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back to article Bill Gates to pull a Steve Jobs and SAVE MICROSOFT – report

Microsoft founder Bill Gates may be planning a return to a more hands-on role at the company, according to the latest rumors from the software giant's ongoing search for a new chief executive. Last week, Bloomberg, The Wall Street Journal, and others reported that veteran Microsoft exec Satya Nadella had emerged as the …

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Trollface

Imagine a ship of industry

... with Satya Nadella as the Captain on the bridge with Admiral Bill Gates breathing down his neck, ordering ship's engines to stand down while preparing to drop the anchor, to assess the floating wreckage all around; and Steve Ballmer in the engine room berating the black gang to double up on shoveling in more coal as he lashes down the boiler safety valves, anticipating an order for flank speed ahead. "Reefs? What reefs! I ain't seen no steenking reefs!" he screams.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Imagine a ship of industry

I tried to imagine that, but the scenario of Ballmer being courtmartialled posthumously for insubordination looks a little unlikely.

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Linux

I don't understand

"But the idea that Gates would use his newfound free time to meddle with Microsoft's products might not sit well with those who argue that the software giant has remained mired in the past since Gates resigned as CEO in 2000."

If the company has been "mired in the past" since Gates left, and no amount of change since then has improved things (according to "those who argue"), then surely bringing back the person who built the company can only be a better change and a likely source of improvement.

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Windows

It worked for Hindenburg, so it will work for Gates, right?

surely bringing back the person who built the company can only be a better change and a likely source of improvement

I don't know how many logical fallacies are covered under a heavy sauce of delusion and wishful thinking in that kind of statement. It is the same logic that brings retired politicians, financial gurus, generals on retirement in the Harz mountains or popstar has-beens back into action because they have been "in it once" and "we don't have anyone else".

You just need to remember Bill Gate's "The Road Ahead" (retconned to reality in the 2nd edition) to know that he ain't some kind of super-luminary who knows what the future is bringing or even how to get there. Basically his contribution to the industry was his butthurt Open Letter to Hobbyists.

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@John

"surely bringing back the person who built the company can only be a better change and a likely source of improvement."

I'm not too sure I agree. Because Mr. Gates was also one of the people who made Microsoft what it is today. So isn't it fair to say that the current state of affairs is - to some extend - basically the fruit of his labours? With that I include the nomination of Ballmer by the way.

Thing is; I think the problem runs much deeper and is most likely actually a cultural problem. The way the company works which is quite unhealthy at times. First there's the common display of "knowing what's best for the customers" even though Microsoft is no longer in a position where they can dictate the market. Yet this is still what they seem to believe, you can see the examples of that everywhere. And it's hurting them. The most obvious example is Windows 8, especially if you keep the disaster which was Vista in mind. Worse yet: they got plenty of warnings up front but chose to ignore them.

And another example, in my opinion much more dangerous, is Visual Studio. Actually taking things so far that you're alienating programmers who actually work, extend and (to some extend) advocate your products. Not only that; also making it seem as if you care less about their opinion.

For those unfamiliar with this I'm referring to Visual Studio 2012 which was designed with the look and feel of Windows 8 in mind. So a "ribbon-like" menu structure (pull down menus with EASY TO READ NAMES), no colour in the icons (small black shapes) and even the environment itself used to have but two colour schemes and both actually managed to give me a headache.They even made sure to remove the macro editor so that you cannot automate certain tasks in the editor. Thousands of developers cried out in pain.

In all fairness Microsoft did fix some of those problems, to an extend where (in my opinion of course) working with VS2012 became bearable and to some extend enjoyable. Even so; most still prefer the previous version 2010. So where do we stand now? Simple: if you got a VS2012 license and don't like it then Microsoft has provided a new "solution": the option to buy yourself Visual Studio 2013. And of course; being a licensed Visual Studio user / owner doesn't grant you any favours like discounts or such. No, you'll just have to cough up the full price again.

Another thing to note: where VS2010 "lasted" approx. 2 years the lice cycle has decreased with Visual Studio 2012 as well.

So why did this nonsense happen in the first place? In my opinion it's the company culture. Departments which don't necessarily co-exist or try to extend or improve on each other but instead actually compete within the company hierarchy. Right up to a point where one department would have no problems at all with screwing the other over. Even though, in the end, it would most likely hurt the company as a whole.

