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The War Of The Word 511

Posted by michael
from the drinking-the-koolaid dept.
atari_kid writes "For who didn't know Microsoft has a internal blogging service, which is becoming popular with their employees. And even some of their high level managers have their own blog like Chris Pratley, a group program manager (GPM) for Word2002 (OfficeXP) project. Mr. Pratley just blogged on his 'personal philosophical' conversion from a Mac geek to a Microsoft devotee & his interesting perspective on the 'Word Processor' wars of the mid-90's and why Microsoft won."
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The War Of The Word

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @03:26PM (#8987846)
    Clippy!

    Bob is a close runner-up.

    • are you talking about? Please don't post offtopic comments. Oh, BTW Bob would kick clippy's ass any day!!!
    • by bonch (38532)
      It's pretty much the exact same Clippy joke posted to the last OOo article, and it's the same Clippy joke that appears every single time someone mentions word, and Clippy hasn't been on by default since the release of XP over three years ago, and he's easily hidable with a right-click, but hey he's funny and he gives upmods! Mention Clippy!!
    • Clippy!

      Much as I dislike alot of microsoft stuff, this is just over the top. There are two software areas that microsoft does fairly well - Office apps and RAD development (as opposed to high end server development enviroments).

      My biggest gripe with microsoft is the abuse of monopoly powers - the fact that you cant for love nor money get office for linux (except via third party stuff like Wine projects). Thats abuse of a monopoly position of operating systems.

      Office is, however, a reasonable suite. Its not the best at everything by any means, but you would be an idiot to suggest its the worst. In fact, some of the user interface stuff in office was genuinely innovative - like the background spell check with squiggly lines under misspelt words. Word 95 was the first to do this from memory, and certainly the first major word processor that could.

      The killer app that microsoft makes is not windows, its office. And its with a good reason - its actually very good software. The number of people who run it under wine on linux or on OSX is a strong statement of its quality. If its an undocumented standard for file formats, well, thats because storing documents in HTML and then XML came way later than microsoft's office suite. It doesn't mean that its time to move to better standards for document storage, but at the time microsoft developed this software (Ie., in the days of word 3.0 onwards) pretty much nobody stored documents in XML (for space reasons alone - Hard drive capacities of 20-40 Megabytes were common).

      Just my 2c worth, will be considered flamebait by some no doubt.

      Michael
  • Hopefully the net-dwelling paranoid delusional conspiracy theorists won't descend upon me... :-)

    It's always good to have high hopes, but in this case I'm afraid you'll have to get used to disappointment. Here we come!

  • The Old New Thing (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @03:28PM (#8987878)
    The best Microsoft employee blog is the Old New Thing [asp.net]. I don't think you'd get far arguing your anti-Microsoft points with Raymond.
  • It's Okay (Score:5, Funny)

    by Paulrothrock (685079) on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @03:30PM (#8987898) Homepage Journal
    We forgive you. We don't have type 11 errors anymore. You can come back to the Mac any time you want. *opens arms* You sound like you need a hug.
  • by Mirkon (618432) <{moc.liamg} {ta} {nokrim}> on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @03:30PM (#8987901) Homepage
    "I thought Microsoft was, if not an evil empire, at least a maker of substandard products that didn't deserve its success. The elegance of the Mac appealed to my design sensibilities - I took joy from its apparent "perfection".

    [...]

    The job I was offered had everything I wanted (Japanese content, customer-focus, design, technical content, good employee benefits, location, etc), except it was for the wrong company. I wanted to work at Apple - but they turned me down - quite rudely I felt given I was such a fan."

    He admired Apple for its elegance and derided MS for its substandard products; he was rejected by Apple, but offered a job at MS.

    Ouch.

    It should be said that later, he comes to terms with MS not necessarily on the grounds that they make good product, but that they are a good business. Funny, that.
    • OSS (Score:4, Insightful)

      by bonch (38532) on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @05:22PM (#8989636)
      It should be said that later, he comes to terms with MS not necessarily on the grounds that they make good product, but that they are a good business. Funny, that.

      Kinda like how we come to terms with OSS not necessarily on the grounds that it makes good product, but that it's an idealistic philosophy. Funny that.
  • by mahdi13 (660205) <icarus.lnx@gmail.com> on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @03:30PM (#8987903) Journal
    MicroSoft won the Word (editor) war?
    Guess we better let OpenOffice.org [openoffice.org] and Star Office [singerscreations.com] know right away!
    • by DaHat (247651) on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @03:42PM (#8988123) Homepage
      Microsoft has one the word processor war, yes, there is competition, but it is not at this time a serious threat.

