Newsletter #410 Preview:
Is This What Microsoft’s Mac Business Unit Means by “Innovation”?

October 7th, 2007

To many of you, the Mac programmers over at Microsoft are the company’s shining stars. Although they labor within the confines of a byzantine bureaucracy and strangely wrong-headed policies, they are not supposed to be drinking the company’s kool-aid. Rather, they’re supposed to be devoted Mac users who have carved out a solid niche where creativity reigns supreme.

Now that may be true to a large extent. I do think that the Mac BU tries really hard to deliver great software, within the serious constraints imposed on them by their employer. On the other hand, this also means that they live with assumptions that may not be entirely realistic.

It is perfectly true that, in developing Office for the Mac, they have a set of contradictory goals. One, of course, is to maintain full or virtually full compatibility with Office for Windows. But, as they learned with the infamous Word 6 in the last decade, you cannot build a Mac application and make it look like you’ve exited Apple’s universe and entered Microsoft’s.

We Mac users are quite demanding of certain constants, on of which, of course, is that a Mac application, for the most part, adhere to the conventions of the platform. In other words, it must be “Mac like,” to use the Microsoft parlance that implies a resemblance but not necessarily a reality.

I am concerned whether they have really considered the implications of that phrase.

Story continued in this week’s Tech Night Owl Newsletter.

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One Response to “Newsletter #410 Preview:
Is This What Microsoft’s Mac Business Unit Means by “Innovation”?”

  1. John Lockwood says:

    While several Microsoft software products are not actually produced by the MacBU, all the ones I have seen and used without exception suck, e.g. MSN Messenger, RDC, and of course Office itself.

    Sometimes this is as per this article, because the software product does not sufficiently adhere to Mac practices, sometimes it is because it is woefully [wilfully] crippled compared to the Windows equivalent, sometimes it is plain buggy. Not one is what I would call reasonable quality let alone good or excellent.

    Now Apple would not normally be considered the world’s leading developer of Windows applications, and yet Apple manage to write Windows software e.g. iTunes which not only manages to do a reasonable job of meeting Windows standards (such as the location of the Preferences option, the Help option, etc.) but still is fully equal in features to the Mac version, and while possibly not as bug free as their Mac versions, is far, far less buggy than Microsoft’s Mac software.

    Microsoft keep (and still are) boasting that the MacBU is the biggest team of Mac developers outside Apple, and yet they produce far less Mac software than Adobe do (and probably less than Google!), and of far less quality than Adobe do.

    Microsoft should be trying to show us (Mac users) that their software is excellent by shipping excellent Mac software and therefore creating the impression that their Windows software is excellent as well, with the ultimate goal of creating their own ‘halo’ effect. What we see in reality completely reinforces the prejudices of Mac users that Microsoft products stink. There is no chance of a Microsoft ‘halo’ effect when one looks at their Mac software.

    Ironically, Microsoft hardware from a Mac perspective is better than their software (despite their being the world’s biggest software company).

    Office 2008 could turn out to be their biggest flop ever (we certainly are not going to be upgrading/downgrading to it).

    I once daydreamed about what it would be like to head the MacBU (i.e. do more and better for Mac customers while still increasing sales for Microsoft), nowadays it would be a nightmare and not a daydream.

    It would be a revelation if even one Microsoft software product for the Mac was :-

    A proper Mac citizen,
    Feature equal to Windows,
    Reasonably bug free.

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