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back to article Microsoft's new CEO: The technology isn't his problem

If Satya Nadella is the answer, what was the question? Let's begin by saying money was not the problem that needed solving: on that, the world's largest software company is printing cash. In January Microsoft announced yet another record quarter, this time thanks in huge part to Xbox sales over Christmas and its server software …

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Enough with "Linux is better" comments FFS....

...hang on...am I early?

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Joke

@CADmonkey

FreeBSD is better ;)

Who cares that we do things backwards and "different"; we're simply following the Microsoft strategy and we all know Ballmer's strategy was perfect.

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Joke

Re: @ShelLuser

BeOS is best!

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Re: @ShelLuser

No No, OpenIndiana is best!

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Re: @CADmonkey

2014 is the year of openVMS on the desktop

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Roo
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"started a debate about how the baton of innovation has passed from Microsoft to the tech companies of Silicon Valley."

I am surprised that such a debate exists...

There is very little evidence that Microsoft ever held the baton of innovation in the first place. They started out with a shonky clone of CP/M and have only moved forward when they have been unable to FUD & litigate their competition into oblivion.

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"There is very little evidence that Microsoft ever held the baton of innovation in the first place. They started out with a shonky clone of CP/M and have only moved forward when they have been unable to FUD & litigate their competition into oblivion."

Substitute:

Apple for Microsoft

BSD for CP/M

Spot the difference?

No, thought not.

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Anonymous Coward

NeXTSTEP

Wrong comparison. Microsoft has really never innovated anything. They are very good at copying other's innovations.

Windows 3 was copied from First Generation Apple. Only difference being that Windows 3 sucked. To their credit, Windows 3.1 sucked less, but it still sucked. MS SQL Server was copied from Sybase. Licensed at first, then slowly Embraced, Extended and Extinguished - The Microsoft Way. Windows NT4 was VMS.

Steve Jobs left Apple and started NeXT Computer. That company produced what was probably the most innovative Operating System, Desktop Environment and UI Framework to this day. It was not BSD, it was the Mach Microkernel with a BSD-compatible layer on top of it. You should search for screenshots of NeXTSTEP from the early '90's and compare them with what was available as Desktop Environments and UI Frameworks at the time: Windows 3.1, TWM or Sun's NeWS or OpenWindows. All of them sucked. NeXTSTEP was a decade ahead. Tim Berners-Lee wrote the first Web Browser for NeXTSTEP while he was at CERN.

NeXT Computer failed because Jobs didn't want to license NeXTSTEP to third parties and insisted on NeXT being a systems company [hardware and software] instead of being a pure Operating System + Software play. NeXT hardware although very innovative in appearance and design was quite mediocre in reality. And NeXT computers themselves were very slow. Jobs stuck with Motorola 68030/040 when RISC was winning the speed race, at the time. When Jobs finally relented and ported NeXTSTEP to Intel, it was already too late: NeXT was already out of the hardware business, and had no comprehensible business model. By the time NeXTSTEP became OpenSTEP, Sun, HP and SGI had successfully pushed CDE, which stole a whole lot from NeXTSTEP, but, being an open specificiation, and everyone could implement it.

History footnote: Sun tried to port OpenSTEP to SPARC and made a huge brouhahaha about how OpenSTEP + SPARC + Sun Workstations were going to take on the world. The whole thing failed miserably, as expected - the only thing Sun has been consistently good at was to destroy every single successful UI Framework it got its paws on - and OpenSTEP on SPARC never materialized.

Windows95 and what came after (XP, Vista) all copied NeXTSTEP's UI.

Second Generation Apple (OS X and descendants) is, in fact, NeXTSTEP. If you've ever programmed on OS X, you will find all the NX* Interfaces are still there. NX* Interfaces come from NeXTSTEP.

So, no. Microsoft != Apple. One can trace back the design lineage of any current UI Framework to NeXTSTEP. Not to Microsoft.

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Re: NeXTSTEP

Failed because the Storage device was too slow & inflexible & expensive (MO Disc is a nice idea but really an expensive R/W semi-archival medium) and the Product too expensive and hardly any applications to take advantage of the GUI.

Display Postscript probably too slow. Open GL is a better idea.

So the innovations?

Using MO instead of floppy or HDD. Bad Idea. MO complemented Floppy and HDD.

CD ROM already existed as a cheaper RO distribution medium. It was 4 years before Nextstep adopted CDROM!

A dock on the WIMP GUI. Hardly earth shattering. The GUI wasn't an innovation.

Display Postscript: Like MO disk a nice idea but not practical. Even today still a bad idea.

NeXTSTEP was an impractical Niche product. Only Steve's Charisma kept it alive so long.