      They have also won the browser war, yes, alternatives exist, however the majority of web users still use IE.

      Just because a war is over and is won doesn't mean that there is no more room for fighting. Just look at what's still going on in Iraq.
    • by JamesKPolk (13313)
      1. StarOffice and OpenOffice are basically the same software.

      2. Star got killed in the market.

      3. After buying Star Sun gave up on turning StarOffice into a profitable product, instead releasing it under a free softare license. This goes against a trend set with Solaris and Java, so it's plain they saw no hope of competing with Microsoft at their own game.

      Yes, Microsoft won the proprietary word processor market. They're the best at that game.
    • Other moves were tactical. The Word planning team discovered that the WordPerfect sales force was going around to customers and showing Word opening a complex WordPerfect file (printer.tst) to show how bad the conversion was, and therefore how pointless it would be to try to switch to Word. So the Word team organized a special dev team that focused entirely on WordPerfect document import, "reverse-engineering" the WordPerfect file format (documentation for which was jealously guarded, as was the norm back

  • Tech support (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TastelessGarbage (598415) * on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @03:30PM (#8987912)
    One key point left out of the blog regarding WP's success: WP offered unlimited, toll-free technical support at the outset. It was very comforting to know that you could call someone who actually understood the program to answer a question. WP built up a lot of goodwill on that basis.
    • Re:Tech support (Score:4, Insightful)

      by binaryDigit (557647) on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @03:53PM (#8988286)
      WP offered unlimited, toll-free technical support at the outset

      IIRC so did M$. I remember calling M$ tech support a couple of times (actually never to actually get tech support though, I was in MIS and I was curious about their MIS system, which ran on Vaxen at the time).
    • Re:Tech support (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Neil Watson (60859) on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @04:13PM (#8988664) Homepage
      That was probably one of the things that lead to WP's financial woes. As the users became less savvy, there were more and more support calls.
      • Windows. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by RatBastard (949) on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @05:32PM (#8989747) Homepage
        Nope. Support calls didn't eat into thier bottom line in time. What killed them was their refusal to make a Windows version of WP. And when they did finally release the windows version, WP 5.2 for Windows, it was complete shit. Among the many problems with it was their abject refusal to let Windows handle the printer. They had built such a reputation for outstanding printer support in the DOS world that they could not concieve of the idea that Windows could run the printer. Add to that a broken file export system and a horrible user interface and it was all over for WordPerfect.

        WordPerfect 5.1 for DOS is still the best CUI based word processing program ever made. But they completely fucked themselves over with Windows.

        WordPerfect Corp. lived in denial, claiming that their loyal customers would stick with them in the DOS world and not migrate to Windows. They didn't even think about making a Windows version until MS Word was eating their testicles.
  • by woodhouse (625329) on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @03:31PM (#8987929) Homepage
    You slashdotted microsoft. Another tiny web site bites the dust. I hope you feel proud of yourselves.
  • by LilMikey (615759) on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @03:32PM (#8987936) Homepage
    ...not only do the completely uneducated (like myself, or slashdot) get to spout off incorrect information they heard from a friend of a guy they met somewhere but also the really bad people can blow smoke up each other's arses too...

    Next thing you know, Ken Lay and Dick Cheney will have a blog about how their hearts are breaking for the poor unemployed, oppressed everyday Joe... and people will buy it because hey, it's on a blog.
    • I call fake blog (Score:4, Insightful)

      by rjung2k (576317) on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @03:44PM (#8988159) Homepage
      Anyone else getting a flashback to when Microsoft was running Mac-to-Windows "switcher" stories, which turned out to be bogus pieces written by flacks in their PR department?

      $5 says this "blog" is another such flake.
      • Re:I call fake blog (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Golias (176380) on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @03:51PM (#8988258)
        What makes this not astroturfing is that the guy comes right out and says he works for Mircrosoft. If he hid that information before rambling about how nifty MS is, then he would be following in the Grand Tradition of his company.

        I remember the Windows "switcher" fiasco with fondness. IIRC, what got them busted was using public-domain clip-art photos as the people who supposedly switched. People were like, "hey, wasn't she just telling me to refinance my mortgage in a pop-up add last week?"

    • So are you saying that the mainstream media is somehow more truthful? I think it's you who is wrong. Historically, it can be easily shown that the mainstream media lies more than individuals. The vast majority of what you read in your newspaper is a lie. Generally, it is propaganda initiated by powerful entities, like goverment or large corporations or the wealthy.

