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Former Microsoft Exec: Microsoft Has "Become the Thing They Despised" 488

zacharye writes "Microsoft has a long and storied history of leadership in the tech industry, and the company has driven innovation for decades. In recent years, however, Microsoft has fallen behind the times in several key industries; the company's mobile position has deteriorated and left it with a low single-digit market share, and Microsoft won't launch Windows RT, its response to Apple's three-year-old iPad, until later this year. In a recent piece titled 'Microsoft’s Lost Decade,' Vanity Fair contributor Kurt Eichenwald analyzes the company’s 'astonishingly foolish management decisions' and picks apart moves made during the Steve Ballmer era."
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Former Microsoft Exec: Microsoft Has "Become the Thing They Despised"

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  • Drip, Drip, Drip (Score:4, Informative)

    by khakipuce ( 625944 ) on Friday July 06, 2012 @08:13AM (#40562267) Homepage Journal

    Looks like Vanity Fair is going to drip feed us this stuff for a while... does it add anything we didn't already know?

  • Re:Eh? (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 06, 2012 @08:15AM (#40562279)
    Not only is a double post, the full article still isn't available, and this is just a short teaser.
  • Re:Really? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Serious Sandwich ( 2678177 ) on Friday July 06, 2012 @08:18AM (#40562313)
    Yes. Microsoft Research [].
  • Mother of All Dupes (Score:1, Informative)

    by geoffrobinson ( 109879 ) on Friday July 06, 2012 @08:18AM (#40562315) Homepage

    Yes, we've seen this before. No new content yet.

  • Re:Really? (Score:2, Informative)

    by SJHillman ( 1966756 ) on Friday July 06, 2012 @08:21AM (#40562331)

    Not to mention that XP, Vista and 7, Office, etc all had features that were copied by competitors. Just because the final product isn't OMFGAMAZING!!! doesn't mean it didn't contain some good innovations.

  • Re:That's nothing (Score:2, Informative)

    by UnknowingFool ( 672806 ) on Friday July 06, 2012 @08:38AM (#40562479)
    In fairness, Nokia had problems long before Elop. IMO, his direction as a response to those problems might be the wrong direction. But that's my opinion.
  • Re:Really? (Score:4, Informative)

    by cyber-vandal ( 148830 ) on Friday July 06, 2012 @08:39AM (#40562487) Homepage

    Mac OS X has had that for a while. It's called Spotlight [].

  • Re:Really? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 06, 2012 @08:47AM (#40562547)

    They ran over people in the '80s and '90s. Google "cut off Netscape's air supply". They got SQL Server from an unequal deal with Sybase (vaguely similar to the treaties the US government made with Mexico). They offered PC makers deals whereby the OEM's got Windows for less if they didn't also sell PC's with OS/2 or DR-DOS. They effectively tricked IBM with a joint development effort on OS/2, which they abandoned in favor of Windows. As for Windows, it wasn't until 1990 that they had a saleable product, some six years after Apple released the Mac (add another couple years for Lisa).

    Microsoft did little innovation relative to its size throughout the '80s and '90s. Mainly, Bill Gates was about being paranoid and crushing anyone who seemed to be a threat. Jerry Kaplan's book "Startup" tells this with anecdotal detail about Gates and Jeff Raikes, his right-hand man at the time. Remember Microsoft's Pen Windows, and Apple's Newton tablet? Both companies lifted the idea from Kaplan without crediting (this was in the days when IT companies didn't patent aggressively).

  • Re:Really? (Score:5, Informative)

    by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Friday July 06, 2012 @09:23AM (#40562851)

    This is incorrect. PARC is not an Apple Research center.

    WHOOSH!!! This was supposed to be a joke. But since it was modded "insightful" instead of funny, you are apparently not the only one who didn't get the joke, so let me explain: In 1979 Steve Jobs visited Xerox's Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) and was shown the Xerox Alto []. It included the Smalltalk OO-programming environment, and more importantly, a GUI and mouse. This was the inspiration for the Lisa, and subsequently, the Macintosh. Basically, Xerox had invented the modern computer, and then had let it sit in a research lab until someone else came along and saw the potential.

  • Re:s/driven/killed/ (Score:4, Informative)

    by edremy ( 36408 ) on Friday July 06, 2012 @09:26AM (#40562865) Journal

    The first and last real MS innovation was the Microsoft BASIC interpreter which became ubiquitous in 1980s home computers. Everything else they ever did was shamelessly stolen and/or bought and/or badly copied from others.

