Wayfaring Stranger

Microsoft's mythical man-years

I admit it (without shame), I am a techie. There, I said it. And this article is for techies ... and anybody with an opinion on Microsoft, anybody getting the blue screen of death, anybody supporting their Grandma and trying to deinfest her PC from all the viruses and spyware she got from opening an email from "Donald" (she knew a Donald once ya know ... forgetting she never gave Donald her email address).

Oh, and open source folk might like to read this too.

Note: this article is not *new* per say, but it was new and interesting to me. The following are a few selected quotes from the article. They are very anti-Mircosoft selected ... but then the article wasn't exactly complementary :-)

But apparently Microsoft was unable to convince other companies to adopt it as a trusted middleman. "After nine months of intense effort," the Times' John Markoff reports, "the company was unable to find any partner willing to commit itself to the program" -- an extraordinary rebuff. With no third-party services on tap to offer users of Persona/Hailstorm (ed. HA!), Microsoft decided to abandon the project -- though its underlying .Net technology remains the heart of the company's push to build a new generation of Internet services.

Trust is hard to win and easy to squander. Though Microsoft remains the software industry's 800-pound gorilla, it cannot achieve its goals alone. And on several different fronts today, Microsoft has lost valuable credibility.

Fielding says that Lipner's "more man-years" claim is "absolute crap. They probably spent more money on it, but he is misdirecting the public based on the theory that there are fewer open source developers per project than there are people per project within Microsoft ... "

The open-source model, in other words, allows for a kind of global stress-testing, peer review and transparent repair that Microsoft can never guarantee. Since its code is proprietary, you can only take Microsoft's word that it has fixed bugs and plugged security holes. And the next time a rogue virus takes down your company's e-mail server, all you can do is curse -- and wait for the company to issue a fix.

With its vast resources, Microsoft can afford more "man-years" than anyone else on earth. But can it rewrite principles of the software business first identified nearly 30 years ago?

The answer will become plain as the results of the "trustworthy computing" project emerge. If the torrent of security gaffes in Microsoft products vanishes, we can applaud Redmond's intrepid troops. But if we're still battling the spawn of the NIMDA and Code Red worms in a year or two, it's time to stop trusting Bill Gates for good.

Despite the tone, I do not hate Microsoft. In fact I sometimes pity them. When turning from an upstart, small, fast thinking company who can take advantage of current trends; they have become a company that has to support years of legacy crap, ensure that all the old crap runs, ensure that the new crap runs, and try and think up new ways to dig themselves out of that old bog. While opensource thinks up new ways of doing new things without the crap monkey on their back. I think Microsoft has become too big, too slow, and too laden with old bad decisions and will implode like dot com and Ma Bell.

Microsoft's mythical man-years

2 Responses to “Microsoft's mythical man-years”:

  1. Thanks for reading my post and comments that follow ...
  2. "going ABM"

    Read this Washington Post article in the 12/25/05 edition of the Arkansas Democrat Gazette:

    Microsoft Is Losing Some Of Its Elbow Room

    I laughed when I read the comment "going ABM" and thought of you ... Anything But Microsoft! I hope you can read the article, I had to do a free "sign-up" before I could copy and paste from it.

    Here is the excerpt that I was referring to ...

    "In fact, Segal said, he has informally surveyed many ex-Microsoft engineers who have left the company to strike out on their own. A surprising number, he said, are not interested in pursuing programs that would take advantage of Microsoft's platform.

    "I found they were not only leaving the company, they were going ABM . . . anything but Microsoft," Segal said. "They were actively producing products that Microsoft would consider competitors." "



  3. I liked the following quotes (thoughts at the bottom):

    "It would be hard to get a meeting" with venture capitalists, Enderle recalls. "It would be harder not to get laughed at in the meeting. And to get any money, you'd have to get them drunk first."

    Today, Google is the verb for search. AOL's instant-messaging service still dominates the landscape. File-sharing software and Apple Computer Inc.'s iTunes have redefined how the digital world gets and listens to music and videos. Yahoo is the most trafficked Internet portal. (see cartoon : Google you)

    "Now," Enderle said, "it's Google" that worries venture capitalists eyeing software start-ups.

    "They're not giving out monopolies anymore, so get over it," he said. "Anything Microsoft does will have lower margins" than it once did.

    Now that the Internet is a mature platform for writing and distributing software, it is teeming with creators who often work collaboratively to develop programs that are deliberately not oriented toward Microsoft.

    "When we were there, our influence on where things were going was dramatically higher because of the lack of an open-source community, standards bodies, and the inability of developers at-large to communicate," said Rick Segal, a Microsoft employee in the mid-1990s who now is a partner in a Canadian venture capital firm. "Those days are so over, it's frightening."

    Whereas once Microsoft had its pick of the best and brightest engineers, Google is now the hot company. Competition for talent has been so fierce that the two companies recently battled in court over whether Google could hire a Microsoft senior scientist in China. (It could.)

    IMHO, Microsoft is getting to be too big and too bureaucratic. It has failed over and over to grab any leadership in the internet realm (except for the browser, maybe). It has been challenged by Netscape, Yahoo, eBay, and Google. Even its office apps have fallen behind. I think it is good that they are finally adopting an open standard for their documents and spreadsheets (ala. XML); but OpenOffice has had that for a long time now.

    The open source community can communicate very quickly, they can collaborate w/o all the politics and marketing who-ha. But most importantly, they can release often (even daily, if it suits the project). What that means to Microsoft is that it is always playing catch up. New ideas are literally poping up everyday in the online world and a comercial shrinkwrapped product is at a disadvantage.

    To Microsoft's credit, they realize this and have been pushing for an "internet OS" and "internet apps" for a long time. From what I've read about the new Office suite is that it will be much more internet enabled. But that only catches them up to what opensource users experience today!

    One thing that has bogged MS down in the online world is chasing all those bugs and security holes in IE. It is also the biggest black eye that MS has had in a long while. Time to say 'nuf is e'nuf. Time to scrap the pile of junk and start over. IE is still based on Mosaic (click on Help+About), which was the internet's first web browser. The web has changed TOO much for that to be viable. The online scene has changed to include online banking, B2B, spam, identity theft, viruses, worms, and trojan horses ... oh my!

    Time to junk IE and start from scratch, or hang it up and collaborate with Opera and/or Mozilla.


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