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Microsoft Editorial

A Former Microsoftie Forecasts Microsoft Doom 1015

Chris Holland writes "Jeff Reifman, a columnist for Seattle Weekly, has written a toe-curling editorial analysis of Microsoft's past and current missed opportunities, contrasted with its financial success, while covering in fair depth some of the most serious threats to their business model. Beyond the many choice quotes, I've found this article to be a very interesting read from somebody who has not only been on the inside, but also significantly developed his professional career thru Microsoft solutions."
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A Former Microsoftie Forecasts Microsoft Doom

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  • by grub ( 11606 ) <> on Thursday June 03, 2004 @09:15AM (#9324580) Homepage Journal

    Earlier on in the article he says:
    Microsoft had $32 billion in revenue last year.
    Yet near the end he says:
    Income of $16 billion is expected in fiscal year 2005.
    By "Income" does he mean "Profit" or is MS actually predicting a 50% revenue drop over the previous year?
    • by leadsling ( 734216 ) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @09:20AM (#9324632) Journal
      Revenue is what you take in. Income is what you keep. (AKA profit) Gives you a clue as to what their markup is (:-0)
    • by sg3000 ( 87992 ) * <> on Thursday June 03, 2004 @09:45AM (#9324862)
      > By "Income" does he mean "Profit" or is MS actually predicting
      > a 50% revenue drop over the previous year?

      Revenue is the amount of money you bring in due to products that you sell. This normally does not include money from investments and selling plant, property, and equipment (PP&E). So if you sell 1 product for $1, but you sell a building you don't use any more for $1M, your revenue is only $1.

      Income is the amount of money left over after all expenses. The first expense is cost of goods sold (this means the cost of the actually sold unit). For software, this is nearly 0. Money left over after the COGS is your direct margin. For Microsoft, I believe this is something like 90+% (but I'm too lazy to look up their income statement at this time)

      After that, you subtract off the other expenses, like R&D (this includes software engineering and the like), sales general and administrative (SG&A--including marketing weasels, such as myself), and interest payments (e.g. long term debt).

      Whatever is left over is your net income. Here's a simplified example:


      (cost of goods sold)
      Direct Margin
      (Interest Expense)
      Net Income

      So Income is your bottom line. If the number is positive, then profit! That means the standard Slashdot cliche becomes:

      1. Make revenue from a product or service
      2. Minimize your expenses
      3. Profit!

      What's interesting about Microsoft is they are one of a very small number of companies with NO long term debt (Apple, I believe, just joined this exclusive club). That makes MSFT's balance sheet fairly impressive to look at.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 03, 2004 @09:15AM (#9324581)
    John Carmack can't be happy about Microsoft embrace and extend to his video game! It's sounds funny anyway: Microsoft Doom
    It's almost like the company had troubles or something.
  • Nice treatise (Score:5, Interesting)

    by erick99 ( 743982 ) * <> on Thursday June 03, 2004 @09:15AM (#9324591)
    A well written and informative article. A few thoughts:

    . I'm tired of spending the first 10 minutes of my day rebooting just so I can get to work.
    I must be very lucky because I typically go weeks without rebooting.

    ...many users don't buy new computers because of how hard it is to move all their data and applications.

    Microsoft admits that one of its biggest challenges is getting users of its products to upgrade to new releases. Fewer than 3 percent of Microsoft Office users have upgraded to the latest version
    I can't use all of the features in Office 200 yet....

    Synchronization of our Internet bookmarks across all our computers
    Now wouldn't THAT be nice?

    The article is well worth reading. I agree with most of it. I am not exactly a Microsoft fan but I don't have quite the issues with Microsoft that the author does. My biggest gripe is not their products but rather their predatory business practices.

    Happy Trails!


    • Re:Nice treatise (Score:5, Interesting)

      by LostCluster ( 625375 ) * on Thursday June 03, 2004 @09:20AM (#9324630)
      It's very interesting that many of the complaints people have about Microsoft Products are actually addressed in later releases, but if the customer never upgrades to that new release they'll never see the changes.

      Open source has a much easier time convincing people to upgrade to the most current release because in most cases it costs nothing but a little time to move to the latest stable release.
      • Re:Nice treatise (Score:5, Insightful)

        by kin_korn_karn ( 466864 ) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @10:08AM (#9325109) Homepage
        That's because people that use open source are computer hobbyists that ENJOY the upgrade process. For everyday computer-as-appliance users, it's just a hassle.
      • Re:Nice treatise (Score:5, Interesting)

        by EvilAlien ( 133134 ) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @10:21AM (#9325250) Journal
        Open source has a much easier time convincing people to upgrade to the most current release because in most cases it costs nothing but a little time to move to the latest stable release.

        Open Source also has a higher common denominator in terms of technical sophistication. Even Microsoft is aware of the "paper MCSE" problem. It is also worth noting that the problems Microsoft faces aren't just upgrades, but getting users to apply patches, patches being free.

        User inertia plays a much larger role in uptake of patches and upgrades than I think most would like to admit.

        Unfortunately, those of us who play in the Open Source world are faced with our own technical upgrade/migration challenges now. By show of hands, how many out there are trying to figure out what to do with their Red Hat boxes and aren't willing to roll the dice on Fedora Core 2?

        • Re:Nice treatise (Score:3, Insightful)

          by T-Ranger ( 10520 )
          Even Microsoft is aware of the "paper MCSE" problem.

          To MS, that is not a problem. Having a seemingly important certification easy to get is intentional. Mind share.

          And that strategy is not uncommon: CNA and CNE certs from Novell, back in Netware 3.x days, were also intentionally easy to get. It is a double edged sword though: it has taken Novell years to regain respect for their certs.

