Did Microsoft Waste the Last Decade?

Here’s an interesting longish article about Microsoft.

The article talks about the ways in which Microsoft, the computer giant of the 1990s, missed many steps in the last decade, releasing products after competitors, releasing poor products, and ultimately releasing products few consumers wanted.

I’ve critiqued the Windows platform before – it’s clunky, slow, freezes and sometimes just flat out crashed all the time.  Where the folks at Apple have a sense of aesthetics, their products are cool to hold and use, Microsoft manages to turn to products that somehow feel gargantuan and awkward.  The article talks about the ways in which Microsoft’s corporate culture has stifled innovation and how the company’s missteps have resulted in a lost time and marketing mojo.  To give one example, Microsoft had an e-book reader almost market ready, abandoned the effort and now the Kindle the is the biggest ebook reader around.  The article is worth a read.

  1. #1 by Nathan Erkkila on July 27, 2012 - 11:48 am

    Microsoft allows users to use CMOS and BIOS. Not to mention you can build your own PC. Macs, they are good computers, but they have very limited options in terms of customization.

    • #2 by Glenden Brown on July 27, 2012 - 12:31 pm

      I believe that customization is less important than lots of tech savy folks argue. For the majority of users, I think the Mac is a superior device – more stable, easier to learn and use and overall a more reliable machine. For your tinkerer, your person who wants to customize and even build their own machine, you’re right Apple is far less amenable to that community. But, from the standpoint of effectiveness and reliability, I’ve never had a windows machine that was anywhere near my Mac. Apple has something else – a sense of aesthetics, of design and for lack of a better term curb appeal. Microsoft – for all their knowledge and skill – has a very different sensibility.

  2. #3 by Shane on July 27, 2012 - 1:41 pm

    To be fair though, if you want to build your own machine and then ruin all that hard work by sticking windows on it, that maybe your choice, but it is a bad choice. If you can build your own hardware, you simply must go Linux when it comes software time.

    The customization argument is complete overblown. Way back when I was building custom 486 machines and pentium was a brand new idea with an addition problem, we all said that. “Why get a Mac when I can build my own for less and have better customization?” Then when I wanted to upgrade I could just upgrade in parts, right?

    …except the cpu required a new motherboard, and the new board used a different RAM, and a different power supply, and all that meant a new case, and the new PCi video was a new card, and… 20 minutes later I had a whole new computer. The “upgradability” saved me nothing, and cost me having to run windows. And those where the good old days of win95a when if you ran all the way from morning to sunset you bragged about it.

    Today if i want a new machine i can choose between a no name box tht awill last me 14-18 months, a name box that will last 12-16, or for the same price (when comparing the same features) i can get a Mac. My current Mac is almost 5 years old, has never given me trouble, and runs an OS that blows away every windows system I ever used. Though in some server and development respects it is still less capable than a good quality Linux build.

    I am hoping for a new imac model in the next 3-4 mnths, so that I can update the desktop, and give that 5 year old machine to my daughter, where I fully expect it to run very well for another 2 years. Back when I did tech work, we were always glad to hear of machines that lasted more than 24 months without issue. Sometimes we got lucky and got a few to last 3 years. How much good does BIOS access do me compared to that? Not enough for me, sorry.

  3. #4 by Nathan Erkkila on July 30, 2012 - 1:57 am

    Glenden Brown :

    I believe that customization is less important than lots of tech savy folks argue. For the majority of users, I think the Mac is a superior device – more stable, easier to learn and use and overall a more reliable machine. For your tinkerer, your person who wants to customize and even build their own machine, you’re right Apple is far less amenable to that community. But, from the standpoint of effectiveness and reliability, I’ve never had a windows machine that was anywhere near my Mac. Apple has something else – a sense of aesthetics, of design and for lack of a better term curb appeal. Microsoft – for all their knowledge and skill – has a very different sensibility.

    Let me first start off that I didn’t start this, you did. I like Apple. They are simple, easy to use and they are pretty stable, but they have drawbacks. There is no BIOS or CMOS and if you mess upn the system preferences, then too bad, you just killed it. Apple can only be customized so much, they are difficult to repair, they are more expensive and they are very susceptible to planned obsolescence.

    • #5 by Glenden Brown on July 30, 2012 - 10:00 am

      Nathan – I have no idea how you could mess up the system preferences on a Mac bad enough to kill it. And even if you did you just reload the OS and you’re back on your way.

