back to article Inside Microsoft's innovation crisis

The debate on how Microsoft is losing its innovative edge is as perennial and comfortable as how the summers were warmer and drier when you were growing up. In recent years, that debate was set in the context of the rise of the Linux, Apache, MySQL, Perl/PHP/Phyton (LAMP), JavaScript and the web - specifically Google - that …


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  1. Stephen Channell

    The answer is CLeaR

    Microsoft needs to go back to its roots (the company that created Xenix), leave the siege mentality behind and allow the layers in its stack compete with other vertical offerings.

    Windows Server is now strong enough to bare the competition from Unix / Linux, etc.

    SQL/Server is now strong enough to bare competition from Oracle, DB2, etc.

    Office has long been strong enough to compete.

    .NET Common Language Infrastructure is as good as Java.

    In a heterogeneous world MS puts itself at a disadvantage by vertically tying its stack together.

    Most importantly they need to unbundle .NET from Windows to prepare the foundations to grow into a technology leader for the next millennium.

    1. Keith Oldham

      Re : The answer is CLeaR

      As far as I'm aware Xenix was marketed by Microsoft but actually ported by SCO - don't know if you'd call that innovation?

      1. MH Media

        It's innovation..

        .. but the Microsoft way..

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Sorry, what?

      "SQL/Server is now strong enough to bare competition from Oracle, DB2, etc." No. No, it's not in the same league! MySQL perhaps...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        head in the sand...

        obviously you havent looked at SQL Server for a while.... SQL Server does compare with Oracle, DB2 and Sybase. If you are talking SQL 7, 2000 then I would probably agree with you otherwise from SQL2005 and intro of x64 revolution onwards then they are comparable. Yes, Oracle may have more widgets but that doesnt make it in a diferent league. Even in my organisation as die hard Oracle fans for many years we have now move some of our most mission critical systems over to SQL FROM Oracle... and guess what... we love it.

    3. jake Silver badge

      @Stephen Channell & @Keith Oldham

      SC scrive: "(the company that created Xenix)"

      KO contributes: "Xenix was marketed by Microsoft but actually ported by SCO"

      Xenix was actually licensed by Microsoft from AT&T in the late 1970s. From what I remember it was the standard PDP11 Version 7 Unix. SCO ported it to the IBM PC's 8086/8088 in roughly 1983. Most of us yawned ... although looking back, it was a pretty good hack by SCO[1]!

      Before SCO's port was released, there was a TRS-68000 version, a Zilog Z8001 port, and an Altos 8086 version (not necessarily in that order). Microsoft didn't write any of them, rather the companies in question did the coding. Seems to me I once saw an Apple Lisa running Xenix, not certain who did that port. Can anyone jog my memory?

      Near as I can tell, Microsoft has never invented anything.

      [1] Not today's iteration of SCO, for those of you who weren't born yet.

      1. Keith Oldham


        "Near as I can tell, Microsoft has never invented anything"

        I had a 8K BASIC ( in 4 2K ROMS ) in a UK101 (~1980) which was by Microsoft - pity it had a severe bug in the garbage collector which was later corrected by a new EPROM

        1. jake Silver badge

          @Keith Oldham

          Microsoft didn't invent BASIC ... in fact, Bill Gates was only 9 years old when it was invented. MS BASIC came out over a decade after the original.

          I should add to my first post that according to one of my mentors[1] from back in the day, the Xenix name came about because MaBell wouldn't let MS use UNIX[tm], even though MS was licensing box-stock Version 7 UNIX[tm] to other Micro companies. MaBell didn't want to get into the micro-software business, so MS became the distributor. My mentor has no memory of what the terms of the MaBell/MS license were, even though he was attached to Bell Labs at the time.

          Me, I was buried up to my neck in BSD at the time ... Xenix was a slightly psychotic curiosity as far as most of the BSD folks were concerned. But as I sad above, looking back, SCO's version was a pretty good hack. Hindsight's 20-20 & all that :-)

          [1] He is a frequent visitor here at chez jake, my wife is teaching his grand daughters to ride ... He happened to drop by this afternoon, and I picked his brain a little over a homebrew :-)

    4. Tarthen

      I disagree.

      Xenix was created by SCO. I have a Xenix box on my desk at work. It's loud and crashes.

      My experience with servers is that Linux servers are always more reliable. One W2008 box can't even keep PostgreSQL running without failure, although a Linux box on a Pentium 4, and a Windows XP box running on a Pent. D runs fine. And I got a 111 day run time on this one workstation-turned-server, which Windows would like BSODing on (in case you're wondering, it shut down during the aftermath of an electrical storm power-outage - the UPS wasn't that good!).

      No experience with MSSQL, but it'll have to do a lot to compete with Oracle, now that they've got some Sun hardware. And I prefer PostgreSQL over all - doesn't need a multi-hundred dollar server and software license to make a table for keeping computer records.

      Office is Office. It will always be on top. It's hard wrenching people away from 2003/7 to OpenOffice - they're used to Office, and expect it's traditional niggles.

      "Most importantly they need to unbundle .NET from Windows to prepare the foundations to grow into a technology leader for the next millennium." And use it on what? Linux? No. MS wouldn't let you do that.

  2. Bilgepipe
    Gates Horns


    "One [Microsoft's] strengths...has been in taking an existing idea and making it work better"

    But they *don't* make them work better. Microsoft produces mediochre clones of other peoples' innovation and uses its market dominance to force them into place. Was Office "better" than PerfectOffice? No, not really, but by secretly tying Office into Windows in a way no-one else could, they forced competitors out of the picture. That, despite, Bill Gates' never-ending proclamations, is not innovation.

