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Why Doesn't Microsoft Have A Cult Religion? 535

rs232 writes "'Apple has one. So does the Java community, Oracle, IBM, and Google. Lord knows anyone who uses Linux or free and open source software is dedicated to spreading the gospel of St. Linus Torvalds and St. Richard Stallman. But does anyone really worship the Gods of Redmond?' While many Microsoft employees are pumped to work there, article author Michael Singer explores why even enthusiastic Microsoft-watchers acknowledge that customers and product developers are unenthusiastic about the software giant. He theorizes that it comes down to passion: Microsoft lost that a long time ago, he says, and so passionate people gravitate to other projects and products."
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Why Doesn't Microsoft Have A Cult Religion?

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  • by definition (Score:5, Insightful)

    by yagu ( 721525 ) * <yayagu.gmail@com> on Saturday May 12, 2007 @03:36PM (#19097941) Journal

    Part of the definition of "cult" is (from Wikipedia): ..., term designating a cohesive group of people..., devoted to beliefs or practices that the surrounding culture or society considers to be outside the mainstream . In that context it would seem self-fulfilling Microsoft not have a cult... like it or not (I don't), Microsoft is mainstream.

    As for the question,

    But does anyone really worship the Gods of Redmond?,
    I don't recall anyone ever worshipping the GoR. Heck I even worked there, and it was about being smart, it was about being competitive, but I don't ever remember it about being about customers. Microsoft's idea about good products has typically been:
    • really geekily cool (pretty much most Microsoft employees)
    • really makes lots of money (most Microsoft Management)
    • was made by someone else and can be purchased (Microsoft Management)
    • corrupts mainstream standards (Gates and/or Ballmer)

    These attributes are hostile for creating cult followings, there is hardly anything there -- just a juggernaut of an industry bully.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Detaer ( 562863 )
      I assume the author has never had any experience with a small ISP attempting to sell microsoft small business server. In that market you will find the people that worship the juggernaut.
    • Re:by definition (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Skreems ( 598317 ) on Saturday May 12, 2007 @04:03PM (#19098215) Homepage
      By the same token, a lot of OSS projects aren't released by people who are fanatical about the GPL. Claims of the article's author to the contrary, there are plenty of open source projects that are just hobby applications that weren't worth charging for, and the creators wanted to see their work survive and be useful to a larger group of people.
      • by SL Baur ( 19540 )

        there are plenty of open source projects that are just hobby applications that weren't worth charging for
        True, but there are plenty more proprietary products that are not worth charging for either, even if some of them are charging for them. And your point is? Sturgeon's law applies to just about everything.
    • by Invidious ( 106932 ) on Saturday May 12, 2007 @04:08PM (#19098257)
      Exactly. Apple has a cult. Linux has a cult. Microsoft is the equivalent of Catholocism. ;)
    • by Moraelin ( 679338 ) on Saturday May 12, 2007 @04:11PM (#19098283) Journal
      At the risk of sounding like a troll, it comes down to: fanboy cults develop around the underdog, not around the big 800 pound gorilla who is winning anyway. Or rather, fanboys/zealots/cultists seem to have this need to, pretty much, save the world. Or at least they need something to defend, some cause to champion against all odds, some us-vs-them theme where "them" can be perceived as a credible threat. They have to be the (messiah of the) minority, even in a perverse minority-inside-a-minority way, or at least the unsung defenders against the barbarian hordes. They have to feel persecuted, looked down upon, but know in their heart that they're the Luke Skywalker against the might of the Empire, or one of the outnumbered hoplites at Thermopilae against the Persian hordes.

      This isn't just about tech fanboys, but a more general phenomenon. You don't get many zealots when you're the one religion, you get them when it's 12 apostles vs the whole world. When it's the mainstream religion _and_ under no credible threat, you just get sheep and wolves in sheep skin. To get people all worked up there has to be a threat, a battle against all odds, where they're the few saving the world from a(n imaginary) threat it doesn't even acknowledge.

