back to article Microsoft investors push for Bill Gates defenestration: report

Three Microsoft investors that collectively own more than five per cent of the company are lobbying to fire founder Bill Gates from his role as Chairman. The Reuters report containing the news doesn't name the investors but says they are worried that Gates' influence as Chairman is disproportionate to his current 4.5 per cent …

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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    how much skin do you need to have in the game ..

    "...Gates' influence as Chairman is disproportionate to his current 4.5 per cent stake in the company."

    So the influence of the Chairman of the Board should be proportional to their stake in the company eh ?

    So they want to do what exactly ? Replace BG with someone who has no, or at least <<< 4.5% stake ?

    Based on this, they are obviously seeking a chairman who would have pretty much no influence whatsoever.

    I'm available ...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: how much skin do you need to have in the game ..

      "Based on this, they are obviously seeking a chairman who would have pretty much no influence whatsoever."

      That's how it should work. For complex, publicly listed companies the chairman (or head of the supervisory board if that's the local model) should not have much influence on the company's direction. That's what you pay the CEO for. The job of the chairman is to hold the CEO and the executives to account, assisted by the non-executive directors. In that respect Gates has failed, because it was investor pressure, not Billyboy who called time on Ballmer. We've had a string of bum acquisitions, two recent core software flops, we're still seeing security flaws in the OS and browser, we missed out on tablets, phones, the internet, and so forth.

      This is part of a wider problem with corporate governance the world over, in the shape of the poor quality and/or low performance of the non-executive directors. All too often these people either don't voice their concerns. won't voice them, or aren't listened to. In US companies its not unusual to find non-execs with no valid experience in related industries, and the world over it is common to find cliques of rent-a-non-exec types taking a fat salary from umpteen different companies to whom they can devote no worthwhile energy.

      1. Daemon Byte

        Re: how much skin do you need to have in the game ..

        But think about it. If these people are doing what is actually best for the shareholder why would Ballmer and Gates (2 big shareholders) not already be doing that? Surely having a CEO and a Chairman who are both heavily invested in the company is a good thing as then they will be motivated to do what is best for the shareholders, ie themselves.

        1. Nuke
          Holmes

          @Daemon Byte - Re: how much skin do you need to have in the game ..

          Wrote :- "But think about it. If these people are doing what is actually best for the shareholder why would Ballmer and Gates (2 big shareholders) not already be doing that?"

          How about :- Because they are not competent at doing so?

      2. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: how much skin do you need to have in the game ..

        >The job of the chairman is to hold the CEO and the executives to account

        No that isn't the job of the Chairman.

        I suggest you take a look at the UK Corporate Governance Code 2010 and do a google on "the role of the chairman", a clear example of the split of responsibilities between Chair and CEO can be found here: http://www.bg-group.com/AboutBG/Governance/Pages/pgRolesoftheChairmanandChiefExecutive.aspx

        The question is therefore has Bill been a good chairman and discharging his responsiblities? It would seem that what is really going on here is some shareholders doubting Bills abilities to select appropriate candidates and to maintain an effective board.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "Disproportionate influence"

      I agree with the thought. I think we have to take steps against all others who have disproportionate influence.

      Jesus and Mohammed spring to mind, who haven't been adding much value to their franchises but keep collecting royalties.

    3. Lars Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: how much skin do you need to have in the game ..

      They might have a point. Suppose they feel that Gates is blocking innovation, suppose they feel that the rest of the company is too scared to do anything without an OK from Bill, the old master. And suppose Gates feels, as before, that any idea he cannot claim as his own, is just rubbish. What has he in fact invented. We would, of course, understand more, if there where "board meetings" on the internet to see.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: how much skin do you need to have in the game ..

      Bill seems more interested in curing Malaria in developing nations than what's happening in Redmond and small fluctuations in his multi billion bank balance.

  2. Mikel

    Bill Gates will go when he is ready

    I imagine he holds a few surprises yet first.

    1. MrDamage

      Re: Bill Gates will go when he is ready

      "Buy him out boys!"

      *bang, crash, thump*

      "You don't think I got his rich by writing cheques now, do you? MWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAA!"

  3. Eddy Ito Silver badge

    Very interesting

    Perhaps if they both go, I might actually be tempted to buy back a few of the shares I've sold over the years. Hmm, maybe I'll wait until they get their APIs straight.

  4. Mr. Peterson

    it could be worse

    Hello! Bill? Yeah, this is Carl. So how's it goin'?

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Unamed Investors......

    Would these be the VC sort who like to asset strip, profit, then bugger off?

  6. Gavin Berry

    "Any public company's primary duty is to enhance shareholder value" No its not.

    Its to its customers, workers and then its shareholders.

    http://hbr.org/2010/04/the-myth-of-shareholder-capitalism/ar/

    1. P. Lee

      >"Any public company's primary duty is to enhance shareholder value" No its not.

      > Its to its customers, workers and then its shareholders.

      > http://hbr.org/2010/04/the-myth-of-shareholder-capitalism/ar/

      Its also easy to argue that since the company is assumed to be ongoing, on-going value should be maximised, not just a spot share price.

      MS' value lies in its web of products which make it difficult to leave. Its hard to inspire great internal product development based on that. Worse, a lot of our global networking is already in place - its hard to continue to make the productivity gains we've made in the past through IT. Now we have the weird scenario of consolidation and virtualisation leading to massive cpu resources going to running multiple copies of the same OS on the same hardware. Why don't we just have better resource management within the OS? Why isn't all the resource management in vmware or hyper-v put into the base OS? Why are we essentially paying OS licenses per (server) application? Doesn't vmware speak to the failure of OS development?