  3. Anonymous Coward

    In these decades of micros~1 hegemony

    I have never seen micros~1 come up with something truly new or earth-shattering. Once they had an unfairly large share of the market (by buying a rip-off of someone else's work, no less), they just redid and redid and redid. Vapourware to take on already working products already in the market, and worse. All they do is add their special mediocrity sauce and everybody who doesn't know better instantly likes it. In a very real sense they have created their own customer and are much better at marketing than at coding.

    Even now, with that 9bn "research" budget, they only managed to come up with "micros~1 surface" (another arrogantly overly broad name) after several others did, including some no-budget tinkerers with a projector, a videocam and a laptop in a basement in Berlin.

    The success of windows and office is not from how well they work; they're atrocious. It's from network effect through deployments throughout the fortune 500. No wonder that the internal "halt the presses! security problem!" committee can do exactly nothing without an official complaint from a fortune 500 company. This also tells me that there are a lot of entirely pointless jobs within those molochs. Apparently , people losing time rebooting windows and losing work to office leaves them with less time to wage office wars on each other. See there the success of micros~1.

    The evidence tells me that their business model is destruction and co-opting of other people's ideas, anything as long as they can squeeze some blood out of it, but that overall they've been stiffling innovation and invention and were quite comfortable with it right until linux' momentum proved unstoppable with a few buy-outs and some vacuous threats by proxy.

    Ever read dear billy boy's books? I couldn't. The back cover was already more tripe than I could stand. That's the essence of micros~1, right there. With their mediocre user base driven by mediocre eye candy ogling management, their mediocre products, they are a natural monopoly creating their very own ecosystem: survival of the mediocrest.

    1. Alan Bourke


      In exactly what ways are Word and Excel atrocious? Compared to OpenOffice, say?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Thumb Down

        Yes, Atrocious

        How're Office apps atrocious, you ask? Try...

        1. Bloated

        2. Expensive

        3. Needlessly difficult to use

        4. Unwilling to play nicely with others

        Not unlike a few people I've known. No wonder that I try to avoid them.

        1. StooMonster

          Do the job I need them to

          Excel is an excellent tool, there is no other spreadsheet that even comes close to its power; the Windows version that is, the current Mac version is horrible.

          I am looking forward to the forthcoming 64-bit version and hope they've got more multi-threading functionality, that feature alone in Excel 2007 saves me hours every day. I even prefer the Ribbon interface, and hope they keep it too.

          There are a few things they could improve: multi-threading, I use old-skool functions from pre pivot tables days and these are single-threaded in 2007; stats functions, at least they've fixed a few bugs in results but these functions could be better; new graph types, marimekko and proper bubble charts please; abandon the stupid PowerPoint charts are Excel sheets nonsense, please bring back MS Chart, I hate that if I have a tonne of analysis open in Excel and then try to create a chart in PowerPoint it opens a new workbook; in appropriate recalcs, if I recalc one workbook I don't need the other to recalc too, or if I open one (because PowerPoint did it) I don't want my other workbooks to recalc.; wwhy can't they just make the Mac version the same as the Windows version? I don't want a "Mac like" version, I want the full blown product I use on my Windows 7 box.

          But even with flaws and room for improvement Excel is better, stronger, faster than competition.

          1. bitten

            Excel is better?

            Excel is often used as a simple database, and it is a very poor database.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Thumb Down


          And OpenOffice clearly misses out on point 2. As for the other points - same old. Try creating a largish spreadsheet in OO and watch your CPU burn. Or cut-and-paste - oh how much fun THAT is from OO to or from nearly anything else. Import CSV-files? Laugh? I nearly started...

          1. Tarthen


            CSV files are better to open in than Office.

            I used to open | delimited file, with 4 columns of doubles and 15,000 lines, then made it into a graph. Nearly no lag, whatsoever. Not bad for 2GB of RAM, 2.1ghz Duo, and a free OS ;).

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Getting from A to B

            The difference is like driving the Hummer compared to an ordinary family sedan. The majority of users outside of the corporate arena or field where large spreadsheets are needed, do not need a Hummer-sized application.

            Openoffice installs in 1/10 the time of MS Office. Besides, MS Office is hooked into Windows and optimized as such, giving it the advantage over other office suites.

            However, even for some businesses Openoffice is sufficient and does what they need without paying the tons of $$$$$. As each MS product is hooked to Windows and their network system, their very existence as stand-alone products vying on their own merits is threatened by the ship carrying them all - Windows.

            For the moment, MS has averted disaster with Win 7 - temporarily - with the initial flurry of enthusiasm. if for reasons of economy, being free to develop without being enslaved, people begin deserting the ship, the whole MS ecosystem is left behind. Many PC users are ignorant of their choices beyond MS, my sister being a good example.

            The "danger" to MS does not lie in the present working generation but in the younger generation, as well as retirees, who do not need MS Office and subsequently Windows to do the things they want to do (other than playing ALL Windows games). A Linux desktop with the included software will suffice for browsing the Internet, playing online games, accessing Facebook, instant messaging, doing their online banking, assignments and projects for students, instant messaging (with just one IM software), watch video, listen to music, Skype and even Photoshop using Wine ... for free (except for Photoshop).

            So, if MS's products are superior after copying and modifying, then they have nothing to fear to compete and still be able to sell against the likes of Openoffice and, at the same time, not have to worry about the next version of Windows.

            So, for the moment, Windows is necessary for certain professional applications and the corporate world who are tied into the MS system (mainly on the desktop). So, by the next generation in 7 to 10 years, we will see what MS will do to maintain their grip like ancient empires that grew too big and arrogant ... to listen and change. Windows Mobile's problems stem from MS's unwieldy bigness. In the end though, it could still be too little and too late.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Microsoft "innovation"

    Even this article bears out the underlying fact that most of Microsoft's "innovation" is fundamentally an attempt to replicate the successes of other companies. I appreciate that a certain amount of copying is both normal and healthy, but it has been a long time since I saw anything from MS that made me think, "wow - great idea", rather than, "that's just a knock-off of [Google/Sony/Adobe/Apple/etc]." It's very difficult to foster an innovative culture within a business - especially on the scale of Microsoft - and this is the logical outcome of a failure to do so.

