that Macs actually come in pretty close to equal to Windows machines. Just go to Dell and build you a computer and then visit Apple and build a similar computer and find out.
  • Re:Zealot. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Metzli (184903) on Sunday October 12, 2003 @04:04PM (#7195625)
    Personally, I think that's a very valid concern. I have seen numerous users at my company who are very clueless about their Windows desktops, despite the fact that they have a PC at home. If they were to be switched to a completely different and unfamiliar-looking desktop (KDE, GNOME, Ximian, OSX, etc.), the push-back and necessary user training would be enormous.

    Aside from the desktop unfamiliarity, applications could be a very big headache. Our corporation has desktop apps that are incompatible between Windows versions (hence, we don't have XP everywhere), so switching all users to an alternative desktop just isn't an option. Unfortunately, it's a catch-22 for many corporate IT departments. They can't switch desktops because the apps don't support them, but the vendors won't support other desktops until the userbase of alternative systems goes up.

    At this time, I just don't see how a non-Windows desktop is a viable solution for many enterprises. For certain users (developers, DBAs, admins, etc.), yes, is is a good idea. But, the users in Accounting, Legal, HR, etc. may be locked in.
  • by Doctor Beavis (571080) on Sunday October 12, 2003 @04:04PM (#7195628)
    I've always been fond of the saying that "Macs are expensive" only for people who don't value their time...
  • by superdan2k (135614) on Sunday October 12, 2003 @04:08PM (#7195656) Homepage Journal
    "Microsoft is now as stable and secure as its competitors,"

    Okay, put down the Kool-Aid and the crack pipe and step back slowly with your hands in the air.

    That said...ARE YOU FUCKING INSANE?

    If your answer to the question is "no", perhaps you'll want to enlighten us further as to where your formulate this opinion, because right now it seems that you have no experience with Linux or Mac OS X, and are just toeing the MS Party Line.

    Get an OS X box and Red Hat box and call me back after you've used them for a few months.
  • by AntiOrganic (650691) on Sunday October 12, 2003 @04:14PM (#7195693) Homepage
    I think it is a people problem, and people are finally starting to wise up and recognize that there are alternatives. Linux is popular enough now where a friend of mine, who, while computer literate, is not a technophile by any stretch, saw my Gnome desktop for the first time since my computer had been switched to Windows. His reaction? "Oh, is that Linux?" I didn't think Joe User had heard of Linux. I was mistaken.

    He was quite impressed with Gentoo's speed and the ease of use of my system (Gnome, Gaim, Totem, AbiWord, Evolution, etc.). He uses his computer for gaming mostly, so I don't see him switching from Windows anytime soon, but he seemed fairly impressed at my framerates in Enemy Territory, and even more so at the fact that I hadn't paid a dime for a damned piece of software running on my computer.

    Lots of people who do know of Linux don't realize how far Linux has come. Back in the summer of 2002, when Gnome 1.4 and KDE 2 were the norm as far as desktop environments went, I thought to myself, "Linux is pretty cool, but I don't think it will be ready for the desktop for another three or four years." Now, using Gnome 2.4 and GTK2 apps, I am astonished at how much the open-source community has been able to accomplish.

    I think Linux is ready for the desktop right now. I think if computers were sold with Linux, for hundreds cheaper than comparable Windows PCs, people would start using it. And if not, maybe it would put some pressure on Microsoft to drop prices and stop making shitty products.
  • by carpediem55 (157989) <[Kurt] [at] [spartansolutions.biz]> on Sunday October 12, 2003 @04:15PM (#7195701) Homepage
    This is not a statically valid survey.

    We asked the question: "Microsoft users are getting fed up. They're battered by worms, viruses, security patches and increasing enterprise licensing costs. Aggravation has users talking about switching from Microsoft software to something else. We're trying to figure out how much of that talk is just talk, and how much is serious action. Do you seriously plan to dump Microsoft software?"

    A question like this is very leading, and is likely to induce a testing effect, in which the actual asking of the question, and they way it is asked, changes the answer the survey taker gives. You can't preface a question by talking about how horrible microsoft is. The question should simply say: "Do you plan to switch from Microsoft sofware?" That would be much more statistically valid, and I can almost guarantee would lead to a diffent percentage of answers. That being said, I agree with the "41%".
  • by EventHorizon (41772) on Sunday October 12, 2003 @04:16PM (#7195706)
    Free software developers need to be honest with themselves. No Linux environment is yet on par with Windows for typical desktop use. Here are the missing characteristics:

    1. direct-render windowing system. XFree86's architecture is unfixably inefficient for typical desktop users. Window dragging in X is clearly much less responsive than on Win32 due to the silly message encode/decode overhead, context switches, and inter-process copies. DirectFB provides some hope here but their multi-window code is still immature. Network transparency should still be supported (and better than Win32 VNC), but not used for the local desktop.