      You can see that in Christianity too. Most of the spark it retained past a point was not because it was already the winner, but because it fragmented and ended up its own enemy. Arians vs Catholics vs Nestorians, Orthodox vs Catholic, Catholic vs Cathar, Catholic vs Protestant, and protestant factions against each other. That's what got people rallying to be the bleating champions of it: the credible us-vs-them setup, where "them" might just win if someone doesn't gather a (self-)righteous mob against it. When it didn't have such a challenger, it just ended up a court intrigues game where noone really gave a damn about the church. And occasionally it had to invent its own challenge, e.g., the Crusades.

      It may sound like rehashing your first paragraph, but it's not. The definition of cult you give, is pretty much cult as opposed to religion. You're a cult if you're non-mainstream, you're a religion if it's mainstream. That's really all that that definition says.

      But look at it this way: all mainstream religions got there by first being a cult. You don't get a religion directly formed around the mainstream thing in the first place. If something is already the undisputed 800 pound gorilla without a credible challenger, it already lost the chance of getting its own army of zealots. That's what I'm saying.

      And Microsoft simply happens to be at that point, really. Apple is an underdog, it gets zealots. AMD used to be a major underdog, and it had some very rabid zealots, but then it became mainstream and now noone cares. Intel was always the big dog in CPUs, and it pretty much never really had zealots, it at most had some mild fans. IBM didn't use to have zealots either as long as it was _the_ big gorilla. Microsot is _the_ big gorilla and it has no zealots. Whop-de-do, big surprise there.
  • Found a cult! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by VirusEqualsVeryYes ( 981719 ) on Saturday May 12, 2007 @03:39PM (#19097959)
    Here ya go [xbox360fanboy.com].

    True, it's not for Windows, but you take what you can get.
  • by flyingfsck ( 986395 ) on Saturday May 12, 2007 @03:40PM (#19097975)
    but it is a Hate Cult.
  • News to me. (Score:4, Funny)

    by Hobbs0 ( 1055434 ) on Saturday May 12, 2007 @03:41PM (#19097979)
    I know plenty of really passionate Microsoft fanbois. In fact they are the only people I know who have copies of Vista Ultimate.
    • I read all the glowing articles about Vista. I even read a Mac OS X to Vista switch article. So there are certainly some people who think highly of that operating system and Microsoft in general. Given the buggy state of that operating system it can only be assumed that they are the equivalent of a cult.


      PS. I speak from experience about the buggy state of Vista. I installed it on 2 systems with all 'Vista certified' hardware and both systems have problems tangible, very visible problems.
    • by twitter ( 104583 ) on Saturday May 12, 2007 @04:16PM (#19098317) Homepage Journal

      I know plenty of really passionate Microsoft fanbois. In fact they are the only people I know who have copies of Vista Ultimate.

      I know lots of less passionate Microsoft fanboys. They are like drunk people who don't know they are drunk. The very idea of anything but M$ on their networks is unpossible to them. They don't know how anyone can get along without M$ and treat them suspiciously like a witch or nija. Because M$ is closed source, you have to take it on faith, but they confuse M$ with science. Their OS and software choice is a constant source of irritation and dissaster for them but they refuse to seek alternatives. They consider themselves perfectly rational and normal. These are more dangerous than those who realize their own passions and irrationality.

  • You must be new here (Score:3, Informative)

    by fatduck ( 961824 ) * on Saturday May 12, 2007 @03:41PM (#19097981)
    Microsoft does have a cult religion, it just doesn't involve glorifying Microsoft. Look at the billg borg icon for this article, for example. Microsoft:Slashdot::Satan:Christianity.
  • Of course people worship at the altar of Microsoft. It is a very large secular religion, too large to even be a cult, its one of the big religions! Next, Eddie Izzard will be making jokes about the teachings of cathol and the gospel of Bill Gates.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)


      The only appropriate punishment for heresy like yours is thus: I sentence your computers to only be able to run Windows ME! And be thankful that, out of mercy, it isn't Microsoft Bob!
  • Great question. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by KnowledgeKeeper ( 1026242 ) on Saturday May 12, 2007 @03:43PM (#19097995)
    Even Satan has devoted followers. Perhaps Satan is lesser Evil :')
  • Positive choice (Score:5, Insightful)

    by lewiz ( 33370 ) <purple.lewiz@net> on Saturday May 12, 2007 @03:43PM (#19098001) Homepage
    The answer is obvious: Microsoft isn't the underdog and Microsoft doesn't require a positive choice.