  5. TeeCee Gold badge
    Gates Horns

    new ideas?

    A custom cloud architecture (yeah, like no-one else has got one of *those* already), a browser-cum-OS (Chrome) and a revamped search engine (Google without the traffic)?

    Is playing catchup with Google the new definition of innovation?

    (No idea what Midori is or whether it's genuinely innovative but, even if so, 1/4 is still well into "see me after class" territory.)

    1. Orclev

      Point of order

      OK, I hate Microsoft as much as the next guy, but I do have to give credit to Microsoft Research, which to be clear is a separate entity from Microsoft proper. There's some really great work going on in Microsoft Research, including the work by people like Simon Peyton-Jones. Now, near as I can tell Microsoft hasn't got a clue what kind of things are going on in their own R&D labs, or if they do they seem hellbent on insuring the only bits of it that see the light of day are the boring and mediocre pieces. Remember all the cool features that were supposed to be in Vista but somehow got left on the floor? Microsofts biggest problem is that they're own momentum insures that anything interesting will die long before it reaches market because it will invariable threaten existing products, or break backwards compatibility. So, MS continues at their usual glacial pace, playing catchup with the rest of the industry while some truly talented individuals produce great work in their R&D labs that's practically guaranteed to never see the light of day, at least not in a MS product.

      1. Goat Jam


        "Remember all the cool features that were supposed to be in Vista but somehow got left on the floor? "

        Actually, no. What were they? Oh, you are talking about Longhorn, which was scrapped in its entirety due to insurmountable technical difficulties to be replaced by a slapdash, pushed-out-the-door rehash of XP. What did Vista add to the mix? UAE and a glossy facelift?

  6. Andraž 'ruskie' Levstik

    Bing? innovative?

    You mean by ignoring robots.txt ??? Other than that... Probably the most innovative solution to search would be Yacy. A distributed p2p system.

  7. Jay42
    Dead Vulture

    new ideas? #2

    As TeeCee points out your examples of MS innovation are pretty crocked

    * Silverlight -> Adobe Flex

    * WPF -> Mozilla XUL

    * And if you read The Register you'll know that Bing is a copy not only of Google

    9B UD$ catch-up.... oh, and those funky touch tables!

    1. Ned Leprosy Silver badge

      Search engines

      > "And if you read The Register you'll know that Bing is a copy not only of Google"

      I know it's probably not what you meant, but I wish people wouldn't conflate "Google" and "search engine": they were far from the first. I'm not sure what was, but DEC's AltaVista was one of several that predated them. And I wilt whenever I hear Usenet/newsfroups/whatever being referred to as Google Groups.

      There's nothing new under the sun, but some are more tenacious than others at sticking their brand name on it nonetheless.

      1. Jay42

        I did mean Google specifically...

        @Ned: Agree with your point in general, and FYI I still use AltaVista every now and then to get some curve ball "pure indexed" results....

        but I meant that Bing in terms of Results and Look & feel is imitating a specifc target.

  8. deadlockvictim Silver badge

    I wish, I wish

    I wish that Microsoft would spend time on developing good products, products that make one go 'wow' and want to make one upgrade. Since 1994 I've only really seen 2 so far — Windows 2000 and SQL Server 2005.

    I wish that Microsoft would spend a decent amount of time, say, 5 years, and develop something to which there is no question but to upgrade (and for positive reasons). Windows Longhorn could have been brilliant if they had just given it time [1]. We don't need a new version of Office every 3 years. I know many still using Office 2000 and Office 2003. We don't need new versions of SQL Server every 3 years. We don't new versions of Visual Studio every 3 years.

    oh well.

    [1] I realise that Vista was the result of 5 years of, em, innovation, although I wonder, if MS had set out with Longhorn and given it a 5 year timeplan, whether it would have given us Vista.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Gates Horns

      we don't need...?

      microsoft's products are not for us, the consumers, they are for microsoft - microsoft needs the financial boots that comes from the biannual software churn. Vista was for microsoft and the entertainment industry - consumer needs were too low down on the product plan

    2. Tarthen

      We do need VS

      Visual Studio 2010 Beta beats 08 hands down. So it's not all bad.

  9. Wonko the Sane

    2 makes a habit

    So with iPhone and iPod, Jobs now has a habit of taking the banal and making it great? How about the Newton, how'd that fare? The correspondent is merely phoning this article in, making the usual whine about MS and taking the requisite pokes at Apple.

    Possibly the reason MS fails is Powerpoint. PP encourages the reduction of everything to bullet points and arrows to no where. I was once watching an interview with David Patraeus, now commander over U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. He repeated said that, "if Microsoft will allow, blah, blah, blah..." I couldn't understand the repeated references to Microsoft. I also noted one slide he repeatedly came back to because it had several meaningless arrows on it. Then he finally let us in on the little secret, MS had a staff person assigned to make the presentation for him. That would explain the arrows to no where.

    Reliance on PP has destroyed innovation in MS and the will to live among those of us who must put up with yet another PP to no where.

    1. E Haines

      Re: 2 makes a habit

      "How about the Newton, how'd that fare?"

      Jobs had nothing to do with the Newton, aside from killing it off when he returned to Apple. Might want to more thoroughly think through your comments next time, eh?

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    But they don't compete...

    "Microsoft is just like any other 30-something tech giant, trying to diversify."

    I think that's right - they are trying to diversify, but they still have this monopolist culture, so it's use their stuff or stuff off. If they truly competed, they may not have monopolist control of the various markets, but they could be major players. They're too polarised.

