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what if Mr. Gates dies one day?Big culture change?

(sorry for my poor english)

I do appreciate MS provides such an amazing ecosystem to lots of programmers.

However it seems all these were drived by Mr. Gates' strategy thoughts such as "We need to build a general OS"; "every business&family desktop should run our system"; "Computer is too hard to use"; "get David Cutler to build NT" etc etc.

Well, What if this man disappeared one day?  MS gonna lose steer driver and lose it's direction?

MS programmers are all smart people, but get them managed like herding cats? (Only Mr gates is the qualified real spirit and leader to those smart people?)

A chinese programmer
Sunday, February 22, 2004

I doubt it... not because Bill Gates is not very smart, but because Microsoft is already behaving as if nobody were at the helm, making random and dispersed decisions wily-nily and creating new programs and products left and right without any focus or discipline. How much technical direction do you think Bill Gates actually provides to all these random products like Microsoft CRM, and Microsoft CMS, products which are lucky to have 1% market share in very competitive markets, and which will remain, like Money, perenial also-rans, soaking up cash and resources forever?

Ten years ago shortly before I left Microsoft Steve Ballmer made a speech to the sales team. "Windows, DOS, The Mouse, Word, Excel. These are the only products that matter," he said. He didn't want the sales force getting distracted with the other dozens of niche, money losing, or marginally breaking-even products. "Windows, DOS, The Mouse, Word, Excel" was the mantra which he repeated again and again (ala "developers, developers, developers, developers...") until he was hoarse.

Today, OK, DOS is gone, and Word and Excel have merged into something called Office, and now that Microsoft breaks down profitability by business unit, it's pretty clear that all of the profits come from Windows and Office, just like they did ten years ago.

Joel Spolsky
Fog Creek Software
Sunday, February 22, 2004

If Microsoft ever fails it will be because, much like IBM of yore, they forgot where the core competency was.

They produce Windows, the produce development tools for Windows, and they produce a killer app for Windows written with those development tools.

By using this "circle of support" Microsoft has made an empire. But 90% of the other products are nothing more than arrogance on their part. And if they don't stop and realize that they are going to kill themselves.

Apple had a similar circle of support in the early days. They produced a computer (Apple II), and OS for that computer, and a killer app for it as well (AppleWorks). Well, they spun off AppleWorks, dove into several side projects and gave us... well... um, that Newton thing was pretty cool for few weeks...

One thing that seems to separate Microsoft from the others however is that once they realize they have gone astray, they right the ship with remarkable speed. So there is still a chance that we will see a major shift at Microsoft in the next few years that brings everyone back to the same page.

Marc
Monday, February 23, 2004

I wouldn't disagree with the perception that they're random splurging on unrelated products. 

It does feel a bit like Microsoft has decided to be its own VC company and throw considerably sized bags of seed corn at maybe, possible products in the hope that there will be a new Office or Windows that miraculously pops out.

Which also tends to suggest that they haven't a clue what particular thing they should concentrate on.

Slightly more worrying (if Billg's pronouncements matter to you), was the slightly mad 'We will rid the world of spam' speech.  I can't help feeling that some spammer got through to the_****_billg@microsoft.com  and it irritated him.

Note to Microsoft IT admin, if that email address gets firebombed its not my fault.

Simon Lucy
Monday, February 23, 2004

I heartily agree with the statement "one thing that seems to separate Microsoft from the others however is that once they realize they have gone astray, they right the ship with remarkable speed."

In fact that's why I don't write the earth-shattering, mind-blowing 23 page "Why Microsoft Is Going Down the Tubes" essay which I have in my head: because they would take it seriously. Like IBM and Apple, they have so far to fall that they can pretty much make an arbitrary number of mistakes now. They can probably do everything completely wrong for twenty years before they actually start running low on cash.

Joel Spolsky
Fog Creek Software
Monday, February 23, 2004

Do you think that core competency can last forever?  They've milked it for 20 years and that's pretty good already.  In my opinion they are right to branch out.  They can't rely on Windows lasting forever -- I'm sure there are some nice business school examples here but I can't recall any now.

It's hard to develop anything new.  Windows Media IMO seems like a very logical and potentially lucrative place to branch out.  Xbox is OK, a bit too costly though, and giving TiVo a little elbow makes sense to me too.

Roose
Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Who knows what the answer is, but standards are where Microsoft can still reign supreme.

They recently inked a new deal to provide a certain number of theatres with the equipment to show digital movies, in their MPEG-4 format (I think that's what it was).

Once they have that format in 97% of theatres, they go to Hollywood and sell the software for generating MPEG-4 formatted (I really hope I have this right) movies. Heck, they could give that away if they wanted to.

Now Hollywood wants to take your money for the pleasure of running their movies on your DRM-capable Pentium XXIII computer. Oh look, it only works well with MPEG-4 movies.

And it goes on from there...

One of the few flies in the ointment, Steve Jobs owns Pixar.

That said, never trust predictions from a guy who depends on a paycheque. If he was right 55% of the time, he'd be sipping margaritas far far away from you.

Nigel
Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Nigel: Windows Media Video 9, not MPEG-4. MPEG-4 is an 'open standard' - this does not mean that there are no royalties, just that the royalties go to a number of patent owners.

Mike Dimmick
Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Windows Media Video 9 has been submitted in September 2003 to the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE) as an openly available international standard.

see: http://broadcastengineering.com/ar/broadcasting_microsoft_submits_draft/index.htm or http://www.winnetmag.com/Article/ArticleID/40209/40209.html


The standards process was expected tot take 6-12 months. Ayone know what the current status is?

Just me (Sir to you)
Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Though I agree to a certain with the previous posts that Microsoft had been diversifying its product line too much, I believe there are business reasons for doing so.

Look at Windows, it started out as a pipe-dream project. Microsoft already had it's cash-cow MS-DOS. It took Microsoft 5 years to get Windows right.

How about Office, at the time it was running behind Lotus, Borland, etc. in the applications market. Nobody expected it to dominate as much as it does now.

robtwister
Tuesday, February 24, 2004

"...it's pretty clear that all of the profits come from Windows and Office, just like they did ten years ago."

What about the Mouse?

Jim Rankin
Tuesday, February 24, 2004

I think the next few years will be interesting for Microsoft. If the whole SQL Server, CRM and MBS thing continues to grow then the next company they will put out of business is Oracle. That's a whole new big market..

They might not be making money now but SQL server is getting much better, and Navision and Axapta are good purchases.

Greetings from the UK

Roy
Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Oh, Joel, please write that essay. Please, it would be incredibly good reading I'm sure and result in huge waves of publicity.

tony pace
Wednesday, February 25, 2004

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