Very much alive.

It's been great to spend the holiday weekend out and about with the family, and I spent Saturday evening been playing with the pictures I'd shot - I can't say much about the software involved but it's very, very cool. I set my laptop to record Dr Who and the qualifiying for the Malaysian Grand prix (yes I know I've still got to write part 2 of moving to ultimate. ).  

I was watching the Motor Racing in a Window while I was playing with pictures and reading blog posts.  One of the them was Darren's which has a link to a peice in the Grauniad about the Apple's Ads - here in the UK they star David Mitchell (PC) and Robert Webb (Mac). A favourite bit reads

[Mitchell and Webb] are best known for the television series Peep Show... ..  in which Mitchell plays a repressed, neurotic underdog, and Webb plays a selfish, self-regarding poseur. So when you see the ads, you think, "PCs are a bit rubbish yet ultimately lovable, whereas Macs are just smug, preening tossers." In other words, it is a devastatingly accurate campaign.

These ads do get under the skin of a few people. Dell have responded in kind; when I was at Tech Ready I reported that someone asked Steve Ballmer about them - his reaction "Given their market share..."   Funny enough that report linked to the same article - or at least to "the wonderful-if risqué Belle de Jour , who has an interesting take on Dr Who using a PC not a Mac" which stemmed from and linked to it. I wonder if Darren reads me, Belle, or if he's taken to reading the Guardian since he became a marketing luvvie. 

That Tech Ready report focused on the shirts we had with Hugh MacLeod's Blue Monster on them - the event felt like "Fly in, change the world a little, Fly home"  hence the title Change the world AND go home instead of the original "Change the world OR go home". It's interesting to look at Steve Clayton's peice on the traction this is getting inside Microsoft.  And this Thursday Hugh announced he had a new client in Microsoft. 48 hours later he was telling us Why his client is dead -  which must be some kind of record for the PR industry. I think I know when I see someone giving the pot a stir, and I'm seeing it here (Hugh went back with a bunch of updates for why this is false - which might have been what he was after). He'd picked up on a post by Paul Graham which said Microsoft was dead due to

  1. Google.
  2. Ajax.
  3. Broadband Internet.
  4. Apple

I'm not sure about responding someone who makes it a plank of his argument that he lives in a different world from Microsoft, but lets look at these 4.

There's no denying Google's rapid profits growth and that they're the darlings of the media and of Wall Street. We'll see if things get harder for them. Google's growth depends on taking more advertising away from TV and other media. In the UK we used to have a lot of great TV but now a shrinking pot of advertising to pay for more channels means there's less worth watching. Google may mean the death of quality TV. But not a large scale replacement for desktop applications.

Ajax certainly means you can build decent web applications and Broadband means you can deliver them to consumers. But no one has ever shown me a side by side comparison between an app running in Browser and app running locally where the Browser app was better. Communicator Web Access is an Ajax app. It can't kick off an e-mail, do voice or video, or remote call control, give you presence data in web page or your mail client, or do search-as-you-type for contacts but in other respects it's as good as communicator. Apps where you want data off line or need to show legal complaince or meet freedom of information rules, or mine a collection of shared documents accross large teams don't work so well in an on-line model - so "Road warriers", Governments and large businesses won't store their data in the cloud. Small business and small office/home office users might, do but if you need a Mac, Linux or Windows PC to on which to run the browser, the local application is better. Interesting to wonder how those who work in and around IT view a move of everything into to colossal internet data centres: I don't see the Open-Source community embracing that.

Consumers have grown more demanding than business users. They run games (local processing isn't negotiable), and music, photos, and Video. Music is geared to downloads. It would be quite possible to host the music you own on a server in the cloud, stream it to your PC, or download to your portable player; it would simplify a lot of DRM issues. The songs on my PC total about 800 MB - I can shoot 5 times that volume of photos in a day, so storing photos in the cloud is a big storage and bandwidth problem issue. But every photographer I've ever met wants their own storage. Adobe are dipping a toe in the water with an on-line editor (which presumably will still cost much more in Britain), but it's rudimentary and designed to show people they need a proper editor on their computer. Since I mentioned recording TV: even at 480 line resolution this uses about 1.8GB per hour - you can do the sums for the storage this would need. Giant, free-to-access libraries of broadcast quality TV would reduce the storage requirement, if they existed (which the don't) and who's leading the delivery of TV over IP.