    Chances are you're running OS X, Linux, Solaris, etc. because you made a decision to do so.
  • They Did (Score:4, Interesting)

    by rsilvergun ( 571051 ) on Saturday May 12, 2007 @03:45PM (#19098009)
    They called it MSCE. You got one, and you got yourself a $20+/hr job. Then the suits engineered a surplus of techs and outsourced every job they could, and that $20+/hr job became a $9.50 an hour job, and low and behold people weren't so happy with Microsoft anymore. Especially since a lot of them where still making payments on student loans.

    Yeah, some of the blame goes to paper MSCEs, But not nearly as much as you think. And besides, paper MSCEs don't really care enough to bother proselytizing. OTOH, those ninnies do drive down the value of real techs.
    • by westlake ( 615356 )
      They called it MSCE. You got one, and you got yourself a $20+/hr job. Then the suits engineered a surplus of techs and outsourced every job they could, and that $20+/hr job became a $9.50 an hour job, and low and behold people weren't so happy with Microsoft anymore.

      It would appear that an MCSE is worth rather more - sometimes much more - than $10/HR:

      Median Salary by Job - MSCE [payscale.com]
      Median Hourly Rate by Job - MCSE [payscale.com] [Both updated May 3, 2007]

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by basic0 ( 182925 )
      Speaking as a partner in a paperless office solutions company, I can understand why employers are less willing to fork over $20+/hr to MCSEs. I'm trying not to paint everyone with the same brush here, but it's been my personal experience that the majority of MCSEs I've dealt with are skilled MICROSOFT people, not necessarily skilled COMPUTER people. I know some skilled computer people who can make my head spin when they get talking about tech-related things, and I'm an experienced programmer/DB/IT guy. They
  • by Realistic_Dragon ( 655151 ) on Saturday May 12, 2007 @03:48PM (#19098039) Homepage
    When He extended a Noodly Appendage to Bless Microsoft with his Divine Wisdom an unbeliever cut it off and shaped it into the form of Clippy, the Anti Christ.

    One day He will Overcome the Satanic Forces at work by dripping his Holy Meatball Sauce onto Clippy, softening what was once hard and Unyileding. And Lo, Microsoft shall become as like IBM and One True Followers of the Way.

    Thus it is written.
  • by Timesprout ( 579035 ) on Saturday May 12, 2007 @03:50PM (#19098049)
    Slasdot is obsessed with MS, everything they do or say is subjected to unending speculation here, albeit negative. Outside of Slashdot I dont know a soul who really gives a rats ass what MS do and would never in a million years even consider discussing MS in the sort of emotive language used here.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by DMoylan ( 65079 )
      >Slasdot is obsessed with MS,

      know your enemy?

      >everything they do or say is subjected to unending speculation here, albeit negative.

      they've fucked over so many of their partners. they've broken so many laws. and the us government does nothing. should people who can see that they are doing evil ignore them? that'll make the problem go away! hey that might work!

      >Outside of Slashdot I dont know a soul who really gives a rats ass what MS do

      my brother knows nothing about computers. what he does kno
  • by Anonymous Coward

    I considered replying with a snide "Gee, I wonder..." comment.

    But in a way, MS does have a cult-like following. Not the company itself, but some of the products. Consider:

    • People who have all of one or two (regularly scheduled) meetings a week, but couldn't possibly remember or know when they occured without Outlook telling them.
    • Executives who "need" Outlook + Exchange. [They aren't in the Slashdot/Geek crowd, but I assure you they exist.]
    • Similarly, those who "need" Wo
  • MS is a massive company with a lot of different projects. There are cult followings for some products, but not so much for the company as a whole. I think its analagous to Sony, there are people who are members of the cult of Playstation, but there is no cult of sony. Companies like Apple and Google have a much more narrow focus, so its not much of a leap to go from being a google search fanboy to being a google fanboy.