      • "It's very interesting that many of the complaints people have about Microsoft Products are actually addressed in later releases, but if the customer never upgrades to that new release they'll never see the changes."

        Which, in essence, means that you have to PAY for bug fixes.

        This has been a very profitable practice for Microsoft. That way they can keep selling you the same product(Win95) over(Win98) and over(Win2000) and over(WinXP).

        I wouldn't have that big of a problem with the practice except for one m
    • Re:Nice treatise (Score:5, Informative)

      by grub ( 11606 ) <> on Thursday June 03, 2004 @09:32AM (#9324761) Homepage Journal

      Synchronization of our Internet bookmarks across all our computers

      Firefox has an extension which does this very thing. Look for "Bookmarks Synchronizer" on the main extensions page.
      • Re:Nice treatise (Score:4, Insightful)

        by drudd ( 43032 ) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @09:59AM (#9325009)
        It's more than just bookmarks though, I use 3 computers on a regular basis (my office computer, my laptop, and my home computer).

        I really just use my laptop for most tasks so that all my settings and files are available to me anywhere (besides, I just ssh into my office computer from home to work...).

        The ability to wander from computer to computer and have everything you need to work automatically (whether it is really located on some other computer) is a fundamental, but soluble problem.

    • Re:Nice treatise (Score:3, Interesting)

      by jaavaaguru ( 261551 )
      I must be very lucky because I typically go weeks without rebooting.

      What happens every few weeks that requires you to reboot? Last time I had to log out was when I put more RAM in my workstation. Before that, it was a powercut round about Christmas time.

      Last time I got a new computer, I just put my home directory into a TAR file, and moved it across to the new machine, so I got all of my files, emails, bookmarks, etc. That takes about 10 minutes (including tweaking things for different versions of apps o
  • In other news, (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Outatime ( 108039 ) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @09:17AM (#9324602)
    Microsoft is going to die? *BSD has supposedly been on that road for years! Maybe MS could learn a thing or two from the resilience of *BSD.
  • Thru?!? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by avalys ( 221114 ) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @09:18AM (#9324612)
    ...significantly developed his professional career thru Microsoft solutions

    THRU?!? What kind of site are you guys running?

    How hard is it to keep these lazy-teenager abbreviations out of the stories?
    • in the dictionary (Score:4, Informative)

      by millahtime ( 710421 ) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @09:34AM (#9324778) Homepage Journal
      It's in the dictionary [].
      • by kraut ( 2788 ) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @09:50AM (#9324910)
        It's in the " The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language", which is of course an oxymoron.

        Now repeat after me: "The Oxford English Dictionary is the ONLY accepted reference for English!" Feel free to write it on the blackboard a few times as well, just to make sure it sinks in.

        English is English, through is not spelled "thru", night is not spelled "nite", and there is no such word as "burglarize". The verb is burgle. Of course, you chaps in the colonies can do what you like with your language, but don't call it English ! ;)
        • Re:in the dictionary (Score:3, Interesting)

          by iphayd ( 170761 )
          Actually, I remember a NPR interview with one of the people responsible for putting words in the OED. If I recall, he said that the OED should be considered a catalog of english words in the particular slice of time that the book was published.

          He then went on to talk about how words are added all the time. If I recall, a word has to be used somewhere between three and seven times in published works, with a consistent definition, to be added to the OED. And he defined published works very loosely.

          I full
        • by amightywind ( 691887 ) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @11:57AM (#9326473) Journal

          I think it is pretty remarkable that the English the yanks, canucks, or aussies speak are as close to real thing as they are. I understand people from GBR well enough when I meet them. An interesting question is whether world English will converge in the future or continue to diverge. I think they will converge, but heaven forbid if "thru","nite", "cuz", "u", or even "hoser" become commonly accepted.

  • interesting article (Score:5, Interesting)

    by not_a_product_id ( 604278 ) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @09:21AM (#9324638) Journal
    I know most of us on slashdot will enjoy a bit of MS bashing but this article is interesting in pointing out the apparent weakness of the MS mindset. Well worth RTFA.
    • This seems like a similar problem to IBM years ago. IBM was no longer looking to the needs of the customer, missing the good business opportunities and loosing business right and left. They took a better part of the 90s' to turn it around with new management. They had to change the attitude and mindset there. Maybe M$ should take some pointers.
  • Assumptions (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pubjames ( 468013 ) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @09:21AM (#9324640)

    The article seems to make the assumption that Microsoft got where it is today by having the best products. That's a big mistake. Even if we go back to it's roots and compare DOS with the other operating systems of the time, we see that MS was selling rubbish compared to what the others were.

    MS got where it is today by being extremely agressive in defeating its competitors, mostly through business tactics than superior products.

  • Uh huh (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Hassman ( 320786 ) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @09:22AM (#9324648) Journal
    Please. Any employee of any company can find the internal flaws and missed oppertunities. I work for a large insurance company and eventhough I'm just a peon, I see several flaws and problems that could easily be avoided. But then again, I see lots of things done very well and successfully.

    This is just a case of dwelling on the negative. Another employee could write the completely opposite review of MS and it would be every bit as convinsing.

    The problem with a comentary is that it is generally correct ... if you just look at the points being made. The other problem with a comentary is that the opposite is usually just as correct. A person can make a convincing argument from any view point, but ultimatly it is the actions of the company that say whether it is true or not.

    In MS case, I'm sure they have done many things wrong and missed many oppertunities...yet they continue to make lots and lots and lots of cash. Therefore, this guy can say anything he wants, but it won't change the fact that MS is *definitely* doing things 'right'.
    • Re:Uh huh (Score:5, Funny)

      by Snowmit ( 704081 ) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @10:03AM (#9325058) Homepage
      Another employee could write the completely opposite review of MS and it would be every bit as convincing.

