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There is never a perfect time for this type of transition...
August 23, 2013 7:25 AM   Subscribe


 
In other news, sales of space heaters have skyrocketed deep in the bowels of Hell.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:27 AM on August 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


How he made it this long is a deep mystery. That place is on such a downward trajectory they'll need to get out the shovels soon.
posted by stopgap at 7:29 AM on August 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


[ULULATES INTERNALLY]
posted by boo_radley at 7:30 AM on August 23, 2013 [15 favorites]


Microsoft's stock price immediately jumped 8% on the news. (It's currently up about 6.6%).
posted by 1970s Antihero at 7:31 AM on August 23, 2013 [12 favorites]


Wow.

I might actually consider going back to that place, depending on how the next year or so goes over there.
posted by palomar at 7:31 AM on August 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


He tripled profits.

Introduced C#, Kinect.

He was the CEO of a vast corporation with considerable momentum and a huge huge install base to appease. Microsoft can't exactly pivot.

This is one of those rare instances were everyone has such a different perspective than me that it makes me almost question my opinion.
posted by Ad hominem at 7:33 AM on August 23, 2013 [21 favorites]


Steven A. Ballmer, who took over as chief executive of Microsoft in 2000 from its co-founder, Bill Gates, announced Friday he would retire from the company within the next 12 months.

Ballmer then clarified, "No, wait, 14 months. No, 30 seconds. No, three weeks. No, 25 years. No..."
posted by ZsigE at 7:34 AM on August 23, 2013 [63 favorites]


Yeah when I saw this morning's squirt on my Windows Zune Player 7, I was shocked as hell.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:34 AM on August 23, 2013 [14 favorites]


Ad hominem: He lost in mobile, and MS is in trouble because of that. WP could have been Android if they'd played their cards right.
posted by jaduncan at 7:35 AM on August 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


Introduced C#

Uh, so? I mean, is there a shadow world where this was a big profitable thing? Genuine question, I'm not trying to be snarky or anything. It's just not something I ever run into people using.
posted by aramaic at 7:35 AM on August 23, 2013


To be clearer about why they are in trouble: mobile is the growth area, and they do not represent either the top range models (a la Apple) or the mass market option with broad support.
posted by jaduncan at 7:37 AM on August 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Ad hominem: He lost in mobile, and MS is in trouble because of that. WP could have been Android if they'd played their cards right.

There is that. I'm as close to a fanboy as Microsoft has and even I hate my WP8 phone. Developing for it is a lesson in hoop jumping. Instead of making it easy, they make developers upgrade to Windows 8 64 bit. Oh, and it won't work in a VM because it needs hardware vitrualization.
posted by Ad hominem at 7:37 AM on August 23, 2013


Uh, so? I mean, is there a shadow world where this was a big profitable thing?

Yes, for developers.
posted by Ad hominem at 7:38 AM on August 23, 2013 [7 favorites]


I'm an Apple guy (no fanboy, just prefer their stuff) but I'm happy about this news. More and more I think Apple needs viable, innovative competition on numerous fronts, and Microsoft is not now and has not been that competition. I think Ballmer leaving can only have positive effects.
posted by nevercalm at 7:40 AM on August 23, 2013 [9 favorites]


I understand where you're coming from, but introducing C# and Kinect is a pretty short list of accomplishments for 13 years at the head of a massive tech company.
posted by kiltedtaco at 7:40 AM on August 23, 2013


When the Apple CEO appears onstage at MicroSoftDevCon via satellite link to announce a token $150 million investment for supporting Windows Mobile development tools, then I'll acknowledge that Microsoft has hit rock bottom.
posted by the painkiller at 7:40 AM on August 23, 2013 [23 favorites]


Windows 8 on PC hardware serves zero purpose.
posted by dglynn at 7:41 AM on August 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


but introducing C# and Kinect is a pretty short list of accomplishments for 13 years at the head of a massive tech company.

Well, I wasn't producing an exhaustive list so his list of accomplishments are not limited to those two things.

I make a living off C# and I personally believe MS will be remembered by future generations for Kinect, as much of a joke as we think it is now.
posted by Ad hominem at 7:42 AM on August 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


Uh, so? I mean, is there a shadow world where this was a big profitable thing?

Yes, for developers.


There's a tendency to ignore any language that doesn't have massive popular success. How many folks think that lua is a big deal, relative to the many who don't know it exists?
posted by Going To Maine at 7:43 AM on August 23, 2013


Microsoft switched from being a tech company to being a utility company under Ballmer. The utility was "desktop computers" and Microsoft succeeded in getting their desktop infrastructure on nearly ever desk. The problem is that other tech companies remained tech companies, and now the infrastructure is going to be far less centered on desktop machines.
posted by Llama-Lime at 7:43 AM on August 23, 2013 [9 favorites]


This is one of those rare instances were everyone has such a different perspective that it makes me almost question my opinion.

Vista. Zune. Windows Mobile. The Surface RT tablet. Windows 8.

Trying to buy Yahoo because they're obsessed about the threat from Google.

And that's just off the top of my head.
posted by Celsius1414 at 7:43 AM on August 23, 2013 [1 favorite]




This is a blow for pale, meaty dudes everywhere. Who will we toast with out hamburger sandwiches? Who will we salute with our pallid hands over our barrel chests?
posted by robocop is bleeding at 7:44 AM on August 23, 2013 [9 favorites]


I can't believe you put Kinect in the plus column.
posted by 2bucksplus at 7:45 AM on August 23, 2013


Yes, for developers.

Don't you mean DEVELOPERS!?
posted by colie at 7:46 AM on August 23, 2013 [27 favorites]


Vista. Zune. Windows Mobile. The Surface RT tablet. Windows 8.

Trying to buy Yahoo because they're obsessed about the threat from Google.

And that's just off the top of my head.


Google has had just as many failed initiatives.

The problem isn't one of failed initiatives, it is how those failures are perceived.

And despite all that profits tripled.

Really though, this is all just my opinion. They ain't paying me to defend them online so I'm not going to go to the mat to defend Balmer.
posted by Ad hominem at 7:47 AM on August 23, 2013 [6 favorites]


Bit of a shocker, that. I wonder who we will have to blame for MS misfortunes after he goes?

(Probably still Balmer, as the culture is leaving behind will remain toxic for a while.)
posted by Artw at 7:47 AM on August 23, 2013


MS need to get a reputation for not being nickle and diming liars and start doing exciting things again. It doesn't even matter if they beat Linux or other competitors in benchmarks on the server; it's been such a long procession of misleading bullshit that nobody believes them.

I feel they lost such a lot of trust in the tech crowd with all their early 90s antitrust stuff and then lost consumer trust with all the blue screen jokes followed by Vista and Win8. Who is left to love Microsoft, and why would they do so? There's no passion there, and it's a very long time since they were regarded as cool.
posted by jaduncan at 7:48 AM on August 23, 2013 [5 favorites]


That NYTimes article is quite harsh!
posted by OmieWise at 7:48 AM on August 23, 2013


I personally believe MS will be remembered by future generations for Kinect, as much of a joke as we think it is now.

In fifteen years, we meet up in a bar and we have this conversation again.
posted by griphus at 7:48 AM on August 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


Oversaw a succession of technologies intended to automate threading and database interface none of which lasted more than a few years.

After shouting "Developers, Developers, Developers," trashed the most popular software development environment in the history of computing, forcing developers to rewrite trillions of lines of code which wouldn't run on the alleged "new version," so they could pretend to be cross-platform and compete with Java, which then turned out not to be the Next Big Thing anyway.

Trashed the user interface for the most popular office suite in history costing billions in labor retraining to no good purpose and losing many customers to free alternatives that are suddenly more familiar to operate, with the result that .doc is no longer the de facto standard which you must must must be able to handle in business.

Failed, failed, and failed again in the phone and tablet and music player markets.

Managed to "succeed" in the gaming market if by "succeed" you mean "managing to keep a claw on a good fraction of the market while not making any real money."

Threw away the reasonably successful replacement for Windows XP when it was barely at stable release to try to leverage their desktop monopoly to go after the mobile market opened up by Apple, and so far failing miserably at that.
posted by localroger at 7:48 AM on August 23, 2013 [20 favorites]


Vista. Zune. Windows Mobile. The Surface RT tablet. Windows 8.

Vista: essentially Windows 7 except with an overactive security model due to public outcry about security in XP.
Zune: still considered a fantastic UI.
Windows Mobile: no longer supported and yet continues to dominate warehouses.

Windows RT (not the Surface per se) is a bold new direction towards the computer as appliance.

Sorry, but all I see is MS screwing up more from marketing and public pressure, but inherently these products were/are very good and have paved the way for the success of Windows 7, Xbox, Windows Phone and eventually RT.
posted by linux at 7:48 AM on August 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's not that Microsoft is doing terrible as that they are doing a half-assed job in so many different areas despite having great people, impressive R&D and more $$$ than a group of WOW gold farmers. For what I've read by ex-Microsoft employees, the company has a stifling bureaucracy and weak leadership, which makes me think that a new CEO will have to make extreme changes to the culture of Microsoft before they can truly move ahead. It's crazy but these days I see them as an underdog and would actually love to see their monopolistic ass making a spectacular comeback (using fair business practices, of course). That's how much I pity them. Pity? Microsoft? That is crazy.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 7:49 AM on August 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


WHO SAID SIT DOWN!?!?!?!?!?!?!?
posted by Strange Interlude at 7:50 AM on August 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


How's Azure doing for them? Again, serious question.
posted by aramaic at 7:51 AM on August 23, 2013


Bing! Say it! Bing! Bing! Bing!
posted by Admiral Haddock at 7:52 AM on August 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


How's Azure doing for them? Again, serious question

Well, I use it. It also Makes over a billion dollars. As does Office 365 I believe.
posted by Ad hominem at 7:53 AM on August 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sorry, but all I see is MS screwing up more from marketing and public pressure, but inherently these products were very good

This may be true, and would be in Ballmer's favor if he were CTO, but as CEO he owns the failure at whatever level it occurred, justly or not.
posted by novelgazer at 7:54 AM on August 23, 2013


Google has had just as many failed initiatives.

Ballmer isn't retiring from Google. We're talking about him and his mistakes.