    It's very frustrating because these days it's hard to remember what a breath of fresh air MS was in the early 90s when faced with similar behaviour to their current behaviour from the likes of Lotus with 123, Novell with Netware etc.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    IT Angle

    @ TeeCee



  12. M Gale

    Third time lucky..

    What have I done to earn the ire of the wonderful Ms Bee?

    Would chocolates suffice to placate you, oh mighty Moderatrix?

    Anyway. $9bn on "researching" ideas that everyone else has already done. What ARE they spending it on exactly?

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    stunningly arrogant management

    Is probably the subtitle on Ballmer's CV.

  14. Sean Timarco Baggaley

    So which OS do you guys all use?

    Linux? That well-known MINIX clone which has spent the best part of the last 19 years failing to be better than the "mediocre" Windows, even though the GNU / FSF / FOSS communities have such a ridiculously vociferous fanbase?

    OS X? The OS which implemented all the features Microsoft (stupidly) gave away when they initially announced the sequel to Windows XP? (That Microsoft was late delivering the flawed Windows Vista isn't the point: the point is that they *came up with the ideas first* and said they were going to build them.) The reason Vista flopped is because OS X had managed to implement all those headline features earlier and Apple had spent the intervening time refining their implementation—a process Microsoft achieved by producing Windows 7.

    If the general public really wanted genuine innovation in IT, why isn't everyone using the Commodore Amiga today? A computer which came, out of the box, with digital audio support, and a full-colour, hardware-accelerated, muilti-tasking GUI.

    Released in 1985.

    Microsoft Office isn't "mediocre". It seems bloated to consumers because it does so much more than *we* need it to, but it isn't *aimed* at us. It's aimed at corporates. How programmable is Open Office? What about PerfectOffice or AbiWord? Even now, none of MS Office's rivals offer a *fully-customisable*, well-documented package that comes anywhere near close. Merely offering the source code and saying, "Here, do what thou willst" isn't anything like the same thing. You need to provide all the hooks to external sources and applications, in a *standard* way. (Hence Windows' success, as well as the .NET technologies.)

    Microsoft's had some bloody useless managers and the company is arguably far too big, with all the bureaucracy that creates. A formal split of the company may actually be the best thing that ever happens to it, but it doesn't seem likely to happen any time soon.

    But to piss and moan about their "mediocrity" when all anyone can offer as a counterexample is a f*cking overrated MINIX clone is just idiotic. (Microsoft's key innovations have always been under the hood: their .NET tools are genuinely innovative and not just some lightweight copy of Java as the ignorant commentards like to suggest.)

    Please: do point out what *your* preferred company / group / pseudo-religion has done that's so bloody amazing. So far, the only company I can think of that's done anything genuinely innovative in the IT field—albeit primarily in the related fields of product design and interface design—is Apple. A company which has managed to do in ten years what the Almighty Church of GNU hasn't managed to come close to achieving in *twenty*.

    1. P Saunders

      And here I was, thinking...

      ...that the reason Vista flopped was its massive bloat, huge hardware upgrade/replacement requirements, the inability to copy a small file in under 30 minutes and fact that XP was working quite fine for everyone. My mistake, I guess.

    2. Orclev

      So many points, and almost all of them wrong

      First of all, Linux isn't a clone of MINIX, Linus just used MINIX when he was writing Linux and used some of its POSIX documentation as a base for writing the POSIX layer in Linux. A lot of the early ideas in Linux are borrowed from MINIX, but just as many aren't, and the current versions of Linux and MINIX are completely different architecturally. If anything, Linux borrowed more heavily from UNIX than it did MINIX. Shall we next perhaps discuss how Microsoft borrowed most of its GUI from Apple, who in turn borrowed most of their GUI from Xerox (implemented on top of UNIX naturally)?

      On the topic of OS X to even suggest that it stole ideas from Vista is ludicrous. There's nothing in OS X (barring maybe expose) that hasn't been around for years in UNIX/Linux, so if anything they copied from Linux (or UNIX or Solaris, at the application layer it's really all the same for the most part). OS X never claimed (to my knowledge anyway) that any of its features were new or particularly innovative, but in typical fashion Apple delivered a lot of existing concepts in a very clean and consistent finished package, something Microsoft still fails to achieve with astonishing regularity. Apple has a long history of taking other peoples ideas, polishing them up, and combining them in interesting ways to make finished products that provide a very nice end user experience. Microsoft on the other hand has a long history of taking other peoples ideas, using nasty marketing tactics to drive competition out of business and to jack up the price of their offerings, and then delivering a hastily slapped together beta^h^h^h^h finished product that quite often doesn't even make it through the install process without running into problems. There's a reason the industry standard for Microsoft products is to wait to buy anything till at least service pack 1 is released.

      On the topic of MS Office, all I'm going to say is that I've never seen a genuine need for anything they have to offer, as everything Office does can be done better by other tools. MS Office is the MS Paint of the working world. It's finger-painting for middle managers.

      .NET is not in fact a lightweight copy of Java, I'll give you that. It's a complete heavy weight re-implementation of Java with a couple new features of questionable merit tacked on. As such, all the things that Java gets regularly bashed for are equally applicable to .NET. There is nothing in .NET that hasn't been done as good or better in other languages, so the claim that it's genuinely innovative is absurd. Actually, to be clear we really should be comparing .NET to the JVM, and C# to Java. C# brings nothing to the table that's better than Java in any meaningful way. As for the implementation of .NET and the JVM I haven't seen that either one is particularly better than the other.

      If I was going to point out genuine innovation, I'd point to in no particular order: L4, Singularity (MS Research, which is not the same as MS proper), Haskell, Scala, the original inventor of multitouch (no it wasn't Apple or anyone you've likely heard of), and LLVM. This is of course by no means a complete list and new and interesting things are being created all the time, this is just what I could pull off the top of my head in short order.