      Not if it was posted on Slashdot.
    • Re:Uh huh (Score:5, Insightful)

      by abb3w ( 696381 ) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @11:31AM (#9326116) Journal

      This guy can say anything he wants, but it won't change the fact that MS is *definitely* doing things 'right'.

      Almost-- and thus, you miss the point of what he is saying. "Microsoft has *definitely* done things 'right'" would be more accurate.

      With Windows 95, it created an operating system usable by the masses, with new features that everyone really wanted to upgrade to-- Internet Access. Windows 98 added improved driver support, particularly for USB. Windows ME added diddly-squat... and it's sales were mediocre. Windows 2000 turned the NT branch into an almost-consumer usable product; Windows XP put a pretty coat of frosting on that, and marginally improved stability and usability.

      From my understanding of the history of technology, the Windows OS has been paralleling the development of every other technological tool in history, software or otherwise. You come up with an idea for something to do a job; you get it into a marginally workable form, and people try it; you improve it, and if you get lucky and it's useful enough, eveyone beats a path to your door. You may even make a few more "new and improved" versions. But eventually, you have a mature piece of technology, like egrep, or the pocket knife.

      And demand peaks-- because a lot of people HAVE one already, thank you, I'll use it until it wears out. Oh, there's a new Swiss army knife with Torx bits? Maybe I'll look into that when my current knife breaks.

      Windows (mostly) works. What the bulk of the masses want to do, it can let them do. It could be more stable, but that's something people feel they should get for free with their CURRENT version-- making people pay for that is tricky.

      Since the year September Never Ended, the number of people who want to have a computer has been on the rise. Multi-computer households aren't uncommon. But the number of new purchases is peaking-- and the second computer in the house is often a hand-me-down.

      Microsoft is at a point where there isn't much more obvious "new and improved" to put on for the consumer, with both their Office and OS-- so upgrade sales will fall off. Instead of people upgrading OS every two to three years, they'll upgrade every five to nine-- by buying a new computer after the old one dies. Of course, M$ could stop supporting the older software... with bad consequences for (in turn) security for those machines using the software, performance for those networks connected to those machines, and network-dependent software performance for any current Windows machines connected to the network. Ooops.

      The article isn't suggesting M$ will go away. What it does imply is that there may be a massive correction at some point in the not-too-distant future (I'd guess 5-10 years, but that's just me) that will cost it a large chunk (I'd guess ~65%?) of its current revenue stream and stock value, and that the measures it is trying now to protect its current revenue stream will make it more difficult to adapt to those leaner times.

      (Of course, Apple is in danger of this trap, too. With the OS X.2, X.3, and now X.4 upgrades, it seems to be getting hooked on the upgrade revenue stream, and I'm not convinced users will remain enthusiasic. X.3 added two features of substance that my Mac users noticed and drooled over: Expose, and the return of color-coded files and folders. After seeing the price, of ten machines, two were upgraded for this.)
  • by SilentChris ( 452960 ) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @09:25AM (#9324684) Homepage
    Recently purchased an OS X machine (iBook). Had been messing around with the system off and on for a few years on the company's art department computers. It's good, but it isn't the panacea this guy (and others) make it out to be.

    Every OS excels at something. Mac (still) excels at useability. UNIX stability. Windows excels at recognizing just about any piece of hardware or software I've thrown at it in the last 15 years.

    If you think about it, Windows isn't THAT bad. I can't think of a single OS that runs the breadth of programs Windows does from so many years of computing. Sure, console apps still work the same in Linux as they did in UNIX from decades ago, and you can (sometimes) get Mac to run applications prior to OS 7, but there have been a number of times I've loaded up DOS programs from the 80s in Windows XP and was surprised they run more or less perfectly (even when the original app expected full control over the computer).

    I think, and others can probably vouch for this, the allure of Mac OS in particular kind of wanes after a few weeks of using it. Again, excellent GUI, but there's definitely a feeling (misguided, I think) that Windows "has" to be bad because it's used everywhere. This doesn't translate to some other consumer products (PS2, anyone) so I'm not sure why geeks hate Windows in particular. Do we hate it because we perceive everyone else hates it (the same way people who use MacOS love it more because everyone else who uses it loves it)? Probably something to bring up in a psychology class.
    • by 59Bassman ( 749855 ) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @09:42AM (#9324841) Journal
      I'll admit that I've been anti-Microsoft for almost as long as I've been using their products. Soon after I learned Windows 3.1, I was put into a situation where I had to administer it. I can recall installing Word 6.0 and having it mess with the WordPerfect configuration files, requiring some creative workarounds. I've grudgingly used MS stuff ever since.

      In the past year, I've been split about 50-50 between XP and Linux. I have to say that I MUCH prefer the flexibility of Linux, but there are certainly drawbacks. Hooking up your new digital camera is a hit-or-miss proposition, unless you're willing to spend a couple hours learning about how hardware is mounted. For the most part, if you plug something into an XP machine, it's recognized and runs. It may be unstable, but it normally works.

      Recently though, I've looked at the Macs more closely. I loathe Steve Jobs almost as much as Bill Gates, and Apple's policies aren't much better than M$oft's, but the G5 is appealing. The UI beats anything I've seen before, plus it comes with a shell that's darned-near identical to the one I'm coming to know and love in Linux. It's to the point now where I'm considering a G5 for my next machine, even though 5 years ago I swore it would take a full-frontal lobotomy to make me say that.

      Speaking as a geek, I guess I dislike Micro$oft in part because it is prevalent, but also because I don't care much for how they've run companies under because they couldn't compete with them technologically. I also prefer being able to get my hands dirty with configuration - XP takes much of that configurability away from you while Linux allows (or expects!) you to get into the middle of it all.

