The Two Faces of Microsoft

Via Scoble
What Make MS Evil

I saw a company that cared about it’s employees and only getting the best people they could to create products that would empower people to do jobs. I was starting to believe Microsoft’s slogan on their company TV ads; “Your potential. Our passion.” I mean, come on this must obviously be a company that although large and seeming not very friendly to competition (Netscape vs IE) really does want to empower people to be able to get their jobs done and do things that they haven’t been able to do before. They even offer free trials of nearly all their software products.

However over the last year every time I’ve looked at something coming out of Microsoft that excited me, I would later discover several catches that made the product a waste of my time having even found out about it. A few short examples are digital music, Internet Explorer 7.0, Longhorn, and the details thus far about the upcoming 360 (XBox Next)

What’s interesting about this, from my perspective, is that it shows how customers can perceive a duality between the acts of “Microsoft” and the acts of individual employees.  It also shows how, to be truly successful some of the changes we are pushing for (in the Developer world) really need to carry themselves across more of the company than our little island.  Why, for example, would you use .Net to develop extensions for Windows Media player if you perceive Windows Media Player as evil?

Comments (7)
  1. Stephane R says:

    "Why, for example, would you use .Net to develop extensions for Windows Media player if you perceive Windows Media Player as evil?"

    Just try. There is no way you’ll successfully deploy that app given the scary amount of incompatible Windows Media Player versions out there, some of these with different CLSIDs. Dropping the Windows Media Player activeX control on top of your windows forms is the simplest way to get screwed as an app distributor.

  2. Jeff Parker says:

    Well Media Player needs a lot of work, and the DRM install really needs a lot of work. Honestly I do not mind buying my music through media player but like I bought an album this weekend and it took me over an hour of troubleshooting media players DRM before I could even play it. Starts off download the music just fine. Go to play it says I do not have a license. Finally I got to a pop up that says I need to install an update. I try the update, it says if you are using SP2 with enhanced security then try through the browser. Gives you a nice link to click on, goes to someplace at which can’t be found and redirects you to the front page.

    Finally I just randomly decide to click on “download status” even though the songs have downloaded; I am just looking for some HELP, not download status. Which take me around though and finally helps me find out I am missing an update and after fiddling with that for a while I finally find this article which here,”> which solved my problem. Anyway not a pleasant experience over all. Looking for help never finding any help until I thought “hmmm Microsoft developers are logical people”. I know someone else hid this help button lets try and sure enough that’s where help is or at least redirects me to help. So thanks to the developer that logically named the URL help and curses to the UI, marketing guy that hid it.

    Now that is only one issue with Media Player, and there are others but there are also a lot of great things with media player. I have always preferred it over the others out there. Things like syncing with my Zen Micro is awesome and trouble free. It has also improved dramatically over the years.

    Now as a .net developer since .net 1.0 beta 3 and never looking back. I see some points in the article. I would not write a plug-in for Media player, but then again what does it need? Media player is pretty perfect right now if you ask me, it is on the border of getting bloated, but for right now it is nice. Does everything I could ever want out of a media player. But if I could think of something to write, I probably wouldn’t, I wouldn’t write one for anything in office either as I have been burned down that road before. Some patch comes out and breaks it. So interoping with things other than the OS and Visual Studio are iffy at best. While I have not tried it with .net admittedly I am worried about the old fashioned days of CLSIDs, patches with them not jiving. Even me myself have seen plug-in for office that look cool. But they require some patch. Patching office isn’t easy either you now have to go find your install disks. Which like at work here, my laptop with comes off its 3 year lease in October got Office 2000 installed first from CD. Then I upgraded to Office XP and then upgraded to Office 2003. Yet when I try to patch office since I still have Access 2000 on there for old legacy Access databases still floating around, I get the please insert CD. Well the original CD is long gone, in fact we do network installs from Microsoft Software Assurance and so on. I can’t uninstall that office and reinstall it because it wants the original CD. So as flaky as I know office is I just said heck with it I will wait till my laptop comes off lease.

    Visual studio will build plug-ins and do build them. VS I think is the only product besides windows that goes through the toughest testing and scrutiny. I just do not get that feeling sitting down in front of word as I do sitting down in front of VS. I know I can sit down and abuse VS in the worst of ways and yet still keep on plugging away. VS 2005 I only had crash on me once and hey it is beta. 2003 never, 2002 never, VS 6 digging in my memory but never remember it crashing on me either. Yet Word how I crash thee, let me count the ways and no I can’t patch you because I don’t have the original CD anywhere.

    Now for the Microsoft employees, I like every single one I have ever met and will speak very highly of them. Then again all the ones I have ever met are developers or developer types. I like Microsoft as a whole look at the good they do in the world. I think some of the problems in the company lie in Marketing people and sales people and the ones that come of with these confusing licensing schemes. Look at some of the strife that went on in MSPress before the .net days. I think the licensing people need to learn some interop.

    I am a Microsoft fan and always will be sometimes they disappoint me, and sometimes they have me giddy with anticipation and sometimes they leave me truly satisfied.

    Somehow that last sentence just sounds wrong talking about a software company. But I will leave it anyway. My fellow Passionate geeks know what I mean.

  3. koorb says:

    I kind of agree with the guy.

    Internally Microsoft is this raging dragon of a company that is pushing the software it produces forwards and the world along with it, but externally from a customers perspective, I am disappointed IE7 won’t have tabbed browsing. It is the only reason why I use FireFox instead of IE.

    Microsoft has to understand how people use their OS and bring software out that supports that, because as a customer Microsoft looks like a big lumbering pig that can’t makeup it’s mind on what it is doing (prime example the mixed signals given about WinFS).

    MyLifeBits looks stunning and to everybody, but I need a program that organises my photos NOW, not five or ten years in the future, but Apple has a program that does that. As a customer I have a virus problem NOW, and Microsoft has acquired two AV companies to develop a solution for this, but Apple has a solution.

    Solutions don’t always have to be as grand as the standards Microsoft holds itself to. Other companies realise that sometimes you have to do multiple versions of a product before you reach the goal you originally intended, so why can’t Microsoft…

  4. Stitch2.0 says:

    Jeff wrote:

    I am a Microsoft fan and always will be sometimes they disappoint me, and sometimes they have me giddy with anticipation and sometimes they leave me truly satisfied.

    I can only second this!! I have had a lot of great, aswell as a lot of bad times with Microsoft and its products. But looked at it all together, it was/is a great experience!

  5. josh ledgard says:

    Jeff: Wow, thanks for the in depth comment with great examples of some of the frustrations that accompany trying to pick a MS platform and develop for it. Having come from the dev in test role in VS it also made me feel great that you feel its a well tested product.

    Koorb: Try being a MS employee and going to the internal only Tech-Fest every year. You think the mylifebits thing is cool… But alas, I also have the same fears about the time to market for some of the cool innovations I see.

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