Sorry, but all I see is MS screwing up more from marketing and public pressure

That's half the battle. At least half. And it's all under Ballmer's watch.
posted by Celsius1414 at 7:54 AM on August 23, 2013


Everybody I know who ever worked there, myself and my husband included, cheered at this news.
posted by KathrynT at 7:54 AM on August 23, 2013 [11 favorites]


MS will be remembered by future generations for Kinect, as much of a joke as we think it is now.

Well, that's emblematic of nearly everything MS has done in recent years. The tech behind Kinect should have been transformative but the implementation was cocked-up so badly, with bad software on inappropriate hardware with no clear purpose or benefit, that it's now a joke. The tech demos before Ms took over were brilliant.
Similarly, everything surrounding Windows 8 was a shambles with no clear benefits for users. Ballmer's departure is long, long overdue
posted by Zetetics at 7:54 AM on August 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm as close to a fanboy as Microsoft has and even I hate my WP8 phone.

Really? I love my Windows 8 phone. Granted, I'm no super hacker rooting power user, but it does exactly what I want and looks good while doing it. I like it much better than any of the Android phones that I've had in the past and I like it better than my wife's iPhone 4.
posted by NoMich at 7:55 AM on August 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


Ad hominem: " Well, I use it. It also Makes over a billion dollars. As does Office 365 I believe."

Not so fast.
Update: Interestingly, in a response emailed Monday night, a Microsoft spokewoman said the $1 billion sales figure includes “Windows Azure and revenue from service providers such as Amazon, Rackspace and others. ... That phrase “software provided to partners” probably means Microsoft is lumping in sales of on-premises software. It could also include Office 365 sales. Office 365 provides functionality that used to be relegated to shrink-wrap software via a software-as-a-service model.

posted by zarq at 7:55 AM on August 23, 2013


There's a lot to fix, but I sincerely wish Microsoft makes the most of this transition. Partly because I don't relish the idea of laid-off Microsoft employees descending on Seattle's tech companies like locusts, but mostly because I have a couple friends who work there who shouldn't have to be unable to make their living doing Windows support, because of Ballmer screwing things up.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 7:55 AM on August 23, 2013


So who's going to lead the major reorg they announced like a month ago? Or is that going to be a rudderless free-for-all interdepartmental shark fight?
posted by ook at 7:56 AM on August 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


Bing! Say it! Bing! Bing! Bing!

TILT
posted by griphus at 7:57 AM on August 23, 2013 [16 favorites]


There's a huge mixed legacy. There's been decent technical innovation in languages and tools (DEVELOPERS DEVELOPERS DEVELOPERS, right?) but there's a bunch of grab-ass to go along with it. Arbitrary price hikes and service reduction in support contracts. Some tools get no meaningful updates (visio, infopath, sharepoint designer) despite being up-rev'd while others are killed off or dog-welded onto other tools for vague or dubious reasons (Expression).

If you are a developer or administrator and work wholly within the MS toolkit, you've been seeing the incredible push for you to obsolete yourself: TFS is becoming a hosted solution first in VS 2012, with on-site typically lagging. MS's adoption of rapid methodology is interesting, except that they've broken the living shit out of VS and TFS 2012 between updates 1 and 2.

Meanwhile, MS is so desperate to prop up Azure adoption that they're giving away an Aston Martin, but the sporadic outage stories from Azure, Office 365 and SP Online are terrible enough that reliability is a sincere risk for adopters.

Everything that I see seems to indicate some kind of siloed bickering within the company where some awesome ideas are encumbered with "WELL WE HAVE TO PROMOTE OUR HORRIBLE THINGS" in order to get sign off. I don't know.
posted by boo_radley at 7:57 AM on August 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sadly, Aeron chair futures have crashed in value.
posted by jaduncan at 7:58 AM on August 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


Guess who's going to replace him? That's riiiight heeee's baaaaack!!!!!!!
*vampire steve jobs explodes out of a sleek black plastic coffin*
posted by Potomac Avenue at 7:59 AM on August 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


This may be true, and would be in Ballmer's favor if he were CTO, but as CEO he owns the failure at whatever level it occurred, justly or not.

I'm okay with that, as long as it's clear that the perceived failure of these products is due to botched execution by the CEO rather than their being inherently bad products.

As for Ballmer, it's a good move for MS. CEOs should never overstay their welcome (and frankly should only be on at most a ten year rotation to keep current).

For all of the stumbles there have been many steps forward. The one big failing is penetration of the mobile market and there we finally see movement with WP8: they've doubled market share in the last year. This may seem peanuts, but doubling anything is fantastic news.

The RT experiment of making the OS chip-agnostic so you have a full version of Windows on any device is something I want to see succeed.
posted by linux at 7:59 AM on August 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


His biggest accomplishment is probably nurturing the xbox ecosystem into the monster it is today. Right now it's xbox and everyone else. He certainty didn't create it, but it's grown tremendously on his watch. MS is reasonably well positioned to convert it into the coming TV streaming revolution, but I don't think they really understand that at the moment.

He didn't completely screw up Windows, but he's only delivered one great version--7--and two pretty crappy ones, Vista and 8. Office keeps chugging along. He hasn't killed the golden geese.

He's not been able to develop new markets, notably phones or tablets with any success.

He's been ok for MS. I'd call him a caretaker, not an innovator or even a strong leader.
posted by bonehead at 7:59 AM on August 23, 2013


*The Day That Thatcher Dies start blaring from a million zombie zunes*
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:00 AM on August 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


Really? I love my Windows 8 phone.

Maybe hate was a strong word. I think it is like most MS products in that it lacks polish. I can set an alarm but I can't set a timer. Text selection seems finicky. Lots of small problems that makes it seem unstable and cheap.

Most of all I dislike the developer toolchain. I'm a professional windows developer yet I hit constant roadblocks. I could power through them if I was motivated, but they should make it easier to developer for WP8, not force upgrades.
posted by Ad hominem at 8:01 AM on August 23, 2013


giving away an Aston Martin, but the sporadic outage stories from Azure, Office 365 and SP Online are terrible enough that reliability is a sincere risk for adopters.

In fairness, the same could apply to the Aston.
posted by jaduncan at 8:01 AM on August 23, 2013 [6 favorites]


.
posted by cjorgensen at 8:01 AM on August 23, 2013


Not so fast.

Fair enough. Actually a billion, technically a billion. It is still a billion. It isn't failing.
posted by Ad hominem at 8:03 AM on August 23, 2013


boo_radley: "[ULULATES INTERNALLY]"

While dancing and screaming.

posted by chavenet at 8:03 AM on August 23, 2013


Microsoft's big advantage lies in the realm of business software. Not just the Office suite, but all the different server products that form the IT backbone of a large percentage of the world's major businesses. Find me a major company that doesn't spend most of its software budget on Microsoft products. And on top of that they've still selling a major chunk of the operating systems running on everything from laptops upwards. The XBox line has probably been their only success in the consumer electronics realm, but it's a big enough success that the rest doesn't matter.

It's easy to forget about all of that boring stuff when we talk about how crappy the Zune was, or how Windows 8 has such a dumb interface. Because, by comparison, their successful, market-dominating products are mostly not very interesting.
posted by pipeski at 8:03 AM on August 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


Most of all I dislike the developer toolchain. I'm a professional windows developer yet I hit constant roadblocks. I could power through them if I was motivated, but they should make it easier to developer for WP8, not force upgrades.

Ah, gotcha. I could see that, right there, being something that would motivate me to torch the entire city of Redmond.
posted by NoMich at 8:05 AM on August 23, 2013


I will say that Vista was nowhere near as bad as people like to say. The "overactive security model" was necessary to put the fear of god in a lot of shitty developers that required admin privileges for their apps. For end users, it was as simple (admittedly a relative term) as turning off most of the UAC prompts, at which point Vista was much better than XP. The built-in search on the Start Menu for keyboard-only launching was alone worth the price of the upgrade. I think I still prefer Vista to Windows 7. (I haven't tried Windows 8 and I'm likely to switch to Mac for my next computer.)
posted by stopgap at 8:06 AM on August 23, 2013


Sinofsky is out, I guess.

(Though his big plus, Win 7, may be balanced by Win 8 and RT)
posted by Artw at 8:06 AM on August 23, 2013


Ad hominem and jaduncan: WP could have been Android if they'd played their cards right.

WP could have been the iPhone if they'd played their cards right. They came out with the first version: Windows CE for Handheld PCs, in 1996. With full support for third-party apps, though they weren't called apps until Apple came up with that name. But Microsoft had a monopoly on the market for a few years, and then had only Palm as competition for several more. And completely borked it up.
posted by still_wears_a_hat at 8:07 AM on August 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


Is there a good, neutral, resource on Azure that would be useful to a non-MS developer? Or is it the kind of thing where if you're not in their dev pool to start with you probably shouldn't bother?
posted by aramaic at 8:09 AM on August 23, 2013


I loved my Windows Mobile 5 phones. They synced wirelessly to my Outlook calendar, contacts, and email, and they could automatically go silent during meetings. A real browser and an app store (downloading Java apps for the thing was a nightmare) could have made a huge difference in how the mobile market played out.
posted by stopgap at 8:11 AM on August 23, 2013


His biggest accomplishment is probably nurturing the xbox ecosystem into the monster it is today. Right now it's xbox and everyone else.

Bonehead... If that's his accomplishment then it's not much of one considering that it's not even remotely true. The PS3 has outsold the 360 for several years now in console sales and game title sales are about the same. You'll get a great deal of opinions on who won that generation of the console war but it's clear that it's not "xbox and then everyone else"

This is completely disregarding the crapshoot that was their lauch of the XBox One...
posted by cirhosis at 8:13 AM on August 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


Has nobody else noticed the timing on this, or is it only obvious to me?

Ballmer is obviously retiring so he can play Lex Luthor.
posted by Uncle Ira at 8:15 AM on August 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


Is there a good, neutral, resource on Azure that would be useful to a non-MS developer? Or is it the kind of thing where if you're not in their dev pool to start with you probably shouldn't bother?

They support Node.js.