A blinkered desktop-only world is limitting.  So is an only-at-the-server world. The best combination brings together servers - whether local, hosted, or in the cloud - with Personal computing power, graphics and storage.  The best place for the server varies from case to case. There will always be an argument about what form Personal Computing should take. Which brings me to Apple. They've dropped computer from their name and are now about selling designer electronics (Phones which cost $500 with a contract for example) - a space traditionally occupied by the likes of Sony and Nokia. Apple punch above their weight, and their success since Steve Jobs came back proves that "Dead" isn't forever (not a bad theme for Easter). But you can't cite meeting a lot of Apple users - and then argue that Personal computing is dead, which Paul Graham does. 5 paragraphs in he says he lives in a different world to Microsoft - he's a venture capitalist who deals with Californian start-ups who need to prove they "think different". Sometimes the line beween thinking differently and being a "smug, preening tosser" is a fine one.

So here's a list of 10 things which people thought kill Microsoft and haven't

  • SCO open Desktop
  • Local Area networks
  • OS/2
  • Client/Server computing.
  • Linux
  • The Internet
  • The Millenium bug
  • Netscape
  • The NC
  • Wishful thinking


Happy easter


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Comments (9)

  1. James ONeill says:


    You don’t dispute being an "anything but Microsoft" bigot then ?

    I think you’re saying that ANY system needs to be properly patched and needs protection from viruses spyware etc. You seem to have spent a
    lot of time dealing with systems that aren’t. Your statement that having
    “I was able to stop using IE, I could not remove it from my system (as could be done in 98).  It sat there on my system as a potential vulnerability;”
    . Code that you don’t run can’t be a Vulnerability – IE doesn’t run in the background.

    Your confidence in Linux being free of Malware isn’t well founded. There is this “Minority dilema” so long as Linux and Firefox are the minority
    they don’t get targeted. If you were right that Microsoft is at the point of death, then that would imply a huge surge in Linux usage, which would make it a much more worthwhile system for the Malware writers to target.Put
    Vulnerabilities linux windows into a search Engine and see the stack of entries that come back show this or that report shows
    Windows has Fewer vulnerabilities. For some reason the
    Register quoting CERT
    was high up the list at both Windows Live and Google. So was this
    VNU article from 2002.
     Or this
    one – you do understand the references to Kool aid don’t you ? What are you drinking ?

    You say“in the open source world people do it because they want to.”.
     and that’s the problem it’s not fun or sexy to go back and fix some obscure vulnerability in 10 year old code (which is what the ANI file bug is). Most users can’t fix problems in the code and most large organizations think it would
    be a dreadful idea for their IT guys to do such a thing. And while Microsoft can say “if you haven’t done training X, you can’t approve code to go in the Windows distribution” that’s unenforceable on OSS developers. Patches do come out for all Oses and it
    doesn’t matter whether you run Windows, Linux or Mac-OS the need to keep the system patched, the need for malware protection isn’t confined to a single OS. I don’t understand why you have such a hang-up that some in MS Australia thought we might change the
    patch schedule.

    IE is less vulnerable in Vista and of course there is Defender built in. We’d give away real time anti Virus if the legal restrictions placed
    on us didn’t forbid it. Which brings me to your out of context quote of Paul Thurrott. That refers to a “bad old Microsoft” which never even existed (as you quote him as saying the one “All the Linux and Apple fanatics always imagined was out there,”) . Did
    we have people who thought “Anything goes” who overstepped the mark. Yes I’m afraid we did. Have they all mellowed or left or been diluted completely by people like me who joined since 2000 ? It seems unlikely. What dark murky waters do these dinosaurs still
    lurk in ? When he wrote in Feb 2006 Paul thought there are still some in the Windows division (did he mean Brian Valentine ? no longer with the company)
     and he says in the paragraph after the one you quoted “And while it was allowed to continue during the software Glasnost of the past few years because of the immeasurable benefits of Windows to Microsoft’s bottom line, it seems that the
    company is finally, if belatedly, fixing things” read – “The surviving dinosaurs are being dealt with”. And who lead the Glasnost that Paul mentions. I said

    , that it was Ballmer ? (and you might find what a “new Microsoft” guy makes of “Old Microsoft” interesting too) . If you see Gates and Ballmer as the instigators of the bad behavior of the old Microsoft, you’re very much mistaken. Culpable for not
    doing something about it earlier, perhaps.

