[oclug] The chairman speaks
oclug_mail at strosberg.com
Sat Feb 19 11:42:28 EST 2005
Robert Brockway wrote:
> On Fri, 18 Feb 2005, Bill Strosberg wrote:
>> Microsoft ten years ago was visionary - 'a computer in every home'. Their
> Personally I disagree with this statement but I respect you have a
> different opinion.
> 10 years ago my criticisms of Microsoft were much as they are today, but
> today a lot more people are aware of the problems.
> Many of the US DoJ prosecutions seen in the last 4-8 years stem from
> actions MS was taking 10-15 years ago. If the DoJ had not been so slow
> in taking up these cases I suspect the computer industry would be very
> different today.
> I saw little innovate in MS 10 years ago. I admit they may have been
> doing some ok stuff in their desktop apps but I didn't see them as any
> better than the opposition. I do think marketting is their forte'.
> The 80386 came out in 1985 and it took MS until 1995 - 10 years - to
> produce an OS that properly used protected mode, and even then the road
> was rocky for a few more years.
> There were problems with black balling any computer shop that did not
> ship MS-Dos with a PC and the use of their (already existing) monopoly
> position to force Digitial Research and others out of the market.
> Plenty of info on the DoJ prosecutions of MS is available online of course.
> No, I think 10 years ago they were operating much as they do today.
> As far as I'm concerned closed standards and monopolies are far too
> dangerous in the information age. I think our society is playing with
> fire and most people don't even realise it.
> As for the "computer on every desktop thing", IMHO it was coming anyway.
> The rapid advances in computing had been pushing prices down since the
> mid 70s. IBM could take some credit for unintentionally clearing away
> all of the incompatible systems present in the 70s and early 80s but MS
> just rode the wave as far as I'm concerned. I do believe they were able
> to direct the wave - into gettng a copy of their OS on every desktop but
> we've lost a lot through this. Many of the desktop OSes comtemporary to
> MS-Dos were multitasking. I think MS made people put up with MS-Dos for
> 10 years when they should have been able to use a real OS.
> MS Innovative 10 years ago? Not from observations at the time or since.
I've always respected your opinions, but it is quite easy to dismiss
Microsoft's influence on the industry especially in retrospect.
Microsoft did drive volumes up and hardware prices down. Granted their
motivation was to skew profits in their direction and move people's
perception that their software, not hardware was the tangible value
proposition in computer systems.
Without Microsoft, we would still be paying $5,000 per workstation (or
more), and the critical mass of users necessary (and hardware volumes)
to create an environment where free software could flourish probably
would not have been reached. I clearly remember buying my first Tandon
5-1/4 full height 10MB Fixed Disk for over 2,000$ - and having to patch
the IBM PC Bios to deal with the MFM controller. I remember 64K 5-1/4
floppys - and before that 8 inch floppys. I remember working with CP/M
on Victor 9000's and Dec Rainbows. I clearly remember exactly the
moment I saw Visicalc on CP/M for the first time and clued in to where
this whole market was going to go. Yes, Microsoft even back then
coat-tailed on other's direct innovation, but their execution ability
was stunning. The first time I saw Excel on a Mac showed me exactly
what was coming with GUI-applications on desktops. They took the Lotus
123 / Visicalc concept and out-executed everyone by a mile. Attaining
critical mass at any price is the most important marketing concept I've
learned from Microsoft.
Just as Microsoft skewed the market view in their favor - making
software the value, the free software movement is rapidly altering the
"real" business world's perception of where the real value is. My
brother was until recently VP Technology of one of Canada's biggest call
centre operations - he managed over 3000 desktops running on multiple
call centres across multiple countries. They used Windows Terminal
Server/Citrix ICA and Office on desktops, along with ASP/IIS/SQL Server
in-house applications. He recently left the company to start a new
business, and he's just become a big believer in open source. I've
taken a person 100% in the Microsoft camp and shown him how he can build
a user-friendly wide area infrastructure that is free, functional and
compatible - with the value component being knowledge and consulting,
rather than vendor lock-in.
While my brother was in his previous position, he used to think free
software was a "not-ready-for-prime-time" unstable quagmire - He bought
into the MS FUD. He's already made OpenOffice the default office
platform. Thunderbird + Sunbird the Mail/Calendaring standard. Firefox
the browser. Since he was trying to cut startup costs, he was willing
to try, and after trying, he's decided that what he's using now is
functionally comparable for the features they actually use, compatible
as far as they need for document interchange. To us, this isn't tough
to understand. For a guy who spent millions on Microsoft, this is a
He's still running management desktops on Windows, as accounting
software requirements etc. have necessitated this. When they get to
the state where thay are deploying "worker bee" desktops, he's already
willing to consider Linux. I've told him about LTSP - and he already
understands the concept from his WTS/Citrix experience. He can not
believe it is free. I've said that the value is in the consulting time
necessary to refine the freely available (but rough) component pieces
into a stable, widely deployable solution, not in buying software.
The keys to the turnaround in business attitudes (in his case) are:
Firefox. Compared to IE it is fast, functional and with popup blocking
extensions (like Adblock) and reduced security issues.
Thunderbird. When compared to Outlook it is fast and stable. When used
with IMAP-TLS/Postfix/SASL authenticated SMTP it allows remote "access
anywhere" secure mail handling without needing an internal mail server.
Mailboxes are accessible from home, from the road and from the office
without needing VPN setup, POP and all the issues of running Exchange.
Better security, better access, lower overhead and freedom.
OpenOffice. Although it isn't Microsoft Office, and probably never will
be, it is GOOD ENOUGH. Although seduced by the feature set in Office,
over time he came to realize that they actually used 5% of the features,
while paying for a Fortune-100 / US government-driven feature set. Good
enough for normal business documents. Good enough for spreadsheets.
Good enough exports to .DOC formats to be accepted by business partners.
I think you've missed the mark somewhat on giving IBM the nod as a major
reason for the market tide changing. IBM legitimized the desktop PC,
and then horribly failed to execute. Compaq, Columbia, Corona and
others all out competed-IBM on the hardware, and IBM sat back and
thought the value proposition was their name. Wrong. Microsoft got it
100% right in knowing the value was in compatibility, platform
manufacturer independence and creating a dog-eat-dog hardware arena in
which they supplied everyone. Microsoft's marketing vision, even back
then was unbelieveable. IBM failed horribly, and their momentum (which
should have been unstoppable) has just died in the PC arena this year.
Although Microsoft's methods are brutal, insensitive and offensive,
their execution ability, unrelenting persistance and staying on message
in the marketplace is unquestionably the strategy that has transformed
the business world. If you stand back about ten thousand paces, they
are the reason things have evolved to our present state - and they are
also the reason that things will evolve past them. If you asked the
railroad barons of the 1800's what their opinions of the future were
back when they were on top, I'm sure they would sound (era-adjusted)
like Gates does today. No one on top predicts their own decline. But
the clock isn't partial to anyone.
Perhaps my Microsoft respect is more marketing-innovation driven than
software innnovation driven.
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