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Microsoft

How Microsoft Has Changed Without Bill Gates 493

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the borg-icon-still-stands dept.
mightysquirrel writes "It's been a year since Bill Gates left Microsoft in his official capacity. At the time many speculated his departure would spark a significant shift in Redmond. But how much has really changed during Microsoft's first year without Gates?"
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How Microsoft Has Changed Without Bill Gates

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  • How soon we forget (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 09, 2009 @09:39AM (#28635567)

    Yeah, yeah, I know, I'll be lynched for saying that Bill "I am Satan" Gates should be on par with RMS, ESR and Linus, but think about this for a second.

    Bill founded what is now the largest software company in the world, and wether or not you agree with him, he has made a important contribution to the computing industry: Microsoft brought desktop computing to the home user.

    Now, be honest. How many of us had our first computer experience with MS-DOS or Windows 3.1? Do you think that if computers still consisted on thin-client-server models based on huge VAX mainframes, that Joe and Jane Smith would be able to dial-in to AOL and connect to thousands of people around the world? Would the Internet have blossomed into the vast information network it is today without the aid of easy-to-use software from Microsoft? How about Grandma who wants to set up a webcam so she can chat with her grandchildren? She doesn't want to have to sit and hack kernels for hours. She wants Plug-and-Play, baby.

    Look, disagree all you like, but thanks to things like Windows, Office, and MSN, modern computing has been made easy and affordable to everyone, thanks to pioneers like Bill Gates.

  • No not really (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Darkness404 (1287218) on Thursday July 09, 2009 @09:47AM (#28635679)
    No, I don't think MS has changed, but the world has. The iPhone has changed the smartphone market to where even with the best hardware Windows Mobile just isn't wanted much anymore. The 360 is still falling behind the Wii despite MS's attempts to beat it with the "New Xbox Experience" and with the development of the Natal controller. MS though has finally realized that unless Windows 7 is a hit, Linux/OS X/Now ChromeOS is going to kill them in the OS market. Office has stagnated and has had a popular revolt going on because of the "ribbon" UI that a lot of people hate, and I don't see a new version remedying that in the future. MS as a whole has remained the same, however the world is changing and they don't seem to realize that.
  • by Darkness404 (1287218) on Thursday July 09, 2009 @09:54AM (#28635757)
    Sure, back before the mid '90s Microsoft was an ok company. Sure, most of their software was unstable, but it kinda got the job done. But you are forgetting the browser wars, you forgot the end product of them which was IE6, the browser that made the web effectively unchanged for many years. The browser that opened the world up to every sort of malware out there. Or what about the pain of Windows 9X that bluescreened for no reason? MS in its early days did a lot to help out the computer industry in some ways, however, they also hurt a lot of computer industries. Today, they are very little helpful and a whole lot more harmful.
  • by guruevi (827432) <evi@smoking c u be.be> on Thursday July 09, 2009 @09:54AM (#28635771) Homepage

    - Bing is just a rename of MSN Search or Live Search or whatever it was called before. Microsoft products have gone through name changes just for the sake of it under BG too.
    - Natal can be seen as an extension or spinoff of the Surface project. It's similar technology. Microsoft has their fingers in all types of technology and will develop some type of interface for developers to it. If you've ever been subscribed to MSDN (back when they used to send you a package of all possible CD's) you should know that it's not unusual for Microsoft to start something way out there that eventually never gets finished.
    - Microsoft is forced to open their standards both from the market as well as court orders. They have to satisfy the demands of courts all over the world. If they could, they wouldn't open up the way they are. There are still clauses in a lot of their promises related to patents (they keep the possibility open to sue over use of their related patents and commercial use of their technologies and most of their promises are not compatible with GPL) and a lot of caveats in the technologies that they open (eg. they opened C# but didn't open the majority of libraries that make their .NET Framework, they opened DOCX but didn't open the implementations you need to implement DOCX)
    - Microsoft has been stagnant for so long that they're actually on the verge of dying (they've been stagnant ever since XP came on the market). Their operating system is losing market fast, Internet Explorer is losing market even faster, their steps into the Internet have been nothing but disaster and even Office is losing out against their own older products. They're probably going to stay around but not as a large monopolist - they will remain as a software development company and that was inevitable whether it was Ballmer or Gates at the wheel. They're so big, diverse and filled with management level-types that nobody can really take control of the company in the way eg. Apple's CEO is in control.

  • More mature? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Cryophallion (1129715) on Thursday July 09, 2009 @09:55AM (#28635779)

    Well, let's see, the OpenXML was definitely in the pipeline before Bill left, and the take no prisoners tactics that he loves is what got it pushed through the standards committee.

    Next is ODF translators... which don't work, and in fact delete formulas [robweir.com]. Not to mention there Smear Campaign [robweir.com]. So we are saying maturity is going back to their ruthless kill-them-subversively methods that got them in trouble in the EU?