      In the olden days a "virtual machine" was something the OS was supposed to provide to the application so that the application thought it was using the whole machine. The whole point of the OS was to manage the hardware and allocate resources to applications. Surely that is the core of OS development. MS have been so busy writing applications they've forgotten the core OS. Linux isn't much better, but at least you can have it for free.

      1. Robdashu

        Operating systems are among the most complex creations of man, with high conceptual integrity, demanding specifications, and high reliability as a goal. Oh, and efficiency, as well.

        Our systems have developed over decades, and there is an incredible mass of code that supports each. A rewrite of a universal, general purpose operating system, heeding all the pitfalls discovered in previous designs might be worth the effort. But who will accomplish it? Who has the capabilities, and the resources to apply? Can it be useful if it's proprietary?

        We'll see where it heads?

        1. Euripides Pants Silver badge
          Coat

          Re: Operating systems are among the most complex creations of man

          They can't hold a candle to tax law...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      '"Any public company's primary duty is to enhance shareholder value" No its not.

      Its to its customers, workers and then its shareholders.'

      And meanwhile, back in the real world...

      1. Binra

        The 'real world', where customers and workers - except for the very top of the pyramid scheme, are essentially exploited as disposable and replaceable - or manipulatable 'slave assets' of the corporation is an agreement to believe it. It is a logistical outcome of a kind of thinking that has drifted further and further from reality.

        Corporate mentality effectively owns and runs nations whoever appears to govern. 'Conspiracy theory' is a term that once associated with information, invalidates it without further investigation. There is always a natural 'conspiracy' of self interest - BUT - according to how we define our self it expresses... as the world we see.

        I don't know how much corporate entities CAN incorporate a true responsibility without a groundswell of support for such direction. The customers generally are a sort of cash cow fed with dreams and milked of consciousness - because there is such an enormous demand for unconsciousness! Whilst this is exploited by the clever, it all moves to a world where everything is 'weaponized'. You are indeed bombarded with propaganda and the means of delivery and monitoring grow ever more sophisticated.

        Each will simply act to survive in a changing world - but mere surviving is not living. As many workers or would be-workers who are also customers are increasingly coming to realize.

        Bringing a sense of value in a willingness for communication means you have to first have it! - much of what seems evil is a template running that no one has brought into awareness. In a clearer sense of share value in shared vision it is MUCH harder for the scammers and manipulators to operate. Therefore they have an active natural - to them self-interest in blocking such a sense of value and will naturally ally themselves with what serves their desire and interpret so as to justify themselves. But they cant SHARE a sense of value in any deep sense and are locked into a mentality that is no more serving them truly than the self-distractive habits of the unmindful.

        Bill Gates has been nicknamed the 'Gates of hell' with regard to his involvement in biotech. Well meaning philanthropy? Manipulators are themselves slave to a manipulative mentality that tells them they are free or special and may not know any alternative for they simply see manipulatable data, rivals to its farming, PR props and temporary allies.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "shareholder value" - @Gavin Berry

      I think you are using the wrong definition of "shareholder value". It is not "market capitalisation", which is a near-meaningless voodoo statistic without pages of analysis.

      Shareholder value is a combination of current share price and expected future income from dividends. In order to maximise the latter, the company needs to keep and grow its customer base and retain and motivate good employees. This means that in the short term it may need to take actions which apparently reduce value - such as investing in plant or sales channels, or killing products which are still profitable but could result in significant future liabilities.

      "Short-termism", aka "British business as usual", means "inflate the share price and stuff the future dividends." It is usually not for the benefit of the main shareholders, but for the benefit of either the gang that has currently taken over the Board, or the gang of crooks that has managed to acquire a few percent of shares and plans to take over the Board.

      Microsoft's problem was that it was a company that was very good at the long term, but now companies like Google are proving to be long term as well. I certainly don't know what their correct strategy is, but I do know that when you are a director down in the mud and bullets it is often very hard to see a future direction that looks obvious to people who don't know what you know. The armchair CEOs are out in force on BlackBerry at the moment, but doubtless will soon be back on the Microsoft case. To them I say, returns on investment are terrible, VCs are desperately looking for something with high yields that isn't Wonga, with your expertise you should have no difficultly in getting your company launched. So do it.

    4. LDS Silver badge

      The Dumbest Idea In The World: Maximizing Shareholder Value

      "There is only one valid definition of a business purpose: to create a customer."

      http://www.forbes.com/sites/stevedenning/2011/11/28/maximizing-shareholder-value-the-dumbest-idea-in-the-world/

      "Maximizing shareholder value" is what has lead more than one company to the ground. That's what banks did just to find them strangled by an enormous debt and then looking for taxpayers money to keep on - while "shareholders" didn't have to pay for *their* debt.

      What shareolders want? Layoffs, selling the Redmoan campus and then renting it at an absurd price - that's what "maximizers" usually do. Until the company fades into oblivion, they have sold their "maximized" shares to fools because the value drops to nil.

  7. Sebastian Brosig
    Linux

    Linux fans should applaud Billy G

    Microsoft DOS and later windows paved the way for cheap commodity computer hardware, which made Linux possible. Even Windows-haters (me included) know that we have Bill to thank for that, not just for GORILLAS.BAS

    1. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: Linux fans should applaud Billy G

      Agree - the diversity of hardware platforms that were fundamentally very similar (ie. either Motorola or Intel based) but each ran their own unique ports of Unix and applications in the 80's and early 90's, really worked against Unix in the long run; even though this was a vast improvement on what went before...

