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RPGWatch Forums » General Forums » Off-Topic » Editorial: Microsoft continues to drop the Ball

Default Editorial: Microsoft continues to drop the Ball

September 20th, 2007, 01:23
This is an article on the problems of facing Microsoft. I deliberately tailored it to not be the usual rant we've been hearing for the last 20 years; I won't be spelling their name with a dollar sign. Instead, this is article on recent problems with the company.

Since its a long article I've highlighted my central points in bold to make it easier for reading. Its not meant to make it a louder point as some anti-MS post are apt to do. Its simply because I know most forum readers don't have time for too long an article.

Since Bill Gates took a back seat to administrative role after losing the Antitrust suit the company has made some serious missteps. Of course, like Rockefeller no one for one instant believes he doesn't still control the company.

With the equivalent of a slap on the wrist from the Appeals courts MS felt comfortable enough to proceed with the status quo and continue to leverage the next version of Windows (XP). They did this to several companies of course but what got them into trouble this time was the Media Player being imbedded.

1) Windows Media Player - Since the release of Be and the growth of MP3 players there's been a growing popularity of using home computers for media. MS attempted to shut out competitors by leveraging their own, much improved Media Player already integrated into Windows to become the premier program. This caught the attention of European regulators who also felt emboldened by the American antitrust suit. They were slapped with a (reduced) $613 million fine in which their appeal was slapped down just last week.

2) The release of Windows XP has been one of the few bright spots for them. The company has finally gotten PC customers to move off its unstable Windows 95 series and force them to upgrade their software. Somewhat controversally they launched their WGA program to force users to register their copy in order to reduce piracy.

The OS market consolidated MS felt it needed to branch out. They managed to buy out and destroy the home internet appliance, the WebTV quite successfully but they had an about face.

3) After the success of the Nintendo 64 and the especially the Playstation MS decided to focus on the video game console market with the XBox.

From the start MS had been losing money on the device so they squeezed their suppliers (nVidia) to absorb some of the loss.

Worse, with the focus on their video game products MS has lost touch with their PC base.

4) Firefox, et al. While MS was taken on Sony the grandchildren of Netscape were getting their revenge on MS by developing superior browsers. The creation of "tabbed browsing" made their Internet Explorer browser look badly outdated. When MS finally released IE7 it was full of bugs that made it incompatible with many websites and some applications since it was integrated in the OS.

As well, an effort was made by the company to redesign look and feel of the thing and made it counter-intuitive.

5) Lindows - With Unix enthusiasts finally agreeing on a standard with Linux, Walmart's support of the small company Lindows proved to be an embarrassment for the company.

Walmart being one of the few companies with the leverage to cross swords with MS, this was clearly an attempt to squeeze MS to reduce OS costs the way they did against Visa.

MS fired back by suing Lindows and were surprised by a very effective defence that ruled against MS. The name Windows was declared too generic a name to trademark and MS ended up settling with Lindows by paying their court costs for the agreement that they change their name to Linspire.

The Lindows owner also was allowed the bragging rights to the press.

6) Windows XP 64 - This OS runs much more efficiently than its 32 bit counterpart but has the earmarks of being an also ran.

To be fair 64 bit processing was in its infancy at release, however from the start the Linux equivalent has 32 bit processing native to it. Compatibility wouldn't have such an issue if this were the same with XP 64.

Windows 95 and XP each had methods of dealing with previous levels of software, if only to lean on devs to make them compatible (with the exceptions of cheaper manufacturers such as Reveal who were thankfully put out to pasture).

It is only thanks to cross compatibility with Windows Server 2003 that drivers are finally being made available to this little OS.

7) XBox 360 - the original XBox did start selling games after 3 years but its never made numbers like the Playstation 2. MS released this with huge hype around the same time as the Playstation 3.

Other companies offered higher priced models aimed at the "core gamer". Both companies were avoiding making the same mistake of previous years of sticking with a console's technology for too long while game profits were rolling in.