Steve was into IMAGE, not genuine SW & HW innovation. He killed the Newton (which was then innovative) rather than bother to understand the potential and fix it. The Newton needed to be fixed not killed. But it wasn't his idea and it didn't seem cool.

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Re: NeXTSTEP

Xerox!?

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Re: NeXTSTEP (@Mage)

Modern OS X uses, effectively, Display PDF. PDF is the output of a PostScript program. Apple's Core Graphics is all the same primitives, fill modes, etc as PostScript without the PostScript interpreter. So the two have both solved the same problem in the same way.

This actually turns out to be a pretty good idea: that's why Apple's text looks like printed text, using classic printed fonts like Helvetica, and Microsoft have had to commission their own custom fonts like Calibri that are designed around their idiosyncratic ideas about typography just so that the aggressive hinting, lack of pair kerning, etc, won't look quite so retro.

So what else did NextStep do that's interesting?

It learnt the Xerox Smalltalk lesson — that full object oriented, dynamic typed languages are a great match for UI work — but adapted the language so that it's compiled, not interpreted, and can link directly to the C libraries that were otherwise industry standard. That's Objective-C. It's just as happy talking with C++ nowadays, of course. The language and the framework are why the web was first developed on NextStep, why Doom was mostly developed on NextStep, etc.

It swept aside all the nonsense with application installers by introducing the application bundle. The application doesn't just look like a single icon in the Finder, it looks like one on disk too. Dragging it to the trash genuinely is an elemental file operation, not something that someone has hacked in as a special case. (aside: RISC OS did more or less the same thing at more or less the same time, as well as the dock and a focus on proper typography; all coincidence, apparently)

It introduced the fully compositing window manager. Consider where Windows was up to and including XP: preemptive multitasking, protected memory. So it doesn't affect the wider system if an individual app hangs or flips out, right? The answer is: only if you don't care whether the screen is painted properly.

File associations are handled by metadata, not as an exercise in string matching. If I want .doc to associate with Pages by default but have a few that render incorrectly and should be opened with full-on Word, I can set those to open with Word while leaving the rest alone. This becomes a property of the file and goes wherever the file goes. It is not a hack someone added into the Finder.

It was the first graphical environment with system-wide scripting. It was designed from day one to be architecture agnostic, supporting fat binaries. It beat OS/2 to the punch on both of these things.

Beyond that the big wins are really in the frameworks themselves. Pervasive rich text, system-wide spell checking, a system-wide encrypted store for passwords, etc.

So none of those is individually a massive leap (though it depends what you compare it to; if it's only commercial competitors then Objective-C would count, as someone finally realised what Xerox had pioneered under the hood) but I'd agree that NextStep was a decade ahead in the '80s based on the combination of technologies.

Though, yeah, then they decided to price it beyond any sense and predicate the machines on a dodgy media format. I guess Jobs learnt how to price things for optimum profits by reeling in from the far end.

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Happy

MS?

Always saw MS as a marketing company. Gates could have become a billionaire seilling toilet seats - he'd charge a per arse EULA. Set for life...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: NeXTSTEP

"Windows NT4 was VMS."

Wrong there. Whilst it has similar concepts - e.g. Proper security ACLS and auditing built in from the bottom up, and a modern (and more secure than legacy monolithic models) hybrid microkernel design, it was otherwise unrelated.

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Re: NeXTSTEP

If you're happy to look into an understand the reasons for something failing (int this case NeXTSTEP, where from what you're saying, it was Jobs business errors, and looks over engineering in the hardware), but just dismiss everything competitor's product, without stating the reasons as to why their products were the way they were, then you be crazy biased :)

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Re: NeXTSTEP (@Mage)

MS and Apple just have different ideas about how to push fonts through a pixel grid. Apple say don't respect the grid and make it as close as possible to what a print version would look like. MS say do respect the grid, and design fonts that look good through it.

Just a design philosophy difference.

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Anonymous Coward

No MS innovation?

They did the tablet a decade before iPad.

They did phones with apps long before iPhone.

Unfortunately for them, they were *so* innovative that the hardware wasn't up to the job. Apple merely waited for hardware to catch up, tweaked to suit and raked in the 'innovation' plaudits.

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Re: No MS innovation?

> They did the tablet a decade before iPad.

But long after Newton.

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Re: NeXTSTEP

I'll see your Xerox and raise it by Bush, Engelbart and Sutherland.

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bog phone/tabs you make calls from called phablets

I'm still trying to work out of this is a typo for "BIG phone" or the category of device you take to play Kandy (not TM) Crush on when you slope off to curl one out at work

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Anonymous Coward

When Microsoft doesn't put their name and Windows in big letters on a product it tends to do better.