If you don't want to use Visual Studio it might not be worth the effort. There is integration with powershell. I have written enough powershell scripts to deploy shit, but the nice part is VS integration

The thing about Azure is that it is "enterprisey". It breaks up tasks along traditional large corporation lines. Infrastructure guys can manage certs they don't want to give to devs. DBs can be abstracted so you don't have devs with access to production DBs. Large corporations have all kinds of rules about data handling so I can't just hand someone a cert and say toss this up on Heroku.
posted by Ad hominem at 8:16 AM on August 23, 2013



I'm pleased Ballmer is finally stepping down. He should have been fired a long time ago, and that just demonstrates how unions make it impossible to get rid of under-performing dead weight.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 8:16 AM on August 23, 2013 [10 favorites]


Right now it's xbox and everyone else

...in Europe and Japan buying PS4s.
posted by griphus at 8:16 AM on August 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


He didn't completely screw up Windows, but he's only delivered one great version--7--and two pretty crappy ones, Vista and 8.

And XP. Maybe not the best but one of the greatest.

Except IE6...
posted by bdz at 8:16 AM on August 23, 2013


I'm an Apple fanboy, and I'm thrilled he's gone. Microsoft was never about the best technology, it was about using ruthless business acumen to strangle any new tech or nascent competition before it could get off the ground. Ballmer is responsible for that - Bing, RT, Metro, WP, Zune - they were all aimed at co-opting and then destroying new tech sectors. Yeah, they failed... but I'm horrified they tried.

So if the new guy, whoever he or she is, can turn direction from squashing upstarts and towards solid products that adapt to new technologies rather than co-opting them, I will be pleased. Good-bye and good riddance to one of the old-guard monopolists. Now if only Ellison would retire...
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:20 AM on August 23, 2013 [9 favorites]


I personally believe MS will be remembered by future generations for Kinect, as much of a joke as we think it is now.

If so, likely the same way Newton or Lisa are remembered. "Huh. They were sort of on the right track. Oh well, you know what right too early is? Wrong."
posted by shothotbot at 8:20 AM on August 23, 2013 [6 favorites]


Sorry, but all I see is MS screwing up more from marketing and public pressure, but inherently these products were/are very good and have paved the way for the success of Windows 7, Xbox, Windows Phone and eventually RT.
posted by linux at 10:48 AM on August 23 [1 favorite +] [!]


Eponysterical
posted by emelenjr at 8:20 AM on August 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Ad Hominem, actually I'm mixed about Ballmer, but overall down. I was pro microsoft much longer than many of my cohorts.
He tripled profits.
And yet their future's never been more uncertain.
Introduced C#, Kinect.
C# started as Project COOL back when I was still doing occasional work that crossed Redmond's campus. I'm pretty sure it was well underway under Gates.
He was the CEO of a vast corporation with considerable momentum and a huge huge install base to appease. Microsoft can't exactly pivot.
The biggest knock against Ballmer led MS has been they care more about the installed base than the future. And it will kill them in the long run. And I think that's right.

PS: MS makes some really great products. But I agree with Steve Jobs' assessment. They have no Taste (Look at the sheer number of SKUs per real product, Ultimate Plus Developer Enterprise Edition). And it eventually catches up to them.
posted by DigDoug at 8:22 AM on August 23, 2013


1. John Maeda

2. Jony Ive

3. Jose Mourinho
posted by sgt.serenity at 8:23 AM on August 23, 2013 [2 favorites]




MS should have voluntarily become at least 2-3 companies in the mid 90s. It's clear everywhere that the company in charge of "Kinect" and "SQL Server" and "RT" and "Exchange" aren't the same beast.

I think Ballmer's most recent re-alignment is a tremendous step in the wrong direction. But I'm not a shareholder, nor nearly as smart as most of the MS folks I've met over the years.
posted by DigDoug at 8:25 AM on August 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Those of you laughing at the Kinect, presumably as a gaming interface, have absolutely no idea what it's done for robotics research. Not only that, it's brought the price of a decent 3D IR camera down by orders of magnitude, making mobile robot navigation around home and office environments achievable at a very consumer-friendly price. And while they didn't even originally realize it -- hackers immediately started figuring out how to make off-the-shelf Kinect kits work on robots, and it took Microsoft almost a year to release an SDK to help the hackers out -- I actually think Kinect is one of the best things Microsoft has done for the technology industry in years.
posted by olinerd at 8:26 AM on August 23, 2013 [17 favorites]


That place is on such a downward trajectory they'll need to get out the shovels soon.

Microsoft stock is near a 10-year high, and the company is one of the Dow 30 components, meaning that it's seen as being as stable as such companies as Coca-Cola and Walmart. They're not going away anytime soon.
posted by ultraviolet catastrophe at 8:26 AM on August 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


My personal belief is that the problem with Kinect in the consumer market was that there wasn't a large enough install base to make it attractive for developers to devote time and money to come up with compelling uses. Seems like we ended up with either shovelware or tacked on half features.

They have no Taste

I agree with that too. But for me it has more to do with Microsoft has been traditionally usage agnostic, they don't give a shit what you want to do with windows, and they chase markets down deep dark holes instead of saying "we could offer you something better" they are more than happy to produce whatever anyone will buy no matter how crappy it is. Add to that to the fact that they frequently offer half finished products with absolutely no polish and then they give you no compelling reason to follow their vision.

You guys are right. I should jump to iOS.
posted by Ad hominem at 8:27 AM on August 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


I think DirectX is another killer product by MS. It's the de facto gaming API and even though OpenGL is faster and I belive in Valve and the Unix based Steambox... Good luck with that. Have you ever tried to install a video card driver on Ubuntu?

(I'm a die hard Mac user but I have to have a Bootcamp installation on my machine to play games. Even OSX is not as good to play games as Windows)
posted by bdz at 8:34 AM on August 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


I will never sing the praises of MS, but it must be said: the Zune was actually a quite nice product.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 8:34 AM on August 23, 2013


I think DirectX is another killer product by MS. It's the de facto gaming API and even though OpenGL is faster and I belive in Valve and the Unix based Steambox... Good luck with that. Have you ever tried to install a video card driver on Ubuntu?

What, you don't want to play Bioshock Infinite via CLI?
posted by Artw at 8:35 AM on August 23, 2013


Slap*Happy, as an Australian reading your comment, in a southern US accent, I have to ask you, sir, do you reside in the Southern States of the U.S?
posted by panaceanot at 8:37 AM on August 23, 2013


Even Carmack embraced DirexctX a couple years back so its probably ok.
posted by Ad hominem at 8:37 AM on August 23, 2013


What, you don't want to play Bioshock Infinite via CLI?

Played Skyrim on my TI84 so...
posted by bdz at 8:38 AM on August 23, 2013


So Microsoft under Ballmer will probably be a case study for business & technology students forever.

Profits grew. But they missed the boat on so many things - virtualization, mobile, they continued to miss the internet with both search and advertising.

On the flip side they continues to hold a massive consumer base, they continue to own the enterprise desktop and they took on Sony & Nintendo and beat them at their own game.

Analyzing Microsoft is like the parable of the blind men and the elephant - the company looks completely different depending on what part of it you're looking at.

What is most striking to me is that Microsoft could have had it all. They are a perfectly good competitor in web search but they simply can't get any major foothold. They could be a competitor in online advertising - they have products, but they again get no traction. They had mobile far, far before Apple - Pocket PC goes back to the glory days of Palm.

I think more than anything it proves that a single company can simply never do it all, no matter how smart its employees are and how much money and other resources it throws at problems. Ultimately the one thing that companies do that makes them win is to focus. We will see if the same analysis is trotted out about Google in another 10 years.

If Ballmer focused on anything it was sales and making sure the big products continued to be big. He did OK at that. Certainly he was no technological visionary.

As a side note, I think of C# as being a pretty small battle they won against Borland, poaching Anders Hejlsberg from Borland where he worked on Delphi, and a somewhat less big win against Sun and Java to retain developer mindshare and keep their developer suite current against competitors. But in the scheme of things it's a pretty small footnote.
posted by GuyZero at 8:42 AM on August 23, 2013 [7 favorites]


I love the Kinect, but not for the reasons that Microsoft wants me to, since the closest I've ever come to owning an XBox was when I found a broken one out in the dumpster behind my apartment.
posted by invitapriore at 8:52 AM on August 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


zarq: "That phrase “software provided to partners” probably means Microsoft is lumping in sales of on-premises software. It could also include Office 365 sales. Office 365 provides functionality that used to be relegated to shrink-wrap software via a software-as-a-service model."

I suspect that's actually licensing for Microsoft software provided by cloud providers on their platforms. In other words, licenses for Windows instances. Lumping that in with Azure is pretty shady accounting, IMO.
posted by wierdo at 8:53 AM on August 23, 2013


I think DirectX is another killer product by MS. It's the de facto gaming API and even though OpenGL is faster and I belive in Valve and the Unix based Steambox... Good luck with that. Have you ever tried to install a video card driver on Ubuntu?

What, you don't want to play Bioshock Infinite via CLI?


Well, let's look at Android:

1. Linux-based
2. No need to install video card drivers
3. No need to use a CLI at all, period

What's the problem with the Steambox again?
posted by Jpfed at 8:54 AM on August 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


In requiem let me also say

WHO SAID SIT DOWN?
posted by GuyZero at 8:54 AM on August 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Hey, Linux has stable USB support now, graphics cards can only be next!
posted by Artw at 8:55 AM on August 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


There's an Android Steambox?
posted by Artw at 8:56 AM on August 23, 2013


even though OpenGL is faster

Windows does a fine gaming experience but this particular analysis is not even wrong.
posted by GuyZero at 8:56 AM on August 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


Steam on Apple hardware. I don't care if everyone thinks its dumb, Apple has the design,manufacturing and supply chain and valve has the games and goodwill from gamers. I will take 2 please.
posted by Ad hominem at 8:58 AM on August 23, 2013


Petty sure the Apple gaming focus is going to be on iOS.
posted by Artw at 9:00 AM on August 23, 2013


Also, bizarrely Microsoft seems to be doing OK with Ford SYNC which builds on their years of failure in the mobile space. I have to give Ballmer credit that the guy never stops trying.
posted by GuyZero at 9:00 AM on August 23, 2013


GuyZero, interestingly, despite not being in any sense a leader in the virtualization space, they've whipped Hyper-V into a pretty decent product. If it weren't so damned inconvenient to admin even relatively small numbers of servers, I'd actually consider using it. The licensing is certainly attractive relative to other solutions.

