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How Microsoft Has Changed Without Bill Gates 493

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

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  • by eldavojohn ( 898314 ) * <eldavojohn&gmail,com> on Thursday July 09, 2009 @09:39AM (#28635573) Journal
    I found this assessment to be adequate when looking at Microsoft as a marketing company that makes the operating system. But what about Bing and Natal? These have been two very important developments to different worlds following the departure of Gates. I read an article from ITPro UK [] that I think did a better job describing change (or lack thereof) and there's certainly others [] with their own 1-year-on take.

    Personally, it's the small things that Microsoft has done differently that I see as real change. The recent ECMA standardization and community promise surrounding CLI and C# for one. While not perfect, it's an important step. Supporting more community standards (albeit questionable) in IE8 has also been a tremendous step in my mind. I'm not embracing IE8 yet out of sheer caution but these are certainly progressive moves however small. Has Ballmer toned down his wild intensity now that he heads Microsoft and is the unquestionable leader? I don't think so in the operating system world but maybe in smaller subsections of software development. The pricing and marketing strategies they've used for their OS have been just as questionable and (in the case of the OLPC) as ridiculous as ever.

    I hate to say it as I thought it was the end of the world when Ballmer took over Microsoft and that everything was going to grind to a halt around them but things don't look so bad. Honestly, I'm more concerned with other companies buying up everyone and everything around them in their quest to own a full stack of software or dominate one cash cow field--Google included. Two or three years ago, had I rubbed--to have everything in the world that was made by them blink out of existence. Now, I'd probably have better things to spend that wish on. I hate to sound like an apologist because I still despise a lot of their marketing tactics and things they do. But I'm glad they're starting to show some improvement and at least a little bit of innovation. I think things had really stagnated under Gates and though Ballmer looked like the big bad wolf, he's obviously taking more risks now that he's in charge.
  • by MikeRT ( 947531 ) on Thursday July 09, 2009 @10:04AM (#28635899)
    Fuggedaboutit! [] Never in a million years would Gates have had made peace with such a potentially damaging open source group.
  • by koreaman ( 835838 ) <> on Thursday July 09, 2009 @10:06AM (#28635927)

    Has anyone else realized that since about the beginning of this decade, Microsoft has slowly begun a transition to competing on quality, rather than simply leveraging their monopoly and sitting on their laurels? Take a look at some improvements in Microsoft products over the past few years:
      * Windows XP. There is simply no comparing XP to previous "home" versions of Windows in terms of quality. Yes, I know it's largely Windows 2000 with a new skin, but the important thing here is that they discontinued their crufty, broken, DOS-based line that didn't even have true multitasking and replaced it with something stable and mature (in comparison).
      * Visual Studio: As for the IDE itself, I never used versions prior to 2003, but I loved 2003 and have seen it getting nicer and nicer since. As for programming languages, their current implementation of C++ is actually quite close to standards-compliant, on the level of G++. They've got a ways to go with C, but it's less of a priority for them. The biggest change is in their flagship RAD offerings. C# and VB.NET are now mature object-oriented languages in the tradition of Java. No comparison with VB6.
      * Internet Explorer: 6 was simply a joke, the laughingstock of the web. No tabs, an extremely buggy rendering engine, not extensible, unpredictable for web developers, and largely at odds with every published standard ever. IE7 was a big step in the right direction, and IE8 has entered the playing field as a serious competitor.
      * Search: MSN search was useless abandonware; now they are really trying with Bing.
      * User interface: Vista brought in a modern, powerful shell complete with modern, powerful command-line utilities. No comparison to the shell (with bundled terminal emulator) that has been outdated since it was released as part of DOS 1.0. Windows 7 has made several improvements on the GUI side.

    Yes they're still behind, but they've covered a huge amount of ground. Yes I'd much prefer coding in Emacs using GNU Screen and XMonad for window management than in Visual Studio on Windows 7. Yes I'd much rather use Firefox, Opera, or Chrome than IE8, when given the choice. Yes, Apple has hands down the best GUI of all. But in, say, 2000, who'd have thought Microsoft would have come so far? I'm excited to see where their products will go and whether someday they will be as good as what comes from Apple, Google, and open-source hackers. I don't know whether they will, but it'll certainly be interesting.