    2. John Sanders

      Re: Linux fans should applaud Billy G

      This legend that Gates and MS made computing affordable is bollocks.

      The only thing MS made is kill the competition and hold computing back decades.

      1. LDS Silver badge

        Re: Linux fans should applaud Billy G

        No, your wrong, that was Unix with its absurd prices and license model.

      2. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: Linux fans should applaud Billy G

        >This legend that Gates and MS made computing affordable is bollocks.

        Well they did manage to get IBM to not protect the PC architecture and to enable them to keep control of the OS, so create the conditions that enabled companies like Compaq to create clones which ran the same software.

        >The only thing MS made is kill the competition and hold computing back decades.

        I think some of the competition did a good job of killing themselves - remember DEC could of released a VMS workstation at the PC price point, which with it's catalogue of enterprise applications would of wiped the IBM PC off the floor. Also DEC could of released VMS into X/Open which would probably of killed Unix as we know it...

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          @Roldan6: s/of/have/

          I know that everyone hates a pedant, but this of/have thing seems to becoming more and more common, and 3 times in a single paragraph just pushed me over the edge.

          "remember DEC could of released a VMS workstation at the PC price point, which with it's catalogue of enterprise applications would of wiped the IBM PC off the floor. Also DEC could of released VMS into X/Open which would probably of killed Unix as we know it..."

          The conditional version of "X have done Y" is "X could have done Y", not "X could of done Y".

          1. Roland6 Silver badge

            Re: @Roldan6: s/of/have/ @AC

            Apologies for raising the pedant in you, but many thanks for the clarity and tone of your response.

    3. Nuke

      @ Sebastian Brosig - Re: Linux fans should applaud Billy G

      Wrote :- "DOS and later windows paved the way for cheap commodity computer hardware, which made Linux possible"

      What cobblers. Hero-worship of the first order.

      Cheap computers were already around before I'd even heard of DOS, and I had one (an Amstrad running CP/M). There were also Sinclairs, Ataris, Amigas etc.

      These were all eclipsed in time by the IBM-DOS-Windows PC, but do you seriously believe that cheap computers would have progressed no further without Gates and MS and that we would still be using CP/M today?

      OTOH I believe MS held computing BACK by about five years, the time during which MS continued to hold its monopoly with pre-loaded Windows 3/9x/ME rubbish - during which time even MS itself could have moved forward with a fairly decent Lite version of Windows NT.

      1. Will Godfrey Silver badge

        Re: @ Sebastian Brosig - Linux fans should applaud Billy G

        Agree strongly with these latest comments. Quite apart from anything else there is the old saying:

        "When it's railroad time you build railroads"

        Gates & Co. were simply leeches that did everything they possibly could to block any competition. And now they've lost much of their monopoly position they have become patent leeches instead.

      2. TheOtherHobbes

        Re: @ Sebastian Brosig - Linux fans should applaud Billy G

        MS introduced a de facto standard, which was a good thing for the industry as a whole, because it lowered the cost of entry for dev startups and make a Windows ecosystem possible - at least for a while.

        Unfortunately the standard was a piece of crap in technical terms, and far behind what the industry was capable of. So in an ideal world some other company would have introduced a much better standard and made it stick. And we wouldn't have lost 5-10 years of OS development.

        The problem is, unless it was incrementally better, no one would have bought it. A crappy greed-obsessed sales-psychopath company like MS, run by wolves as it was, was possibly the only entity capable of enforcing a standard.

        If anything, all of this proves that markets are a moronic way to organise anything. Unfortunately most of the other ways are even worse.

        I'd like to believe there's a solution to this problem. But if there is, it hasn't been invented yet. And if it is invented, it's certainly not going to look like anything or anyone around today.

      3. LDS Silver badge

        Re: @ Sebastian Brosig - Linux fans should applaud Billy G

        No, those cheap computers would have progressed no further and not the way the IBM PC progressed. Each version was often incompatible with the previous one. Peripherals were proprietary - and they couldn't be "cloned".

        They were developed with the home enthuistas in mind, not the business one. The IBM PC was designed with industry grade components, and used standard interfaces. They could be easily expanded through a standard ISA bus. It could run different operating systems which were not in ROM.

        And most of all, it was backed by IBM, not small companies which could barely sustain themselves and went bankrupt as soon as a product failed. Noone of them was able to switch to PC clones and survive, while new companies and old ones could (Dell, HP). Why?

        I switched to NT4 in 1997 (and to OS/2 3.0 in 1995) - if your PC came preloaded with 9x it was just because they were cheap or not enough powerful to run NT or OS/2. Blame yourself, not MS.

        1. Nuke
          Holmes

          @LDS - Re: @ Sebastian Brosig - Linux fans should applaud Billy G

          Wrote :- "No, those cheap computers would have progressed no further and not the way the IBM PC "progressed. ... They were developed with the home enthuistas in mind, not the business one."

          Obviously, it would not have progressed the exact same way the IBM PC did. That might have been no bad thing, considering the kludges in the PC architecture. There is more than one way to kill a cat.

          But you are saying that without IBM-MS we would all still be on 8-bit hardware running CP/M! - What cobblers! Actually, that would have been more likely if HAD been left to PHBs in business. My own bosses were always well behind the curve with computer purchasing.

          In fact it WAS the home enthusiasts who have driven improvements over most of the time since. In the 1980s we young techies were always looking for upgrades and new models with our pre-PC home computers. It was exciting times. We were actually dismayed when the IBM PC started taking over as we saw it as a dead hand. But nevetheless it has been gamers who have demanded speed and power increases since then - those increases were not for typing office memos.