    The open source thing mentioned in summary is a little different, it isnt a single com
  • by vivaoporto ( 1064484 ) on Saturday May 12, 2007 @03:54PM (#19098107)
    Bill Gates killed a potential hobbyist movement pro-Microsoft on its very beginning, just look at his open letter to hobbyists [wikipedia.org]. Apple and Linux, on other hand, since their foundation had a big appeal with the amateur/hobbyist audience. The first place Woz showed his first machine was a Homebrew Computer Club, and Linus posted his newborn kernel in a newsgroup, for public evaluation.

    That's how you get cult followers, appeal to the hobbyists, coders, enthusiasts, people that understand what is going on behind the scene.
  • by deft ( 253558 ) on Saturday May 12, 2007 @03:56PM (#19098127) Homepage
    You cant need a "cult" when you are the dominant entity by far. There is no function for that sort of entity to the current "winners".

    It's also true in religion. The only reason the major religions arent called cults is they have established themselves at high enough #'s. Still same religion, ideology, etc. The only difference? #'s.

    So, the massively dominant group of people that run windows/MS products sort of "are" the cult... but have already reached critical mass.

    In some other reality where apple became dominant... then you could see a MS cult. But not happening... most of apples success if playing to the idea they are somehow an underdog little comapny that is cool.
  • by stox ( 131684 ) on Saturday May 12, 2007 @03:57PM (#19098141) Homepage
    Once absorbed into the corpus of Microsoft, the need for religion is extinguished. The only goal is to assimilate.
  • They are not the benign god of apple that people worship for their beauty and good effect on their life (freya, Venus etc...) they are the vengeful hatefull god which is capricious (loki, cthulhu, satan, my cat, just kidding for the last one) you know, the one you hope never look at you and ignore you compeltly. "please do not blue screen please do not blue screen" or "please do not make an error while i save my word document with my thesis" or even "oh pretty please, play what I jsut brought without an "ex
  • Open your eyes! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bdemchak ( 1099961 ) on Saturday May 12, 2007 @03:59PM (#19098161)
    Uhhh ... you've never been to a PDC (Professional Developers Conference)???

    You've never heard a gillion programmers chanting "cool"?

    "Cult" isn't quite the right word ... it's too negative. If you want to find the faithful throngs, go right to the developers.
  • slashdot wonders aloud why there is no cult of microsoft, undoing a decade of stereotypes and prejudice as to the many "obvious" reasons why microsoft is the devil

    news at 11
  • by WED Fan ( 911325 ) <akahige@trash m a i l . net> on Saturday May 12, 2007 @04:04PM (#19098231) Homepage Journal

    Ever notice how those that have religion are very weak about their belief in it? It's as if a word spoken against it so threatens them that they must defend it vocally and almost violently. In fact, some get very violent about it. Their religion apparently cannot stand up on its own, it always needs the believers to prop it up.

    Religionists want their religion to change their world, and they want to change the world to force it to accept their religion.

    Many religions have missionaries. Most of them, the missionaries are as obnoxious, if not more so, than the religion itself. And, in many cases, the religion seems to survive in spite of their missionaries.

    Now, that was about the OS wars. But, the same could be said about the theological religions as well.

  • yes they do (Score:3, Interesting)

    by pikine ( 771084 ) on Saturday May 12, 2007 @04:07PM (#19098247) Journal

    If you ever came across an underground blackhat site where malware and crackware authors collaborate and exchange information about the internals of Windows and reverse engineering, it's actually pretty cult-like. These sites have the stereotypical white or phosphorous text over black background design.

    You can find such site by Googling for keywords like softice OR disassembly tutorial [google.com]. Search terms like dll hook tutorial [google.com] also returns several underground sites because it's an essential technique used by spyware authors.

  • Apparatchiks everywhere seem unenthused about the Soviet giant. Could it be that he has lost his mojo?

    In other news, how does Bill Gates maintain his good looks?
  • Three words. (Score:3, Informative)

    by docotron ( 799894 ) on Saturday May 12, 2007 @04:10PM (#19098275)
    Bill Gates Centerfold. [myspaceantics.com]
  • I've known some MS cultists. Hard to believe that a /. submitter wouldn't have encountered them.

    • Indeed. Microsoft has fans, people who love their products and defend them online.

