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Microsoft Needs a Catch-Up Artist 406

The New York Times says that what Microsoft needs now isn't just a CEO, but a catch-up artist, to regain the footing that it had a few years ago as the biggest name in software. There's a lot of catching up, too: An anonymous reader reminds us that a year ago, Vanity Fair gave a scathing review of Steve Ballmer's performance:"Once upon a time, Microsoft dominated the tech industry; indeed, it was the wealthiest corporation in the world. But since 2000, as Apple, Google, and Facebook whizzed by, it has fallen flat in every arena it entered: e-books, music, search, social networking, etc., etc. Talking to former and current Microsoft executives, Kurt Eichenwald finds the fingers pointing at C.E.O. Steve Ballmer, Bill Gates's successor, as the man who led them astray."
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Microsoft Needs a Catch-Up Artist

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  • Why catch-up? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward


    No, microsoft doesn't need to catch up because it isn't behind. They have everything, what it doesn't have is something that is different, innovativ and without spyware.

    • Catch-up because (Score:4, Insightful)

      by tuppe666 ( 904118 ) on Saturday August 24, 2013 @08:31PM (#44666611)


      No, microsoft doesn't need to catch up because it isn't behind. They have everything, what it doesn't have is something that is different, innovativ and without spyware.

      Microsoft in the suddenly relevant, consumer, mobile, socially linked, always connected, future now...behind in market share, mindshare, technology both hardware and software with a poisonous brand, a stench of repeated failure, leaving its OEM Slaves and hostages as expendable casualties...even though they suddenly have to compete.

      • by hairyfeet ( 841228 ) <bassbeast1968@@@gmail...com> on Saturday August 24, 2013 @09:47PM (#44666931) Journal

        Oh bullshit, put somebody with a brain in the big chair and they could slaughter, all the tools are there, its just Ballmer has his one track mind locked so hard on Cupertino it was a miracle he could walk in a straight line!

        Hell put ME in the big chair and i could double the stock price just using good old fashioned common sense. First people hate metro or are afraid to buy a new unit because what if they hate Metro too? I'd tell them "Not a problem, anybody that buys ANY copy of Win 8, OEM, upgrade, whatever, if you try it and don't like it? We'll trade your key for the equivalent Windows 7 key so you have nothing to lose"...BAM! You just fixed the windows 8 problem right there. Fuck win 8.1, roll it into a service pack and call it a day, this ain't 93 and .1s look douchey, instead OS releases will be once every 3 for consumer (and they have the option of going back up to 2 releases, just swap the key) and 6 for business who will have the option of going back one release. Metro will NOT be default, it will be OPTIONAL and we'll buy out ModernMix and integrate it so if you want to use metro apps on the desktop? then do so, its YOUR PC and YOU get to choose what and how it runs.

        Next we need more income coming in and to fix the mobile problem, okay not a big deal. For the income we start rolling out services Joe and Jane can actually use and give a fuck about, leave the appstore crapstore junk for mobile. Instead imagine getting a CC sized key, pops into any USB, and lets you have a secure remote session with your home PC from work or vice versa? Not a problem when using MSFT servers for the middle man and we'd make that shit more simple to use than your average ATM. For the home users we peer with groups like Akamai (cut down on latency and the risk you'll hit your cap) and we start cutting deals with networks and movie houses, you'll be able to buy bundles or ala cart Internet entertainment with the goal to be to get everything anybody could possibly want available as a stream and if you want to buy it? Just click the button and its yours, and it'll all integrate with Windows Media Center so ANY desktop or laptop with an HDMI out is now an instant HTPC, no setting up or hassles, just plug and go.

        Finally as for mobile too long as the mobile division been crippled by Ballmer and Gates, first trying to jam a teeny tiny desktop onto phones and then trying to jam phones onto desktops, that shit WILL end under me. Instead we spin off WinPhone who will now be called ModernOS, it will have the ability to run BOTH Android AND WinPhone apps, and the ONLY connection with the desktop is a "it must work simply" mantra. which means if you choose WinPhone over Android you WILL see the benefits, everything from being able to remote access and even track your phone from your desktop to streaming from your PC to your ModernPhone to even using it as a remote for your desktop or laptop, thus making the HTPC idea even nicer. Your SO wants to watch that twilight crap while the game is on? Slap on some phones connected to your ModernPhone and screen the game from one of our channels to your phone!