      IMHO, for basic useability, I recommend XP to folks getting into computers, or just wanting a machine for e-mail and web surfing. Plug-ins are made for IE first, and pretty much every hardware configuration is recognized or supported. I don't think that Linux (in it's current form) is right for say my grandpa. And I'm afraid that if you make Linux that user-friendly, you'll end up with something not too much different than Windows. The Mac is a useable compromise, but I still believe that the hardware is too expensive for the majority of users. I sure wish Apple would finally allow licenced machines.

    • by funkdid ( 780888 ) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @09:50AM (#9324913)
      I also use many OS's and I have these observations:

      You site Mac "OS X [as having the greatest] usability, UNIX [the greatest] stability"....

      OSX has a BSd base. Wouldn't that give OSX the greatest usability and many features from the system with the greatest stability? (Cause let's be honest even with the BSD base, unix it is not)

      Where I think MAC OSX really beats out the competition is that it is finally a desktop *nix (kind of, stay with me here). Forever on /. I have been reading articles about *nix on the desktop. Is it ready? When will it be ready? How long until it's viable? Etc etc etc. Well here is a flavor of Unix that you can sit grandma in front of and she can have it mastered enough to do what she wants without any intervention from you. It's hands down more intuitive then any of it's rivals. Oh yeah and it's got a pretty sweet GUI.

      What I don't get is the MAC bashing. In my experience MACs (pre-OS X) did not meet the claims. They crashed, and I didn't find it to be the greatest computing experience. I prefer windows to any pre OSX system. However, with OS X many of my issues were resolved, for example:

      Lack of Software - now I can run any *nix app

      Stability - *nix *nix *nix

      Another issue I find is that Windows users know Windows, and well. (At least us /.'ers) For the people I know who are tech savy, to sit at a computer and not know what they are doing is frustrating. So instead of them saying "I should learn how to use this OS", they say "MACs suck, I hate macs. This is stupid." Etc.

      I guess I'm asking why do windows users hate MACs? How many Windows users have used a MAC, and I mean used a MAC. Anyone have a founded reason? Or just "They're slow" - not true. "They're too expensive" - not going to argue, but maybe if they gave them out for free, and a pony....

    • ``I think, and others can probably vouch for this, the allure of Mac OS in particular kind of wanes after a few weeks of using it.''

      I can confirm that. Coming from a GNU/Linux background:

      1. First thing I noticed that, contrary to what it says on several website, the system ships without a C compiler. To get one, I had to download > 600 MB (big big gasp! that's more than my entire Debian installation was) from Apple.

      2. Many applications written for the GNU system won't compile on it. This is because gl
      • Re #1. I seem to recall a CD in my box with the developer tools. That said, it was a box shipped to my university tech support job, so it might not be in the standard OS X box.

        Re #8. VLC is slow and ugly, and fails to playback video QT does fine with. Sorry, but QT wins this one for the media it can play. I have a G3-400 Powerbook. Try Cellulo if you really dislike QT's frontend.
    • If you think about it, Windows isn't THAT bad.

      Talk about a ringing endorsement! MS should put that tagline on their commercials, you know, the ones where some office lackey supposedly saves the company $500 million by installing Outlook 2003 or something..

    • Well, there may be an underdog factor in many geeks' aversion to Microsoft, but I think it has more to do with how Microsoft runs it's business. It stomps all competition by any means necessary (ethical or not) while pushing flawed products. The products are flawed because, as impressive as some of them are, there are many glaring holes that could have been fixed with a minimum of effort but were not because there was no incentive to do so. This inattention to detail is, I think, something that rankles the
  • by NodeZero ( 49835 ) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @09:26AM (#9324691)
    Not Likely.
  • by IANAAC ( 692242 ) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @09:29AM (#9324708)
    Andrews hasn't upgraded his PC from Windows 98 or Office 2000. "I'd just as soon have a stable operating system--my time is more important."

    Windows 98 was never a stable system (unless the only thing you compare it to is Windows 95).

    The guy should at least give XP a shot (hell, even 2000)... infinitely more stable than any of the Windows 9x series.

    • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @11:45AM (#9326294) Homepage
      Moving to Windows 2000 is an upgrade. Moving from Windows 2000 to Windows XP is a downgrade.

      Windows 2000 works for you. Windows XP works for Microsoft. "Updates are ready for download" (which can appear on machines with no network connection), tightly integrated IE, and more restrictive licensing terms, all make it clear that XP is optimized for Microsoft's benefit, not yours.

      There's a good reason that most of corporate America is still running Windows 2000. It's one of Microsoft's most solid versions, probably the most stable one since NT 3.51.

      If you're still running anything Microsoft prior to Win2K, upgrade to Win2K. If you're running Win2K, the next available upgrade is to Linux.

  • The reason (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Mr_Silver ( 213637 ) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @09:29AM (#9324713)
    Technology is my hobby as well as my job, so I regularly ponder why software giant Microsoft Corp., which has more than $56 billion in cash, hasn't solved more of these problems.

    Because time and time again (and not just in IT), if you have someone with a significant market lead, they have a tendency to procrastinate because of the lack of threatening competition.

    Microsoft doesn't need to fix these issues because there is no viable enough competitor which is affecting their market share enough to make them worry.

  • by dioscaido ( 541037 ) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @09:31AM (#9324750)
    From the article:

    Why are Microsoft products so endlessly frustrating to use? Even techno-geeks like me get annoyed by Windows. I'm tired of spending the first 10 minutes of my day rebooting just so I can get to work. Microsoft Outlook 2003, the latest version of the company's e-mail and calendar software, hangs for me about once a day, requiring me to restart my PC. I also have a problem with Word 2003: Whenever I bullet a line of text, every line in the document gets a bullet. Asking Windows to shut down is more of a request than a command--it might, it might not. And recently, Internet Explorer stopped opening for me.

