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back to article A decade to forget - how Microsoft lost its mojo

It was a confident - some might say complacent - Microsoft that entered the decade. Microsoft was the PC. Such was its grip on the desktop and laptop ecosystem that it could force OEMs to ship its browser by threatening to cut off access to its operating system. In quick succession between 2000 and 2001, Microsoft shipped …

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Whatever.

Microsoft has burned it's bridges.

As of January 1, 2010, I will no longer be accepting contracts to work on Microsoft's products ... and I'm going to explain, in excruciating detail, exactly why to anyone who will listen. Including my current customer base which uses MS products.

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FAIL

What a wiener

"I will no longer be accepting contracts to work on Microsoft's products": newsflash - contractor throws toys out of pram and brings down Microsoft.

"I'm going to explain ... to anyone who will listen": talking to a mirror, then.

"my current customer base which uses MS products": good luck with finding *anyone* that employs contractors and doesn't have any Microsoft products.

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@ Jake

Oh no! Really - you will stop accepting contracts? That will certainly spell the end of MS, their stock price will plummet as soon as the NASDAQ opens.

And I sure your customers will not be feigning anything when they appear to be interested as you go through 'in excruciating detail' why you will not be working on MS projects.

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Anonymous Coward

Be unemployable then

It's your choice and a free world. MS is the dominant OS and tools provider. We're still waiting for Linux to sort itself out and become usable by the masses. Like it or hate it, you still need to use MS.

(re-posted due to spelling)

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Thumb Down

Tail wagging dog

I love a service provider who listens to it's customers rather than it's own personal opinions.

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@Jake

I love it when someone puts their life balance ahead of their bank balance. He may not make as much money as he could by taking 'MS is computers' suckers for a ride but instead he may actually enjoy what he does for a living and feel pride in what he has created.

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Thumb Up

Pretty much employable!

I've been able to boast that I actively refuse jobs that have even a whiff of MS technology in the horizon, and still land good jobs. In fact, knowing UNIX, Linux and Java seems to land me *better paid jobs*, mostly because VB brainless coding monkeys swarm the market, so VB programmers are seen as trash, while Java devs have better reputations.

The only people who claim that MS "owns" the IT market are those who aren't in IT. UNIX still leads the server market, and most of the big orgs use either UNIX or mainframey stuff like Tandem NonStop or the IBM fridges. :)

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Hear Hear

I have much the same approach, and now work on Large Power systems and PLCs instead of knocking my brains to bits re-learning the same product every 18 months

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FAIL

oh dears

Good luck with the job centre plus people - but I am fearing they use the Microsoft too so you may not be able to sign on.

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Mr.

I actually have to agree with Daniel here.

Though, unlike Jake, I don't work on MS because I hate the products, and not because I'm having some sort of strop!

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@Robert E A Harvey

Exactly.

All you nitwits up there, please note that I said I was refusing any contract dealing with MS products. Nowhere did I even hint that I would refuse contracts from companies that used MS products. There are still a lot of MVS, OS/390 and z/OS systems out there, for example, and that's just from IBM! Throw in various other higher-end gear (Sun, HP, et ali), and I have no end of work when I want it[1] ... and I get a higher rate working on them, and with fewer "WTF????!!?!?!! ::tears out hair::" moments than working on MS gear.

Someone, somewhere, asked "how" ... Well, combined with the above, I generally run (and suggest) a cut-down, customized Slackware system for desktop use, with a kernel compiled for the hardware in question. Think that's not doable? Think again ... As long as you plan ahead, purchase the hardware that will run the software you want to use *AND* you understand the needs of the targeted user.

For example, on this particular laptop I installed Slackware once, when 12.0 came out in July, 2007. Instead of my usual custom, "lean and mean" installation, I chose to install the whole thing, including all the source packages, just out of curiosity. I've used slackpkg and cron to keep it synced to -stable ever since (cron emails me when updates are available ... I'm not daft enough to auto-update!). Result: I'm now running Slack 13.0, all the hardware works, it's been rock-solid, and I spend close to zero time maintaining it.

[1] And I may not want it ... Looks like the various Ranch businesses (except the Tack Store) are all going to be in the black for the first time since we bought the place. Profit from growing grapes and making wine! Whodathunkit?

