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Cringely: Amazon Is Starting To Act Like 'Bad Microsoft' (cringely.com) 96

An anonymous reader quotes Cringely.com: My last column was about the recent tipping point signifying that cloud computing is guaranteed to replace personal computing over the next three years. This column is about the slugfest to determine what company's public cloud is most likely to prevail. I reckon it is Amazon's and I'll go further to claim that Amazon will shortly be the new Microsoft. What I mean by The New Microsoft is that Amazon is starting to act a lot like the old Microsoft of the 1990s. You remember -- the Bad Microsoft...

Tech companies behave this way because most employees are young and haven't worked anywhere else and because the behavior reflects the character of the founder. If the boss tells you to beat up customers and partners and it's your first job out of college, then you beat up customers and partners because that's the only world you know. At Microsoft this approach was driven by Bill Gates's belief that dominance could be lost in a single product cycle leaving no room for playing nice. At Amazon, Jeff Bezos is a believer in moving fast, making quick decisions and never looking back. The market has long rewarded this audacity so Amazon will continue to play hard until -- like Microsoft in the 90s -- they are punished for it.

Cringely points out most startups are already usings AWS -- and so are all 17 US intelligence agencies ("taking 350,000 PCs out of places like the CIA.")

Bonus link: 17 years ago Cringely answered questions from Slashdot readers.
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Cringely: Amazon Is Starting To Act Like 'Bad Microsoft'

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  • Bad Microsoft? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 19, 2017 @01:33PM (#55581863)

    Microsoft is still as bad as they have ever been, they've just donned a new dress and decided to be a bit smarter about it. Amazon otoh, might become "worse Microsoft".

    • Re:Bad Microsoft? (Score:4, Informative)

      by Z00L00K ( 682162 ) on Sunday November 19, 2017 @01:37PM (#55581875) Homepage

      Any major company is getting worse and worse these days, the world is really going the Max Headroom way.

    • Re:Bad Microsoft? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Sunday November 19, 2017 @01:44PM (#55581893)

      Microsoft is still as bad as they have ever been

      Microsoft was bad because they abused their dominance. Today, more people run Android than Windows, and Microsoft's dominance is fading. They may still be evil at heart, but they have less leverage to cause harm.

      Comparing Amazon to the old Microsoft is silly. Cloud services are not like OSes and office suites. If Amazon fails to provide good service at a fair price, their customers can go elsewhere without much trouble.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        rubbish, AWS is a massive proprietary lock in since the mainframe. You can't take your Lamda function with you, you are re-writing your application. You spend north of a million a month with AWS and they aren't going to help you, they have you by the short and curlies, good luck getting off it.

        • Re:Bad Microsoft? (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 19, 2017 @02:43PM (#55582155)

          rubbish, AWS is a massive proprietary lock in since the mainframe. You can't take your Lamda function with you, you are re-writing your application. You spend north of a million a month with AWS and they aren't going to help you, they have you by the short and curlies, good luck getting off it.

          This is largely right. The irony is that the technologies behind this have been developed 100% by FOSS developers, however they just lead to their users being completely controlled by Amazon. Similar things happen with PostgreSQL. At small scale it's easy to migrate in and out of Amazon. At large scale you will find that RedShift will often be the solution that's selected and moving back to a PostgreSQL solution will get to be really difficult. There is no chance Amazon will every contribute back their changes.

          It's a perfect example of the risks of using unprotected licenses like the GPLv2 which don't make cloud services share their code. Since seeing this I always choose the AGPL or AGPLv3.

      • Re:Bad Microsoft? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by DaHat ( 247651 ) on Sunday November 19, 2017 @02:37PM (#55582125) Homepage

        If Amazon fails to provide good service at a fair price, their customers can go elsewhere without much trouble.

        Can... but at what cost? Back in the days of Microsoft's dominance, companies could pick up and leave Windows... porting all of their software to *some random platform*, and paying oodles to their vendors to do the same.

        How likely is that?

        The dirty little secret of many cloud services is they are sticky... deliberately so.

        You could port the custom _____ system your company made targeting AWS to Azure or something else... however unless the system was architected deliberately from the beginning with the idea of portability (which most cloud services are not).

        Even if the platform is easy to re-target, the underlying data may not be.

        I've been involved in projects where it was known up front that once customers have a few petabytes in one particular cloud, they were less incentivized to move.

        • The core parts have open replacements that people could host themselves, but few people even know about it. Managers believe there is lots of lock-in, even were it isn't true!

          • that people could host themselves

            So the 'easy' solution to ubiquitous cloud services is to....leave the cloud? How is that not EXACTLY what OP said in trying to leave MS in the 80s/90s?

