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Microsoft: The Faint Smell of Rot 903

Posted by Zonk
from the could-happen dept.
happycorp writes "A business reporter for ABC/Fortune is asking whether Microsoft is poised to collapse, based on years of industry observation (with successful calls in the past, he notes) rather than purely technical considerations. A short read, with this favorite quote: "if you sniff the air, you can just make out the first hints of rot.""
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Microsoft: The Faint Smell of Rot

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  • by fembots (753724) on Friday February 11, 2005 @07:24PM (#11647832) Homepage
    This kind of "insight" can be applied to almost every company, and it's about as good as Colin Fry's cold reading ("wait, I think I smell something back there...").

    It will however be interesting to see if Microsoft may one day break up voluntarily into different operating units, and thrive in different areas independantly.
  • by Doomie (696580) on Friday February 11, 2005 @07:29PM (#11647891) Homepage
    ... and he might have a good sense of smell, but he certainly has problems with English -- [...]and all I managed to do was make myself persona non-gratis at HP -- even though he wrote for WSJ/Forbes/whatever.
  • by Faust7 (314817) on Friday February 11, 2005 @07:30PM (#11647898) Homepage
    Yeah, and in late 2004 the Register posted that Microsoft was about to file for bankruptcy.

    (FYI, no B.S.: That article is printed, laminated, and behind a case in one of Microsoft's lobbies.)
  • Re:Uh huh (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Eric_Cartman_South_P (594330) on Friday February 11, 2005 @07:34PM (#11647939)
    Wang will be around forever. Enron does so much enery business, they will never fall. Worldcom has the numbers to survive. Compaq will never collapse under its own weight. Sega makes great games and a great 32 bit console, they will be around forever....

    Need more examples? Point is: ANYTHING can die.
  • Comparison? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Saige (53303) <[moc.liamg] [ta] [alegna.live]> on Friday February 11, 2005 @07:34PM (#11647948) Journal
    Five years ago it was a source of pride to go to work for the Evil Empire -- now, who cares? It's just Motorola with wetter winters.

    Umm... no. Definitely not.

    As I went from the latter to the former, I can tell you there's a lot of difference. Motorola is bogged down, lacking excitement in teams that should be excited. The place was being "SEI/CMM Level 5"'ed and "Six Sigma"'ed to death. The personality of the employees and teams was as interesting as the endless rows of slate gray cubicles. And it was horrid to take an internal class on Perl, and see experienced software developers that couldn't finish a simple basic program in 20 minutes that I had finished before the instructor was done explaining.

    At Microsoft, I'm excited about my job and the product I'm working on in ways I never was before. I'm more impressed by both the knowledge and passion of the people here than I ever was at Motorola. It's nothing like anything I saw in my 6 1/2 years at Motorola.

    I don't mean to sound like a MS cheerleader here, I just want to make it clear that this is definitely not a valid comparison to anyone who has spent any significant time inside the two companies.

    Oh, and the winter here is a hell of a lot better, even if it wetter. And the summers... wow.
  • by rokzy (687636) on Friday February 11, 2005 @07:41PM (#11648015)
    in those days, how long did it take news to travel from one side of the empire to the other? how about today?

    in those days, how many people's loyalty was just a matter of thinking they were a good empire to invest in and could always pull out their entire investment within seconds? how many believed in the empire's principles, not just its bottom line? how about today?

    in those days, how much of life was based on the empire? how many deaths would be caused by the empire's collapse? how about today?
  • A bit of the obvious (Score:5, Interesting)

    by TimmyDee (713324) on Friday February 11, 2005 @07:44PM (#11648045) Homepage Journal
    Certainly this was written to get a bit of attention, but in a way he's just foreshadowing what happens to most businesses, especially those that grow as large as Microsoft has. A brief look through history will confirm this.

    AT&T is a good example. Although they were "broken" by an anti-trust suit, they actually volunteered to spin off the Baby Bells as a concession. In their minds, networking and computers were the future. In a way, AT&T had it all going for them. They ditched the tedious Baby Bell system to jump headfirst into a sector that absolutely exploded. Tons of people thought AT&T was the unstoppable 800 lb. gorilla that once it entered the computing/networking segment, it would just dominate it. History, however, has proved us wrong and now AT&T is about to be consumed by one of its children in an odd sort of Darwinist/Oedipal freak of the market economy.

    Now, I'm not saying MS will tank tomorrow or even five years from now. What I am saying is that there's always something that destabilizes the status quo. It could be something that they don't see coming; it could even be something they see coming but can't properly react to. In any case, the inevitable will happen and MS will fall. Some day.
  • Keep in mind... (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 11, 2005 @07:46PM (#11648070)
    ...that this same columnist called [go.com] some time ago for the shutdown and liquidation of Sun Microsystems.

    As far as I can tell, "Gloom and Doom" seems to be his usual mode of operation.

  • by otis wildflower (4889) on Friday February 11, 2005 @07:52PM (#11648149) Homepage
    ... here [pbs.org]..

    Basically discussing accounting shenanigans before the bubble burst, and I remember reading it at the time (though this comes from this weeks' article links)..

    "The late Frank Gaudette was Microsoft's first-ever Chief Financial Officer. He was also Microsoft's first head of Human Resources, first head of Facilities, first at running just about every department that had to do with operations but not product development, sales, or marketing....

    My question was based on the idea that nothing goes up forever and there must come a time when even Microsoft is no longer a good buy. How can we tell when that time has come? ... He explained that Microsoft carried on its books no value at all for its software. Assets like Microsoft Windows or Microsoft Office, which might be given some book value and depreciated over time were carried on the books as valueless. This contrasted at the time with IBM, which valued its software assets at billions of dollars.

    "Watch for any changes in our accounting," said Gaudette. "If I need to I can start, depreciating the software and maintain earnings growth for years on flat revenue. Watch for the accounting changes, wait for the next uptick in the stock price, and then sell.""

    Read the whole thing, very interesting stuff...
  • by jgardn (539054) <jgardn@alumni.washington.edu> on Friday February 11, 2005 @07:55PM (#11648180) Homepage Journal
    You've forgotten the reason why Microsoft existed in the first place: To *make* a lot of people a heckuva lot of money.

    If Microsoft sees no future in its business, it will liquidate its assets and pay off its investors. Sure, it has billions, but if it can't find a way to turn those billions into trillions, then it will be sold and the capital invested somewhere else. This is the core of capitalism.

    Companies are the sum of its investors, and nothing more. They can come and go pretty much as they wish. What do you think "corporation" means? It means something made out of many parts, those parts being actual people and their fortunes.

    Companies don't collapse. They are abandoned. That is what is happening to Microsoft *right now*, and he sees it.
  • Re:Comparison? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 11, 2005 @07:57PM (#11648197)
    Don't you find it embarrassing to work for a despicable company like MS? A company whose bosses have been caught lying to federal judges? A company that has never ever been able to invent anything, always relying on buying/stealing whatever others did before? A company that has been proven in a court of law, not once, but several times, to have broken the law? A company that, time and again, has done its best to stifle innovation?

    Quite frankly, the only reason to work for MS would the hope to get a good handout in the way of stock - and given that its stock has remained flat for the past three years, that might not be such a good incentive any more.

