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Microsoft

Ballmer Sends Wakeup Call to Staff 829

Puneet writes "An MSNBC article outlines details of how the world's biggest software company seems to be facing a technology gap. Steve Ballmer, chief executive officer of Microsoft, sent a memo across the company basically saying that with no immediate breakthroughs in technology coming, and with the Linux computer operating system and a batch of other open-source programs biting at its heels, Microsoft will have to do a better job of persuading customers it has something they need. . Microsoft must "improve business consistency" so that customers are not hit with unexpected - and unwanted - changes. Also covered by Forbes but in lesser detail."
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Ballmer Sends Wakeup Call to Staff

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  • puff, puff (Score:5, Funny)

    by sweeney37 ( 325921 ) * <`moc.liamg' `ta' `yeneewsekim'> on Thursday June 05, 2003 @07:31AM (#6122558) Homepage Journal
    Microsoft will have to do a better job of persuading customers it has something they need

    sounds like a few tobacco companies I know....

    "get 'em hooked young, then they'll never stop!"

    I'm sure if Microsoft could nicotine to a product, they would.

    Mike
    • Shakey (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Mattygfunk1 ( 596840 ) on Thursday June 05, 2003 @07:42AM (#6122662)
      It seems to me that Ballmer might be feeling a bit shakey after seeing preview versions of Longhorn. Considering this quote:

      "Longhorn will come when we think itâ(TM)s really ready.

      you have to wonder whether he thinks some of the changes are too extreme and possibly of little value to the user.

      __
      Dragon action figures in Australia [mibglobal.com.au] Cheap web reseller hosting [cheap-web-...ing.com.au]

      • Re:Shakey (Score:5, Insightful)

        by rampant mac ( 561036 ) on Thursday June 05, 2003 @09:01AM (#6123303)
        "Longhorn will come when we think itâ(TM)s really ready.

        you have to wonder whether he thinks some of the changes are too extreme and possibly of little value to the user."

        Or it could mean Microsoft's waiting for Apple to release its next version of OS X, so they can, um, compare features and come up with new "innovative" products. Yeah...

      • Re:Shakey (Score:4, Insightful)

        by gilesjuk ( 604902 ) <giles.jones@zen. ... k minus language> on Thursday June 05, 2003 @09:31AM (#6123587)
        Well if they keep redesigning the GUI for each release of Windows, adding in more annoyances like Messenger (which they make hard to remove for the less IT literate people) then their future isn't looking too rosy.

        With Linux you can upgrade to the latest kernel and stick with KDE2 if you want. You're getting the latest drivers, security and performance enhancements but you're maintaining a familiar front end.

        In fact you can install various GUI systems on one machine if you want, giving users the choice of which one to use.

        Now of course you can change back to the older style GUI in XP, however things are still slightly different even after you have done that.
        • Re:Shakey (Score:5, Insightful)

          by jproudfo ( 311134 ) on Thursday June 05, 2003 @10:46AM (#6124355)
          Well if they keep redesigning the GUI for each release of Windows, adding in more annoyances like Messenger (which they make hard to remove for the less IT literate people) then their future isn't looking too rosy.

          With Linux you can upgrade to the latest kernel and stick with KDE2 if you want. You're getting the latest drivers, security and performance enhancements but you're maintaining a familiar front end.


          Um... What? On one hand you're saying that the "less IT literate people" find it too hard to remove things like messenger and then you're suggesting that these same people should move to Linux because they can use the same GUI even after a kernel upgrade?!

          If these users can't figure out how to disable messenger (a check box), I doubt they're going to be able to figure out how to upgrade the kernel. :)
      • Re:Shakey (Score:5, Interesting)

        by 4of12 ( 97621 ) on Thursday June 05, 2003 @09:48AM (#6123763) Homepage Journal

        Longhorn will come when we think itâ(TM)s really ready.

        Fortunately for Ballmer, customers will see the "value of innovation" and "need" to buy Longhorn because that will be the only way to "upgrade IE" [zdnet.co.uk] :)

        The tightly connected orbits of Windows, Office and Internet Explorer (Outlook&Exchange) are reminescent of the bola [sonic.net]; they will be used to trip up any attempt to escape from "innovation and integration".

      • Re:Shakey (Score:5, Insightful)

        by EvilTwinSkippy ( 112490 ) <yoda@@@etoyoc...com> on Thursday June 05, 2003 @11:19AM (#6124689) Homepage Journal
        Longhorn will come when we think itâ(TM)s really ready.

        We will sell no WINE before its time either. Hell at the rate they are going, Linux will be running windows programs better than the present release of windows.

        I think it is no small exaggeration that the folks at Samba understand CIFS better than the folks in Redmond do. It's only a matter of time before the executables are the same way.

        About the only way Longhorn is going to sell big is by doing something completely different. About the only way it can be completely different is by ceasing to support what already exists. If it breaks everything that exists, you cease to have any advangtage over Linux. Indeed, since most Unix apps can be simply recompiled for Linux, you are at a disadvantage.

        I think they are going to stretch Longhorn out as far as they can. Let the folks who bought Win2k and XP get a few useful years out of their systems, and then introduce this radically different and wholly incompadible new way of processing. And pray you can keep the customers locked in through licensing inertia.

        If I was Bill [theinquirer.net] and Steve [com.com], I'd be selling my shares of Microsoft and planning a quiet retirement in the Islands. This plan has NEVER worked. Anyone remember Atari? How about Commadore? Apple is about the only company I can think of that has pulled not one, but two major technological upheavals off successfully. (Depending on your definition of success I suppose.)

    • Marketing Technology (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Alien54 ( 180860 ) on Thursday June 05, 2003 @08:10AM (#6122878) Journal
      Basically this sounds not like actual technology, but a complaint that many folks have figured out ways to get around Microsoft's Marketing Technology (things like licenses, etc) that locks them into MS products.

      I've had more people thank me profusely when I've handed them a copy of Open Office, just because they didn't have to shell out big bucks for the MS product. They didn't even know an alternative was available.

      • Some industry analysts have pencilled in 2005, but the company is not prepared to endorse that view. Also, following its recent commitment to delaying software releases until it has ironed out all the bugs â" a marked departure from the companyâ(TM)s earlier practice â" Microsoft seems more than prepared to wait.