  • by ( 1036494 ) on Thursday July 09, 2009 @10:14AM (#28636053)
    In an interview Steve Jobs said of msft, that msft is a company with no original ideas. I think it is the same even today, but there is one difference. We had Bill Gate who always looks calm and composed, although in reality he is supposed to be really annoying person, and we have SteveO who runs up and down a stage screaming, and had to have throat surgery after screaming "developers developers developers", he is really on some kind of crack. I think in few years msft will turn into a litigation house, like sco they will go down as a technology company that puts out more law suites than any new technology. msft under gates was a marketing company with a very strong arm & huge muscles. Under steveO it will soon turn into a law firm with huge muscles & small a d***.
  • by pauljlucas ( 529435 ) on Thursday July 09, 2009 @10:24AM (#28636205) Homepage Journal

    In an interview Steve Jobs said of msft, that msft is a company with no original ideas.

    This [] is the interview to which you refer.

  • by TheJodster ( 212554 ) on Thursday July 09, 2009 @10:29AM (#28636307) Homepage

    I see the point you are trying to make, but the home computer market existed long before Microsoft. My first computer was a Timex Sinclair 1000. There was the Atari 1200XL that was pretty popular too. The schools had TRS-80s. My first "real computer" with a tape drive and everything was a Commodore 64. I miss that machine. [SIGH]... what was I saying? Oh yeah. I never heard of Microsoft or Windows until I was in college and one of my classmates asked me if I had seen that new "Windows" thing that was out. I saw it in one of the labs and wondered what the hell you would ever need that mouse and all that junk for when you had a perfectly good keyboard and command prompt. All the first IBM home computer did, in my opinion, was kill the TRS and the Amiga.

    What I am trying to say is that Microsoft did the same thing to the home computer market that they did to the browser market when Netscape was king. They saw a burgeoning market and destroyed it by reshaping it into a tool that would make them masters of the universe. You can have a computer in any flavor you want as long as it runs windows.

    For all you Apple fans, I know the IIe was humming along beautifully in the same era before MS destroyed the wonderfully varied marketplace, but I couldn't afford one and never got into them.

    I'm not convinced that Bill's dominance in business is a phenomenon to be treasured in the annals of computer history. I'm not usually an MS hater, but I think they have done as much harm as they have good.

    Oh yeah... I almost forgot... "Get off my lawn!"

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 09, 2009 @10:32AM (#28636385)

    Symantec found a mac botnet that started from downloaded circumvented software. It was frontpage here in the last year. Google it.

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

    by Blakey Rat ( 99501 ) on Thursday July 09, 2009 @10:49AM (#28636683)

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

    Simply untrue. It is true that the iPhone has springboarded into the corporate market extremely quickly, adding in full Exchange compatibility is pretty much the best strategic move they've ever made. However, both Blackberry and Windows Mobile are still doing quite well on their own. It is true, however, that Apple's influence has gotten both RIM and Microsoft to crash-course some new features.

    For the home market, you might have a stronger argument, but Windows Mobile was never huge in that space in the first place.

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

    The Natal controller isn't even available yet.

    Hardware sales, the 360 fell behind the Wii ages ago and nothing's changed. What's really important for the Xbox 360 is its:
    1) Extremely high attach-rate. Xbox 360 players play their consoles a *lot* and buy a *lot* of games. Impressively and surprisingly so, in fact.
    2) Its ability to go head-to-head against the Playstation 3 and make an extremely good showing. (I'm not going to fall into the trap of saying one company "wins" the market, but even the most rabid fan has to admit the Xbox 360 is doing much better against the Sony behemoth than anybody expected.)

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

    "Popular revolt?" Seriously? What fantasy-world are you writing this post from? You gotta back this one up, buddy... I've seen *nothing* resembling a "popular revolt" anywhere except Slashdot, and Slashdot would have "revolted" no matter how good the product is, simply because it's from Microsoft.

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

    The ribbon in Office 2007 *is* realizing that. The new standard-compliance of IE8 *is* realizing that. The quality of Bing's search results *is* realizing that.