    I would feel less filthy working for the mob than for MS.
  • by G4from128k (686170) on Friday February 11, 2005 @07:59PM (#11648218)
    As much as I, personally, do not like them or their products, I doubt that Microsoft is going away anytime soon or anytime at all. Too many people have invested too much money and time in the MSFT platform. Moreover, MSFT's biggest weakness (security) is not unique to them.

    Regardless of the bad architecture decisions unique to Window's, all platforms are vulnerable. This existence of any security weakness in other platforms (even if quantitatively smaller) is used as rationale for staying with "the devil you know."

    But the real core of the problem is deeper than any one exploit or architecture mistake. The core problem with security is that the "bad" guys are, in many ways, more motivated than the "good" guys. On the one hand you have the black-hat hacker/spammer/spyware creator/ crime syndicate that is sure that they can make a potload of money off any little crack in a computer's security. Thus, they are highly motivated to search for any flaw and exploit that flaw in however many millions of machines they can reach. On the other hand you have millions of users that don't think that they will have a security problem and thousands of programmers who think their code (or at least their job) is secure. Thus neither the programmers nor the users are as motivated to create security and the bad guys are motivated to defeat security. Thus, the global resources devoted to cracking computers exceeds the local resources to securing computers. Thus all computers have holes and MSFT is unlikely to die because Windows is somehow uniquely insecure.

    At worst/best I see Windows slipping to 50%? marketshare before MSFT throws more programmer-hours at security than the entire OSS community could ever hope to muster. With enough of the proverbial monkeys at keyboards, MSFT will regain the security crown or at least through enough marketing dollars to claim it. Morevoer, as Windows loses marketshare, the black hats will attack other platforms. People will soon realize that the new non-Microsoft software is really not that much better than the old stuff and go back to MSFT. At best (for Microsoft's foes), the world will reach some equilibrium point of Windows, Linux, Macintosh, and other platforms.
  • This story reminds me a bit of the conditions right before the collapse of communism. Democratic Senators and the editorial board of The New York Times all said that the Soviet Union was a permenant fixture on the world stage, that co-existence rather than opposition was the only way to deal with it, and that Ronald Reagan was a fool for building up our military and seeking to fight it.

    Ronald Reagan was right, and elite wisdom was wrong. The Soviet Union was already decaying from within, and all it took was a few firm pushes (IRNMs in Europe, aid to the Mujahadeen, SDI) to help push it over the edge.

    So it is with Microsoft. Besides Windows and Office, what products do they have that are profitable? Story after story comes out about how Microsoft is going to take over this or that sector of the industry (MSN, WinCE, WMP), but they never seem to turn a profit. Like the Soviet Union, they've overexpanded, they have a restive population tired of chaffing under their iron bootheel, and a few pushes (Linux, iTunes, etc.) may be enough to push them over the edge.

    To put it another way: It's no accident that both the Soviet Union and Microsoft are called "the Evil Empire."p.

  • by astrashe (7452) on Friday February 11, 2005 @08:02PM (#11648244) Journal
    I think that this guy is right, up to a point.

    We see lots of things that tend to loosen up MS's chokehold on the industry.

    Large government clients are pushing for open office document formats. People are using more and more software that runs on multpiple platforms (ie., Firefox). New platforms, like phones, set top boxes, media centers, PDAs, and the like aren't panning out.

    And many customers really want out. People complain about MS a lot now.

    To me, the most significant thing is that they don't seem to be making the right moves. They're not doing anything interesting, and they're not responding to their technical challenges in a vigorous and competent way.

    Gates is clearly a genius with business, but I don't think he's up to running the tech side of the company. Since he became the "chief software architect" they've been floundering.

    But on the other hand, think about how much money they have. That means that there's no chance of them collapsing or going away. The cash gives them enormous staying power.

    I don't think that collapse is a likely scenario. It's more likely that they'll be more like an IT industry Sears.

    Sears was mismanaged for decades. Long after the retail industry had passed them by, they were still doing things in the same old dumb ways they had always done it. But they were still there, because they had gotten to be so big and strong in the days when they were on top. They owned a ton of land underneath their stores, and it was worth a lot of money. They had staying power.

    I feel really good about the future. I don't think anyone's going to have their boot on our necks the way MS has in the past. Apple is making some beautiful machines, and Linux is a couple of years away, at tops, from being really competitive on the desktop. Windows will probably get cleaned up, and it will probably end up being cheaper.

  • by flyingsquid (813711) on Friday February 11, 2005 @08:08PM (#11648276)
    It's easy to write off the "smell of rot" observation as wishful thinking. But the guy makes a coherent argument and he doesn't seem to come down for Microsoft or against it: he's just saying that he's learned to listen to his instincts over time after they successfully predicted problems (HP, SGI) and successes (like eBay) and that now these instincts are saying that something's wrong with Microsoft.

    Or maybe not even that something is wrong- just that something that used to be right isn't there anymore. I think I see what he means. The image used alongside the article is the Microsoft that dominated, that we feared and loathed: the Borg. I can't exactly put my finger on it now, but that's not how I see Microsoft right now. Sure, they're still enormously big, powerful, and evil, but somehow don't seem terrifyingly unstoppable, destined to destroy or eat up everything in their path. There was a time that the mere mention of Microsoft getting into a market was enough to send people scattering. Do they still have that effect? I think the guy is onto something.

  • by erroneus (253617) on Friday February 11, 2005 @08:13PM (#11648316) Homepage
    After all, he's essentially correct in that the world's imagination is on Linux and Firefox rather than Windows and Explorer... at least in what I've seen in my limited scope.

    But if I were to interpret what I smell, I'd say it was something along the lines of huge change rather than oncoming death. Microsoft [should] know they aren't moving the way they once did. Their code is too big to maintain backward and forward compatibility and things are breaking around the edges. I can't tell you how many places I've read that Microsoft needs to make a new product from scratch and throw out compatibility if it wants to recapture the hearts and minds of users and administrators. I think we're all very ready for something new which is why we're looking to Linux... well some of us are looking to Apple as well as the author points out.

    Microsoft is a lot of things in my book but stupid isn't one of them. Their hearts are in the wrong place though. They need to shift focus away from themselves and back onto the consumer.
  • I'm a Un*x freak (Score:5, Interesting)

    by krray (605395) on Friday February 11, 2005 @08:17PM (#11648334)
    I come from a age where you had a choice of MS-DOS or ... Unix. AT&T SysV is where I learned myself -- the goal, of course, was always to get root. I got root.

    If you look at all the major players in the market place today you'll note that they're _all_ getting behind one of the Un*x's or the other (I consider Linux, BSD, and OS X all to be "Unix" regardless of what SCO [or you] may think :). There's a LOT of logic behind how Unix systems work -- and considering the concept/usage is much older than Microsoft I see it as being rather well thought out and mature. It becomes so obvious when dealing with trying to fix something on XP.

    Microsoft may be a 800 pound gorilla, but IBM is still a 8,000 pound monster that is going Linux [and still pissed off]. After recently comparing OS/2 to XP side by side I understand. :)

    Of course there's a reason (in our organizations) that as of 2000 it was decided to REMOVE Windows from the mix and migrate all users to either Linux or OS X. I myself [IT admin] use OS X at home for a reason. Others will follow.