      If you want some good examples... consider how the mainstream media, including "reputable" sources like New York Times, were printing story a
      • If you want some good examples... consider how the mainstream media, including "reputable" sources like New York Times, were printing story after story about how Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. This wasn't just an opinion; it was supposedly fact.

        Give me an example where the New York Times stated that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. I don't think you understand how journalism works, or can work. Journalists frequently report statements by experts or interested parties. They try to accurately

  • Fuck Me (Score:2, Funny)

    by ribena (739851)
    Does he actually do any work or just write his blog?
  • by Nom du Keyboard (633989) on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @03:32PM (#8987945)
    Although I use MSWord because that's what the world uses, and am a power user who is both a writer and a more than competent VBA programmer. I know where I speak from, however...

    I still keep Word Perfect 5.1 on my 386-SX based Toshiba notebook. Notebook and word processor run just fine, and to this day would meet 99% of my needs if I didn't have to exchange documents with others (meaning they send me MSWord files).

    I remember when WP succeeded because they supported a wide variety of hardware, and most every printer in existence -- unlike anyone else at the time.

    And when they failed by not forseeing the quick move to MSWindows 3.0 and above.

    Those were the days. What days? The days when there was still compeition in our industry.

    • by Anonymous Coward
      I ... am ... a ... competent VBA programmer

      Oxymoron detected.
    • by BananaJr6000 (564475) on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @04:54PM (#8989307)
      WordPerfect lost it as much as Word gained it.

      WordPerfect Corporation vs Microsoft Corporation
      1) WP - promote senior assembly programmers as the new Windows programmers, MS - hire new graduates and put them to work under former assembly programmers.
      2) WP - lights out at 5pm, MS - burn the midnight oil.
      3) WP - bet the farm on OS/2, MS - bet the farm on Windows while paying lip service to OS/2.
      4) WP - try to compete with traditional strengths, MS - Work with IBM to create a CUA, then change the CUA once everyone else adopts it.
      5) WP - hated MS so much that they used Borland OWL, MS - made the compiler, made the dlls and APIs, didn't tell anyone about it if they could have an advantage for awhile.
      6) WP - had incompetent management promoted from within including rampant nepotism, MS - hired management from outside, promoted from within when it identified talent.

      The list goes on and on...
  • Interpretation? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Gothmolly (148874) on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @03:33PM (#8987951)
    "In the period 1992-1994, Word wiped the floor with WordPerfect in reviews, winning just about all of them. "

    Excuse my tinfoil hat, but wasn't that about the time that Windows finally stopped sucking utterly, and became a tool that everyone, including PHBs, could use? Isn't this the era of PC Magazine, and John Dvorak, and everyone's grandmother getting a PC?
    Word was never technically superior, it merely appealed to a broader (and simpler) audience. There is a difference. Word won because it got reviews from trade rags. Word won due to a cultural shift - where document presentation became more important than its content, where a document's formatting is more important than its timely production. Word is the Guardent [guardent.com] of word processors.
    In answer to the folks who claim WP was a lousy product, I have two words: Reveal Codes.
    I only jumped to Word97 from PC Word 5, then only because it was a 32bit app. By then, WP was dead and buried. I made the jump to Word2000 at work, then to OOo, which I use under the radar to publish all of my documents, typically via PDF.
    • Re:Interpretation? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by IntlHarvester (11985) on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @03:51PM (#8988260) Journal
      Word was never technically superior, it merely appealed to a broader (and simpler) audience

      It's important to remember that businesses used to run on personal secretaries and typing pools. WordPerfect had an "expert" blank-screen UI that appealed to these users. They could remember Ctrl+F7 (rather than a printer icon) because they really had few other professional responsibilities. Knowing the WP command set warranted a significantly higher pay for secretaries in those days.

      The shift to GUI PCs and MS Word allowed companies to force their PHBs to type their own memos. They then could dismiss/reassign most of the admin staff for considerable cost savings. This wasn't so much a "cultural shift" but a matter of pure $$$.
      • Re:Interpretation? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by MosesJones (55544) on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @05:41PM (#8989872) Homepage
        The shift to GUI PCs and MS Word allowed companies to force their PHBs to type their own memos. They then could dismiss/reassign most of the admin staff for considerable cost savings. This wasn't so much a "cultural shift" but a matter of pure $$$.

        And yet as Tom De Marco in his excellent book "Slack" points out... what this means is PHBs (myself included) now spend huge amounts of time writing documents that previously we would have dictated to assistants and worrying about formating that they would have sorted for us.