A mindset which, as far as I know, can absolutely be traced back to Gates himself.

Microsoft needs to start thinking about their users and fanbase alike, because alienating them as they do now is not very healthy. Because if you turn out to be an unreliable partner or supplier then sooner or later people will start to abandon you. And once they do it'll be a whole lot harder to win them back; it's easier to make sure they stay onboard the bandwagon.

The main difference should be obvious: back in the days people had little alternatives but to get Windows. But that has changed dramatically.

No sneer what so ever: but there are plenty of Apple and Linux users out there who started using those environments for the sole reason of : "It's not Microsoft Windows". Worse yet: I'm convinced that many Window users, even the ones who actually like the environment, could sympathize with those people. Not necessarily agree, but you knew very well where it came from..

THAT is not good for business, not at all.

I think Microsoft should not fall back to relics from the past but instead focus on the future. They need a drastic change in their company culture as well as the way they deal with their customers. Otherwise I don't think this is going to end well.

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Re: @John

A tip if you want your blog comments to be read. Keep it brief, essays belong elsewhere. I skipped your comment.

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Trollface

Re: @John

"So why did this nonsense happen in the first place? In my opinion it's the company culture. Departments which don't necessarily co-exist or try to extend or improve on each other but instead actually compete within the company hierarchy. Right up to a point where one department would have no problems at all with screwing the other over. Even though, in the end, it would most likely hurt the company as a whole.

A mindset which, as far as I know, can absolutely be traced back to Gates himself."

Nokians will feel right at home then

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Thumb Up

Re: @John

An up-vote for you Sir, after about 6 lines, I skipped the rest.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: @John

A tip if you want to say 'A tip if you want your blog comments to be read. Keep it brief, essays belong elsewhere. I skipped your comment.'. Say 'tl;dr'.

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Pint

@ShelLuser

Excellent post, and it definitely was worth reading in full. Cheers!

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Pirate

Re: I don't understand

Let me explain.

Gates never left, he got less involved (but not that much)

What Gates may do now is stop delegating certain tasks and getting his hands dirty again.

MS is what it is thanks to Ballmer & Gates, once those two are really gone (When they die) MS will wither away (proper, not as it is nowadays with the phone debacle).

Gates's brilliance was to understand when the PC was a nascent industry "what he was selling", "to whom he was selling it".

He understood sooner than anybody that hardware doesn't matter (as long as it works) what matters is software, even nowadays most people in the IT industry do not get it.

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Re: @John

I gave you an upvote because your post was interesting. Maybe next time though, you could include some pictures for people who don't have the attention span needed to take in someone's thoughts.

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Anonymous Coward

@ShelLuser

Extent. ExtenT. EXfuckingTENT. With a T!!!!

Good god.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: @John

> A tip if you

Ermm... brevity is in the eye of the beholder? The comment you refer to did not seem particularly long to me, nor did it seem to be *unnecessarily* long.

The time it took you to write up your complain you could have probably read it anyway. You can't be that busy if you're reading The Register's comments section.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: @ShelLuser

> Extent. ExtenT. EXfuckingTENT. With a T!!!!

He was using the past tense. :)

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Re: @ShelLuser

That was not the passed tents.

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Headmaster

Re: I don't understand

Gates's brilliance was to understand when the PC was a nascent industry "what he was selling", "to whom he was selling it".

Not at all. He just sold what he had at that time like a good hustler. There was no industry and it wasn't seen as "nascent" by anyone. Microsoft then got pulled along in the slipstream of the PC industry, made possible because IBM forgot to license the whole crud properly. They then decided to plunder rivals' ideas and maybe work on OS/2 with IBM... the rest is a long history.

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Re: I don't understand

I saw the same thing. THis is how I put it:

"But the idea that Gates would use his newfound free time to meddle with Microsoft's products might not sit well with those who argue that the software giant has remained mired in the past since Gates resigned as CEO in 2000."

Doesn't make sense. If MS was worse since he left, then wouldn't they think it would be better if he did meddle?

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Ain't gonna work

The guy is too attached to his perceived company, which ain't his company any more. He doesn't have any clue of the inner workings and office politics currently going on. How would you like the former owner of a company you work for breathing down your neck and carrying on about how it used to be done?