    It's simple really -- in personal consulting I charge $35/hr for IT work if it's Linux/BSD/OS.X/QNX/Netware based. The rate changes to $70/hr for de-virus'ing your system [again]. Clients quickly learn what the Mac-mini is all about...

    Yeah, Microsoft is dying -- and unfortunately (for the US) it'll be a slow death. IMHO the US had better wake up or we'll technologically have out shorts eaten by the rest of the world as they continue their migration away from Windows.
  • Re:Comparison? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 11, 2005 @08:31PM (#11648439)
    Its funny how many MS employees visit Slashdot. It must be like reading an Iraqi blog during the war years.

    Apart from the side-taking, I find it very interesting how an iron curtain has developed between MS-crowd and OSS-crowd. Even in other companies there are MCSEs and MCSDs on one hand who insist .NET is the future, and the not-so-well-dressed OSS crowd. Working on cheaper hardware, trying always to run their latest game on gentoo.

    Its a war of Nerds vs Geeks. The Cathedral and the Bazaar. Regardless of all bias, both sides are fully functional, both producing products and distributing it to the world. Somehow it does remind me of the cold war days, MS being the USSR simply because its closed, considered sinister, has a big arsenal, and has citizens who want to emigrate.

    Different people enjoy working different places. I always enjoy work when I know I'll get paid for it. I also sometimes enjoy starting little OSS projects, my pet projects that I very excruciatingly design, plan, and start... just for the kicks and to see if I can make something better, but most of which die before beta. At work, we use both OSS and commercial OSes and software. Both philosophies are at war in every quarter, and despite what the slashdot (or microsoft) crowd might think, right now neither group has the overwhelming strength. Thats why so many companies HAVE to run a linux/BSD firewall, and a windows domain controller. Sure I can run a samba domain controller, but in some ways (beside security) its like running a Windows 2000 professional firewall.

    I wouldnt mind working at Redhat AND at Microsoft. Given the options, I'll choose whichever pays me more. I suspect I'll hate the work at MS, because I'm biased, have been since 96 when I tried slackware 3.0. Theres also a kind of an addictive nomadic freedom related to opensource programming, which occasionally makes up for the lack of $$$.

    I dont think Microsoft will disappear, just as I dont think the x86 architecture will disappear. There are far too many games for me that arent ported to Linux or MacOS. There are far too many applications that require win32 API to run, and running them in WINE makes em less stable not more. The whole reason why Microsoft is bigger than Apple, is why Microsoft will stick around... but Linux will certainly come of age. This competition is bound to intensify.

    I love Linux. It probably will not make one man extremely rich, but it will not only bring more freedom, yet complexity to desktops, it will also bring with it BSD and all other OSes which never had the chance before. Linux actually is a favor to Solaris and MacOS. Currently theyre competitors of sorts, but Linux will make portable applications the fashion. The huge source base that Linux and BSD have created will all run perfectly on both OSX and Solaris and the rest, giving them life (would you rather run Netscape 4.75 or Firefox 1.0 on AIX?), think of the free databases we now have.

    As much as we love to bash Microsoft and hope Linux will be the saviour, too many of us still log onto slashdot from our Windows machines, to bash Microsoft. We've only paid hard cash to Microsoft.
  • by flyingsquid (813711) on Friday February 11, 2005 @08:33PM (#11648457)
    But it took several hundert years until it collapsed.

    Things move much more quickly these days, it seems to me. With technology changing so rapidly, unless you're actively growing and adapting, you're dying. It took a month for Firefox to hit 10 million downloads. Or look how fast products like the iPod or Google took off. Microsoft may not be fighting for its life right now, but a bit player can become a serious challenge very, very quickly. Likewise a new technology can completely change the game. Microsoft has done very well in adapting to new technologies in the past- they successfully met the internet head on after getting hit upside the head by not anticipating that one- the question is whether Bill Gates is still sharp enough and hungry enough to adapt that way again when a new challenge emerges.

  • Re:Comparison? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by King_TJ (85913) on Friday February 11, 2005 @08:36PM (#11648475) Journal
    How the heck did *this* parent comment get an "Interesting" mod point?

    This is just plain silly....

    I have a friend who works at MS right now, and there's plenty of reason for him to be happy about it. It lets him work on software projects that actually get used by a LOT of people, for one thing. So many times, you get paid to work on some customized app that's only used by the firm you work for, or fills some small niche market. Not all software developers can actually say "My contribution is used on 75% of the computers out there." or something along those lines.

    The entire Japanese business model has pretty much been one of copying existing products, and figuring out how to incrementally improve them, and/or produce them more inexpensively - and it seems that it worked quite well for them. Same with Dell Computers, for another example. Name one real "invention" that Dell made, yet they're pretty much #1 in desktop PC sales. Not all businesses have to invent new things to be worthwhile in the marketplace....

    As for MS being proven in a court of law to have broken laws several times, I imagine you can say the same of most large corporations if you look hard enough. Should people quit their jobs as chemists at Dow Chemical or Monsanto too? At some point, I think you just have to accept that when a business grows large enough, it has so many different things it's involved with at different levels - it's quite LIKELY they'll break some laws someplace. Doesn't mean the bad decisions made by some workers there invalidate any and all good work done by others there.
  • by mOoZik (698544) on Friday February 11, 2005 @08:42PM (#11648519) Homepage
    They have had this pile for a while now. In fact, they have special software that decides how it should be spent/invested.

  • by demachina (71715) on Friday February 11, 2005 @08:44PM (#11648534)
    Kind of a grandiose assessment of SGI's demise.

    The were doomed about the time Jim Clark realized the PC's and Windows had come far enough along that they were going to rule the world, and thanks to their economy of scale, low margins and fast product cycles proprietary workstations were doomed.

    Clark then preceded to start telling everyone at SGI the bad news, it hacked off Ed McCracken among others, they forced him out and they lost their visionary. He went on to make a fortune on Netscape on the PC, SGI meanwhile had no vision and started spiraling in.

    A major disruptive shift was occuring in the market, the visionary saw it, everyone else at SGI refused to see it. At the nexus was the first Windows NT release, the Pentium Pro, single chip graphics engines like Glint and Voodoo(today Nvidia and ATI), oh and Microsoft bought Softimage and made them port to the PC at which point everyone realized expensive 3D workstations were dead, everyone except the people at SGI.

    If I recall correctly Pentium Pro was the first chip with some of the fruits of Intel's outright theft of Digital's Alpha architecture at which point IA32 started to not suck for the first time. If you recall Intel partnered with DEC with the idea of adopting at least part of Alpha. After they looked at all of the Alpha's inner secrets, they backed out, used all of DEC's IP anyway and it caught Intel up with RISC. DEC won a court case over it a long time later but by then the damage was done and Intel was rewarded handsomely for thievery.

    At the same time SGI was rushing in to the supercomputing market which isn't a market that has ever or will ever sustain a fast growing company. Its a quirky market, where you survive on good will, whims and largesse of the U.S. government, which is pretty much the only thing keeping SGI alive today. 9/11 probably saved SGI from bankruptcy because they can live on the big surge in Defense and Intelligence spending, building high end systems that almost no one but the government will buy.
  • Yes! I smell it. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by dr_leviathan (653441) on Friday February 11, 2005 @08:59PM (#11648636)
    Actually, I've been smelling the stench of MicroSoft since 1997, but when GNU/linux didn't take over the world by 2001 I had to conclude that I had only been smelling the crap MicroSoft calls software. The borg was alive and well.