        The average sec gets what... $20,000 ? The average senior exec gets $100,000+... and if 25% of their time is in things that a sec could do.

        Is it a real cost saving or has a perceived cost saving actually cost us more.

        I propose going back to troff, perfect formating, perfect control....

        And no sodding powerpoint

        • Re:Interpretation? (Score:3, Interesting)

          by IntlHarvester (11985)
          Yeah, I kinda wonder about that myself. Although I personally can type something up a lot faster than it would take to dictate it or write longhand. Email makes a lot of the formatting issues a moot point anyway.

          I suspect the "cultural shift" was more along the lines of:
          + Gender equity made harder to hire for subordinate secretarial jobs
          + Computerization made it more expensive to hire trained people
          + A trend towards "knowledge workers" -- so you get a bunch of Marketing Assistants rather than typists.

          Also
    • Re:Interpretation? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by maximilln (654768) on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @04:14PM (#8988685) Homepage Journal
      -----
      two words: Reveal Codes
      -----
      I always have my Word set up to show all hidden characters but it still doesn't show all codes.

      I use it mostly for amusement to look at the documents that I receive from other people and see the inane and repetitious page formatting marks that they set, unset, reset, and move. It gives me a sense of how much extra trouble everyone else has constructing a document when their problems could be solved if they would plan their page formatting ahead of time.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    ...isn't used.

    For who didn't know Microsoft has a internal blogging service, which is becoming popular with their employees.

    Eh now?

  • by Ann Elk (668880) on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @03:35PM (#8987981)
    So the Word team organized a special dev team that focused entirely on WordPerfect document import, "reverse-engineering" the WordPerfect file format (documentation for which was jealously guarded, as was the norm back then).
    The more things change...
  • by gilesjuk (604902) <.giles.jones. .at. .zen.co.uk.> on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @03:35PM (#8987993)
    I guess getting OEMs to pre-install Office and not other products can only have helped Microsoft.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @03:35PM (#8987997)

    1. Microsoft bloggers are very enthusiatic about Microsoft.

    2. If you get turned down for a job at Apple you might not like the computers so much any more.

    3. Asian versions of software are complicated.

    4. Microsoft puts out crappy products at first and then listens to customers to improve them.

    5. Other companies make mistakes and Microsoft almost always takes advantage of the situation.

    6. Having a huge monopoly in operating systems and file formats gives Bill Gates a huge erection. I swear you can see it during meetings.

    (Okay I made up that last one.)

  • Too ironic (Score:5, Interesting)

    by maximino (767005) on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @03:36PM (#8987998)
    Oh, I love this:

    The Word planning team discovered that the WordPerfect sales force was going around to customers and showing Word opening a complex WordPerfect file (printer.tst) to show how bad the conversion was, and therefore how pointless it would be to try to switch to Word. So the Word team organized a special dev team that focused entirely on WordPerfect document import, "reverse-engineering" the WordPerfect file format (documentation for which was jealously guarded, as was the norm back then).

    And of course Microsoft now uses open file formats, which mean that OpenOffice can seamlessly open Word files. Microsoft would certainly never try to keep people using its products by suggesting that other products would be unable to open its files. It's features and price that sell product today, boys and girls!

  • What I'm wondering is why the higher ups at Microsoft appear comfortable with their employees chatting it up in online forums that will most likely become public. Either they are very confident in employee allegiance, or maybe they're betting that what they're doing may be perceived by the public in a favorable enough way that even if an insider talked trash, the public's seeing MSFT's confidence in their employees' confidence (by letting them blog) would outweigh the trash talking. On the other hand, I cou
    • Re:MS's blogging (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Infonaut (96956) <infonaut@gmail.com> on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @04:00PM (#8988438) Homepage Journal
      What I'm wondering is why the higher ups at Microsoft appear comfortable with their employees chatting it up in online forums that will most likely become public.

      Excellent question. Maybe I've got my tinfoil hat on too tight, but I wouldn't put it past Microsoft's management to have a plan akin to this: "Hey, go out and make Microsoft look good. Speak as individuals. Tell the world that we're really NOT the Evil Empire."

      Microsoft has tried to manipulate public opinion [informationweek.com] of them before. Maybe they're just getting more subtle. When the big money doesn't work, go soft-touch.

  • by dillon_rinker (17944) on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @03:36PM (#8988010) Homepage
    I've been a little gun-shy of blogging about Word for fear of being inundated by what are as far as I can tell a gang of "net thugs" who roam the net making outrageous claims about Microsoft and its behavior

    Puh-leeze, Chris, you manage a flagship product for one of the richest monopolists in the country, one that has de facto control of the IT market, and you're afraid of emails from 13-year-old kids?