    Oh, wait, maturity is killing declining products... which Bill did often

    Sorry, I don't see a real change listed in at least that section

  • by ubersoldat2k7 (1557119) on Thursday July 09, 2009 @09:56AM (#28635795)
    All this things you mention are a simple evolutionary step of all the technologies, Personal Computers offered. Don't think that if Bill died at his birth we wouldn't have computers as we have them today. Different of course, but many technologies Microsoft have used were created by someone else. No great invention have come out from Redmond in long time.
  • by keeboo (724305) on Thursday July 09, 2009 @09:58AM (#28635813)

    Now, be honest. How many of us had our first computer experience with MS-DOS or Windows 3.1?

    I didn't. My first computer was a 8-bit machine.

    Do you think that if computers still consisted on thin-client-server models based on huge VAX mainframes, that Joe and Jane Smith would be able to dial-in to AOL and connect to thousands of people around the world?(...)

    There was Amigas, Macs and other easy-to-use personal computers before Windows even existed.

  • by Zero__Kelvin (151819) on Thursday July 09, 2009 @10:06AM (#28635933) Homepage

    "Microsoft brought desktop computing to the home user."

    Yet another "M$ is an innovator" myth. Before MS-DOS,there was the Commodore VIC-20, C-64, and Amiga. Before MS-DOS there was the Apple I, II, IIc,IIe, and III. Also there was the Kaypro luggables, etc. Microsoft has yet to innovate anything, ever. I challenge anyone to cite an innovation from M$, but be 100% prepared to discover that someone was doing it first and you just didn'tknow about it. Every single "Microsoft Innovation" involved M$ acquiring innovative companies and technologies who got there first, simply stealing the idea outright, or perpetuating non-truths (you'd be surprised howmany people think Gates/M$ invented the Internet. M$ probably didn't start the rumour, but they sure in the hell aren't going out of their way to stop it.)

    "Would the Internet have blossomed into the vast information network it is today without the aid of easy-to-use software from Microsoft?"

    It not only has, it did. (It is a retromyth that Windows is/was easy to use) If a car crashed constantly you wouldn't say it is easy to use would you?

  • Re:No not really (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Opportunist (166417) on Thursday July 09, 2009 @10:08AM (#28635961)

    What would you like to change? Windows XP was essentially what most of their users wanted. A nice looking interface (ok, with a teletubby standard background, but that's the least worry), good stability, good support for pretty much any hardware they had. Nothing they could be missing or hoping for in the next gen OS. And that's why Vista failed, basically. It's not the "must have" all the other MS OSs before were. Win95 was a must have, if anything ever was. It was the next best thing. Win98 was Win95 on crack, it was so much more stable, with far better support for internet and all the other new "must have" things.

    (we'll politely ignore ME here now. Instead, we present some fluffy kitties to distract you)

    Then, 2k. Stability of NT meets usability and compatibility of 98. IMO still one of their diamonds, and maybe the biggest leap they took in their stride. It was THE "must have" system, even "more must have" than 95 maybe was.

    XP already had a harder time getting a "must have" badge. What does XP have that 2k doesn't? Out of the box WiFi support. Ok. You could install a driver for that. It's not really much more stable than 2k. It's also not really any more user friendly than 2k. There isn't really anything that I could put my finger on that the average user would want out of XP compared to 2k. But at least it was a bit more pleasing to the eye than the rather sterile 2k (a look that I loved, but I'm weird).

    Vista was the first system that caused more of a "why the fuck should I?" rather than a "must have". While XP was eventually more than just "nice to have", Vista still doesn't convince. There's no compelling reason to switch (other than artificially introduced incompatibilities like the refusal to offer DirectX 10 on a system before Vista, which in turn led developers to cling to DX9 so they don't lose the XP user market). The system sells with new machines, ok, but mainly because of a lack of alternatives (since XP is no longer offered, and if, at higher price). If XP was offered at the same or lower price of Vista, the sales would look even more grim than they do.

    And people using XP do not storm the stores and buy the upgrade, something that hasn't happened before. All the other upgrades were a hot seller, Vista upgrades sit like lead on the shelves.

    So where should they develop to? Windows is "as good as it gets". What should they include in the system to have another "must have" seller? I can't see anything the average user could want.

  • by gbjbaanb (229885) on Thursday July 09, 2009 @10:11AM (#28635991)

    I can see where you're coming from - that the 'standard' of Windows was required in order to move the business world of desktop computing forward to the point where it is today. Fair enough on that, I won't argue.