    That said, the stench has definitely been turning toward rancid over the years. A data point I've noticed is that it is no longer "cool" to be a MicroSoft employee. We interviewed a potential new employee about six months ago and the general opinion was that he was a possible hire, but the fact that he was a MicroSoft employee definitely counted against him. He suffered half-serious ridicule behind his back.

    We didn't hold it against him too much -- he would have been taking a pay cut and would have had to leave his newly purchased and remodeled mansion to come to work for us. In the end he stayed with MicroSoft rather than jump onboard a fun startup! 8-0 Nevertheless, I caught the faint hit of rot from his reception here.

    It may be dying, but it will be a nice long death. There's plenty of time for it to thrash out its death throws.

    Meanwhile... I distribute Knoppix CD's as a hobby.
  • Decades??? WTF? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by brunes69 (86786) <`slashdot' `at' `keirstead.org'> on Friday February 11, 2005 @08:59PM (#11648640) Homepage
    Microsoft's total cash on hand is 34.5 billion. Their operating costs average around 6-8 billion a quarter. By my math, that means they could operate for anywhere to 1-1.5 years without taking in any revenue, unless they *seriously* scaled back their business ventures.

    That is quite far from "decades"

  • by Infonaut (96956) <infonaut@gmail.com> on Friday February 11, 2005 @09:03PM (#11648667) Homepage Journal
    Why do they have to turn a profit in all markets?

    To me the real question is why, even after so many years of being in a wide variety of markets, Microsoft's only reliably profitable divisions are still Office and Windows. The Mac division is really an extension of the Office division.

    Your comments about the XBox, directory services, games, PDA, and so on are valid, but from a business point of view that really only matters if they are profitable. The Home & Entertainment division is now profitable but is expected to go red next quarter, and the Tools division is profitable. The real money earners for MS are still Office and Windows.

    Add to this the fact that Microsoft maintained profitability by cutting their R&D *in half* and I can't help but wonder if Microsoft is mortaging its future in order to please the stock market today.

    They do have a boatload of cash in reserve, and they won't be going away any time soon, but the famously long Microsoft quality cycle (v1 sucks, v2 sucks less, v3 is ok, v4 is good) just isn't going to cut it any more. Smaller, more nimble competitors abound, and they're getting smarter. They're attacking Microsoft at the edges and playing against Microsoft's weaknesses (user experience, security, price, reliability).

    Microsoft may be going after the long-term bucks with the XBox, but they can't leverage their OS dominance in that battle, and Sony definitely isn't going to take it lying down. What happens when MS can no longer rob from the Windows and Office divisions in order to keep the Home division going?

  • Re:Comparison? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by demachina (71715) on Friday February 11, 2005 @09:04PM (#11648676)
    Ethicly yes working for Microsoft must be a bitter pill. Not sure working on Longhorn, Office or IE(does anyone actually still work on IE) are the greatest jobs in the world, Longhorn kind of sounds like a multiyear death march.

    On the other hand if you want to do research there probably aren't many places better than Microsoft Research. There aren't many companies, especially software companies, spending $6 billion a year(or whatever it is today) on research, much of it pure research where some of the best people in the computer business just go off and putter on things that interest them, which may never turn in to anything or which may be huge.

    As I recall one thing to Microsoft's credit is they are pretty good about giving people offices instead of cramming people in to cubes, and that counts for a LOT to some people. Cube farms are one step above livestock farms for people.

    Speaking of SGI I see Kurt Akeley moved to Microsoft Research. If you don't the name he was the father of big chunks of OpenGL and the 3D graphics you spend all your time using in games today. He's alongside Jim Blinn and Michael Cohen, another OpenGL luminary.

    Though having praised Microsoft Research I really don't have a handle on how much actual useful stuff they turn out as a group. Sometimes you get the impression they recruit a lot of big names and those people just go there and putter around and never do anything major the rest of their lives, having had their day in the sun and being past their prime.

    I suspect you may need to be young and in a desperate startup fighting to survive, like SGI was in its early years, to make the breakthroughs that revolutionize things.
  • Re:Record profits (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Phillup (317168) on Friday February 11, 2005 @09:07PM (#11648690)
    for all the hot air about Linux in the last 5 years, it hasn't cost MS a cent in their monopoly desktop space

    Yet.

    But there has certainly been some missed opportunity. [yahoo.com]

    And, they are taking their eye off the ball.
  • Re:Collapse? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by iocat (572367) on Friday February 11, 2005 @09:12PM (#11648728) Homepage Journal
    Why don't you go straight to H&R Block? Unless your taxes are very, very, simple, even Block -- to say nothing of an independent tax perparer -- will probably do a much better job, and for less than the cost of TaxCut Pro and Windows. You did *buy* Windows, didn't you?
  • by vsprintf (579676) on Friday February 11, 2005 @09:14PM (#11648740)

    Microsoft is making record profits, and you people say it's beginning to "rot?" Wishful thinking, to say to least.

    Microsoft has stopped offering stock options as incentives and rewards to employees, since the stock no longer moves [yahoo.com] (up).

  • by vsprintf (579676) on Friday February 11, 2005 @09:42PM (#11648913)

    This is all fine, but Microsoft is a company. A company is there for the sole purpose of earning money and answering with it to it's shareholders. Have you seen MS earnings lately?

    And do you realize their earnings are the result of Licensing 6.0, which strong-armed and promised the licensees a lot more than they have received in the way of upgrades? There are some unhappy customers out there. Read the trade rags like Infoworld and Computerworld. When even a few corporate users are bold enough to complain about the 800-pound gorilla, there's trouble brewing.

  • by mr. marbles (19251) on Friday February 11, 2005 @09:56PM (#11648980)
    But it's not Microsoft. It smells more like the rotting of a tired journalist raising controversy to drive readership. How pathetic. *LOOK AT ME!*
  • Re:The "smell" of MS (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 11, 2005 @10:33PM (#11649131)
    As soon as someone builds a Firefox equivalent of Outlook and comes up with decent mail storage system for Linux, Exchange will have a fight on its hands.

    Actually, I've been wondering for a couple years why Apple hasn't come up with groupware to take on Exchange. For one thing, they need it. Quite a few of my company's clients were interested in OS X Server in the last two or three years, but they wanted Outlook/Exchange so they went with MS Small Business Server instead.