    Try to at least ACT like a man.

  • Chris Pratley (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jrj102 (87650) * on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @03:36PM (#8988012) Homepage
    I've met Chris a number of times... he's a real stand-up guy with a good head on his shoulders. If Microsoft had more like him they would probably be very successful... no, wait...

    I rather like Microsoft's newfound interest in what they call "transparancy." I think that the blogging trend inside MS is a good thing-- it is surprising how little the company curtails the content on their employee's blogs.

    --- JRJ
    • Re:Chris Pratley (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Choco-man (256940) on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @04:30PM (#8988933)
      and by 'how little the company curtalis the content' you of course weren't referring to the fella who got himself fired by posting a picture of a loading dock, right?
    • by blamanj (253811) on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @05:31PM (#8989734)
      I rather like Microsoft's newfound interest in what they call "transparancy."

      Since this is Microsoft we're talking about, shouldn't the more appropriate word be glasnost ?
  • by 4of12 (97621) on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @03:37PM (#8988029) Homepage Journal

    I'm sure more than a few of the bright employees at MS have some stories waiting to be told. OTOH, they're probably still grateful for the stock option wealth of the last 2 decades and feel some loyalty to the company that has done both good and bad.

    Maybe Bob Woodward ought to interview some of them....

  • That's it (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Otter (3800) on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @03:37PM (#8988039) Journal
    So, that in a nutshell is the Microsoft method. Understand the market, and the customers, and then go pedal to the metal, with release after release focused on what the customers need, incorporating their feedback. That puts the competition into reaction mode. And of course it helps if they also make a strategic error because they are under so much pressure.

    Or, to put it another way: version 1 sucks, version 2 sucks, they keep pushing on, version 3 isn't bad, 4 is better, 5 is pretty good, 6 is excellent. Of course, at that point they've improved as much as they can, things start getting clunkier and the Linux knockoff has reached the quality of version 4.

    But it's a better plan than a) making something good, systematically ruining it and then suing Microsoft or b) making something that sucks, freaking out and making something else that sucks and then suing Microsoft, the two primary approaches of their competition.

    • by Nom du Keyboard (633989) on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @04:06PM (#8988539)
      version 1 sucks, version 2 sucks, they keep pushing on, version 3 isn't bad, 4 is better, 5 is pretty good, 6 is excellent.

      And at Version 7 we change the entire file structure to demolish the compeition and force a new upgrade cycle, after seeding the CIO with a free copy.

      You'd better bet the whole company will upgrade after said CIO finds out no one else in the company can open his memos saved in the new default format.

  • You lost me... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by akaina (472254) * on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @03:39PM (#8988066) Journal
    Details like great design were not critical to most customers, so that didn't really make it into the products, except where it mattered to the customer. It's hard to fault this logic really - it is pure efficiency from a business perspective

    I'm sorry, but try as I may, you completely lost me after that comment.

    Short sighted design gives M$ a bad name among developers - and by people who use computers more than the "average consumer", like say: at work.

    Microsoft: Bottom line - push product - get money.

    There's nothing "pure" what-so-ever about this statement. You may as well be writing about how you learned to appreciate McDonalds.
    • Re:You lost me... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by skifreak87 (532830) on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @04:08PM (#8988582)
      No his point is, what was important to MS was selling the most amount of units. That means, targetting the widest audience, not necessarily the people who'd use it the most/benefit most from a better product. What he's saying is that most customer's needed a decent easy-to-us4e product and that's what microsoft produced. Focusing on quality when it's not what most of your customers care most about would have been a very poor business decision. Just because developers hate M$ doesn't mean they're not a very business savy company, look how profitable/dominant they are. They're clearly doing something right (any and all arguments about abusing their monopoly must realize they had to earn their monopoly before they could abuse it).

      Microsoft's method: Design a product usable by the maximum amount of people that has enough functionality to keep most people using it.

      Better than: design the perfect feature-laden product which will be impossible for 90% of people to learn.

      Remember microsoft gets paid per unit sold, regardless of how much you use the software.
  • net thugs? (Score:5, Funny)

    by GillBates0 (664202) on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @03:40PM (#8988093) Homepage Journal
    I've been a little gun-shy of blogging about Word for fear of being inundated by what are as far as I can tell a gang of "net thugs" who roam the net making outrageous claims about Microsoft and its behavior, motives, etc in every public forum they find (none of which information they are privy to, little of which they have evidence for, and basically all of which I find personally offensive, not to mention incorrect - since they often are implicitly about me and therefore I for one know them to be incorrect).

    does that word mean what I think it means? .
    .
    .
    S-L-A-S-H-D-O-T?