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FAIL

MS Decade of Fail

"If Microsoft can convince open-sourcers it's genuine"

Not bloody likely.

Oh, and as far as Silverlight being a "winner", I'd be interested to see what definition of "winner" is currently in vogue over there at Vulture Central . . .

And another thing, seeing that it's Christmas and all, do you think it might be possible to give your commentards a chrissy present? I would like an Evil Steve Ballmer icon please. Don't worry about the Angel Steve, i'll never use it.

Fail, because it is much more succinct than the original article and says the same thing.

Ta

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Gates Horns

It'll be interesting...

to see what happens at the end of the decade in a year's time. It's always dangerous to make predictions a year early.

"If Microsoft can convince open-sourcers it's genuine - and if it no longer lobs grenades on intellectual property and patents that poison the atmosphere - then it could harness open-sourcers on Windows and Azure."

ROTFL. "Release the flying pigs!"

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Flame

Erm... but this IS the end of the decade...

Remember celebrating the end of the last decade? at the end of 1999? On December 31st 1999? Thousands of people on the streets of London and all the other major cities of the world? Did anybody turn around and say "hang on guys, you're all a year early"? Nope. January 1st 2010 is the first day of the next decade. Muppet.

</pedant>

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Happy

New decade?

My years are like my arrays - I start counting at 0!

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FAIL

Err...

...so was there a zero 0, or did they start from year 1? And yes, A LOT of people did point out that Dec 31st 2000 was the actual end of the 20th century; but the smart people just said "Hey, two parties!"

Who's the muppet now?

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Boffin

Fixing the 0-unaware cultures

I follow the ISO standard:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ISO_8601#Years

I think astronomers and scientists don't like timescales jumping numbers. Thus, Christ was born on Dec. 25, 0000 and centuries begin on 00's, not 01's. Anyway, decades are referred as the 70's, 80's, 90's ... which implies that the decades themselves go 70-79, 80-89 ... I'd doubt the mathematical abilities of anyone claiming that 1990 is part of "the eighties", century-beginning-offsetting notwithstanding.

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Headmaster

Hell, yeah, there was a Year Zero...

...and you wouldn't have believed the frickin' _panic_.

But, seriously, folks... while I'm sure it's technically correct that the century began on 01.01.01, and that the next decade begins on 01.01.11, I think part of the reason folks like to mark it on the year ending in zero is that we all seem to really like nice round numbers (no pun intended)... kind of like watching the odometer on your car turn over at 100,000 miles -- which was especially cool if you drove a car which was quite old, and only had a five-digit odometer, so when you hit 100,000 miles, it'd roll over to zero.

(d'ohhh, c'mon, you guys; _somebody_ else here has to be old enough to have driven their car 100,000 miles/km)

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I presume you mean "so was there a *year* 0"

Anyone can be a muppet, and a decade can be any ten years be that 2000-2010, 2001-2011, or even 1784-1794!

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I presume you mean ...

"a decade can be any ten years be that 2000-2009, 2001-2010, or even 1784-1793!", obiwan?

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Happy

Yep.

Look at a photo from 1990, and indeed it looks like the 80s.

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When did the 90's start?

Was Jan1st 1990 the first day of the Ninetie's? Or was Dec 31st 1990 the last day of the Eighties?

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Actually,

2009 IS the end of the decade, which began in 2000. If you count each year using one finger on each hand, you'll see there are ten years. (:

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WTF?

windows mobiles

"functional but boring" ???!?!?

After about 25 minutes with one I (literally) threw it at the head of the toerag who'd tried to unload it on me as a work phone and went back to my old Nokia 3100.

I prefer a phone where the UI doesn't get in the way of what I want to do.

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Pint

Microsoft will soon lose its browser

Microsoft didn't so much lose its mojo. It lost its mobile.

Now that Microsoft's Windows Mobile has been completely knocked out of the mobile handset scene, we'll see cascading effects crashing through Redmond.

For example, soon there'll be more people accessing the internet from mobile devices, rather than desktop/laptop PCs. The Internet Explorer web browser only exists on its failed Windows Mobile platform, which is now out of the game.