      I have been having this discussion for years now. IT/IS folks tends to overestimate the skill of the average user; when they talk about customizing they see it as valuable to the end user. I’ve had to stop IT folks from adding some new piece of tech or software that they’re sure I’ll need – usually without first checking with me to see if I’d need it. In my experience, 95% of users use the basics and not much else. At the same time, a sizable number of users overestimate both their abilities and their needs. I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard users say they need this or that (usually very expensive) piece of tech, then they use it once or twice. A tool you don’t use is a tool you don’t need.

      Going back to the article, there were several stories of Microsoft technical folks coming up with some innovation for simpler easier technology and their innovation being shot down. Which allowed other companies to pass the company. For the better part of a decade now, Microsoft has been in the odd role of also-ran. What’s happened is that while they’ve been fixing windows, everyone else has been innovating. Microsoft took down IBM – and they seem to have become IBM in turn. It’s a fascinating turn of events.

  4. #6 by Nathan Erkkila on July 30, 2012 - 2:08 am

    Shane :

    To be fair though, if you want to build your own machine and then ruin all that hard work by sticking windows on it, that maybe your choice, but it is a bad choice. If you can build your own hardware, you simply must go Linux when it comes software time.

    The customization argument is complete overblown. Way back when I was building custom 486 machines and pentium was a brand new idea with an addition problem, we all said that. “Why get a Mac when I can build my own for less and have better customization?” Then when I wanted to upgrade I could just upgrade in parts, right?

    …except the cpu required a new motherboard, and the new board used a different RAM, and a different power supply, and all that meant a new case, and the new PCi video was a new card, and… 20 minutes later I had a whole new computer. The “upgradability” saved me nothing, and cost me having to run windows. And those where the good old days of win95a when if you ran all the way from morning to sunset you bragged about it.

    Today if i want a new machine i can choose between a no name box tht awill last me 14-18 months, a name box that will last 12-16, or for the same price (when comparing the same features) i can get a Mac. My current Mac is almost 5 years old, has never given me trouble, and runs an OS that blows away every windows system I ever used. Though in some server and development respects it is still less capable than a good quality Linux build.

    I am hoping for a new imac model in the next 3-4 mnths, so that I can update the desktop, and give that 5 year old machine to my daughter, where I fully expect it to run very well for another 2 years. Back when I did tech work, we were always glad to hear of machines that lasted more than 24 months without issue. Sometimes we got lucky and got a few to last 3 years. How much good does BIOS access do me compared to that? Not enough for me, sorry.

    The problem with Linux is that the availability of software in a linux-based system is incredibly limited. That is why they are good for making servers since they are faster, but that also means you don’t get things like fucking Adobe. Seeing that you worked on 95 systems, you obviously don’t get how computers today can be upgradable. You could go from an i3 to an i7 without replacing anything but the processor since it’s the same LGA 1156 socket. From a Pentium 4 to an i-series, then you would have to change the motherboard and RAM, but that’s it. Power supplies have remained the same since 2003 when SATA first came out. That never has to be replaced unless you are upgrading it with a gaming video card. The video card has been using PCI express since. 2004. Things really haven’t changed. Upgradability is a lot cheaper not than back in 1995. Not to mention that Microsoft has a big advantage over Mac and Linux. Software. There is nothing software-wise that a PC cannot use save for old DOS programs. Not to mention that the PC is the computer for gamers. An entertainment that my generation is heavily into. I cannot play Skyrim or Shogun 2 on Apple or Linux.

    Oh but what do I know? I only work on computers every day.

  5. #7 by Shane on July 30, 2012 - 8:50 am

    Nathan, win95 is my example, I built and ran systems up to vista and hardware to i3. You may work on machines every day, but you seem to have a few holes in your Mac knowledge. When you say that if you mess up system preferences you just killed it, I am at a loss. I have never seen anything that can be done to a macs prefs that can kill it. I have seen people lock up BIOS chips to the point they need flashing, but those are not Macs.

    The software argument is also a little off. I can run every single piece of software made on my Mac. Mostly because I run Linux, bad, all versions of windows, and OSX. Usually without rebooting. No windows machine can say that. Even virtualization on windows is not as effective.

    But I agree, windows was made for games.

  6. #8 by brewski on July 30, 2012 - 10:37 pm

    My MacBook Pro shuts down spontaneously several times a day. Never had that problem with a PC.

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