    I will argue that Microsoft has been a force for good in the world past the point where Windows seemed to have a monopoly. The browser wars, bad. Office, bad (yes, there was Wordperfect and Lotus 123 well before Word and Excel came along and was 'aggressively' marketed and enforced on us by using Windows as leverage to gain customers), and all the others - I'd be here all day typing if I had to list every dodgy practice Microsoft has done.

    In short then, MS was good for us in the beginning, once it started to get big I think it should have come to the attention of the authorities (oh it did!) and be broken up into NanoSofts (well, they had the chance) which would have continued the benefits of ubiquitous desktop computing without most of the predatory and abusive business practices the big MS engaged in.

    (as for Grandma, if she just wants her webcam to 'just work', she will be disappointed when she installs Vista and finds that drivers are no longer available for that model - unless she wants to spend $$$ on a brand new one. Or install modern Linux which does just work with more hardware than Windows nowadays!)

    PS. I started computing with an Acorn Atom, moved to an Amstrad than an Amiga while I used the mainframe and Sun Unix workstations at university. PCs running Windows in those days were considered toys. It was NT4 that made the big difference, before that, Windows was a joke.

  • Re:No not really (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Darkness404 (1287218) on Thursday July 09, 2009 @10:12AM (#28636035)

    Yay, is it the year of Linux again/already!?

    In case you didn't notice, the failure of Vista lead almost every major computer manufacturer to put Linux in some form on one or more of their products. This would have been unheard of back in the days of XP.

    Its safe to say that if 7 turns out to be another Vista sized failure, more companies will put more machines out running Linux.

    Yes, the WII is so much more powerful than the XBOX. That's why all the newest, latest, greatest games only come out for the Wii.

    Games are a matter of opinion, but there are more Wii consoles sold than 360 consoles. Plus Wii consoles make Nintendo a sizable $50 profit for each one sold. Any company would want their product to be in such high demand that it constantly was sold out of stock for not one but two Christmas seasons.

    Never heard of any complaints about the "ribbon UI" before, but I'm sure if MS was changing it you'd be the first they'd notify.

    You obviously don't work in an office where they use Office 2007. Where everyone has to get retrained and such.

    Office has stagnated and people hate it because of the new UI? Doesn't that kind of contradict itself?

    Firefox has not stagnated in the least, yet the UI is about the same as in previous versions of Firefox.

  • by crontabminusell (995652) on Thursday July 09, 2009 @10:15AM (#28636063)
    I had a TI-99/4A, then moved to a Commodore 128, then an Amiga 500. It wasn't until I was probably 12 years old before I got my hands on my first IBM-compatible PC (a 4.77MHz machine with a turbo button that cranked it up to 10MHz), and it was a huge step back. HUGE step back. I went from (with the Amiga) a nice GUI interface, great sound and (for the time) great graphics, and moved to a machine that beeped and booped and gave me a text prompt in up to 4 colors. Come to think of it, I'm not entirely sure why I did that...
  • Re:No not really (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ShadowRangerRIT (1301549) on Thursday July 09, 2009 @10:15AM (#28636085)

    No offense (really), but this sounds like projecting a whole lot of your own biases on to the population at large. The iPhone found a base in the consumer market, where smartphones hadn't been strong to begin with. To my knowledge, it's stayed there. iPhone won, but Windows Mobile didn't exactly lose either (except in *potential* profit, which no one but the RIAA considers legitimate).

    The 360 is doing substantially better than the PS3 (which is the closest direct competition), while trying to lure in a few Wii enthusiasts. Until Natal launches, we have no idea how it will do. I'm a semi-hardcore gamer who owns both a Wii and a 360, and while I like the Wii's controls (when well executed) and low power draw, the games available fall into roughly three categories:

    1. First party releases
    2. Okami (okay, and maybe 3 others)
    3. Crap

    The 360 has far more variety of games available, a much better online multiplayer experience, etc. The attach rate is also higher [washingtonpost.com]: Fewer 360 consoles are sold, but the players buy more games (and given the thin margins on consoles, attach rate is much more important in measuring success).

    Vista, while admittedly a resource hog, is not nearly the dog of an OS people make it out to be. It's not the best thing since sliced bread, but it's not the worst thing since Hitler either. They rewrote the core of the OS, and that caused a lot of problems (poorly tested drivers causing blue screens and the like), but with the drivers now stable, and the new focus on speed, Windows 7 may be received far more readily; again, don't (dis)count chickens before they hatch. They actually listened to consumer customer complaints and acted on them, which is fairly new to them.

    As for the ribbon UI, it's not nearly as bad as you make it out to be. It's new, and people need to relearn their habits, and it even provides a window where people might switch from Office to Office 2003-esque clones, but that doesn't seem to be happening at present. People complained about the endlessly cascading menus, and MS came up with a way to reduce the problem. There's a short learning curve, that's all.

    In summary: The world != you, so don't assume that your disagreements mean that MS is ignoring changes in "the world."

