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Microsoft has never made a good product
August 15, 2000 5:27 PM   Subscribe

Microsoft has never made a good product, and is therefore a Bad Company, says baylink.
posted by cCranium (30 comments total)

 
Because this is, in itself, a seperate topic.

While I certainly agree that there's flaws in Microsoft's software, I'd like an example of a company that HAS. There isn't application - or for that matter, entertainment - software ever produced without flaws, except maybe Pong.

Of course, that game's just way too slow.

One portion of this is that it's the nature of the beast, especially for corporate software. Computers change constantly, and what's a viable solution now is archaic in a few years.

Hardware is different on almost every computer out there, and the hardware itself can, and often is, randomly flawed. This ethernet card's rom didn't get soldered properly and if the box is even slightly shaken, the network connection will drop. This modem's bios has a bug in it.

Every user prefers different features of different programs. Your flaw may be my perk. Exploiting bugs for a productive purpose is certainly not unheard of. In fact, those flaws can eventually be taken as standards.

See HTML for a common example.

I'm not saying this is a Good Thing, mind you. I'm just saying that Microsoft does a pretty damn good job compared to many of it's competitors.
posted by cCranium at 5:32 PM on August 15, 2000


I dunno if I so much like the singling out of individual members of MeFe on the front page topics.
posted by Satapher at 6:43 PM on August 15, 2000


I would respond to that Satapher, but I'd be changing the topic. =)
posted by ZachsMind at 6:49 PM on August 15, 2000


There is an appropriate place to take up such issues.
posted by harmful at 7:52 PM on August 15, 2000


Cross posted from MetaTalk:

It having been me, I must, alas, say "thanks, but I don't mind." I was trying to avoid topic drift. *I* didn't really think it merited a thread, but I don't object to it getting one.

I mean, some other people who weren't happy about me were real *shits* about it. cCranium wasn't, I don't think.

On the actual topic: it's like this: in every product category I can think of in which Microsoft competes, I can think of at least one other product which I think is better designed, better built, or both.

Now, Betamax proved that that's not always enough; people are sheep. But Big Companies account for a *lot* of software purchasing, and in the long run, those companies *will* pay for making bad decisions... and in many cases, the geeks get it right, and are overruled by the PHB's.

Even the US Government seems to be looking into the 'philosophical' benefits of Open Source Software these days, though I can't find the link just now. Flutterby or Hack the Planet, I think, a while back.

And note that I never got into *flaws*... yes, everything has bugs. I'm talking about *design*: Microsoft has a habit of putting everything except the user first. Their own software, often very annoyingly, doesn't conform to their own published user interface guidelines; their web browser has feature design decisions that seem tailor made to make commercial interests happy at the expense of the privacy of users... and you can't take the browser *out* of the OS without brain surgery.

They've been documented to change things *solely* to break compatibility with other people's hard work: ask any OS/2 user about the Windows 3.11 "Win/OS2 Incompatibility Release"... or look back to the "Windows won't run on DR-DOS, you need to upgrade" fiasco.

In short, my problem is not with their stars, but with themselves. Even in the throes of the Lawsuit, they just *couldn't* keep themselves from engaging, in public, in exactly the same sort of behavior they were getting broken up over.

I really, sincerely hope that projects such as SourceXchange, collab.net, and the like, venues that allow the pooling of 'bids' from buyers to pay programmers et al to create or enhance OSS to suit them succeed, and greatly.

I'm really over large corporations in general (see my notes on the Adbusters thread, amongst others), and this sort of thing has the potential to satisfy lots of people, while making them mostly harmless.
posted by baylink at 8:24 PM on August 15, 2000


"in every product category I can think of in which Microsoft competes, I can think of at least one other product which I think is better designed, better built, or both"

Hardware. It's a little pricey, but Microsoft makes damn good hardware, IMHO.
posted by CrayDrygu at 9:03 PM on August 15, 2000


Hmm... they do those gaming pads, right? Never tried anything like that. The mouses? I guess their old intelimouse was ok, there were better mice. Then there's Intelieye explorer, and the thing is just horrible, i went through 3 of them. Plus, now there are other ball-less mice on the market, some of them are better, i think apple has that glass-ey one.
posted by tiaka at 9:11 PM on August 15, 2000


I have a Microsoft IntelleSomething forcefeedback wheel system for driving games, a Microsoft hand-held game controller, a Microsoft sound system with powered subwoofer, and the not-at-all-lamented Microsoft Phone. All were sent to me by the Evil Empire for testing. They were all just spiffy products - solid, stable, easy to set up and use. For the novice who knew zip about computers, they'd be a godsend.