However, neither company counted on Nintendo's resurgence with the Wii and their new innovations in user controls. Nintendo's focus on the casual gamer has embarassed the bottom lines of both their rivals.

As well, Playstation 2 game sales are still brisk and Sony has clearly showed an unwillingness to suffer further losses with their console sales. The PS3 may be expensive but either it is profitable or is sold at cost.

MS on the other hand is probably still taking losses at each 360 sold.

8) Office 2007 - after successive upgrades to Office 2000, XP, and 2003 there wasn't much new in these to write home about. However, companies kept buying them to be up to date.

With Office 2007 MS decided to rewrite the book without checking to see what kind things people like to read. The result was another counter-intuitive set of panels that emphasises quick keys over mouse control which is a throwback to company policy.

Businesses are extremely reluctant to switch to this to say the least.

9) Zune - MS entered the MP3 market taking on Apple's iPod the way its taken on the XBox.

Although MS's muscle has positioned itself very well in kiosks against its rivals, Steve Job's vision at Apple has continued to keep the market safe for iPod the same way he did by taking it over in the first place: brand awareness and by making a very good product. The iPod has certainly entrenched itself and Jobs has gained a leverage over the music industry like no one has before.

Zune is still in its infancy however and MS has left a trail of companies in their wake such as Borland, Wordperfect, Lotus, and Realaudio.

The Zune is poised on the doorstep of Apple the way the XBox was with Sony. At this point Apple's competitors' only advantage is their lower price which Apple customers seem to ignore.

10) Windows Vista - MS's first OS in 5 years (they released 3 in 2 years before that) has been received with a loud thud.

Vista includes a handful of features that XP does not but most of the more powerful or interesting ones were gutted from development years ago due to problems. The CEO of MS was fired by Gates for his inability to release Vista by Christmas.

Customers rebelled and vendors such as Dell pressured MS to allow XP to be sold again. Customers by and large see no compelling reason to upgrade from an OS that works and feel that any decent feature such as DX10 could probably be made compatible for XP.

Further problems include lack of backwards compatibility on many software titles and worse many hardware products that may break when a DX10 patch is released.

8) IBM releases Lotus Symphony to the OpenOffice project - OpenOffice and Google Apps have so far made little dent against MS's Office but this week's announcement by IBM may finally help release MS stranglehold with Office.

Time will have to tell however. IBM been fighting MS for year to regain its number one spot after its self destruction with the overprice and incompatible IBM PS/2 PC and the failure to garner interest away from MS with its OS/2 Warp.
—————-

Gate's ruthless takeover of the home PC market has been successful for 20 years bringing down the strongholds of such stalwarts as IBM.

The companies decision to branch out to the hardware end in the form of its XBox have created some talk but not the overwhelming sales it needs (at greatly reduced costs).

This focus is the cause of the company's stalling in the release of one failed software product after another, in markets where it was king.

The XBox' purpose to develop more standardized hardware for the mishmash of IBM PC clones may have been somewhat needed at first but cross platform development between the two have been virtually ignored.

MS quickly adopted a policy to encourage work on XBox games first and so devs treat the PC as an afterthought, and save costs by not gearing the ported games to PC designs.

The company initially bulked at the age old dream of convergence with the XBox and has since backtracked on this idea. Features that most consoles previously lacked such as internet compatibility, and DVD players have been added.

Meanwhile Windows, Internet Explorer, Office have suffered and the company lacks proper focus in the lucrative media player market.

Were MS to spin this division off and stop subsidizing it they could then get back to what they do best and that's software

XBox could stop being so overly ambitious and be a product that works like the Wii.

Developer of The Wizard's Grave Android game. Discussion Thread:
http://www.rpgwatch.com/forums/showthread.php?t=22520
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September 20th, 2007, 02:06
Nice read, Lucky Day However, it was on this Monday, the 18th of Sept. that the EU-regulators as you call them did fine Microsoft as having misused a dominant position on the market in Europe, especially with the Windows Media Player. The interesting part about this verdict at the EU-court last monday is that the verdict touches on how thibgs looked like 8-10 years ago. Microsoft now have partners in Sun, Novell, and even have added an open source division to help Linux and Firefox etc. to be able to have their programs run better together with windows.