The brand is tired and associated with crummy operating systems and blue screens.

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Absolute tosh. Microsoft makes the most money from its Windows and Office brands!

I'm of the mind that they should be putting their company brand on everything. But they then need to ensure they don't release dodgy stuff.

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@ localzuk

"Absolute tosh. Microsoft makes the most money from its Windows and Office brands!"

But mainly from enterprise and them wanting the cheap/easy option of no retraining etc etc. Remember the old addage, "No-one gets sacked for buying Microsoft software".

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Anonymous Coward

That's due to lock-in.

They stick Windows on their Windows Phone OS and everyone talks about security holes, blue screens and installing updates all the time.

We're talking about the general public, non-geeks here. They tend to run a mile from Windows on a phone since they get so many problems with their laptops.

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Anonymous Coward

Someone did get the sack for buying Windows.

Look at XBox. It has an image quite far removed from Windows. If it was called Windows Games Console XP then it may have flopped.

Their marketing people really suck, they didn't like the XBox name and included it in a list of options when surveying the public. The most popular choice amongst the public was XBox!

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Blue screens? Your living in the past. I've toyed with going to Open Office and the like for years, but frankly they're just not good enough. And Linux is a mess. You want to install some software? You just have to recompile the kernel. And doggy interfaces. Linux absolutely sucks. Lets not mention wobbly screens.

Apple are on a role at the moment, but I've never really liked the way they treat their customers. My son has iPhone that he dropped. Try getting Apple to fix it.

Microsoft isn't perfect but reasoned discussion is better than this tribal nonsense.

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"You want to install some software? You just have to recompile the kernel. And doggy interfaces."

Weirdly I haven't compiled any kernel (or software) on my Ubuntu Lucid Lynx desktop since I installed it nearly 4 years ago... That said I'll be the first to admit I've baulked at getting current with Ubuntu (really don't like Unity style UIs - sorry), and I'm currently soak-testing Linux Mint Debian Edition. Liking what I've seen so far.

On my Windows 7 desktop at work I can't even run a simple awk script on it to aggregate a file that chokes excel (installed at huge extra cost of course)... By contrast every single UNIX box I have worked with had enough tools installed (by default) to mash files as fast as the I/O subsystems could feed my scripts... I know that shell scripting is not everyone's cup of tea though...

I find that a clean brand spanking new Windows install is a cold and lonely place if you want to get some computing done... :)

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Windows

"And Linux is a mess. You want to install some software? You just have to recompile the kernel."

What kind of software are you trying to install? Been using GNU/Linux since around 2007 or so and never had to do that. Just written a 200 page course guide on LibreOffice, 500+ objects, 100+ drawings. Agreed screen redraw and scrolling is a tad slower than MS Office but still useable on a Duo Core 2 laptop with 2Gb RAM.

PS: Torvalds might agree about the state of the kernel. Bit of a mudball, but then it does seem to work and run a fair chunk of the interwebs.

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Oh it was going so well until....

You said "Apple is on a role..."

Then you lost me because i find it hard to take serious people spouting their knowledge through explicitly bad spelling

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Who goes to OpenOffice? LibreOffice is the ticket. Calligra is coming along fine. I'm not an Abiword fan but I know there are lots of them around. On Windows, you have Office and...?

"You want to install some software? You just have to recompile the kernel."

Wow, are you using a fresh install of Gentoo every time you want to run a programme? Maybe you should leave Linux to the people who actually know something about computers, sweetheart.

Also, "your" > "you're"; "doggy" > "dodgy"; "role" > "roll" but I noticed you spelt "Microsoft" correctly. Good for you!

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Anonymous Coward

"That's due to lock-in."

No, that's more due to TCO and support and software availability. Pretty much no one chooses anything else even on a Green Field site.

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Anonymous Coward

"They stick Windows on their Windows Phone OS and everyone talks about security holes, blue screens and installing updates all the time."

Erm - no they don't. You are clearly clueless about what you speak. Windows Phone (Like Windows Mobile before it) has fewer security vulnerabilities than any other commonly used mobile OS. Updates are relatively rare (maybe twice a year). The only 'Blue Screen' is the Windows logo on boot up on some devices...

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Anonymous Coward

Well I tried to upgrade from CENTOS 5 to 6, and I couldnt - clean install required! And then I found that my software wouldnt even compile under 6 - lots of missing dependencies. You just don't get that crap in Windows. It just works.

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Curious to know how you're soak testing a desktop operating system. Are you clicking really fast?

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Holmes

"You want to install some software? You just have to recompile the kernel."

Obvious troll is obvious.

Come on people - you can't take this post seriously.

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Re: Oh it was going so well until....