          And entry-level PCs were quite capable of running Windows NT by around 1995 - I ran NT 4.0 as soon as it came out (1996) on a PC that was no-where near cutting edge at the time. MS should have created a Lite version and ditched the Win 9x line, but they waited/wasted 6 more years before they did so (with XP).

        2. Down not across Silver badge

          Re: @ Sebastian Brosig - Linux fans should applaud Billy G

          "The IBM PC was designed with industry grade components, and used standard interfaces. They could be easily expanded through a standard ISA bus. It could run different operating systems which were not in ROM."

          So were many of the S-100 bus (IEEE-696) machines.

          Processors from Altair's 8080 to Cromemco's 68020 based XXU.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Just look at Apple after Jobs.

  9. M Gale

    "the company's audacious early goal of putting a PC into every home came to fruition"

    No thanks to the company in question. I think that happened in spite of Microsoft rather than because of them.

    1. Callam McMillan

      Re: "the company's audacious early goal of putting a PC into every home came to fruition"

      No, I think they were right.

      In 1994 we got our first computer, a Dell 486. We had no internet connection, but we did have a half dozen floppies for DOS 6.2 and another half dozen for Windows 3.11. Having gone through the disks, the computer then just worked. We could play games on it and do various bits. It also continued to work when we upgraded to Win 95 a couple of years later.

      In 1999, we still had no internet, but I got a copy of Linux, with the only drivers being those on the disk, it was an interesting time trying to turn it into somehting resembling a useful machine. Because of that it was another eight years before I properly returned to Linux when I went to university.

      Microsoft put a computer in every home, because it just worked (how things have changed). Linux is only recently got there and Apple around the same time was nowhere.

      1. John Sanders

        Re: "the company's audacious early goal of putting a PC into every home came to fruition"

        Ahhh the sheer ignorance.

        There were plenty of home computers in the market at the time that not only just worked, they even worked better than MSDOS and Windows.

        You just happened to get a PC when computing for the masses were beginning to be popular.

      2. M Gale

        Re: "the company's audacious early goal of putting a PC into every home came to fruition"

        So what you're saying is Dell did more than Microsoft.

        As did Compaq, Amstrad, HP, Gateway, even ye olde Time Computers. Before that, Sinclair, Commodore and Atari were blazing the home-computing trail in a way that the PC only managed to follow once companies like 3DFX, Creative Labs, ATI and NVidia managed to make the PC a viable proposition for the home (ie: made it do good graphics and sound).

        The only role Microsoft played in any of this was as a troll charging a tax to cross a bridge that everyone else made.

      3. Nuke
        Thumb Down

        @Callam McMillan - Re: "the ..goal of putting a PC into every home came to fruition"

        Wrote :- "I think they were right. In 1994 we got our first computer, a Dell 486."

        Please don't try re-writing history when you do not know your subject. If you define it strictly as an IBM compatible running DOS/Windows then of course MS had a hand it. But I am taking this discussion to be about computers in the home, and "PC" to mean a "personal computer" generally.

        If your first PC was in 1994 you may not be aware that you were actually were part of the SECOND wave of adopters of home computers (and you were not even near the front of that), which was indeed about pre-loaded Windows PCs. But before that, in the 1980's almost the guys I knew had some home computer - Sinclair, BBC, Amiga etc (we regarded DOS/PCs as business machines). I had an Amstrad. We were young techies, but that still meant a very large number of homes had computers before Windows PCs burst on the world.

        And while MOST homes ended up with a Windows PC, it was certainly not all. About half my relations (country folk) have NEVER had any home comuter.

        1. Keep Refrigerated

          Re: @Callam McMillan - "the ..goal of putting a PC into every home came to fruition"

          How could you forget Atari ST???

          1. Callam McMillan

            Re: @Callam McMillan - "the ..goal of putting a PC into every home came to fruition"

            It's not that I forgot. In 1994 I was 6 years old and had never heard of the Atari ST. What I remember from then is a computer you could turn on, type win at the DOS prompt to start windows (until I added the command to the autoexec.bat file) and then play the various games we had on the machine. It was also about this time I found QBasic and started writing programs by bastardising a manual I had on how to write in OPL for a Psion CM2 organiser (Good times).

            Other people have already said it. This is a time when 4MB of ram was the best part of £200 and while our first machine could support 64MB, this was effectively a £4000 upgrade, so we made do with 16MB, upgraded from the 1 or 4 MB it come with (I can't remember totally.) In that vein, while there may have been better options for the operating system, they weren't exactly what you'd call cheap, or targeted at the domestic market.

      4. magnetik

        Re: "the company's audacious early goal of putting a PC into every home came to fruition"

        @Callam McMillan

        "Microsoft put a computer in every home, because it just worked (how things have changed). Linux is [sic] only recently got there and Apple around the same time was nowhere."

        Complete ignorance. You obviously never heard of OS/2, Amiga, BeOS, Solaris etc - all of which competed with DOS / Windows. And all of which were better than the junk Microsoft built.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "the company's audacious early goal of putting a PC into every home came to fruition"

          @Magnetik - I realise it's fashionable to hate MS here, but MS put a computer running their software into practically every home.

          OS/2 was never used in the home and was post Windows in any case.

          Amiga was niche, it could have been big, but Commadore screwed it up. I know of about four Amiga users, myself included.

          BeOS, I used it, that it the sum total of users I know of.

          Nobody used solaris in the home.