        See how fricking easy it would be to make money with MSFT if they didn't have a CEO with his head up his ass? And this is just what I could come up with off the top of my head, if I gave it any real thought I could come up with dozens more...ohh, get ready for some gold....how about an innovation bounty? Instead of the employees backstabbing each other with that stack crap instead we offer a bounty on innovation, you come up with a great product YOU get a cut of every sale, be that in software or hardware, give the employees a reason to really bust ass for the company again. i could go on all day as the raw materials ARE there, its the leadership that has been throwing everything away trying to be Cupertino North.

        • by Xiaran ( 836924 ) on Saturday August 24, 2013 @10:42PM (#44667147)
          I am the head of a US TV network and you are in your first meeting with me. You want to offer ala cart TV content to just anyone? Are you mad? I already have agreements about exclusivity with regional TV stations. And there is just no fucking way I am going to let you allow that shit out of the US... do you have any *fucking* idea about the agreements we have with overseas networks? Your fucking dreaming! Get the fuck out of my office and come back when you are prepared to be more reasonable like netflix, apple and google!
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            "So we just buy your network, or at least a large enough interest in it to replace whomever we need to to make things happen. Our Way"

          • Re:Catch-up because (Score:5, Interesting)

            by war4peace ( 1628283 ) on Sunday August 25, 2013 @02:46AM (#44667977)

            Boom headshot.

            Yes, there's plenty people with plenty great ideas, and then they get tangled in politics and realize it's impossible.

            We have a saying around here (roughly translated): On your way to god, the saints will eat you alive.

        • the MSiah cometh..... no, but seriously im sure each of these ideas(as awesome as they may sound) are impossible to execute. A.) There's so much red tape that even our most awesome cutting implements wouldnt get through it. B.) They are simply impractical from a developer standpoint. It's easy to throw out idea after idea, but it means nothing until you put it in motion.
    • For ketchup, they should get John Kerry [businessinsider.com]. Given that MS is jacked up, and Kerry himself is a total jack-up artist, the resulting double negative will certainly have Redmond conquering the market, STAT.
      For OS/2 applications.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 24, 2013 @07:58PM (#44666445)

    A few key points MS needs to digest:

    1) They completely neutered their Small Business Server selection, and now to get anything remotely comparable you're looking at a cost-per-core set up. I recently ran into this setting up a medical practice. In the past I had used SBS with the premium add-on to get access to SQL Server Standard for certain software packages. Of course, I can still get licenses for it, but if their business model is moving in that direction, I'm moving away from using their product. I'm finding that certain flavors of Ubuntu are much more suited to what my clients need, and at a price you can't beat. (Zentyal for those that are curious).

    2) Get rid of the MS/Windows Tax. Force OEMs to hand out CoAs so that their customers can re-install the OS if need be, rather than using restore media. It's complete BS that customers of big PC manufacturers can't re-install the same (albeit blank) OS that came on a PC they just bought, rather we're forced to go through an uninstall bloat/crap-ware from PC's individually. I don't care what agreements are in place already, shoving this crap down our throat won't help business.

    3) Stop screwing IT businesses all over. This is more of a general comment, but killing Technet is a good example of things you really shouldn't do.

  • by the_B0fh ( 208483 ) on Saturday August 24, 2013 @07:59PM (#44666449) Homepage

    Microsoft never produced anything for the user. If there were any benefits, it was a by product. Microsoft tried to please the producers.

    Apple did it the other way round. Apple made things for the end users. True, they had very specific ideas of what the end users can and cannot do, but ultimately, the UI, the way to do things, the way things are done, are all planned and implemented with the end user in mind.

    6 weeks before the original iphone launched, Jobs said - no plastic screen, use gorilla glass - why? Because your keys in your pocket would scratch the screen. How many other executives would stop production to do that?

