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The Things Microsoft Could Do to Make Up For It All

By Katherine Noyes
Jul 12, 2010 5:00 AM PT

Baseball may be America's favorite pastime, but here in the Linux blogosphere, grumbling about Microsoft is surely the next best thing.

The Things Microsoft Could Do to Make Up For It All

"Microsoft is still paying for the bad old days of arrogance and dubious business practices," noted ZDNet UK's Mary Branscombe in a recent blog post provocatively entitled, "Why do we (love to) hate Microsoft?"

After mulling over the current state of affairs in Redmond -- including any changes that have occurred since those bad old days -- Branscombe concludes by asking the question, "What would Microsoft need to do and say to you for you to be happy to call yourself a fan?"

A richer fuel for the blogosphere fires would be hard to come by.

'No Reasonable Person Can Be a Fan'

Nearly 30 comments appeared in short order on ZDNet UK before the topic was picked up and used to ignite nearly 170 more on The Register.

Before long, it was a virtual conflagration.

"Ooh ooh. I know this one," began symbolset in the ZDNet UK comments, for example. "Start here: http://www.groklaw.net/staticpages/index.php?page=2007021720190018.

"Read until you're sick, from their own internal documents and communications as disclosed for lawsuits," symbolset added. "No reasonable person can read this stuff and be a fan."

'Just Add 3 Letters: GPL'

Similarly, "Well, if their enterprise value keeps nose-diving at its current rate of descent they'll be bust in four years," wrote AndyPagin. "I'll be happy to dance fanatically on their grave, or at least a hefty plank of wood placed over the grave, as a MS grave would probably crash inwards ..."

On the other hand, "as a Free Software fan they really wouldn't have to do very much to make me happy," asserted CanadaLinuxNerd. "In fact they'd just have to add 3 letters to all their code, GPL."

Similar sentiments could be heard echoing again and again throughout the halls of the blogosphere. Linux Girl knew it was time to dig a little deeper.

'Promise Not to Sue'

"How could Microsoft make me a fan? Stop the constant patent FUD. Stop charging companies who only want to interoperate with Microsoft products," Montreal consultant and Slashdot blogger Gerhard Mack began. "Stop delaying the acknowledgment of security vulnerabilities until right before the fix is ready to skew the vulnerability stats.

"Lay off the astroturfing," he added, "and -- last but not least -- stop using your lobbying organizations to lobby the US government into punishing countries who decide to use free software."

Similarly: "Besides dry up and blow away? I suppose in order to make me happy Microsoft would have to adopt a Free Software license for all of their shipping products, and promise not to sue anyone for patent infringement except in retaliation," Hyperlogos blogger Martin Espinoza agreed. "I'm a hard guy to please, but certain organizations have managed it."

'It Can't'

Slashdot blogger yagu took an even stronger view.

"Really the short answer here is, 'it can't.'" yagu asserted.

"I learned very early that Microsoft was and is little about great technology and little about great products," yagu explained. "I hated how Microsoft played the market and snuffed out competitors.

"They got caught finally, but before getting sentenced with a real penalty that could have neutralized their tactics, the government changed control and the new judge in the case slapped Microsoft on the wrist," yagu added. "That was probably Microsoft's last chance to make me a fan, and it would have been coerced by government action."

Lucy and the Football

To those who would argue Microsoft's contributions and innovations, "I would counter that with the kind of market domination and the sums of money that controls, Microsoft would have had to be totally incompetent to not have innovated and contributed," he opined. "However, their pattern has always been to profit by eliminating competition, not really bringing innovation to general markets."

In fact, because of Microsoft's tactics since the late 1980s, "I think the current state of technology is probably at least 10 years behind where it should be today," yagu said.

"I've always compared Microsoft and their behavior to the long-running Peanuts Comic Strip gag where Lucy keeps promising to hold a football in place for Charlie Brown to kick," yagu concluded. "Every time she convinces him she won't yank it away, and every time she does.