          The point that MS got and many, many people still fail to get is that good enough can factor in cheap enough. What would you do, get a 486 running Windows 3.1 for a few hundred quid or spend the requisite £10k for the vastly superior Solaris workstation.

          1. magnetik

            Re: "the company's audacious early goal of putting a PC into every home came to fruition"

            My point was that MS didn't get ahead because their product "just worked", in fact compared to the OSes I mentioned it was junk. But they marketed that junk like hell so it got traction. IBM made the mistake of believing their product would sell on merit and failed to market it properly. (Incidentally I know several people who used OS/2 at home).

            Let's not forget that MS made it very difficult for companies like Dell to sell competing OSes with their machines. I wonder if IBM / Commodore / Be had adopted Microsoft's practices of pushing their products on people just how different home computers would be today?

          2. M Gale

            Re: "the company's audacious early goal of putting a PC into every home came to fruition"

            Amiga was never "niche", except later in its life when the PC got the 3DFX card to go with the Soundblaster Pro and 16. If you were as old as me, you'd know that the Amiga was the shit back in its day. Microsoft operating systems were still a whole bunch of 640k limits and creating custom config.sys and autoexec.bat files to make stuff work properly.

            What MS got that many people failed to get is having a half-decent office suite, but it would only run on their half-baked OS. MS did nothing, precisely nada to lower the prices of PCs. Amstrad did more than they ever would, with a "pile it high, sell it cheap" mentality that might not have resulted in the best hardware, but resulted in "good enough" to run Microsoft's incredibly expensive office software along with the operating system seemingly designed from the start to lock everyone into it.

            You might laugh, but Linux and the Penguinistas have done more to make PCs affordable than Microsoft ever have. Yes, really. Microsoft can't get away with charging more than the cost of the hardware on an office suite any more, when products such as OO.o and LO.o are "good enough", and free. The Microsoftians know this as well, hence their total war against free with proxy companies, groups, and unproven patent allegations.

            I will state again that the only role Microsoft has ever played is to demand a toll to cross a bridge made of everybody else's hard work.

          3. gerryg

            Re: "the company's audacious early goal of putting a PC into every home came to fruition"

            In my late yoof lots of people were buying computers for the home:

            No one yet seems to have mentioned Acorn/BBC A&B , Commodore PET and VIC 20, Dragon 32/64 and all the others.

            In the UK at least, there was a feeling in govt/parents that programming was a job of the future except most of the many magazines focused on games (which one typed in).

            We were using HP instrument controllers in the lab (IEEE-488 anyone?) all the technicians had one or more of the many devices listed in this comments section.

            Then IBM produced the PC and standardised various hardware features and sort of gave it all away as they didn't think it was a big deal but an IBM PC running MS-DOS or DR-DOS (GEM) cost something like £2,500 at a time when a good salary would have been around £8,000/yr (the company MD bought one to "evaluate").

            Then all these other devices ended up discarded by those that got bored playing games as the "what do you do with them" problem kicked in..

            In some offices there were many document systems including Wang, Data General, but PCs were a bit "what are they for" until Lotus 1-2-3 was invented for the accountants and then WordPerfect (which integrated).

            Then of course came the internet and probably pornography.

            But in all of this the anti-competitive hand of Microsoft forced out alternatives and kept the price of software high

            A market threat with the netbook* failed where fragmentation smartphone/table/consoles succeeded, all because of Linux (and the other stuff) derivatives.

            Ffor the average punter the cheap-as-chips Chromebook** must be a god-send - all nothing to do with Microsoft (or Apple)

            So it's very difficult to agree with any sentiment in the article.

            *using mine to write this

            ** yes I know _you_ wouldn't touch a chromebook even though half your life is on a mobile phone or tablet

            1. This post has been deleted by its author

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: "the company's audacious early goal of putting a PC into every home came to fruition"

              "But in all of this the anti-competitive hand of Microsoft forced out alternatives and kept the price of software high"

              I have always thought it was the anti-competitive hand of accounts departments and MDs PAs, who wanted to be the only people able to use the shiny new expensive toys and rubbished anything that might reduce their monopoly. Always suspect the moles rather than the obvious enemy.

          4. Nuke
            Thumb Down

            @AC - Re: "the company's audacious early goal of putting a PC ....etc"

            AC wrote :- "MS put a computer running their software into practically every home"

            I agree that most homes (but no-where near "every") had a Windows PC at one time, but as written you imply that it was the FIRST computer to enter homes and that without Windows PCs there would never have been ANY computers in homes.

            AC wrote :- "OS/2 was never used in the home... Amiga was niche"

            I had OS/2 at home, and Atari were also niche by your reckonning, as was the BBC, the Amstrad, the Sinclair, and the Osborne etc. Each was maybe "niche" but they made up the whole. My point is that the market was spread around different makers and OS's in those days before all that was killed by MS's monopoly practices and the devotion of MS fanbois at the time (they queued for days for Win 95).

            AC wrote :- "What would you do, get a 486 running Windows 3.1 for a few hundred quid or spend the requisite £10k for the vastly superior Solaris workstation."

            Straw man, because you are again ignoring the other cheap alternatives which did exist. A little earlier than that, I opted for an Amstrad with CP/M at home - quite a lot cheaper than a 286 PC with MSDos, which you guys keep arguing was the only cheap option at the time. At work we had a DEC PDP11; we thought IBM PCs were for the pussies in the finance department.