Still, it seems that Microsoft's recent successes, such as they are, are despite Ballmer and not because of Ballmer.
posted by wierdo at 9:02 AM on August 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


WP could have been the iPhone if they'd played their cards right. They came out with the first version: Windows CE for Handheld PCs, in 1996.

WinCE/WinPen was made not to succeed, but to kill Palm and Grid. It killed Grid, but didn't little to Palm -- it was Blackberry that nuked Palm, and then Apple fired the first ten nukes at Blackberry (followed by another dozen from the Androidverse)

I think DirectX is another killer product by MS.

It certainly saved gaming under Windows -- I vividly remember the "boot to DOS" days for gaming. And it did give a consistent hardware interface to game developers for all outputs, not just video -- which is huge. Nobody wants to fight with audio drivers or joysticks either.

It also gave them a ton of knowledge on game performance that was a huge win for them come the Xbox era.

Petty sure the Apple gaming focus is going to be on iOS.

Since Apple doesn't make games, they have an advantage here -- they can work to help game developers on *both* platforms. The visual effects they want in OSX and iOS also key nicely with what game developers want -- if Apple's libraries can make the interface fast and good looking, game developers can make the games fast and good looking.
posted by eriko at 9:08 AM on August 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Microsoft is a reasonable fast follower which is pretty much their MO in the enterprise space which includes Hyper-V. Like the other products I mentioned they certainly have a decent offering, they just can't seem to win except as you mention by simply competing on price.

I should mention that Bing is the greatest thing to happen to Google, ever. To the point where Google should send a cheque to Ballmer for keeping Bing running. There are so many things to say about Ballmer and Microsoft.
posted by GuyZero at 9:08 AM on August 23, 2013


Petty sure the Apple gaming focus is going to be on iOS

Not to start a micros transaction derail, But I don't see any endgame for micro transactions that does not include parents whipping themselves into a frenzy when their kids keep buying in game geegaws and demanding legislation. Apple might want to start policing developers before they ruin the platform.

I play Shadow Era on iOS and they sell virtual "card protectors" for virtual cards.
posted by Ad hominem at 9:10 AM on August 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Like others have said, I've never cared for Microsoft or their practices (embrace, extend, extinguish) but a healthy, competitive Microsoft is good for the industry and consumers. Microsoft has been nothing but pathetic for the last decade. I mean literally pathetic. How many features did they end up announcing and pulling from Vista? A brown MP3 player at the tail end of the dedicated MP3 player era? A major cell phone initiative that was on the market for 30 days? Games for Windows Live? All those horrible product names that were more like sentences? All those tablets that never took off.

I don't want Microsoft to be the monopolist it was in the 90s, but c'mon, guys, you can do better.
posted by entropicamericana at 9:11 AM on August 23, 2013 [8 favorites]


A major cell phone initiative that was on the market for 30 days?

God, the Kin. What an organizational failure.
posted by GuyZero at 9:13 AM on August 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


Windows 8 is a disaster. Windows makes a lot of money from corporations, and corporations are not installing it. I read that IT departments just respond with laughter when asked about it. I got a new machine a work, so I put this to a test, and, indeed, the IT guy just laughed at me.

The CEOs of most PC manufacturers have spoken out against it. They, and Intel, are seeing their sales plummet, not just for home users, but for business users. The one exception is Levono, whose specialty is to downgrade the OS to Windows 7 before delivering to companies (and yet, this still counts towards Windows 8 sales numbers).

Why would they take a very stable and successful OS (Windows 7), and completely change its user interface? (Yeah, yeah "you're just not giving it a chance" "just install start 8", etc, etc).

So why do this? Why force Metro on top of a business-ready OS? Everyone says it is all about tablets and phones. And certainly that is part of it. But I think it is also something else, that has everything to do with Ballmer: greed.

Apple makes 30% off of every app sale. I think Ballmer saw this and dollar signs lit up in his eyes. "If only we could do that with Windows." Well, if you force Metro on all PCs, and everyone starts buying their software through the Metro store, then...Jackpot!

The game developers see this, and this is why Valve and Steam have both criticized Windows 8 and are actually porting to an OS with almost no market (Linux). They don't want to give 30% of their sales to Microsoft. They see Windows 8 for the blatant greedy money grab that it is and are taking desperate measures to make sure there is an alternative.

It is like the old story about how to catch a monkey. You chain a coconut to a tree, and make a hole in it big enough to get a hand in, and put rice in the coconut. The monkey puts his hand in the hole, grabs the rice, but now can't get his hand out. He's too greedy to let go of the rice, so he's caught.

I think Ballmer's greed has caught Microsoft in the position it is in now. He won't let go.
posted by eye of newt at 9:18 AM on August 23, 2013 [5 favorites]


Not to start a micros transaction derail

Psst. PVZ2 thread.
posted by Artw at 9:19 AM on August 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Heh, I attended an opening shindig for a MS TechEd conference in 2005 that had Balmer being sardonically interviewed by The Daily Show's Samantha Bee in her usual smarmy style. She seemed genuinely creeped out by the man.
posted by planetesimal at 9:20 AM on August 23, 2013


There's an Android Steambox?

No, but Android is a rather convincing proof-of-concept for easy-enough-to-use-to-be-successful-linux-thing, which seemed to be outside of the imagination of the commenters saying "good luck with [a linux-based Steambox]" and referring to playing games with a CLI.
posted by Jpfed at 9:20 AM on August 23, 2013


I'm curious as to why he announced if they don't know the successor yet.
posted by aramaic at 9:22 AM on August 23, 2013


I'm curious as to why he announced if they don't know the successor yet.

The news of the search for a successor would leak out and people would know anyway.
posted by GuyZero at 9:25 AM on August 23, 2013


It's not that Microsoft is doing terrible as that they are doing a half-assed job in so many different areas despite having great people, impressive R&D and more $$$ than a group of WOW gold farmers. For what I've read by ex-Microsoft employees, the company has a stifling bureaucracy and weak leadership, which makes me think that a new CEO will have to make extreme changes to the culture of Microsoft before they can truly move ahead.

Yeah, that's what they said Howard Stringer was supposed to do at Sony. And look how well that worked.

In other news:

Microsoft stock surges 8% on news that Ballmer is retiring

I examined MSFT's performance, the price retreated slightly from today's surge of almost +9%, it's down to about 6% right now. The high was 35.2, that is the highest price since a brief spike in 2007, otherwise MSFT hasn't been above 35 since the Windows 98 era, from about 1998 to 2000.

What does that tell you about the market's confidence in Ballmer?
posted by charlie don't surf at 9:32 AM on August 23, 2013 [4 favorites]



I'm curious as to why he announced if they don't know the successor yet.


must have failed some internal target, tablets/phones etc ........apple and google just lost their greatest asset.
posted by sgt.serenity at 9:32 AM on August 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Llama-Lime: " The problem is that other tech companies remained tech companies, and now the infrastructure is going to be far less centered on desktop machines."

I find this thread fascinating, because I think there's a huge gap between the perception and reality of how Microsoft's performing. Unless you work for Microsoft or Apple, you have no idea how those companies operate internally.

I will gladly concede that Microsoft has had a rough time in the consumer sector, and that their mobile offerings have sputtered along. However, in the enterprise, things are about as good for Microsoft as they've ever been.

Windows products on the server and desktop are (finally) viewed as being reasonably secure and reliable. The company is no longer viewed as a bully by developers; they support a lot of "competing" technologies and languages, and sponsor a ton of open source development. C# is slowly catching on as a language, although Microsoft also seems to have made the smart decision to also embrace JavaScript (as JS and its variants are quickly becoming ubiquitous outside of the Microsoft ecosystem).

Let's also not forget the stupefyingly difficult things that Microsoft does. Backward compatibility has basically remained unbroken for decades. Unfortunately, this has occasionally led to backlash when breaking changes had to be made, such as the very necessary ones that were introduced by UAC in Vista. Evolving a platform while maintaining binary compatibility is crazy difficult.

There's another problem: We're becoming luddites. We clamor for new paradigms, and overwhelmingly denounce them when they're introduced. Convincing my users to move to Vista/7 was like pulling teeth. In retrospect, almost every single one of my users prefers Win7 over XP. It's a better product in some very tangible ways. Windows 8 is a similar step forward that nobody wants to embrace because of how "different" it is.

Hell, for all the praise that they get, even Apple gets chided when they change things in their core OS. OS X has remained a fairly stable and inert product for the past several years, and the few changes that were made (ie. the new file saving model) were almost universally derided. Even iOS is looking a bit stale these days.

Things are much, much worse in the enterprise. Organizational inertia is a bitch. Windows Phone isn't a bad product. iOS and Android are pretty swell too. However, Blackberry improbably continues to sell millions of phones, even though everybody hates them. Microsoft hasn't found a way to compete in this exceedingly irrational marketplace, and I can't really fault them for their lack of success with Windows Phone.

This inertia works to Microsoft's credit for existing product lines, but makes it very difficult for them to expand into new markets (especially in markets that require a large installed base in order to be successful).

Windows 8 is a lot more difficult to pick apart. It's a transitional OS, and carries a lot of baggage because of that. It's the first significant innovation that we've seen in a desktop OS in a long time. They didn't get it quite right on their first attempt, but I don't think that it's quite worthy of the criticism that it's received. It's also difficult for a "commodity" product like Windows to initiate a paradigm shift. The lack of cheap/good touchscreen PCs certainly didn't help either.

I'd attribute a large portion of Windows' decline on the desktop to the lackluster hardware products that the x86 OEMs have been churning out for the past several years. Unless you want to pay double, Apple's hardware products are just leaps and bounds better than anything in the PC world. If Intel and Lenovo are concerned about sales, they need to start consistently competing with Apple on price and quality.

pipeski: "The XBox line has probably been their only success in the consumer electronics realm, but it's a big enough success that the rest doesn't matter."

It's funny that we're viewing the XBox division as a "success," given that it's done nothing but hemorrhage money for the company. Sure, the market penetration is good, but Microsoft loses a small bundle on each unit that they ship, and haven't been very good about making it up in licensing fees. The 360's hardware problems alone would have bankrupted almost any other company.

If we had a functioning Justice Department, Sony and Nintendo would probably be able to sue Microsoft for dumping.