      It's probably even money that they'll bow to internal pressure to get something out, sort of like a WinME for XP or something, a stop gap to make people buy something.

      Otherwise, all those people who paid extra to be in the guarenteed update program will be upset, because it will become obvious that they are not getting very much for their money.

      • by ReelOddeeo ( 115880 ) on Thursday June 05, 2003 @09:18AM (#6123446)
        It's probably even money that they'll bow to internal pressure to get something out, sort of like a WinME for XP or something, a stop gap to make people buy something.

        Otherwise, all those people who paid extra to be in the guarenteed update program will be upset, because it will become obvious that they are not getting very much for their money.


        That's kind of the delema that they've painted themselves into. We will ship no software before it's time. But we've already taken people's money so that they can get implied promised upgrades.


        Our father, who art in Redmond
        Microsoft be they name
        Thy monopoly come, thy will be done
        throughout the earth as it is in the US.

        Give us this day, our daily license activation key
        And forgive us our bug reports
        as we forgive our system crashes
        And lead us not into competition
        But deliver us from innovation
        For thine is the Control, and the Power and the Greed
        Forever. Amen.
    • by tuffy ( 10202 ) on Thursday June 05, 2003 @10:02AM (#6123884) Homepage Journal
      I'm sure if Microsoft could nicotine to a product, they would.

      Kindof gives a whole new meaning to "Microsoft Patch", doesn't it?

  • Blah (Score:5, Insightful)

    by GigsVT ( 208848 ) * on Thursday June 05, 2003 @07:32AM (#6122567) Journal
    To back up this new push to promote a more customer-friendly Microsoft, Ballmer promised that the company would âoeincrease our advertising budget significantly for all our audiences.â

    This pretty much sums it up.

    An equal headline and probably more accurate one would be "MS launches new media campaign to portray company as customer-friendly".

    All marketing, no real changes.
    • by klmth ( 451037 ) <mkoivi3@unix.saunalahti.fi> on Thursday June 05, 2003 @07:44AM (#6122670) Homepage Journal
      With all OS development concentrated on Longhorn, which is several years down the road, they can't hardly do anything else. They have no new products to present to the consumer, so they have decided to hype up Longhorn instead.

      Now, with Mac OS X and several free operating systems doing being able to do jsut about anything you can do with windows, companies are beginning to realise the alternatives. Managers have references of successful OSS-implementations in Office settings, and are willing to do a cost-benefit analysis to determine which suits their needs, instead of merely scoffing at OSS on the desktop.

      Their mudslinging campaign agains OSS hasn't proved to be the success they thought it would be, and more draconian licensing schemes are making customers re-evaluate their need for Microsoft Products.

      Notice, how I'm not talking about Joe Sixpack. Joe Sixpack will be happy to use whatever his machine comes with, as long as it does what he wants it to do. When computer manufacturers stop delivering OEM installations of Windows, we can talk about a level playing field where each OS will be judged on its own merits.
      • by Cthefuture ( 665326 ) on Thursday June 05, 2003 @08:00AM (#6122794)
        ... and more draconian licensing schemes are making customers re-evaluate their need for Microsoft Products.

        And that says it for a lot of people. Seriously, I would be using Windows right now if it wasn't for their licensing scheme.

        And it's not because I don't want to pay. In fact, I have 10 Windows licenses sitting unused (came with my MSDN subscription). Of course, that's not totally true because sometimes I use them when I need to develop on that platform for a customer (I run it in VMware). However, I don't use Windows as my primary OS.

        It's a sad state of affairs really. Windows works a lot better with my hardware (laptop, firewire, etc.) than Linux does but Microsoft scares me away. This is giving Linux plenty of time to catch up, and it will eventually.
      • by SkArcher ( 676201 ) on Thursday June 05, 2003 @08:01AM (#6122804) Journal
        I don't think we are ever going to see a situation where high street companies are delivering 'bare' machines to the customer - the average man in the street does not want to have to install an OS of any flavour onto a machine - he wants to plug it in, turn it on and for it to work.

        The breakthrough will come when the big OEM manufacturers feel ready to deliver machines with a preinstalled Linux adaptation, which will not happen until;

        1) The big OEM manufacturers have a large enough technical support base that can handle over the phone troubleshooting on Linux based systems.
        2) A sufficiently user friendly front end is available for the average user to come to grips with easily.

        Linux geekery aside, ease of use is of the highest importance to the customer, and it is that which will sell products on a mass scale.
        • Actually, the UI is there. The thing most consumers will want is more integration, which is a job for the KDE and GNOME teams, respectively.
          Installing software on a couple of distros, mainly debian, mandrake, gentoo and redhat, is very easy. It's certainly easier than installing programs on a windows machine.

          Support is a valid issue, but this will change. Troubleshooting a linux machine remotely will never be the hell that troubleshooting a windows machine is.
        • by medscaper ( 238068 ) on Thursday June 05, 2003 @09:08AM (#6123356) Homepage
          the average man in the street does not want to have to install an OS of any flavour onto a machine

          I agree. I would guess that the average man in the street has first and foremost on his mind to get the hell outta the street...

      • by plover ( 150551 ) on Thursday June 05, 2003 @08:26AM (#6123003) Homepage Journal
        Even Joe Sixpack is starting to get fed up with Microsoft.

        Joe Sixpack has one feature that Microsoft doesn't want to exploit: he's cheap. Sure, he'll plunk down $50.00 for a game (repeatedly) but when you ask him to fork over $279 for Office (which sounds a lot like "work") he's more likely to take a second look before shelling out that kind of dough.

        Throw in the added whining 10-year-old "but Dad, I need Word for my schoolwork, teacher says" and you've got additional friction.

        I see a big void out there waiting for the Open Office crowd to step in: offering "Schoolwork CDs." It worked very well for Apple in the 80s; school sales literally kept them afloat while the IBM PC ate their lunches in the business world. Picture a schoolful of kids, all needing (yes, needing) an MSWord-compatible word processor for their home computers for their schoolwork. Now picture the local PTA volunteers burning 300 copies of "Open Office for Windows for Schools" with SIMPLE installers, and offering them to parents gratis. Would they still fork over $179 for "Office XP for Students and Teachers" if free disks are lying on a table at the exits? Or would they start seeing Open Source as a viable alternative to All Things Microsoft?