    It looks like the author needs to stop running Windows 98...

    Seriously, what ridiculously mismanaged system is he running? I reboot my win2k and XP systems maybe once a month, if that.

    How many startup services does he have that his reboot takes 10 minutes? On my 800mhz machine (ancient by todays standards) reboot is 2-3 minutes, tops.

    Although I've stopped using outlook and IE, in favor of mozilla and thunderbird, in the few times I have to use the apps for compatibility, I never experience instability.

    Yes, MS products aren't perfect, but I hate it when people dishonestly paint Window's systems as if they crashed every 10 minutes just to make their point that XXX alternate system is better. OSX is sweet. Linux rocks. But WinXP is also a great system.
    • Paul Andrews, a Seattle Times columnist, author of How the Web Was Won, a book about Microsoft, and co-author of the biography Gates


      Andrews hasn't upgraded his PC from Windows 98 or Office 2000

      Is this person REALLY qualified to be speaking about technology, much less writing books about it?

      Talk about schlock journalism...
    • by twitter ( 104583 ) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @10:16AM (#9325179) Homepage Journal
      dio presumes:

      It looks like the author needs to stop running Windows 98. Seriously, what ridiculously mismanaged system is he running?

      The author implies that he's been running XP as well as those other latest and greatest programs that are causing him no end of grief:

      While aware of Microsoft?s shortcomings, I always believed that the Soft did its best to improve products over time, as it did with Windows XP.

      While there's no excuse for 98 to act that way either, I've found it to be more stable than newer M$ junk. Sitting behind a nice Debian firewall and blinded to my network, my wife's Windoze 98 partition has been working as good as it ever did for the last three years. We use it to operate a scanner and a few USB devices. Most of the time it's booted to Debian testing because my wife mostly web surfs and emails. My little brother's XP box lasted about six months on the same network in part because he unwisely used it for internet stuff but mostly because of the many compounding Microsoft design flaws. It crashed and burned on him one day and he had lost his XP CD and put Fedora on it. Now it works great. Anyone working the PC industry knows that my little brother's case is typical and that Microsoft computing has become more not less frustrating.

  • by Brando_Calrisean ( 755640 ) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @09:32AM (#9324753)
    I laughed when I read the first paragraph of his article, because it pretty much totally summarized my morning. I tried to open up explorer to work with some shares, and a dialog would come up saying "Access is denied." and nothing would happen. Okay, great. So I load up task manager, and kill all errant explorer processes. I get to the last one, hit 'end task', and get "Access is denied." Super! Suddenly, all my applications stop responding, so I kill them all in task manager, and they disappear, but still show up in the ALT+TAB list. I threw in the towel, and decided to reboot. Windows hangs at the 'Saving your data' screen...

    I'd love to see someone factor that kind of crap in in a Total Cost of Ownership study.
    • Re:First paragraph (Score:5, Insightful)

      by RAMMS+EIN ( 578166 ) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @09:57AM (#9324970) Homepage Journal
      ``I'd love to see someone factor that kind of crap in in a Total Cost of Ownership study.''

      And that, my friend, is a *very* good point. During the time that your system is unusable, you still get paid, but you can't deliver. In an office where people earn > $ 100 per hour, reboot once a day (taking 10 minutes), and lose some time because an essential server is down for a few (let's say 2) hours total each week, that's more than $ 300 per person per week. I have been to such places; I'm not pulling this out of thin air. And that's not even taking into account the occasional virus.
      • that's more than $ 300 per person per week.

        That kind of analysis is common, but not really true.

        People who earn $100/hr are usually doing tasks that are abstract or creative, or of inconsistent required effort. Unlike factory or foodservice workers, the relationship between time input and value output is nonlinear.

        A mental worker, for example, needs to spend some of each day just pondering outstanding problems- an activity that can proceed even though her PC is temporarily out of service. The hour fol
  • Missed opportunities (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mirko ( 198274 ) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @09:34AM (#9324780) Journal

    Missed Opportunities

    One multibillion-dollar opportunity has come along, however, and Microsoft has missed it. It's the Internet services business. Microsoft could have created a huge new revenue stream by delivering a suite of add-on services for Windows customers:

    1. The ability to log in to all our favorite Web sites with one password.

    2. Spam blocking for our e-mail accounts.

    3. Calendar sharing with colleagues and friends to schedule meetings.

    4. Automatic address book updates for all our contacts.

    5. A virtual hard drive on the Internet for sharing files, photos, and music with our friends and access to these files via the Internet while traveling anywhere in the world.

    6. Synchronization of our Internet bookmarks across all our computers.

    7. Online profiles of personal information that we could choose to share with Web sites and social networks.

    8. Regular backup of files to a storage site on the Internet.

    9. Regular application and system- security updates.

    10. One-step migration of files and programs to a new computer.

    1. No. Do it .like Safari : No passwd, the browser "remembers".
      Now it's more a browser than an os problem : even if the browser is supposedly embedded in the os.
    2. Only a mailer problem.
    3. I just used Outlook 2003 to forward an appointment as .ics to my home Mac
    4. I also used Outlook 2003 to export my contacts as a single vcs file which Apple Address Book could read
    5. .Mac ?
    6. .Mac ?
    7. NO !!! It's not an OS's business, and especially not an unsecured one's.
    8. .Mac ?
    9. OK, so split the service pack and send it more often.
    10. Who'd do this ? It's Microsoft choice never to open their API, they won't do it because they own 95% of the market and then only 5% of the public, mostly people used to obtaining soft for free, would care.