The verdict also says that Microsoft must make public the technical specifications for windows XP (or maybe Vista as well). I don't exactly understand what this means? but my guess is that the verdict makes it so that MS needs to disclose some of tech specifications on a website of some sorts, thus given away some of the sourcecode to the public. Just imagine if Ferrari or Volvo or a Karl Lagerfeld or Georgio Armani were asked to make part of their design documents available to the public. There would be an outrage against this. It is just because it is a software company this is happening. I dare say that it could well be that this also is happening, both the fine, and the making the source code available to the public, partly because it is Microsoft, partly because it is an american company.

It is interesting that the EU-court haven't given out fines to say Arla (a Danish/Swedish dairy company) who also clearly misused their position on the market to shove competitors out by demanding Arla's products get a better place. Or no trade at all. Arla have a market share of about 90% or so in Denmark…

I don't understand people's mistrust and distrust of Microsoft. I can understand that people think it isd a bad idea that one company have market share of 90%-95% of the market, though. But nobody seem to be talking about Apple's market share in the mobile media player's market with their iPods.

The problems Microsoft are having come mainly from that Microsoft are doing way too much. They need to focus on Microsofr classic, making software and Operating systems. This is where doing 'the things you're good at' comes into play. It seems to me that Microsoft too much is Bill Gate's visisons about Microsoft being in every home, in every computer, in every digital thing we touch, be it the internet, the OS for computers, the mp3 players, the consoles etc. etc.

According to the movie, 'the software pirates' IBM was ready to be taken down. They didn't understand what a revolutionary piece of software and interface developers at IBM presented them with. Then they showed this to Steve Jobs (apple) and Bill Gates sort of, you know, stole the design for his windows 95. And made it available to the whole world. There's one thing Microsoft does better than anyone else, and that is 'being inspired' (let's just call it that, shall we ). Then take this inspiration and streamline it so that many more people can use it. The windows versions of everything also have the positive feature that they can work with each other. Microsoft developed the direct x thing that allows software programs to interact with each other.

If I were Bill Gates, I would really look down from my high top corner office and ask myself 'what is the meaning of microsoft' and 'what is microsoft's purpose in life'.
It clearly can't be making money as Bill Gates is the # 1 or #2 richest dude in the world. It then must be something else.

Also, Lucky Day, have you considered that Bill Gates really has stepped down from the day to day operations, and maybe even the long-term strategic decisions in the company? And this is why, the company, MS, has been the missteps of which you have spoken?

/aries100
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September 20th, 2007, 03:03
Originally Posted by Lucky Day View Post
As well, Playstation 2 game sales are still brisk and Sony has clearly showed an unwillingness to suffer further losses with their console sales. The PS3 may be expensive but either it is profitable or is sold at cost.

MS on the other hand is probably still taking losses at each 360 sold.
As of this summer the PS3 cost ~$850 to make for the model that sells for $600, losing the company ~$250 per system. Since then they have introduced new components into the mix while effectively keeping the price structure the same. It is easy to estimate that the profit/loss sheet looks the same.

Whereas the XBOX360 has been 'break even' for ~9 months, and probably still is even with recent price drops.

Nintendo, however, has been making money hand over fist with every Wii (and DS) since day 1.

Nice article otherwise …

— Mike
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September 20th, 2007, 09:10
Ive said it before, and I'll say it again: i'm never going Vista, XP for life!

Theyll have to drag my copies of XP from my cold, dead paws!
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September 20th, 2007, 10:02
Good read Lucky. Maybe Gates should be locked in a room with only DOS 2.0 for a year!!

If God said it, then that settles it!!

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September 20th, 2007, 11:28
I generally agree with most of that.

That said, I simply don't see unbundling Media Player as a positive step but it doesn't really affect me.