        And for those parents who can't afford the latest equipment, a Linux For Schools distro could be put together that specializes in offering only the stuff people need for schoolwork: Open Office, Mozilla, etc. No check boxes for servers, no configurations other than a time zone. For that matter, a "Configure Your Own Linux For Schools Distro" distro could be put together for the PTA crowd. It would allow the novice to input the schools name, a few bitmaps of the school logo at various resolutions, time zone, etc., and produce an ISO ready for handing out at the meetings. It could even print a disc sleeve that lists minimum computer required. That would need to be nothing more than about a 90MHz Pentium with 2GB of disk that can be had for about $20.00 from a junk trader. Hell, the PTAs invovled could probably get old PCs donated from the more "technologically current" families that they could preinstall and offer to the less affluent students or schools. I know I have a basement full of ancient PCs that aren't improving with age.

        Damn. I'm thinking this sounds pretty good...

        • by rodik ( 265319 ) on Thursday June 05, 2003 @09:01AM (#6123304) Homepage
          ...school sales literally kept [Apple] afloat while the IBM PC ate their lunches (...)

          What do you mean? They had swimming on their schedule or something? :P
        • by ip_vjl ( 410654 ) on Thursday June 05, 2003 @09:12AM (#6123394) Homepage
          nothing more than about a 90MHz Pentium with 2GB of disk

          You want to run OpenOffice.org (or current KDE or Gnome) on a 90Mhz pentium . That would be a good school distro. Start the computer when the child enters kindergarten, it will be up and ready sometime around graduation.

        • by alexandre ( 53 ) on Thursday June 05, 2003 @09:22AM (#6123483) Homepage Journal
          A linux for school distro was just relaesed here in
          Québec:

          http://www.edulinux.org/spip/

          it's based on mandrake 9.1 and add some better local french support and many useful tools needed in university or college ... everyone should try and make that in their own state/province :-)
      • by Spellbinder ( 615834 ) on Thursday June 05, 2003 @08:36AM (#6123084)
        i think joe sixpack isn't the problem
        all they do is using their computer for surfing web and writing letters
        the problem is the user between geek and sixpack
        he wants to do things himself say install a printer, software, install new graphic card drivers maybe even replace his graphic card
        but he has no deeper knowledge of the system
        for this user linux is to complex to do such tasks (in sufficient time)
        it is the point where windows has the biggest advantage to linux
    • Re:Blah (Score:5, Insightful)

      by jkrise ( 535370 ) on Thursday June 05, 2003 @07:47AM (#6122694) Journal
      "Ballmer promised that the company would âoeincrease our advertising budget"

      Isn't that the strategy used by MS at all times? Fix bugs by advertising. Release patches through the media. Release new versions through the media. Release performance reports, Aberdeen reports, Gartner reports, 'studies' CERN reports etc. through the media.

      If anything, Linux has proved that you can't fool all the people all the time. Even Gartner has woken up to Linux these days.
      • Re:Blah (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Schnapple ( 262314 )
        Fix bugs by advertising. Release patches through the media.
        Umm, isn't that a bad idea? I mean, it's bad publicity for Microsoft that there's a new bug reported and patched each week. It's bad when something like the Slammer Worm makes the front page news. Sure, it's good that they're finding and fixing the bugs but it's bad for mainstream America to hear about it. By that logic mainstream America has no idea about this SCO Linux thing.
    • Re:Blah (Score:5, Funny)

      by PerryMason ( 535019 ) on Thursday June 05, 2003 @07:52AM (#6122728)
      I guess Steve Ballmer was right when he said that the open-source movement stifles innovation. I mean now Microsoft has to spend all that money telling us their products are great instead of coming up with the next Clippy.
      • Re:Blah (Score:3, Funny)

        by override11 ( 516715 )
        I think the best idea would be for a brand new suite that integrates everything in 1 from microsoft! We can call it Microsfot Bob XP!!! :)
      • Re:Blah (Score:5, Funny)

        by EvilTwinSkippy ( 112490 ) <yoda@@@etoyoc...com> on Thursday June 05, 2003 @10:53AM (#6124424) Homepage Journal
        Don't forget Microsoft Bob.

        I'm waiting for the day Microsoft jumps on the BSD bandwagon. They'll have an avatar for each of the Daemons in the system. The first dark one you see will be Charon the boatman, who takes your credit card info in exchange for passage to the underworld.

        During operation, you will interface with Cthulu the resource manager. (Hell the task manager seems to consume averything available already.)

        The messenger system will be the Roman god Rumor.

    • Actually, this raises a very interesting issue. You know, I happened to be chatting with a CEO of a leading Indian software company once, asking him why most Indian software is catered for the international market and not the Indian market per se. In particular, I was concerned about the lack of application development in Indian language software, and asked him why the companies couldn't develop a viable Indian market for their products.

      I expected he'd say something about "improverished" India and all that

  • by jabbadabbadoo ( 599681 ) on Thursday June 05, 2003 @07:34AM (#6122589)
    The article says Ballmer will increase marketing budgets significantly. So we're going to be hearing about "improved business consistency" from Microsoft alot, without that necessarily beeing the truth.

    You known, Perception Is Reality.

  • by Eminence ( 225397 ) <akbrandt@noSPam.gmail.com> on Thursday June 05, 2003 @07:35AM (#6122594) Homepage

    Is this connected with .NET failing to deliver its promises and the fact that Smartphone idea met stronger resistance from cellphones vendors (especially Nokia) than MS expected?

    These two were - arguably - two biggest things MS pushed in last two years. Does that memo mean they don't have anything else up their sleeve? What then with all the money spent and effort at "Microsoft Labs"?

    • .NET failed? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by kahei ( 466208 )

      Smartphone sucks all right, but .NET has been proving rather damn good so far... if a better linux version were available, I could forget java except in Sun locked-in companies.