      5. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "the company's audacious early goal of putting a PC into every home came to fruition"

        It 'just worked'? You obviously never had the joys of editing config.sys and autoexec.bat, struggling with arcane incantations to put certain drivers into the 'high memory area' so enough 'real memory' remained for DOS apps, fiddling with IRQ assignments to get your Soundblaster card to work, the CD driver to load, the extended memory service (or was it expanded.. hmm...). It was complete and utter bollocks.

      6. Stevie Silver badge

        Re: "the company's audacious early goal of putting a PC into every home came to fruition"

        " the only drivers being those on the disk, it was an interesting time trying to turn it into somehting resembling a useful machine"

        Amen, brother. I had an even worse time when I said "enough with the speculation!" and obtained a copy of Red Hat 4.2 around the same time period.

        Step 1) Erase machine's NT4 OS.

        Step 2) Load DOS. The real one, a windows command window will not do. Answers to "where the fuck do I find a copy of DOS in this day and age?" were met with shrugs from the years out-of-touch-with-the-real-world RH tech support drones.

        Step 3) Create bootable floppies.

        Step 4) Boot from floppy and stare at "Error" message. That's all, just "Error".

        Step 5) Download fix from -A-s-s- Red Hat. Answers to "How do I do that since I erased my internet capability with windows in Step 1?" were met with shrugs.

        (several steps omitted)

        Step 74) Run Linux to general "meh" when compared to NT4 running on equivalent machine.

        Conclusion: It took longer to install, longer to configure, longer to understand and couldn't run any of our required applications. The GUI looked pretty and did nothing. Pretty much the definition of non-starter.

        1. gerryg

          Re: "the company's audacious early goal of putting a PC into every home came to fruition"

          I've never used Red Hat but I was two years behind you with SuSE 6.1 and KDE 1.something

          And it had all the drivers, and almost everything else, on 6 CD ROMS

          It was a bit bling lite but hey have you seen KDE 4.11.2?

          The only grief I ever really got (save for jumping to KDE 4.0 too early) was waiting for people cleverer than me to sort out handing CD ROM drives. The Mandrake team delivered that IIRC.

          1. Stevie Silver badge

            Re: "the company's audacious early goal of putting a PC into every home came to fruition"

            "I've never used Red Hat but I was two years behind you"

            Well, those two years were a hive of innovation and expansion in the Linux world.

            And in those two years saw a most significant shift in the politics of selling Linux to the world: the quiet death of the "runs on old kit" mantra (not before time).

            It would be more than a decade before people stopped saying "people won't use Linux because they are stupid", started seriously looking at what non-programmer people wanted from a system and started delivering it though.

            I attended a very memorable Suse 10 presentation which featured a lead tech talking endlessly about Blue Screens (until yours truly stopped him and asked for a show of hands for those who'd actually seen such a thing in the last five years), who then went on to describe features added to OpenOffice in such terms it was clear he and the teams involved had no connect with their potential customer base.

            He was dismissively unaware that the world used pivot tables as a vital sales tool for example, and could not see any point in adding digital camera support to a workstation even though Madison Avenue and Times Square were only a few miles distant.

            The disconnect with the actual state and needs of the current world of application IT in the enterprise was astounding. Either that, or I guess Novell could afford to not have sales departments, newspapers and magazines included in their customer base.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "the company's audacious early goal of putting a PC into every home came to fruition"

          I'm curious to know why you erased NT4. Could you not create the boot floppies by booting DOS from a floppy? And why did you not back up NT4 or at least partition the hard drive and put RH on the clean partition?

          I don't know about you, but perhaps the second thing I was taught, a bit after how to use the write tab on a floppy to prevent future pain, was "Never delete a working OS beyond recovery before trying to install a new one".

          1. Stevie Silver badge

            Re: Curiosity

            "I'm curious to know why you erased NT4. "

            Because the Red Hat instructions said to do that. Part of the experiment was to test the assertion "Red Hat 4.2 is easier to install than NT4". Test failed. Spectacularly.

            "Could you not create the boot floppies by booting DOS from a floppy? "

            So you didn't pick up the lack of availability of DOS in the enterprise in any way, shape or form from my "where the fuck do I find a copy of DOS in this day and age?" question then? DOS was several years obsolete and why would any enterprise solidly using NT4 keep a copy? You didn't need it to load NT. It hadn't shipped with a Microsoft OS since forever. Even Windows 95 didn't require a DOS machine to start from for Torvald's sake.

            "And why did you not back up NT4 or at least partition the hard drive and put RH on the clean partition?"

            Government kit with very small hard drive, less than half a gig. AKA Your Tax Dollars At Work.

            "I don't know about you, but perhaps the second thing I was taught, a bit after how to use the write tab on a floppy to prevent future pain, was "Never delete a working OS beyond recovery before trying to install a new one"."

            Well thanks for the vote of incompetence but the very first thing I learned was "never experiment on kit you care about", a lesson some of my younger colleagues are forever learning and forgetting it seems.

            The whole point of the exercise was to put the widely held and disseminated at the drop of a (Red) hat common wisdom of the day - that Red Hat Linux was easier all round than NT4 to install configure manage and cope with and that it would run on old as in obsolete kit just fine thank you very much - to the test and hold its feet to the fire.

            As it turned out the people singing up Red Hat Linux 4.2 in that way were as full of snot as I thought they would turn out to be, and the showing Red Hat Linux 4.2 gave under the most favorable conditions - while still cleaving to the "old kit" mandate - was so appalling that the fire never got lit.

            The installation was a nightmare that required the removal of the computer case in order to read chipset stampings to achieve, there being no self-discovery involved, the driver set was incomplete when it was all done, the desktop was wallpaper with none of the embedded functionality that was the point of the NT4 GUI, and the computer ran so slowly as to be useless.

