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back to article Microsoft pops preview of 'biggest, most ambitious' Office yet

Microsoft has released the last preview of its latest build of Office – the first release of one of Redmond's biggest cash cows. "This is the first round of Office designed from the get-go for Office to be a service," said CEO Steve Ballmer at a press conference in San Francisco. "We've transformed Office to embrace design …

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Why am I not finding any of this remotely interesting?

Do businesses really want or need to upload everything to Redmond, have a social SharePoint, or have Skype built-in?

Are MS copying Apple and have suddenly decided that they should be aiming for the consumer market instead of the business market? That would be commercial suicide.

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Re: Why am I not finding any of this remotely interesting?

Agreed, but err... you have been reading about Windows 8/Metro, haven't you? There's your answer right there, screw over the business users and go after the consumer tablet market.

I can't help feeling Ballmer is after Elop's crown as the worst CEO ever - destroy a company as quickly as possible.By getting paranoid and playing to your fears rather than your strengths.

I think the whole Kodak thing has got these, once (/still) massive, companies running scared.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Why am I not finding any of this remotely interesting?

I wouldn't be surprised if he had a major investment in insurance policies for "credit default swaps" or "buy put".

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Pirate

Re: Why am I not finding any of this remotely interesting?

Re - Elop...I'd say there was a good reason he was installed in that job...and it wasn't to benefit Nokia.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Why am I not finding any of this remotely interesting?

Papyrus and quill works for me, what is it about this new fangled paper business? Commercial suicide I tell you.

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Big Brother

Re: Why am I not finding any of this remotely interesting?

Have they just abandoned security or are they doing it to collect the world's secrets? For whom?

In any commercial organisation one has to write a lot of Protect, Restricted, Confidential and Secret information. None of which is appropriate for storage on Ballmer's servers. That's the point of a thick client running standalone off the grid.

Are they really that stupid?

And WTF has Farsebook got to do with work? In every office I work in Farsebook is blocked on the firewall as it has a detrimental affect on productivity.

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Re: Why am I not finding any of this remotely interesting?

"Do businesses really want or need to upload everything to Redmond, have a social SharePoint, or have Skype built-in?"

Actually, I'm looking forward to this and I'll explain why. It's not because I want to share everything with Redmond or bring more external social networking into my business work (more the opposite on both, actually). But the same processes can be used in different ways. So instead of using SkyDrive as my "cloud" (hate the word really, but no-one listened when I said the word 'blog' was stupid so I doubt they'll listen now), I can use my companies own Server 2012 installation(s). Now that *is* useful to some of us. What you have with Office 2013 is basically complete roving profiles. Open it up on my laptop, a tablet, my phone, I'm back in the version of the document instantly. Similarly I can use the streaming version of Office even on someone else's machine and be straight back into my work. Custom shortcuts I set up are even copied across. And none of it is via Redmond if my company doesn't want to run it that way - SkyDrive is just the one that MS provide as the default. And if you combine it with the document / file permissions system in Server 2012, you get really flexible security on the documents too. An admin can set it up so that a document is only accessible by a particular user, particular departments, particular geographic locations or on specific VPNs and use the DRM on it to make sure that the document cannot be copied out of the permissions area. It's really worth reading about. So basically, the portability and controls in Office 2013 are really, really polished but that can be via your own network, not Redmond. And they're licencing all the software as an online service (incl. SharePoint) so if you want that set up, you don't have to deploy your own server infrastructure to do it. I'm honestly really impressed. I've been playing around with the new Office this afternoon and like it.

Regarding the social networking, again, this doesn't have to mean Facebook or other things I loathe. I can set up a corporate version and control who is on it and it can tie into all the same controls for documents, etc. as before. Social networking can be great - so long as you can control who constitutes the social network.

"Are MS copying Apple and have suddenly decided that they should be aiming for the consumer market instead of the business market? That would be commercial suicide."

Definitely not this. Being able to rent all the Office packages as a service (incl. SharePoint and Project) is actually making it easier for small players, imo. Cloud-based computing is a big part of the new Office, it seems, but it does have a lot of other things in it as well. And you can own your own cloud quite cheaply just by renting the service (or getting a Server 2012 licence and running it yourself). Also, renting the software as a service may actually be a good thing for businesses as you don't have to budget around big roll-outs of the latest version - so long as you subscribe, I think the idea is that you will always be on the latest version.