      Those folks just get lost in a sea of people who either don't care or actively dislike MS.
  • So flambaiting trolls can ask idiotic questions like the OP did.
  • by ushering05401 ( 1086795 ) on Saturday May 12, 2007 @04:13PM (#19098297) Journal
    have a historical reputation for fleeing battles once things start getting ugly. I believe this was cited as a significant factor in early American wars where oponents employed German mercenaries, but it has been a while since I studied all that.

    As a developer who primarily targets MS platforms I can tell you that most of my peers are in it for the money just like the mercenaries. More tellingly, I know many MS developers who get as far away from tech as possible during their weekends/time off. Doesn't sound like a recipe for inspiration or the creation of products that inspire cultish fandom.

    As for me? I am into MS because I am a niche programmer, and most all of my customers are locked in with proprietary niche market apps. They couldn't just switch accounting systems and migrate to Linux... they would have to identify and migrate to numerous small specialty apps to match their current level of functionality.

    BTW, I was really pissed about the mudslinging directed toward the Mono project on a recent thread. There are plenty of us out here who want to see Linux make inroads in small markets where MS has ruled for years, and Mono is the best hope we have.

  • No Microsoft cult? Rubbish!! What about all the shareholders?

    We have a Microsoft cult right here in Slashdot. Wait until there is a story about a vulnerability in Linux.
  • Windows fans should cheer Linux and Apple, that's their best chance to get better prices from Microsoft and potentially better support while Linux and Apple fans want more people to use their systems in order to have more 3rd parties support their favorite OS (it's not like Microsoft fans are afraid that vendors and manufacturers will stop supporting Windows anytime soon)

    So it's different interest for different groups of people, nothing more, nothing less.
  • Many Microsoft users won't even consider non-Microsoft solutions. That is, when you think about it, a lot more fanatic than the Apple or Free Software users who can usually tell you (to annoyingly great length) why they prefer their choice over the alternatives.

    The fanatic Microsoft users don't constitute a cult, of course, since a cult per definition can not be mainstream.
  • Java has a cult? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by sfjoe ( 470510 ) on Saturday May 12, 2007 @04:24PM (#19098399)

    Having been a java developer for nearly a decade I never knew there was a Java cult. I wonder if I am a member unbeknownst to myself?

  • by Shadow Wrought ( 586631 ) * <shadow...wrought@@@gmail...com> on Saturday May 12, 2007 @04:25PM (#19098403) Homepage Journal
    Because us Amiga zealots took 'em out behind the barn and "Old-Yellowed" them 20 years ago with pre-emptive multitasking, amazing graphics, and low-overhead. Poor bastards were gone before they could even get a good start. Though rumor has it that their zombified bodies helped flesh out Microsoft's initial Marketing department.

  •   I know why Microsoft...err Windows does not have a cult. It is because there is no community. No group of people where everyone knows your name and who you are. Everyone's PCs are too different. And too many people use Windows. It is the STANDARD OS for computers right now.

    Cult's start small and grow large.
  • It's easy really. MS is about making profit through sw development (ok, ok, hw and console and etc but you get the point). The FOSS "movement" if I may call it this way has been built around a philosophy, a way of thinking about freedom, freedom to develop, to share, to distribute, to think, and it's much more than "just" Linux (Linux is just a part of it). Today it's lost most of the early juice since many greenhorns join the party who just don't care about the old ideology, but the core ideas are still th
  • They're faithfull are called "businessmen".

    They worship Bill Gates as their prophet.
    When your company is part of the Microsoft Developers Network, you get to have the Microsoft project management bible, which tells you how to run your agrarian bronze-age village... er, I mean your Inoformation Technology business.
  • FFS (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ricky-road-flats ( 770129 ) on Saturday May 12, 2007 @04:51PM (#19098643)

    Lord knows anyone who uses Linux or free and open source software is dedicated to spreading the gospel of St. Linus Torvalds and St. Richard Stallman.
    Once again I've been goaded into responding to a lazy, trollish offhand article comment. Speaking as someone who's used Linux and a lot of GNU software for over 12 years, bullshit. There are people who use Linux who are fanatical, but most of the people who use Linux and/or FOSS I know are not. They use it, like I do, because it does the job they need doing, and the purchase cost is as good as it gets.

