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Is Microsoft Losing it's Grip?
Slip sliding away...
incrediBILL




msg:4432389
 1:56 am on Mar 23, 2012 (gmt 0)

If you think I have any agenda against MS you would be wrong. Been using and developing with MS products almost exclusively since my first TRS-80 Model I and on CP/M 80 simply because they were hands down the best. If my boss wanted me to be productive and wanted his software development to work first time, we used MS compilers and OS, simple as that.

These days I can just as easily get non-MS products that work just as well, sometimes even better, and more often than not for FREE!

So why pay?

I could shell out thousands a year for all the MS compilers, MSDN, etc. or use free languages like PHP and get PHP.NET for free. Likewise with C. C++, Perl, Ruby on Rails, Java, so on and so forth. Not only that, for 99.9999% of the population, the freely available productivity tools like Open Office are more than sufficient for those small letters and spreadsheets people crank out daily, plus the presentations. Sure if you're writing large tech manuals, novels or doing real powerhouse spreadsheets you might need MS Office which handles large volumes better because it's designed for power users, but most aren't power users and will never touch even the fringe of MS Office capabilities.

TBH, the only reason I still use Windows on the desktop is because it comes pre-installed and it's a no-fuss no-brainer appliance, turn it on, works first time. If it came with Ubuntu and was still a turnkey system, I'd probably not bother switching to Windows unless I had a killer show-stopper application that my job required and I couldn't work without using Windows. That last scenario used to be the case, today, not so much and my computer existence is increasingly becoming less dependent on MS daily.

If I tried hard, I could probably dump all my MS products tomorrow and barely notice the difference.

For instance, when I got my current computer it's the first time in forever I didn't renew my MS Office subscription, and have been using Open Office for the last 3+ years and really don't notice much difference. Haven't used MSIE in ages except to play a few games on Pogo which just seem to run better in MSIE, but I could run them in Chrome or FF if I must.

The cold hard sad fact for MS is that many applications have been transitioning to the web, becoming SaaS type of online programs. These web based applications require a seriously fast browser, more secure, more stable, more standard compliant, and MSIE isn't the answer. With the web now hosting the software instead of the desktop and the browser basically being the OS of the web, the browser may ultimately replace the OS as we now know it. Google is poised to take the ball and run with it with Chrome OS while MS is still trying to figure out how it lost the smart phone market.

Truthfully, at this point, Windows Media Player might be the only thing I'd really miss if I were to go 100% MS free.

What say you?

 

lexipixel




msg:4432391
 2:05 am on Mar 23, 2012 (gmt 0)

I can run a dozen apps and leave them open for days or even weeks -- all I need to do to lockup my computer is leave MS-Word or MS-Access open for a couple hours. There is something inherent in MS software that sucks brains out of computers, (probably old built-on-top-of-MS-DOS memory leaks).

Even if the browser does (more) become the desktop, people still need an OS to load drivers, fire up apps, and get the browser something to run on. Until another "plug n' play" OS for the non-techie types arrives, MS will still have hundreds of millions of installations -- Chrome or no Chrome.

scooterdude




msg:4432394
 2:17 am on Mar 23, 2012 (gmt 0)

How much money do these free applications make for their providers then?


"Free" there is a whole world of meaning in that word, free as in no monetary reward, no dividends for shareholders, venture capitalists,

A major corporate like MS needs to turnover Billions just to make a profit, another whole world away from the absolute amounts of money made by most of the new web companies, with a couple of notable exceptions

incrediBILL




msg:4432396
 2:18 am on Mar 23, 2012 (gmt 0)

Until another "plug n' play" OS for the non-techie types arrives, MS will still have hundreds of millions of installations -- Chrome or no Chrome.


It's called Mac OS X that some obscure company called Apple, now the largest on the planet, already has done, based on that nerdy BSD.

Ubuntu is a close second, it could easily be another contender.

FWIW, anyone with a DVR such as Tivo is using Linux and don't know it, probably are with most other DVRs as well.

Samizdata




msg:4432398
 2:24 am on Mar 23, 2012 (gmt 0)

What say you?

FWIW I have always loathed Windows Media Player more than any other MS application.

And non-techies generally hate change - most started out on Windows XP and would probably be much happier if no visual changes (as opposed to additions) were ever made.

...

bakedjake




msg:4432415
 3:13 am on Mar 23, 2012 (gmt 0)

Bill, I've tried (a lot) to replace MS Office with OpenOffice. I can't do it. It still doesn't do Excel as good as Excel does.

That's probably the last thing that's really keeping me around, except for lack of motivation to change.