Skype I don't like much. It's pretty inadequate for business usage. But Lync is very good and I think Skype will get subsumed under that for business use in the end. This is probably going to allow you to easily drag contacts from Skype into Lync and maybe even share networks. (Not sure, haven't got that far yet).

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FAIL

Re: Why am I not finding any of this remotely interesting?

Oh, so you're saying that to get the most out of Office, I also need to install W8 and Server 2012 whilst simultaneously ditching all existing infrastructure. And buy new fondle-friendly clients.

Bloody hell, that's. a BIG ask!

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Re: a BIG ask!

You forgot the 82-inch screen.

(Perhaps that's what he had in mind when he said that any ARM clients will need to be top-end spec.)

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Re: Re: Why am I not finding any of this remotely interesting?

AFAIK its perfectly possible to create a roaming user profile with XP, Office 2003 and Server 2003 (and AFAIK '98 Office 2000 and 2000 Server). You don't need added Cloudy goodness in Office to support it, its just what a networked OS does.

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Re: Why am I not finding any of this remotely interesting?

"Oh, so you're saying that to get the most out of Office, I also need to install W8 and Server 2012 whilst simultaneously ditching all existing infrastructure. And buy new fondle-friendly clients."

Errr, not really what I said. Most of the new stuff doesn't require Server 2012 and it certainly doesn't require Win8 or touch interfaces at all. It will work fine with SkyDrive or even on your local computer. I was just explaining that if you want to use the Cloud aspects without using SkyDrive, you can do that very easily by running a Server 2012 instance. And you can even rent those as an online service if you want so it's pretty easy.

I'm pretty sure you can do a lot of this with your existing architecture as well, you just wont be able to use some of the specifically Server 2012 stuff that I mentioned such as the neat new file permissions system that can lock down sensitive documents. You can even set up permissions based on regular expressions so that any document created containing certain keywords, SSNs, names, whatever are automatically restricted to whatever permissions you choose. Even the biggest curmudgeon has to admit that's pretty neat.

Touch interface is useful for things like casual reading / work on a tablet, and diagraming things out in OneNote or Visio (does handwriting recognition as well - remember you can use a Stylus with some of these products), but you hardly need it to make good use of Office 2013. It's just one of the new features.

Also, the new software as a licence model means smaller businesses like mine can just rent the services we need for as long as we need. It's nice, for example, to be able to give someone an Office licence for their laptop and know that if they leave the company the software I've paid for will just magically vanish from their machine and I can use it for their replacement.

So no, I didn't say what you wrote. Having used a couple of the products so far, I find them improved in various small ways. But sure, if you combine it with Server 2012 you've got a killer package. But if you don't, it's still good, imo.

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Facepalm

Re: Why am I not finding any of this remotely interesting?

"And WTF has Farsebook got to do with work? In every office I work in Farsebook is blocked on the firewall as it has a detrimental affect on productivity."

The designers at MS have obviously drunk the Apple kool aid and turned into cafe latte drinking beanbag hopping hipsters and now seem to be under the impression that every other office in the world is also full of cafe latter drinking hipsters rocking about on beanbags and doing 2 minutes of work an hour on a tablet while saying nothing much except "dude" and "yeah , totally going forward on that". In which case Win8 and this version of FaceOffice where they can catch with their groovy mates and find out what the best hairgel this morning will be perfect for them.

Meanwhile back in the real world companies won't touch this dog with a sterilised 10 foot pole.

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Re: Why am I not finding any of this remotely interesting?

"Also, renting the software as a service may actually be a good thing for businesses as you don't have to budget around big roll-outs of the latest version - so long as you subscribe, I think the idea is that you will always be on the latest version."

And so any applications that you have developed will fail on a regular basis and you will be continually having to re-train your staff in the new versions and repeatedly having to stop the applications being "helpful" (remember the paperclip?)

And I bet that the rental licences will be more expensive than upgrading every 3 or 4 years.

Oh, wait a moment, That is the whole idea.

It may well be time to move my clients over to Linux and Open Office.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Why am I not finding any of this remotely interesting?

>Meanwhile back in the real world companies won't touch this dog with a sterilised 10 foot pole.

I don't know.. I can already hear my gadget-happy CTO telling the board how much time & money it'll save the company.

AC 'cause I know he reads el Reg..

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Re: a BIG ask!

Maybe they need to include a cloudy version of Xbox 360 with their new office. You can have access to all Xbox 360 games. So by providing games, Facebook, and Skype, you will have a happy but slightly unproductive workforce. There will be a lot of atta boys to the IT department of major corporations for providing these nice benefits to their employees.