    • When did .NET fail? (Score:5, Informative)

      by OrangeGoo ( 678478 ) on Thursday June 05, 2003 @07:59AM (#6122789)
      Sorry, I haven't seen a failure of .NET. I'm just curious where you're looking. I work for the US Army Corps of Engineers, and we use the heck out of .NET and everyone loves it. There is some Java development here, too, but most of our new stuff is in C# (which is, of course, essentially a Microsoft-ized Java).

      I haven't heard any complaints from people who use .NET on a regular basis. Personally, I think it's great.
  • iLoo (Score:5, Funny)

    by mrn121 ( 673604 ) on Thursday June 05, 2003 @07:36AM (#6122600) Homepage
    ...all of a sudden that iLoo isn't looking like such a bad idea...
  • by jraf ( 652354 ) on Thursday June 05, 2003 @07:37AM (#6122603) Homepage
    To back up this new push to promote a more customer-friendly Microsoft, Ballmer promised that the company would âoeincrease our advertising budget significantly for all our audiences."
    Huh? Since when do expensive advertising campaigns make a more customer-friendly company?
    • To back up this new push to promote a more customer-friendly Microsoft, Ballmer promised that the company would âoeincrease our advertising budget significantly for all our audiences." Huh?

      Since when do expensive advertising campaigns make a more customer-friendly company?


      In short, they don't. However, the campaigns keeps MS's face and name out there to the general public. It is a proven fact that companies that advertise during a bear market will be on top when the economy improves. (At the ve
  • by watzinaneihm ( 627119 ) on Thursday June 05, 2003 @07:37AM (#6122612) Journal
    If Microsoft emails keep leaking like this, it is about time they came up with a "Trustworthy employee" program before the "trustworthy computing" initiative.
  • by ausoleil ( 322752 ) on Thursday June 05, 2003 @07:37AM (#6122613) Homepage
    More than anything, Microsoft has really hurt itself through it's new licensing plan -- and this with a competitor who offers an initial software cost of zero. That defies market logic -- to raise your prices when faced by a seemingly lower cost competitor. It almost forces the hands of IT engineers (who already face much tighter budgets) to consider open source solutions instead of Microsoft when they need an implementation of, say, an extra file and print server to hold all of the new graphics files generated by the marketing department.

    At the end of the day, it is money that makes the corporation go 'round. And, if I can offer my management and users a better solution that costs less money, it is in my absolute best interests to do so.

    • The new licensing is part of MS's 'Make Sure People Stop Using Our Stuff' strategy.

      This strategy will, it is hoped, cut costs by up to 100%.
    • by tkrotchko ( 124118 ) * on Thursday June 05, 2003 @07:49AM (#6122705) Homepage
      The issue for Microsoft is that to keep their stock prices high, they've got to show continually rising sales.

      But they're not going to convince anyone to switch to MS product at this point...everybody already runs a MS OS or MS Office, so there's no growth there. The market has matured.

      The server market has slow turnover, and growth will come slowly there (if at all).

      I see them doing two things:

      1) Putting license key schemes in place on their OS's, this will get a marginal revenue increase by eliminating the bulk of casual piracy for the OS

      2) I imagine the same thing will happen with MS Office soon

      3) Hope to god the console business takes off...

      4) Come up with a DRM scheme and convince the record companies and users its a good thing. Unfortunately, they don't have a good reputation as a strategic partner.

      5) .NET - next big thing....

      6) Palladium - next big thing....

      I mean, Ballmer's right, there's nothing there that will mean a big revenue increase for MS; its just a lot of nibble around the edges.

      Frankly, MS would have been better off splitting into an application company and an OS company; each individual company would be forced to innovate and take chances. But as they are now, MS is a very very conservative company, and that's not going to lead them to any big breakthroughs.

      They are equal to IBM in 1975.
      • The issue for Microsoft, is that ANY strategy they adopt could backfire. Let's see:

        1) Putting license key schemes in place on their OS's

        OTOH, when Joe SericePack gets pissed by the license-key thing, he's likely to switch over.

        2) I imagine the same thing will happen with MS Office soon

        Joe ServicePack is already running OO.o

        3) Hope to god the console business takes off...

        That's like retiring from the bread and butter business, and hope to sell lots of jam. Won't work.

        4) Come up with a DRM scheme and c
  • by Alsee ( 515537 ) on Thursday June 05, 2003 @07:39AM (#6122620) Homepage
    First he identifies a problem - Microsoft has no new and innovative ideas for improving their products.

    Then he comes up with the perfect solution - "improve business consistency!" The best way we can serve our customers is by not introducing any new and innovative ideas to improve our products!

    -
    • Not so crazy (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Dr. Evil ( 3501 ) on Thursday June 05, 2003 @08:26AM (#6123004)

      MS has been trying to figure out a way to stop the upgrade cycle for some time now. They've been looking at software rental and time limited licensing.

      In 1999(ish), customers wanted to keep Office 97. It did everything they needed.

      Microsoft wanted people to buy new software. They crammed all the features they could into Office 2000, but aside from making Clippy easier to get rid of, people weren't compelled. It wasn't until Microsoft refused to sell Office 97 licenses that Office 2000 sales really picked up.

      OpenOffice has a competitive edge here. As long as the Win32 api sticks, or Linux is ported to modern CPUs, you will always be able to put OpenOffice on a new machine.

      So, Microsoft needs to be competitive (long term... short term OO is unnoticable). Microsoft needs revenue. Customers need to write, read and share information.

      .Net offers them this ability, and their new licensing offers them this ability. If they supported fat client software with the tenaciousness of IBM (e.g. Office 97 will be supported until some nutty year like 2020 and the file format will always be supported), or if they went to that screwed up ASP model with .net, they can lock customers in to regular fees, but they can also offer continual improvements and pay-per-use features.

      People hate the upgrade cycle. Where I work, we're only deploying Windows XP and Office XP because Microsoft will eventually drop support for 2000.

  • by gpinzone ( 531794 ) on Thursday June 05, 2003 @07:39AM (#6122621) Homepage Journal
    Knowing the "mess" they're in and fixing it has always been one of their strong suits. When they released Windows 3.x and found lukewarm support by WordPerfect and Lotus, they admitted it and took a course of action to correct it. When they realized they were too late in jumping on the Internet bandwagon, they admitted it and started development on a browser to compete with Netscape. Now, they realize that they are falling behind in the security and "features people need" area and will most certainly strive to correct the situation. So, don't just sit back, point your finger, and laugh; take a good look within the open source world and see what needs fixing.
    • "So, don't just sit back, point your finger, and laugh; take a good look within the open source world and see what needs fixing."

      is that they can do exactly that! Sit back, point finger and laugh - when (and if) MS does anything notewirthy, simply implement it in open source, and repeat!