    You realize your quote from Wendy Seltzer applies to a draft version of the EULA for Vista which

    never applied to shipping product
    ? Her points seem to be (a) We have Activation to prevent piracy, (b) you must try to circumvent it and (c) People circumvent it we’ll shut them down. And we’ve been very clear and said that up front (the biggest problem
    is pirated volume license keys. If we find people doing the same thing with DRM keys for media, we’ve said we’ll invalidate those. We’ve shut down some upsetting users who had PCs repaired by people who took a short cut and used a ”well known” key instead
    of the users own to re-install).  Since I mentioned the reinstalling, I can build a machine off the network from bare metal to a standard corporate build, add my data an a couple of specific apps that I use in an hour or so (2 minutes
    work, the rest letting the system do its stuff) In that situation the threshold for when you unpick a problem and fix it and when you “Nuke” the machine gets a lot lower. Got a rootkit ? Don’t bother fixing it just rebuild…


  2. James ONeill says:

    Limulus, reading your "anything but Microsoft" rubbish and I following your link and I wonder why I click the approve button for such a troll. Your analogy is tasteless too.

    I’d say we’re somewhat better than being in a vegetative state. I’ll give you a different analogy – because you’re describing threats. I go scuba diving and I could die doing it. That’s a RISK. Make
    bad enough decisions and my next dive is to six feet in a wooden wetsuit. But I’m not dead yet. In fact the diving makes me feel all the more alive. You’ve named
    risks not a cause of death.  

    The internet is certainly a disruptive technology. "Pathway of Windows Malware too numerous to count" ? Linux distros have more vulnerabilities which take longer to patch than Windows. Linus T’s
    "with many eyes all bugs are shallow" doesn’t work. "With many shallow eyes all bugs remain" is closer. It’s far more fun to create new stuff than patch old stuff – how do you
    FORCE an open source developer to do ANYTHING.

    Firefox; is interesting, not so much for the whole is “Microsoft dead” or not thing, but because it disproves the whole "You can’t compete with Microsoft" argument. If people like what you produce
    they will use it. Firefox has true fans not just the "anything but Microsoft" bigots.

    On which subject… Someone who says 
    "Vista will never enter my house" has clearly closed his mind, and can really have no idea how things stand with Microsoft.

    To answer your question “Where is the enthusiasm for Windows releases compared to days gone by?”
     I’ve seen every Microsoft OS from DOS 3.1 and Windows 1.03 forwards. Windows 2000 was greeted with apathy by people exhausted by the whole Millennium issue. XP was a point release to 2000. NT 4 was just a new shell on 3.1/3.5/3.51

    Vista is getting more excitement than any OS I’ve worked with – although I may be meeting more positive people.

    No-one has produced a survey to show that Linux and its apps make people more productive in business than Windows or Mac-os and theirs. Photography and media applications for the home are miles better
    on Windows and Mac-os platforms in the home.  

    Sensible people weigh up the costs and benefits and decide. Do I get the best combination of games for my money with a Wii or an Xbox 360. Do I get the best productivity tool / home media tool for
    my money with Windows Mac or Linux ? etc.


  3. grant james says:

    Good Post.At the moment I believe Microsoft has only switched gear a little, from giant to sleeping giant killer.As you mentioned the have (MS) lasted for over 30 years.There are not many other software companies in this class that have lasted this long..if any.

    Give it time, a little crystal ball gazing and I have no doubt that MS will again redefine the way we work and play.

  4. Krishna Kumar says:

    The whole debate is kind of ridiculous. Microsoft-bashing seems to be a fashion statement and some sort of badge for people who want to act more sophisticated than they really are. Yes, Microsoft has its faults, but these kind of statements are nothing more than displaying irrational hatred.