    • Microsoft is a B2B company, not a B2C company. They have a huge team that goes out to businesses and researches what they want and need. This is how many 'useless' function got into Word, because some people do use them.

      It's a strategy that works really well when companies know what they want. It works less well when companies aren't sure. That's where Apple excels, they were able to see that people would use a tablet, where business people couldn't give you a cost/profit breakdown on their likelihood of
      • by 0123456 ( 636235 )

        Microsoft is a B2B company, not a B2C company. They have a huge team that goes out to businesses and researches what they want and need.

        So how did they end up with a tablet interface on desktop PCs? Which businesses 'wanted and needed' that?

    • Microsoft tried to please the producers.Apple did it the other way round. Apple made things for the end users

      Ironically Apple recently found guilty of forming a cartel with publishing companies forcing up the price of books to its customers...and everyone else.

      • You might actually want to read up on the facts of the case. Or, actually reading the lawsuit, and Apple's response to it.

        • You might actually want to read up on the facts of the case. Or, actually reading the lawsuit, and Apple's response to it.

          Lol I did, July 10, 2013, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York decision found that Apple conspired to fix the prices of e-books in the United States. They were so obviously guilty. It was even published in Jobs book. ebook prices went up...Apple was found guilty.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by FuzzNugget ( 2840687 )
      Only iPhone users would be dumb enough to (a) keep their keys and phone in the same pocket and (b) not use a screen protector.
  • by alen ( 225700 ) on Saturday August 24, 2013 @07:59PM (#44666455)

    dump bing and the rest of the money losing businesses that have no hope of turning a profit in the next decade
    get the research people to concentrate on stuff that improves current products or present some kind of business plan for any project that is in research

    wait for the next tech change cycle. these come every 10 years or so. we had the mainframe to PC cycle in the 80's. the rise of servers in the 90's. the internet in the 90's. and the last one was the rise of mobile. MS lost the current cycle but there is another one coming soon. smart watches and other similar tech is out there and people are buying it. what is missing is the one product that will take the most popular wished for features and put them together in a simple and easy to use device

    • dump bing and the rest of the money losing businesses that have no hope of turning a profit

      I think one of the problems Microsoft had was its focus on profits. The reality is its current products revolve around its increasingly unimportant Monopoly...much as you personally might benefit from focussing on them, and that is not healthy.

    • It's better to look at your total bottom line, not individual profit centers. This is actually part of the problem at MS. It is OK for one business to lose money, as long as it supports something else. Note that iTunes used to lose money, or barely break even, but they make money on devices. Amazon gives away the hardware to make money on content. Google loses money on search, gives away hardware, so they can make money on ads and selling data on its users. All 3 sound strategies. If they broke everythin
  • by umafuckit ( 2980809 ) on Saturday August 24, 2013 @08:04PM (#44666477)
    Yes, perhaps MS have "fallen flat" in search, social networks, etc. What's really unforgivable, however, are the Vista and Win8 debacles; those are cases where MS screwed up on home turf. The perception that they're having trouble getting their OS right must be tainting their efforts in other spheres. I reckon the XBox is relatively isolated from the Windows aura, as it's almost a brand in its own right (you never hear the term "Microsoft XBox"). Other things, such as search and phones, are harder to dissociate from Windows. Microsoft's real problem right now is that they're not "cool." It's that intangible quality that they need to foster in order to hit the upswing with consumers.
    • by Teckla ( 630646 )

      I reckon the XBox is relatively isolated from the Windows aura, as it's almost a brand in its own right (you never hear the term "Microsoft XBox").

      Don't worry, Microsoft is working hard to give the Xbox a bad reputation, too.

      Unreliable hardware; forced advertisements; you can't use IE or Netflix on Xbox without paying the Xbox Gold Live tax; not to mention all their missteps with Xbone (despite their frantic backpedaling).

      The reputation of the Xbox is slowly but surely moving in the same direction that Vista and Windows 8 took.