    The only real problem here is that you're so irrationally biased against Microsoft, you can't even think clearly enough to judge.

  • by interval1066 ( 668936 ) on Thursday July 09, 2009 @10:59AM (#28636861) Homepage Journal

    Gate's & Allen's "innovation" was to (practically) steal an operating system (DOS) from a not very worldly programmer named Tim Patterson, which happened to be appropriate to run on IBM's new (at that time) PC computer. IBM, not being very worldly either, looked toward a bright future selling tons of hardware not realizing that Asia would soon undercut ANYONE making hardware and that the platform was the OS.

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

    TODAY: IBM is for all intents and purposes out of the hardware business, which has moved to Singapore and S. Korea, and Paul Allen and Bill Gates are two of the richest people in the world. If Microsoft has done anything (aside from swindle people and stomped on innovation as much as possible), its made a platform that Business trusts enough to continue to invest in and employ millions of people that only do work on PC's. Jobs, always a dreamer, never really did care about the needs of Business, and instead appealed to people's vanity, which is why Apple never really took off like it might have.

    Redmond's real strength lies in showing people how to be a ruthless company. Innovation is great, but people respect power and those who wield it.

  • by Yvanhoe ( 564877 ) on Thursday July 09, 2009 @11:24AM (#28637261) Journal
    I'll consider through the eye of a SF reader : before the 80s computers worked. "Every computer glitch as a human origin" HAL taught us. (spoiler) it took a politician to make its perfect logic go amok. To say it in a nutshell, computers were deterministic.

    Now fast-forward a few years. Cyberpunk. Computers fail, a skillful hacker can enter any system. Bugs cause catastrophes, virus take epic proportions. Microsoft changed the IT landscape and I think it made it lose at least 10 years (I would say 20). Now IT specialists waste their times reinventing the wheel for every version of Windows, correct the same problems over and over, put hacked patches on security holes that should not exist. Microsoft did not bring the desktop into the home. Apple did. Internet blossomed despite Microsoft attempts at controlling it (The first plans for MSN, "Microsoft Network" was to concurrence Internet itself, to be a separate network). Plug and play's most common nickname was "plug and pray" because when it didn't work (50% of the time) you had no way to make it work, even if you were an IT engineer. The long sessions of kernel hacking that were necessary a few years ago (try Ubuntu if you think this is still the case) to make a webcam work was mostly due to the culture of proprietary drivers that Microsoft helped foster. Linux drivers were written from reverse-engineered information. The fact that it could work was by itself a miracle that happened despite Microsoft efforts.

    Honestly, we don't call Microsoft evil out of spite for its wealth, we have technical reasons for this. And Google did not choose "Don't be evil" as a motto without thinking of a certain Redmond company and the damages they did to the IT world.
  • by MickyTheIdiot ( 1032226 ) on Thursday July 09, 2009 @11:50AM (#28637625) Homepage Journal

    I think IE6 is more evil for this reason: it pulled a significant part of the web away from being software/OS agnostic and made Windows a requirement. Like Windows or not this has made the web *significantly* less universal and has slowed it down. The web is still a powerful force, but if web pages (and web aps) would actually run anywhere, it would be *even more* significant to our day to day computing than it is now.

    IE8 proves the point... Microsoft really tries to comply with standards and everything breaks. IE6 and non-compliance with standards is going to be a significant negative chapter in Microsoft history and we'll still be feeling the effects a decade from now at least.

  • by interval1066 ( 668936 ) on Thursday July 09, 2009 @12:37PM (#28638217) Homepage Journal

    " might want to look up IBM's hardware business..."; I have. One of my best friends in the business worked for IBM Canada, he lost his sales job 3 years ago due to cutbacks in IBM's hardware business. That was 3 years ago, not recently. His comment: "It was a bloodbath." Sure, IBM's still in the hardware business. But take a look at IBM's business breakdown then and now; you'll see a big difference. Your comment as I read it seems to say that these things happen in the blink of an eye. Its been a long, slow decline. IBM didn't lose the hardware business overnight. But nor did they hold on to the large slice of the pie they used to have. Their continued grasp of their big iron products until way too late in the game says volumes about their failed philosophy.

