So what if it’s not invented here?

An interesting thing happened the other day.  I was hanging out with a non-techie friend when he asked me if I knew about a problem he was having with Internet Explorer.  Apparently, his web pages were showing chinese characters wherever the character combo of “'s” occurred.  He couldn't figure it out and I threw out some ideas (localized version of IE?  maybe missing patch, etc) when asked me a very interesting question.  He said “do you feel the need to defend Microsoft at all times?”  He didn't ask maliciously as much as he was curious about my allegiance and how far I'd go to maintain some stubborn praise for the company that signs my paychecks.  I explained that I always gave Microsoft the benefit of the doubt and always tried to get excited about their products.  In some cases (like VS.NET, Outlook 2003, Pocket PC, etc.), it's not hard.  In other cases, it is.  But I try to stay honest about the company's deficiencies and stay optimistic for the future.  A lot of people like to say we're a v3 company and I am compelled to believe them. I never used Windows 1.0.  I hated IE 1.0.  I've heard lots of stories of SQL v1.  Those are all GREAT products right now.  The whole .NET thing amazes me because I think that's one of the times we got it right the first time.  You can't help getting excited about v2 of that one.  Meanwhile, our competitors do some great work.  The extent of excellent innovation is not confined within Redmond and any Microsoftie would be naive to think that is the case.  Recognizing the innovations that occur and understanding how to build and extend on the ideas to where it is easier, more usable, and more accessible--that's where Microsoft has made its name.  We didn't invent the word processor, but I couldn't imagine life without Word.  We didn't invent the GUI, but Windows the the most understood interface in the world.  We didn't invent the spreadsheet, but it's amazing what you can do with Excel.  But yes, there are times when I see something built by another company and get a little green with envy.  I think it's that competitive spirit that helps make Microsoft what it is.  Knowing the competition is raising the bar helps us want to raise the bar even further.  No room for complacency here.  Knowing you can be outdone is the best defense for not getting outdone...

The reason this is all so interesting is the Wired article featuring Lenn Pryor in the Longhorn Evangelism team. Lenn is a great asset to Microsoft by all accounts and he was instrumental to PAG doing the Longhorn Emerging Practices guide we released at PDC.  Lenn happens to be a fan of some of the features of Apple's OS X Panther and wrote about it in his blog.  Well, Wired turned it into a major story and wrote about how even the Microsofties want to be Apple at heart.  Hmm, I guess that makes blogs fair game.  🙂  Anyway, a firestorm erupted of people who felt betrayed, vindicated, frustrated, angry, shocked, etc.  People. c'mon!!!  It's just a honest blog entry from someone who loves technology.  As much as everyone would like to think Microsoft has a “Not Invented Here” syndrome, we recognize and appreciate good ideas.  I think we (or I should I) get frustrated when people assume no good ideas come out of Redmond.  Personally, I think Pocket PC so outclasses Palm, it's amazing.  I think the potential in building a .NET app blows J2EE away.  The ease-of-use of a Windows desktop is wonderful.  On the other hand, I thought and still think the Apple Cube is the coolest invention ever made.  My admiration of Steve Jobs is that, even when he “flops” (message to Steve: it wasn't a flop in my eyes, or else I wouldn't still be looking for one on eBay), he still changes the way people think about computing.  I think that, as a Microsoftie, I can admit that without breaking any allegiances or doing anything that is disloyal.  Now, all we have to do is get a Slashdotter to admit that maybe Bill Gates isn't all bad.  Aw, who am I kidding...

{Smashing Pumpkins - Adore}

Comments (7)

  1. Anon says:

    It’s *AMAZING* the number of people who want a cube, I was after one for a headless one for a PVR and everywhere I go people are talking about the cubes…. maybe they will one day take the hint?

  2. Robert Björn says:

    Well, I’m a slashdotter and I think Bill is cool, and so are some of Microsoft’s recent products — Visual Studio 2003 and .NET in general are absolutely awesome! 🙂

    Don’t paint all slashdotters with the same brush. And admit it — you’re probably a closet slashdotter yourself. 🙂

  3. Aaron Lewis says:

    Good points… It would be nice, though, if Microsoft could leave a market or two open for the rest of us.

    For example, there is a product being worked on now called 3degrees. It’s all about community, and the screenshots (I’ve never gotten it to successfully install, myself) make a big point of showing the icons on the desktop for your "groups."

    To me, being a provider of community services, seeing those little icons pop up on the desktop and getting the feeling that *community services* have the possibility of being directly integrated with the operating system using proprietary APIs (the level of effort being made to allow 3rd-party extension of one-offs like 3degress is just plain non-existant) — well, it’s a little scary.

    For me, it’s a strange place to be. My solutions are built on Microsoft.NET technologies, and I absolutely love the platform. .NET Server 2003 has treated us pretty well, too. But to see them provide these great tools that make it affordable for independants like me to make a go of creating a niche on one hand, and then to see them going for the throat on the other (different departments, maybe? lol) is, at the very least, irritating.

    Microsoft and Apple as a discussion is one that is higher level and suitable for people who enjoyed watching games of tug-of-war as kids. It’s far enough removed from the place where Microsoft’s continued expansion into small vertical markets and providing it as part of the user experience using their operating systems out-of-the-box hurts most — me putting food on the table.

    Although, the one thing Microsoft has that I don’t is incredible overhead, so until they day comes that they can really focus on individual needs within a smaller vertical, I’ll keep plugging along. I *do* like the tools you folks provide!

  4. Chris Kinsman says:

    There was no Sql v1. SQL Server when it was a combined AshtonTate, Sybase, Microsoft product started at v4.2 I believe…

  5. Firehawke says:

    Slashdot user here. I agree fully with your viewpoint here. I own a PocketPC (Toshiba e310) and use both Windows AND Linux at home as well as both at work.

    It’s not like borrowing working ideas hasn’t been done since the beginning of time itself. The car industry is a great example…

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