    Apple has all the pieces on the client side (iCal, Mail, Address Book), they just need to weld them all together into a single, integrated application, add a few more features, spruce up OS X Server's mailserver a bit, and add a group calendaring service (sharing iCal calendars via WebDAV doesn't cut it). If they add the ability to use Outlook on Windows as a client, they'll kick ass.
  • by smug_lisp_weenie (824771) * <cbarski.4503440@bloglines.com> on Friday February 11, 2005 @11:17PM (#11649308) Homepage
    The author of the ABC article basically says that he can just "feel" that Microsoft is in bad shape- Having just finished the new book Blink [amazon.com], I notice there are close similarities between the book and the kind of subconscious feeling the author is describing about Microsoft (I must admit, I feel them, too...)
  • MSTF is public (Score:3, Interesting)

    by bluGill (862) on Friday February 11, 2005 @11:37PM (#11649405)

    Microsoft is a public company. What you say is (generally) true for a private company. (Their exception is when someone gives them an offer to good to refuse, often about the time the owners want to retire)

    For a public company things are different. Remember the corporate raiders of the 1980s? They basically examined companies looking for those who could be bought for less than their assets were worth. Then they bought the company (general only enough to gain control) placed their own people in as the board of directors, and sold everything the company had, distributing the cash to shareholders.

    Seeing this opportunity if often hard. Many things are hidden. The $100,000 worth of property might be the price paid in 1935, and today worth millions!

    You can bet that people who do this are looking closely at Microsoft. They have a lot of cash in the bank, too much to ignore. Windows and Office are worth a lot to someone (company), when you find the buyer. Not to mention the Microsoft campus buildings. (Unless they are renting) and various other things. Nintendo or Sony are likely to buy the xBox just to make sure there is no xBox2. All it takes is for the stock to slip below whatever that magical price is. It doesn't matter if Microsoft is profitable, just what their assets are worth when sold.

    Note for those considering this: You borrow the money to buy the company. Part of your calculation includes interest on the money used to buy the company. You need to factor in that once you start buying stock the price will go up - it will go up more once people learn of your plans, and the SEC requires you to announce your plans before you gain control. You need to have potential buyers for things like Office in place already. (This could be a private company that you start for that purpose with more funds that you borrow) You need to have bankers and other investors behind you. (Nobody does this with their own money)

  • by demachina (71715) on Friday February 11, 2005 @11:46PM (#11649442)
    Obviously they could have weathered the storm but they would have had to jump on single chip GPU's and push them in to PC's at a critical juncture, when the Pentium Pro and NT came out. They had the engineering talent to do it, especially considering many of their engineers DID do it at Nvidia in particular.

    The problem is they had a management that resisted change and failed to grasp that a major shift was coming do to both hardware and software advances. As I said originally I think Jim Clark did see the shift but rather than coping with it and forcing SGI to make a hard right turn, the stories indicated he mostly went around SGI telling everyone SGI was doomed because of the change. The CEO walking around saying SGI was doomed was a bad thing so you can see McCracken and the board pushing him out over it.

    Unfortunately you had a visionary exec who did see the problem but wasn't able to fix it, and the other execs at SGI were either so technologicly ignorant they didn't see it coming or were in denial. I think McCracken was in the technologicly ignorant camp. He was a respectable suit brought in to lend SGI credibility with Wall Street, a lot like Carly. He had no clue how to run a tech company. Most of the other senior execs, outside of Clark, were apparently in denial that the shift was coming.

    Another key factor in the mix was that SGI did attempt a PC graphics card at one point but it was to early and flopped. The OS, CPU and graphics technology wasn't ready to make it work. They kind of got burned on it and it made them reluctant to try it when the time was right. Again they didn't have the management with the vision to see when the right time came.

    They'd also got burned on the ill fated ACE initiative. If you don't remember what that was, it was when Window NT was just about to come out. It was actually MIPS centric initially. Compaq, Microsoft and SGI came within a whisker of forming a partnership that might have turned PC's to MIPS to run NT. Don't remember who got cold feet, I think it was Compaq probably because they decided dropping IA-32, and all the legacy Windows apps, was to big a change to risk. I imagine that further put SGI off attempting another foray in to the PC space.
  • by YU Nicks NE Way (129084) on Saturday February 12, 2005 @12:06AM (#11649517)
    It is true, whether or not he was kidding. Microsoft has a lot of smart, mathematically sophisticated people who are perfectly capable of writing software to run Black-Sholes (or any of its variants) with the best of then. Microsoft's short term capital is essentially kept in a single-owner hedge fund.
  • Re:Comparison? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by bushidocoder (550265) on Saturday February 12, 2005 @12:14AM (#11649549) Homepage
    Just out of curiosity, based on the Spolsky measurement of Microsoft employees, are you in the MSDN Mag camp or the Raymond Chen camp?

    I have the oddest opinion of Microsoft - each day, I either love them or hate them. I love looking at the real innovations in .NET 2.0 or SQL Server, and looking at my dreams for my software and realizing how those technologies radically change and simply the way I intend on fulfilling those dreams. The days I hate them, though, are violently passionate days, that are steadily increasing in number, where the bloat, the unwaivering fetish for maintaining perfect backwards compatibility, even with old buggy apps - I can't stand those days.

    What I wouldn't give for an NT kernel with a newer, much smaller, well-designed API layer with WinFX strapped on top and Win32 virtualized off to the side. Security built in from the bottom up. Well documented, open standards for formats and protocols integrated throughout a desktop shell seperated from the core system. A standards compliant browser that's updated frequently, even in the years there isn't competition. Linux couldn't beat that - they don't have the organization, and for every passionate member of their community, there'd be an equally firey defender of the Redmond banner - actually, that's a bad analogy, because the two camps wouldn't be nearly as inspired to hate each other as they do now.

    But the Raymond Chens in Redmond always win out. I don't know how long an MSDN Mag person can live in that environment before they just get jaded and wonder why Microsoft hasn't delivered a single improvement to the consumer experience since 2001. Why Microsoft has missed every wave since the introduction of Windows 95/98. Why nearly every Apple product is capable of inspiring loyalty in a way that no single Microsoft application has done, ever. And you wonder how its possible you miss every boat, surely you'd have caught one by accident by now.

    I don't think Microsoft wants to ride that boat anymore. They're insanely profitable being old dependable (insert MS reliability joke here) and honestly, there is no competition for Microsoft products in the office. But Microsoft is going to have to work damned hard if they want to beat Apple in the home, and honestly, I don't think they're up to it anymore.

  • Re:Record profits (Score:4, Interesting)

    by EnderWiggnz (39214) on Saturday February 12, 2005 @12:29AM (#11649615)
    the real test is if they are going to be forced to fight the browser wars again.

    if firefox forces microsoft to move the IE team out of the dungeon, and into the spotlight again, its over.

    in a war, if you fight multiple battles over the same territory, you will lose.
  • The smell of Bad (Score:5, Interesting)

    by NullProg (70833) on Saturday February 12, 2005 @12:29AM (#11649619) Homepage Journal
    Microsoft didn't learn the lesson of the late 80's/90's when IBM tried to push us to more proprietary/expensive systems. IBM stock tanked from a high of $84 to $48. My Boss at the time said 'screw em', so did many others, we shifted to Microsoft.

    Fifteen years later, Microsoft makes the same mistake. More expensive, not compatible etc.
    I've already done twelve new Linux installs this year, happy people too.

    Enjoy,
  • by codepunk (167897) on Saturday February 12, 2005 @12:34AM (#11649635)
    Ah but their burn rate is over 6 billion a year. And the actual amount is 35 billion this means less than 5 years to be reduced to ashes. You have to remember their stock value will crash way before that, employees start leaving for high ground. Then marketing hurts from cut backs, development hurts they go into bug fix mode only and then the inevitable death occurs.
  • by glsunder (241984) on Saturday February 12, 2005 @12:34AM (#11649636)
    Dont forget, windows and dos succeeded because it was free for home users. Not legally, of course, but windows and dos were pirated like crazy. Guess what it got them? Marketshare. They sold it in the workplace, but won it in the homes of the hobbiests.