      I mean, if something were wrong with Open Source, would MS and SCO be raising such a hue and cry. Don't fix Open Source, simply lie back and relax - it's perfect already.
    • by drix ( 4602 ) on Thursday June 05, 2003 @08:16AM (#6122931) Homepage
      they realized they were too late in jumping on the Internet bandwagon, they admitted it and started development on a browser to compete with Netscape.

      You can be damned sure that if Netscape had a stranglehold on the desktop OS market in the mid 90s, I would be writing this post on some incantation of Mozilla right now and not IE 6. MS's eventual triumph in the browser wars had nothing to do with its capacity to innovate and really not even that much to do with it's ability to play catch-up, which it isn't even that good at. I mean, anyone with half a brain will tell you that feature-, speed-, and stability-wise, Mozilla 1.4b rocks anything that MS has ever created, and this after years of Netscape, Inc.'s atrophy and braindeath, to boot. So basically, their ability to bundle and integrate the browser and OS saved their butts from a "war" that by all means they should have lost, and not their introduction a superior, albeit late-to-market, product.

      The bedrock of MS's business model has always been the fact that, no matter how much they fuck up in other sectors, at the end of the day they still own the OS market. You mentioned the WordPerfect/Lotus episode, which is another good example of this. WP is arguably superior to Word to this day. How did MS extricate themselves from this particular snaggle? Why, code hooks into the OS to improve performance, of course.

      I have a hard time seeing how that dubious technique is going to save them this time. What are they going to do, bundle their operating system with their operating system? :) Make Windows perform better by integrating it with Windows? Once the foundation of their business model begins to erode, the emperor has no more clothes. This is a scenario that, until Linux, they haven't really been faced with before, and it's going to obligate them to take a long, hard look at the very core of their corporate philosophy, culture and business model. Institutional momentum being what it is at one of the world's largest companies, I pray with renewed hope these days for the eventual death and destruction of MS :)
    • by expro ( 597113 ) on Thursday June 05, 2003 @08:38AM (#6123102)

      WordPerfect had been told for years by Microsoft that OS/2 was the future for corporate work. They had a great OS/2 version representing a much larger investment with much fewer framework problems, but which ultimately didn't have enough potential market to even justify release of a final supported version after Microsoft pulled the fast one shifting from OS/2 to Windows for corporate use forcing app developers to use greatly-degraded facilities, which Microsoft had been practicing at a bit longer.

      Having to suddenly deal with all the Microsoft "innovations" of Win 16 resulted in a result that was, by comparison with Microsoft's efforts, crap. Sure, Microsoft was better at dealing with the sudden shift and limitations of their own monstrosity (or perhaps you would like to be using it today). This is characteristic of Microsoft's strategy of adding bumps to the road for other developers, leveraging their control of the OS against applications developers.

  • by mirko ( 198274 ) on Thursday June 05, 2003 @07:39AM (#6122631) Journal
    This could be the announcement of a new dotcomboom :

    The bigggest software company of the world just admits being stalled.

    It's high time small development structures came with new things in order to convince the investors to empty their pockets.

    Now, if we consider Microsoft's usual tendency to buy interesting startups, then the above-mentioned investors will for sure be there to re-sell them their shares.

    Or, of course, I could be dreaming but I hope not : I have some nice new software concepts for sale :-)
  • strange... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by thoolihan ( 611712 ) on Thursday June 05, 2003 @07:40AM (#6122641) Homepage
    I think it's odd the article doesn't mention apple. Sure GNU/Linux is the most immediate server threat, but apple is more likely to threaten the desktop. Also, no mention of software solutions threat (IBM, etc).

    -t
  • by AcidDan ( 150672 ) on Thursday June 05, 2003 @07:41AM (#6122648) Homepage
    I think that basing your model on purely technological mindset is not really the way to go - sure, technology drives the computer industry, however I believe we're moving to a more fundamental factor in choosing Information Technology:- Lifestyle.

    This is what Apple has moved to as their model - sure they provide technological goodies, but the aim is improving lifestyle, not technology for the sake of technology/innovation.

    Consider the strategy of providing Music/Movie/Image/Organiser products - Lifestyle products.

    Consumers have been fed a steady diet of new gizmo's and gadgets but it takes many years for them to actually *GET* what they can do with them.

    Bluetooth is such an example - been around for years, but only now am I using it (the technology) because I need to synchronise my Address Book and Calendar (Lifestyle).

    I believe that the industry will gain momentum over the next few years by not plugging a particula technology but marketing Lifestyle Devices/Software using new technology in innovative ways...

    -- Dan =)
  • by xtermz ( 234073 ) on Thursday June 05, 2003 @07:43AM (#6122667) Homepage Journal
    When I first got into computers around 94-95ish, it seemed like once a week a new technology or use for current technology was being created...

    then once a month... ....then once every couple of months... ...and now maybe once a year at best..

    And when I think about it, it all seems to coincide with the increase in lawsuits against "patent violators", the DMCA, "intelectual property violations", etc etc. Basically, the big guys are stomping the little guy if he thinks outside the box, and it happens to present a challenge to their technology.

    Perhaps Microsoft needs to wake up to this big tech killmachine that they have had a hand it making, and try to reverse some of the damage that it has done. Now people are afraid to issue security warnings for fear they might be arrested for breaking the DMCA...

    insane...
  • You think? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by dinotrac ( 18304 ) on Thursday June 05, 2003 @07:46AM (#6122688) Journal
    Notice that the single significant tangible move is to increase advertising budgets?

    Good luck, Steve-o.
    I'm afraid you're facing a stealth advertising campaign that's hard to buck -- the very same one your company rode to the top in the early 80s.

    It's the "I can't get signoff to buy the stuff I need, but I can put this together on my own authority and put it into place" ad, the "What do you mean we're already using it? Get it out now. What? We're doing THAT with it? Hmm. OK, maybe just this once" kind of advertising.