I don't mean to heap praise on Microsoft. They've still got some horrendous internal issues, but over the past 2-3 years, I've noticed that Microsoft seems to be trying like mad to put out new and innovative products. It looks nothing like the stagnant, ineffective Microsoft of ~2002-2009.

I use a PC at work, a Mac at home, an Android phone, and administer a bunch of Linux servers. I'm a huge proponent of using the right tool to do a job. Right now, a lot of Microsoft products are great tools, and are used and recognized as such behind closed doors. Even though the Microsoft store at the mall is a dreary sight, and you might not see the cool kids extolling the virtues of Windows Server over on Hacker News, Microsoft is still selling plenty of products to very happy customers.
posted by schmod at 9:32 AM on August 23, 2013 [19 favorites]


schmod: "Even though the Microsoft store at the mall is a dreary sight, and you might not see the cool kids extolling the virtues of Windows Server over on Hacker News, Microsoft is still selling plenty of products to very happy customers."

C# is more popular in those parts (HN) than I would have expected, seemingly on the strength of LINQ.
posted by invitapriore at 9:37 AM on August 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yes, they may be trying like mad, but other than the product that managed to get a foothold by dumping, what has been a success?

Microsoft's problem is the future is in mobile and tablets (yes, even in enterprise) and they have zero traction in those markets. They were into these markets much, much earlier than current leaders, too. What happened? If I were a Microsoft shareholder, I would have been baying for Ballmer's blood.
posted by entropicamericana at 9:39 AM on August 23, 2013


While I've never been a fan of Ballmer, I think most of Microsoft's problems are cultural, and predate him. MS has always been about business more than technology. They've repeated used their leverage in ways that make things difficult for their competitors, or to lock in a revenue stream rather than focusing on users.

It's the reason Bill Gates missed the internet, and why Ballmer missed mobile. They were too busy leveraging Windows sales. Products like C# and (remember back) Pen Windows were created primarily to disrupt competitors (Sun, Go) rather than from any real interest or innovation on the part of MS.

Yes, there are exceptions, but to me, Microsoft's failure has been the focus on profits rather than users.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 9:42 AM on August 23, 2013 [5 favorites]


It's just not something I ever run into people using.

I don't run into billionaires or millionaires but I know they still exist.
Being mired in web development I run into people who use C#, RoR, PHP, and Java, depending on the company they work for.

Windows 8 on PC hardware serves zero purpose.

I use my laptop with Windows 8 for a variety of purposes. I don't FreeBSD personally so does that mean FreeBSD on hardware serves no purpose?

Like others I hope they change, they've got the resources to and Windows 7/8 for desktop serve me well (yes, I know everyone is apparently using tablets for production work but they're not for me and I imagine, a few other people). I have little faith in Linux being a viable alternative outside the server space (personally that is, don't know what the "trends" are) and Apple's hardware line doesn't appeal to me personally in the slightest so it would be nice if they improve. I'm not sure that Chrome OS is going to be a viable desktop alternative either.

Of course their bread and butter is in Enterprise, often slow moving. A few of our Enterprise clients have just now moved from XP to Windows 7. Not sure what version is on their servers.

In the tablet space I think Windows 8 is actually the most productive OS for particular workflows (yes, i'm aware that others have different workflows for which it would be entirely useless). I hope they improve in that space so that people can use what they want, whether it be some sort of Windows, MacOS, Linux, etc. The fact that the Enterprise market is so slow to adopt new systems may benefit MS's mobile iniatives when the issues of Windows 8 are worked out I would not be surprised if it becomes the defacto Enterprise tablet OS.

In our environment we use all the above and I'm not just talking about one person uses A while another uses B. We have Windows users with iPads, Mac users with Nexus devices, Linux users with Android and Blackberry, etc.

We all need strong alternatives. There are millions of people who work in unique ways. As long as data is made neutral it would be nice to use what suits us.
posted by juiceCake at 9:43 AM on August 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


I guessed he wasn't long for the tech world when he became a leading figure in the attempt to buy the Sonics and keep them in Seattle back in 2008. He stayed about twice as long as I thought he would.
posted by jamjam at 9:46 AM on August 23, 2013


> that's what they said Howard Stringer was supposed to do at Sony. And look how well that worked.

I recall an interesting analysis of Stringer's tenure at Sony which concluded that Sony's board knew more about the depths of their problems than they let on, and more or less hired Stringer as an outsider to deliver the harshest of corporate policy changes and exit as the goat for everything that might continue to go wrong afterwards.

Ballmer, as one of the earliest hires at Microsoft (employee number 30), is anything but an outsider to the company he helmed -- he's been on their payroll for over 30 years. His job was not to be a turnaround specialist but to sustain its growth and expand its reach into new technical realms. He's nominally succeeded at the former but failed at the latter -- the most successful non-Windows products during his tenure started as projects before he became CEO.
posted by ardgedee at 9:50 AM on August 23, 2013


> Yes, there are exceptions, but to me, Microsoft's failure has been the focus on profits rather than users.

In your eyes that might be a failure (and as a professional user of a lot of its products I agree so hard it hurts) and from an innovative technology perspective it is. But from a business point of view MS has been and continues to be very succesful in the enterprise side of things.
posted by moody cow at 9:51 AM on August 23, 2013


> Levono, whose specialty is to downgrade the OS to Windows 7 before delivering to companies (and yet, this still counts towards Windows 8 sales numbers).

This also occurred during Vista's tenure as flagship OS: When you (a corporate customer) bought a computer, it would count as a new sale for Vista, but arrive downgraded to XP. It's sneaky accounting but I'm not even sure it could be called unethical any more; OS sales figures don't really imply a competitive advantage in the way it did fifteen years ago.
posted by ardgedee at 9:53 AM on August 23, 2013


It's a transitional OS, and carries a lot of baggage because of that. It's the first significant innovation that we've seen in a desktop OS in a long time. They didn't get it quite right on their first attempt, but I don't think that it's quite worthy of the criticism that it's received.

I've had my first exposure to Windows 8 in the past couple of months, and I literally have no idea what it's supposed to be or how it's supposed to work. I have no idea what metric you're using to call it innovative, but it seems, quite literally (not figuratively literally, literally literally) to be broken to me. Just one example: I log in, I select Explorer from the tiles or whatever, I open my email, I open a .pdf, which causes the desktop to open. So far so good. Then I click on Explorer there on the desktop, AND ANOTHER VERSION OF THE PROGRAM OPENS THAT DOES NOT HAVE ANYTHING TO DO WITH THE VERSION I WAS USING SECONDS BEFORE. what

I have no idea how one could actually use that in a business environment.
posted by OmieWise at 9:53 AM on August 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


WP could have been Android if they'd played their cards right.

I dunno. There are plenty of people who felt so burned by Microsoft in the 90s that we'll never touch their products again. I'd go phoneless instead of buying another MS product.
posted by dobbs at 9:55 AM on August 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


Microsoft under Ballmer seems to vaccilate between complacent stagnation, and flailing wildly, throwing thirty different softwares, products and services at the wall, hoping one or two stick, with no real sense of direction, or understanding of the market or what people want. Microsoft's tin ear and lack of style over the last decade seem very similar to Ballmer's own. I don't think it's anything but a good thing that he's moving on.

Those of you laughing at the Kinect, presumably as a gaming interface, have absolutely no idea what it's done for robotics research. Not only that, it's brought the price of a decent 3D IR camera down by orders of magnitude, making mobile robot navigation around home and office environments achievable at a very consumer-friendly price. And while they didn't even originally realize it -- hackers immediately started figuring out how to make off-the-shelf Kinect kits work on robots, and it took Microsoft almost a year to release an SDK to help the hackers out -- I actually think Kinect is one of the best things Microsoft has done for the technology industry in years.

Creating a product that finds an unintended niche is not the same thing as understanding the market well enough and having a compelling vision for the future to intentionally create groundbreaking tech.

I remember the CueCat finding an unintended niche as well, but it was still a somewhat goofy product based on the original intent.
posted by stenseng at 10:00 AM on August 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Ballmer is obviously retiring so he can play Lex Luthor.


The hell he is.
posted by Alexander J. Luthor at 10:01 AM on August 23, 2013 [5 favorites]


The CueCat! If you opened it up and ran a wire across two specific points, it completely bypassed the encryption and became a perfectly functional (free) barcode scanner. In high school, we had a VB class, and as part of our final project, my group made a program that tracked CDs. My addition to it was using a CueCat to scan the barcode, query and scrape some random barcode website/database that was around in 2000, and add it into the program's database. We aced it.
posted by griphus at 10:02 AM on August 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also, I was recently at the CSUN accessibility technology conference in San Diego, and Microsoft was there with a booth demoing Win 8 and RT tablets, and they went through three different tablets trying to find one running stably enough to let me play with for a hands on demo - one of the employees eventually had to hand me her personal tablet to play with, and was then embarrassed at her vacation photos on the desktop.
posted by stenseng at 10:03 AM on August 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


> Windows 8 is a lot more difficult to pick apart. It's a transitional OS, and carries a lot of baggage because of that. It's the first significant innovation that we've seen in a desktop OS in a long time. They didn't get it quite right on their first attempt...

I think it's too early for anybody to write a good comparison of the Win 7->8 transition to the Mac 9->X transition -- maybe five years too early. But one of the fundamentals of the difference -- setting aside how different Mac and Windows is -- is that Apple has done a much better job of keeping the user-friendly UI from interfering with the desires of power users. Microsoft seems to institutionally believe -- setting aside a few exceptions -- that user-friendly is synonymous with dumbing-down, and there tends to be an awkwardly-placed wall between the stuff that can be done easily and the stuff that requires a little tinkering to get right.
posted by ardgedee at 10:09 AM on August 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


I stopped doing windows development when I could no longer even figure what I should know.

Having recently done so more I was stunned to learn that something as fundamental as a Form.Load event was broken in their 64 bit versions of dotnet left me shaking my head (and my fist).
posted by srboisvert at 10:10 AM on August 23, 2013


Ballmer is obviously retiring so he can play Lex Luthor.

Track down Heisenberg more like.
posted by Artw at 10:11 AM on August 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Having recently done so more I was stunned to learn that something as fundamental as a Form.Load event was broken in their 64 bit versions of dotnet left me shaking my head (and my fist).