  • by bug_hunter ( 32923 ) on Saturday August 24, 2013 @08:09PM (#44666499)

    There seems to be a lot of looking at Bill Gates with rose coloured glasses.
    As far as I've been able to tell, Microsoft is still trying to do the same thing as it's always done since it's inception. Wait for others to define a market, then try to buy or muscle your way into it with a "good enough" product.
    Just now with Microsoft's OS monopoly not being an effective control mechanism, and the barrier of entry for other companies not being too high, "good enough" doesn't convince anybody anymore.

    From reading the article the main difference between Bill and Steve on recent issues was that Bill resigned to the fact that they were already too late on things like music players and phones and he wouldn't have even tried getting in.
    Microsoft couldn't be turned around easily, it's too much of a change to its ethos. Could a better CEO really have got them into other markets propely, or would a better CEO just doubled down on OS/Office/Business Services and saved a bit of money but had no other impact? Maybe Balmer-Microsoft needed to try and flail around in every market as a first step in a (long) transition period where Microsoft comes out the other side as a company with a bit more humility, creativity and modern vision.
    Interested to hear opinions.

    • There seems to be a lot of looking at Bill Gates with rose coloured glasses.
      As far as I've been able to tell, Microsoft is still trying to do the same thing as it's always done since it's inception. Wait for others to define a market, then try to buy or muscle your way into it with a "good enough" product.

      Then perhaps they should poach somebody from Samsung?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Bill Gates was paranoid as fuck. The whole reason they had Windows CE and Windows Mobile was "to prevent someone doing to us what we did to IBM."

      If Gates was running the company, they would have started cloning the iPhone the day after Apple announced it. Instead Fat Ballmer dismissed the whole idea and sat around doing nothing for 2 years. He also did the exact same thing with Google and internet advertising, costing MSFT multi-billions.

    • by deviated_prevert ( 1146403 ) on Saturday August 24, 2013 @10:06PM (#44667013) Journal
      I agree with your assessment. One huge problem was and is how they approached communication dev environments. The huge security issues with activeX dependent routines and how "explorer" could become a dangerous interface. We had tonnes of poorly written code using microsoft's development enviroments. Heck every other few weeks there are still "critical security updates for .net framwork".

      By creating boat loads of dumb software writers that churned out code for XP that depended upon insecure networking interfaces they have done little more than create a huge resentment in the industry. It is still the case today that most large firms have to run large amounts of legacy activeX code on their intranet in "XP" mode that requires routines that would hose them if they were exposed to the internet.

      XP was a great system for locking in customers and the huge problem it created was the fact that getting out of the trap of relying upon insecure software it created is too expensive for a large number of companies. Banks and many institutions still run XP terminals for this very reason, their internal software routines are all based upon core code that is not at all suited for a secure OS like Windows 7 that actually has sensible limited user privilege settings.

      Microsoft screwed up their big hit operating system XP's UAC so badly that a culture of writing core routines without consideration of UAC became the norm. Then when things screwed up the IT guys and gals had to run out and sell the bosses on add on security controls from someone other than Microsoft. This is why the snake oil sales of security software exploded in the first place.

      Vista tried to fix this problem but focused on Palladium [wikipedia.org]. Windows 7 got multi-user privilege going properly to a certain extent but still relies upon .net code that can and does leave holes in because those who code for it are largely ignorant of how to secure things. Secure Computing or Palladium does not at all address these problems and the move to so called "trusted computing" has backfired on Microsoft. Most savvy IT managers know this and tell their bosses that moving past XP will not actually gain any real security benefits because of legacy activeX and .net code. The lack of sensible security methods in the first place within the windows networking code base has created a whale floundering on the beach.

      Microsoft's core business is ripe for the picking and I would not at all be surprised if we do not see some company or group of companies gang up and beat them up. A joint venture between hardware and software companies could do it. Who knows just maybe IBM will get it's revenge by releasing a killer db, office suite, server combo that can run old XP code sand boxed faster than a windows server. LOL

      Just maybe Ballmer's legacy will be the complete ruin of the once stellar bunch of corporate software raiders that Microsoft was. Problem is they have run out of ideas and truly innovative companies to usurp. We are currently at a technology bubble interface. The only advances will be things like HP's low power Moonshot servers. Unless something really shocking like Microsoft merging with Intel and actually starting to produce real physical product they are really in trouble this time around.