That means the future of web browsing is Webkit (eg Safari, Chrome, and many other browsers are based on Webkit).

The other thing worth mentioning is that Microsoft played hardball in the industry. It played nasty. As mentioned in the article, it threatened OEMs with withdrawal of their Windows license unless they played the One Microsoft Way.

People haven't forgotten. PC companies, now becoming phone handset makers, are rushing straight to Android. They remember Microsoft's past behaviour, and don't want this repeated in the mobile scene.

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Oi, oi, oi

"That means the future of web browsing is Webkit (eg Safari, Chrome, and many other browsers are based on Webkit)."

And Gecko? It's not like it has no market share.

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Why Search?

What the hell have web ads got to do with Microsoft? I'm sure they make a lot of money but so does washing detergent and oil refining. I don't understand why Microsoft thinks it can or should own this market.

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Stop

and there is your answer...

"and made a radical departure by moving into hardware to take on games-market leader Sony with the Xbox."

They spread out and spend an entire decade making poor quality hardware and ignoring what they used to be good at.

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Windows 7

Yes it's better than Vista, by Km.

But Bask? I don't think so. It offers nothing extra to XP users and many disadvantages. Linux is better supported than ever too, with even alternatives to the dreadful Windows Monopoly of Sage for Accounting.

1997 or so will be seen as the high point. Microsoft will slowly decline over the next ten years. Since 1990s they have in reality only released/updated three OS, and over the last 10 years made them worse. At least DOS/Win3.x-9x hybrid junk is gone so we are down to two. Both of which started off as much better designs than the bloatware they are now (NT3.1 -> NT6.2, WinCE ->WinMo6.5)

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I completely agree

Here, here! I completely agree. MS has screwed itself. It sewed the wind so now it gets to reap the whirlwind. It has a great operating system with NT 3.51. It totally f**ked it up when it bolted on all the win95 crap. The only hope that I can see is for MS to take a public domain version of Linux or Unix and then build a proprietary user interface around it, with everything designed from the bottom up with net connectivity and safety as paramount concerns. It could then run XP or 7 or Server 2008 in a hidden virtual machine, much as Apple did with OS 9 on OS X, or PPC code under Intel using Rosetta. MS could then give its developers 5 years to make the transition and then jettison all that Spaghetti Code that makes it so hard for them now. I say they could do this. The question is whether they are nimble enough and far sighted enough to actually do it. Only time will tell. If Apple can come back from the brink in such a big way in only ten years, surely MS can.

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lost its way

As it see it, they have to have a finger in every pie to achieve market dominance

Unfortunately for Microsoft, they could & should do better, particularly with their leader Steve Ballmer.

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Grenade

" king of the tech universe."????

I went through that entire period of time not caring about and seldom using anything microsoft.

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Grenade

MS was an era, that's all.

That era was the evolution of PCs to do the most common things people do, stably and without excessive mundane burdens. Now with each successive Windows or Office version, there's less and less value added while 'nix and other open source apps continue to get ever closer to meeting the needs of the majority of PC users.

The minority will be quick to point out some feature the rest of the users "should" need to feel is important in their opinion, showing how far they have lost the bigger picture that when an OS is thrust upon world + dog, it has to be flexible enough to scale down, not everything-and-the-kitchen-sink, and remain static for those who opt to keep what worked for them the way it is/was.

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Red Rag to Redmond Bull? ...... A Challenge to Rise to, or Flaccidly Fail to Satisfy?

"The Xbox looks like continuing to challenge Sony, which has acted with a curious inertia to Microsoft throughout The Noughties."

A challenge which Microsoft [the West] will lose easily to Sony [the East] if they don't capture the Virtual Reality Play Market with a Killer Network InterNetworking Program ..... and to compete in that Field of Excellence one needs to Master the Robot IQ, which is High Zen Territory and an Eastern Passion.

It is maybe probably definitely much wiser and more truthful to consider, that rather than there having been any curious Eastern inertia in the Field of Dreams and Great Game Play, there has been a Solid and Steady and Stealthy Overwhelming Embedding Machine Coding Advance into Western Command Systems of SCADA Origin.