I'm also not convinced on the Wii. It has a terrible attach rate…let's see how it fares in the long run and see if all these casual players actually buy any games in two or three years. Microsoft also had to establish itself with the Xbox against long-running competitors (Sony and Nintendo) so the current losses don't surprise me.

They've certainly dropped the ball on PC gaming, however. No argument on that.

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September 20th, 2007, 11:31
Originally Posted by Corwin View Post
Good read Lucky. Maybe Gates should be locked in a room with only DOS 2.0 for a year!!

640 K should be enough for him.

Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction. (E.F.Schumacher, Economist, Source)
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September 20th, 2007, 11:56
Originally Posted by Lucky Day View Post
6) Windows XP 64 - This OS runs much more efficiently than its 32 bit counterpart but has the earmarks of being an also ran.

To be fair 64 bit processing was in its infancy at release, however from the start the Linux equivalent has 32 bit processing native to it. Compatibility wouldn't have such an issue if this were the same with XP 64.

Windows 95 and XP each had methods of dealing with previous levels of software, if only to lean on devs to make them compatible (with the exceptions of cheaper manufacturers such as Reveal who were thankfully put out to pasture).

It is only thanks to cross compatibility with Windows Server 2003 that drivers are finally being made available to this little OS.
Could you elaborate on this?

(1) Vista x64 does run 32-bit programs in 32-bit mode, just like every 64-bit version of Windows to date. IOW it has "32 bit processing native to it" as far as I can understand the meaning of the phrase.

(2) Driver availability for Vista x64 has been very good from day 1. Not perfect, mind, but still very good. Sure, there's the occasional device that's unsupported, but it's nowhere near the problem many people make it out to be.

(3) Application back compatibility on Vista x64 is excellent. I've had no showstoppers attributable to the 64-bit-ness of the OS, even with pretty damn old software, and comparatively few problems that weren't resolved by setting the compatibility mode for the application in question.
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September 20th, 2007, 12:09
To elaborate a bit: the thing that bugs me about the griping re Vista is the "damned if they do, damned if they don't" aspect.

Windows XP is showing its age. It doesn't install well on RAID-based systems, the driver model is fundamentally broken, and the user security model is fundamentally broken. No amount of patching will fix this; it needed a redesign.

So Microsoft redesigned it, and did an on the whole pretty decent job of it, considering their design priorities: application back compatibility is 100% minus epsilon, driver availability is good, and the thing works quite well.

And what do we get? "XP forever, they'll pry it out of my cold, dead hands." Jesus Christ on a bike.

Now, they *could* have taken a completely different approach — for example, basing the whole thing on a Unix-like kernel and doing back compatibility via emulation or virtualization, and adding that database-based file system for good measure. This would have resulted in a completely modern, completely robust OS much easier to develop for and much stabler to run… but if you're bitching about driver availability or application back-compatibility now, you would be in cardiac arrest with something like that.

What else? Built-in DRM. People bitch about it. Then the same people bitch about games installing their own ring-0 DRM drivers. Or if they don't install ring-0 drivers, they bitch about on-line activation. Damned if you do, damned if you don't — these people won't be happy until DRM is completely abolished, which is totally OK, but also totally not realistic at this time.

People: there are TRADE-OFFS involved in everything. There's no free lunch.

Want the fundamental security problems in XP resolved? Fine — but it means that you'll need new drivers. Want the possibility to use and develop 64-bit apps? Fine — but that also means you'll need new drivers. Want 100% back-compatibility? Fine — but that means living with a 15-year-old architecture that was a bit dodgy to start with. Want a database-based file system? Fine — but then you won't get 100% application back-compatibility. And so on.