    Sorry but this guy wants Microsoft to produce Macs, it's too obvious, he's not credible.
  • by jmulvey ( 233344 ) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @09:39AM (#9324818)
    This should be an editorial, not an "analysis". It's filled with non-factual personal experiences that have obviously given him a bias. I mean, why does this belong in an "analysis"??? (from the article):

    My most memorable moment at Microsoft came during a technical review with Bill Gates. I will never forget the moment when I made an apparently obvious point to him. He responded, "What? Do you think I'm stupid?" Everyone was staring at me, and I felt it best not to answer. Like Gates, there were always people at Microsoft who were much smarter than me and more technically skilled. But he's created a corporate culture that sometimes struggles to see the forest for the trees--and I think this is what has led to some of the challenges that it faces today.

    So I did a little digging on this guy and found out he really is stupid. And my guess is that he's bitter because he's just smart enough to realize how stupid he is.

    According to the July 20, 1999 [] edition of the Seattle Post-Intelligencier,

    Jeff Reifman, a 29-year-old former program manager at MSNBC, left behind $700,000 in stock options in April to co-found, a 24-person Seattle company that delivers gift certificates over the Internet. If Reifman had stayed at Microsoft just two more months he would have been able to cash in on the stock.

    Ahh... now we see why he is so angry about why his Gift Certificate store failed! It wasn't because PassPort didn't take off...
    This kind of "article" is exactly why newspapers are going down the toilet today. There's no disclosure.
    • by twitter ( 104583 ) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @11:48AM (#9326330) Homepage Journal
      That's a cool article you linked to. You might have mentioned that Reifman did not care about money and could not possibly be bitter about any business failure. Indeeed, his start-up was acquired and we don't really know that he lost money at all besides that $200,000 he did without years ago. Your article says:

      But for Reifman, who owns two non-profit coffeehouses on Capitol Hill, it has never been about the money. It is more about creating a company that makes a difference. "A lot of what I am doing is motivated by philanthropic causes," said Reifman, who is setting up a program at so his online customers can donate their spare change to charity. ... But Reifman also said Microsoft, which has grown to 30,200 employees, is a more bureaucratic company than the one he joined eight years ago. That was part of his reason for leaving.

      "Bureaucratic" is a nice way of saying "stupid".

      I don't see where you get off calling the man bitter. He is currently gainfully employed and his gushing praise of Macs and Linux is anything but bitter. Indeed, the whole article is carefully considered and constructive criticism. M$ regularly pays for astroturf and smear, but, jmulvey, you really have set a new low standard by accusing a man driven by philanthropy of bitterness about money.

      Fanboys never cease to amaze me with their vehemence, twitsted logic and bile. Reifman has argued persuasively that the Microsoft experience is not all it's cracked up to be and that alternatives require far less effort to work and are earning loyalty. Deal with it, if you can, without slandering the speaker. It's a turn off and always has been.

  • MS's Mistakes? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Artifakt ( 700173 ) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @09:45AM (#9324864)
    Reifman mentions a series of mistakes he thinks hurt Microsoft over a multi-year period. He also interweaves descriptions of mistakes, and why he thinks they are mistakes, with asides about other Microsoft actions, which I gather he means to present as background to the reader. I'm assuming this, because he analyzes some actions as explicit mistakes, and just mentions others uncritically or even in a positive light.
    That's not necessarily bad, mind you. If it's not clear whether something is a mistake or not, it's better (IMHO) to stick to the clearcut cases.
    Reifman's mention of the MSNBC 'merger' as one of his background bits got me thinking though. What if that's one of Microsoft's bigger mistakes? Was there a way to create a stand alone ISP and content sources, and would it have been bold, inovative, and even profitable? Microsoft is known for an embrace and extend approach to small companies. What if they had built up the Microsoft Network's proprietary content entirely by e&e'ing a bunch of small content owners, and stayed away from 'media giants"?
    Dealing with a company as large as NBC means adjusting your views on DRM to better fit with theirs. In Microsoft's case, it moved the company towards the same situation as Sony, in that they have divisions that see DRM mostly as something to be imposed preferrably at the hardware level (i.e. the Windows development team), vrs. divisions that want it in the OS (probably everyone who wouldn't have to code it). The situation also sounds a lot like AOL/Time Warner's, which is also a bit strained.
  • Bundling (Score:3, Interesting)

    by alex_tibbles ( 754541 ) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @09:47AM (#9324880) Journal
    The success of Windows has depended on its nature as a bundle: you pay 100$ (or Dell pay ???$ for you) and get the whole shebang. The licenses from this release pay for development of the new items in the next version of the bundle.
    This means that Windows customers expect everything to be included in the bundle that they need. The kind of services that TFA recommends MS sell (20$ a month for virual hard drive etc. like .Mac) cannot be funded from the Windows license fee, unless Windows costs 300$ a license. People expect not to have to pay extra, so it's hard to convince them to do so.

    This bundling also affects the lifecycle of the product: 5-6 years between XP and Longhorn is required because they need to do a lot of work! (Could their 're-write' do to them what Netscape's did?). There is so much in the bundle, and MS want to add so much more, that it takes a long time.
    This has an impact on EOLing too - MS is still supporting (to some extent) Windows 98(!), 2000, XP. The cost of having a rapid release cycle is supporting many different releases (unless you EOL these releases just as rapidly, cf. Redhat Linux).

    Overall, the size of Windows counts against MS in several different ways. It will be difficult for them to move away from it. Perhaps all those companies killed by MS integrating their features into the OS will have the last laugh?
  • Poor, poor Microsoft (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jkabbe ( 631234 ) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @09:48AM (#9324888)
    Buried in the article (which I thought was very well written) was this sentiment (echoed in a few other places as well):

    The company is addicted to the revenue from these flagship products and is afraid to go in new directions that might initially hurt the bottom line.