      There will be huge mergers soon in the tech industry, one that might shock everybody might be IBM an HP. Or the complete purchase of Dell by Microsoft, or as stated a merger between Microsoft and Intel. INTERESTING TIMES AHEAD and there will be blood on the floor of the stock exchange to be certain.

    • the main difference between Bill and Steve on recent issues was that Bill resigned to the fact that they were already too late on things like music players and phones and he wouldn't have even tried getting in.

      Microsoft was one of the earliest forces in PDAs, smartphones, and tablets. They had very early projects to develop the technology, they knew it was coming, but no amount of a lead could get their foot in the door. Their offerings were just such committee-designed crap that nobody wanted it. Micros

  • by djupedal ( 584558 ) on Saturday August 24, 2013 @08:09PM (#44666501)
    These are the questions hanging over Balmer - you can't tell us that catching up has anything to do with them:
    • How can you be that far off what consumers want?
    • Was it that you're not listening to your team?
    • Was it because the team was afraid to give you advice?
    • Was it because the team saw a different reality?
    • Or was it that the team lacked the skill set to anticipate the failure (and who takes the blame for that?)?
  • by Spy Handler ( 822350 ) on Saturday August 24, 2013 @08:11PM (#44666507) Homepage Journal

    MS should hire Elon Musk as CEO?

    • I would prefer Leo Apothaker, Carly Fiorina, Stephen Elop, Jim Balsillie, Jerry Yang, Ron Johnson (of JC Penney) and Susan G. Komen - for about 9-18 months each. Any order will do. At the end of that we might be safe.
  • by jfdavis668 ( 1414919 ) on Saturday August 24, 2013 @08:15PM (#44666525)
    But somewhere left the developers behind. They started to treat them as people who supported Microsoft, instead of the other way around.
  • by BenJeremy ( 181303 ) on Saturday August 24, 2013 @08:30PM (#44666601)

    Microsoft spent millions every year researching things like user interfaces.

    They threw it all away in a short-sighted quest to shove their way into the revenue stream of walled markets.

    I think a return to basics - provide value to their best customers (Corporate IT) - through improving productivity and offering stable development environments to encourage those customers to invest in a Microsoft ecosystem.

    At this very moment, the only thing tying corporations to the "Microsoft Ecosystem" are Windows 7, Windows Server 2008 and pretty much everything pre-2012. Admins don't need "Modern UI" interfaces on their server boxes. Developers don't need monochrome toolbar buttons and screaming menus. Desktop users don't need to gestures to do their daily work. All of those mis-steps has IT departments across the country realizing that while they do not WANT to put the effort into leaving that ecosystem, Microsoft has left them with no choice - So now the decision is to move to something slightly less familiar (Linux and OSX), or move to something WILDLY unfamiliar (Windows 8, Server 2012, etc...) - which makes more sense? so It departments are no longer beholden to Microsoft, thanks to Microsoft's own stupid decisions.

    Get back to what worked. Mobile and Desktop are separate markets, which is why Apple didn't paste the iOS UI onto OSX, and why Android isn't a desktop operating system. Stop trying so hard for convergence in the UI when we aren't even close, technologically, to making that happen. Stop forcing your customers to face painful training budgets and re-writing legacy apps just to fit into your executive's superfluous decisions to bully them into the Metro UI with the idea that it would somehow magically sell millions of mobile devices with "Windows 8" (more like "Tiles 1"). That effort failed spectacularly, by any measure, so step back, lick your wounds, and give the customers what they want, instead of shoving what YOU want down their throats.

  • is a person who can tell everyone else to get lost; and release all MS software on a truly FOSS license model. Not the shared source license model, nor the Microsoft Permissive License model.