  • by jared_hanson (514797) on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @03:43PM (#8988148) Homepage Journal
    After a year of distrusting the company somewhat, I began to gain an appreciation of how Microsoft worked, and to see it for what it was - a machine that was focused on building products that people wanted, as quickly and as well as they could. Note the "quickly" - this was what distinguished MS from Apple in the end - a focus on moving quickly, and beating the competition. Details like great design were not critical to most customers, so that didn't really make it into the products, except where it mattered to the customer.

    I haven't read the whole thing, but I wanted to comment on this. His argument makes sense for a certain amount of time, but that time may come to a halt quickly. Microsoft's core business units (Windows and Office) are quickly becoming commodity prices. The efforts of Linux and OpenOffice are, in most respects, equaling the features found in Microsoft products. At the same time, the number any new features added often just bloat the product. When this happens, you have to start competing on quality.

    Linux does this as an OS in the server room. However, as a mainstream desktop, Linux lacks in the quality department (ease of use, interface consistency). However, Windows isn't the greatest at these things either and open source should see a huge hole for stealing market share if people get behind efforts to improve the quality (UI, etc.) of the desktop product.

    Apple has demonstrated the validity of the quality thinking, unfortunately they seem content to remain a niche market player. I really respect Apple for this, but would love to see Linux take a page from their quality book and read it to the mainstream.
  • by Jack Wagner (444727) on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @03:45PM (#8988167) Homepage Journal
    Details like great design were not critical to most customers, so that didn't really make it into the products, except where it mattered to the customer.

    I think this, despite what the slashdot techy/programmer crowd may think, is spot on. MS has a reputation for rushing stuff out the door and for selling borken software, but the fact is that most of their stuff was "good enough" where it counted. Then over time they hack away and hack away until they mostly get it right. Other software companies could learn for them on this strategy although perhaps things are a bit different today.

    • Most companies, unlike Microsoft, do not have the luxury of releasing broken version after broken version until they get it right. This is just another example of Microsoft leveraging it's success in the OS market to gain a hold on another market.

      I'm not saying that Microsoft was wrong or they were using a bad business model. They made some very good strategic decisions. But IMHO the business model only worked so well because they are Microsoft.
    • Add this:
      -----
      And of course it helps if they also make a strategic error because they are under so much pressure.
      -----
      To this:
      -----
      Details like great design were not critical to most customers, so that didn't really make it into the products, except where it mattered to the customer
      -----
      And it all makes perfect sense.

      -----
      but the fact is that most of their stuff was "good enough" where it counted
      -----
      Take for example the rush to beat OS/2 to market. "Good enough" was, at that time, any GUI OS that would b
  • This is cute! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Nom du Keyboard (633989) on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @03:47PM (#8988200)
    (remember this was back when PC-focused magazines existed in large numbers, and actually reviewed products and compared them).

    How about remember when EULA's didn't prohibit benchmarking under threat of well-funded legal assault?

    Yes, I remember when good vendors were proud to show the world what their products could do.

    How about it, Chris? We all know you're reading /. today to see how your blog is being received. You're in the inside. How about doing your part to open up benchmarking of all MS products again?

  • Head Hunter Fodder (Score:5, Interesting)

    by malia8888 (646496) on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @03:48PM (#8988218)
    I used to be a corporate head hunter, finding great people from one company and moving them to a competitor's company.

    If I were still in that business I would be mining those in company blogs for the best talent. If I were Microsoft I would make those strictly available for internal use only.

    True, it would be difficult to romance someone away from the biggest "bestest"; however, many of us have been trapped under an evil middle management boss at one time or another and would be willing to defect.

  • Word is The Winner (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @03:51PM (#8988252)
    I suppose it's true. Fine.

    But I gotta note that Word drives me up the g.d. fscking wall with its habit of altering formats for no apparent reason. Indentions, fonts, everything just changes at random because I press spacebar, enter, backspace or delete. Sometimes half a page of prior paragraphs will change because I pressed a button while editing an entirely different paragraph.

    The damn bloody thing does not behave. I could get better cooperation from a two-year-old child. Don't you tell me I must be doing something wrong, or that I must need to get an upgrade. Bah. It's been this way for years.

    MacWrite never acted like this. StarOffice neither. This has nothing to do with Linux Zealotry or Open Source Fantacism - I could care less about any of that.