            • So the 'easy' solution to ubiquitous cloud services is to....leave the cloud?

              The easy solution is to use generic cloud services, and avoid proprietary features. You can still do anything you need to do. If you do use proprietary features, you should isolate those features from your core code. My company uses AWS Lambda, but we use it because it is cheaper, not for the features, and the interface is in a single stub file. If the cost goes up, we will dump it. We don't do anything in the cloud that we can't do on a smaller scale on our own local server.

              How is that not EXACTLY what OP said in trying to leave MS in the 80s/90s?

              If you ran a business in th

            • I was addressing the issue of platform lock. Perhaps I should have been more clear that I meant there are API-compatible alternatives that you can drop in. You can put them on a cloud, or not, when they're under your own control. Don't just assume that you have to give away the crown jewels just to make it up into the cloud!

        • by Xest ( 935314 )

          "You could port the custom _____ system your company made targeting AWS to Azure or something else... however unless the system was architected deliberately from the beginning with the idea of portability (which most cloud services are not)."

          Has it ever been any different? How is this different to writing software for OS' like Windows or MacOS? If you want portability you deliberately have to plan for it.

          At least with most cloud providers though the functionality to support portability is inherent - you can

        • The dirty little secret of many cloud services is they are sticky... deliberately so.

          You could port the custom _____ system your company made targeting AWS to Azure or something else... however unless the system was architected deliberately from the beginning with the idea of portability (which most cloud services are not).

          Even if the platform is easy to re-target, the underlying data may not be.

          I've been involved in projects where it was known up front that once customers have a few petabytes in one particular cloud, they were less incentivized to move.

          It sounds like you speak from experience. I have no experience with web development or cloud computing but would have thought that it would be wise to craft these web apps to avoid lock in. The underlying technology - Linux - is (or could be) common among providers. In addition to ensuring competition, I understand that some big projects are hosted on multiple cloud providers to provide resilience should one provider have an outage. That implies that the data is available to different providers more or less

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Yeah, and if Windows failed to provide a good service, customers could have gone elsewhere without much trouble.
        There was macOS, there was OS/2, there was Linux, and probably more, depending on the time we're talking about.

        Yet they didn't!

        People could also use use some of the many other social networks. But they use Facebook.

        That is the point here. People always imply the idealistic magical "free market". But in reality, every for-profit corporation is working their asses off to prevent the market from bein

        • If necessary via having their lobbyists be the politicians

          That's a pretty funny way of saying the government is the biggest barrier to a free market.

      • Microsoft is still as bad as they have ever been

        Microsoft was bad because they abused their dominance.

        No, Microsoft was harmful because they abused their dominance. We will never know why they went so bad so quickly, unless it is the influence of Bill Gates himself as is usually presumed.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Nah, they're worse than ever. Instead of abusing their Windows monopoly to push a browser (yawn), they're suing android handset manufacturers, suing people over patents for trivial things like FAT32, adding spyware into Windows and all kinds of other nasty stuff. I far prefer the old "bad" Microsoft!

      • And I prefer the non-totalitarian American - alas, long gone! - that produced the old bad Microsoft.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          Pure revisionism. If you think America was not totalitarian back then, you either weren't alive or conscious.

    • If they decided to be smarter about it, you're already claiming that are not as bad as they were.

      The problem with MS before was that were being naughtier than is supposed to be allowed! So until that "allowed" part gets enforced, it is very bad. And then if it is enforced successfully, as in the case of MS, then everything is less-bad again.

      It isn't a question of intent, it is a question of behavior!

      I sure hope they're as bad as MS were in the past, that implies that in the future they'll get a smack-down a

  • Will fail and be quickly pushed by underhanded means to Amazon 10.

    Amazon 10 will be miserable instead of outright infuriating.

    This will be spun as "Winning" by Amazon.

  • Hey Cringely (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 19, 2017 @01:44PM (#55581895)

    All of the Five (Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, Google, Facebook) are busy acting like the '90s Microsoft. That's because that's how the big money is made, right? Big money means big earnings, lots of customers and press coverage, big salaries, more head count (or keeping the count you have), fancy offices and fancy perks, well-attended conferences with plentiful speaking slots for your stars.

    All of their competitors (with the exception of Red Hat, and maybe a couple others I can't think of at the moment) would be doing the same, if they could.

