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Microsoft, the Walking Dead

Over a year ago Paul Graham caused quite some uproar calling  Microsoft Dead.   Unlike in the 90′s, none of his startup Founders fear (or even respect) Microsoft.  They have their eyes on Google and other startups – so Microsoft must be dead.  Cash-rich, wildly successful – just not a future force to reckon with.

Today I read evidence that Paul Graham is right.  Todd Bishop produced a Bill Gates email from 2003, in which the Microsoft CEO complains about his own systems usability (or lack of).

—- Original Message —-

From: Bill Gates
Sent: Wednesday, January 15, 2003 10:05 AM
To: Jim Allchin
Cc: Chris Jones (WINDOWS); Bharat Shah (NT); Joe Peterson; Will Poole; Brian Valentine; Anoop Gupta (RESEARCH)
Subject: Windows Usability Systematic degradation flame

I am quite disappointed at how Windows Usability has been going backwards and the program management groups don’t drive usability issues.

Let me give you my experience from yesterday.

I decided to download (Moviemaker) and buy the Digital Plus pack … so I went to Microsoft.com.

This site is so slow it is unusable.

Someone decided to trash the one part of Windows that was usable? The file system is no longer usable. The registry is not usable. This program listing was one sane place but now it is all crapped up.

So after more than an hour of craziness and making my programs list garbage and being scared and seeing that Microsoft.com is a terrible website I haven’t run Moviemaker and I haven’t got the plus package.

The lack of attention to usability represented by these experiences blows my mind. I thought we had reached a low with Windows Network places or the messages I get when I try to use 802.11

I tried to selectively quote from this email, but it’s impossible. This email is a goldmine, you have to read it in its entirety.

It sounds like John Doe Windows User spilling out all his frustration with a useless, unfriendly system.  Or like me, ranting about Vista.   Which brings me to my point: although we’re blinded by the sales success, a result of monopoly, nothing changes the fact that Vista is widely considered a fiasco.   If this is the best the world’s richest company could come up with 5 years after the CEO’s angry rant – well, that speaks for itself.  Microsoft is dead. Rich, powerful, but without a future.  A Walking Dead.

(And now you can call me crazy.)

Update (6/25):  Jeff Nolan feels sorry for Citizen Bill: Of course he’s right about the usability… too bad he can’t switch to a Mac.

Phil Wainewright is wondering whether Gates is “a secret cloud convert, or have I been drinking too much of my own Kool-Aid again?”

Michael Krigsman points to this PDF which shows some of the follow-up email correspondence – you’d think after the CEO /Chairman rants so explicitely, they rush to find a solution. Instead, what we find is fingerpointing, politics, total corporate inertia.  That’s what kills (formerly great) organizations.

Update (10/7/2010) – Good read @ Computerworld:  Microsoft’s coming heart-attack moment

Comments

  1. My only problem with all these is that I still did not find any other OS that works as well as Windows does – that just speaks volumes of the other OS-es – or that could really replace some of the better MS applications.

    Have to admit that I have not tried MacOS yet, but given the price they put on the Macintosh here, I won’t buy one for a while.

    So, lets concede that Microsoft is dead. Quite possible. Who is the successor?
    Maybe there will come someone who can resurrect Microsoft – not likely, but possible.
    Or someone who will be able to create a good replacement for the MS apps.

    Waiting here :)

  2. Well, they say that Linux is free – as long as your time worth nothing. Mac OS is not bad, but it cannot always match the breadth of apps on Windows.
    Like it or not, MS & Win are here to stay for a while. They might be walking dead, but being quite rich and still walking despite being dead is not that bad a deal.
    At least for a while.

  3. Ryan Ackley says:

    Windows as a consumer OS is dying. I think it’s because of the internet and game consoles. Most of what I use a computer for is playing games and using the internet.

    Now, the most important function of an operating system is hosting a web browser. I’ve found I can pretty much switch between Linux, Mac, and Windows and still be productive. Although, I still get headaches dealing with the differences. I think “Usability” is a myth. It comes down to doing things the way you are used to doing them.

    Microsoft does a good job of putting a lot of eggs in many baskets. I don’t think they will die. They will be another behemoth like IBM.

  4. Good post Zoli, in much agreement with you. Here’s what I wrote yesterday on why I feel the PC industry is up against a disruptive shift: http://www.livedigitally.com/2008/06/24/computing-and-the-innovators-dilemma/

  5. >Well, they say that Linux is free – as long as your time worth nothing

    That’s crap. I get can Linux installed and be productive in a small faction of the time it takes to install Windows, leave alone the tons of updates and apps I would still need to install.

  6. ConceptJunkie.

    It took me about the same amount of time to install Ubuntu 8.04 as XP.
    And what is a pain that two of the programs I want will not run under Ubuntu (MS Money and Outlook) and no, there are no real, 100% substitutes for these.
    And then I did not even get into the playing games part :)

    As for the updates – well, I spent most of my time for the first two days to install udates and apps on Ubuntu. Funny.

  7. Roland:

    Checkout Crossover Office, a commercial fork of Wine that is geared towards compatibility with MS Office. I can’t speak for MS Money, but I think Outlook is utter garbage. But that’s just my opinion.

    Rick

    p.s. Sure there are tons of updates, but you don’t need to reboot every 5 minutes for 2 hours to install them.

  8. Actually, ConceptJunkie, I was surprised when Ubuntu told me “you will have to restart your computer for the changes to take effect”. And not only once, it happened about 10-15 times while I was trying to install all that I need.
    That was a new thing from a Linux system.

    Outlook maybe utter garbage (it definitely has some problems, not as many as Evolution or KOrganizer, but has), but currently the only Calendar/Contact app beside Lotus that can synchronize with every single mobile phone/palm device, has Xing and LinkedIn support, and has a usable Contact sheet.

    I will check Crossover Office, if it can connect with Nokia Suit, can use the LinkedIn plugin and the Xing plugin, then it may can replace Outlook.

  9. Ok, missread the Crossover Office part, sorry.
    But if I use that, and install MSOffice, that still does not help with the “same as MS just free” promise.
    It’s not free anymore :)

Trackbacks

  1. [...] Zoliblog amplifies the point mercilessly: Microsoft is dead. Rich, powerful, but without a future.  A Walking Dead. [...]

  2. [...] Zoli Erdos: Michael Krigsman points to this PDF which shows some of the follow-up email correspondence – you’d think after the CEO /Chairman rants so explicitely, they rush to find a solution. Instead, what we find is fingerpointing, politics, total corporate inertia.  That’s what kills (formerly great) organizations. [...]

  3. [...] @ Computerworld about Microsoft’s coming heart-attack moment prompted me to resuscitate an old post from my personal blog. We’ve long forgotten all the pain inflicting on us by Vista (really? can we ever forget?), but [...]

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