It’s not Bill Gate’s fault

I started writing this as a reply to Lee in the article below and wanted to make more of it, so here’s a separate thread for people to comment on.

Did you notice how, over the past year or two, the Microsoft marketing machine has gone into overdrive to almost separate Bill Gates from the larger company he founded? They’ve had almost complete obedience in towing this line from everyone who has interviewed Gates in that time. Even the BBC’s Rory Cellan-Jones let him off the hook in a recent interview, despite being a Mac user with a more than critical review of Vista under his belt at the time of its release.

There is an air of geeks not wanting to turn on the leader. I do understand this; Gates, unlike any of his fellow tech billionaires, Jobs and Ellison included, is the only programmer – the only technician who literally wrote his own pay cheques, back in the days when Microsoft was Apple’s biggest software developer. BASIC for the altair 8080 and later Apple BASIC for the Apple II, were among the first applications which Gates himself actually wrote (even though the jury is out on whether or not MS simply stole DOS from Gary Kildall before selling it to IBM).

So there’s no wonder that, now he has decided to spend more time on his entrepreneurial pursuit of, among other things, obliterating Malaria in the developing world, people are reluctant to link him immediately with Microsoft’s recent failures, even though some of them are catastrophic and the seeds for which were planted when he was still firmly in charge.

Giant corporations have fallen many times before and for far less damaging reasons than spending billions of dollars on major new products that simply haven’t delivered what they very publicly promised they would.

Vista is quickly becoming Microsoft’s biggest problem, overshadowing much of the work they’re doing to innovate in areas of touch and surface computing. Even the huge success of the XBox does little to repair the image of the company who’s flagship brand fails to match the reliability of Mac OS X on the home desktop and laptop.

Microsoft needed Vista to build upon the in-roads made by the ageing but solid Windows NT server, but again it failed to match the innovation which has continued to see Linux grow in this area in the time it took Vista to go from launch delay to further delay, until it eventually limped out as a glitchy, underpowered shadow of it’s former self.

Why has Vista failed?
Short answer? Because it has to be able to run old applications intended for Windows 98 or even older systems, while also delivering new, more reliable standards.

When Apple bought NExT (a company formed by Steve Jobs while he was away from Apple in the 1990s) they didn’t just get their old spiritual leader back. They also bought NExT’s operating system; which was based upon UNIX (hence Mac OS X is based upon UNIX to this day).

1990’s era Mac operating system was a failing little cludge of poorly performing code, which was power hungry and unpredictable. When NExT came along it gave Apple a chance to break away from applications which required what became known as the classic environment, and introduced Mac developers to a whole new world of stable frameworks to built their applications upon.

Windows is Microsoft’s Mac OS of pre-1997 Apple. They need to come up with some way of chopping off the ancillary limb and set it adrift; allowing Windows 7 developers the freedom to move forward. Windows 7 is the inventive code name for the next generation of Windows, due out sometime between 2010 and 3057.

If they stop worrying about supporting 15 year old applications and learn to let go of outmoded ‘standards’, Microsoft could make Windows 7 a genuinely exciting new direction in what the operating system is there to do; provide a stable and secure framework for applications and network services. Nothing more, nothing less.

Wouldn’t it be great if Microsoft…
Opened up old Windows (pre Vista) code to the open source community.
Developed a whole new breed of operating system, based upon open standards.
Stopped trying to buy innovation from people who understand it and hired better engineers of their own.
Open sourced Internet Explorer.
Developed a ‘lite’ Windows for a sub £100 educational laptops in the third world and worked with UNICEF to give them away for free.


3 comments on “It’s not Bill Gate’s fault

  1. You know more about the products and their backgrounds, so I’ll take your word for it. But I see a massive failure of internal communication, maybe vision too.

  2. I think they just panicked that if they changed Windows too much people wouldn’t get it. Unfortunately no one seems to have told certain departments that some of the biggest changes, which were rightly much-trumpeted in Longhorn, were cancelled.

    The sloppy way in which Control Panels are sort of different, except really they’re just harder to open; the spring loaded menus which sometimes open as you’d expect but more often than not just float in the way over the thing you’re trying to actually open; those incessant pop-over system tool-bar reminders that you’ve just installed something, or discovered some new hardware which in fact you’ve been using all along, except Windows hasn’t installed it properly so it continually reminds you as if you didn’t know; the endless “are you sure you want to do this” reminders which stop you from doing nothing you shouldn’t and simply make users blasé about important security notices.

    NONE of the things which made XP frustrating have been fixed and worse still Vista has some new issues of its own to add into the mix. Vista is just one long list of things which couldn’t have been more ineptly implemented if it turned out the whole thing was really just a massive prank and the actual Vista was still in development. That’s why they have GOT to get things right with Windows 7 – because if they don’t, when industry starts really needing to renew its hardware for things like office applications and IT workers, in the next 5 to 7 years, huge corporations like banks are just going to ditch the idea of using third party vendors for their IT infrastructure altogether and do it all in-house, with Linux and Mac.

    That raises a whole other subject; is Mac ready for the big time when it comes to replacing, not just as a quirky alternative, but a full blown replacement to the existing systems information workers are used to; like call centre employees and receptionists who’ve only ever worked with Windows and would need re-training to get to know the feel and modus operandi of Mac OS.

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