Bravo, Sony San. To ITs Victor, Future Spoils with Enlighteningly Powerful Media ProgramMING/Magic Mojo SOAPs ...... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SOAP ........ with AI Turing Components for Colossal Projects ........ Out of this World Missions?

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Gates Horns

Never say never again

People that write off Microsoft are overlooking the company's great talent for reinventing itself. Remember it is essentially a marketing / legal operation with an IT division tacked on.

As for IE (and I'm no fan of the wretched thing) anything that still has "only" 63.5% of the market is likely to be around for some time.

As someone once said "Do not underestimate the power of stupid people in large numbers".

<pedant>

@Big-nosed Pengie: 01-01-2000 to 31-12-2009 is ten years or one decade. It's just not the FIRST decade of the 21st century.

</pedant>

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Gates Halo

Competition keeping it honest

Maybe this is just being relentlessly upbeat, but the emergence of Firefox has arguably made IE8 a better product than it might otherwise have been. With genuine competition in the market, MS has to compete on product functionality and usability, rather than forcing its products on people due to sheer market dominance. So while we may not see it return to 90% market share, from the point of view of quality of output, it could be argued that greater competition is a good thing.

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Stop

Don't judge to quickly

Microsoft still has an impressive range of products like Office, Visual Studio, SQL Server and the Windows Operating system.

These systems are at the tools that dozens of millions of office workers in large, medium and small businesses use every day to get their job done. Actually, to get the world economy moving every single day !

Linux is much too fiddly to be of real use on business desktops and Apple is just too pricey. Windows machines are just economical and all works out of the box.

I think the major challenge for microsoft will be one of human resources - they must find young and gifted talent for their senior management team if they want to compete with "Vaccum Cleaner" Google and its young team. But not all is great with Google either - many of their "free" tools and services are simpleton knockoffs of execellent MS tools like Office and Visual Studio.

Let's wait and see the next round of this game.

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Linux

5 Years micro$haft free

and still counting - i have *nix on the desktop and *nix on the servers and have never looked back.

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Welcome

@jake, and re mobile browsing

"soon there'll be more people accessing the internet from mobile devices"

I've been saying this for a while, especially to people with ridiculous websites that are totally mobile-unfriendly. Two currently particularly relevant examples while we're snowed under: metoffice.gov.uk and trafficengland.com.

Typical of their breed, they are far too flashy, far too data-intensive, and all but useless on a small screen. Yet who would be their most important class of user: someone who is, or soon will be, out and about, and/or on the open road. Someone whose internet access is probably via phone, and probably via GPRS not 3G. Sorry MetOffice, your recent website "upgrade" made your weather maps on a mobile phone even worse than they were before. How hard can this be?

The map on TrafficEngland is just utterly ridiculous, verging on the unusable even on a desktop.

What kind of idiots are using taxpayers money to pay for this kind of rubbish?

But they are far from the only ones, and maybe not even the worst.

Please, can we have nice simple webpages with nice simple content up front. If you want Flash and silly scripts and such, fine, but hide it behind the front page, make it optional, don't waste the punters time, screenspace, and bandwidth. What works well and doesn't irritate users on a mobile will probably also work well and not irritate users on real screens. (El Reg sHell adverts, are you listening?)

@jake: "I will no longer be accepting contracts to work on Microsoft's products ... and I'm going to explain, in excruciating detail, exactly why to anyone who will listen."

Care to share it, either in full or just the highlights? Here or on your LinkedIn page... If you twitter/facebook/etc about it, do you think you could do a RATM v Cowell? That'd be fun.

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@AC 11:32

First of all, I don't waste time on !GooMyFaceYouTwit and the like. Computers and networks exist to complement my RealLife[tm], not replace it. The last computer game I played was Wumpus, probably over 30 years ago.

Second, I carry a basic phone (Nokia 5185), because I have a real computer, a real electronic camera, real music, and etc. everywhere appropriate. All I want my phone to do is make and receive phone calls, which the 5185 does far better than any more modern phone stuffed to the gills with gee-gaws.

