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Soft Advice?!

Posted by Sathyamurthy www.sathyamurthy.com on July 27, 2006

Three Steps to a New, Improved Microsoft!
Parting advice for Bill Gates.
Stephen Manes

From the September 2006 issue of PC World magazinePosted Wednesday, July 26, 2006
On June 15, in case you didn’t notice, Microsoft announced that Bill Gates will “transition out of a day-to-day role in the company” in 2008, though he’ll remain as chairman. Bill, no one can complain about your new focus on philanthropy, but over the next two years, how about showing your customers a little love?

It’ll be easy! Just insist that Microsoft adopt this mantra: “Stop Making Crap.” Here’s a simple three-step process:

1. Quit kidding yourself. Do some soul-searching and publicly disown the longstanding public-relations fantasy that Microsoft has something to do with “innovation.” Your business has always been about taking others’ ideas and selling them with a Microsoft badge. Period. After CP/M came DOS; after Mac came Windows; after Palm came Pocket PC; after Netscape came IE. And those are just the most obvious examples.

2. Insist on quality and security. Microsoft ads say “Your potential. Our passion,” but the real motto should be “Do the Minimum.” Whenever I pick up a Microsoft product, I expect stupid or dysfunctional design. You rarely disappoint me.

Quality? In just the last few weeks, I’ve encountered a show-stopping defect in ActiveSync, Windows Mobile dialog boxes that are unreadable because nobody redesigned them for the aspect ratio of the Motorola Q phone’s screen, and an entire platform–Ultra-Mobile PC–that’s one of the worst computing experiences ever, right down to a Tablet PC tutorial no one bothered to update for the new devices. Windows Media-based audio players continually fail to challenge Apple’s iPod because Microsoft’s software sucks.

Security? A continuing bad joke, right down to the Windows Genuine Advantage antipiracy program that Windows Update dubs a “critical security update.” It’s critical only to the company’s profit margins, by ensuring that users are running a legit version of Windows–except, as sometimes happens, when it’s wrong.

Oh, and quit bragging about how many testers you have. It’s tiresome and irrelevant when most of them appear to be taking a permanent lunch break. Embrace the idea that quality and security have to be built in, not tested in.

3. Shake up the talent. Nobody in a position of authority at Microsoft ever seems to get fired. Many should be. How many times can a product jettison features and miss deadlines before its handlers get the boot? How many security flaws can pop up before their creators walk the plank?

And if you want to innovate, find innovators. CEO Steve Ballmer is a longtime apologist for whatever Microsoft is doing at the moment. The résumé of new Chief Research and Strategy Officer Craig Mundie includes the disappointing Windows CE operating system, the voice-recognition-now-and-then-enabled AutoPC, and Web TV, plus the laughable Trustworthy Computing Initiative. New Chief Software Architect Ray Ozzie is a smart guy and by all accounts a brilliant programmer, but his crowning achievement to date is Lotus Notes, a product whose user interface is despised by the folks I know who have been forced to use it. Is all the hot blood working on Xbox?

Oh, and after the three-step process, here’s step 4: Turn “Stop Making Crap” into “Start Making Wonders.” But software has to run, not crash, before it can fly.

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