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FAIL

Re: Why am I not finding any of this remotely interesting?

So what you're describing is a 100% Microsoft lockin: sharepoint and O365 do not work on all devices (far from it) and it does not look like it's going to get better. Only if you buy in this Microsoft thingy for the full 100% it will work. And they trying to sell this in 2012??? They're still living a decade ago...(LOL)

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Anonymous Coward

So...

"This is also a very touchy-feely build, with pinch controls in all the Office applications. There are the usual expansion/contraction pinch controls, plus swiping between functions within Office and doing things such as selecting fonts and type styles using rotary controls. A stylus can be integrated as well, either to annotate documents or act as a pointer during presentations."

Yeah, and what about the millions of us who have large flat panel monitors on our desks. How do "expansion/contraction pinch controls" and rotary controls work with a mouse? Or is it just a complete and utter mess?

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Re: So...

Office 2003 still works and you can still use it.

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Holmes

Re: So...

as does Office 97. Does far more than I want, why would I need to change?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: So...

If you don't want to use touch, continue with mouse and keyboard as before.

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Re: So...

"Yeah, and what about the millions of us who have large flat panel monitors on our desks. How

do "expansion/contraction pinch controls" and rotary controls work with a mouse? Or is it just a complete and utter mess?"

The mouse and keyboard still work too. And there are a number of other features. I don't think any functionality has been taken out as far as I can see.

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Re: So...

I hope you are aware that the vast majority of computers sold over the past few years have been laptops, not desktops. The writing has been on the wall for the mouse for some time. Apple spotted that writing a while ago, hence all those multi-touch gestures in OS X Lion. Windows is moving in the same direction, hence the "Metro" UI.

It does take a few days to get used to the trackpad, but it's worth it. Your RSI will certainly thank you for it as the mouse is by far the biggest cause of that category of health problems.

For desktop users, the mouse will continue to be supported, but there are already multi-touch trackpads available for desktop PCs. I recommend Wacom's "Bamboo" range, which includes built-in multi-touch support in all but one of the models.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: So...

How is that related?

A touchscreen is not the same as a trackpad, there is a clue in the name.

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Re: So...

I hope you are aware that the vast majority of computers sold over the past few years have been laptops, not desktops

This is not true. For the last few years more notebooks than desktops have been sold but the split is close to 60:40, i.e. in no way "the vast majority".

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Anonymous Coward

Re: So...

> It does take a few days to get used to the trackpad, but it's worth it. Your RSI will certainly thank you for it

So will your PvP opponents.

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FAIL

Re: So...

Apple (and therefore Apple fans) spent years telling us that mice with more than one button were impossibly complicated for users. Then they (and their fans) decided that it was absolutely fine to have touchpads which needed three fingers simultaneously to use them. Odd people, Apple (and Apple fans).

Coming next: Why seven inch tablets are a perfect size, despite what Steve Jobs said for years. Oh, and Apple have always been in legal dispute with Eastasia.

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Re: So...

"Oldfogey

"as does Office 97. Does far more than I want, why would I need to change?"

There were times I would have gladly paid for an upgrade just to get rid of that damned paperclip. I know my boss would have authorised its purchase because the thing sent him bananas every time it popped up.

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Might have known

Only Microsoft could "improve" the UI like this; the ribbon is one of the most detestable, idiotic, illogical UI ideas of recent times (though quite impressively beaten by Win8/Metro desktop.)

So, to make it even more logical and intuitive, they hide it by default?! Fantastic. That's one of the great things people are raving about with the controls in Windows 8 isn't it, all this retarded hide-and-seek of vital controls? No? Oh well.

On another point... who on earth actually though that users wanted a more touchy-feely interface for working with Office documents? What kind of idiot thought that people are longing to move their hands away from their at least vaguely semi-natural position on the keyboard or mouse on the desk in front of them and start poking their greasy fingers, zombie-like, at their monitor?

I AM glad nobody's forcing me to use this rubbish to get my own work done, but the sheer scale of disastrously bad design does make me despair. Microsoft - you have always, always produced substandard, lacklustre, often deliberately handicapped software, you have exhibited a disgusting lack of morals and honesty over the decades - but now, you're just flailing about making mind-numbingly stupid changes like you're in some kind of death throes. It's _almost_ sad to watch...