  • by je ne sais quoi (987177) on Thursday July 09, 2009 @10:17AM (#28636099)

    The browser that opened the world up to every sort of malware out there.

    This is a key point, because this affects not just windows users. I had my IT person up in my office a few weeks ago installing landesk monitoring software and virus software on my macintosh because of this. I know, I know, there's all sorts of arguments that macs can get viruses, but really, until I hear about a botnet of macs, I'm going to be skeptical that virus software is necessary on a mac. The IT person justified it by saying that PC viruses can get transmitted over USB keys and files stored on my mac, which is I suppose is true (but I have yet to see it).

  • Re:No not really (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ShadowRangerRIT (1301549) on Thursday July 09, 2009 @10:20AM (#28636139)
    I'd argue that the substantially lower hardware costs were at least as much to "blame" for adding Linux to lineups. If the OS costs x, and the hardware costs 10x, then people don't notice the OS cost. When the hardware gets down to 2x, the OS becomes a much larger part of the cost, and "free" looks more attractive.
  • by Insanity Defense (1232008) on Thursday July 09, 2009 @10:24AM (#28636201)

    Microsoft brought desktop computing to the home user.

    I have to disagree there. Apple brought desktop computing to the home user. IBM brought it to the business user and took Microsoft along for the ride.

    Apple lost the home with the Mac which was a totally closed system where the Apple II was an open system. IBM on the other hand brought an OPEN system to businesses along with the IBM name, people introduced to the computer at work then bought the same for home use. Microsoft just rode into the home on the back of IBM when IBM replaced Apple in the home.

    My first access to a microcomputer was to a Heathkit H11 that I helped build.

  • by gtall (79522) on Thursday July 09, 2009 @10:24AM (#28636207)

    I got the general impression that MS got so big and unwieldy that it is difficult to assign direction to Gates or Ballmer. They seem to have spent most of the time since 2000 reacting, not leading. Gates didn't so much leave as he simply faded into insignificance. If he'd stayed, it wouldn't have changed the company which seems to lurch into markets solely because growth in their mature markets has stopped. They aren't leading advances in their mature markets either. They have nothing seemingly to offer to new markets, namely because the old strategy of letting others develop them before marching in and stealing customers won't work in the current environment. The new markets are fast moving, by the time MS decides to jump, the market isn't where they thought it was. If Gates had been on the ball from 2000 onward, he still didn't have the organization that could move quickly, decisively, and accurately with a product that could capture the market.

    Apple would be in a similar position had they not the current management which is looking to define new markets or show how a staid market can be rejuvenated with a sharp line of products. The U.S. based auto industry lapsed into similar unconsciousness.

  • Windows 7 (Score:3, Insightful)

    by VGPowerlord (621254) on Thursday July 09, 2009 @10:25AM (#28636227)

    Like it or not, Windows 7 is just Vista with a new Taskbar, a major video display bugfix [msdn.com], a few new control panel applets (at least one of which (ClearType Tuner) used to be a Windows XP PowerToy [microsoft.com]), some new fonts and the first upgrade to the Font Control Panel Applet in 15 years, and some other misc bugfixes.

    Seriously, you're still using the same Vista you all decided to hate on before; you've just fallen victim to the marketing hype.

  • Re:No not really (Score:3, Insightful)

    by oahazmatt (868057) on Thursday July 09, 2009 @10:34AM (#28636427) Journal

    The iPhone has changed the smartphone market to where even with the best hardware Windows Mobile just isn't wanted much anymore.

    I'm as much of a brand-loving consumer whore as the next person, but I just don't believe that. While the iPhone is extremely popular (despite the development of phones from HTC that had similar functions) it offered the casual customer base a smart phone alternative to the Blackberry and the like. To say Windows Mobile phones aren't wanted (or needed) is a great assumption. There is still a lot of enterprise level software that will only work with Windows Mobile components, and Blackberries are still quite popular in the business world.

    The 360 is still falling behind the Wii despite MS's attempts to beat it with the "New Xbox Experience" and with the development of the Natal controller.

    I seem to recall an interview from a Microsoft employee that admitted the Wii and 360 were too different to be competing against each other. As for falling behind, I don't see it as such. Every Christmas season my local stores are out of Wiis and 360s, but the PS3s are plentiful. The NXE is a vast improvement from the old Blade system, now that I've had quite a bit of time to get used to it. As far as the controller, motion controllers have been around for quite some time with Mattel's Power Glove and Broderbund's U-Force.

    MS though has finally realized that unless Windows 7 is a hit, Linux/OS X/Now ChromeOS is going to kill them in the OS market.