    Woz must have been abusing that time machine of his, to have copied microsoft's 1980 "innovation" in 1978 with his AppleSoft BASIC: []

    Insofar as he was cloning Gates' 1975 introduction of Altair Basic [], yes. Of course, neither was remotely original: BASIC had been around since the mid 60's, if just hadn't been ported to small machines.

  • Re:Really? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 06, 2012 @09:57AM (#40563247)

    Microsoft Research is the most depressing part of that whole company. There have so many great researchers and computer scientists working there and you hear very little from them. People who used to publish papers every year join up with MR and are never heard from again. It's a roach motel of computer scientists.

    Obviously you do not track the academic conference and journals. Microsoft Research publishes a huge number of papers each year, dominating in many research areas. Here's a graph of their publication counts: []

  • Re:Drip, Drip, Drip (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 06, 2012 @10:12AM (#40563421)

    You're right about the name, the Conde Nast version of "Dress and Vanity Fair" had to pay for the American rights to the name (there was an older British Magazine named Vanity Fair that stopped publishing shortly after) so that it could be called Vanity Fair, but it had a long hiatus, so it hasn't really been around 100 years. The current Vanity Fair is a Conde Nast revival from 1983, it's previous publication run was from 1913-1936.

    BTW, for the OP, the name comes from "Pilgrim's Progress" and was the land ruled by Beelzebub.

  • Re:Really? (Score:5, Informative)

    by SerpentMage ( 13390 ) <ChristianHGross&yahoo,ca> on Friday July 06, 2012 @10:13AM (#40563439)

    This is actually history being rewritten by companies. Kinect DID NOT come from Microsoft research. It came from an Israeli company that actually offered the technology first to Apple. It did not like the contract and hence did not even show it to Apple. They then went to Microsoft and the rest is history. []

    Microsoft research and its R&D department SUCKS wind. In stock investing terms R&D is supposed to increase your revenue and cash flow. Thus if I invest 10 USD in R&D I should get at least a return of 10 USD. Anything below that means that the company is throwing money out the window. Microsoft is such a company. It's R&D generates very little that adds to the bottom line of Microsoft. It does not mean that Microsoft Research is useless. It means that something in Microsoft is causing not to make more money from its research department.

  • Re:Really? (Score:5, Informative)

    by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Friday July 06, 2012 @10:33AM (#40563833)

    Where do you think unix, C and C++ came from?

    They came from AT&T Bell Labs. Where they sat. Meanwhile AT&T released the AT&T 6300 PC based on, not Unix, but MSDOS. But there was still lots of interest in Unix, so AT&T pulled it out of the research lab and turned it over to ... the legal department, so they could sue their potential customers. I suppose that is innovation of a sort.

  • Re:Nothing new (Score:4, Informative)

    by Pope ( 17780 ) on Friday July 06, 2012 @10:57AM (#40564131)

    Steve used an IBM ThinkPad running NextStep. I'd hardly call that a "Windows machine."

  • Re:Really? (Score:4, Informative)

    by katarn ( 110199 ) on Friday July 06, 2012 @11:02AM (#40564203)

    Wait; Bell Labs - the lab which INVENTED the transistor ...(ignoring the Russian guy, [] named Oleg Vladimirovich Losev [] who Stalling starved to death during the siege of Leningrad [] before he could bring it to the world)... and made it possible for you to be typing this... They didn't contribute anything? How about IBM's research, which drove their HDD business to such success that at one point IBM was predicting they would own the entire industry in 6 months (but then IBM's mfg department "lost the formula" i.e. they couldn't upscale their success to larger densities, and IBM sold their entire drive business). How about all the research which has been done by a lot of companies around fiber-optics, which wasn't immediately turned into a product, but which now run the communications backbones of the world?

    When you get it it looks like a product; that doesn't mean there wasn't a lot of theoretical research done before hand.

    As an aside, can you imagine how world history may have been different if Oleg Losev had lived? We may very well have not "won" the cold war, as the impact of the Russians having the transistor decades before us would have had far greater repercussions then just them being able to listen to portable radios before us. One of many of our advantages was that we were using transistors in military technology while they were still using vacuum tubes, whose only advantage was that tubes required less radiation hardening.