    2. Consistent "ooh, shiny" widget set. The computing public expects computers to make them feel futuristic and sexy, not like dateless engineering nerds. WinXP's advantage over Win2K is purely visual--there were basically no interesting technical changes (proof that Microsoft is a stagnant market-driven company). With ATI releasing specs and NVIDIA losing market share to the point of irrelevance, free software can leverage hardware acceleration to build sleak UIs.

    3. Much higher efficiency. Practically speaking that means straight C. Nobody has figured out how to architect, write, maintain, or compile C++ efficiently. Don't use it.

    4. Avoid shared library hell. Gnome seems to require about 200 shared libraries, which slows down the dynamic linker and creates a maintenance and installation nightmare (GNUCash).

    5. fast, efficient browser. mozilla is a slow bloated tribute to the horror of C++ software engineering. The dillo folks have the right idea but are way behind IE. A free browser can ignore javascript, java, flash, and ActiveX as these are not critical to building a viable desktop.

    6. media players. mplayer is better than anything availible for Windows. no problem here.

    7. Full Win32 compatability. Wine is making great progress here. Once Win32 apps (especially games) run at native speed it's all over.

    8. Office Suite. OpenOffice is a horrid, bloated mess. AbiWord is better. Free software developers are wasting their time on backwards compatability. Develop a better system, and people will switch. It is always possible to dump the useful contents of a Word doc to plaintext or HTML using Word itself, so free software developers should not waste time trying to reverse engineer proprietary formats. Develop something faster, cheaper, more stable, better, and let users deal with the conversion.

    9. package management. Instead of forcing developers to write nasty packaging scripts, design a system which takes a tar.gz URL, auto-calculates dependencies based on autoconf, then installs and manages the program transparently. Once that happens you've freed 10,000 Debian maintainers for more useful work.

    10. no open ports and state-based firewalling. It's trivial to beat Microsoft here.

    When companies have a significant competitive advantage using a free desktop the ones who don't switch will go out of business. The develoeprs of this system will have guaranteed, well-paying jobs. revolution complete.
  • by Brian Kendig (1959) on Sunday October 12, 2003 @04:37PM (#7195823) Homepage
    But if all you want is a cheap and easy box for a non-technical person to run Word and Excel and Internet Explorer on, you can get a workable Dell (Dimension 2400, Celeron 2.2GHz, 40GB HD, 128MB RAM) for $500 to $600, while the cheapest Mac is the eMac (800MHz G4, 40GB HD, 128MB RAM) at $800. Multiply that by even just a couple dozen people, and the price differential really adds up.

    The problem is that high-end Macs are competitive to high-end PC's, and mid-range Macs are (somewhat) competitive to mid-range PC's, but there are no low-end Macs for businesses who want bare-bones end-user computers.
  • The difference... (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 12, 2003 @04:37PM (#7195829)
    "Wal-Mart employees kick puppies and laugh at old people"

    The difference is that nobody is saying that Walmart is kicking puppies and laughing at old people, while people are really pissed off at MS for their software instability and problems.

    It only seems like a loaded question to you because you, deep down, don't really see a problem with MS software.
  • by jhoffoss (73895) on Sunday October 12, 2003 @04:48PM (#7195893) Journal
    Spot on...as soon as buying, using, and maintaining a Linux PC is as easy as a mac, Linux will be a viable alternative.

    It's arguable that the same would be true if Linux were as easy as Windows, but parts of the Linux desktop are getting there. But at that point, that still makes Linux an alternative, but maybe not the best one for some people.

    One of the bigger problems I can see with Linux for the masses is the fact that there isn't enough abstraction for the user. No one I have talked to about this subject knows, wants to know, or gives a flying f*** how the OS really works. They want it to just work, out of the box, without spending hours reading TFMs. Geeks thrive on that though, and many of us don't want an OS like this, we like getting our hands, wrists, elbows, and sometimes waists dirty diving into the system.

    I'd say we just have to find the middle-ground where we can put up a small wall, one side of which is usability and simplicity across the board. The other, the nuts and bolts for those in-the-know to play with.

  • by God! Awful 2 (631283) on Sunday October 12, 2003 @04:53PM (#7195914) Journal
    Keyword: unscientific poll.

    Whenever you post a survey like this, you mainly get responses from people with strong opinions. What we really need to see is the responses from the other 80% of the people who don't care enough to respond to a survey like this.