Basically, here at here at home we've been pretty much Windows free for around ten years. The router in my machine room runs a stripped down BSD, the one on the barn's DSL line is a Linksys WRT54G running Tomato. Most of the servers are BSD or Slackware, with a smattering of more esoteric gear (small cluster of vaxen, a relay rack full of Sun pizza boxen, etc.). My one remaining Win2K box is going to get archived and reformatted with Slackware on the tenth anniversary of me first installing Win2K on it[1]. My wife has stopped using WinXP, and always boots into Slackware, so I'll archive that partition and reclaim the space for something else. Mom and my Great Aunt are happy with their custom versions of Slackware, so that's not an issue. The "Windows only" machine in the barn died, and the kids boot the dual-boot boxen into Slackware. The Macs are Macs.

As for my contracts, I'm just refusing to take on anything MS related. I get plenty of work fixing other stuff ... in fact, I'm already turning down computer work in favo(u)r of making the Ranch's various businesses more profitable. We actually bought this place with the intention of getting me out of computers and networking entirely[2], and we're nearly there ... Over a third of a century in any one business is enough!

[1] 10 years, no Blue Screens, no Malware, no re-installs, no problems. I didn't say I didn't know HOW to make Windows systems sing, but rather that I don't really enjoy it. Note that that machine was airgapped for most of it's life.

[2] I'm retiring to a life of sun-up to sun-down manual labor, 7 days a week. I can't wait! :-)

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But only MS can give HW mfgs what they desire

An ever bloating OS which continues to sink resources almost as fast as they can make upgrades.

MS has *no* friends in the software business, merely companies it has not or cannot destroy.

Wheather or not MS can continue to convince customers that Windows is vital to *them* is another matter.

Thumbs up for the article. As long as the competition *stays* diverse and follow standards which MS cannot or rather will not (embarce, extend extinguish anyone) follow there will not be the one overwhelming player to beat in the market which MS *really* needs to beat. Only Google in the search market is like that.

By 2019

Google buys MS?

IBM buys MS?

Happy new decade

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h 6
Jobs Halo

Or...

Apple buys MS?

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normal business cycles

This happens to every business. They go from being an innovator, to being mainstream and then into decline as someone new comes into the picture and eats their lunch. We've seen this with IBM, with car producers and all the other big-name businesses that have been lost or taken over.

We can see that they are in the decline phase: they missed the boat with the internet AND with mobile tech. While they more-or-less played catch up with the net, all they can ever do with Windows mobile is be a "me too" player. As for Bing, well:.... 10 years too late.

From my perspective, the demise of MS is irrelevant (I'm still happy with my virtualised XP instance). I just want to spot the next big thing.

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Gates Horns

Not looking good for MS

I'm still amazed at how hard Win Mobile sucks. The iPhone showed them how to do it, years ago, yet with all their resources they cant even get a half decent copy together. The iPhone is flying off the shelves, Android is looking pretty damn good (Ballmer laughed that one off too I believe) and they are talking about having something vaguely useable by the end of 2010. Shocking.

Oh yeah, and MSN, Live, Bing whatever it's called this month. Flaky, limited in features, inconsistent look and feel across the services, utter pile of sh1t. They need to bin Ballmer quick time and get someone in who 'gets it'.

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Anonymous Coward

Actually, this really seems a US problem

I've talked to plenty MS staff abroad in various countries, and there's a fair amount of good people amongst them who have increasing problems with the US attitude which is, quite simply put, losing them sales hand over fist.

In some cases they have a better story to tell, but because US management is STILL very much going "the American way" (screw everyone where we can possibly get away with it) it won't get heard. It appears US management is really failing in its duties to its shareholders - they nuked the long term prospects, and it'll take nothing short of a minor miracle to halt this.

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@IT specialist

It seems worth noting that Webkit was born out of KHTML.

The KDE project is worth a mention, I think.

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h 6
Happy

born/made

And was made by Apple.

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Winning the trust of open sourcers

Speaking for myself, I'll trust MS when they GPL Windows.

I won't necessarily use it, but I'll believe they're sincere about open source.

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Stop

leverage

So long as all PC manufacturers continue to integrate Windows at the factory, MS dominance is assured. Every PC comes with with a forced-purchase of Windows, which leverages and mandates the use other MS products in the home, office, back office and even the data centre. It doesn't really matter about software quality or what competitors do.

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