    Yes, Microsoft is the winner: When it comes to pure teeth-splintering, hair-shredding frustration, Microsoft, congratulations, you've got 'em all beat, and you probably always will.

    Bastards.
    • You're right. Word SUCKS. I can't figure out how to format numbered paragraphes for outlines at all. Wordperfect with it's 'reveal codes' was much better. Still there are people that swear by word, they love it. Guess some people just have a MS mind set. To each his own.

  • by ivanmarsh (634711) on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @03:52PM (#8988272)
    If you write a GUI OS and don't give developers from competing companies any info about the OS you get to market first, and win.

    Anyone remember Sprint by Borland? Of course you don't.

    It's also the reason Access took over and not Paradox.

    oh... It had more than a little to do with why no one uses Quattro by Borland also.

    Borland's first line of Windows versions of their software had to be developed with VERY little knowledge of the Windows API.

    It's funny that he doesn't mention any of the lawsuit wars that went on between MS and Borland when Windows first came out.

    They sued Borland over having drop-down menus in their products... and won.
  • by sampson7 (536545) on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @03:54PM (#8988307)
    So the Word team organized a special dev team that focused entirely on WordPerfect document import, "reverse-engineering" the WordPerfect file format .... but in particular their goal was to have no errors at all on printer.tst. Later the Word sales force used that same file when talking to customers as proof that Word 6.0 could open WordPerfect files flawlessly.

    So what changed? Word of today does not open WordPerfect files -- hell, it doesn't even open Microsoft Works files! He seems to understand that this is a huge deal to users, but the modern Word program ignores this basic need.

    For instance, I teach a class online [umuc.edu]. Part of the requirement is that students submit papers throughout the semester. Being an open minded and computer literate kinda guy, my syllabus allowed students to submit papers in any common file format.... Only to find that Word XP garbles anything that's not Word -- even other Microsoft products! Unbelievable. Fortunately, I have access to WP and OfficeStar -- but even then, opening Works files was nigh impossible until I found that one of my old laptops came pre-installed with it.

    So I guess I just don't get it -- he understands the issue but ignores the solution. A perfect example of why Word is the choice we live with rather then the choice we desire.
  • Please... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jpellino (202698) on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @03:55PM (#8988337)
    I began to gain an appreciation of how Microsoft worked, and to see it for what it was - a machine that was focused on building products that people wanted, as quickly and as well as they could. Note the "quickly" - this was what distinguished MS from Apple in the end - a focus on moving quickly, and beating the competition. Details like great design were not critical to most customers, so that didn't really make it into the products, except where it mattered to the customer.

    Sounds like MS would rather have a half-baked product now than a great one later (or maybe ever). Nice. It does totally ring with the sense of their products in my experience, be they Mac or WIn platforms. They have to understand that they see things from the perspective of those who have been working with incremental versions of their stuff for so long - and you get this sense from the minutia in the blog - that they have no sense of an outsider, pulling up to a computer that they just unwrapped, and trying to get some plain old writing done by using Word. It's like being dropped into the cockpit of a plane and being told to drive. It does dozens of non-intuitive things before you even get to the annoying parts, and it's ALL design. They know this. Every so often that ship something that makes good design sense and does breakthru stuff - but mostly their work is fraught with details that get in the way rather than accellerate your work.

  • A bit more history (Score:5, Informative)

    by Nom du Keyboard (633989) on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @03:58PM (#8988394)
    Windows 3.0 came out and it wasn't a toy. It wasn't great, but it actually worked well enough that people found they could be productive using it. Windows 3.1 (and then Windows for Workgroups 3.11) came out

    What made Windows 3.1 successful was really two things, neither of which really involved the gee-whiz-bang GUI interface:

    1: Since printer drivers were now part of the standard operating system, once a printer driver existed for Win3x, it worked for every program in Win3x. This was a huge improvement over getting the proper printer driver for your particular program.

    2: At Win3.1, True Type scalable fonts were integrated into the operating system, which meant they now worked with every Win3.1 compatable program. Hard for many people to remember -- or even imagine -- days before scalable fonts were common everywhere as they are now.

    The was also better memory management for extended memory.

    But those two items alone are really the big deal of Win3.0/3.1 -- and they are a big deal.

  • This is a very good article by an insider. It is probably a bit biased but, nevertheless, is well worth reading. One of the main points that one would understand is how strong Microsoft marketing is.

    Half of software is marketing; half is engineering. Too bad some people still haven't realized it....