    They killed/buyed off the competition. Guess what, along comes a competitor that can't be bought or killed off. And it's take the effective part of MS's early strategy one step further. MS doesn't know how to fight it.

    The market created a competitor, or put another way, a competitor evolved much like a bacteria in the presence of antibiotics. MS's traditional pills dont work anymore, they've killed off what they could, allowing what remains to have room to thrive. In a way, MS created modern OSS.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 12, 2005 @01:28AM (#11649835)
    Linux began as an opensource movement to replace everything closed source, and for free. But, the number of linux distros that are actually free has shrunk lately. RedHat, they charge for everything. Yeah, it may be a fraction of what you would pay for Microsoft, or another company's product. But, at this pace, you will pay out the ass for an enterprise capable linux distrobution.

    Geeks beware, your wishes may come true. Your beloved Linux may become the leader in everything, replace Microsoft, and in doing so become Microsoft.

    I just think that is quite amusing :)
  • by phriedom (561200) on Saturday February 12, 2005 @02:40AM (#11650074)
    " When that quote was written NO big companies were getting into portible music, probably afraid of a Music Disk situation."

    I suppose we can disagree on what a "big" company is, but there were plenty of MP3 players on the market when the iPod came out. Creative, you know the guys that made all those SoundBlaster cards that were the de facto standard for computer sound seemed to be in a much better position than Apple was to take over that market.

    Of course that just makes Apple's success that much more remarkable. It wasn't that Steve Jobs had that fantastic vision of a opportunity no one else saw, it was that Apple had by far the best design and won over the early adopters and marketed the whole thing brilliantly. Anyways I'd say the odds were probably a 100:1 that Apple succeeds in that sideways move into digital music, so faulting Malone for not seeing that one coming isn't fair. If the cards had fallen a little bit differently maybe that sideways move would have been the sale of Apple.

    100:1 might be a bit generous actually. The Creative player had more capacity, worked with PCs so there was a much bigger potential customer base, had cheap removable batteries. The iPod was a little bit smaller, had The Wheel, and cost about $100 more. That business model doesn't make any sense. Well, at least it doesn't make any sense until it works.
  • The key is Dell (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mj_1903 (570130) * on Saturday February 12, 2005 @03:31AM (#11650221)
    As Dell continues to take over the entire market it will become the key to Microsoft's life or death.

    Picture this if you will. Dell ends up with 60-70% market share and it starts to stagnate. As a company it wants profits so it pesters Microsoft to lower prices so that it will get more profit. Microsoft of course says no so Dell brings out the trump, Linux. If Microsoft doesn't lower prices then Dell gains a free OS and Dell wins. If Microsoft says yes, Dell gains more money and Microsoft starts to decline but Windows moves ever closer to extinction.

    You never know though, Microsoft may give away copies of Windows and start providing tech support if Dell wants them to, simply to maintain their monopoly. All the while Windows turns even more commodity as Linux gets better and the same with the Mac OS.

    Michael Dell is a smart man and he will be conniving when the time comes.

    My 2c if anyone wants it. :)
  • by Teancum (67324) <robert_horning AT netzero DOT net> on Saturday February 12, 2005 @03:48AM (#11650272) Homepage Journal
    This article mentions the fact that Longhorn is slipping on its shipping schedule.

    There are a number of reasons for this, perhaps most importantly is that Microsoft is trying to do a true X.0 full-rewrite release of the core operating system, with a bunch of "new" features. It is dubious that their "customers" (aka independent software developers and small businesses).

    I will also say that for any major software project, when you do a genuine X.0 full code-base rewrite (cleaning out the cruft hopefully and redesigning the base archetechture) it is a major gamble. It is also a situation that tests the mettle of the management to see if the resources are properly applied and available, and if you got a small group of excellent developers or a large group of ordinary developers. This is often what makes or breaks any software company.

    From my own perspective, even though I've been using Microsoft operating systems now for close to 20 years (gee.... has it been that long?) I will never personally own a copy of Longhorn willingly. I may even quit a job that forces me into using it, I feel so strongly about avoiding it. I was pushed into using XP, and I've since reverted back to Windows 2000 because I can't stand the direction XP has gone. Transitioning from Windows to Linux (or other Unix-based operating systems) is a huge jump, especially since skill sets are so much different, but it appears as though Longhorn is going to be just as big of a jump so I might as well simply ignore what Microsoft is going to do. My preference would be to go back to VMS, but that isn't an option as a major OS platform for new development.

    The only projects I hear that might move onto Longhorn are from die-hard Microsoft computer development groups, and that is more because of "*Rah* *Rah* Microsoft can't do wrong" fans who have an MSDN Universal subscription and have been doing this for some time. Genuine new software development is not being planned in that direction. This situation is far worse than the relutance of moving on to Windows 95 or Windows NT (which had real slow acceptance when it first came out). Or even the fiasco that Microsoft had with Windows 3.0 that somehow they pulled out of when Windows 3.1 came out and fixed many of the 3.0 bugs.

    My kids are still abuzz over the X-Box, and if Microsoft is going to have any legs, it probably will be in the electronic gaming industry... where it is largely a hegonomy anyway and difficult for small independent developers to get involved. Propritary operating systems are not a problem in that industry either, and even largely expected.
  • by soft_guy (534437) on Saturday February 12, 2005 @03:54AM (#11650288)
    Microsoft makes money on Windows, Office, and Exchange. Most of the other stuff they do is a money loser: MSN, X-Box, Hot Mail, Windows CE, hardware. The other stuff may be strategic and it may help to prop up Windows, but still its mostly a money sink.

    If Microsoft were to lose Windows and Office monopoly because of competition, Microsoft would not be a profitable company - not by any stretch. What could cause them to lose Windows and Office. Open source.

    All that really has to happen is for Linux to get more usable. And a lot of that has to do with drivers. Once that happens, the big PC vendors will migrate the Linux faster than you can say "Linux Torvalds". The layoffs from Microsoft will be similar in relative magnitude to the layoffs at IBM in the late 80s. I say relative because MS has far fewer employees than IBM did.

    Let me say that I would not want to own a house in or around Redmond when this happens. I also would not want to have a lot of MS stock when it happens either.

    Within 5 years Linux will become the dominant desktop OS. MacOS X will have a marketshare perhaps double what it is today. Windows will have a smaller marketshare, but will still be around as Microsoft focuses on it as a "core business" for those who can't or won't migrate to Linux.
  • Re:Record profits (Score:3, Interesting)

    by flyingsquid (813711) on Saturday February 12, 2005 @04:20AM (#11650346)
    I think the point is that making record amounts of money isn't always a sign that all is well in the long term. People were making out like bandits on their stock returns, right up until the tech bubble burst; same story with the 1929 crash.

