Jun 08, 2004

Microsoft's Sacred Cash Cow...

An interesting article from a former Microsoft employee appeared in Seattle Weekly, entitled Microsoft's Sacred Cash Cow.

One of the things mentioned in this article is Microsoft's obliviousness to the pain of upgrading, and this is one of those things that it unfortunately quite common. Customer's upgrade paths are not planned, or if they are planned, are planned at the end of the development cycle. This is one area of that I ask about, and this question alone brings up some rather interesting answers.

When a user upgrades, it would be nice for the user to be completely oblivious to the fact they have upgraded their systems, although they will be presented potentially new interfaces and new options. But the point is more for the user to keep their previous preferences (where those make sense). Many users do not know where to set their preferences, and either fall onto the preference by accident or have a "guru" come and set the preference up. When users upgrade, they do not know what functions they use in an application or what options they have previously set. Because of this, it is important that the new version of the application just seamlessly install onto the machine and equally seamlessly integrate with the existing configuration.

Although I presently do not have access to a MacOS X box, MacOS X is something that I have read and kept up-to-date about. My wife will probably upgrade her MacOS 9 box in September, and I am looking forward to playing on it.

AFAIK the only Open Source from Apple, however, is the Darwin kernel, which is interestingly available for both the Mac platform and the x86 platform. Support for the latter was added simply to prove that the kernel could be easily ported to another platform. The article kind of implies that OSX is made of a lot more open source software, but perhaps what he is purporting is how most open source software is being ported to OSX because of its standard UNIX implementation. Projects that immediately come to mind are Apache httpd, MySQL, and OpenOffice, all of which compete against Microsoft products. But the quote about not having to reinvent the wheel every three years is rather interesting, especially with things like Joel on Software's Fire and Motion discusses Microsoft's introduction of ODBC, then RDO, then DAO, then ADO, and then OLEDB, and now ADO.NET!

This is not to say that this kind of stuff does not occur in open source software. I mean, you have KDE and Gnome which provide similar facilities, but one is not really replacing the other. But then again, you have the entire Firefox's Theme Fiasco, The Mozilla Phoenix name Conflict, amongst others.

There are actually several people that are comparing Google and Microsoft, specifically in its arena to innovate; There is really no comparison between large corporations such as Microsoft and lean, mean companies like Google. Of course, as the saying goes, if you can't beat them, join them, and so Microsoft has tried, but their offer was refused, and has since waged war like the old Microsoft verse Netscape. If I ever see a "This page is optimized to be searched by..." icon...

In related news, Wired's March 2004 has a lot to say about Google. Google has been in the news a bit lately, between its Gmail's 1GB Free E-mail service and, my personal favourite, the free blogger.com interface around the same time that MovableType starts charging...

All in all, I found the article very interesting. It takes a lot to move a huge company like Microsoft, but if IBM can do it, more companies definitely can.

Filed In