    If RedHat can make a billion dollars on Free Sotware that is used less than Windows; Microsoft can exponentially increase the use of their software with a FOSS compliant license that puts the onus of innovation on the developers and producers; rather than on itself. The community is thousands of times more powerful than

    • by ruir ( 2709173 )
      Are they taking Apple? Apple has already mutated into 3 different platforms, and are already migrating to a 4th (hello iPhone and iPads). Intel is a very convenient (cheap) partner at the moment, but I would be much surprised if they have already ARM versions in-house. If they managed to keep the Intel project going for a decade till they launched it
      • by ruir ( 2709173 )
        wouldn't. English not being my mother tongue, I am making this mistake too many times.
  • Catch up artist? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by bmo ( 77928 ) on Saturday August 24, 2013 @08:58PM (#44666763)

    " The New York Times says that what Microsoft needs now isn't just a CEO, but a catch-up artist, "

    No, they've been doing that for the entire history of the company, coming in late to every successful idea long after the competition does. They used to be able to "cut off the oxygen" of their competitors, but they can't do that anymore. Not since they tried to do it to Google and failed utterly.

    BMO - Unfortunately, Ballmer is leaving before he's finishing the job of killing the company.

  • Fresh thinking (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Natales ( 182136 ) on Saturday August 24, 2013 @09:00PM (#44666773)
    What bothers me is that Microsoft has really good engineers but lacks a clear strategic direction. Their massive amount of legacy code plus some seriously bad "assumptions" about what the users want have sustained their decline in the last 10 years. It's a sad state of affairs, having used their products since Windows 1.0 when they were "the rebels".

    I know it's just my opinion, but given their deep pockets, they should create an incubator unit or a completely separate start-up with huge funding for a re-acquisition later on (similar to what Cisco is doing with Insieme). The purpose of this group should be to go back to their roots, and re-think the way people and companies are expected to interact with computers in the next 10-20 years timeframe, and create a brand new OS with no legacy code, and anticipating the challenges and threats that will evolve overtime as much as possible.

    I've always wondered why airplanes and MRI machines can have "mission critical" OSs and software while we all have to deal with crashes and uncertainty. They have the capability to create and bring to market a practical, usable EAL-7 [wikipedia.org] OS. We know it has been done before [nicta.com.au], but Microsoft has the capability to make it commercially viable for everyone. And this is only ONE of the things they could do.
  • "The New York Times says that what Microsoft needs now isn't just a CEO, but a catch-up artist, to regain the footing that it had a few years ago as the biggest name in software."

    Without the WinTEL monopoly and the onerous lock-in contracts with the OEMs, Microsoft is just another tech company ..
  • by ruir ( 2709173 ) on Saturday August 24, 2013 @09:10PM (#44666809)
    In my opinion Ballmer is an operational that was promoted in the wrong time. The problems of Microsoft are symptomatic of a larger disease, and Ballmer is just a scapegoat. Truth to be said, the only product I can remember of being their truly innovation, is Microsoft Basic. The rest was a matter of having the right influence, a matter at time on their side, the right partners, sheer luck, buying what they needed at the right time. It is a known fact after all this years, that DOS was bought to seal a business Gates mom got with his influence, power and political cloud. The fact that consumers preferred a cheaper machine 20 years behind its time just because it had a IBM sticker, and the misguided monopoly that ensued for 3 decades, was a pure stroke of luck. that movement is losing momentum IMO. They had also terrible problems of judgment. The worst of all, was basing their business model in the dominance of the Wintel platform. I don't know for how long their Office platform will hold waters - for instance in a couple of years iWork from Apple will be a real competitor (it already is, minus the Pages utility). They failed to see the Internet coming, and had to buy Internet Explorer. The Zune (music player) was a commercial failure. Windows CE based hardware is/was a terrible flop. Windows 8 and Surface, a customer PR disaster. Their phone platform, despite how many billions they throw at it - 2 billions to Nokia alone, product placement in holywood series, is a product nobody want to touch. They killed their excellent TechNet offering which was the staple of many Microsoft houses. Androids are iPhones are the trojans that are showing whole generations they are not depending anymore on WIntel compatibles to handle their data - either work, emails, documents, spreadsheets. Mac is also making inroads in several faculties. Linux has gained corporate acceptance. VMWare is the king of virtualisation platforms, and XEN a close second The cat is out of the bag it is not mandatory to use IBM compatible/Microsoft products, specially in corporate environments, and the terrible news for MS is this a very different world from the 80s, and customer loyalty isnt up what it used to be.
    • Customer loyalty is something you earn.