I would probably run OS X if it didn't require an expensive hardware dongle from the fruit company. I like the OS but dislike their hardware. I still enjoy building my own boxes. I triple boot FreeBSD and Haiku (which I love) now but find myself booting into Windows just by habit.

I generally have 3-4 SSH windows open at a time and regularly have Komodo open. I am a habitual user of Cygwin. I run Apache for Windows on my local machine for testing. You'd think I'd just move to the UNIX environment but I don't. Not sure why.

And non-techies generally hate change


Not just non-techies... I have lots of FreeBSD servers that I administer. I love FreeBSD.

But I don't change. Maybe because there's no reason for me to do so right now?

Chrome OS


Why would I switch? There's no reason for me to do so. Cost? What's $250 in the grand scheme of things?

Windows 7 is relatively stable. I go for as long as I can (read: until security updates come) without having to reboot. I don't seem to notice any stability issues with the OS. It works fine.

Maybe I'm just lazy, but if there's no reason for me to change, I don't see why I'd spend a day doing so.

incrediBILL




msg:4432427
 4:17 am on Mar 23, 2012 (gmt 0)

It still doesn't do Excel as good as Excel does.


I never said it was as good as current Excel, it's more like Excel '95

Then again, I've never needed more than Excel '95 nor do most people and I use Open Office Calc a lot so it ain't that bad.

Why would I switch?


Nobody said switch, it'll just come on the hardware some day.

You'll pick up a netbook or laptop and it simply won't be Windows, it'll have Chrome OS loaded.

For what I mostly do on a netbook, I barely need anything more than a browser and that's what Google is banking on with Chrome OS.

MS isn't thinking clearly on mobile, they're going to sit in the bloat that is Windows and ride it until the cow won't give up any more milk before they rethink their bloated strategy. MS could easily come up with a streamlined version for mobile devices, maybe Win 8 is it, I doubt it, but they need a back to basics version for smaller devices that boots in seconds, not minutes.

Windows 7 is relatively stable.


No argument here, I love my Win 7, but it's about the only MS software on those boxes these days. My point was it could just as easily be Ubuntu and I probably wouldn't notice the difference because I spend most of my time in the btowser so the OS behind it is pretty much irrelevant.

graeme_p




msg:4432455
 8:22 am on Mar 23, 2012 (gmt 0)

@scooterdude providers can make quite a lot of money from free software. Check the prices of a Red Hat Linux license, or commercial support for PostgreSQL. Then there are people who make money more indirectly (IBM puts resources into Linux development, reaps benefits in ensuring Linux performs well on its high end hardware, and perception of expertise in its consultancy businesses).

@Bakedjake, weakpoints of Linux vs Windows are probably that OO is not as good as Excel for users who really use all Excel's features (a minority), no Photoshop (for designers who have spent years learning it), and no apps for some industry verticals.

@lexipixel, Ubuntu is more plug and play than Windows, and MacOS even more so. Its harder to find Ubuntu (or any Linux distro) pre-installed in the shops, but if you can find it, or have someone who will install it for you, it works out of the box to a greater extent than Windows (more pre-installed software, easier software installation, most hardware automatically recognised and configured).

I actually think Windows benefits from being hard to use. People assume that because Windows was hard to learn (it is, if you can put yourself in a complete newbie's shoes, or think of the cumulative effort you put in over the years), switching OS will take a huge effort.

graeme_p




msg:4432458
 8:31 am on Mar 23, 2012 (gmt 0)

@incredible, I now do all my work on a netbook running Ubuntu. At home its plugged into a monitor and mouse so I hardly notice the difference, and elsewhere it so much lighter than smaller than my laptop that it makes up for the smaller screen and keyboard.

I also agree with bakedjake that the cost of OSes is not really a factor: if I preferred Windows, I would be happy to pay for it: in fact my netbook came with Windows so I have been forced to pay for it anyway. I prefer Linux so I deleted the Windows install.

Most people will not do that, and Windows will be the dominant PC OS for the foreseeable future, BUT more and more of our usage of computers will be of non-PC devices which Windows is weak on. It is quite surprising how much you can do in the cloud if you want to (I do not like that idea, but most people do).

graeme_p




msg:4432724
 8:08 pm on Mar 23, 2012 (gmt 0)

That should have read @incrediBILL, of course.

enigma1




msg:4433044
 5:49 pm on Mar 24, 2012 (gmt 0)

I could shell out thousands a year for all the MS compilers, MSDN, etc. or use free languages like PHP and get PHP.NET for free

It's been nearly a decade since I essentially stopped developing code for Win related technologies. Since you touched the development part with MS, the main issue wasn't the annual subscription fees as far I recall, but the technical support. So I had a problem developing a driver or a DLL or some questions for the API there was very little info available. Unless you could afford premium support it was extremely hard to develop stuff running your own business. In most cases I had to "workaround" and redevelop code because of it.