I've never seen this. I just started a new windows forms project, set the build target to x64 and stepped through and form.load is firing fine.
posted by Ad hominem at 10:20 AM on August 23, 2013


Alright, everybody get in on the pool to pick the new CEO. Elop? Heins? Sinofsky? Some other random insider?
posted by GuyZero at 10:21 AM on August 23, 2013


I think it's too early for anybody to write a good comparison of the Win 7->8 transition to the Mac 9->X transition -- maybe five years too early.

I really don't see these as comparable in any meaningful way... the transition from Mac OS 9 to OSX is maybe most directly comparable to 98/NT > XP, or *maybe* XP>7. The notable differences between 7 and 8 aside from strange cosmetic choices and unfriendly UI rejiggering are minimal.

Also, 8, like Vista and ME, seems to be a lost generation MS product - most IT shops I'm familiar with are just now finalizing the jump from XP to 7, or are happily sitting pretty with 7 and laughing at the idea of making the jump to 8 for no discernible incentive...
posted by stenseng at 10:27 AM on August 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


I've never seen this. I just started a new windows forms project, set the build target to x64 and stepped through and form.load is firing fine.

A quick google and I now (AI assisted) recall the issue: VS2010 does not show unhandled exception message in a 64-bit WinForms Application.

To me not fixing that is a pretty big F.U. message to developers.
posted by srboisvert at 10:36 AM on August 23, 2013


The most important thing Microsoft needs to change is the toxic "stack ranking" system of management. Employees see each other as competitors rather than collaborators. It isn't so important that you succeed but that that your colleagues fail or at least appear to fail. Even in their blue-sky research division they have PhDs and scientists at each others' throats in competition for higher ranking. MBAs and business schools -- they are destroying the country.
posted by JackFlash at 10:43 AM on August 23, 2013 [15 favorites]


There is a lot of stuff that works erratically in .NET, as one can easily divine by putting a phrase like "dot net compatibility" in the GOOG. I have sailed forth since the .NET backstab continuing to write VB6 code. Having eschewed plugins and databases and coding things like TCP/IP and serial comms to the API, I have avoided the things Microsoft deliberately broke to discourage me, and now that I have a UDP based Ethernet solution for serial communications my VB6 stuff runs fine with good current support under Wine. So by standing my ground against the onslaught of progress, I find my personal long-debugged and time proven codebase has become magically cross-platform.

I am just now fielding calls from a customer who is being forced from the topmost multinational levels to change out all XP boxes to Windows 7 this year. They are in something of a panic about a very massive critical process control system I built for them back in the early 00's. I think they still don't quite believe me when I tell them that all we have to do is recompile the serial API stuff to correct a bug that was introduced by Win7 (it no longer initializes some data structures which XP did for you) and it will all run fine. That's just not what their IT rags are telling them should happen.
posted by localroger at 10:43 AM on August 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


> or dog-welded onto other tools for vague or dubious reasons (Expression).

Slight tangent, but... MS Expression still exists, in some sense of the word? (I ask because I still use Creature House Expression and it would be nice to know it hasn't sunk completely without a trace.)
posted by jfuller at 10:45 AM on August 23, 2013


OmieWise: "Then I click on Explorer there on the desktop, AND ANOTHER VERSION OF THE PROGRAM OPENS THAT DOES NOT HAVE ANYTHING TO DO WITH THE VERSION I WAS USING SECONDS BEFORE. what"

That's one of the things that they didn't get quite right. They pushed Metro too hard, and didn't create any good way to bind data/states between the Metro apps and their desktop equivalents.

I see why Microsoft pushed Metro hard -- nobody would have used it if it was optional. However, I think that we should have had a "Windows 7.5," where Metro was there if you wanted it, but the traditional desktop remained fully intact (start menu and all). This would have allowed them to gather more data about how people were using Metro apps, and make a more gradual transition to an OS where Metro was the primary interface (smoothing out the bugs along the way).

Also, there's been murmurs about moving Visual Studio to a sort-of continuous release model, and hopefully keeping compatibility a bit more intact between versions. Right now, Windows C++ apps can be notoriously picky about which versions of VS they'll compile on. Hopefully, Microsoft is going to try to improve that state of affairs...
posted by schmod at 10:45 AM on August 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


To me not fixing that is a pretty big F.U. message to developers.

Ahhh ok. VS2010 debugger does not catch unhandled exceptions in a form.load event handler on 64 bit.

This is when you check "Unhandled Exceptions" in "common language runtime exceptions" under the Debug -> Exceptions menu.

I admit, I roll with "Unhandled Exceptions" checked as well.

I wonder if they fixed it in VS 2012

To me that is pretty minor, as it is a tool issue not windows.forms being broken, I've done a lot of windows forms development and I've never had an issue with VS2010 ignoring unhandled exceptions.
posted by Ad hominem at 10:45 AM on August 23, 2013


It's easy to forget about all of that boring stuff when we talk about how crappy the Zune was

I dunno...I hated my Zune at first, but 5 years after buying the Zune HD, it is still going strong and everything else feels really clunky...including my Samsung phone.

I have never had an MP3 player last more than 2 years. But I have had zero issues with my zune. YMMV.
posted by Benway at 10:45 AM on August 23, 2013


Also, bizarrely Microsoft seems to be doing OK with Ford SYNC

Have you actually used it? It consistently gets called out in car reviews as the worst part of the vehicle, and I would be astonished if it doesn't decrease the number of repeat buyers for Ford vehicles. I know I would prefer a bare radio with physical controls to the MyFordTouch system. And since Ford is pretty much the only manufacturer that hasn't already announced support for iOS in the Car, I don't think they're likely to support alternatives soon. I think the best course for car companies is to get out of the software business and let people's phones control the car's smart services. On the other hand, maybe Microsoft is getting a boatload of cash from a long-term contract so they really are doing OK with this arrangement.
posted by stopgap at 10:51 AM on August 23, 2013


It's seemed to me that a lot of MS's problems of the last decade are a lot like the problems that IBM was in when the two of them collaborated on the original PC. They're just too big with too many competing divisions that spend more time fighting with each other than the actual competition. They're also similarly terrified of undercutting their cash cows with any new technology. Microsoft makes almost all their money from Windows and Office licenses so anything that might threaten those revenue streams is going to get shut down or at least hobbled. Balmer never seemed to be able to figure out how to get out of the corner that MS had painted themselves into.
posted by octothorpe at 10:55 AM on August 23, 2013


Ballmer is obviously retiring so he can play Lex Luthor.

No. Lex Luthor is a genius.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 10:57 AM on August 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


> he notable differences between 7 and 8 aside from strange cosmetic choices and unfriendly UI rejiggering are minimal.

Apple changed both the underlying OS and the interface simultaneously when it transitioned to OS X, but I'm referring only to the changes in the UI (the average non-power-user doesn't know what goes on under the hood and tries not to care). The changes in the underpinnings of the OS are a different matter, and one that Microsoft manages pretty well, to my (only slightly knowledgeable) understanding.
posted by ardgedee at 10:57 AM on August 23, 2013


> Yes, there are exceptions, but to me, Microsoft's failure has been the focus on profits
> rather than users.

>> In your eyes that might be a failure (and as a professional user of a lot of its products
>> I agree so hard it hurts) and from an innovative technology perspective it is. But
>> from a business point of view MS has been and continues to be very succesful
>> in the enterprise side of things.

True, but it's essentially predicated on stasis being a good thing (that have have the previous version to leverage off of.) IBM is still a big company, and makes tons of money. Yet, in many ways, it's also irrelevant. Companies get locked in to the model, and the cost of making a transition outweigh the expense.

If MS continues in that model, they may continue to be a market force in the enterprise, but they'll be another IBM.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 10:57 AM on August 23, 2013


The Zune was a great product that was way too late to market.
posted by schmod at 11:02 AM on August 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


The most important thing Microsoft needs to change is the toxic "stack ranking" system of management.

Didn't know what this was, so I looked it up.

. . . a management system known as “stack ranking”—a program that forces every unit to declare a certain percentage of employees as top performers, good performers, average, and poor—effectively crippled Microsoft’s ability to innovate. “Every current and former Microsoft employee I interviewed—every one—cited stack ranking as the most destructive process inside of Microsoft, something that drove out untold numbers of employees,” Eichenwald writes. “If you were on a team of 10 people, you walked in the first day knowing that, no matter how good everyone was, 2 people were going to get a great review, 7 were going to get mediocre reviews, and 1 was going to get a terrible review,” says a former software developer. “It leads to employees focusing on competing with each other rather than competing with other companies.”

Oh, wow. Is that just the worst possible management strategy? It kind of sounds like it to me.

I pulled that quote from a summary of a longer article that isn't available without a Vanity Fair subscription, but the excerpt has another nice bit in it:

When one of the young developers of MSN Messenger noticed college kids giving status updates on AOL’s AIM, he saw what Microsoft’s product lacked. “That was the beginning of the trend toward Facebook, people having somewhere to put their thoughts, a continuous stream of consciousness,” he tells Eichenwald. “The main purpose of AIM wasn’t to chat, but to give you the chance to log in at any time and check out what your friends were doing.”


I thought that was well observed.
posted by a birds at 11:02 AM on August 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


However, in the enterprise, things are about as good for Microsoft as they've ever been.

Windows products on the server and desktop are (finally) viewed as being reasonably secure and reliable.


This reputation was earned by windows 7 and 2008R2. It is being rapidly pissed away by server 2012 and windows 8.

I've tried 4 server 2012 installs, all on supported hardware (couple of gens of HP proliant, and under vsphere). The DFS servers would hard crash every few hours under load, with an error message that basically says 'there was an error'. The hyper-v server is painfully slow to come back up after a power outage (we've had a few lately due to construction work) - on the order of 30 minutes - and the grand total of 2 test VM's suffer random I/O issues. The AD server, I shit you not, borks on a variety of DNS queries returning invalid results on the 2nd query for certain domains.

All of them have been reverted to 2008R2, where they peform the same jobs on the same hardware flawlessly. (or as flawless as windows get, anyway).

And that's just the stuff I've tried personally.