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Re: Might have known

I logged on to say the same thing. The only thing they could do to make the Ribbon worse (other than poke out my eyes every time I see it) is hide it! I cannot use a autohide taskbar or menu system even if I want to. It looks nice, but my brain (anyone else?) cannot cope and tries to figure out where everything is. Oh, it's a has great visual memory, I just cannot cope with menus that change though.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Might have known

Ribbon hiding by default is only for 768p not modern displays, helps encourage users away from low definition. Hey but why let facts get in the way of a rant about something you haven't even tried.

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Mushroom

Re: Might have known @ AC 23:39

So, those who have small laptop or tablet screens will see the autohidden ribbon and magically want to run out to buy new kit? Facts work better when you have a noggin that you willingly use.

And fuck the ribbon. I would rather eat canned haggis that was stored in the Sahara for 3 months.

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Re: Might have known

"... but now, you're just flailing about making mind-numbingly stupid changes like you're in some kind of death throes. It's _almost_ sad to watch..."

Like one of those infected ants that attaches itself to the underside of a leaf and dribbles fungal spores onto the other ants down below.

We're the other ants. No matter how we protest, we always catch the stupidity and grow it.

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Title is not required.

Oh dear god.

That pretty much sums it up.

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Well it looks like businesses will be skipping this version of office as well as Windows 8 as well unless they want to replace all their desktops with fondle slabs, Microsoft are really banking everything on Windows 8 tablets being what people want and im not sure that they do.

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Anonymous Coward

The producers...

... seems to be on the watch list of Balmer's Zune?

It seems there is more money to be made in loosing these days.

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"The application suite has been rewritten from the ground up"

They're lying but I hope they aren't. It just isn't possible to rewrite that much that fast...

... but just imagine if they had tried!

One knotty charliefox of bugs in a train wreck wrapped in an earthquake.

I hope I hope I hope ... screw popcorn, pass the whiskey. I am *so* going to enjoy this.

(I just re-read this and realised how that sounded. If a professional dev gets to the point of wanting a company they depend on to go into catastrophic and terminal convusions... well, it does say something profound about how they feel they've been treated. So let me say it another way. Fuck you microsoft for making my job so unnecessarily miserable. Fuck you all the way. Die. Swallow poison and die. Fuck you for making me spend up to 50% of my time working around your shity code. Fuck you for bugging up my projects and making me work in my own time when I should be at home or in the pub having a life. Fuck you for forcing me to ask questions on newsgroups because you couldn't be fucked to document your shite to any decent level. Fuck you for having what offline docs you've do provide to be so shittishly indexed it's far quicker to find stuff with google. Fuck you for making me blow my cool).

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Happy

Re: "The application suite has been rewritten from the ground up"

Yeah my first thought was *Did you Bollocks* :-)

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Windows

Re: "The application suite has been rewritten from the ground up"

Just like Vista which was re-written from the ground up and had an exact replica of Windows 3.1's Add Font dialog box buried in it re-written from the ground up as a homage.

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Re: "The application suite has been rewritten from the ground up"

Ummm, raises the question of just how compatible with previous *documents* this steaming pile will be. Not that MS have shown any reluctance to short change users on legacy format support in previous

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "The application suite has been rewritten from the ground up"

@BlueGreen. What is it about the new office that caused that reaction? Personally, not looked in enough detail yet to have an opinion.

Quiet drink in the pub, times theres a smelly old git in a corner talking to themselves muttering obscenities spoiling the atmosphere for those of us who have lives. You almost got me thinking I hope Office 2013 is dire if means its going to keep at least one of them working out of harms way.

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Re: "The application suite has been rewritten from the ground up"

Office 2013 isn't "dire." It's Office, it does the same thing. It has some actually quite nice cloud sync stuff. It has some irritating and intrusive Bing/Internet social media stuff.

What is dire is the interface. That's partly an aesthetic thing, but it is also a pragmatic consideration for those of us who value screen real estate. I'd say "this is the office suite designed for a retina Mac," except that I can't use a retina Mac at it's native res because my eyes won't make out pixels that small from a reasonable distance.

When Retina-class displays start becoming common in 24" and larger screens for less than $500, I will be the first person to jump up and down and say "goddamn, this new interface paradigm is kinda sexy, and that's awesome!"

"Kinda sexy" however is of no use to me whatsoever in a 1920x1200-or-smaller world where I need every single pixel of real estate for multitasking.

There are a whole bunch of extra features here that most of us (Register readers) will simply never care about, one that we might (cloud sync) a push towards Office 365 (which I promise you is more dire than Libre Office) and an interface that, while aesthetically appealing to a certain segment of the population, takes up far too much space on already too-small screens.