      As a final point, Windows success has nothing to do with standard anything, it has to do with network effect, shrewd marketing, ruthless business decisions, and some very lucky timing.

    3. Captain Thyratron

      Earth calling.

      The "so what do you use" thing is a red herring, and a piss-poor one at that. This should not require further explanation.

      Also, while you're busy pointing out clones, how about the time Microsoft hired one of the top architects of VMS to write the NT kernel?

      1. jake Silver badge

        @Captain Thyratron

        "Also, while you're busy pointing out clones, how about the time Microsoft hired one of the top architects of VMS to write the NT kernel?"

        Indeed. It's a shame MS's internal politics completely buggered up NT. It could have become a really, really good, long lived OS, along the lines of IBM's BigIron line.

        The last Microsoft machine here at Chez Jake runs Windows2000, first installed (by me) on February 16th, 2000. It is now airgapped, but has been used nearly daily in those ten years, although not so much these last several months. It has rarely been powered off, has never crashed, never been affected by malware, and I never had to reinstall the OS. I was going to archive the hard-drive on the 16th of this month, after ten years, and reclaim the hardware for something else ... but my Wife has convinced me to let the ol' gal keep going. It'll be interesting to see how long we can keep her going.

    4. Anonymous Coward

      Cool! Time travel

      "OS X? The OS which implemented all the features Microsoft (stupidly) gave away when they initially announced the sequel to Windows XP?"

      OSX release date March 24, 2001 (10.0)

      XP release date August 24, 2001 (to manufacturing)

      XP release date October 25, 2001 (to general public)

      So OSX was out BEFORE XP AND it took the features that Microsoft put in Vista? No wonder Stevey Job is doing so well - he has a Tartus. (He does sort of look like Dr Who.)

    5. Tarthen


      "Linux? That well-known MINIX clone which has spent the best part of the last 19 years failing to be better than the "mediocre" Windows"

      Actually, mine is doing fine. I'm running lag-free and can do more than what my Windows would let me. My Windows 7/Ubuntu dualboot only ever finds itself booting into Windows to sync with my iPhone, and that's it.

      "If the general public really wanted genuine innovation in IT, why isn't everyone using the Commodore Amiga today? A computer which came, out of the box, with digital audio support, and a full-colour, hardware-accelerated, muilti-tasking GUI."

      As a kid I had one of those. Loved it. The only reason I stopped using it was when the floppy drive broke and I got a (2nd hand) IBM laptop. Unfortunately the Amiga wasn't portable.

      "Please: do point out what *your* preferred company / group / pseudo-religion has done that's so bloody amazing."

      Created the tools and the kernel that your beloved Apple uses in their OS X and iPhone OS. Go on, get the versions of coreutils - most likely they'll contain a GNU copyright notice.

      (By the kernel - the kernel is part BSD, and is released under an Open Source license. I like GNU, and the BSD guys as well.)

    6. J 3

      @ So which OS do you guys all use?

      Wow, what took the MS' bitches so long to show up in this thread?

  15. Tom 7 Silver badge

    Atrocious - OO has to be

    Open Office tries to emulate MS Office.

    Neither product should be on a modern computer but the sheeple like to write to each other about what they would do if they knew how to use a computer or could get those boys in the IT dept to do for them rather than laughing hysterically and rolling on the floor every time they ask for a left handed document mallet like that bloke in graphics has on his Apple.

  16. Scott 9

    The company that people love to hate

    The Microsoft is incompetent/losing it's grip mentality has been going around almost since day one, and it's almost impossible for some people to acknowledge or accept that the company is capable of doing anything even semi-usable. Then you look outside and it's still largely a Windows world. Go figure.

    However, change is finally catching up, as the world is getting to the point the two core products, Office and Windows, really aren't all that necessary anymore. I'm not jumping on the cloud computing bandwagon, but the age of a desktop or laptop PC as the only way people can use a computer is largely over.

    What Microsoft can do is a few simple things:

    1. Lower prices and ease restrictions. People use Windows because of the convenience and all the software that works on it. Adding in Product Activation and all the other stupid things they've done has made many people look at alternatives, including me. How many people have really liked Vista or 7 "Home Premium" so much they did the anytime upgrade to Ultimate?

    2. Microsoft's worst competitor is their own legacy products. What they should do is build on what works, and don't monkey things around assuming people will have to buy into it and therefore obsolete all the old copies of Windows and Office out there. Case in point the screwed up Vista interface, the Office ribbon, and the Docx format.

    3. Actually cooperate and build to standards than take some idea or concept and turn it into Microsoft's wholly owned and controlled product. A good example is Silverlight or DirectX. Imagine the fun we could have had if all games were OpenGL.

    4, Show some style or taste. Most of what Apple does is showmanship and flash, buying Apple is a lifestyle, buying MIcrosoft is a kitchen appliance.

    However none of this will be done and it'll keep on with business as usual.

  17. Horridbloke

    Real innovation?

    The only "Microsoft innovation" that has genuinely improved our lives, that I don't know to have been bought / ripped off from elsewhere, is the mouse wheel.

    (Well I heard it came from Microsoft. If anyone can can prove this wrong I would find it hilarious.)

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Start laughing!


      The scroll wheel was invented in 1995 for the Genius EasyScroll mouse made by Taiwanese company KYE Systems.

  18. Michelle D'israeli

    Never one to avoid an oportunity to have a dig....

    A classic example of microsoft's lack of innovation and commercial development of new product lines would be the canning of the team behind Flight Simulator.

    At the time they were wound down, FS11 was mid development, the latest version of Train Simulator was about to ship, and they had just started to branch out into the government and military simulation sector and serious gaming. Most importantly, they were by all accounts actually making a good amount of money.