            And lets not forget that the installation could not be performed off the CD anyway since the bootable floppy images it shipped with were broken in a fundamental and stupidly avoidable way. That alone spoke volumes about the professionalism of the RH crew responsible, who apparently weren't familiar at that point in time with the "test *then* ship" rule.

            I could give the NT4 install discs to the interns and have them install it on the very same obsolete kit and not have any qualms that they'd have a desktop up and ready for me to look at inside three hours, and that the computer would enable the people in that office to do the work they were actually paid to do rather than effing about with the OS trying to get it to do *its* job.

            In those days I built mainframe operating systems for a living and I found the Red Hat installation a pile of foetid dingo's kidneys to put it as politely as I can. Your mileage might have varied, but after comparing notes with people who actually tried out the same installation in their enterprises I would put real money on it not doing so.

            Which is not to say that the current version is not a fine product when matched to modern, up-to-date hardware.

    2. John Sanders

      Re: "the company's audacious early goal of putting a PC into every home came to fruition"

      I couldn't have explained it better.

  10. John Sanders

    If Gates go

    It's the end of Microsoft.

    Microsoft is Gates, Gates is Microsoft. (And Ballmer)

    I have been saying this for years, the only reason MS got that big is that Gates was one of the few CEO/CTO/Director of a big IT company at the time who knew about IT and Computing.

    He's always being a botcher at things, but knew enough to make sensible decisions at the right time.

    He and Ballmer are Microsoft.

    If they will get rid of him (probably not) Microsoft will then be a very different company, one that I hope will just fade away quietly within a couple of decades.

  11. cortland

    Good

    "incalculable change, most of it for the good"

    Incalculable is a bad word for investors, and good means nothing; all that matters for investors -- and what matters LEGALLY, for a publicly traded firm, is investor ROI.

    If a firm, to do good, takes a lower profit, stockholders can fire its management. Stockholders can take company officers to court for neglect of their fiduciary responsibility.

    Good? All we want is not getting caught locking schoolkids up in the factory. And our money.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Better The Devil Be Gone

    When Gill Bates left, Microsoft turned a corner. Windows started to need fewer resources to run, there was a reduction in FUD and the company became more open to work with others.

    Gates was (and som say he stillo is) a snake in the grass, a manipulative slime ball, a heartless automaton who would rather cheat than accept any facts, not only in business. It's because of this, I still suspect his motives now, particularly as he has said that he wants to cut down the number of people on the planet by making his vaccines more accessible.

    Microsoft isn't perfect, but without Bill's influence it has become a lot more forward and outward looking.

    The biggest difference between Gates and Ballmer is that, for all his faults and foibles, Ballmer can at least feel.

    Maybe Ballmer is the Wozniak to Gates' Jobs?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Better The Devil Be Gone

      Gates has trouble seeing past a 1980s and 90s view of the world. Microsoft could have released ebook readers first, but Gates wanted a Windows UI on the device.

      Gates doesn't understand the consumer electronics world.

  13. psychonaut

    amigas were great. remeber the amiga vs Atari ST fanboy crap that used to go on?? st's were better at sound if i recall correctly.

    i had an amiga. therefore they were better.

    things dont really change....

    but lets not pretend that amiga's were going to rule the world. they were great for games though. my absolute favourite was a car racing game that had rollercoasters in it. cant remember what it was called. stunt car racer or something? you could network it with another amiga with a null modem cable. absolutely fab.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I loved Amigas too and stopped using mine in 1999/2000.

      Moved to a PC as the Amiga was stagnating as nobody was developing it. Getting hardware was a pain and the OS lacked modern facilities.

  14. W. Anderson

    Microsoft cannot change it's character

    While the vision of Bill Gates of having "a PC in every home" was basically realized, the methods employed to bring about this reality do not enhance any thought of Bill Gates and company as great technology innovators, particularly since a significant proportion of the company's technology was copied, secunded by devious and draconian business practices and spurious litigation against weaker financially insecure rivals - according to dozens of nationally and internationally respected technologists and from most every credible technology organization and publication.

    Unfortunately for Microsoft, the advent of the Internet and World Wide Web in the twenty first century has caught them with their pants down and now are in an always catch up mode, as the company has little or no substantive experience and/or expertise in these areas of technology that today govern every aspect of our lives.

    Good luck to Steve Ballmer's successor, in trying to turn a presently very rich but cumbersome and outdated pig's ear into a silk purse.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    With Gates and Ballmer gone the company could improve or it could just as easily nosedive faster than those RIMmers.

  16. Terence McCarthy

    Microsoft v Reality? - Computing: - Miss match

    "Microsoft may have made many a mis-step but the company's audacious early goal of putting a PC into every home came to fruition, bringing with it incalculable change, most of it for the good."

    "Microsoft may have made many a mis-step" Yes, that's certainly right.

    "the company's audacious early goal of putting a PC into every home came to fruition"

    Home computing would have come in without that man anyway, I had years of enjoyment and use of "home" computers before IBM PC and the severely crippled M$ software came limping along (remember 640K memory? More than enough apparently!)

    I also used acoustic couplers and normal 'phone lines on main frames between universities to communicate before Gates even knew that a PC could talk to another PC.

    His attitude towards software -and making money- crippled computer adoption and innovation for decades.

    Ask where the smart money is now. Linux anyone? Without that, no internet (check the servers, Google Facebook, etc.,) Linux (Android)? Really smart 'phones without the (again) crippling handicap of another "control freak and computing Messiah" ( the "I" in the name tells you all you need to know about him).