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Anonymous Coward

Think positive, sort of.

Hmm, politics are less of an issue if you're on top of the org chart instead of in the middle, but I love the whole "visionary" adulation by the financial press which was IMHO one of the key causes of a total removal of any morality from people who wanted to make money, for decades.

Gates demonstrated that it was OK to do anything questionable under the sun provided you kept enough money on hand to buy your way out of the lawsuits - apart from Stacker he managed that well. Even the SCO stuff delivered well above expectation as it kept Linux in legal question marks for many more years than even originally dreamt of.

My question is how accurate Gates will do a "Jobs", because the end bit involves 6 planks.

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HCV
Facepalm

Seriously

I cannot think of one single quote from Bill Gates since -- I don't know, when did The Road Ahead come out? -- that has indicated he has any kind of pool of visionary thinking he's going to be tapping into here.

The Steve Jobs biography is littered with Gates comments that could pretty much be gathered together and published as "Advice Well Worth Ignoring."

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Seriously

'The Steve Jobs biography is littered with Gates comments that could pretty much be gathered together and published as "Advice Well Worth Ignoring."'

Remind me, how many times was SJ the richest man in the world?

And BG?

And who did most good with their wealth?

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Re: Seriously

This is relevant how?

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Trollface

Re: Seriously

All you have to do is be richer than Anonymous and you'll be right.

That's how these things work apparently.

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Re: Seriously

Uh-huh. If SJ was not wealthy enough, then maybe Larry will do?

/from the article/

"Bill Gates wants people to think he's Edison, when he's really Rockefeller," Jobs' longtime pal, Oracle CEO Larry Ellison, once told Newsweek. "Though I wouldn't mind being Rockefeller either. But referring to Gates as the smartest man in America isn't right. I'm not the fourth smartest man in America. Wealth isn't the same thing as intelligence."

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Re: Seriously

Apple would have continued into bankruptcy if Microsoft had not chosen to bail them out. I bet Jobs was happy to have some advice from Gates then, along with cash from his company.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Seriously

You mean, like how the guy who knew what was best for Europe was the guy who controlled the largest part of it at once during the 20th century?

(NB: this actually works for the 19th century as well.)

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Re: Seriously

Apple would have continued into bankruptcy if Microsoft had not chosen to bail them out. I bet Jobs was happy to have some advice from Gates then, along with cash from his company.

I guess you're talking about the $150M investment in a company that already had $1.2B in reserves for a cross licensing deal ?

The "Microsoft saved Apple" myth just refuses to die.

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Re: Seriously

"Remind me, how many times was SJ the richest man in the world?

And BG?

And who did most good with their wealth?"

oh, so thats the definition of a visionary… aha. Thanks cleared it right up.

Muppet

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Re: Seriously

Gates may not have been visionary, but he understood business. Jobs was visionary, but I'm still not sure he understood business. I'm not sure how MS lost that thread in Windows 8, but that was their major failure on that front. To a great extent, I think they got too envious of Jobs and tried to become him. Jobs always dictated how his users would work. For them, that seems to work. PCs were always about the user dictating how things will work. Trying to reverse that was, is, and always will be a recipe for disaster. If Gates remembers that, he will do well. Otherwise we'll stumble along, perhaps into oblivion.

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"Gates is known as one of the pioneers of the PC era."

Yep.

I can't shake off the idea that Gates is overrated. He seems to get max respect from other suits, not tech. types.

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I wonder if Mr Gates would get hired by Microsoft if he submitted his resume under a different name.

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Trollface

@silent_count

Nah, then they'd ridicule his basic programming all over again ;)

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Re: @silent_count

Depends if they notice that it was someone else's programming hastily bought in and the names changed.

(QDOS >> MSDOS)

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The huge difference...

When Jobs came back to Apple, he was not afraid to put in the knife.

Jobs was pushed out of Apple and kept viewing Apple with a lean and hungry eye while he was away. He thought the management that ran Apple while he was away were roaring ass-hats and was not afraid to say so with long expletive riddled sentences. When he came back he was keen to slash and burn.