    • by leonbev ( 111395 )

      Don't forget that the 90's "evil" Microsoft had something ridiculous like 90+ percent market share with both Windows and Office when it came to operating systems and desktop office software. AWS might be a powerful force, but it has a ton of major competitors like Azure, Google Cloud, and IBM BlueMix, plus many smaller ones like Alibaba and Rackspace. Some of those services are actually growing faster than AWS right now, and putting up enough of a fight to ensure that Amazon needs to lower their hosting cos

  • Terrible summary (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 19, 2017 @01:47PM (#55581911)

    Cloud computing isn't replacing personal computing. That's idiocy. Sure, some people will make more use of cloud apps, but personal computing is still alive and well.

    The summary also doesn't provide any details about how Amazon is actually behaving in a harmful manner. It's not at all clear to me that Amazon is actually behaving badly, or that they're more evil than, say, Microsoft Azure.

    Write a better summary. This one is garbage.

    • cloud computing is guaranteed to replace personal computing over the next three years

      As the AC above said, this is idiocy.

      Cringely points out most startups are already usings AWS -- and so are all 17 US intelligence agencies ("taking 350,000 PCs out of places like the CIA.")

      If you are replacing 350K PCs by cloud services then you were not doing "personal computing" to begin with.

    • Cloud computing isn't replacing personal computing. That's idiocy. Sure, some people will make more use of cloud apps, but personal computing is still alive and well.

      I don't know about that. Many if not most PCs these days run nothing other than a web browser. These computers end up being little more than souped-up graphical dumb terminals.

      • Right. If you still need a "souped-up graphical dumb terminal" then you still need a personal computer! All you're saying is, you can keep using the same PC for years, you don't need to upgrade a lot, or buy a stupid graphics card that doubles as a forced-air furnace.

        • The key difference is that this terminal is now not a source of lock in. If you have a web app, the odds are that the client side of it will run on a Windows PC, a Surface tablet, an iPad, Android tablet, or Chromebook without any issues. Porting the server side to a different cloud provider is harder, which is why this is the thing that matters for business now.
          • To me it seems like that was already true the past 25 years :)

            The hard part was never porting the code, the hard part was always the decision to allow the code to be ported!

            For companies, it was just a negotiation bluff that they finally became wise to after decades of engineers screaming it.

      • by Calydor ( 739835 )

        The main point people have for staying with Windows is gaming.

        If all game data - not just movements, but graphics, controls etc. have to be constantly streamed from THE CLOUD!!!!1! to your dumb terminal, how much fun do you think those games would be? How did that project Sony was doing a few years ago to let you play games online like that go?

    • by nasch ( 598556 )

      Here are his two main claims.

      1: This seventh generation of computing will, within 3-5 years, absorb the vast majority of the approximately $1 trillion we spend in the USA each year on IT.

      2: If I am correct, your PC three years from now won’t be a PC at all but a PC-shaped chunk of cloud accessed through many types of devices.

      1 doesn't seem that controversial, but also is not just about "personal computing". Most of that spending replaces servers, not PCs. 2 strikes me as quite vague. What does he m

  • Not like Microsoft (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    I work at Amazon at AWS. One of our main principles is customer obsession - we try REALLY hard not to break any customers' workflows. Sometimes it means supporting awkward API features misconceived more than 10 years ago.

    For big customers we also try to bend over backwards to accommodate them. "Pain to deal'? Hardly. There's a reason why CIA has chosen Amazon over IBM.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      "I work at Amazon at AWS. One of our main principles is customer obsession - we try REALLY hard not to break any customers' workflows. Sometimes it means supporting awkward API features misconceived more than 10 years ago."

      You literally just described Microsoft, right after saying "Not like Microsoft".

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Microsoft and IBM do the same thing with compatibility modes going back many releases, often 15 years or more. Google and FB, fuggedubit.

    • by mnemotronic ( 586021 ) <<mnemotronic> <at> <netscape.net>> on Sunday November 19, 2017 @02:18PM (#55582025) Homepage Journal

      I work at Amazon at AWS. One of our main principles is customer obsession - we try REALLY hard not to break any customers' workflows. Sometimes it means supporting awkward API features misconceived more than 10 years ago. For big customers we also try to bend over backwards to accommodate them. "Pain to deal'? Hardly. There's a reason why CIA has chosen Amazon over IBM.

      Supporting legacy is a pain but helps with customer retention which, in turn, makes the sales guys happy and adds to the bottom line. It can have unintended consequences as "old API think" can interfere with "the new way of doing things". In an attempt to support old and new, a product can become contorted, like someone with a bad knee who can't afford a replacement or doesn't want surgery. They learn to walk funny to relieve the knee pain and, as a result, develop hip, spine and neck problems.