      Care to tell us any one action of MS that should make me consider that they might probably have a chance of coming close to deserving it?

  • MS had some great ideas, but absolutely screwed it up in terms of execution. I occasionally still use a PocketPC from the turn of the millenium and it is genuinely well designed. One example is the design spec for the PPC put a scroll wheel on one side, which means you can hold it in one hand, clicking through pages on Microsoft Reader with the wheel.

    If the PocketPC PDAs had used a finger touch screen while at the same time been marketed as a gaming and media player, rather than as purely a business tool I

  • As sacrilege as it sounds...just give up on Windows. It's over. Nobody cares. The base OS is a commodity at this point, and most good programmers prefer a Unix style environment. Lots of command-line tools, powerful shell scripts, and a world of open source tools.

    In my opinion, where Microsoft is still heads-and-shoulders above the competition is in their middle-ware layers. Office is good. Office is really really good. When you really need to use a solid word processor or spreadsheet, the various, s

    • by ruir ( 2709173 )
      The truth is Office is bloated. At the moment the only truly product is has still no genuine competition because it managed to kill the competition with their market stronghold in the windows 95, is Office. Excel nowadays got really good competitors, unless you are heavily into accounting/macro usage. Office for Mac is intentionally crippled to give a leverage to the Windows OS and it is a shame. SQLServer is a robust product, however is too heavy, unwieldy and power hungry. From the two evils, I would pref
  • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Saturday August 24, 2013 @09:53PM (#44666947)

    And that it doesn't work anymore.

    Their creed was "embrace - extend - extinguish". It worked like a charm with open source technologies and technologies developed by small companies. They noticed something caught on, they hopped on the train, claimed it, blew a shitload of money into it, "added" to it so it was no longer compatible with the original stuff, turned their broken design into the de-facto standard by virtue of their market position and finally everyone was "inferior" because they were "incompatible".

    And that doesn't work with companies like Apple and Google who themselves play that game, and they really excel at it. AND on top of that, they needn't wait for someone to come up with a new technology people actually want: They can create it themselves, because they also know something about design.

    And marketing, of course, but marketing has never been the weak spot of MS. But here's the other reason why they are falling behind more and more: Design. And their lack of it. When "the masses" started to join the IT world, design suddenly became important. While we might not care about rounded corners and whether our boxes blend nicely into our living room, the average Joe out there does. Yes, their crap doesn't have any better specs than MS' stuff does, but it LOOKS better and it WORKS easier.

    And MS may be much, but designers, they are not. Neither designers of nifty looking gadgets nor designers of intuitive interfaces.

  • Since 2000? They didn't fall flat in everything. They did pretty well the XBox, not to mention their success with Windows XP.
  • by bryanbrunton ( 262081 ) on Saturday August 24, 2013 @11:00PM (#44667243)

    Purely as an exercise in alternate reality, it is interesting to wonder how the computing landscape would have been different, most certainly superior to state of affairs now, if Ballmer and Gates had not been such conniving, backstabbing dicks.

    The company would almost certainly be an order of magnitude wealthier, more respected and better positioned in the marketplace, if those two guys hadn't felt it necessary to throw the company's weight around by executing the many well known monopolistic and consumer-unfriendly practices that they are so well known for.

    If anything, the strategic failure of Microsoft as a company to set itself against so many others in the industry, is missing from the debate about the good and bad aspects of Steve Ballmer's legacy.

    Microsoft was consumed with a truly psychotic fantasy of Netscape (a fucking web browser company) rising and dominating the computing landscape. That is just one example where the mendacity-wrought Ballmer and Gates, helped in no way the financial bottom line of MS by just being dicks, almost just because they couldn't help it.

    It is fairly easy to posit that a good amount of the effort behind the rise of Linux was simply due to a common reaction against the back alley tactics deployed by Microsoft. And if Linux is not as developed as it was in 2008, does Google have something upon which to build Android? Something which can be released and developed under the GNU license? And that is just one potential hypothetical.