The fact that we don’t all have 4K screens isn’t Microsoft’s fault, not at all. But they do have to design for the realities of the world. Not for a happy fairy unicorn future in which we all either only use one application at a time, or we have screens with enough resolution to handle that kind of massive interface bloat.

I just want to type a damned document. I don’t care if the borders are white, grey, faded, or contain a social media update from twitter.

It’s just a word document.

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Angel

Re: "The application suite has been rewritten from the ground up"

"rewritten from the ground up"

aka "Click 'New project' in Visual Studio and proceed to copy-paste vast swathes of code from existing Office sourcecode as required"

That's what they mean by "code reuse" innit?

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Re: "The application suite has been rewritten from the ground up"

Maybe it was written using a new, unreleased version of Visual Studio with a resurrected assistant? You know, click "File", "New Project". Select the template "Office Suite for Windows", and an assistant pops up saying "It looks like you are writing a new office suite. Would you like me to help?". Then they click "Yes" and large swathes of the code from previous versions of office are pasted in.

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Facepalm

Re: "The application suite has been rewritten from the ground up"

...except that I can't use a retina Mac at it's native res because my eyes won't make out pixels that small from a reasonable distance.

Ummm... that's the point of a retina display -- if you could make out the pixels, it wouldn't be one. Same with larger screens. To make out the pixels on a 24" retina display, you'd have to sit closer than the recommended distance. What you want is not a retina display, but a high-resolution display.

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Re: "The application suite has been rewritten from the ground up"

"I just want to type a damned document."

Then use Notepad.

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Re: "The application suite has been rewritten from the ground up"

It's not Microsoft's fault if you make poor life decisions...

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Windows

Re: "The application suite has been rewritten from the ground up"

Have you considered getting another job, since you can't handle your present one?

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Re: "The application suite has been rewritten from the ground up"

Um...duh? But retina displays are the only high-res displays even close to affordable, and they can be operated in "maximum workspace" instead of "retina" mode. I was pretty clear about wanting WORKSPACE not RETINA MARKETING CRAP. The retina Macbooks can provide either...assuming you have telescopic glasses.

What I *want* is a 50 inch display at 4k resolution for sub $1000 so that I can get as much utility out of a Windows-8/Office 2013 setup as I do today with a Windows 7/Office 2003 rig. That, or a suite of Microsoft software designed to MAXIMISE WORKSPACE by MINIMISING THE DAMNED INTERFACE while allowing me to use OVERLAPPING, RESIZEABLE WINDOWS.

If Microsoft are going to subsidise the cost of replacing all my displays with higher resolution ones in order to accommodate their design aesthetic, I'll write a lovely article about how they understand the needs of customers and are combining marketplace product development and acceleration with great design.

But if they expect me to have to pay more to get the same amount of work done, I am NOT going to be singing their praises.

Office 2013/Win 8/etc may one day be a great product…if the hardware ever catches up. Right now, today, they have a product that seems to me less useable than one of its antecedents, and there is zero indication of a shift in consumer electronics pricing and availability required to regain what was lost.

Let’s use a much-hated car analogy. Let’s say you’re the owner of a fleet of commercial vehicles. You’ve been using the Ford Taurus for 15 years, and it has served you well. Your entire business is build on this car, you know the ins and ours.

Ford announces tomorrow that the new Taurus will have limited self-driving capabilities. Hurrah! An upgrade! Unfortunately, it will only run on jet fuel. Ford simultainiously cancels all of its Taurus-like vehicles (so there is nothing like the old Taurus available,) and halts production of spare parts for your existing fleet of vehicles.

I think you’d be pretty pissed. Jet fuel is bloody expensive.

Now, if Ford was also announcing simultainiously that they were opening 50 jet fuel refineries in an effort to increase global supply (and drive prices down to the point where they are near parity with petrol,) then you would be far more inclined to migrate your Taurus fleet to the new jet-fuel pseudo-self-driving ones, but I bet you’d still be irritated you can’t get spare parts for the old ones.

This is Microsoft 2012. The difference is they aren’t out there building me the jet fuel refineries. They aren’t driving down the cost of the hardware to the point that throwing away 15 years of investment and buying newer, sleeker stuff to get the same functionality as before is even remotely palatable.

Fortunately, I have the same option as the Ford Taurus guy would: simply tell Microsoft to go fuck themselves and buy from another vendor.

Captialism!

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