The phone, however, turned evil after half a year, and not only ate my modem but somehow hosed phone service for a radius of three houses up and down the alley. We're still figuring out how that happened.
posted by lileks at 10:56 PM on August 15, 2000


***macintosh web browsers***

nothing comes close to ms ie5 on the mac, either in standards support or useful features

i like microsoft hardware too, since switching to a 'natural' keyboard a couple years ago i'm typing faster and in a more healthy manner (even on regular keyboards)

and my pc at my current job running windows nt 4 workstation hasn't crashed yet (in 6 months)

wheee!

posted by sawks at 12:40 AM on August 16, 2000


the reason I hate microsoft is that it is so user friendly like aol. for some reason I enjoy a good challenge like my OP Linux america online is evil. I was playing chess online the other day and I was playing someone who asked if I was running AOL. Then I stopped playing him.
posted by worth at 4:30 AM on August 16, 2000


Microsoft's products (including OS) are complicated compared to AOL and the Mac OS's.... are you kidding me? Blah. What was the point of not playing with that guy? Blah. You bother me.
posted by Satapher at 5:40 AM on August 16, 2000


It's easy to say that everything Microsoft does is terrible, but the company has produced too many products for that to be possible. I am as tired of Microsoft's "embrace and extend" policy, monopoly tactics and bloatware as everyone else, but there are a few places where they got it right:

The Windows 95 desktop. It took them around eight years, but they finally got the Windows GUI right in 1995.

Visual Basic. The GUI builder is terrific, especially in how easy it is to associate code with widgets. The built-in help for language syntax and function arguments is also well done.

Microsoft Bob -- and I'm not kidding. The product came out too early and was slow on Windows 95, but Microsoft had a great idea with a customizable user interface for kids and computerphobes. My four-year-old son has taken over a computer here, and if it was running Bob instead of Windows 98, he could operate the computer as easily as he operates the games he plays.

The installation wizard used on Windows 98, Office 2000 and elsewhere. Setting up a new Windows 98 installation is a breeze, and the hardware detection process makes it simple to hook up all the peripherals in a few minutes.
posted by rcade at 6:42 AM on August 16, 2000


You know, I'm frankly impressed by the appearance of Windows. It's not for the reason you might think, though. The published basis of graphical operations on the PC, GDI, is such a steaming turd that it is astounding that you could make anything look good with it. Whether or not they use GDI internally is another question.
posted by plinth at 6:42 AM on August 16, 2000


First off, I didn't intend to call baylink out. This is genuinely a topic that interests me, and it's not related to the thread baylink started it in. That, in my mind, meant I should start a new topic.

And speaking of topic...

Visual C++ is by far the best C or C++ IDE I have ever used. I'm guessing many of the features and implementations are a result of the Microsoft developers using this day in and day out for the development of the rest of their software, and the various perks of it have been leaking into VB and InterDev.

I'm not arguing for VB though, I despise VB, both the IDE and the language.

InterDev, which I use constantly, impresses me for the most part. The tool windows are dockable or not, the toolbars - like all Windows toolbars - are completely customizable. The actual windows can be dropped into the tab interface. I'm guessing Adobe came up with that one considering other recent threads, but it's a damn good interface that MS integrated. Probably bought or stole, but the original demand was for something they created OR bought. :-)

Again, I'm not saying MS is perfect, they're far from it. For what I need to use my computer at work for though, they do a pretty damn good job.

Notice the "at work" qualifier. For what I use my computer at home for, FreeBSD does a pretty damn good job.

Also, I'm glad people brought up hardware. I don't think I've ever owned a piece of Microsoft hardware that hasn't impressed me.
posted by cCranium at 6:54 AM on August 16, 2000


while I was posting, rcade made a good point about the VB IDE. When I was developing actual applications, rather than web-based crap, I'd almost always use VB to design the UI.

I think the difference between my (and probably others, but I'm only able to speak for myself) viewpoint and baylinks is all about how full our glasses are.

I prefer to be impressed by the merits of software. Every piece of software I've ever used has problems, design problems, usability issues, and bugs.

Microsoft software is really no different, so baylink is right in that regard, but MS really does do some things strikingly well.
posted by cCranium at 6:58 AM on August 16, 2000


Re InterDev: The "everything's a dockable toolbar" seems like a great idea until (for some still unexplained reason) all the toolbars suddenly disappear. Including the main menu, since that is now dockable. The hour I spent trying to restore the main menu with nothing but right-click context menus was not fun.
posted by harmful at 7:03 AM on August 16, 2000


Wow, I had no idea that my comment would generate this much heat.