    -a
  • by __past__ (542467) on Sunday October 12, 2003 @04:58PM (#7195938)
    It is sorta like pushing a train. If it is standing still then it will be hell to get moving. But once it does stopping it will be even harder
    Um, no, it won't. It will even eventually stop on its own. Bad analogy.
    Don't forget that not so long ago is you suggested using MS software in an office you would have been kicked out by both IT AND management.
    "Not so long ago?" You mean when their only product was basic for the Altair? I doubt there was much time where the general idea of using software in an office was OK, but MS software wasn't. Remember that they did not only MSDOS, but also stuff almost completely forgotten today, from COBOL compilers for Apples to Unix clones for early PCs. They were relevant for home computers scince there were home computers, and for personal computers scince there were personal computers.

    What is surprising is just how insanely dominant they became, and that they suddendly managed to get a foot in the server arena as well. I'm still surprised - sure, it was perfectly natural for me to use Microsoft software on my C64 (I didn't even know that it was Microsoft software back then), or MSDOS, or Windows 3.1 back in these days, but there always have been viable alternatives, from Atari to OS/2. Somehow, in the mid-90ies, it stopped being common to be asked "for which platform do you want it" when you bought software. Ever scince, I can't help but feeling like I'm in some cartoonesk hollywood movie when I think about Microsofts economical, social and political role.

    Then again this kind of poll is useless. Sure they are dissatisified. You always says you want a better/cheaper product. If you say you are 100% satisfied they will up the price.
    Indeed. The same people would likely laugh at you if you would suggest switching to any of the alternatives, or if they would switch, they would be just as dissatisfied, for other reasons.

    If you want to know what people want, it is a bad idea to ask them. Look at what they do. Everybody likes to bitch, but few actually do something about it. If they would want to get rid of the security problems, the annoying licenses, the cost etc. they could, today - Mac OS X, Linux, BSD, Solaris or AIX all exist. Since they they decide to stay with Microsoft, they deserve what they get - I just wish that every new MS worm wouldn't harm non-MS users as well.

  • by Tim C (15259) on Sunday October 12, 2003 @05:26PM (#7196107)
    if computers were sold with Linux, for hundreds cheaper than comparable Windows PCs

    That's not going to happen, though - the only way to make a *comparable* Linux-based PC hundreds (of dollars, I assume) cheaper than a Windows-based one would be to take a loss on it. I bought an OEM copy of XP Pro for 116 sterling (about $200) in January. There's no way that a commercial PC manufacturer would be spending anything like that much money per licence.

    To make a Linux-based PC that much cheaper than a Windows one, they would have to lower the specs, it's as simple as that.

    maybe it would put some pressure on Microsoft to drop prices and stop making shitty products

    Well, as we're talking specifically about operating systems, I have to say that I find very little wrong with XP. It crashes on me about as often as Mandrake does (which is to say, almost never), and compared to a lot of the software I use on a daily basis (eg JBuilder Enterprise, Oracle 8i, etc) it's very cheap. No, it's not as cheap as freely downloadable, but using software costing in excess of 100,000 sterling at work makes it seem pretty inexpensive in the grand scheme of things.
  • by westlake (615356) on Sunday October 12, 2003 @05:56PM (#7196260)
    Open Office is perfectly adequate for anyone's use, there is no reason for the average Joe to be tied down to MSOffice

    Hereabouts, any given moment, there will be at least three local high schools, a community college and a public library offering evening classes in Office, with additional free outreach programs for the elderly, the disabled and those on welfare. The message---heard loud and clearly from every potential employer---is that these skills are marketable.

  • Re:Loaded (Score:3, Insightful)

    by antis0c (133550) on Sunday October 12, 2003 @06:07PM (#7196320)
    Its actually funny.

    My girlfriend and I have been trying to stop going to Walmart for the last year. Every time we go its dirty, crowded, the employees don't give a damn about the customers and the isles (Which I'd like to see if it violates fire code) are full of pallets of stuff making it a maze to walk through.

    Every time I go I leave with a forehead popping vein. And every time we say we're not going back.

    But alas, Walmart is the only store in my area that has decent prices and is open past 10pm. So if I need to get something after 10pm, I have to get it from Walmart... Target sadly closes at 10. Target may have its own set of problems but at least the one by me is clean and the employees actually treat you like a customer and not someone who's in their way..

    But yeah the analogy is pretty good. People want to go elsewhere, but they can't. Thats why we had the whole antitrust trial. Whats funny is Microsoft lost, yet nothing has changed. Way to go.
  • by flacco (324089) on Sunday October 12, 2003 @06:32PM (#7196426)
    you won't have linux applications until you have linux customers, and you won't have customers until you have users, and you won't have users until you have applications.

    the users can break this cycle by getting out of the "either-or" mindset and using BOTH for awhile. they should just get a linux box, today, and start using it. keep the windows one around for stuff for which there is no alternative. or use lindows to even further minimize the amount of machine-switching you must do. by being present in the linux end-user marketplace, they will create the demand for applications.