  5. Joe says:

    If Microsoft shut down business today, the rest of the market would still take half a decade to capture even half their current installed base. Microsoft’s biggest competitor remains – Microsoft. Despite the vast majority of Google’s stuff being beta, they don’t have enough projects going – alpha, beta, or release – to match the number of applications Microsoft has shipped, each of them to millions of customers. If Microsoft will be replaced (and obviously, one day it will be), it’ll take a long time to happen.

  6. Laraine says:

    I think Microsoft will remain very much alive for a long, long time. The fact that I’m finally free of every piece of software they made isn’t going to kill them. Even if there are a million people like me out there, Microsoft will still thrive. I used some of their software simply because it was at the time the best of a bad bunch. Software from them that I’ve only recently stopped using was extremely good. Alas it was also very old! Some would say ancient (1992). 🙂

  7. Limulus says:

    I think there’s a fundamental difference between "very much alive" and just "not dead yet".  Where is the enthusiasm for Windows releases compared to days gone by?  How many people actually *like* Microsoft products rather than settle for or merely tolerate them?  Perhaps it would almost be apt to compare Microsoft to the Spanish Empire before the Spanish-American War or a more recent example, to Terri Schiavo…  sure she was alive, breathing, her vital organs functioning while she lay in the hospital, with most of her brain dead, unable to think or even feel in any meaningful way.  

    So really, when did she ‘die’; in 2005 or 1990?

    As far as your "list of 10 things which people thought kill Microsoft and haven’t", consider three that are still a threat to it (trying to pull the feeding tube to follow-through on the analogy)

    * The Internet

    A disruptive technology that Microsoft still hasn’t fully adapted to.  The pathway of Windows malware too numerous to count.  The pathway of cross-platform software too numerous to count, such as…

    * The codebase formerly called Netscape

    The king is dead, long live Firefox!  European usage is rapidly approaching 50% in some countries.  In Germany its a full third of internet users.  Without an IE stranglehold on browsers, websites will be increasingly tested with multiple browsers and written to standards not dictated by Microsoft.  Without a need for IE, what other MS software can be traded in?  If you’re willing to switch out parts for non-MS software, especially software libre, then its not hard to consider swaping it all out and jumping ship, e.g. to…

    * Linux

    A drop-in replacement for Windows on almost all computers.  Some of the best distros (e.g. Ubuntu) are free and are arguably better than Windows.  About the only thing MS can claim they run better are proprietary games…  Though one wonders to what extent Windows competes against the Wii, PS3 and even the Xbox360 which are specifically designed for that purpose 🙂

    The Dell announcement from not too long ago is just another indicator that MS is on the "not dead yet" side rather than "very much alive".  Personally I look forward to the day Microsoft dies; I will agree that "wishful thinking" will never kill MS though.  What will are supporting non-MS products among my friends and family.  Vista will never enter my house.  I will never install Windows again nor pay the ‘Microsoft tax’ on new computers.  If my wife doesn’t want to use Linux, I will buy her a Mac.  When my daughter gets older, if she wants a game system, it won’t be an Xbox.

    I’ll leave my condolences for the death of MS now so I won’t have to send them later.

  8. Limulus says:

    > “anything but Microsoft” bigots.

    Let me tell you a little bit about my personal computer usage history; I started out in MS-DOS, used Windows 3.11, 98 and XP (this spans nearly two decades).  In short, up until ~2 years ago I had never used a non-MS OS at home and had only rarely been exposed to others outside.  I, like most people, was a Microsoft customer.  About a decade ago I started using the internet (in Windows 3.11 🙂  Towards the end of my Windows 98 usage, I began to notice that my old copy of Netscape was just not rendering sites well anymore and after switching to IE that using Windows on the internet began to require a bit of armoring.  By the time I switched to XP it was increasingly clear to me that the internet was not a safe place to surf anymore; IE 6 quickly became outdated, but IE 7 was years away.  I began to regularly use anti-malware apps to detect what was getting through via IE.  Using Windows became an exercise in paranoia; was my system really clean of viruses and malware?  Scanning was a chore.  It was not fun and I really resented having to do it so often to feel a little bit of security.  When Firefox came out I gave it a try and liked it a lot; I still needed IE for a few sites, but I was able to worry less about malware.  One of the major gripes I had with XP was that after Firefox improved and I was able to stop using IE, I could not remove it from my system (as could be done in 98).  It sat there on my system as a potential vulnerability; I did not want it there, but I had no choice.

