Very much alive – vs- Not dead yet

This is a comment I’ve submitted to a post titled “Very much alive.” which is in turn references “Microsoft is Dead” (see also “Microsoft is Dead: The Cliffs Notes“).

I think there’s a fundamental difference between “very much alive” and just “not dead yet”. Where is the enthusiasm for Windows releases compared to days gone by? How many people actually *like* Microsoft products rather than settle for or merely tolerate them? Perhaps it would almost be apt to compare Microsoft to the Spanish Empire before the Spanish-American War or a more recent example, to Terri Schiavo… sure she was alive, breathing, her vital organs functioning while she lay in the hospital, with most of her brain dead, unable to think or even feel in any meaningful way.

So really, when did she ‘die’; in 2005 or 1990?

As far as your “list of 10 things which people thought kill Microsoft and haven’t”, consider three that are still a threat to it (trying to pull the feeding tube to follow-through on the analogy)

* The Internet

A disruptive technology that Microsoft still hasn’t fully adapted to. The pathway of Windows malware too numerous to count. The pathway of cross-platform software too numerous to count, such as…

* The codebase formerly called Netscape

The king is dead, long live Firefox! European usage is rapidly approaching 50% in some countries. In Germany its a full third of internet users. Without an IE stranglehold on browsers, websites will be increasingly tested with multiple browsers and written to standards not dictated by Microsoft. Without a need for IE, what other MS software can be traded in? If you’re willing to switch out parts for non-MS software, especially software libre, then its not hard to consider swaping it all out and jumping ship, e.g. to…

* Linux

A drop-in replacement for Windows on almost all computers. Some of the best distros (e.g. Ubuntu) are free and are arguably better than Windows. About the only thing MS can claim they run better are proprietary games… Though one wonders to what extent Windows competes against the Wii, PS3 and even the Xbox360 which are specifically designed for that purpose :)

The Dell announcement from not too long ago is just another indicator that MS is on the “not dead yet” side rather than “very much alive”. Personally I look forward to the day Microsoft dies; I will agree that “wishful thinking” will never kill MS though. What will are supporting non-MS products among my friends and family. Vista will never enter my house. I will never install Windows again nor pay the ‘Microsoft tax’ on new computers. If my wife doesn’t want to use Linux, I will buy her a Mac. When my daughter gets older, if she wants a game system, it won’t be an Xbox.

I’ll leave my condolences for the death of MS now so I won’t have to send them later.

Update March 28, 2008:

Bill Gates, once the richest man in the world, slipped to second late in 2007 and is now third.

And then there’s a study of the strength of Microsoft’s brand power:


Microsoft’s brand power has been in sharp decline over the past four years, an indication the company is losing credibility and mindshare with U.S. business users, according to a recent study by market research firm CoreBrand. […] Microsoft dropped from number 12 in the ranking of the most powerful U.S. company brands in 2004 to number 59 [in 2007]. In 1996, the company ranked number 1 in brand power among 1,200 top companies in about 50 industries […] what’s significant in Microsoft’s case is that the decline has been consistent over a number of years, and has plunged dramatically in a brief time. “When you see something decline with increasing velocity, it’s a concern,” he said. Gregory could only speculate as to why Microsoft’s reputation has been declining, since his firm does not ask people that specific question. He said the “underwhelming” response to Windows Vista might be one reason

Update May 29, 2008: From an article titled “Microsoft Chiefs Talk Past, Look To Future

It wasn’t exactly a formal hand-off, but Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer shared a stage Tuesday night in what could be regarded as a symbolic transition of power as Gates gets ready to retire from his full-time job at the software giant. […] Earlier in the evening, I had an opportunity to talk with Gates about his fondest memories at Microsoft. […] When I asked about the high points, he said “Windows 95 was a nice milestone.” […] but didn’t mention Vista.

Its almost like a high school football star who didn’t do much after graduation except coast along on memories of winning the ‘big game’…

Update June 23, 2008: I just noticed that MSFTextrememakeover made his final post. And what a doozie!  From the conclusion:

As a company, MSFT will obviously continue on for some time. But I will be surprised if 3-5 years from now (maximum), growth in the cash cows hasn’t come to a screeching halt and the company hasn’t been forced to layoff at least 10% of its employees.

The rest of it is a catalogue of MS failures; something of an early obit…  A good read and a reminder to dump the stock!