    IT departments should take the lead on this, but same goes for home users.

    you can get a linux box for $199 at walmart, for christ's sake.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 12, 2003 @06:33PM (#7196437)
    No cost savings?

    How much time does every employee waste per month on the virus of the week? I bet you could recover the costs of migration and training for an alternative os in just a few months.
  • by rice_burners_suck (243660) on Sunday October 12, 2003 @06:49PM (#7196523)
    We are extremely pleased with all the Microsoft products we use. Patches? Who cares? We are a 103 person company. Three people do the work, and a hundred MCSE IT professionals manage the network, which is 100% Windows. If we switch to Linux, we might have to fire 99 of our IT professionals! No... We don't want to do that! We're all Union IT workers. Like in the trains, when they continued to employ the caboose guys for 30 years after there were no more cabooses. Or the fire guys (who chucked coal into the boiler) for 30 years after they had switched to diesel. No... We're not going to fire our IT workers.

    Seriously, now... People say that you have to patch Linux just as you have to patch Windows. But they don't realize something that is quite different between the two:

    Under Linux, you have total control over the system. There is nothing hidden away, like it is under Microsoft. Therefore, when you apply a patch, you can know exactly where that patch goes and what that patch does. A sysadmin or two can put together a configuration (for 1 box, 100, or 10,000) that they like, and then when a patch comes out, write a small script that busts it into all the systems companywide.

    Besides... Under Linux, it is not quite as critical to apply every single patch, as it is under Windows. Because sysadmins can control everything, they can prevent a lot of the stupidities that make Windows boxes vulnerable, like faulty configurations. And, because every company will likely have different Linux setups, viruses or cracks written for Linux will not have the same widespread effect as they do on Windows, where every Windows box is essentially the same, give or take a few variables.

  • by Stevyn (691306) on Sunday October 12, 2003 @07:11PM (#7196639)
    This guys does have a point. Think about all the MS blaster chaos (I am not saying terrorism this time). So much of that could have been avoided if people understood that they could turn automatic updates on or click Windows Update from their start menus to patch their system. If they had some idea how to fix vulnerabilities on their computer, then that situation would have been much less of a problem and got much less attention.

    But so they're fed up anyway, and they want an alternative. Hypothetically, they buy a computer preloaded with linux and set up with all the hardware and the software they want. The argument about the difficulty and time it takes to set the damn thing up is gone. However, what happens when they want to install some new software? They expect to be able to click, download, install, and run with no thinking involved. Now why avid linux users around here would like to read about the project on sourceforge, download the source code, go through line by line making sure it's okay to run, compile it, and then manually install it, no one else wants to do that. And if they do have RPM's available, they do not always work on every computer due to dependencies.

    Now the only linux distros i've used are red hat, mandrake, and suse, so I have not used apt get. Everything I've heard of that does a lot to help this situation and I admit that I am ignorant on that so don't bother sending a response based on that.

    I agree that people can see beauty in the second process of installing software, but that is because you appriciate it. The consumers of the software that open source programmers would use over ms software must spend more time making installation easier. Maybe that's why ms software is so popular, it may run like shit and crash, but at least it only takes a monkey to install it.

    And programmers do not have to compromise their talent and respect for their own work by spending more time making installation easier. By making installation easier, then more people are willing to try it and give more feedback on how to improve it. If only a few geeks use a program and their feedback is only technical, then the project can slow down. But if the software is easy for a lot of eager people, but without programming experience, then they could give feedback on the design elements and how to make the program work better.

    Most people who use computers aren't software engineers, but they can tell the difference of a well designed and a badly designed program. In order for linux to knock ms out of the water, programmers have to focus a lot on this.

    I think a standard to install one piece of software is what we need. Linux advocates are always touting the benefits of standards, and this is the only glaring one I see. An alternative to creating the standard from scratch might be to adapt apt-get to make it more friendly, but again I've never used it so I'm just guessing on that.
  • Re:Loaded (Score:3, Insightful)

    by meta-monkey (321000) on Sunday October 12, 2003 @07:44PM (#7196789) Journal
    That may well be, but there are, from some people's point of view, positive things about using Microsoft software. Like I said, personally, I don't use MS software. I use Linux on my servers, and OS X on my desktop (or laptop). However, the polling question presented only negative things about using MS software. Essentially, it's a push-poll.

    Question:

    "Do you support Jim Smith for Senator, knowing that he is against the environment, healthcare, education, and children?"

    Pollster's result:

    "Oh, look, 84% of people are against Jim Smith for Senator!"

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