    But it seemed that as a team, their products were not exciting and hip enough, compared to say, Zune :(

    Their current attempts at innovation are extremely mixed. Thankfully Azure appears to have improved it's website since I last looked, although various things I want easy access to are still hard to find. Midori is actually quite exciting, but it's a very long way away from being a production operating system.

  19. Anonymous Coward

    freezing cold

    dick brass monkey boy

    hmmm this is going to take more than wielding equipment to sort out

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Product Activation\WGA

    I don't understand the hatred for WGA and product activation.

    you buy a copy of it, you activate it, no problem.

    surely the only people who have a problem with activating a product (any product) are the people who use it without paying for it?

    What's the big deal?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      You sure don't understand

      Actually people who use it without paying have no problem, to them it just works. It's the onest paying users that are being inconvenienced by WGA/WAT. Get it?

      1. Jean-Luc
        Thumb Down

        yup, mine's the XP coaster CD

        which I paid for, but lost the license key for. I don't even begin to know what weird roundabout hoops you have to jump through to re-enable _your_ property (spare me the nitpicking about purchasing vs. licensing, please, that's just part of the problem).

    2. Steve in Hungary
      Thumb Down

      Buy a Microsoft Product?

      No you bloody don't - unless it's a mouse.

      You pay for a license to use it!! Until just as long as they don't decide to pull the plug.

    3. J 3

      Uninformed much?

      Apparently you haven't read of the many people who try to use their legitimately (if foolishly) bought copy and get nagged/shut down by these "anti-piracy" crapwares nonetheless. It happened with me (not my machine, thankfully) once.

      1. Al Jones

        Sure, I read about them..

        But I've never actually met one (and I've met literally thousands of Windows users).

        My mother always told me that I shouldn't believe everything I read on the Internet!

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    What about immediate core products?

    How much bad will did Microsoft create with Vista? Just saying "we got it wrong and here is Windows 7 to fix it" whilst taking another round of "upgrade" licence revenue is not making friends. A letter saying "sorry we released a poor quality product and to make up here is a free / very low copy of Windows 7" to all Vista users would have been good.

    Just how short is the opportunity for Microsoft to recover with Windows Mobile? It might have been good if they had even released something trying to emulate Apple etc. End of 2010 wil probably cost them the smartphone market.

    Office has reached the "whats the point in upgrading" stage. Just look at how many people still come back and say "I cant open your file it must be corrupted" to know how many still use Office 2003, and these are corporate customers.

    The "just look at whats coming in the future" pitch has worn too thin to switch attention from today.

  22. John Sanders

    Marketing words...

    blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, MULTIMEDIA, blah, blah, blah, blah, MULTIMEDIA, blah blah blah, WEB SERVICES blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, CLOUD COMPUTING, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, CLOUD COMPUTING, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah,

    blah, blah, INNOVATION blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, INNOVATION, blah, blah, blah, blah, INNOVATION will save us all.

    Can any marketing drone give us the new marketing buzzword? I´m sick of hearing innovation.

    Innovation is meaningles on an industry dedicated to REFINE ideas and concepts that have been lying around for 40-50 years.

    the iPad, the iPhone, the Xbox, Windows GUI, etc, Operating systems, processors, the internet...

    Those are the refined expressions of the concepts of computer, computer application, the old server-client model, and electronic networks that were developed during the 70 and the 80.

    Innovation is not when you find new ways "TO DO THE SAME ON A DIFFERENT FASHION", but to do trully new things in new ways.

  23. Derek Hellam
    Jobs Halo

    A question of leadership really

    Steve Balmer? Interested mainly in the bottom line, nothing else. BA in Maths & Economics

    Steve Jobs? High school drop out who was interested in engineering.

    Any company that ends up run by bean counters will end.

    Read each of their profiles and you will see why each company is so different.

  24. Eduard Coli

    No more free lunches = starving

    M$ is too management heavy, in a way I think if the DOJ had broken off the Office division it would have helped them the way it helped AT&T.

    The problem with M$ is that what the mean by Innovation, meaning stealing code and concepts from other developers is not as easy as it used to be. Partner or just take the code, throw it into Windows or Office and dare them to sue you, the old business model, is harder now since GNU licensing.

  25. Don Mitchell


    I worked briefly in Dick's e-books group (on ClearType), and I think he's right. Not that this problem of burocracy is unique to Microsoft or even to corporate culture, but they need to address it. Innovative projects like e-books, terraserver, photosynth have languished and failed to reach their potential.

    I don't think I would hold the LAMP stack up as an example of how to be more innovative, every one of those components is inferior to the corresponding MS product. Linux is not as strong or sophisticated as NT. And when people say Microsoft has never innovated, it's pretty funny to imagine that porting UNIX to the PC is somehow more innovative than creating NT.

    If you dig around for the TPC-C benchmark results for MySQL/InnoDB, you can see why those guys don't want anyone to do that test -- on comparable hardware MS SQL Server is in the same ballpack as Oracle or DB2, and MySQL is about 1/3 that performance. It gets worse for MySQL if you look at multiprocessor/multicore scaling.

    And comparing python and PHP to .NET. The P languages (and lets pretend Ruby starts with P) are all pretty amateurish and poorly designed. Which is unfortunate, because they are used so extensively. But here is an example of Microsoft failing to follow through on innovation -- they pioneered JIT compiling (with Visual Basic years ago), and .NET contained the first JIT'ed javascript engine -- so why isn't that JITed javascript engine in IE?

    1. Jean-Luc
      Thumb Down

      Python is pretty poorly designed?

      I wonder what kind of programmer you are and what you've actually tried to use.

      PERL's syntax makes it a hack, sure. But it was a very innovative hack at the time. Ruby and Python are pretty highly designed, far as I can tell. Python's indentation-based scoping is a highly intrusive design decision - you either love it or hate it. I love it, just as I hate Lisp brackets. But both Python and Lisp are very clean designs and I would never belittle Lisp because I dislike it.