Listen, I hate, hate, microsoft's anti-competitive tactics. "Embrace and Extend" sucks. But I stand by the fact that Microsoft has, and does make some good products. SQL was bought from Sybase, I used it back then, too. However, microsoft has expanded the codebase and made it a much better product.

The OS isn't the best, but, think about the level of backward compatibility there is: You can run programs from the original dos on your windows 98se/me system. Trying running a MacOS 6 program on OSX. Don't get me wrong, windows blows because of microsoft's policy of backwards compatibility; it makes the product slow and inefficient. But microsoft's goal is not a world class workstation with their 9x operating systems. They are meant to be something that your mom or dad can pick up and still be able to run all their old programs on and learn to use fairly quickly.

Visual Basic, despite the malaise that is thrown about regarding this product, I still say that it is one of the best visual development environments I have ever used. Yes it is unfortunate that it is a completely uncompatible language, but unless you are pursuing the 12% of the desktop PC market that doesn't use windows, you're OK.

Also, about frontpage: That program used to be a steaming heap of crap. Now, I actually use it for a lot of routine maintainance. I also know that they bought frontpage about seven years ago.

Also, Adobe bought PageMill (don't remember), GoLive (Cyberstudio)

Macromedia bought Flash (FutureSplash)

IBM bought DB2, WebSphere, Lotus

Just something to think about.
posted by jgooden at 7:03 AM on August 16, 2000


Also, I really like my intellimouse and Natural Keyboard.
posted by jgooden at 7:07 AM on August 16, 2000


Also, about frontpage: That program used to be a steaming heap of crap. Now, I actually use it for a lot of routine maintainance. I also know that they bought frontpage about seven years ago.

I almost included FrontPage 2000 on the list of things Microsoft did well. I have been using it as an HTML editor on several Web sites and wrote an introductory book about it, so I've been tinkering with it for a while.

FrontPage 2000 is an incredible improvement from the previous version. That's not an endorsement, though -- the last version was an atrocious program. However, two things kept me from complimenting Microsoft about FP2K:

1) The built-in FTP publishing system doesn't work. It hangs all the time, sometimes taking the OS with it.

2) Too much proprietary junk in the HTML tags it produces. I use it strictly to edit HTML directly, because there are useful site and file management features.

posted by rcade at 11:02 AM on August 16, 2000


Yes it is unfortunate that it is a completely uncompatible language, but unless you are pursuing the 12% of the desktop PC market that doesn't use windows, you're OK.

Apologies, Josh, but that's the sort of thinking that MS inspires that drives me up the wall.

It's exactly that sort of mindset that MS wants, because it gives them 'lock-in'.

On another front; while MS' keyboards and mice don't necessarily suck, I still prefer Logitech Mousemen, and you can have my old, clicky IBM/Lexmark keyboards when you pry them (all 14 of them :-) from my cold, dead, fingers.

If nothing else, they're 42 times as rugged as the $10 crap you can buy today; useful when you're typing hard because you're pissed. :-}
posted by baylink at 2:55 PM on August 16, 2000


Here's the thing: I think complaining about Microsoft is ritualized in the same way complaining about cafeteria food in college is ritualized: You know it won't complain back.

I used to see everyone complain about IBM in the same way. Back then, too, some of it was legitimate, and some of it wasn't. But, like Microsoft, IBM was a common context everyone had to deal with, so the jokes worked, if for no other reason than because everyone knew what you were talking about.

But there's also an amount of complaining that happens because some people'll always complain, period. It's not unlike the kind of music critic who praises unknown bands to the skies... until they actually break out and get popular. In the same way, if Linux and Windows were to switch market shares tomorrow, some would bitch and moan about what an evil, faceless committee the Linux taliban is, and how commercial software is the Next Big Thing.

What goes round, goes round. {shrug}

posted by aurelian at 3:32 PM on August 16, 2000


Again, I agree with you; complacency only adds to their power. However, I won't *not* use their product just because it is from microsoft. The way I look at it, rewarding products that are good with my consumer dollar is how capitalism works, and how good products keep getting made. Anti-competitive tactics aside, microsoft is just another company. They live and die by our spending habits just as much as anyone, and if everyone exercised as much critical thinking as everyone on this board has, microsoft would most likely be making better and more innovative products available. However, this isn't the case, so we see a particularly rough patch in the consumer products area.