  • Re:Drip, Drip, Drip (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 06, 2012 @11:13AM (#40564379)

    It's from 'Pilgrim's Progress' by John Bunyan.
    The novel is a 'Western Canon' extended metaphor for the story of Christian salvation.
    Specifically, Vanity Fair is a city through which the King's Highway passes. It looks like the 'true and only Heaven', but it is a worldly distraction.
    I always thought it was an appropraite name for a fashion magazine.

  • Re:Really? (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 06, 2012 @12:06PM (#40565023)

    Microsoft Research made the skeleton tracking software, something that is arguably more complex than the camera itself. I'm not saying the camera hardware and software is trivial, but the principle of using structured light (IR dot pattern) to discern distance to the target is not new nor revolutionary. The revolutionary part was the skeleton tracking software, and the PRICE of the Kinect. I worked with the PrimeSense hardware before Microsoft commoditized it. At that point it cost ~$2000 a pop.

  • Re:s/driven/killed/ (Score:5, Informative)

    by Solandri ( 704621 ) on Friday July 06, 2012 @01:10PM (#40565845)

    "Then it took them years to recognize the importance of the Internet"

    Windows had TCP/IP and a dialer built in years before Mac OS.

    I was one of the lucky few (in college) who got to taste the Internet in the 1980s. Microsoft absolutely refused to add a TCP/IP stack to Windows 3.x. Gates believed the proprietary network model championed by AOL and CompuServe would win out. MSN was actually Microsoft's entry into that model. Back then, you had to pay a monthly fee to subscribe to it - it was not free like it is now. There was no way in hell he was going to help Windows users use the free Internet, so no TCP/IP stack for Windows. We had to futz around with manually installing Trumpet Winsock ourselves to hook up a Windows machine to the net. This was not for the faint of heart, and took me several hours spread across several days to get it right.

    1994 was when the Internet reached critical mass. AOL and CompuServe gave their (massive at the time) userbase access to USENET [] in 1993, and word spread from there among non-geeks about this great, free worldwide communications network. URLs started showing up in commercials and on billboards that year. IIRC the first Super Bowl commercial with a URL was that year. That was when Gates finally conceded that the Internet had beaten the walled garden networks, and put a TCP/IP stack into Windows. Hence why it didn't show up until Windows 95.

    While the Mac did not officially support TCP/IP until later, that was because there was a great and easy-to-use third party TCP/IP installer for it. I want to say it was MacTCP but I don't remember exactly anymore. What I do remember was that we had a bunch of Macs at my college computer lab in 1988 hooked up to the Internet, no problem.

    "With the competition dead, they stalled IE development and set back web innovation by a decade until Firefox broke the market back open."

    Blaming MS for IE not being developed quick enough is like blaming Apple for not coming out with the iPhone in 2001.

    If you check the release history for IE, there's something like a 13 month period where Microsoft released no new features for IE, only security updates. That's what they did after they'd vanquished Netscape. Once the competition was gone, they stopped funding new development. So that's at least a year that browsers are behind that's directly attributable to Microsoft.

    I'm not sure I'd say they put the browser back by a decade, but they were working hard the entire time to fragment the industry by introducing non-compliant and proprietary web extensions (ActiveX, which could only be implemented by Windows web servers) in an attempt to take over the WWW. I wouldn't say that's entirely a negative thing - they did force the fogeys at W3C to hurry up and implement new features in HTML that users and web developers were clamoring for. But by trying to take over the WWW instead of working with W3C to improve it, they did put the industry back by a few years at least.

  • Re:Eh? (Score:5, Informative)

    by hairyfeet ( 841228 ) <bassbeast1968 AT gmail DOT com> on Friday July 06, 2012 @02:41PM (#40567359) Journal

    Friend I have a Win 8 CP machine set up in the shop for everyone from tweeners to little old ladies to play with as they shop, know what I found? That this is a typical reaction [] only with more frustration than that sweet old lady gets. i don't care if it was the business guys or backhoe operators, insurance saleswomen or Suzy the checkout girl ALL OF THEM couldn't figure out fuck all to do with that damned OS.

    More speed isn't gonna help you if all it does is lets you get nowhere fast, and that is Win 8 in a nutshell. its just not intuitive, not discoverable,, has ZERO help in the way of tooltips or tutorials that would help the lost users, its just a fricking mess.

In seeking the unattainable, simplicity only gets in the way. -- Epigrams in Programming, ACM SIGPLAN Sept. 1982