Mini-Microsoft Cutting Room Floor

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Everyone has forgotten about Microsoft - New comment on Microsoft's 2008 - What's Going Well?.

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "Microsoft's 2008 - What's Going Well?":

It's not that Microsoft is no longer percieved as the bad guy, it's that Microsoft is no longer percieved. Period. Nobody notices you guys anymore; we just don't care.

So the Zune may eventually turn into a viable iPod also-ran. Big whoop, there's not exactly a shortage of mp3 players out there. Eventually, Vista may become a viable replacement for XP (although SP1 isn't it). XP itself took a while to become a viable replacement for Windows 2000. So what? The OS is infrastructure, nobody gets excited about plumbing anymore. We just expect it to work and stay out of our way. Eventually the next release of your office software may get beaten into shape to work as well as the previous version, yada yada. Is the difference between me and Terry Pratchett that he has a better word processor? Is the difference between Warren Buffet and me that Buffett has better spreadsheet software?

Even the business models you point to, Google and Facebook and such, are old news. They exist. The niche they serve is currently filled. "Maybe we can eventually figure out how to do it as well as they do" is not a rallying cry anybody pays attention to.

Microsoft used to be the big bad putting everybody out of business, and was worth attention as a threat. But the dot-com bust took away half that fear, and the speed of the internet took away the rest. You didn't render Yahoo irrelevant, Google did. You didn't trash Livejournal, Six Apart alienated half its user base before selling the corpse to the Russian mafia. The failure of the PS3 was entirely Sony's fault (they promoted Ken Kutaragi to management rather than just letting him do his thing as an engineer), and CompUSA going under had nothing to do with you either. Microsoft's not even interesting as a bogeyman anymore.

There's also no strong personality behind microsoft anymore. Gates and Ballmer have had retirement pending for so many years I don't even know if they still plan to leave this year, but I don't see what difference it makes if they stay either. At one point Ray Ozzie was going to replace them, then it was going to be some roman Triumvirate, and then I lost track. I can tell you who the person is behind successful movies or television shows (Jos Whedon's done a bunch, Dr. Who wouldn't be back without Russel T. Davies, for House it's both David Shore and Hugh Laurie). They're always somebody who made the success happen. But who is the person behind any modern Microsoft product, successful or not? Who would the current Office iteration not be the same without? Browser? OS? Is there any one person that actually _matters_ to those projects, or are they all faceless interchangeable cogs?

Gaming's all consoles now: my TV has a PS2 hooked up to it (mostly used as a DVD player) and a Wii (mostly used to watch Youtube videos via the built-in browser, which turns out to be opera although the only reason know this is it says so while loading). My wife was going to upgrade to Vista if that was the only way to run Spore, but now she has a Macintosh laptop (she's a webmaster for a paper game publisher). She didn't mean to leave Windows behind but just hasn't bothered to set her desktop back up since we moved over the summer. I bought her VMWare for christmas (discounted at CompUSA's going out of business sale), but she hasn't bothered to set it up yet. (None of the three old XP cds we've managed to dig up will install under it, and there's no way we're buying _another_ copy of an OS we already have a half-dozen licenses to.) My brother's a nontechnical salesbeing who used to sell .NET widgets to people, these days his new day job has him working with Red Hat Enterprise instead. When I visited my grandmother in october she mentioned being so deeply unhappy with the new computer my uncle had recently bought her (which was also the first vista system I'd actually seen in person outside of a computer store, her old one was Windows 2000, and no she couldn't name either OS) that she was actually considering buying a Macintosh. This is a woman who finally stopped sending email in all caps last year. She mentioned this while trying to scan in an old family photo to send me a copy (and having three different things go wrong in the process), but it wasn't _important_ to her. It came up exactly once in a week long visit.

The lack of vitriol aimed at Microsoft is because the general populace has mostly forgotten about the company. Heck, even the Linux geeks have forgotten about you now that SCO's gone bankrupt. (They're happily buying preinstalled Ubuntu systems from Dell or whatever it is Wal-mart sold out of before christmas, probably other places too. At the moment they're squeeing about the One Laptop Per Child thing.)

Microsoft is not as evil as the white house, not as entertainingly self-destructive as paris or britney (or the democrats in congress), and your products are all commodities most people would _prefer_ to use 10 year old versions of rather than the current stuff if it weren't for the security holes. Vista and Office are as "new and improved" as a tube of toothpaste making the same claims.

Heck, PC operating systems are old news to _Apple_. They sucked their engineers off of Leopard (delaying its release for months) to work on the iPhone. That thing was shiny and exciting. The next leopard release? (Or ocelot, or whatever it is now?) Who cares?

(There's some good stuff in there but too much of it is loaded with aspiration for Microsoft to be a forgotten company - what evidence is there of that?)

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