In the time Ballmer was running MS, it was largely under the patronage of BillG. Ballmer was, and most likely still is, BFFs with BillG. BillG says that Ballmer did a good job. If BillG does come back it will be with much appeasement etc.

BillG lacks both the energy and vitriol needed to make the huge changes that MS needs. If he did return he would definitely be incapable of pulling a Jobsian reformation.

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Re: The huge difference...

Bill Gates might make a difference simply because he is a Very Important Person at MS and if he proclaims that something is shit people will listen (even if he won't use expletives, etc.). This may be important to overcome inertia and committee indecision.

If he works far enough below the visionary management types (those who think that Metro and ribbons are good things if you only torture the consumer long enough), then maybe MS products might become more usable / valuable again.

Lets face it, most of us just want something that works effortlessly and doesn't break the bank. MS used to offer such products.

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Re: The huge difference...

@Shultz

I think that BG may use the odd expletive. He was famous for berating staff with "That's the stupidest fucking thing I've ever heard!"

Although that might not go too well with the new kinder image of Bill Gates that his philanthropy seems to have bought.

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Re: The huge difference...

Although BillG might not actually be in the driver's seat, he is close enough at hand that he knows of, and gives tasset aproval for, what is going on.

He's currently the chairman of the board. From there he has all the position he needs to steer the boat any way he wants. So to give him back CEOship is not going to change anything.

On top of that, TIFKAM no doubt gets his approval. Tablet has always been his darling form factor. The first 3 or so Microsoft forays into tablets sank under his CEOship.

He would not savage anybody about ribbons, or TIFKAM, because to do so would mean savaging himself.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: The huge difference...

Lets face it, most of us just want something that works effortlessly

.. which is why a lot of people eventially took the plunge and switched to Mac (me included). Once you have experienced a truly userfriendly interface you realise just how deep you have been driven into the weeds by MS. The ribbon and Vista were good indications that "effortlessly" was really last on the list of requirements (assuming it was on there at all instead of "ignore, they'll buy it anyway").

and doesn't break the bank. MS used to offer such products.

Really? This is where a Mac actually comes out better - MUCH lower cost of software, so a fully kitted out system is substantially more cost effective (also with upgrades) than a system running Microsoft products. Smaller banks are already switching because their core systems are on Citrix anyway, so they can pretty much immediately swap out their desktops, and exactly the software and patching costs of Macs give them a better TCO. The last time I was at the Internet exhibition in Dublin there were maybe 20 PCs in use on 1000 exhibitors - the rest were all running Macbooks.

Not to mention the dog that is Windows 8 where Metro causes endless confusion because the interface doesn't seem to run with the same rights as the desktop. The support overhead that &%ç* interface has created is stupidly high, because it's hard to explain to a user that Internet Exploder started from Metro is not working the same as the one started from the desktop. The Win 8 UI is almost as big a mess as Vista was.

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Paris Hilton

Re: The huge difference...

This comment is a joke, right?

A huge joke, surely?

Macs being must more cost efficient? I don't understand at all. Are you on drugs? Find a mac computer, find the individual parts on some sort of tech site, then see how much more the Mac costs. That is the true software cost, and it is usually hundreds and hundreds (occasionally 10s of hundreds) more expensive than a windows 8 disc.

I don't understand the whole "user friendly interface" angle either, seeing as the Mac desktop environment just looks like a dodgily skinned ubuntu, which is essentially identical in form and function to Windows desktop. A lot of things on the mac are actually counter intuitive and have to be learnt. That is not user friendly.

Maybe there were more Macs than PCs at the internet exhibition, but what on earth does that mean? That they're appealing to the lowest common denominator by betting on the currently chic company? If I told you that the animation company my ex girlfriend works at uses Windows machines exclusively, would that change your views of the mac? No? Then why would machines at an internet convention change our views on windows?

I have no idea about your "small bank" (is there such a thing?) statement, but it seems like a complete ass pull.

I completely agree with the Metro confusion thing, however. It needs to be nuked.

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Re: The huge difference...

@AC

What sort of system would you expect to see at an internet exhibition? Internet fiddlers like using macs, I don't think that has been ever in any doubt. At a CAD exhibition I would expect to see crap loads of workstation spec'd laptops, because that is what they would use. At Comicon I would expect to see comics related stuff.