Windows 8 on laptops and desktops is a usability disaster for staff. It's not just a close attempt that needs refining; it's outright terrible and terribly unintutive. My wife has threatened to divorce me if I put it on her laptop after trying it on my pc. My boss has threatened to fire me if I roll it out after trying it. (not that I would anyway)

Metro on a server, especially in a terminal services window, is nigh unusable.

I don't know a single sysadmin that's planning a rollout of either in business, and I know a few.
I've not tried it on a tablet, but given the lackluster sales, lack of apps, and the existing entrenched userbase of ipads, I doubt it's going to turn that ship around any time soon.

It's long time past that Ballmer went. He started with a monopoly in office and PC's. He leaves with both monopolies under severe assault by apple and google, with the macbooks, ipad, nexus 7 and high-end smartphones. And both are using their own office suites, with ever growing numbers. They have no more major markets under their belt, every attempt has been a failure (the xbox has some marketshare, but is losing money hand over fist), and windows 8 has been an absolute boat anchor of a product.
posted by ArkhanJG at 11:07 AM on August 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Stack ranking is like grading on a curve stamping on a human face — forever.
posted by stopgap at 11:07 AM on August 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


schmod: "However, Blackberry improbably continues to sell millions of phones, even though everybody hates them."

The reason for this is pretty simple. They're the only manufacturer still making smartphones with keyboards. For people whose main uses of their mobile device are email and phone calls, there's not much out there that does that stuff as quickly and easily.

I finally went to all glass phones a couple of years ago, but only because they finally got good enough in other ways to make me willing to live with the lack of a physical keyboard, and that desire for a physical keyboard has not gone away. Autocorrect only gets you so far. It's nice to just be able to type things correctly in the first place.
posted by wierdo at 11:38 AM on August 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


Stack ranking is used in a huge number of tech companies, including Google. I've worked for several of the big names (Google, Amazon, LinkedIn, Trilogy), and there was some variant of stack ranking at place in nearly every one of them.

It has problems, but it's not the root of Microsoft's issues. I would posit that all methods for performance management have unintended consequences.

In my experience, the biggest problem with stack ranking is that it often fails to achieve its stated goals: disproportionately rewarding the highest performers while identifying the lowest performers. There's always a healthy crop on both sides who are incorrectly ranked due to politics or other reasons. Employees who are unlucky enough to get saddled with bad projects are often treated like low performers even when they're doing great work, and vice-versa.

It's also usually an enormous waste of company resources. Yearly performance reviews and stack ranking exercises chew up enormous amounts of time and psychological energy. Managers sit in rooms for days and weeks at a time debating whether employee A is better than employee B.

In general, there's a ton of false precision in performance management.
posted by drklahn at 11:39 AM on August 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


yeah, stack ranking is the worst way of evaluating employee performance, except for all the other ways. Unless you get rid of all the rules, people will always game the rules.
posted by GuyZero at 11:42 AM on August 23, 2013


I recall an interesting analysis of Stringer's tenure at Sony which concluded that Sony's board knew more about the depths of their problems than they let on, and more or less hired Stringer as an outsider to deliver the harshest of corporate policy changes and exit as the goat for everything that might continue to go wrong afterwards.

You may have even heard that from me. Before he even took the helm, I said he was appointed to be the sacrificial lamb, and as a foreigner, it would be easier for him to make big changes and then they'd kick him out, blame him for the failure of major reforms, and return to "normal" Japanese keiretsu management.
posted by charlie don't surf at 11:46 AM on August 23, 2013


I dunno why, but as a replacement I'm thinking Ashton Kutcher.
posted by Legomancer at 11:49 AM on August 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm just here to say I love developing in C#. The tools are great, the syntax is intuitive, and the API/library organization is good. A couple of years ago I had to do a little bit of Java stuff using Eclipse and it made me want to claw my own eyes out in comparison.

As far a Windows 2012/Windows 8, I just bought a MacBook Pro to replace my Vista desktop and I'm very happy with the change, so Windows 8 isn't in my home computing future. I had to set up my first Windows 2012 web server recently at work and it was mostly like 2008R2 (fine) after the initial shock of the UI change. I don't really understand why they start you out with essentially a blank desktop with nothing on it. You can get back to something usable but the wiki instructions I wrote for my team are stuff like:

- hover mouse in top right; make sure terminal session is maximized or nothing will happen
- access the "Charms Bar"
- click the Start icon (there it is!)
- right click some random blank area
- left-click some other random blank area
- etc.; right and left clicking at various steps super arbitrary

At the end, now you have a single app pinned to the task bard so you don't have to click 10 times to get to it.

Just ... why?? They could have easily pre-loaded the desktop area with common things s server admin might need: explorer, IIS manager, etc. But they didn't.

The flat visual style is pretty good though once you get used to it. Reminds me of outlook.com, which I don't use as much as gmail but which looks great.
posted by freecellwizard at 11:52 AM on August 23, 2013


Slight tangent, but... MS Expression still exists, in some sense of the word? (I ask because I still use Creature House Expression and it would be nice to know it hasn't sunk completely without a trace.)

The program you knew as Creature House Expression morphed into Expression Design, part of Expression Studio.

Expression Studio was dismantled a few years ago but some of the pieces are still floating around, including Expression Design 4, which you can download for free.

There are still some great vector tools in that application that you can't find in that other bloated beast Adobe Illustrator.
posted by jeremias at 11:55 AM on August 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


A couple of years ago I had to do a little bit of Java stuff using Eclipse and it made me want to claw my own eyes out in comparison.

I've programmed in Java for many years, it was only when I (briefly) tried using Eclipse that I wanted to claw my eyes out.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 12:31 PM on August 23, 2013


Pogo_Fuzzybutt: "I'm pleased Ballmer is finally stepping down. He should have been fired a long time ago, and that just demonstrates how unions make it impossible to get rid of under-performing dead weight."

And being best buds with the boss. Don't forget that!
posted by Samizdata at 12:33 PM on August 23, 2013


Expression was the last known resting place of Frontpage...

Actually TBH most of the awful had been excised from it by then and it was an okay HTML editor, but still... shudder.
posted by Artw at 12:39 PM on August 23, 2013


They're the only manufacturer still making smartphones with keyboards.

Except for LG, Motorola, and Samsung.
posted by juiceCake at 1:11 PM on August 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Valleywag: This Guy Just CCed All of Microsoft By Accident. Oops!
posted by grouse at 1:16 PM on August 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


When you get convicted - convicted! - of being a monopoly by the federales, after throwing a small country-worth of lawyers and eleventy jillion dollars at it for a year, you're a pretty gooned-up cheat machine that can't quit.

Here's why the news is big: Ballmer is Microsoft. A terrifyingly loud gorilla with hate in it's heart and a maniacal taste for billion dollar bills. Ballmer loves to fight - dirty, cruelly - like the insufferable bully he is. And even though he's spent a decade getting shamed and beat, he'll never care about anything. Anything but the money.

Notice the apologies? He made money! Yeah, he did. That's what monopolies do. Think what they would have made if they'd only done ONE THING well. Zune?! C#?! Uh, yeah okay fine but that's not-

I see why Microsoft pushed Metro hard -- nobody would have used it if it was optional. However

Stop. Just . . . just stop. It's over. He's dead, Jim.

Now we get to suffer the rest of our lives talking friends and relatives through the oatmeal slush that will be the desiccated remains of a Windows OS, as that stinking hateful gorilla climbs further into the cloud, bellowing "Multi-year licensing! Apps!! Aaaaaaaapps!" The valleys shudder with echoes. The wind refuses to move.

The horror . . . The horror . .
posted by petebest at 1:39 PM on August 23, 2013 [6 favorites]


Valleywag: This Guy Just CCed All of Microsoft By Accident. Oops!

I worked for MS in the late 90's. In Outlook you could assign people to groups and if you were an assignee, you could see what groups you belong to but not the other members or who owns the group. So, an email shows up with the subject "Who owns this group?" sent BCC to that entire group, of which I was one (unknown to me). Soon about 10 replies, all asking who owns the group. Then a bunch more show up, and within about an hour it was thousands of replies. Within about two hours, mail for the entire company was down and remained down for two days. It turns out somebody in the Outlook group had made a group with the entire company in it (which I think was around 20,000 people) as a test setup. I kinda wonder what happened to whoever set it up, on one hand it's a valid test and Outlook failed, on the other hand 2 days of no email across the entire company, so probably fired. Ooops.
posted by doctor_negative at 2:20 PM on August 23, 2013


When I worked there as a contractor they were super pissy about over inclusive email distribution. That makes a bit more sense now.
posted by Artw at 2:27 PM on August 23, 2013


Well, I use it. It also Makes over a billion dollars. As does Office 365 I believe.

I find it extremely hard to believe that Office 365 makes a billion dollars, and here's why. Microsoft is willing to give it away to get market share. I work with Google Apps, and have seen MS come in and basically tell prospects, "well, we just won't charge you for the first year". They're doing whatever they can to get customers to sign on the line which is dotted. Maybe they're including expected renewals in there, where they'll actually start charging money I suppose.
posted by me & my monkey at 2:34 PM on August 23, 2013


He tripled profits.
This sounds OK in isolation, but I think it's important to place this in the context of tripling over the course of 13 years, which is an annual increase of about 9%. This is quite respectable for a high performer in an industry that's mostly stagnant, it's what one might like from a large mature company that's doing really really well but that isn't pushing into new markets. Toyota's profits grew at something like 3.5x during the same period that Microsoft's grew 3x. And the tripling in 13 years is small beans compared to Microsoft's growth in profits from 1993 to 2006 (the first 13 years), when profits grew almost 13.5x as large.

If there were no new areas for Microsoft to grow into, if they had captured all of computing, people would think, "OK, Ballmer did as well as anybody could possibly expect, 3x is better than market average, but computers are not a huge growth industry." But computers have not been a stagnant industry. The rise of all these other profits from Google and Apple are things that people think that Microsoft should have been a part of. And if you were to give Google's and Apple's combined profits over the past year to Microsoft, Microsoft would have grown their profits by 10x over this time period rather than just 3x, which I think is more like what people were expecting from Microsoft when they bought at a 40 p/e back in 2000. Microsoft has been good with dividends, good at keeping a stable stock price, but their financial performance has been as bad as it can be without being considered a failure. Thus why Ballmer was in place for so long, Microsoft was, a whole, giving solid C performance.