Microsoft can only seem to keep the developer's product right, that says to me that developers have their heads on straight and know when to complain.

And as far as the Yes it is unfortunate that it is a completely uncompatible language, but unless you are pursuing the 12% of the desktop PC market that doesn't use windows, you're OK. comment goes, I probably didn't word that in the best way. Sometimes, if you are limited to windows (for instance, a corporate-wide custom app) visual basic is the way to go. I hadn't intended that to sound like we should ignore the %12 for the sake of convenience.
posted by jgooden at 6:40 AM on August 17, 2000


Hmmm.. Josh, you bring me around to a very good point.

My original argument wasn't actually that MS was a bad company because they made bad products. Rather it was that they made bad products because they were a bad company.

Since I think that, I wouldn't even buy their product if I did think it was good, because I want not to encourage their continued existence.
posted by baylink at 10:49 AM on August 17, 2000


Since I think that, I wouldn't even buy their product if I did think it was good, because I want not to encourage their continued existence.

Ah. So you're not biased, you're prejudiced. (There is a disinction.)

Good to know you've recognized it in yourself, bay. And that you're willing to warn others who might otherwise think you to be rational. {shrug} Certainly I'll remember.

posted by aurelian at 11:20 AM on August 17, 2000


There's nothing wrong with Bay. He's making a statement with his dollars. Instead of choosing to buy the good stuff that microsoft makes to encourage them to make good products, he is *not* purchasing *any* of microsofts products to *discourage* them from being a bad company.
posted by jgooden at 12:22 PM on August 17, 2000


Good to know you've recognized it in yourself, bay. And that you're willing to warn others who might otherwise think you to be rational. {shrug} Certainly I'll remember.

You're missing the point. Boycotting a corporation for some flaw in its organizational makeup is no different than boycotting a product for some flaw in its design. Either way, you're voting with your dollars (or your eyeballs), supporting companies and products that you like and refusing to support ones that you don't.

It's completely rational.

-Mars
posted by Mars Saxman at 12:56 PM on August 17, 2000


No, look at the quote.

I'd consider it rational if he was out to change Microsoft's behavior. I.e., if they became whatever it is he considers to be a "good company", or for them to write better software.

But that's not what he says. He's saying he considers them immutably bad, and that neither a change of behavior nor the quality of their products makes any difference to him.

Sorry, that's past rationality. Rationality would include a win condition. He doesn't have one, just Redmond delenda est.

posted by aurelian at 4:03 PM on August 17, 2000


Why should baylink be responsible for changing a company?

He doesn't like what they do, what they stand for, and their track record, therefore he doesn't support them. That's what capitalism is all about! Should they magically turn themselves around and become, in baylink's mind, a Good Company, he may start buying their products.

My apologies, baylink, for misinterpreting your point to start this thread.

My own views on MS are that the heads of the company are pretty nasty. I highly doubt I would enjoy the company of any of them. The people who actually work at Microsoft though, are generally Good People, trying to do Good work.

And, as I've said, I'm more often impressed by Microsoft development applications than by their competitors.
posted by cCranium at 6:08 AM on August 18, 2000


Why should baylink be responsible for changing a company?

He isn't. And neither bay nor I have said that he is. Even if he was out to change MS' behavior - which he doesn't say he is, quite the contrary - it's still MS' responsibility whether to change.

He doesn't like what they do, what they stand for, and their track record, therefore he doesn't support them. That's what capitalism is all about!

This I agree with.

Should they magically turn themselves around and become, in baylink's mind, a Good Company, he may start buying their products.

And this, most emphatically, is what he has not said. In fact, he's said the opposite. Just to remind, again:

"Since I think that, I wouldn't even buy their product if I did think it was good, because I want not to encourage their continued existence."

Microsoft's behavior isn't at issue according to this. Microsoft's existence is, regardless of their behavior, or the quality of their products.

I really am befuddled at how people aren't reading what is in bay's statements, and keep insisting on seeing things that aren't there, too.

posted by aurelian at 12:10 PM on August 18, 2000


I completely missed the tail of this thread... until Matt put GETtable searches in, and sorted by date.

No one's listening, but I'll close here:

No, Aurelian, I did *not* say, nor even imply, that I wouldn't change my mind if my opinion of MS changed. What I also did not say, but did imply, was that I thought that unlikely in the extreme. In your reply, *you* made the same mistake you accused everyone else of: reading your presonal prejudice into what I did, and did not, say.
posted by baylink at 11:09 PM on October 28, 2000


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