    Sure they've grown rapidly, but is that sustainable? Microsoft, it seems to me, has defined itself in terms of rapid growth and leveraging their monopoly power in the marketplace. But what happens when there's nowhere left to grow to? Pretty much everybody in the US who wants and can afford a computer already has one. And as for monopolies, here's a thought that must keep Gates up at night: what happens if they no longer rule the market with an iron fist and Microsoft must make people actually want to use their products?

    A final point: often, the simple fact that you have to ask answers the question. I can't imagine anyone taking this article seriously half a dozen years ago. The fact that we're discussing it now really says something about a shift in computing.

  • by Eminence (225397) <akbrandt AT gmail DOT com> on Saturday February 12, 2005 @05:37AM (#11650551) Homepage
    I'm a bit cautious with predictions of Microsoft's failure, collapse or whatever in the near future because I've been burned in the past. Back in '96-'97 when Linux was developing at blazing speeds and what Microsoft had was crappy Windows '95 it also looked like they run out of steam. We laughed at Win95 as being a 16-bit overlay for DOS 7.0 (which it basically was) and NT 3.51, well, wasn't exciting at all (though it worked). They almost missed the whole Internet thing, Internet explorer was pathetic in comparison to Netscape. Everyone I knew was sure open source would wipe out likes of Microsoft within a few years.

    But none of this happened. Netscape was wiped out, IE dominance is settled even despite IE again looking pathetic in comparison to Mozilla's newest breed. Office still rules and there is nothing to beat it. Open Office [openoffice.org]? Well, for simple documents and spreadsheets maybe yes. And yes, it has improved a lot over last few years. But still for serious word processing, I'm sorry, but no.

    Also Linux is still a great server OS but still can't be considered seriously for the desktop for non-geeks. I've installed Ubuntu [ubuntu.com] three days ago. I was really amazed how little has changed since three years ago when I, sadly, abandoned Linux as my desktop. Again, a few things that can't be done in any other way but by editing config files with, say, vi. I enjoy vi and I still remember what to edit, but does a simple user? And no access to most of applications without reading manuals and adding additional repositories of .deb packages (mostly for ideological reasons). It is not "install and work", it's still "install and then tweak the things around to get anywhere". This is the part of the mix that makes OS X [apple.com] a success - some OS X users I know were not even aware there was a command line on their system until I showed them. Now, that's how a modern GUI OS should be designed. If there is a Linux distro to match this please let me know, but I think I'll end up buying a PB [apple.com] when I'll save enough money to do it.

    And in the meantime Microsoft has improved a lot. XP is stable, easy to use and I'm yet to have a virus infection or anything after three years of having it on my PC (which is connected to the net 24/7 on a public address, BTW). Also Office has improved a lot in terms of stability and reliability. I remember using Office 97 which without SR-1 crashed a lot and we had lots of problems with it. Office 2003 I use now is rock stable. This is not exciting, this is nothing new but maybe in these days of computing becoming commonplace (and programming & sysadmining becoming a blue-collar commodity job) what is needed is not excitement but solid, predictable functioning? Can you think of a killer feature now missing from, say, Word that would excite the masses?

    So, maybe Microsoft is just maturing with the market. They were a geeky sweatshop when computing was the new, exciting field. They are a solid, respectable, middle-aged corporation now. So, I don't think we will see them sinking anytime soon.

  • by jschoenberg (828313) on Saturday February 12, 2005 @06:25AM (#11650672)

    So, where are the killer features from Office 2003 in OSS?

    For instance, when starting a business project, where is the OSS feature for a complete novice to create a Sharepoint portal with Outlook integration, RSS feeds and an Infopath form that connects to a SQL database? Where does OSS have that? Assuming somebody chimes in with link to their favorite OSS widget, can an office assistant straight-outta-U of Phoenix create and configure it (including access authentication) in under an hour like you can with Office 2003?

    Most technology like this...office business process automation...costs money. Even if it runs on Linux, Websphere is going to cost you money (and quite likely the same amount of money as the Sharepoint/InfoPath/Outlook solution).

    Companies will still be paying somebody to create nix-based solutions that can compete against Office 2003 features that my office assistant can use in a day to create a slick office automation system.

  • the "rot" (Score:2, Interesting)

    by harryoyster (814652) on Saturday February 12, 2005 @06:29AM (#11650687) Homepage
    There are def some valid points in what is being said there. I see the biggest issue going against microsoft is interoperability. Exchange is a great product but to really use any of its features you have to use outlook. The License fees for any business are often referred to as extorsion by many small business owners. Open Source Alternatives are few and far between and there are good efforts in that direction BUT its difficult. I am about 95% confident that microsofts "rot" will not be really show its head in any big form for at least another 5-10 years maybe less if there are any bad business choices. However Microsoft is diversifying more and more so that software is not theier only business.
  • by NewIntellectual (444520) on Saturday February 12, 2005 @09:17AM (#11651142)
    Today I was looking through the Platform SDK documentation (for Visual Studio .NET 2003) at an example purporting to show how to enumerate the files in a directory. The example's help URL is:

    ms-help://MS.VSCC.2003/MS.MSDNQTR.2003FEB.1033/f il eio/base/listing_the_files_in_a_directory.htm

    found in the hierarchy at: MSDN Library/Windows Development/Windows Base Services/Files and I/O/SDK Documentation/Storage/Storage Overview/Directory Management/Obtaining Directory Information/Listing the Files in a Directory.

    The code sample is:
    #define _WIN32_WINNT 0x0501

    #include "windows.h"

    int
    main(int argc, char *argv[])
    {
    WIN32_FIND_DATA FindFileData;
    HANDLE hFind = NULL;
    LPCTSTR lpDirSpec[MAXPATH]; // directory specification

    wsprintf ("Target directory is %s.\n", argv[1]);
    strncpy (lpDirSpec, argv[1], sizeof(argv[1]));
    strncpy (lpDirSpec, "\*", 3);

    hFind = FindFirstFile(lpDirSpec, &FindFileData);

    if (hFind == INVALID_HANDLE_VALUE) {
    wsprintf ("Invalid file handle. Error is %u\n", GetLastError());
    return (-1);
    } else {
    wsprintf ("First file name is %s\n", FindFileData.cFileName);
    while (FindNextFile(hFind, &FindFileData) != 0) {
    wsprintf ("Next file name is %s\n", FindFileData.cFileName);
    }

    DWORD dwError = GetLastError();
    if (dwError == ERROR_NO_MORE_FILES) {
    FindClose(hFind);
    } else {
    wsprintf ("FindNextFile error. Error is %u\n", dwError);
    return (-1);
    }
    }
    return (0);
    }

    The sample is *utterly wrong* from top to bottom. It will not remotely compile. Almost literally everything about it is screwed up, from the incorrect MAXPATH define (it should be MAX_PATH) to the 'wsprintf' function lacking a string target, to the 'LPCTSTR lpDirSpec[MAXPATH];' which is obviously meant to define a string buffer but which actually defines an array of LPCTSTRs (LPCTSTR is a pointer to a string).

    In short, whoever wrote this sample was *completely* ignorant of C and could not possibly have compiled it - nor did anyone else at Microsoft catch this before it made it into the MSDN documentation.

