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  • Microsoft Meets Its Own Worst Enemy: Microsoft

    September 27th, 2007

    In the business world, there are many factors that can cause a company to suffer big time and ultimately fail. One is, of course, poor sales, which usually combine with poor profits to destroy the bottom line. Certainly competitors can cause a business lots and lots of grief. But sometimes a company does things that do not work in its own best interests.

    Now before I get the typical “Apple fanboy” insult from a few of our readers again, let me tell you that Apple has also done things that, in the long run, seriously damaged their potential to own a much greater portion of the PC market. A lot of that happened years ago, but the impact is still felt. Many of the myths about Macs, that they are too expensive, not serious business machines and that there is very little software available, descended from early missteps made by Apple.

    Up till now, Microsoft has been regarded as the 800-thousand-pound gorilla that can do no wrong, and besides it treats its customers well enough that they keep coming back. Or they perceive there are no better alternatives.

    Regardless, it does seem to me that Microsoft is doing its level best to anger its customers. They aren’t quite so blatant in their actions as the RIAA, which has been suing music lovers who allegedly downloaded and uploaded pirated music for years, but the handwriting may be on the wall.

    I’m more concerned, though, with the ways in which Microsoft intrudes on the privacy of its customers and makes other wrong-headed business decisions. It’s bad enough that they forced people to download a Windows Genuine Advantage patch that was actually designed to continually report back to their servers whether you were using an authentic, properly-licensed copy of Windows. Now had they been up front about what they were doing, that might be another thing. But they weren’t, and thus the WGA updates came down, without giving folks a proper explanation. Worst, the initial version was actually a beta, and was required for you to receive further software upgrades for Windows and other Microsoft products.

    If that wasn’t bad enough, what about folks who got updates installed that they don’t want? Well, Microsoft pulled this stunt recently, sending a patch to its Windows Update system, even to people who specified that they didn’t want the updates. Does that make sense to you?

    Sure, I can see where the update might have contained an important change, perhaps a bug fix, which was required to download and install critical patches. But if you don’t want the updates, you have a right to make that decision. If you then choose to get them manually from Microsoft’s site, they can just set things up so you take this update first before the rest.

    Otherwise, this is a forced and needless intrusion into the privacy of a PC owner who is already being besieged with unwanted email and the threat of malware. What was Microsoft thinking anyway?

    Yes, I suppose they can deliver appropriate corporate spin that their intentions were good and all, but what about a newly-discovered side-effect, which is that some repair installs of Windows were flaky after that stealth update? Now, a repair install on the Windows platform usually involves taking your original system software CD and using it to perform a reinstallation that leaves all your applications in place. Of course, you then have to download all your patches all over again, dating from the Windows revision your CD contains.

    Unfortunately, dozens and dozens of those updates would fail to download if you did that repair installation after the unannounced, unwanted update from Microsoft.

    In addition to abusing its Windows customers, Microsoft has reserved a few smoke bombs for the Mac. First came an apparently greed-driven change in the Windows Vista EULA, which prohibits you from installing any Vista Home version on a virtual machine, courtesy of Parallels Desktop or VMWare Fusion. Does that make any sense? On a practical basis, this only means you have to buy a more expensive edition of Vista unless you stick with Boot Camp. There are some lame excuses about improved security and all, but they don’t wash.

    Then there’s the news that the Mac Business Unit has removed support for Visual Basic in the forthcoming Office 2008 for the Mac. Yes, there will be AppleScript support, and even Automator actions on all but the $149 Home and Student Edition, which, strangely enough, lacks that and Exchange support.

    However, what are Mac users to do if they need to work on a Word or Excel document with a macro required for their job? Even book authors may have to use one of these documents in order for the final manuscript to be properly formatted. With Office 2008, that won’t be possible. Thus, the promise of true cross-platform compatibility has been broken.

    In their response, Microsoft claims that porting Visual Basic to the Universal version of Office would take prohibitively long, and thus seriously delay release of the product. Maybe, but how many Mac users are going to be forced to stick with Office 2004 as a result?

    If sales of Office 2008 lag, would Microsoft simply stop building Office for the Mac as a result? That will result in the loss of hundreds of millions of dollars of income, and it would be no fault but their own.

    Indeed, Microsoft’s executives need to spend a little more time looking into their mirrors and do some soul-searching about such foolish decisions.



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