But of course, who am I to be grading other people in this regard at all?! In his position I probably would have given away all the source code by week 2, thus dooming Microsoft to the indignity of Sun's fate: being gobbled up whole by Larry Ellison like a gigantic oaf quickly and messily devouring a course of bone marrow and then diving into the next dish while the fat drips off of cheek and hand, without even the slightest pause to contemplate the taste or the sacrifice that went into an enormously rich dish.
posted by Llama-Lime at 2:47 PM on August 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


Lenovo installing a start menu replacement by default - shit has gone seriously wrong.
posted by Artw at 3:15 PM on August 23, 2013


Valleywag: This Guy Just CCed All of Microsoft By Accident. Oops!

Free bananas in the kitchen!!!

CC:global
posted by charlie don't surf at 4:02 PM on August 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


I wanted his announcement to be him stomping around a stage, screaming:

Retirees, retirees, retirees, retirees, retirees, retirees!
Retirees, retirees, retirees, retirees, retirees, retirees, retirees, retirees!

Yes!

(context for those who somehow missed it years ago...)
posted by chambers at 5:29 PM on August 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Now if only Ellison would retire...

Whether or not he retires any time soon, Oracle has cloud problems.
posted by A dead Quaker at 5:44 PM on August 23, 2013


Lenovo installing a start menu replacement by default - shit has gone seriously wrong.

Absolute truth. I'm actually on record as saying that Win 8 got a lot of things right. But, truthfully, without Classic Shell installed Win8 is simply ridiculous, at best, and unusable, at worst.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 6:00 PM on August 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


doctor_negative, are you thinking about Bedlam DL3? Me too!
posted by grouse at 6:06 PM on August 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm actually on record as saying that Win 8 got a lot of things right.

Please name one. Really.

The entire paradigm of using gestures like flinging the cursor off toward an otherwise unmarked corner to call up a menu set of functions is the kind of thing that makes sense when you're trying to cram complex functionality onto a 3 by 5 inch display, where you simply don't have room to display all the available options and it would be a genuine nuisance to drill down through layers of menus coarse enough to work on such a small screen.

But on a 1080p monitor, it's just stupid. It hides functionality where ordinary poking around can't find it, and it poisons gestures that might be normal operations for user applications by turning them into system functions. This is not a big deal on a phone where you're probably not running CAD or photoshop or doing complex data drag and drop operations, but on a PC?

There is absolutely nothing good about this idea on the desktop. Nothing. Whoever thought this was a good idea should be fired ... oh wait.
posted by localroger at 6:16 PM on August 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


The RT experiment of making the OS chip-agnostic so you have a full version of Windows on any device is something I want to see succeed.

That experiment already succeeded: NT ran on multiple chips, and later so did OS X. The thing they also need it to be agnostic about is input device: they need to cover both touchscreen and mouse/trackpad. That's an interesting R&D experiment, sure, but it's very "interesting" to try it out in production with your flagship product.

I'd attribute a large portion of Windows' decline on the desktop to the lackluster hardware products that the x86 OEMs have been churning out for the past several years. Unless you want to pay double, Apple's hardware products are just leaps and bounds better than anything in the PC world.

I often wonder if the netbook will be seen as the first nail in the coffin for Microsoft. It drove the price people expected to pay for a "computer" down so viciously low that it was impossible to make a decent Windows PC.

Then when people realised they were being sold junk, they stopped buying them ... right when Apple arrived at a similar price point with a high-quality device that was also a damn sight easier to use.

PC makers are stuck in a seriously hard place. The price for a PC has been fixed in people's minds at an unsustainably low level, giving them a choice between junk or an iPad, and we know which they're choosing. But when the PCs makers make genuinely nice laptops, the prices head towards Apple territory again -- and Apple really knows how to hoover up the people who'll pay those sorts of prices.

All that leaves PC makers is a squeezed middle of tiny margins and crap hardware, and Apple is squeezing as hard as it can.

Microsoft was right that the only way to escape this was to aim at the iPad sector: cheapish, but high quality. RT should have been that. But it looks to me like they tried the classic ship-a-crap-1.0-and-fix-it-later approach, when in fact they just had one shot at this.
posted by bonaldi at 6:21 PM on August 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


Please name one. Really.

I can name a few right off the top of my head: Win 8 boots faster. Task Manager is much better. Hyper V. Much better multi-monitor support.

Seat of the pants, it just feels quicker than 7 - and it's been absolutely rock solid running 24/7 for me.

The stock interface is crap, definitely. Classic Shell is free, and solves EVERY problem.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 6:50 PM on August 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


On the flip side they continues to hold a massive consumer base, they continue to own the enterprise desktop and they took on Sony & Nintendo and beat them at their own game.

No, not really. Xbox 360 had a good reputation but the units were not profitable. Contrast to Nintendo Wii that sold 20 million more and made profit on each unit. 360 sold roughly the same units as PS3, probably fewer, and this includes replacements.
posted by ersatz at 7:24 PM on August 23, 2013


Very interesting reading about stack ranking: The Poisonous Employee-Ranking System That Helps Explain Microsoft’s Decline and the even more detailed Microsoft’s Lost Decade
posted by Foci for Analysis at 7:44 PM on August 23, 2013


right when Apple arrived at a similar price point with a high-quality device that was also a damn sight easier to use

But you can get a perfectly cromulent windows laptop for the price of an ipad. Shit, you can get a decent ultrabook for ~$100-200 more than a 32GB ipad.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:48 PM on August 23, 2013


Win 8 boots faster.

Not really, it just doesn't really ever reboot at all. It restores instead. That's nifty until you actually need to reboot because something got borked.

Task Manager is much better. Hyper V. Much better multi-monitor support.

I'll take your word for it. The only one that matters much to me is multi-monitor, lack of which is the main reason I'm not using Ubuntu on this machine right now. But of course that works fine under my current OS, Windows XP, and would probably be fine on 7 too.

Classic Shell is free, and solves EVERY problem.

If it's not in the OS then the problems are there. These are serious problems Grandma shouldn't have to look for third party solutions to fix, and IT shouldn't have to deploy, to correct "cosmetic" defects in this thing we call and "OS" nowadays that is not supposed to have such flaws.
posted by localroger at 8:29 PM on August 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh hey, I just realized an opinion I want to read.

Mini-Microsoft: Steve Ballmer is Going to Frickin' Retire From Microsoft!

To me, this throws the whole in-process re-org upside down. Why re-org under the design of the exiting leader? Even if the Senior Leadership Team goes forward saying that they support the re-org, it's undermined by everyone who is a part of it now questioning whether the new leader will undo and recraft the decisions being made now. I'd much rather Microsoft be organized under the vision of the new leader and their vision.
posted by charlie don't surf at 9:14 PM on August 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


How much money did Kin lose with its aborted launch?
posted by reiichiroh at 12:09 AM on August 24, 2013


> How much money did Kin lose with its aborted launch?

According to Wikipedia, about a billion dollars in development. Add hundreds of millions more for marketing, manufacture, and distribution.

At the time of its first discontinuation, each Kin sold cost Microsoft somewhere between $114,000 and $2,000,000. Kins were priced at $50 and $100 to consumers, I'm guessing around $400 apiece to Verizon.

The Kins unsold after the initial 48 day rollout debacle were repackaged as non-smart feature phones (Kin ONEm and Kin TWOm) and dumped on the market without data plans half a year later. I couldn't find sales figures on those, but I'd be surprised if Microsoft did not ultimately write this off at tens of thousands of dollars lost per phone manufactured.
posted by ardgedee at 2:55 AM on August 24, 2013


One great thing about win8's new UI is "Manage wireless networks".

Go and check it out.
posted by I-baLL at 6:51 AM on August 24, 2013


Steve Ballmer's honest goodbye letter.
posted by mazola at 6:59 AM on August 24, 2013


Oh hey, I just realized an opinion I want to read.

Mini-Microsoft: Steve Ballmer is Going to Frickin' Retire From Microsoft!


As always, the comments are gold.
posted by mazola at 7:09 AM on August 24, 2013 [1 favorite]




"It would have taken an exceptional thinker, an out-of-the-box visionary, to admit that the company’s foundation was crumbling. Mr. Ballmer wasn’t that guy." -- How Ballmer Missed the Tidal Shifts in Tech.
posted by mazola at 10:25 AM on August 24, 2013


Wow, I went through those Mini-Microsoft comments in detail and it is astonishing. I noticed two subtle but important themes.

1. Bitching about the quality of incoming job applicants. Hey guess why that is? They all grew up learning to program in a Microsoft coding environment.

2. Microsoft has lost its vision since their secret CEO Steve Jobs died.

I am totally serious about that second point.
posted by charlie don't surf at 2:23 PM on August 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


> 1. Bitching about the quality of incoming job applicants. Hey guess why that is? They all grew up learning to program in a Microsoft coding environment.

It's twenty years since being a new hire at Microsoft meant being paid in stock shares that appreciated faster than anywhere else might have something to do with it. That and Microsoft's widely-known employment policies (see above conversation on stack ranking) being hostile to anybody who really only wants to code or design software for a career.

May as well see what's hot in the Bay Area instead.
posted by ardgedee at 3:41 PM on August 24, 2013


> After shouting "Developers, Developers, Developers," trashed the most popular software development environment in the history of computing, forcing developers to rewrite trillions of lines of code

Yay guaranteed employment! Best thing since C++
posted by morganw at 9:27 PM on August 24, 2013


KathrynT: "Everybody I know who ever worked there, myself and my husband included, cheered at this news."

I guess this says more any other critique might.
posted by Deathalicious at 5:44 PM on August 28, 2013




And MS just bought Nokia's handset and services business for a cool $7.2 billion.
posted by FJT at 12:48 AM on September 3, 2013


Mr. Ballmer said Microsoft and Nokia have not been as agile separately as they will be jointly

Right because mashing together two massive corporate enterprises is always a recipe for agility, everybody knows that. Agile is definitely the word you want to emphasize there

Steve Ballmer has a special talent for always choosing the least plausible and/or most unappealing sound bite -- he can make the most reasonable levelheaded business decision sound like absolute lunacy with just a few well-chosen squirts
posted by ook at 5:47 AM on September 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Awesome! An eagle!
posted by GuyZero at 7:24 AM on September 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


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