      Any input on this paragraph from the article [cringely.com]:

      Tech companies behave this way because most employees are young and haven’t worked anywhere else and because the behavior reflects the character of the ounder. If the boss tells you to beat up customers and partners and it’s your first job out of college, then you beat up customers and partners because that’s the only world you know.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        I work at Amazon at AWS. One of our main principles is customer obsession - we try REALLY hard not to break any customers' workflows. Sometimes it means supporting awkward API features misconceived more than 10 years ago.

        For big customers we also try to bend over backwards to accommodate them. "Pain to deal'? Hardly. There's a reason why CIA has chosen Amazon over IBM.

        Supporting legacy is a pain but helps with customer retention which, in turn, makes the sales guys happy and adds to the bottom line. It can have unintended consequences as "old API think" can interfere with "the new way of doing things". In an attempt to support old and new, a product can become contorted, like someone with a bad knee who can't afford a replacement or doesn't want surgery. They learn to walk funny to relieve the knee pain and, as a result, develop hip, spine and neck problems.

        Different AWS AC here. This is why we have a number of leadership principles [amazon.jobs], another of which is 'Invent and Simplify', to try and avoid complex solutions due to legacy cruft.

        (Note that some of the names of the leadership principles are in "Amazon speak", and you may need more context to understand them. For example, "Disagree and Commit" is specifically intended to address "analysis paralysis" which often happens in big companies. Amazon tries very hard to ensure that teams can be as independent as possib

    • by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Sunday November 19, 2017 @04:20PM (#55582673) Journal

      I work at Amazon at AWS. One of our main principles is customer obsession - we try REALLY hard not to break any customers' workflows. Sometimes it means supporting awkward API features misconceived more than 10 years ago.

      So, exactly like Microsoft in the mid '90s then? Remember Windows 95, which would detect SimCity binaries and defer returning memory to the OS when running them so that a use-after-free bug that worked fine in DOS didn't crash in Windows 95? Or any of the other few hundred hacks that they had? Or the security nightmare of Windows XP that came from relaxing the Windows NT security policies to avoid breaking code written for Windows 95? I'd be hard pressed to think of a company that's invested more than Microsoft in avoiding breaking third-party code. None of this was for altruistic reasons - legacy Win16 and then Win32 applications were what kept people buying Windows. Break them, and porting them or rewriting them to work on new Windows suddenly becomes a thing that businesses evaluate alongside porting them to another OS (or turning them into web apps).

    • by kriston ( 7886 )

      Disappointing your post was downvoted so much. I have dealt with AWS directly and they really are customer obsessed.

  • I thought running Microsoft software was the main purpose of Microsoft's cloud.

    Thought Amazon's cloud was more a generic compute thing for whatever software

    • by jon3k ( 691256 )
      Yes and no. Microsoft offers some SaaS products but also offers IaaS/PaaS products that compete with Amazon via the Azure platform.
  • by Archtech ( 159117 ) on Sunday November 19, 2017 @02:27PM (#55582057)

    "I cannot accept your canon that we are to judge Pope and King unlike other men, with a favourable presumption that they did no wrong. If there is any presumption it is the other way against holders of power, increasing as the power increases. Historic responsibility has to make up for the want of legal responsibility. Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority: still more when you superadd the tendency or the certainty of corruption by authority. There is no worse heresy than that the office sanctifies the holder of it".

    - Lord Acton (Letter to Bishop Creighton, 1887)

    Lord Acton was one of the good guys. He corresponded briefly with General Robert E. Lee, so I suppose any statues to him must be torn down. Nevertheless, he enunciated one of the great and eternal truths about politics.

    • This has not always been the case. It went like this:

      * As humanity grew, communities got far more people than Dunbar's number, and then even society even got far more communities than Dunbar's number.
      * As a direct result, people can't see other people, or even whole communities, as separate entities anymore.
      * This is equivalent to anonymization. The individual cannot be recognized anymore. One can't see the tree in the forest. One can't even see the forest in the forests..
      * But anonymity means, that one can

    • It was good the Traitor General Lee's property was taken over by the Union.

      Traitor General also renounced the confederate cause, apologized and applied to become the citizen of the united states. But the Secretary of State took that letter as a personal souvenir and did not grant him citizenship. The traitor died as the traitor. Later some political flunkies seeking racist fringe vote restored Lee's citizenship posthumously.

      Go ahead and venerate racists. Research shows nerdy white boys who believed girl

    • by mjwx ( 966435 )

      He corresponded briefly with General Robert E. Lee, so I suppose any statues to him must be torn down.

      If any of them were put up by racists years after his death, yep, tear them down. A lot of the Jackson and Lee statues were erected in the Jim Crow era.

      I believe they belong in a museum where they are objects of education and cultural significance.