    This and several other things about Windows got me to try Linux.  It was quite the contrast.  For all the rough edges at the time, I realized that I actually enjoyed using it; I didn’t have the fear of malware like early in my usage of Windows 98 and if I didn’t like something about the system I could go in and change it.  My neighbor, a nice older lady, had a Win 98 computer and didn’t know how to maintain it so I ended up volunteering after she had a bad experience with some sort of porn-popups in IE.  That was quite a bit of work and when she got a new computer, I deleted XP and installed Linux on it and the amount of time I had to spend maintaining it dropped to almost nothing.

    I finally deleted my Windows partition about a year ago when I realized that I was booting into it for only two things: to apply security patches and to play with Google Earth… and Google had just released a Linux version.

    My neighbor’s daughter ran Windows XP and was having some trouble with it; I went over to her place and took a look and it was *infested* with malware.  Linux went on that one too.  She was happy and even got a few simple games she liked out of it too.

    In short, because of my experience using Windows, Microsoft lost me as a customer.  And now that I am aware of the alternatives, I seriously doubt I’d go back based on technical merits.  The MS Windows EULA compared to the GPL is practically reason enough to switch.  What has likely lost me for as a Microsoft customer for life though, is what I had vague notions about before switching but have learned about in detail since; about “the bad, old Microsoft” as Paul Thurrott puts it (

    “the Microsoft that ran roughshod over competitors in order to gain market share at any cost. The Microsoft that forgot about customers in its blind zeal to harm competitors. The Microsoft, that frankly, all the Linux and Apple fanatics always imagined was out there, plotting and planning their termination. The Microsoft that threatens Windows fans with needless legal threats rather than reaching out and creating constructive relationships with the very people who prop up the company the most.”

    Thurrott stated that there were still ‘vestiges’ in the Windows Division.  IMHO, Gates, and especially Ballmer, are primary among those ‘vestiges’, so until Microsoft purges itself of them, I can’t see things improving that much.

    > Linus T’s “with many eyes all bugs are shallow” doesn’t work. “With many shallow eyes all bugs remain” is closer. It’s far more fun to create new stuff than patch old stuff – how do you FORCE an open source developer to do ANYTHING.

    You don’t 🙂  Perhaps in Redmond you have to ‘force your developers to do anything’, (to be fair to those at MS, they do have a giant bureaucracy to deal with; how many dozen people worked on the Vista shutdown menu? but in the open source world people do it because they want to.  They use the programs they create; buggy software is no fun.  And if you don’t like the pace at which, or direction of, things are getting done, you can offer to fix it yourself or fork the code.

    > On which subject… Someone who says  “Vista will never enter my house” has clearly closed his mind, and can really have no idea how things stand with Microsoft.

    Besides the EULA (, the thing that jumped out at me as a warning flag was an article about a year ago titled “Monthly Patch Tuesday gone with Vista says Microsoft” (

    At the time I commented about Vista as the unsinkable “Microsoft Titanic”; it seems now that ANI files are a little ice in the water BTW.  How long do you think it will be before Vista ends up like 98 or XP and recovery involves “nuking the systems from orbit”? (

    > Linux distros have more vulnerabilities which take longer to patch than Windows.

    What flavor is the Kool-aid in Redmond?

    > No-one has produced a survey to show that Linux and its apps make people more productive in business than Windows or Mac-os and theirs.

    “No-one has produced a survey”…  Over the weekend, I went with a friend to her workplace to keep her company while she worked on the computers and ended up helping her install anti-malware apps to disinfect the (Windows) computers.  My experience is that once you hook up a Windows machine to the internet, its only a matter of time before its infected with something.  Having to go in on weekends to clean up malware is not my idea of ‘making people more productive in business’.

    > Sensible people weigh up the costs and benefits and decide.


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