    Richard Stallman is a man deeply committed to his principles, who has produced a large ecosystem of extremely useful software, and Linus produced a massively important component of that ecosystem. I respect them both for their technical skills, and also for their passion for their causes, but there is much that both (but especially Richard Stallman) have said which I disagree with.

    I know people who are fanatically positive and negative about Linux, Microsoft, Apple, Sony, America, the EU, you name it. I have good arguments with them all. Why? The world isn't black and white (well, mine is a bit as I'm a Newcastle United fan). Deal with it.

  • MCSEs (Score:3, Informative)

    by Sloppy ( 14984 ) on Saturday May 12, 2007 @04:55PM (#19098687) Homepage Journal
    MCSEs! Several of these people have shown some weird cultishness. It's sort of a technical thing, but it reeks of a marketing thing too. It's like they're trained to deploy (or at least suggest) Microsoft products in situations where it just doesn't make any sense at all. No one else has seen this?
  • by lord_mike ( 567148 ) on Saturday May 12, 2007 @05:06PM (#19098755)
    ...mostly corporate developers who are very happy that there are so many easy-to-use (albeit unstable) tools to develop apps on. They don't pay the costs directly, so they think it's great. I've always been happy to develop on the MS platform, as long as someone else absorbed the financial burden.

    Quite frankly, MS is very developer friendly, if you are willing to pay for the privilege.


  • by KidSock ( 150684 ) on Saturday May 12, 2007 @05:17PM (#19098867)
    Lord knows anyone who uses Linux or free and open source software is dedicated to spreading the gospel

    This is such bull. For every Linux fanboy there are 10 regular joes using Linux to just get stuff done so they can go home and play with their kids. The zelots just draw more attention to themselves.

    In fact, it is my experience that the guys spreading Linux / OSS religion know LESS than the guy just getting stuff done. They don't work in large environments where Linux is really put to work. They know nothing of Kerberos or pxe booting or anything like that. They take one look at KDE and declare Windoze obsolete but have never worked in an environment where you need to manage 20,000 desktops.
  • Open You're Eyes (Score:3, Interesting)

    by micromuncher ( 171881 ) on Saturday May 12, 2007 @05:26PM (#19098925) Homepage
    Every company I've worked in over the last 20 years has had a Microsoft cult; those same cults clamour for the homogeneous platform, certification, tools, ad nauseum. I've fought with so many of these cults to the detriment of projects its made me loose my passion for technology.
  • sure they do (Score:3, Interesting)

    by rangek ( 16645 ) on Saturday May 12, 2007 @05:46PM (#19099067)

    I work at a university where those responsible for computing technology don't even seem to consider non-Microsoft solutions. Every embrance and extend technology that comes out of Redmond is rolled out as soon as possible. The people in charge seem quite like a cult of Microsoft to me.

  • by mark99 ( 459508 ) on Saturday May 12, 2007 @07:41PM (#19099801) Journal
    One problem is that Microsoft's best leaders (the ones getting the work done) tend to stay out of the limelight and not generate any kind of cult following. And the visible ones have failed to inspire, except for maybe Bach.

    For example Gates bailed (probably got tired of being killed in the media for being evil), Ballmer is used up and was always more of a sales guy (i.e. no cred), Kevin Turner seems to be a hick shopkeeper who is little loved in MSFT (hiring him is starting to look like Balmer's biggest mistake), and Ray Ozzie, who MS put a lot of hope into, has disappeared for years and no one has a clue what he is doing.

    OTOH the machine keeps cranking out products that dominate their market; their revenue and profits have accordingly doubled in the last 5 years. Hard to see the failure really. I have been told by Microserfs that they do not consider Linux or Apple to be a threat anymore, and are concentrating solely on Google, with a wary eye on a resurgent Oracle.
  • by sm62704 ( 957197 ) on Saturday May 12, 2007 @08:37PM (#19100137) Journal
    If you talk about sex, religion, or politics in a bar (or baseball if you live in Springfield) you risk a bar fight. Likewise, talk of these subjects on the internet when they are completely off topic is flamebait and trolling, pure and simple.