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4 Responses to “Very much alive – vs- Not dead yet”

  1. James O'Neill Says:

    And for completeness, here is the response your comment got:

    I’d say we’re somewhat better than being in a vegetative state. I’ll give you a different analogy – because you’re describing threats. I go scuba diving and I could die doing it. That’s a RISK. Make bad enough decisions and my next dive is to six feet in a wooden wetsuit. But I’m not dead yet. In fact the diving makes me feel all the more alive. You’ve named risks not a cause of death.

    The internet is certainly a disruptive technology. “Pathway of Windows Malware too numerous to count” ? Linux distros have more vulnerabilities which take longer to patch than Windows. Linus T’s “with many eyes all bugs are shallow” doesn’t work. “With many shallow eyes all bugs remain” is closer. It’s far more fun to create new stuff than patch old stuff – how do you FORCE an open source developer to do ANYTHING.

    Firefox; is interesting, not so much for the whole is “Microsoft dead” or not thing, but because it disproves the whole “You can’t compete with Microsoft” argument. If people like what you produce they will use it. Firefox has true fans not just the “anything but Microsoft” bigots.

    On which subject… Someone who says “Vista will never enter my house” has clearly closed his mind, and can really have no idea how things stand with Microsoft.

    To answer your question “Where is the enthusiasm for Windows releases compared to days gone by?” I’ve seen every Microsoft OS from DOS 3.1 and Windows 1.03 forwards. Windows 2000 was greeted with apathy by people exhausted by the whole Millennium issue. XP was a point release to 2000. NT 4 was just a new shell on 3.1/3.5/3.51
    Vista is getting more excitement than any OS I’ve worked with – although I may be meeting more positive people.

    No-one has produced a survey to show that Linux and its apps make people more productive in business than Windows or Mac-os and theirs. Photography and media applications for the home are miles better on Windows and Mac-os platforms in the home.

    Sensible people weigh up the costs and benefits and decide. Do I get the best combination of games for my money with a Wii or an Xbox 360. Do I get the best productivity tool / home media tool for my money with Windows Mac or Linux ? etc.

  2. Limulus Says:

    And my reply…

    > “anything but Microsoft” bigots.

    Let me tell you a little bit about my personal computer usage history; I started out in MS-DOS, used Windows 3.11, 98 and XP (this spans nearly two decades). In short, up until ~2 years ago I had never used a non-MS OS at home and had only rarely been exposed to others outside. I, like most people, was a Microsoft customer. About a decade ago I started using the internet (in Windows 3.11 :) Towards the end of my Windows 98 usage, I began to notice that my old copy of Netscape was just not rendering sites well anymore and after switching to IE that using Windows on the internet began to require a bit of armoring. By the time I switched to XP it was increasingly clear to me that the internet was not a safe place to surf anymore; IE 6 quickly became outdated, but IE 7 was years away. I began to regularly use anti-malware apps to detect what was getting through via IE. Using Windows became an exercise in paranoia; was my system really clean of viruses and malware? Scanning was a chore. It was not fun and I really resented having to do it so often to feel a little bit of security. When Firefox came out I gave it a try and liked it a lot; I still needed IE for a few sites, but I was able to worry less about malware. One of the major gripes I had with XP was that after Firefox improved and I was able to stop using IE, I could not remove it from my system (as could be done in 98). It sat there on my system as a potential vulnerability; I did not want it there, but I had no choice.

    This and several other things about Windows got me to try Linux. It was quite the contrast. For all the rough edges at the time, I realized that I actually enjoyed using it; I didn’t have the fear of malware like early in my usage of Windows 98 and if I didn’t like something about the system I could go in and change it. My neighbor, a nice older lady, had a Win 98 computer and didn’t know how to maintain it so I ended up volunteering after she had a bad experience with some sort of porn-popups in IE. That was quite a bit of work and when she got a new computer, I deleted XP and installed Linux on it and the amount of time I had to spend maintaining it dropped to almost nothing.

    I finally deleted my Windows partition about a year ago when I realized that I was booting into it for only two things: to apply security patches and to play with Google Earth… and Google had just released a Linux version.

    My neighbor’s daughter ran Windows XP and was having some trouble with it; I went over to her place and took a look and it was *infested* with malware. Linux went on that one too. She was happy and even got a few simple games she liked out of it too.