Now I wasn't expecting to have a dedicated engineer answering my questions but following some basic common sense I would expect MS to have at least dedicated forums open to public for developers or other enthusiasts who wanted to exchange opinions and experience. Given the company size and exposure there was very little around.

Not sure how things evolved since then, the last I remember when I had some people asking for IIS support over some open source PHP code I developed, I came here after searching, opened an account and asked that question simply because I didn't have the means to test it locally. The short answer was - go and install some package that will emulate Apache on IIS.

And because of the lack of documentation, discussions and forums etc, whenever I had to do something with the Win API, would take me much longer than with open source like Linux based O/S, PHP etc. So I switched development towards open source.

The way I see MS loses ground because they do not attract easily independent developers as much as open source software does.

inbound




msg:4433073
 8:49 pm on Mar 24, 2012 (gmt 0)

There are lots of reasons why companies/people do not switch over when replacing hardware; but there's a valid point in that some people will end up switching without caring/noticing.

We just need to look at risk management and the responsibilities of CTO's to see why large companies often choose to stick with what they know (which is often MS). I see MS continuing to have a high penetration in the workplace, and they work really hard to keep that valuable market (as do the companies that support MS systems).

I'm another who could have moved away from MS as I have servers that are Red Hat / Centos - but I choose to stay with Win7 / Office because it's stable enough (although there are issues) and Excel does things with enormous spreadsheets that allow me to manipulate data and test algorithms faster than LAMP (although I do take the results and deploy in LAMP).

For me, Excel is a very flexible front end for a test database (which is flatter than a relational system) which makes my overall development environment easier/faster.

It's killer features that will keep people on board, along with the risk aversion. But, as is rightly pointed out, many people have no need for any special features and are not making risk assessments when buying a home / small office machine.

Browsers, Apps & very mobile devices (lightweight laptops, tablets and phones, more so than traditional laptops) will bring on the change being suggested. These things do what people want, and hardware is such that gaming is really the only area where specifications really need to be extreme on such devices. But the computing device market is changing so who knows how the percentages will interact with each other (more devices overall, so a loss in penetration does not always mean a loss in revenue).

incrediBILL




msg:4433097
 11:13 pm on Mar 24, 2012 (gmt 0)

But, as is rightly pointed out, many people have no need for any special features and are not making risk assessments when buying a home / small office machine.


That issue is also a factor of price.

For instance, if I spend $800 on a laptop I get all picky about performance, specs, warranties, etc. However, $300 or less on a netbook or cheapo tablet and I treat it more like a disposable lighter, if it breaks I'll just replace it, extended warranty isn't worth it unless you buy somewhere like Costco where the 2nd year is included in the price.

But looking at all my devices, only 2 are Windows, the rest are Android and Linux, 3/5 of my computing time is spent outside of Windows and I don't even notice as I can do everything I need to do in just about any of the environments without breaking a sweat thinking twice about which machine I'm using.

Today things are more task oriented than in the past where the OS was more obvious as you plopped down at the keyboard to be greeted with with the old "C:" prompt. Which icon you click on to bring up a spreadsheet is pretty much irrelevant which OS it's running on as long as that spreadsheet or document loads, you can do your work, and save the results.

More importantly, so many people do the majority of their work in a browser using spreadsheets and documents on the cloud, that you're using the same exact interface no matter where you are on any OS or any browser, which is why I'm say MS is really losing it's grip.

Not sure how successful MS's attempts to reclaim their online throne with OfficeLive, or whatever it's called this week, have been, but making it more dependent on MSIE is probably their best strategy to keep people locked into MS products, much like Google Docs work best or only with Chrome type of situation.

Future




msg:4433104
 11:29 pm on Mar 24, 2012 (gmt 0)

Very nice read,
Apprecaite time taken by respective members to make there comments..

Sgt_Kickaxe




msg:4436936
 3:33 am on Apr 4, 2012 (gmt 0)

Nothing earth shattering has come along in a very long time. Everything 'new and awesome' only provides incremental usefulness usually at a huge cost in cash(and in the other commodity, privacy) and often doesn't leave you more productive.

It's just a fact of industry - next years car will have all kinds of new selling points but none will get you where you want to go any differently than you go now(without the car loan).

Still, if buying slows down then Wall st complains and jobs get lost so... keep buying new junk!

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