    Microsoft's core competency ought to be programming - but if the above is a sample, then I have to agree with the overall thesis of its decline.
  • by Shimatta1 (257977) on Saturday February 12, 2005 @10:23AM (#11651346)
    +4 Interesting...and all you did was pick a small trio of numbers and state that they indicate the total health of the company.

    Currently, my heart beat and blood pressure is all in optimal ranges: therefore, I am in perfect health...[wachuuu!!!].

    Er...'scuse me, I'd better disinfect this monitor before anyone else uses it.

    The elements of decay frequently eat away at things behind the scenes; will those growth numbers look so good in two years if Longhorn still isn't out? And as someone else pointed out, Enron looked like a fantastically successful company right until it imploded.

    The hint of decay is not a death sentence, but if a company's going to survive it, they need to recognize that it's happening and deal with it, not just point out their growth numbers and let the rot kill them.

    Shimatta...pass me the cough drops, willya?

    [PS: parent post dropped to +3 while I was typing this.]
  • cash on hand (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Trailer Trash (60756) on Saturday February 12, 2005 @10:27AM (#11651360) Homepage
    Microsoft has enough cash to pay 50,000 employees $100,000/year for the next 10 years even if they don't bring in another dime in revenue.

    Do the math...
  • by rspress (623984) on Saturday February 12, 2005 @10:31AM (#11651376) Homepage
    Sure, MS is still making a profit but they are slipping on the slope they had no problem climbing before. Microsoft has its grubby little hands in a lot of ventures. Many of those are wildly unsuccessful. MSN and Xbox have been great ways for Microsoft to lose money. Neither of those divisions has shown a profit. The deep pockets of the other divisions can fund them for some time but for how long?

    Microsofts search engine in years past would have had the tech journalists creaming in their jeans but most see it for what it actually is, a rip off of Google with more ads. What has really changed over these last few years is that journalists are not giving Microsoft a "pass" on any product they release just because it comes from redmond. They are treating MS as just another software company and this is long overdue.

    I do see harder days ahead for MS. They company will never disappear but they do major problems that are not being addressed.

    I think this pretty much sums up Microsofts problems. A friend of mine was a die hard PC user. He was always giving me a bad time for using Macs. I use both platforms but because I had a Mac he was always harping on that. He would bring up the tired old facts, no software.....expensive...etc. I always told him that if he ever tried one for more than a week he would never touch a PC again. He would laugh and say "Yeah right". He surprised me two years ago by getting a Mac, for his kids. Problem was his kids never got it. After about a week he stopped using his PC.

    He had all the software he used on the PC...better versions in fact and he did not spend time keeping Window running and healthy. Even he started laughing when he heard another Windows virus was tramping around causing damage. He just ordered his second Mac. A brand new 15 inch powerbook and he is a very happy camper. He will never go back.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 12, 2005 @10:46AM (#11651438)
    Purchases 636,000 15
    Sales 26,518,000 31
    Net Shares Purchased
    (Sold) (25,882,000) 46
    Total Insider Shares Held 1.49B N/A
    % Net Shares Purchased
    (Sold) (1.7%)

    > 8-Feb-05 GATES, WILLIAM H. III
    > Chairman 3,000,000 Sale at $26.17 - $26.3 per share. $78,705,0002
    > 7-Feb-05 GATES, WILLIAM H. III
    > Chairman 2,000,000 Planned Sale $52,640,0001
    > 7-Feb-05 GATES, WILLIAM H. III
    > Chairman 2,000,000 Sale at $26.08 - $26.27 per share. $52,350,0002
    > 4-Feb-05 GATES, WILLIAM H.
    > Chairman 1,000,000 Planned Sale $26,180,0001
    > 4-Feb-05 GATES, WILLIAM H. III
    > Chairman 1,000,000 Planned Sale $26,180,0001
    > 4-Feb-05 GATES, WILLIAM H. III
    > Chairman 2,000,000 Sale at $26.14 - $26.36 per share. $52,500,0002
    > 3-Feb-05 GATES, WILLIAM H. III
    > Chairman 3,000,000 Sale at $26.17 - $26.28 per share. $78,675,0002
    > 3-Feb-05 GATES, WILLIAM H. III
    > Chairman 1,000,000 Planned Sale $26,460,0001
    > 3-Feb-05 GATES, WILLIAM H. III
    > Chairman 2,000,000 Planned Sale $52,920,0001
    > 2-Feb-05 GATES, WILLIAM H.
    > Chairman 1,000,000 Planned Sale $26,390,0001
    > 2-Feb-05 GATES, WILLIAM H.
    > Chairman 1,000,000 Planned Sale $26,390,0001
    > 2-Feb-05 GATES, WILLIAM H. III
    > Chairman 2,000,000 Sale at $26.30 - $26.44 per share. $52,740,0002
  • by fruscica (637745) on Saturday February 12, 2005 @10:54AM (#11651488) Homepage Journal
    ...because 1) edu/career svcs is a HUGE global market, and 2) open source software is, in Clayton Christensen-speak, a sustaining innovation for edu/career svcs providers, as access to source is both educational and foundational for demonstrating competencies...

    Re: the edu/career svcs market, consider:


    "The continuing professional education of adults is the No. 1 gross industry in the next 30 years."

    Peter Drucker
    Business 2.0
    September 2000

    "[New York University economist William] Baumol has predicted that the share of gross domestic product...spent on education will rise from 6.7 percent to 29 percent [in 2040]."

    The Atlantic
    January/February 2004

    "If history is any guide...customized programs will continue to improve until they threaten even the most famous educational institutions."

    Clayton Christensen
    Professor, Harvard Business School
    2003

    "In the 1990s, the fastest growing business services were those provided by Professional Employee Organizations (PEOs).

    ...[The PEO's] clients, even the biggest, [lack] the critical mass...to manage, place and satisfy the highly specialized knowledge [worker]...This is what the PEO can provide...[Moreover,] PEOs can take care of almost every task in employee management and relations: record keeping and legal compliance; hiring, training, placements, promotions, firings, and layoffs; and retirement plans and pension payments.

    ...In a PEO full-service contract...it is expressly provided that the PEO has the duty and the right to place people in the jobs and companies where they best fit."

    Peter Drucker
    Harvard Business Review
    April 2002

    "Temp work is no longer just about the assembly line or order entry. More and more highly skilled professionals...are turning to temp agencies while they struggle with a tough labor market. These accomplished workers--lawyers, accountants, engineers, biochemists--make up the fastest-growing segment of the temporary work force and account for as much as a third of the business of large temp firms.

    ...The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that the staffing industry will add 1.8 million new jobs between 2002 and 2012, a 54% increase, with professional [temp] jobs growing 68%."

    Time
    April 26, 2004

  • One of the tools I'm best known for is Folding Table Theory of Start-Ups. It says that when you walk into a new entrepreneurial company and you see a nice lobby and expensive office furniture, that company has its priorities screwed up -- either it is more interested in comfort than success or it is over-capitalized and lazy -- and it will never make it.

    This "theory" has virtually no real predictive value. I've seen plenty of glitzy start-ups that succeeded. I've also seen plenty of dirt-poor, cheap-arse start-ups that failed. Classic example of glitzy start-up that prospered: Google. It *never* spared any expense in super-expensive office furniture or expensive employee toys and perks.

I came, I saw, I deleted all your files.

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