    No, they haven't, because that simply isn't true. Microsoft's OS is too deeply-rooted in the business world for that to happen due to one or two versions of their OS not taking off to the general public's liking. I've heard from many first-hand who were disappointed when their new PC shipped with Vista and later discovered that they did not despise it as much as they believed they would once they customized it to their liking. Mac OS X is not going to kill Microsoft in the near future unless Apple works out what they believe to be an amicable licensing agreement for their software, as gaining that market share with their own PCs plus their OS is likely to end in an anti-trust hearing. As for Linux/Chrome, there are too many options within that category itself for any of them to become truly successful. You might explain Linux to a novice as if it's just another operating system, but once you get into the different distributions you'll scare casual users away.

    Office has stagnated and has had a popular revolt going on because of the "ribbon" UI that a lot of people hate, and I don't see a new version remedying that in the future.

    Just because you don't see it, doesn't mean it won't happen. Consequently, just because you see it happening doesn't mean it is. When I had my corporate training for Office 2007 I was quite confused by the ribbons. After playing around with it a bit I believed I could get the hang of them if I had a solid week to try it out on some serious work. It's different, it's not as compact, and is confusing as Hell at first, but that can be remedied if the next edition of Office has a "switch to classic menus" option.

    MS as a whole has remained the same, however the world is changing and they don't seem to realize that.

    You can say it's the same company that created Bob, Me, Vista, the first X-Box controller, proprietery document formats and the Blue Screen of Death, sure. You can also say it's the company that made it possible for PCs to become a part of our everyday lives, streamline tedious work-related processes, and communicate with people on the other side of the globe.

    Microsoft has changed, before and after Bill. Whether good ideas or not, Microsoft has tried new products or solutions that meet with various degrees of success. They may not always be the first to the party (some may argue that they never have been) but if they hadn't changed to keep up with the world it would be far more evident than a few users online griping about Windows Vista.

  • by Slothrup (73029) <.gro.rehcolnegah. .ta. .truc.> on Thursday July 09, 2009 @10:35AM (#28636455)

    I wouldn't be surprised if Steve Jobs actually believes that Apple invented GUIs, MP3 players and smart phones. In general, no big company has truly original ideas -- or if they do, it's in a research arm like PARC or MSR and the ideas are never properly monetized.

  • by WED Fan (911325) <akahige.trashmail@net> on Thursday July 09, 2009 @10:37AM (#28636493) Homepage Journal

    I really hate to join this, but my first computer was a kit. 1976. No display, except for LED's. My first programming class had timeshare on computer across town. I programmed on a teletype with acoustic couplers, and saved my program to paper tape.

    From there it was wiring my own serial S100 card from a magazine article. Yes, I used BASIC once it became available. Moved to a TRS80 model I and had a friend take me to task for wasting the money on 16k because I should be able to do everything in 4k. Moved to an Apple II, Sharp MZ80K with Pascal, Kaypro II, and eventually my first "IBM Compatible".

    Microsoft was a common thread through most of that. Love 'em or hate 'em, they shaped the time.

    As for their competitors, what most forget is that in the heat of battle, what allowed MS to win was usually serious mistakes by their competitors.

    Word was inferior to WordPerfect, and possibly WordStar, but both companies shot themselves in the head, and allowed Word to take the lead.

    Lotus 123 was THE spreadsheet for business, Lotus screwed themselves and Excel took the lead.

    Netscape was the end-all-be-all for browsers, but they decided to shift focus and took on stuff that wasn't their core. Where are they now?

    Yes, MS acquires a lot, sometimes by ruthlessly. But, most of the time, their competitors simply screw up and give the advantage to MS.

  • by rezalas (1227518) on Thursday July 09, 2009 @10:37AM (#28636501)
    Windows crashing constantly is yet another myth. As well, Microsoft shouldn't be forced to state they didn't invent the internet as it happens to be fairly obvious. In fact I've never met anyone who thought they did (insert Al Gore reference). You can demonize Microsoft if you want to but the reason people think Microsoft did it first and did it best is because everyone else who faded into the history books of vague references and foot notes did so because they failed. They failed to market themselves, or they failed to meet volume, or they simply failed to find financial backing. In the end, Microsoft makes things easy for people to use and makes tools that people like because they do all of those things VERY well. If someone comes up with a great idea that Microsoft finds amazing, they buy it and run with it. There isn't anything wrong with that, hell every company on earth does this (including Apple, IBM, etc). Demonizing a company for having business savvy owners is pointless. As well, saying it isn't easy to use is not only an opinion, but also hard to back up these days. I haven't yet found anything I wanted to use that wasn't plug and play, and not a single person I've made computers for has ever had an issue "installing" their own new hardware and getting it to work with windows. *Installing is in quotes because the idea of calling a USB device "installed" drives me nuts. Linux however, not so accepting of the USB goodness...
  • Re:No not really (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mcgrew (92797) on Thursday July 09, 2009 @10:43AM (#28636585) Homepage Journal

    You obviously don't work in an office where they use Office 2007. Where everyone has to get retrained and such.