/me gets off soapbox
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September 20th, 2007, 12:35
Sofar Vista has done nothing but added huge amount of overtime work (in the firm I work for). Last I heard they didnt get it to work (firewall/VPD problems) at all. Im so glad I dont have to deal with that crap (I do other stuff in the firm).
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September 20th, 2007, 13:46
Originally Posted by Prime Junta View Post
To elaborate a bit: the thing that bugs me about the griping re Vista is the "damned if they do, damned if they don't" aspect.
The problem I have is that unlike Apple who gets people to joyfully part with their money on a regular basis (heck, I shelled $80 each for the new iLife and iWorks suites without a second thought), Microsoft has a heavy-handed way of dealing with customers as 'revenue units' that makes people begrudgingly give them money when the need to.

Their whole gaming initiative - making things Vista exclusive and introducing 'Live for Windows' in a way that makes XP users feel like they are Sony in the console wars, having exclusives pried away from them - is pretty much hateful to their existing customer base, and once again shows why they are looked upon as a 'necessary evil'.

Perhaps there really *is* a "damned if they do, damned if they don't" aspect, but it is buried knee deep in a mess of Microsoft's on making.

— Mike
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September 21st, 2007, 13:06
Originally Posted by Prime Junta View Post
Now, they *could* have taken a completely different approach — for example, basing the whole thing on a Unix-like kernel and doing back compatibility via emulation or virtualization, and adding that database-based file system for good measure. This would have resulted in a completely modern, completely robust OS much easier to develop for and much stabler to run… but if you're bitching about driver availability or application back-compatibility now, you would be in cardiac arrest with something like that.
PJ, driver availability is only a problem for the unix/linux based os, because of windows. If M$ would go for such a kernel, the world would be much better -> quality games coming out for linux.

so very, very tired (Star Trek XI quote according to the Simpsons)
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September 25th, 2007, 04:24
Just to let you know I have a reply but I've been too busy to formally work it all out just as it took about a week to get down the original post.

There's some more information I wanted to add on MS that I overlooked (and I've lost now because I didn't write it down - grr!) and I want to respond to some specific replies.

Developer of The Wizard's Grave Android game. Discussion Thread:
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September 25th, 2007, 10:31
I have to say that with the Halo 3 launch happening, the whole Bungie / Halo / XBOX thing just gets stirred up in my mind again … a PC game turned into an XBOX exclusive with a crappy PC port coming 2 years later … and Microsoft 'supports' PC gaming?!?!

— Mike
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September 26th, 2007, 01:05
Yeah, 'life' support!!

If God said it, then that settles it!!

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September 26th, 2007, 01:11
Originally Posted by Corwin View Post
Yeah, 'life' support!!
Zing!

… That's all I got.
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September 29th, 2007, 06:34
This seems like a good place to post this

Microsoft is extending XP OEM licenses for another 5 months

The company said it will make the full version of Windows XP available to PC manufacturers and retailers through June 30, 2008. It will continue to offer a basic edition in emerging markets through June 2010
Lot's of places are reporting this but here's a good article on it from Information Week.

Developer of The Wizard's Grave Android game. Discussion Thread:
http://www.rpgwatch.com/forums/showthread.php?t=22520
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September 29th, 2007, 11:21
I lost a ton of respect for Microsoft when they released Halo 2 as a "Vista only" game. At the time Vista had just been released and it was an obvious ploy to try to spur sales for the new OS. To make matters worse, they had the balls to price a 3 year old game at $49.99.

If Microsoft had any brains at all they would release an XP version of Halo 2 or at least a patch to allow it to run on XP. Their arrogance was unbelievable to think that making Halo 2 a Vista only product was going to blow their sales up.
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September 29th, 2007, 15:25
Umm… it's called an "incentive". Nothing more, nothing less. I don't get why or how people can get seriously angry about this. I believe that they (the gaming industry on a whole) are showing approximately 3000 games at E3 every year (yes, including those terrible casual games but still…). And two out of those thousands upon thousands of games are Vista-exclusive (Halo 2 and Shadowrun). OMG!!!!!1111 M1cr0$0fT r teh d3viiiilll!!!11 /dramaqueennerdfaint
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September 29th, 2007, 17:59
Umm… Pricing a port of a 3 year old Xbox game at $50 might be an "incentive" to you, but it sure isn't to me.
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