      Sure, C# is actually pretty clean, better than Java, especially at the library level, (that particular bar not being very high, mind you). But Studio is a big mess that spends much time herding you, rather than getting out of the way, and don't get me started on the wizard-generated code for database access and its incapacity to give meaningful variable names.

      VB - yecch. SSIS source code does its best to make XML into a binary hash (not in the CS meaning of that word).

      Must be your idea of design.

  26. Don Mitchell

    Open Office

    Folks talking about MS Office being bloated compared to Open Office. Look at the benchmarks. OO is huge and slow, three or four times slower than MS Office at many of the benchmarked operations. This was true when ZDNet measured performance several years ago, and it still true today if you look at the benchmarks on

    For all the probems Micorosoft is having with innovation, you can't hold the open source movement up as a good counter example. They have been totally monkey see monkey do. Copying Office, copying UNIX, copying NT features into Linux. The innovation today is coming out of corporations like Intel, Google, Apple; where you have professional engineers, systems management culture, and the ability for indivdual architectural vision to be realized. The answer is to innovation has never been to collectivize.

    1. Keith Oldham

      Re : Open Office

      I'm not going to argue on innovation - you clearly have your own views.

      However OpenOffice, Firefox etc, Linux, VLC, .......... have 2 major advantages - they are free as in beer and free as in freedom. Let everyone be content with tools that suit them. I have 6 computers ( fileserver, 2 workstations, netbook, laptop and 1 in the holiday home) and the software cost nothing apart from contributions.

      Nothing at all for a really solid operating system, compilers, browsers, video, photo & audio processing, file & print serving, e-mail, and LOTS more.

      I worked as a research scientist for 38 years and went right through the micro revolution from programmable calculators, Apple II, IBMPC to corporate Word/Excel/Exchange - I used Excel extensively for data processing although much of my requirements needed JMP as excel couldn't manage the inital size of dataset (often ~6M rows). I also used a dual-Xeon Linux workstation for the serious business of protein modelling in 3D.

      I've no doubt that Office is better than OpenOffice but it's not THAT much better ( especially when it's set-up properly (turn off Java and use quickstart.) if your requirements are modest ( most people ) then spending a large amount of money on Office is a complete waste.

      I built my fileserver for less than 1 copy of Office!


    Protecting the monopoly

    This commentary is right on. For the past 15 years--essentially since the bundling of Windows 95 with DOS 7 (or 10 or whatever)--Microsoft's entire business model has been protecting the Windows/Office monopoly. Protecting a monopoly doesn't inspire or encourage innovation.

    Indeed, conservatism assures certain and quick death in the tech industry. If Apple's IBM's, intel's and Google's models are any indication, change is the only path to strength and growth. Microsoft is spending way too much time thinking about abusing new models to extend its monopoly instead of dreaming of new ways of exploiting the new models.

  28. RW

    The most telling thing

    It was the head of MS PR that responded, not somebody who actually knows anything about computers.

    Remember, PR types, marketers, and spin doctors are nothing more than professional liars.

  29. Daniel 1

    "You could spend your whole life trying to change the world"

    That was the slogan on Microsoft's recruitment adverts, back in the late 1990s...

    Trouble is, what if you've already succeeded? What if you originally set out with a bold vision to put a computer into every home, and get software to be something people bought, the way they bought home appliances... and then, 15 years later, you've done it: there actually IS a computer in every home, and every high street has a dozen stores, selling computers with your software on them?

    At the end of the 90s, that's very much where Microsoft was sitting. They'd changed the world, and they'd done it in exactly they way they'd planned.

    So what do you do? Well, sadly, if the new world you have made for your self, is actually extraordinarily kind to you, then there's a strong incentive (however much your rational mind might fight against it) to spend your remaining energies trying to stop the world from changing any further. If the only thing you have to bank on, is that computers will continue getting faster and faster, so that people will want to do more and more with them, then your assumption is going to be that only way they can achieve that, is to keep buying more and more software for them. Great. You're a software company.

    In fact, the business model was sound, if you followed its assumptions. The computer would occupy the centre of the home, like a pet mainframe. People would buy lots and lots of software for it, that they consumed on lightweight client devices around the house (it's classic client-server stuff that anyone at Honeywell or DEC would have recognised). This was the original role of the Microsoft slate form factor.

    In this view of things, then the next big war would be fought between the sellers of encyclopedias, electronic reference works, and home media - and Microsoft was all geared up for that fight. They had sunk tens of billions into Encarta - and it's successor, Sendak - in readiness. They were going to do to Encyclopedia Britannica - and all the rest - what they had done to all their other competitors before them.

    And that was the problem: the assumption. The network was supposed to go in that direction - outwards from the Home Computer - which acted as a library of all the information you could want - into the Home Appliances, which acted as its clients, and where the tight integration of Microsoft's office suite, with Microsoft's reference libraries and media, would make the combination of the one, with the other, a no-brainer.

    But the traffic suddenly started coming in the other way: inwards, from this weird Wild West of a place, outside, full of RPC worms, ripped-off stuff, and free things. So unprepared for this world, were they, that they shipped a prettified version of their server operating system, with all services enabled, and no firewall, straight into a marketplace where all their customers were getting their first home broadband connection: welcome to the internet, allow me to introduce myself, my name is Blaster.

    This is what Microsoft's management don't seem to grasp: they could have enabled the firewall and shipped the software with all non-essential services enabled, but they couldn't have stopped the influx:. They are never going to reverse the flow of traffic. So much innovation at Microsoft is wasted in trying to get the flow of traffic going back outwards from the PC. It is never going to happen.