    In short, because of my experience using Windows, Microsoft lost me as a customer. And now that I am aware of the alternatives, I seriously doubt I’d go back based on technical merits. The MS Windows EULA compared to the GPL is practically reason enough to switch. What has likely lost me for as a Microsoft customer for life though, is what I had vague notions about before switching but have learned about in detail since; about “the bad, old Microsoft” as Paul Thurrott puts it (http://www.winsupersite.com/reviews/winvista_5308_05.asp)

    “the Microsoft that ran roughshod over competitors in order to gain market share at any cost. The Microsoft that forgot about customers in its blind zeal to harm competitors. The Microsoft, that frankly, all the Linux and Apple fanatics always imagined was out there, plotting and planning their termination. The Microsoft that threatens Windows fans with needless legal threats rather than reaching out and creating constructive relationships with the very people who prop up the company the most.”

    Thurrott stated that there were still ‘vestiges’ in the Windows Division. IMHO, Gates, and especially Ballmer, are primary among those ‘vestiges’, so until Microsoft purges itself of them, I can’t see things improving that much.

    > Linus T’s “with many eyes all bugs are shallow” doesn’t work. “With many shallow eyes all bugs remain” is closer. It’s far more fun to create new stuff than patch old stuff – how do you FORCE an open source developer to do ANYTHING.

    You don’t :) Perhaps in Redmond you have to ‘force your developers to do anything’, (to be fair to those at MS, they do have a giant bureaucracy to deal with; how many dozen people worked on the Vista shutdown menu? http://moishelettvin.blogspot.com/2006/11/windows-shutdown-crapfest.html) but in the open source world people do it because they want to. They use the programs they create; buggy software is no fun. And if you don’t like the pace at which, or direction of, things are getting done, you can offer to fix it yourself or fork the code.

    > On which subject… Someone who says “Vista will never enter my house” has clearly closed his mind, and can really have no idea how things stand with Microsoft.

    Besides the EULA (http://wendy.seltzer.org/blog/archives/2006/10/19/forbidding_vistas_windows_licensing_disserves_the_user.html), the thing that jumped out at me as a warning flag was an article about a year ago titled “Monthly Patch Tuesday gone with Vista says Microsoft” (http://www.itwire.com.au/content/view/4274/53/)

    At the time I commented about Vista as the unsinkable “Microsoft Titanic”; it seems now that ANI files are a little ice in the water BTW. How long do you think it will be before Vista ends up like 98 or XP and recovery involves “nuking the systems from orbit”? (http://www.theregister.co.uk/2006/04/05/ms_security_mea_culpa/)

    > Linux distros have more vulnerabilities which take longer to patch than Windows.

    What flavor is the Kool-aid in Redmond?

    > No-one has produced a survey to show that Linux and its apps make people more productive in business than Windows or Mac-os and theirs.

    “No-one has produced a survey”… Over the weekend, I went with a friend to her workplace to keep her company while she worked on the computers and ended up helping her install anti-malware apps to disinfect the (Windows) computers. My experience is that once you hook up a Windows machine to the internet, its only a matter of time before its infected with something. Having to go in on weekends to clean up malware is not my idea of ‘making people more productive in business’.

    > Sensible people weigh up the costs and benefits and decide.

    Done.

  3. Microsoft wants to buy Yahoo (teehee) « Limulus Says:

    […] “the biggest threats to a Microsoft-Yahoo deal are Microsoft and Yahoo. […] combining these two legendary bureaucracies, no matter what the synergy looks like in a press release, will be a nightmare in the already confused corridors of Santa Monica, Seattle and Sunnyvale. As we pointed out earlier this year, Microsoft’s culture is slow and cautious—and that’s the last thing Yahoo needs an injection of right now. […] Of course, Microsoft often moves slowly for a very good reason: It doesn’t want to cannibalize its cash cows. While Google can launch online spreadsheet and word processing applications, Microsoft can’t respond without damaging its powerful Office software business. Elsewhere, it’s more of the same: Everywhere Microsoft makes money, the Web poses almost intractable dilemmas.” […]

  4. The Microsoft Empire « Limulus Says:

    […] (e.g. Google and/or software libre), the Microsoft’s Empire, already showing its late-Spanish Empire-like-cracks, would begin to rapidly […]

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