    Most healthy companies have diverse product lines and aren't afraid to compete internally. Just look at Sony, a company that sells media that it wants to DRM protect as well as devices for copying said media.

    Internal competition usually doesn't hurt. But it does hurt Microsoft, at least in the short term. No matter how much of a spectacular success one of its other products is, if it even lowered Windows or Office revenue by 5% it would be a disaster. That's really kept Microsoft from expanding its dominance into areas it should have been able to because of its market position.

    The author writes (and many others have written) that Microsoft is paranoid. There's a good kind of paranoia. I think at Microsoft it's become the bad kind. After all, they have a $280B market cap to maintain.

    ps. I thought the anecdote about Gates at the bottom was pretty funny. All the anecdotes of Jobs and Gates seem to paint Jobs as an inspirational, visionary asshole, while Gates is just an asshole. I wonder how true that is?
  • by eltoyoboyo ( 750015 ) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @09:55AM (#9324953) Journal
    Transferring your files from an old computer to a new computer on any sort of migration is a pain. I do not see how Mr. Reifman found that task any easier going from Windows [98?] to Mac OS X. And he sure does not say in the article how it was accomplished. When he says "one step migration" does he mean that simply the Windows "Documents and Settings" folders get copied? Or does "one step migration" mean that Windows finds my copy of Eudora and moves the mailboxes and address books?

    Mr Reifman's curriculum vitae and cover letter were much too long-winded. Next candidate...
  • by Manax ( 41161 ) * <> on Thursday June 03, 2004 @09:57AM (#9324974) Homepage
    The most important quote seems to be:

    The company must protect these core products. "The prime directive at Microsoft is to protect Windows and get customers to buy Windows and upgrades to Windows," says Matt Rosoff, lead analyst at Directions on Microsoft, a Kirkland-based newsletter.

    If this is really the mindset at MS, it is one of the continuing problems with a lot of big businesses, which is based on their "theory of business". The problem that Peter Drucker [] lays out is that a company continues to use a theory of business that may have been VERY successful at one time in their earlier years, but because the environment changes, it is no longer successful. But the company isn't able to review their theory of business and create a new one that takes advantage of their current environment.

    A typical symptom that Drucker points out is sacrificing new business oportunities for old ones. This was a problem IBM had when creating the PC market, it frequently sacrificed PC sales to it's mainframe line, and stunted itself for some time.

    One aspect that seems to particularly apply here is Drucker's story about GM. GM apparently was very good at improving the performance of existing businesses (I don't recall exactly how it did this though). Over a period of years, it bought a number of other well established businesses (in a variety of fields and for seemingly too much money) and dramatically improved their performance. The idea is that GM had a great theory of business, which no longer applied to it's own field, but still worked in other areas.

    It seems like MS is trying to do this, expanding into MSN, the Xbox and other areas, but that still there is something in it's theory of business that is holding it back from dominating those areas. Perhaps they haven't gone far enough afield from their core business... (or perhaps their ToB is too Windows centric)...

    Interesting food for thought.

  • by theManInTheYellowHat ( 451261 ) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @10:07AM (#9325095)
    and the pro mac open source parts and this artical has some very interesting meat and potatoes.

    Office and Windows can not provide the revenue stream that they once did. Cheap computers are here to stay and free software that is good enough for the average everyday Joe rocks the world.

    So what is going to happen in a couple of years when the Microsoft tax is repealed? What will the company do to replace that revenue stream? I see some serious questions here.

    Just consider the Walmart example (which used to run on Lindows). If the average Joe can get by on a (pretty nice) $300 machine that comes chocked full of software, why would he buy one for a great deal more, and get a barebones OS with a couple of little apps? Seriously there is a big difference in what you get with Lindows and Windows. When people start selling that notion watch out. Microsoft should do a full port Gnome and KDE if they had any sence.

    I think that the big crush is going to come when the average everyday business wakes up and says no to the Microsoft tax.
  • payback time (Score:5, Insightful)

    by kd4evr ( 712384 ) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @10:10AM (#9325129)
    I guess some day it'll have to be payback time for every time when grandma, grandad, mom, dad, uncle{1,2,3} and auntie{1-9} called any respectably computer-educated relative with a question like: "something is wrong with my computer. Can you come and fix it?"

    Microsoft tried to spread the delusion that no computer knowledge and background is neccessary to maintain a computer system while making it more and more complex.

    Things have reached saturation point these days: every at-least-half computer-literate spends a significant amount of his business and spare time rescuing some system gone bananas.

    The fact is that no open source, free as in beer or even proprietary software is much better than any M$ products. The only difference is that these (non-M$) product do not assume self-sufficiency, or praise themselves as the best thing delivered to mankind. Instead of planting the evil seeds of false expectations, it comes natural to people using these product that they need to master a certain level of skill or consult an expert. One knows what one pays for and one knows what one gets!

    Microsoft, on the other hand, is simply not transparent. It takes hours of investigation by a computer professional to discover what combination of -khm-features- caused grandma's computer to "start acting funny".

    I stopped doing unpaid PC-M$-Win support for my friends and relatives a few years ago, because it was driving me nuts. So, I prepared a one liner fend-off checklist instead:

    1. Don't tell me - you are using Windows, right?
    2. Who made you think upgrading your system is a good idea?
    3. Everything worked fine until recently and gone bizzare for no apparent reason?
    4. I have no idea how to fix or even use M$ Outlook. Simply make a choice between using email or running outlook!
    5. Other browsers are just fine. When you run onto a site that only opens up in M$ explorer, guess again, who's to blame!
    6. Face it - there is no help or anything either you or even a PHD in computer engineering/science can do.
    7. Well, that's why Bill Gates is rich and we are poor.