    The picture Fred Moody paints of what was starting to go wrong at Microsoft - even back in the early 90s, in his book about the Sendak project "I sing the Body Electronic" - still resonates with what remains wrong within the Campus, today. There are still young people who want to spend their entire lives trying to change the world - but its been more than two decades since any of them saw Microsoft as the place to do it.

  30. Mr Young


    Tried that once - what a dog! Why is it all this freaking great hardware technology can't even keep up with word processing? I don't know much about OpenOffice but I read somewhere it uses Java? Not the very same people with that fucking Yahoo opt-out tickbox? Bah - write some assembly language and make it fast? Ooh noooo! Spec. change? Too difficult? Morons.

    Rant done

    1. Anonymous Coward

      @Mr Young

      Assembly language isn't platform independant, so it's unlikely to become an integral part of any Open Source software.

      If you didn't know that then *you're* the moron!

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. Rod MacLean

      ^^^ speed

      A previous commenter has left instructions for speeding it up for those who couldn't be bothered to read the manual.

  31. Si 1
    Gates Horns

    Interface innovation

    The reason the Microsoft tablet flopped and Windows Mobile is dead is because the interfaces are the same basic thing we've been seeing since Windows 95. The same fiddly Start button and tiny menus that you get on Windows just don't work on smaller touch based devices.

    Until Microsoft can wake up and realise it takes more than just stuffing the same Windows interface on any size device they can got their hands on, they will be also-rans in mobile and tablet computing. There's a reason smart phone builders keep hacking custom home screens onto Windows Mobile devices...

  32. sT0rNG b4R3 duRiD

    Here's an idea, M$

    Clear up that rat's nest/dog's dinner OS you have, rebuild it from scratch...Seriously, rebuild it from scratch. That's a real radical idea for you now.

    Methinks it has accumulated WAY too much cruft over the years.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Up

      @sT0rNG b4R3 duRiD

      You're not the only one who considers it a rat's nest/dogs dinner.

      They really do need to rebuild it from scratch it's a bloated mess.

      Apple rebuilt theirs and OSX is a joy to use!

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sorry, but ...

    What real innovations have Microsoft actually come up with other than a talking paper clip?

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I imagine MS's management suffers the same problem as everyone else's these days:

    using MS products instead of, y'know, managing. There's no management problem that can't be dealt with by forwarding an email and ticking that item off your to-do list, no complete load of bullshit that can't be snuck past everyone by solid abuse of PowerPoint templates (all of them using that same horrid default blue colour because none of these fucks have the first bit of creativity in their entire body or the wit to do anything different). And all the time these same "managers" think they're at the cutting edge of technology, godlike wielders of the projector and laser pointer. These are the people you see giving wedding speeches in the form of PowerPoint presentations because they believe that this is the only way in which information can be disseminated, even as they fail to realise that reading stuff out loud from a screen is no less patronising simply because you've got some pretty pictures zooming about the place. Let them all burn.

  35. BillG

    From one Bill G. to Another

    Ever since Bill Gates stopped being involved in Microsoft's day-to-day activities, the company has lost it's focus.

    I report on the Embedded Systems marketplace. Every year, I go to the Embedded Systems Conference here in Boston, excited to see what's new in my space. Microsoft always has a big, expensive booth with lots of demos, but of the dozen or so Microsoft booth people there no one can articulate a message to me. I can go to the MS website and figure out their different embedded OS, but I can't find one person at ESC that can explain them all properly.

  36. Nathan Meyer

    What Innovations?

    MSFT never were innovators- they have always been a re-packaging and marketing operation. The problem they have now is that people actually need the software to work reliably and consistently, and MSFT are running out of smoke and mirrors.

  37. Charles Manning

    No innovation crisis

    Microsoft has never been about innovation The ideas have existed elsewhere first. . They have always succeeded through **execution**. Bringing ideas into the the hands of Joe Public.

    Ballmer has screwed up the execution so that's the real crisis.

  38. Neil 6

    A new age

    Perhaps the percieved slowdown in innovation is the result of Windows finally maturing. When was the last time you described a Unix update as innovative?

    Office on the other hand matured a long time ago, and is now having its limbs hacked off and reattached just for the hell of it.

  39. Anonymous Coward

    shurely shome mishtake?

    "a browser-cum operating system concept called Gazelle."'s called Internet Explorer and it's here already!

  40. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    A natural consequence?

    Maybe it is merely a natural consequence of having the most brilliant research made available at corporate level with copyright rites? If so, it leaves MS branded products with the leftovers that then need to be made palatable to end users under constraints of copyright agreements.

    I'd guess that MS customer portfolio (in its widest possible sense) includes governments, big corporations, small corporations, ... inhouse products and juggling that might make an oversight in one part extremely favourable or unfavourable in other part(s).

    Then again, that would also seem a natural consequence of an organisation with size and scope of MS.

    It looks like a fun thing to solve though :-)

  41. Sarah Bee (Written by Reg staff)

    Re: @Mr Young

    I think you mean 'moran'.

    1. Mr Young

      Ooh no!

      Not me. Please? I'll try to behave, honest. I just do not see much consideration for speed and efficiency when using modern software - especially when I consider the sc-fi realms of the hardware technology nowadays.

  42. Dennis 6

    Windows is a dog's dinner

    They've been on the case for nearly a quarter of a century and it is still unstable and a pain to use. Which Windows user here hasn't shut down their computer to go to bed and come down in the morning to find it asking if it should terminate some stupid process, or hasn't gone to use their PC that has been lying idle all morning to find they must wait for 30 seconds of hourglass and intense hard disk activity before it will respond?

  43. Paul 37
    Gates Horns


    The only bit of Microsoft taken-over software that they "improved" and was worth a damn afterwards was Foxpro....and they've killed it off.

    The world still needs a really good desktop-sized database and development tool, and Access isn't it.

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