    That's my number one gripe about Microsoft; they think they have to move all the menu items around and change everything so you'll think the $$$ you spent on the upgrade is worth it.

    Ten or fifteen years ago they used Quattro in our office, and decided to change to Excel. Being completely unfamiliar with Excel, I took a three day class in it. A few weeks later as I was finally getting comfortable with it, they upgraded to the newer Excel and my employer had wasted the money he spent on that class, as everything I'd learned was obsolete. Fortunately, the new Excel was more like the old Quattro than the old Excel so I didn't need retraining.

    "Options" in IE over the years has been under File, Edit, View, and now is in tools. Why in the hell can't they keep menu items in the same place from one release to the next?

  • Indeed. Bill Gates had a vision; A computer in every home, and his companies software running on them. Moreover, a major part of his vision was that people were going to pay for that software. Remember that letter? [blinkenlights.com].

    It sounds silly now, but back in 1976, the idea that people were going to pay for the software on their home PCs was not a settled issue. If GNU programs, warez, freeware, we applications, and the Linuz kernel have shown one thing, it's that this is still not a settled issue. Software is not viewed in the same way as hardware. When it's so cheap and easy to copy bits, its understandable that people pay so little heed to their supposed worth.

    Nevertheless, Bill Gates built an empire, probably the largest and most influential company in history, entirely around the concept of selling numbers to people with computers. You may not like the way he did it, but the fact is that his long term goals and ambitions have shaped the computer industry and indeed the world for the last 30 years. We would not have had a usable, cheap and pervasive home desktop OS in the 90s without Microsoft. We paid the price in security woes and lock in, but we got our desktops.

    People talk about the internet, but people needed computers in their homes before they could go online. And that's where Bill Gates and Microsoft came in. Unfortunately, that's not where they intend to bow out.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 09, 2009 @10:50AM (#28636707)

    The only Microsoft technical innovation was Microsoft Bob, which mutated into Clippy.

    Everything else was stealing everyone else's ideas, by any means fair or foul. Bill Gates started out by cloning Dartmouth Basic. Later on they cloned CP/M, and still later cloned the Mac user interface. Bill's nothing but a cloner, and a brazen liar and con artist.

    These are facts, by the way, not opinions.

  • by Blakey Rat (99501) on Thursday July 09, 2009 @10:55AM (#28636773)

    IE6 remained unchanged because all of Microsoft's competitors gave up. It's the same reason that, for example, PowerPoint has been so stagnant in the last few years-- Microsoft doesn't bother committing resources to products that have no competition. (Indeed, why should they?)

    If you want good Microsoft software, *compete* with them.

  • by Runaway1956 (1322357) on Thursday July 09, 2009 @11:13AM (#28637077) Homepage Journal

    It isn't theory, my friend. Mac, Linux, Unix, Solaris - ALL computers are quite happy to store files, whether they be mail, binary files, source files, or whatever. As a malicious act, I can download every worm, virus, trojan or whatever else I might imagine, and store them on a *nix server, in places where Windows users can find them. I can change the names of those files to "betty_gets_nekkid" or whatever I wish, to invite attention to them. There is no theory behind the idea that any system can harbor malware.

    In theory, that malware isn't going to harm the Mac, or the *nix box. But, in reality, it is possible for that malware to damage any of them, if given the proper permissions. A buddy recently managed to make his Mac barf while running a virtual machine. I only heard the details second hand, but it involved overly generous permissions, and intentional download of a "hacked" executable. The result was two days of work to fix the damage on the host Mac machine.

  • by paintswithcolour (929954) on Thursday July 09, 2009 @11:19AM (#28637195)
    Yeah! This being Slashdot it made me think how ludicrous the situation is in the car world. I mean why should I shell out for insurance ever year? I mean, if everyone else is insured where's the problem if I skip out.
  • by je ne sais quoi (987177) on Thursday July 09, 2009 @11:33AM (#28637371)
    Huh, interesting, color me surprised. However, one point: you have to install the pirated version of the software to get the trojan and give it an administrator's password before it can pwn the machine, i.e., it's not a virus. Also, I can't click on a web-link and get infected, or open a document that somebody sends me, I have to install the software and run it as root. There's an easy solution to this particular trojan: don't pirate software, or if you do, be suspicious of any software installer on OS X that requires root privileges and check the md5sums of the packages you download against a trusted source.