    Microsoft knows the power of that publicity very well. It's what led PCs to prominence and the power of IT (Whoops! It was MIS back then) staffs to shrink.
  • by Anita Coney ( 648748 ) on Thursday June 05, 2003 @07:47AM (#6122692) Homepage
    First, Microsoft should dump all money losing divisions. As I'm sure everyone here has heard, Microsoft's OSes and Office products generate over 80% profits, which the company uses to fund losers such as WebTV, MSN, the Xbox, etc.

    By dumping those loses, Microsoft could drastically drop prices AND continue making the same profits. I'd be a win-win situation.

    Second, drop product activation. No one likes being treated like a criminal. And as I've written here before, product activation does NOT stop real piracy, i.e., piracy for profit. The ISO for XP Professional was readily available and instructions for installing SP1 were easy to follow via tweaktown.com's instructions. Simply put, pirates were still able to copy and sell XP Pro without ANY impediment.

    The real purpose of product activation is to stop friends and family from sharing copies. If Microsoft's software was lower in price, (see my first point) people would simply buy their own copy.

    Third, stop the egregious software assurance type deals that only serve to piss off your customers. If you really want Linux to fail, stop giving your customers a reason to use it!

    Fourth, stop with those outrageous deals to stop Linux. You know the ones, when India, China, or Germany wants to switch to open source, Microsoft bends over backwards to give practically free software. This totally pisses off customers paying way too much via software the draconian deals imposed in my third point. Secondly, it gives them an incentive to look into switching to Linux.

    Fifth, stop using the BSA police to force deals. When public schools canâ(TM)t afford your software, donâ(TM)t send the police force a deal. When I didnâ(TM)t buy a GM car, they were kind enough NOT to send the police to check out my garage. We expect the same courtesy from Microsoft!

    Sixth, I could go on and on and on. But since my boss expects me to work for money, Iâ(TM)ll quit here and let others post some suggestions.
    • by IamTheRealMike ( 537420 ) on Thursday June 05, 2003 @08:06AM (#6122845)
      By dumping those loses, Microsoft could drastically drop prices AND continue making the same profits. I'd be a win-win situation.

      No, that wouldn't work. Microsoft depends on high growth for stockholder returns, and partly to pay its salary bill. Operating systems and productivity software are a saturated market - they own it, and with flat PC sales, it's not expanding. Worse, they're about to have their lunch eaten by Linux.

      They have to spread out, and hope that todays money-loser turns into tomorrows next big thing.

      Second, drop product activation. No one likes being treated like a criminal.

      Unfortunately enough people are that it makes sense to try and maximise profits by clamping down on it.

      The real purpose of product activation is to stop friends and family from sharing copies. If Microsoft's software was lower in price, (see my first point) people would simply buy their own copy.

      What price should it be?

      Fourth, stop with those outrageous deals to stop Linux

      Yeah, this one would be nice :) But I can understand why they do it, it's like a snowslide, all it takes is a few blasts and the right place and the whole thing starts sliding. They know this.

      They also know timing is critical. Windows only has so long, eventually it will be a liability rather than an asset. Eventually it will be cut off from them as a revenue source and by that day, if they haven't diversified enough, it's game over. No more Redmond.

      They have time to do that, but it's hard. Stuff like MSN, the Xbox etc shows they in this for the long haul, as well they might be. So they need to buy time, because they don't know how fast things will move once Linux becomnes truly viable.

      Sixth, I could go on and on and on. But since my boss expects me to work for money, Iâ(TM)ll quit here and let others post some suggestions.

      Heh, my boss too, so one last one - unfortunately being nice to their customers isn't going to turn Microsoft around, it's far too late for that. They have to leave Windows before it drags them down with it, and until they manage that it's a race against time.

  • by Matrix272 ( 581458 ) on Thursday June 05, 2003 @07:50AM (#6122716)
    The article says that Ballmer plans to "increase our advertising budget significantly for all our audiences". Does anyone else see that as treating the symptom rather than the disease? The point of the article was that Microsoft doesn't seem to have anything to persuade people to buy its products, so instead of INNOVATING, they're going to "persuade" people that they need Microsoft. The problem isn't that people don't need Microsoft, the problem is that Microsoft isn't creating anything new and exciting in the computer world... and increasing the advertising budget by all the money in Fort Knox isn't going to change that.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 05, 2003 @07:52AM (#6122733)
    When you compare POSIX native thread in the next release of Linux and this article by Chris Brumme about AppDomains [gotdotnet.com] it's obvious the issues with distributed transaction on windows platform has serious problems. In Brumme's article, he discusses why creating new threads is heavy weight and diificult to scale. Read his other articles, they are very informative. Distributed transactions don't necessarily require threading, but without a robust threading implementation, solving the problem is that much harder. Not only that, doing complex distributed transactions requires a robust Object Persistence manager, which isn't available from microsoft. There are third party tools for .NET that do Object Persistence management, but it's not nearly as mature as several Open source apps.


    There are several important differences between how .NET handles dynamic runtime loading of classes and how java does it. .NET requires a separate AppDomain, which means it has a higher overhead. Using a separate AppDomain is only needed if you need to unload/reload an assembly at runtime. Although java classloaders are difficult to grasp for many programmers, it provides a better way of handling dynamic loading. I won't bother going into the details of how dynamic loading works. Tomcat has plenty of examples of how it is done for each webapp.

    • How can this statement be true if:

      1) Sun Java, by many developers admissions, is one of the most poorly written technologies in this day and age?
      2) One of the biggest Drawbacks for Distributed Transactions is not the Operating Systems mentioned above but the limited protocols available for the Distributed Transaction Model to use? This is an issue on all operating systems on the market.
      3) Interoperability will continue to be a roadblock for years to come?
      4) Solutions like these and any alternatives are res
  • Hot Air Or ... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by 4of12 ( 97621 ) on Thursday June 05, 2003 @07:53AM (#6122740) Homepage Journal

    Ballmer is well known for blowing a lot of hot air, so it's often hard to know What Exactly He's Really Saying.

    My translation is that he's saying Microsoft is appearing to reach either an upper asymptote or a maximum (with decreases to follow) in terms of company growth, revenue, etc.