My apologies for the language but why the fuck, if it uses Citrix, would a bank replace all of their £100-150 terminals with fucking macs? Actually I need to add to that. Why the fuck would a bank switch from terminals running a secured locked down version of Linux to an OS that at Pwn2Own is usually cracked on day one before the Windows and Linux machines have booted?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: The huge difference...

Absolutely. Bill Gates and Steve Job's returns can't be compared.

Bill was never really gone. As you said, BFF with his pal Steve Balmer, still involved in an overseeing role.

Steve Jobs on the other hand left Apple in a big row, and when he returned Apple had almost vanished from the market. THAT is the situation you need to find if you want to make a difference. Plus, you HAVE to make a difference, or else the company will be dead.

So Bill's return isn't a return at all. And M$ is not dead. They are certainly doing a lot of weird things lately, pissing of customers and channel partners, not performing to their full potential. But not dead. There's no pressure for a radical change. That is the problem. M$ doesn't listen to hints or wakeup calls. What they'd need to make a difference is alarm bells ringing all over the place. They seem oblivious to that at the moment, but maybe all the would-be CEOs who have declined the position were not -- they didn't see how the current company structure and their ways could be changed without bloodshed.

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Headmaster

Re: The huge difference...

Tacit approval!

(Tassets are pieces of plate armour.)

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@Schultz

It would be nice to think that. Trouble is, Gates signed off on all the initiatives we bitch about constantly.

Yes, he can recover the company. But in order to do that, he actually has to forget he is a Very Important Person at MS and think like a small fish in a big pond with really big fish all around him, but who none the less intends to be the biggest fish in the pond when things are done. Because that was where he started and where he was good.

Bottom line: While he can recover the company, right now the odds are long for him doing it.

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Re: The huge difference...

If you had bought a MAC, she might still be your girlfriend :)

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What to do?

Thing is as a company that primarily makes and OS and an office app, there's limited room for innovation anymore.

In the beginning, the desktop OS was functionally limited by artificial hardware legacy. Now with x64 that's gone.

In the beginning, the desktop OS was hard to configure and hardware didn't work well with it. Now with plug & play and Internet access for automatic driver pulls, that's gone.

In the beginning, the desktop OS was an island, designed for unconnected environments. Now with the NT kernel it's got networking, domains, security and such by default, so that's gone.

Bottom line is that WinXP frankly did ENOUGH to make anything after it a difficult sell. There's nothing killer in Vista/7/8 that folks must have. There's no feature that evolves the whole concept of a desktop OS to a new level of baseline. It's just... incremental updates basically.

But when the art of the OS is essentially "almost everything you could ask for", what is the maker to do? THAT's the struggle.

Maybe where there's still room is reliability.

Imagine an OS that's malware-proof because it recognizes obnoxious behaviour and self-heals. Every boot it says "hey, did some jackass window you don't want pop up, blocking everything else and breaking your browser? 'Cuz I think one did. And I can just roll back that stupid thing." How about an OS that properly tracks the origin of changes to its config and lets you fix things at a granular level? System started hanging occasionally? Hey, turns out that installing XYZ application changed some random DLL that's also in use by the print driver and that's why... here, let's fix it.

Just a thought. But beyond that, I don't know what the hell else MS could introduce that folks actually WANT.

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Pint

Re: What to do?

"Imagine an OS that's malware-proof because it recognizes obnoxious behaviour and self-heals."

Dare to dream. M$ would be printing their own money just on the initial rollout, and keeping the lights on with upgrades for years if they could crack that particular nut.

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Re: What to do?

> Windows

> Uninstalls itself

YES!

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@Paul

"Just a thought. But beyond that, I don't know what the hell else MS could introduce that folks actually WANT."

I think people want both innovation as well as a choice whether or not to use that innovation. For example; I think Metro could have gained some followers if Microsoft wouldn't have tried to force it down our throats.

And when it comes to the OS itself I think there's plenty of room left for innovation. For example; just look at KDE and what they did with the start menu. They created segments or categories which give you the option to manage even more software than before.

Just a small example, but I think there's plenty of room left for improvements and new developments. And as long as you make sure it's something people might want and allow them to make their own choice I'm pretty sure there's plenty of material to get us to Windows 16.

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