    I mean, how deep the world dropped - people started perceiving computers as problems that can only be miracleously solved by throwing money away every few months!

    Hopefully, the demise of m$ happens before any kind of world disaster; otherwise, future archeologists from this or another planet will think the dominant planetary religion was playing some solitary card game...
  • by Amoeba ( 55277 ) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @10:16AM (#9325182)
    ...many users don't buy new computers because of how hard it is to move all their data and applications.

    I think the problem is deeper than he realizes. Even if you don't buy a new machine you can run into this issue: Upgrading.

    I recently attempted to upgrade my 2k pro machine to XP pro. I wanted to get slightly better (newer) driver support and play with the newer OS. However, you cannot upgrade from 2k pro to XP pro but have to do a clean install. WTF!? It's the same base NT kernel with some slight tweaks and services and a new front-end. Why exactly am I required to do a clean install? I could understand possible issues if it was from 2k pro to XP advanced server but from pro->pro?

    Don't get me wrong, I possess Clue having been a system admin and network architect for many years so my reticence to doing a clean install isn't from a lack of technical ability. But I'll be damned if I can figure out why I have to re-install all of my applications again. Having a easier way to updgrade products and OS versions would go a long way towards Microsoft accomplishing their goal of putting users on the upgrade treadmill. Spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down...


  • by peter303 ( 12292 ) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @10:19AM (#9325227)
    Microsoft has something like $55 billion in cash and short-term investments, and another $15 of equities in other companies. They could weather a decade with that.
  • typical (Score:4, Insightful)

    by kin_korn_karn ( 466864 ) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @10:26AM (#9325289) Homepage
    I've never met a project manager that didn't think they were a lot smarter than he really were, because they get to ride along with the engineers and take credit for their work.

    This guy isn't saying anything that an impartial industry analyst (granted, there may not be such a thing) couldn't figure out in a couple of months. The throwing away stock options for a dot com thing kills me, too. What a dumbass. $700,000 in MS stock is still $700,000.

    • Re:typical (Score:3, Informative)

      I've never met a project manager that didn't think they were a lot smarter than he really were

      Grammar like this is exactly why Project Managers are necessary. You Developers have to be kept away from the clients, be grateful that PMs are there to deal with them for you.

      (just fanning the flames a little...)
  • by harmonica ( 29841 ) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @10:28AM (#9325313)
    This sentence struck me as weird:

    Admittedly, though, creating search engines to serve millions of users is an easier task than offering other remote services, such as e-mail and file sharing.

    As has been pointed out by various /. stories, search is hard []. With file sharing and e-mail, it seems to me that those would be easier to scale.
  • by narsiman ( 67024 ) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @10:50AM (#9325579)
    This ugly piece of data structure - without a decent failover strategy is the root cause of most windows problems.

    Even the current XP based restore point creation does nothing better.

    The /etc structure should be emulated and config info should be left to flat file structures.

    IIS 6.0 did that by abandoning all registry settings and moved to an XML file structure - Everything actually. DotNet has moved in that direction too.

    Hopefully Longhorn will have a /etc/config folder.
  • by PorscheDriver ( 698772 ) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @11:31AM (#9326098) Homepage
    ...only billion-dollar product segments matter to such a big company. Even the Xbox game platform and MSN can't bring in that kind of money.

    I would strongly disagree that Xbox won't bring in billion $ revenues. Whilst it may not be doing that now, MS are looking at the large amount of money made by Sony, Nintendo, and big hitter publishers like EA, who do have billions in revenue from games products.

    MS seem pretty committed to the games market, so don't write this off just yet. Look at Sony, whose primary revenue is now derived from the SCE (Sony Computer Entertainment) groups, powered by the PlayStation phenomenon.

  • Good Enough? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by lifebouy ( 115193 ) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @12:27PM (#9326853) Journal
    "Noncommercial software products in general, and Linux in particular, present a competitive challenge for us and for our entire industry, and they require our concentrated focus and attention. . . . In this environment of lean budgets and concerns about Microsoft's attention to customers, noncommercial software such as Linux and OpenOffice is seen as an interesting, 'good enough' or 'free' alternative."
    For my needs, it's not 'good enough.' It's better. I don't have to spend 40 minutes wrestling formatting with OO.o like I do with MS Office. It just works right. I don't have to worry about vbs viruses/worms, because it doesn't use vbs. My open source email client doesn't magically install viruses on my computer, either. Oh, sure, there are some areas of lack, such as clip art. But these are minor. And as for advanced formatting, there comes a point when you really ought to be using a publishing suite instead. And while it's not ported to Windows, Scribus is coming along nicely.

    Microsoft ought to consider moving from the software industry into something new. They have the capital for anything. They have enough brainpower to do anything. Commercial space flight comes to mind as one of the most important contributions Bill and friends could make to Planet Earth. It's something no individual needs, sure, but there is big money in it just waiting to be tapped. Imagine going on a space vacation and eating at the 'Restaurant at the End of the Universe.' So cool. Imagine playing Ender's game in space, with lasertag style suites that caused joints to lock. I bet it would replace football on ESPN. And there's a hundred thousand other things people would pay to do on their vacation. That's only the recreation aspect. Then think of science, and paying for lab time in space. And mining the moon or asteroids. Colonization, because such a base would be an ideal staging platform.

    But in the software industry, I think they are just about done. They will not contribute anything else important to mankind there. They can only cause damage to the world by crippling the internet they helped create, or crippling software by continuing their current pattern. Time to bow out gracefully and move on.

It is not for me to attempt to fathom the inscrutable workings of Providence. -- The Earl of Birkenhead