  • No, Let Them Die (Score:4, Insightful)

    by utkonos ( 2104836 ) on Sunday August 25, 2013 @12:08AM (#44667487)
    I'm not sure why people here want M$ to change their act and get back in the game. I for one am quite happy with M$ being irrelevant and staying that way. Do any of you really want M$ to catch up and become dominant again?
  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Sunday August 25, 2013 @03:15AM (#44668033) Homepage

    Microsoft's big problem is simply that Windows 7 is quite good. Business desktops use it, they work fine, they crash rarely, and they get the job done. Microsoft conquered the driver quality problem by forcing drivers to pass the Static Driver Verifier, a proof of correctness system which looks at source code to see if it can buffer-overflow, make improper calls, or otherwise crash the kernel. That took care of about half of crashes. The other half, from Microsoft's own code, were handled by a system which classifies core dumps by commonality, so they can collect core dumps with the same cause, then find and fix the problem. So Microsoft conquered the big problem that business cares about - Making It Work.

    Businesses see no need to "upgrade". Certainly not to Windows 8. Or Office N+1. It won't help the business.

    Microsoft struggles with being "cool". Apple does well with "cool", but nobody else does. It's not clear it will help in the post-Jobs era. (Olivetti once made beautiful office machines. It didn't help them. Most major museums of modern art have some Olivetti products, but few offices did.)

    What really made the iPod work was deals with the music industry. Something that many people miss is why Jobs was able to pull that off. Jobs was also CEO of Pixar, and thus, as a major film studio head, at the top of the Hollywood hierarchy. So he was able to deal with the music industry from a position of superiority. That's what made iTunes. (The hierarchy in Hollywood is very real, and very rigid. Ask anybody in the industry.) That's what re-launched Apple. The Mac was below 10% market share, and was stuck there for years, even after Jobs took over again.

    There's room for a breakthrough in user interfaces. The rectangular grid of single-purpose icons is lame. We can be sure that breakthrough will not come from the open source community.

    • by bytesex ( 112972 )

      Good call. Nobody ever says Android is cool (in the way that Apple products are), but they're still at 70% of their market. So 'coolness' isn't it.

  • by epine ( 68316 ) on Sunday August 25, 2013 @03:25AM (#44668055)

    I read that article yesterday. It's an extremely well done article. Unfortunately, it doesn't actually say what the summary claims.

    At the center of the cultural problems was a management system called âoestack ranking.â Every current and former Microsoft employee I interviewedâ"every oneâ"cited stack ranking as the most destructive process inside of Microsoft, something that drove out untold numbers of employees.

    When the millionaire mint ran dry, the problems began:

    And so, the bureaucratization of Microsoft began. Some executives traced the change to the ascension of Ballmer, but in truth Microsoftâ(TM)s era of fast cash was almost certainly the actual driving force.

    Empowered by a dysfunctional incentive culture instigated by His Billness, though some defend it.

    The Case for Stack Ranking of Employees [forbes.com]

    From the posts I read, the stack ranking at Microsoft is political and not based on valid accepted metrics that define performance. But Iâ(TM)m inclined to fault the measurement system more than stack ranking.

    What a complete idiot. He presumes that such a metric must exist, and completely misses the boat on absolute rather than relative performance norms. As soon as the norms become relative, you're tying your sneakers to outrun your team mate. If that's not political, I don't know what is. There are people who might not be star performers by any specific metric, but who enhance the productivity of any team they join. Guess what other company adopted stack ranking? Enron.

    I believe I once read an essay by Drucker where he said if the person who was worth hiring in the first place is underperforming, most likely that person's boss has failed to put that person into the right context.

    And software is the worst of all industries to institute such metrics. Any crank an employee can turn at 1000 rpm is better off scripted. The surest route to efficiency is repetition (the athletic model from he cherry picks his favourite aspects). Human repetition is bad repetition, yet metrics never catch up to non-repetitive cultures.

  • by sturle ( 1165695 ) on Sunday August 25, 2013 @06:48AM (#44668485)

    Stephen Elop. No doubt. Their platform is burning!

Logic is the chastity belt of the mind!