    I'm inclined to believe this translation based on his recent failure in Munich to stave off a large scale Linux desktop deployment and on his large sale of MSFT stock "to diversify his portfolio".

  • by wfrp01 ( 82831 ) on Thursday June 05, 2003 @07:54AM (#6122750) Journal
    Microsoft must âoeimprove business consistencyâ

    The best way to improve "business consistency" is to stop upgrading your Microsoft products. Just keep them the same.
  • It's Ironic (Score:4, Interesting)

    by chia_monkey ( 593501 ) on Thursday June 05, 2003 @07:54AM (#6122751) Journal
    Don't you find it ironic that the worldâ(TM)s biggest software company got there not by innovation but rather by other means, and now they're bemoaning that very fact? They started off by buying OS code and licensing their way into most computers built. As their warchest grew and grew, they simply swallowed up other innovative companies or put innovative companies perceived as a threat to their death.

    This company was never based on customer service and now they want to be perceived that way? It's going to be quite tough for this large company to change the corporate culture that has run deep in its veins since the beginning of its existence, if it's even doable at all.
  • not a chance... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Thursday June 05, 2003 @08:01AM (#6122800) Homepage
    Their last bout of screwing their customers with Licensing 6.0 and the sneaky underhanded tricks they pulled with Media player and other "upgrades" by silently adding insane clauses in the EULA they slit their own throats.

    I have shown MANY people the EULA's they "agreed to" and all of them have been outraged to the point that they are seeking alternatives and have ZERO trust for microsoft.

    Hell I know a few people that bought Windows 2000 to downgrade their XP machines based solely on the licensing and "copyright violation prevention measures".

    There is a way for microsoft to get back on top. but Ballmer and anyone who thinks like him will never be able to do it...

    The era of bullying your customer into submission is coming to an end. and until they realize the basics of doing business... they will start to slip faster and faster....
  • by nologin ( 256407 ) on Thursday June 05, 2003 @08:05AM (#6122842) Homepage

    With a lot of corporate customers moved over to the newest Microsoft Licensing formula, Microsoft is feeling the pressure to put up with what they have promised. They have been putting very little in the pipe with regards to updates with their latest products.

    Mind you, they have put out Windows 2003 server, but as far as new features, it lacks in that departement. There are still organizations who are just recently migrating over to Windows 2000 server.

    So, to make up for the technology gap, they will market over the gap. Doesn't surprise me one bit.

  • by mblase ( 200735 ) on Thursday June 05, 2003 @08:12AM (#6122888)
    Apple may be marginalized, but they're the ones on the consumer end who keep building the bridges Microsoft has to walk across. No new technology coming forward? Apple built their own with the iPod. They were late to the game with iTunes, granted, but iPhoto, iMovie and iDVD are still leaps and bounds ahead of any competition in terms of ease-of-use.

    The "digital hub" strategy they're embracing is working very well for Apple. The only problem, natch, is that digital camcorders (and camcorders and DVD burners) are still too expensive to be casually embraced by most consumers. But then, prices are getting lower all the time -- simple digital cameras under $100 are easy to come by, and used iPods can be found on eBay for as low as $100-$150. Apple knows that people are doing less and less with their personal computers but more and more with the other "computers" around them, and constantly works on ways to tie those peripherals to Apple's hardware and software.

    What Microsoft ought to be throwing it's money towards, then, is building easy-to-use consumer software that consumers actually *want* to use, not because they're gimmicky but because they're easy to understand. Media Player is a good start. Their video editor needs much work, and integrating it with the ever-cheaper DVD burners and VideoCD writers could only help them.

    Then let's try some new ideas, just to see if they take off. Skip the Tablet PC thing; build a cheap (like $50-$60) e-book reader that people can actually afford and will want to own, then get the magazine and newspaper publishers to sign on. Try to really integrate webcams and IM. A Flash-format animation creator for under $50 so people can make their own cartoons. They don't have to give this stuff away with the OS, if they make it cheap enough to buy separately. (I'm keen on that $50 price point, which is the most your average consumer will spend on non-profit-making software.)

    Microsoft is, IMO, so bent on keeping the business markets that they've all but neglected their consumer market. Aside from some pretty colors, self-customizing menus and Apple-chasing software hacks, they've not done anything new for the home market since Windows 95 was released. It's good for them to spend time building tools that developers and managers want to have, but it helps their image immensely to add the stuff home users would want to have -- even if they don't make as much profit from it.
  • by dunstan ( 97493 ) <dvavasour@NospAm.iee.org> on Thursday June 05, 2003 @08:18AM (#6122942) Homepage
    At one level Microsoft has so much cash in the bank that it could live off the hump for years and years and years. They identified the problem: lack of a recurring revenue stream, and the need to sell more OS/Office licences to create revenue.

    There are two solutions for this problem:
    1) Develop a strong services and solutions offering, where business will trust you with their IT and pay lots of money for good service
    2) Invent a way to squeeze recurring revenue out of your installed user base without offering anything substantially more

    IBM chose (1), Microsoft chose (2).

    Consider the phases of IT: firstly there was the traditional IBM phase where by far the largest cost was hardware, even allowing for teams of people writing in-house software. This characterises the period up to, say, 1980, and by 1990 IBM was almost dead on its feet; secondly there was the phase where commercial packaged software was a major part of IT decision making, starting with putting Lotus 1-2-3 in front of decision makers, and continuing through the Windows/Office age. This phase was characterised by the PHB saying "I want 10,000 computers running Wordperfect and Lotus".

    Now we are into the next phase, where both hardware and packaged software are commodities within a solution or service. This is why companies such as EDS, CSC and IBM (and smaller players in this market) matter more than Microsoft. If Ballmer thinks that some new technological gizmo will get people spending again then he's wrong: there may well be a lot of individual buyers for new toys, but neither the business desktop nor my mum need or want a new killer technology. They need, and already have, a working toolset to send email, browse the web (and use web enabled applications) and create documents. Essentially we have now commoditised the information rather than the software (yes, I know this process isn't complete, but it's under way).

    Now the good bit: Microsoft has so much cash that it needn't deal with this issue for years yet. IBM got into deep doodoo before reinventing itself. Microsoft is showing the signs that it expects to spend several years yet digging the hole in the same place.