    How many other examples does one need to realise that Gates was a one shot wonder, whose one shot made enough money to buy in everything M$ wasn't smart enough to have developed itself. The "Internet" anyone?

    Where are the M$ "innovations" of the last twenty years? Sorry, is there an example of one they didn't buy in?

    "most of it for the good."

    I would like to see you prove that contention!

    Sweet dreams...

    1. Stevie Silver badge

      Re: Microsoft v Reality? - Computing: - Miss match

      Well, although the internet was there it was the blossoming of the World Wide Web, a graphically driven environment as opposed to the glorified man pages it was up until the early nineties, that really started the explosion in the IT industry.

      And that was fueled entirely by an explosion of new users using the easy-to-understand Windows 95 GUI and gleefully following Microsoft in the dance to make the WWW part of their lives by the simple expedient of showing it off as a way to add an upgrade path for software.

      Microsoft seized the initiative in the browser wars too, and pushed the whole thing forward at a very much accelerated pace. In a very real sense the WWW came about because of Microsoft, not in spite of it.

      As for "the time being right", well, many point to Unix having had X windows for two decades before MS hit the bricks, but in all that time what was done with it? It remained a way to open multiple consoles and little else.

      No inexpensive computers running the hated MS operating systems means no IT industry pushing products, both good and bad, out for them. That industry puts a lot of food on a lot of tables in one way or another. No popular usage of the WWW means no iPad, for example. I honestly doubt that Apple would have created the infrastructure for such a thing on their own. Their focus was on the machine in your house.

      The MS innovation I think probably having the most impact is the idea that ordinary people needed affordable computers for doing stuff other than computer oriented jobs.

      The next most innovative thing must be the context sensitive menus that bloomed all over Windows 95, enabling the user to self-educate because it had a "I know what I want to do, I just don't know how to do it yet" approach. The wisdom of the day was that if you didn't understand how the OS worked you had no business owning a computer - a laughable premise. And before you start in on me about Apple, I've had my hands on the Rolls Royce of contemporary Apple kit and can tell the world it was about as user friendly as Tax Instructions - three separate help libraries that had no cross integration.

      Next up was the idea of plug and play. No longer did you need to be an expert in computer innards to install an external peripheral or internal expansion card. It took a few tries to get it working seamlessly, but WIn 95 and Lexmark managed a seamless, painless printer install experience for me in mid '96, the days when Apple were putting out ads suggesting a printer install on a PC involved dismantling the machine. Ask your Apple user of the day if they could install and configure an extra SCSI card for a comparable experience.

      Next up would be the suite of products that eventually coalesced into Visual Studio (and then got nerfed but that is the Way Of Things) and which was so successful as a RAD tool the world plus dog was trying to emulate it in their own tools (Cafe, enyone?) or get in on the action by providing third party plug-ins for VS.

      And I can make a very strong argument that MS created the very atmosphere that ushered in the usable Linux desktop, the Shangri-La goal of the OS community, by exploding the potential market for such a thing.

      I could go on, but there's no point, really. You come across to me as one of that community who hate Microsoft and cannot see round the red haze that envelopes them at the mention of the name. That's your right.

      It's true MS play dirty pool at times, but they learned to do that early on with the experience they had launching Word against Wordperfect, the WP market leader of the day. If you grant them nothing else you have to give them kudos as fast learners.

      The fact is that for all Microsoft's products being of questionable quality from a technical standpoint, from a user experience one they set the bar for most of the late part of the 90s and the early oughties. To chant that people only like their stuff because they are stupid is to tread water and achieve nothing, progress-wise, in the fight to wrest the IT world away from them in the new millennium (something I heartily support in principle).

      This takes me back to the days I was working for a bleeding edge MS partner on the Beltway. We had two departments: Apps and R&D. The R&D people were enraged that the apps group used Visual Basic to craft front end interfaces to our (mainframe hosted) product instead of Visual C. They used the latter for purist reasons.

      Apps used VB because they could make easy to understand and use front ends in sparrow's fart time, impressing the bejayzuz out of our customers and freeing up essential time to discover what they'd forgotten to tell us vis-à-vis requirements. Saved us person days of false starts and freed up scarce technician resources for the real work, but the R&D people hated VB on principle and couldn't wind their heads around the idea that it was a profit game.

  17. Inventor of the Marmite Laser Silver badge

    Wonder just how big his payoff will be

    640k should be enough for anybody

  18. Bladeforce

    This company is a sinking ship! How many high managers have left in the last few years? 10? 20? Microsoft are clinging onto their subscriptions like a desperate whore looking for money

  19. LordTryfan

    It really gets my goat when all I hear is a panning of Bill gates/MS. Every one always wants to bash the the person those who succeed. Whilst I will not claim that any version of Windows was perfect, far from it. What they did do however was make the PC approachable to the home user. It is because they were able to speed up the penetration of the PC into the home market, that we had the huge developments within the rest of the industry.

    Most of you are only looking at this from your own view, as someone who is highly computer literate. Someone who is capable and prepared to tit around with a Linux set up. Your average Joe Bloggs of the street would have never been able to cope with even the current Linux set ups, let alone those of 20 years ago.

    Microsoft driven by Bill Gates attempted to bring standardisation to a fledgling industry. With out that I dread to think what we would have ended up with. We saw the mess that transpired when standardisation was left to the hardware producers, when it came to VCR's. I would guess we would have ended up with each electronic giant wanting to have there own propitiatory system.

    That really would have held up development.

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