    Use of the words "worship" and "religion" is flamebait. Nobody worships Linus, or IBM, or Sun. WTF is up with this incindiary prose?

    This FA is flamebait (RTFFA?) here's how It would have read if I were Information Week's editor:

    Why Doesn't Microsoft Get Any Enthusiasm from the Computing Community?

    Apple has it. So does Java, Oracle, IBM, and Google. Lord knows anyone who uses Linux or free and open source software is dedicated to spreading the use of free and open source software. But is anyone the least bit enthusiastic about the goods from Redmond?

    The question came up in a casual conversation I had at the JavaOne conference in San Francisco this past week.

    I was chatting with some Sun Micro PR people who commented that Microsoft's problem these days is that it doesn't have a passionate user/developer base. (Hey, I thought the days of mudslinging were over.). The theory is that while Microsoft certainly owns the majority of user systems, no one seems to really be happy about its software: Windows Vista, Office, Visual Studio, SharePoint, SQL Server, and certainly not IE. The same thing goes for Microsoft's hardware. Where are the legions of Zune users? Xbox may be the closest thing Microsoft has to a [strike "fanatical", it's redundant. -ed] fan base, but I'm pretty sure the lines were just as long for the PS3 and the Wii.

    Think about it. When was the last time an editor was fired because of a scathing article entitled, "10 Things We Hate About Microsoft?" When was the last time a group of developers stood up at a VS Live show and shouted ... "Yea, man! Orcas Rocks! Language Integrated Query is da' Bomb! New and improved ADO.Net? Oh, no you didn't!" It just doesn't happen.

    Conversely, how many e-mails have you received (or written) because someone bashed your favorite operating system or software application? Chances are that you were defending something that wasn't made or acquired by Microsoft.

    So while I expect Sun to mouth off, my biggest surprise was that Mary Jo Foley (of Microsoft Watch and ZDNet blogging fame) was standing right there and she validated the theory that customers and developers are just not that into Microsoft. Her take on it was that even Microsoft people she's spoken with acknowledge that developers and users have a lackluster passion when it comes to Microsoft products.

    I can kind of support this theory. Last year, I spent time consulting for a Visual Studio group within Microsoft whose goal was to engage with more developers. The idea was to create a "community" effect similar to the one enjoyed by the Eclipse project. The group's budget included a contest and subsequent resource Web site. The contest garnered about two dozen entries (yawn) and the Microsoft group certainly considered the project a work in progress.

    So my question is this:

    Does the largest software vendor in the world have people who are actually excited by its products and drive themselves into a frenzy when the latest version comes out?

    Rob Enderle, principal analyst and founder of the Enderle Group, suggests Microsoft did have a following and a passionate audience up until 1995, but Microsoft never really nurtured them and they died off.

    "Now Windows is just part of the PC," Enderle said. "There are still those that admire the company and Gates, but the passion that exists around FreeBSD, Linux, and Apple simply has no analog in Windows. Great products come from passion -- when Windows lost that, it lost its heart."

    What about this: Is Microsoft in such control over its own products that nobody really cares to innovate around Microsoft software? Do they just go through the motions because that's what they use at work?

    Dan Kusnetzky,

  • by bserebin ( 766344 ) on Saturday May 12, 2007 @09:05PM (#19100311)
    Microsoft does have followers/fans, and I'm one of them. So, the article & comments that folks like me don't exist is just wrong. Folks are just not looking in the right places. I founded and run the New York [Microsoft] Exchange User Group http://www.nyexug.com/ [nyexug.com] . It's over 2 yrs old as well. We meet monthly at Microsoft's NYC office, have about 175 people on the mailing list and all we talk about is Exchange Server. Yes, Microsoft Exchange Server. We are not alone. The same night there's a Microsoft Excel User Group. Yes, you heard that right, Excel! I couldn't handle one of those meetings, so I would consider that a cult of Excel. There's also Small Business Server and Enterprise Windows User Groups. See NYPC for more information on those other groups. http://nypc.org/sigs.php [nypc.org] So, there are Microsoft fans out there, you just need to know where to look.

Forty two.