@Baldeforce

Get a life

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"Well I tried to upgrade from CENTOS 5 to 6, and I couldnt - clean install required! And then I found that my software wouldnt even compile under 6 - lots of missing dependencies. You just don't get that crap in Windows. It just works."

It shouldn't come as a surprise to you that some dependencies are missing if you have just done a clean install...

For the record you do get that crap on Windows and have done at least since Win 3.1 (which was the first one I installed & upgraded), but in fairness to Windows it does have a decent record of backwards binary compatibility with all of the downsides that brings with it.

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> I found that my software wouldnt even compile under 6 - lots of missing dependencies.

With a clean install of Windows you don't even get the compiler.

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Linux

"Well I tried to upgrade from CENTOS 5 to 6, and I couldnt - clean install required!"

Well of course you could not, that is in the documentation, and it is a very well known feature of how Red Hat chooses to manage Red Hat Enterprise Linux.

CentOS, Scientific Linux, Springdale Linux and Oracle Linux are clones of Red Hat Enterprise Linux. They will, of course, follow the same approach.

If you want to be able to upgrade from one major release to another, perhaps you should consider Debian?

Now, are you related to The Vogon at all?

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Re: Oh it was going so well until....

Calm down! Calm down! you cant even spell my nickname correctly you are so wound up and full of Steve Ballmers finger

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Anonymous Coward

"With a clean install of Windows you don't even get the compiler."

These were dependencies that were present on a default install of CENTOS 5. Erlang for instance - and numerous others. It's just a painful, shoddy experience compared to Windows.

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> These were dependencies that were present on a default install of CENTOS 5. Erlang for instance - and numerous others. It's just a painful, shoddy experience compared to Windows.

Erlang is _not_ a dependency "on a default install of CENTOS 5". It is a dependency of, for example, RabbitMQ.

Just enable EPEL and then 'yum install rabbitmq-server' just works (as advised on the rabbitmq web site). How hard is that ?

"""EPEL (Extra Packages for Enterprise Linux) is a volunteer-based community effort from the Fedora project to create a repository of high-quality add-on packages that complement the Fedora-based Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) and its compatible spinoffs, such as CentOS and Scientific Linux. """

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Bub

"in the same breath..."

"that allowed Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon to be mentioned in the same breath as Microsoft".

Actually, it's worse than that - often, Microsoft these days isn't seen fit to be mentioned in the same breath as Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon.

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Re: which at that point hadn't been fully thought through.

I have to disagree with that point. It was fully thought through. And it was pushed as an ideological decision that ignored input from its massive user base.

There may be a good OS hiding under metro, but it won't matter if MS don't do a full admission of guilt, revise the glitter to something palatable to their customers, and really take to heart the lessons learned in going through the full admission process.

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Bub

Re: "in the same breath..."

It is absolutely a perception issue. Microsoft is no longer the "go-to" brand in the public mind when a "futuristic, technical" things are discussed. And that is a real problem for them in the consumer space where they want to be.

IBM is still a major and profitable technology player. With a huge professional presence. Who'd be proud to be sporting an IBM branded phone?

Maybe it's a natural progression and it's unfair to blame Ballmer - every company moves from cool teens to boring middle age at some point. But his famous iPhone quote does demonstrate a level of complacency that let the market get away from them.

One more time Steve..

"There's no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share. No chance. It's a $500 subsidized item. They may make a lot of money. But if you actually take a look at the 1.3 billion phones that get sold, I'd prefer to have our software in 60% or 70% or 80% of them, than I would to have 2% or 3%, which is what Apple might get. "

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If 'he needs to crack the web'

is his top priority then MS is in deeper do-do that any could have imagined.

This is so, 1995/96/97.

He really needs to get rid of the dead wood at the top of the various groups that seem to do nothing but fight each other. Perhaps then they'll be able to change and mode forward.

no, I'm not interested in being their CEO. I was married to a Microsoft staffer for a long time. She left because they couldn't get anything done.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: If 'he needs to crack the web'

"was married" ...

did she leave the company, or leave you? are M$ the new scientology?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: are M$ the new scientology?

Worse! Far, far worse.

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Windows

Things I hope for...

I really hope the CEO will reverse the braindead decision to whack the TechNet subscriptions. It won't make a difference for my company internally, we've already began preparations to replace our 2 in-house Windows 2k3 servers with FreeBSD.

But if we can no longer set up test environments to prepare ourselves for what we may find at a customer place then the only thing we can do is prepare on-site as well. Resulting in taking more time thus higher costs for said customers (sure; you can do remote maintenance, but we only do that when companies have a SLA with us).

I wonder what'll happen if customers complain about higher maintenance costs and we respond with "Have you heard of FreeBSD, Samba and Mono yet?".

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