    Didn't go into the deep philosophical issues of Microsoft's mindset, and I don't care. As light dusting of the topic I think I'm on point. I'll leave it to you to look at the company with a lens.

  • by gad_zuki! ( 70830 ) on Thursday July 09, 2009 @01:39PM (#28639171)

    >you have to install the pirated version of the software to get the trojan and give it an administrator's password before it can pwn the machine, i.e., it's not a virus.

    So? You know how the last big few botnets were created? By people installing greetingcard.exe and sexyphotos.exe sent via email. No virus needed.

    My brothers machine had a problem with trojans until I told him to stop pirating software. Turns out most commercial software on those torrent sites has a trojan embedded or has a keygen thats just a trojan.

  • by epine ( 68316 ) on Friday July 10, 2009 @12:18AM (#28645929)

    I was arguing that we'd have been better off if Microsoft hadn't dominated it, teaching everyone to expect crappy software.

    Interesting, if not particularly insightful. And potentially naive.

    It's quite possible that during the exponential phase of the PC revolution, that "race to the bottom" was the dominant economic paradigm, and the winner, whoever it turned out to be, was the corporation to first or most deeply grasp this central economic fact.

    To make this discussion concrete, IMO the exponential adoption phase concerns the period of time from the early 386 through to a low-end Athlon running Windows 2000.

    Prior to the 386, people bought PCs more on potential than reality. It was a skill you wanted to have to stay in business a year or two down the road, but in fact it probably cost more than it returned in productivity bonuses. In fact, it took a very long time before the PC made an unambiguous impact on productivity figures (mostly due to the economists not knowing how to best update their models).

    After you hit 512MB of RAM, 1GHz, a 30GB disk drive, and a couple of 19" monitors it wasn't so much your PC holding you back as your own lack of anything to contribute. The driving urge to replace your crap PC every two years began to fade, and PC Magazine soon resembled Ally McBeal. The internet might have also contributed, but not as much as generally presumed. The two effects overlapped.

    The formula for success during this era was to buy cheap and buy often. It's a direct consequence of exponential growth over short time frames (i.e. tax law amortization schedules).

    There were three kinds of machines sold during this era: niche machines, elitist machines (Sun, N!XT, some Macs), and Wintel boxes. Of the elitist machines, the N!XT machine was the most orthographically challenged (and presciently ungoogleable). As great as the Amiga is purported to have been, it was never going to be all things to all people. As great as any of the other machines might have been, they were never going to be cheap enough to be all things to all people. The network effect takes over when you succeed at being all things to all people, excluding only the snobs, who don't wish to network with their inferiors in the first place.

    Many of Microsoft's worst false steps were all about backward compatibility, which is legendary on the PC, but largely taken for granted. Sure it's easy to find counter examples out of a pool of 20,000 popular applications. If you're the kind of person that thinks one terrific counter example amounts to an argument, I bet every PC you've owned has come from the elitist camp. Those of us with elitist tendencies would have preferred Windows to be *less* compatible with the crap of yesteryore.

    I have trouble faulting Microsoft for optimizing themselves to fit the niche which lead to their incredible commercial success, so far as they stayed within unbending legal parameters. (Unbending was not in the MS competitive lexicon at any point during Bill's reign of terror.)

    There was one idea along the way that Microsoft regarded as particularly toxic to their vision of future success: the ability to roll-back or replicate a stable system configuration. Horrors! This could lead to resurrecting software whose license had since expired, or otherwise controlling the components in a fleet wide deployment image, with the potential exclusion of Microsoft's flavour of the day technology. Double horrors!

    Microsoft has always practised forced bundling so that every person who upgrades their PC automatically gets the new MS crap, so they can then brag about their dominant install base, which gets the hardware vendors on side, etc.

    The Windows registry was never about simplifying computer management. It was always about making custom installation images so difficult you needed an enterprise scale IT department to pull it off. This is a scale where the problem can be solved by political means: expensive lunches for pow

In 1869 the waffle iron was invented for people who had wrinkled waffles.