  • He says AWS is a pain to deal with. He doesn’t offer a single example or link or comparison to back that up. The whole thing is XYZ commentator says XYZ new company reminds him of XYZ old company. Ok, thanks for that, but I can't really use that information because it isn't really information at all.

  • Hah! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Halster ( 34667 ) <haldouglas@gmaiAUDENl.com minus poet> on Sunday November 19, 2017 @03:13PM (#55582295) Homepage

    This is THE most weak premise for an article I've seen in a long time. Calling it clickbait is too good.

    In the 90's Microsoft was dominant because it was the main platform for OSes on devices, because it had tie-ins with it's other products, because device makers had nowhere else to go, and because although it's software was not the greatest it was where all the development was happening.

    Google is the new Microsoft, not Amazon.

    • by Tablizer ( 95088 )

      Google and Amazon are fighting over who will be the next Microsoft. Maybe they both will: there's no limit to jerkhood.

    • In the 90's Microsoft was dominant because it was the main platform for OSes on devices, because of bribery and corruption.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Google is the new Microsoft, not Amazon.

      True. Amazon is the new Walmart.

    • Microsoft's 90s domination was mainly because of the way they first rode on IBM's coattails and then when the time was right screwed them over by taking the side of all the companies who made clones. The problem however wasn't that they were dominant, but the ways in which they tried to ensure the continuation of that domination and spread it to other markets.

      Rather than just making better products than their competitors, a foreign concept for a company whose first big success was buying a CP/M ripoff an
  • Cringely points out most startups are already usings AWS

    Is this actually true? Where does he get this info?

  • by boudie2 ( 1134233 ) on Sunday November 19, 2017 @03:26PM (#55582387)
    "If it's good enough for the CIA it's good enough for you." Now if that doesn't close the deal nothing will.
  • Don't bet on it (Score:4, Insightful)

    by nehumanuscrede ( 624750 ) on Sunday November 19, 2017 @04:27PM (#55582703)

    "cloud computing is guaranteed to replace personal computing over the next three years"

    First: I don't trust the cloud. Until the CEO's are held accountable for data breaches ( eg jail time ) then I will not be trusting my day to day data with any cloud provider.

    Second: The US of A is going to have to make some serious improvements in broadband ( I would say at least 100Mbps symmetrical with no data caps ) before this can even become something more than wishful thinking.

    Third: My local system will continue to work just fine offline. ISP goes down, or has some crazy troubles, I can still get work done. Not so well if everything I need is online somewhere. I deal with this already on a smaller scale via the VPN I use to connect to the corporate network. My ISP goes stupid, I may as well drive into the office or bust out the smartphone and fire up a tether. Otherwise, no work gets done.

    The mega-ISP's certainly aren't going to go along with this without being forced so the whole idea of " replacing desktop computing with a cloud based one " is laughable given the current environment.

    • by nasch ( 598556 )

      The US of A is going to have to make some serious improvements in broadband before this can even become something more than wishful thinking.

      Unless you're thinking of replacing an intranet system, it makes no difference. Whatever the data is will be sent over the internet, whether the server is in your own data center or Amazon's.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      First: I don't trust the cloud. Until the CEO's are held accountable for data breaches ( eg jail time ) then I will not be trusting my day to day data with any cloud provider.

      So, did you also avoid using computers because the computer manufacturers weren't held accountable for breaches of the data stored on them? Or did you avoid using databases because the software vendors weren't held accountable for breaches of data where the default security was disabled?

      (Yes, there have been a number of "data breaches" of data stored on S3, but this is purely due to misconfiguration by the customer; the default S3 bucket permissions are restrictive, and AWS has released tools to assist in a

    • Aside from the hyperbole of asking for jail time on something that could be attributed to simple negligence, why does having a stricter punishment make you more likely to trust someone? Microsoft faces a 40 million dollar fine from EU if it is found out that someone's "right to be forgotten" wasn't done property and fully cleaned up,

  • by Anonymous Coward

    the old Microsoft of the 1990s. You remember -- the Bad Microsoft...

    I remember that very clearly. Feels like it was only a year ago or so. Suddenly everyone was complaining that their computer had been upgraded to Windows 10 behind their backs. From one day to the next, Microsoft went from being the company that used to be popular to being the distributor of the most infectious malware outbreak in history.

    Is it really that long ago? The 1990'es sounds more like the time when people actually liked Microsoft.

  • AWS is certainly dominant, but it is clear that Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform are very serious competitors, especially if you want to build container-based hybrid cloud solutions instead of being locked-in to some of the AWS advanced messaging/DB/serverless solutions. The competition is fierce and AWS appears to be working hard to do what it has to do for customers to get their business.

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