    Dunstan
  • by Asprin ( 545477 ) <gsarnold&yahoo,com> on Thursday June 05, 2003 @08:31AM (#6123051) Homepage Journal

    Microsoft will have to do a better job of persuading customers it has something they need

    How can you be this smart and this delusional at the same time? You want to make Linux functionally irrelevant as a business OS? Here are some **REAL** ideas off the top of my head:

    1) Abandon Palladium. We really don't want to use our PCs to watch movies - we have $50 DVD players for that -- see #3. 'Nuff said.

    2) For that matter, your EULAs are WAY THE F___ OUT OF CONTROL. "Hmmm, it sure is an important OS security patch, but damned if I'm gonna install it because it sez right here that doing so gives MS the right to control my PC." I don't care what you *intend*, that's what it sez. If you want to control what's on my PC and what I can do with it, then you buy it for me, Mkay?

    3) Quit stalking your customers like a collections company. Abolish Open Licensing 6.0 and this *STUPID* software-by-subscription idea of yours. (If you want me to re-buy your software every year, those annual subscription fees are going to have to be lower -- a **LOT** **F___'IN** **LOWER**. Office '95 was good enough for me.

    4) Admit that your security problems are a direct result of your insistance in violating the #1 rule of software design: YOU NEVER MIX CODE AND DATA TOGETHER. You have specifically engineered every product you sell to be scriptable. STOP IT! Remove the OS-level scripting capabilities from your products and provide patches to your current customers to do the same on previous versions.

    5) You guys are acting like the software engineering divisions at HP! Stop trying to improve things that don't need improving and realize that the only perfection is simplicity. Go out and play some golf, maybe take some dancing lessons. ;)

    Sure, I like Linux, but I also like Windows. My problem is that even though I have already given you my hard-earned money many times over, I feel like you've nailed a bulls-eye on my back and handed out shotguns to all your beer-swilling pals.

    I am exploring alternatives because sticking with you is like being a hostage (as in gun-to-the-head) in a car speeding down a desert highway. If I jump out, it'll hurt, but once I stop rolling, get up, brush myself off and walk back to town, I'll be in control again.

    Wow, not-so-ironically, it **really** **is** much more about 'freedom' than 'free'-dom.

    • Minor point... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by phillymjs ( 234426 ) <slashdotNO@SPAMstango.org> on Thursday June 05, 2003 @10:03AM (#6123905) Homepage Journal
      Admit that your security problems are a direct result of your insistance in violating the #1 rule of software design: YOU NEVER MIX CODE AND DATA TOGETHER. You have specifically engineered every product you sell to be scriptable. STOP IT!

      For years Apple has had AppleScript, an extremely powerful scripting language. Almost every worthwhile Mac application is scriptable. In all the years that AppleScript has been around, how many times has this been exploited? Once, and it was a pretty poor job. [symantec.com]

      The problem is not the scriptability of Microsoft's products, it's just that they chose to make it a gee-whiz feature and get it out in the marketplace, instead of taking the time and doing it right.

      ~Philly
  • by Ridgelift ( 228977 ) on Thursday June 05, 2003 @08:32AM (#6123057)
    "...with no immediate breakthroughs in technology coming..."

    Translation: We've run out of other people's ideas to steal.
  • by Badgerman ( 19207 ) on Thursday June 05, 2003 @08:37AM (#6123099)
    Do I think M$ is going to just engage in marketing? No, I don't. M$ will move with the times - when they can't drive them. They blew off the Web then came back with a vengeance.

    So, I expect that the bad of lame and FUD-filled marketing campaigns will be coupled with some attempts to make actual, serious improvements. I don't expect any of them to be that original, but I expect them.

    M$, being on the top, doesn't have to try as hard to stay there or react as quickly as others. I'd say they know that.
  • by LazloToth ( 623604 ) on Thursday June 05, 2003 @08:46AM (#6123177)
    "...companies have turned to Linux and other open-source software programs, seeing them as cheap but adequate alternatives."

    I'd amend this to say companies find that Linux and Friends aren't just "cheap but adequate." Instead, we find on the server side that they are cheap, rock solid, effective, and simple. In my opinion, Microsoft does do many things well. But MS continues to believe that "featurization" is what companies want, and that corporate types will see additional features as being worth additional time, trouble, and money. What MS might finally be seeing is that more feature-laden, more trouble-prone, and more expensive is NOT what we're looking for. Open Source code should serve as a model for Microsoft, at least in the back office, because it's written by geeks, for geeks. And, obviously, it works.

  • by DongleFondle ( 655040 ) on Thursday June 05, 2003 @09:25AM (#6123511)
    " . . . and with the Linux computer operating system and a batch of other open-source programs biting at its heels, Microsoft will have to do a better job of persuading customers it has something they need."

    "I know you're out there. I can feel you now. I know that you're afraid. You're afraid of us. You're afraid of change. I don't know the future. I didn't come here to tell you how this is going to end. I came here to tell you how it's going to begin. I'm going to hang up this phone, and then I'm going to show these people what you don't want them to see. I'm going to show them a world....without you. A world without rules and controls. Without borders or boundaries. A world where anything is possible. Where we go from there, is a choice I leave to you."
  • Clue caught at last (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mwood ( 25379 ) on Thursday June 05, 2003 @09:38AM (#6123672)
    Isn't this what we customers have been saying, nay, *screaming*, for years now?

    I recall the days when U.S. automakers tried to sell cars by telling the buyer, "you need what we build", before they got clobbered by the imports with their "we'll build what you need" attitude. I wouldn't be looking elsewhere if Microsoft's products met my needs.

    OTOH there's a big *natural* market for a company with the Features Uber Alles culture. If Microsoft would be content with a large, secure slice of the pie, instead of trying to grab the whole pie, they could do very well without revolutionary change.

    The trouble comes when you try to *impose* your vision of the market on a segment which holds to a radically different vision. Lose the vision, or lose the ambition to own the market; you'll never achieve both together.
  • by presearch ( 214913 ) * on Thursday June 05, 2003 @11:30AM (#6124764)
    When Apple releases OS X Panther, it will give Microsoft a few months of new innovations to work on.

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