"Nope, no love for Microsoft here," he added.

'No Way They Can Undo the Harm'

Similarly, "I hate M$," blogger Robert Pogson asserted. "They have for more than a decade damaged the market, coerced OEMs and retailers, and punished those who did not want to be 'partners.' They are an evil corporation run by evil people."

There's "no way they can undo the harm they have done, which, along with a sincere apology, would be the only conditions where I could forgive them," Pogson added. "I will do all in my power to see that their monopoly is destroyed by propagating Free Software."

Slashdot blogger hairyfeet wasn't so sure.

'Stop Trying to Copy Jobs'

"Honestly the whole fanboi attitude is a lot of what is wrong with FLOSS right now," hairyfeet opined. "MSFT, Canonical, Red Hat, they are all just companies, not ball clubs.

"If they make good products, they succeed; if not, they fail," he explained. "To be a fanboi one has to be part delusional to ignore the bad things, which I see with eyes wide open."

To make hairyfeet a fan, Microsoft would have to "lower the price on HP upgrades, maybe have WinMo 7 integrate seamlessly with Windows 7, more focus on gamers and enterprise, stop trying to copy Jobs," he said. "They have a good product in Windows and Office, now we'll see if they'll capitalize on it."

Indeed, "stop trying to follow Apple," Slashdot blogger David Masover agreed. "I'm not talking about stealing ideas, I'm talking about overall directions that you simply don't need -- Windows Mobile _was_ open for development, including native development, and now you want to make an app store?"

'Fire Steve Ballmer'

Microsoft should also "stop with all the different 'tiers' of Windows," stop charging home users and "release more source, and under accepted licenses," Masover added. "That's GPL or BSD -- not 'shared source.'"

For everything it wants to promote as an open standard, meanwhile, the company must provide its own "official, blessed, open source, cross-platform implementation," he said.

Microsoft should also fire Steve Ballmer, Masover advised: "He keeps saying factually wrong things in public, and has shown that he clearly doesn't get it about a great many things. Jobs may be evil, but at least he's not clueless."

In short, Microsoft has "a long way to go to earn back whatever trust they once had, but with Ballmer at the helm, it's been one step forward, two steps back for a while," Masover concluded.

'Ain't Done Until Viruses Don't Run'

Barbara Hudson, a blogger on Slashdot who goes by "Tom" on the site, had similar ideas.

"How could Microsoft make me a fan?" she began. "Not likely, but they could do a few things to make themselves more customer-friendly:

  1. "Buh-bye Balminator. Because!
  2. "Admit that Vista was a pig, and give anyone who got stuck with it a free upgrade to Windows 7.
  3. "Remove features and design mistakes, even if it kills backwards compatibility. 'Windows ain't done until viruses don't run.'
  4. "Get out of everything except Windows, Office and PC gaming. Do a few things and do them well for a change. Killing the Kin quickly was a step in the right direction.
  5. "Sell off xbox. Stick with PC games, including reviving 'Flight Simulator' and other core products. Ignore the console business.
  6. "Get out of the phone business. ALL the way out.
  7. "Stop trying to be an Internet company. Anyone remember 'Microsoft Sidewalk' and Sidewalk.com? $200 million (that's in pre-dot-bomb dollars) blown on trying to make Microsoft into THE Web portal company. Not much has changed since the 1990s.
  8. "Get out of search. Just give it away -- to Yahoo, or anyone else, for 'future considerations' or for shares. It's a continuous money-loser.
  9. "Stop with the multiplicity of OS versions with each release. One desktop version, one server version. Simple is good, and less buggy in the long run.
  10. "Cloud computing? Just. Say. No. If everything is 'in the cloud,' why does anyone need Microsoft? People don't want companies locking them in by hosting their data."

If Microsoft took all of the above steps, Hudson concluded, "there would be much less bureaucracy, a tighter focus on fewer products and benefits for all customers."


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