    Most applications on the mac can simply be dragged onto the applications directory and don't require an administrator's password, so that's a red-flag right there. I'll be snarky here and attribute the lax attitude to administrator privileges to microsoft too, since they are the ones that practically made their old OSes force you to run as root to be able to do anything. To be fair though, this is currently a problem not necessarily because of Microsoft, but some programmers still write their code in such a way to require administrator privileges for installation.
  • Re:No not really (Score:3, Insightful)

    by gad_zuki! (70830) on Thursday July 09, 2009 @11:44AM (#28637531)

    >Everywhere on the web, from /. to Lifehacker to chat rooms to DeviantArt

    When was the last time you heard anything positive from the cacophony of bloggers and chronic forum posters? The culture of the web is the culture of complaints because people who are happy or content with someone dont run to tell everyone. People who are pissed are motivated to say something, so if youre using the web as a litmus test youre pretty much asking for a negative outcome.

  • by GigsVT (208848) on Thursday July 09, 2009 @11:55AM (#28637693) Journal

    You are forgetting that Novell is like 100 times better than what MS replaced it with.

    Everyone mostly forgets that one.

  • by bledri (1283728) on Thursday July 09, 2009 @12:25PM (#28638035)

    The web was where the productivity turned out to be.

    Yup, that's were all my productivity went.

  • by swillden (191260) <shawn-ds@willden.org> on Thursday July 09, 2009 @12:45PM (#28638341) Homepage Journal

    MS in its early days did a lot to help out the computer industry in some ways

    I disagree.

    I remember in 1991, I purchased a NeXTstation. It had a beautiful, usable GUI layered over a powerful multitasking Unix operating system, with development tools that were not rivaled on any platform until at least a decade later. Meanwhile, at work I used Windows for Workgroups 3.11, an ugly, unstable DOS shell. My employer considered NeXTs (and did buy a few), but based on Microsoft's promises for the upcoming OS/2 decided to stick with Windows.

    Then there was the OS/2 debacle. IBM and MS were jointly building a great (for the time) OS, but MS bailed and then killed OS/2 with its promises of "Cairo". What they actually delivered was Windows 95, which was hugely better than WfW, but still fell far, far short of what OS/2 delivered, much less what Cairo promised. None of which held a candle to NeXTstep, of course.

    Along the way, MS stomped lots of innovative products from other companies. Consider DR-DOS, Quarterdesk, Stacker, etc.. There were dozens of small companies doing interesting things that MS squashed or bought, and then shelved their work.

    While at it, Microsoft produced essentially ZERO innovation of their own. Their modus operandi was to wait for others to do interesting things and then buy or copy them. That's fine, but they earned a reputation for playing hardball and forcing unfair, one-sided deals that left the actual innovators out in the cold. I know personally of several potential startups with innovative ideas who decided not to create their products because the potential founders were sure MS would just squash them before they could make a profit. I'm sure that story was repeated hundreds or thousands of times, and the net effect seriously retarded the progress of the software industry.

    Contrast that with Google, or IBM, or any of the other large players. Heck, a common Silicon Valley *business plan* is to create a web startup, develop it to prove out the ideas, then sell out to Google and walk away millionaires (or billionaires). That encourages innovation, because Google makes fair offers for the companies it buys.

    Above all, Microsoft has for years trained users to accept buggy, insecure, crash-prone software as the norm, and acceptable. They have gotten much better of late, and Microsoft's R&D department has produced some great stuff in the last few years, but it will take a long time before they can do enough good to compensate for all of the damage they did in the past. If ever.

  • by Anubis IV (1279820) on Thursday July 09, 2009 @12:47PM (#28638383)
    Saying that IBM wasn't very "worldly" seems a bit naive. They had been around for decades at that point and moving into PCs was the natural place for them to go right then, just as it was natural for them to vacate that market when they did. IBM has always been about serving enterprise customer needs. At that time, PCs were an enterprise need. Once PCs became commoditised , PCs were no longer considered primarily an enterprise need. Instead, they were consumer needs. At that point, IBM sold off its remaining PC line (ThinkPad) to Lenovo and refocused on its core business: enterprise needs.

    And to say that IBM is out of the hardware business is rather ill-informed as well. Just look at things like Blue Gene/L or Blue Gene/P, Cell, Roadrunner, Blade, or their other hardware technologies and products that they have to offer to high-end enterprise needs. Just because the average person may no longer be aware of IBM's products does not make them irrelevant or dead to the hardware business. It just means that they're out of your price range by a few hundred thousand or million of your favorite local currency.

    As for Jobs, ever heard of VisiCalc? Even Microsoft Excel ran on Macs first, as did plenty of other software back then. Apple was doing fine in the early 80s, and then he was kicked out, as you'll recall. So, to pin Apple's lack of success on him is a bit iffy. Jobs is definitely a dreamer, but he's always been about shaking things up and changing the world (look up his famous quote when he was trying to recruit John Sculley, who worked at Pepsi at the time), not just appealing to people's aesthetics (though that does play a role, obviously). And if you want to see how Jobs is as a person, just look at what he did after he got kicked out of Apple: he started NeXT and made innovative computers that were aimed at businesses. He may not have been a huge success with NeXT, but to suggest that he doesn't care about business at all is just ignoring the facts of his history.
  • by rcamans (252182) on Thursday July 09, 2009 @01:22PM (#28638885)

    Windows support is job security for a whole lot of poor, unfortunate people. Bill created a whole new industry there.

  • by recoiledsnake (879048) on Thursday July 09, 2009 @01:22PM (#28638891)

    MS in its early days did a lot to help out the computer industry in some ways

    I disagree.

    I remember in 1991, I purchased a NeXTstation. It had a beautiful, usable GUI layered over a powerful multitasking Unix operating system, with development tools that were not rivaled on any platform until at least a decade later. Meanwhile, at work I used Windows for Workgroups 3.11, an ugly, unstable DOS shell. My employer considered NeXTs (and did buy a few), but based on Microsoft's promises for the upcoming OS/2 decided to stick with Windows.

    The NeXTstation was $5000. The x86 competition was a lot cheaper. If your company and every other company got NeXTstationsm, today we would still have one vendor selling maybe $2000 computers and computing and internet wouldn't have had taken off like they did. Today Apple buys CPUs from Intel and GPUs from Nvidia and ATI alternatively and gets hardware for less. Would those companies even have existed if MS didn't license DOS to Compaq first and the rest later? I doubt it. Open competition in the hardware market would've been squished and computers would have been super expensive.

  • by phoenix321 (734987) * on Thursday July 09, 2009 @01:26PM (#28638951)
    Maybe that's the real point where Microsoft is to blame: setting a world-wide standard for low quality software, damaging expectations well beyond the OS market up to the point where no customer is allowed to expect software that works flawlessly. It's in every software-for-hire contract, in every EULA, everywhere: software cannot be expected to work without occasionally but serious bugs. The problem is not that the software industry states that, but that all customers accept that without a second thought, because they never experienced software that did not crash sometimes. Because of this, we have grown accustomed to paying for software at a quality level we would sue the pants and cry havoc, pitchfork and torches for every other manufacturer in every other trade. But for software, even catastrophic blunders, we simply breathe deeply, reboot and curse silently. There were games that on a vanilla standard Windows installation did nothing but crash until a month and well over five emergency patches. Sure, people were clamoring in every forum for a fix, but almost no one returned the product as utterly defective, reclaiming money and compensation for efforts. There are games that NEVER worked but people still tried for months to fix them, producing unofficial patches or similar. No one would ever bother for any other stuff defective from-the-factory and I think that's party the fault of Microsoft.
  • by ThousandStars (556222) on Thursday July 09, 2009 @02:12PM (#28639695) Homepage
    I remember in 1991, I purchased a NeXTstation. It had a beautiful, usable GUI layered over a powerful multitasking Unix operating system, with development tools that were not rivaled on any platform until at least a decade later.

    And that workstation cost vastly more than generic Windows boxes, which is why generic Windows boxes took over and Next's great ideas fizzled until they became OS X a decade later. Part of Microsoft's genius is realizing that normal people can't or won't pay $10,000 for a computer.

  • by swillden (191260) <shawn-ds@willden.org> on Thursday July 09, 2009 @02:35PM (#28640059) Homepage Journal

    And that workstation cost vastly more than generic Windows boxes, which is why generic Windows boxes took over and Next's great ideas fizzled until they became OS X a decade later.

    Actually, my NeXTstation cost roughly the same as a comparable 486 at the time. That was with an education discount, granted, but it wouldn't have been hugely more expensive even without that. As I recall, I got the machine and a laser printer for $3300. I think I could have gotten a comparable 486 for around $3100 -- but without the printer.

    Part of Microsoft's genius is realizing that normal people can't or won't pay $10,000 for a computer.

    You mean IBM's genius, right? Or, more accurately, Compaq's, since they started the clone wave. Microsoft had nothing to do with that; they just rode the wave -- and convinced everyone that there were going to produce some great software Real Soon Now, so that everyone would stick with them rather than looking into the much-superior alternatives.

  • by croddy (659025) on Thursday July 09, 2009 @03:38PM (#28641039)

    The killer app soon followed, Lotus 1-2-3. One showing of this app to anyone in business made DOS so valuable that pc's became as ubiquitous as water. Everyone started making PC's that could run DOS & Lotus 1-2-3. The price of hardware then drops like a rock as everyone started making it and ultimately farming that work out to Asia driving prices down further. Apple never appealed to business, the needs of which really drive innovation. You can appreciate a personal computer as you would a Stradivarius, but that's not a need. Business had a real need for an electronic spreadsheet.

    And now, sadly, we know exactly what happens to an economy when its businessmen make their decisions based on the output of those unsound spreadsheets.

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