    Sivaram Velauthapillai
  • by pyrrho (167252) on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @04:15PM (#8988705) Journal
    you've played right into their hands... things posted to the net are now considered "Microsoft Internal".

    !!!! :)
  • by Featureless (599963) on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @04:25PM (#8988863) Journal
    I quote the article, as the author describes his... ...fear of being inundated by what are as far as I can tell a gang of "net thugs" who roam the net making outrageous claims about Microsoft and its behavior, motives, etc in every public forum they find (none of which information they are privy to, little of which they have evidence for, and basically all of which I find personally offensive, not to mention incorrect - since they often are implicitly about me and therefore I for one know them to be incorrect). But enough about that - let's just dive in and see what happens. Hopefully the net-dwelling paranoid delusional conspiracy theorists won't descend upon me... :-)

    With respect, there are certainly plenty of lower-than-the-common-denominator internet users willing to throw an egg for no particularly good reason, but this writer is strikingly dishonest in his defense of his employer.

    Microsoft is a monopolist who has profited tremendously from shipping user-antaganostic code under cover of standards-lock-in. This is hardly an "outrageous" accusation; rather, it's been established in the courts, but far more, it's common knowledge and indeed, a running joke.

    The company's story is interesting because, when they see their monopoly threatened, they are capable of rising to the occasion and doing good work. But they are a classic victim of their success, indeed, at many times a classic monopolist, and they often have acted it. When there was no incentive for them to do a good job, they did a terrible one, smirking all the way to the bank.

    And they are crystal clear in their mission - not to "provide better products faster" or whatever the PR materials say this week, but to enrich themselves. And if there is a choice between enriching themselves and providing better software faster, they make the "right" choice every time. But should Chris suggest I am a "thug" for saying so, I hope he will include the U.S. Department of Justice - who advanced the same idea, and prevailed in court.

    Chris wants to breathlessly paint his company's critics with the straw-man tar brush - as he does so, he is being dishonest.

    I did find his writing on his work to be fascinating, and I'd say he expresses himself well, and it's no surprise he's found the success he has within the company. But he curiously glosses over the role that OEM bundling played in the success of the Office franchise.

    You see, as Microsoft sat on the backs of the computer manufacturers and twisted arms, it had an excellent position to "entice" bundling deals that would choke off a 3rd party software market like, say, office softawre, by making sure that their own products were conveniently already included on new computers for a reasonable price.

    This is hardly as clear cut as what they did to control the browser or media player landscape, but does anyone (outside of a Microsoft manager with a certain proprietary interest in it being more about his own skill) have the audacity to suggest Word won the format war purely on its merits?
  • DMCA (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Fuzzums (250400) on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @04:45PM (#8989202) Homepage
    " "reverse-engineering" the WordPerfect file format (documentation for which was jealously guarded, as was the norm back then) "

    Hmmm. If the DMCA was in effect in that time, was this legal to do???
  • Infered tactics (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Intrigued (757997) on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @04:56PM (#8989342)
    The most important aspect of this article is the insight that it shows in how to become the front runner in a software battle.

    Key points are:

    • Look for major shifts in disruptive technology and be prepared to ride the wave ahead of the opponent
    • GUI in this case, WP missed it and couldn't play catchup quick enough
    • Don't forsake backward compatibility
    • Apple did it with IIe to Mac, WordStar did it in this article. It gives people the opportunity to re-evaluate a leveled playing field when they are already pissed at you.
    • If you have to play catchup, don't alienate your users with a crappy, halfbaked compromise
    • Backward compatibility doesn't mean backward thinking
    • Research and play on the design grievances against the current front runner
    • Word was designed against WP defects
    • Develop features and function against the mud slinging of the front runner
    • takes the sting out of the foundation of the front runner argument
    • Cross compatibility
    • =backward compatibility - if the road that the fake detour sign points to looks better than the real road, it will be believed.
    These are some excellent insights that GPL software designers should keep in mind. Both from the stance of priority in design and what to expect from the competition.
  • by bogie (31020) on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @05:28PM (#8989710) Journal
    They got left behind with the transition to 32bit programs. WP 6.1 was slow to launch and the Office 95 was easy to pirate. It was actually interesting to watch. One person in an office would get Office 95 and then suddenly that same version would end up on every machine. Then companies starting getting on the Net. Suddenly Word .doc files were being emailed around and now needed to be read by companies not using Word. The need to read .doc files because narrow-minded business parters refused to use anything else really sealed WP's fate. Then...well you know the rest of the story. As much as I like to hype OpenOffice.org, no way Microsoft is going to let history repeat itself in the business world. They'll give Office away for Free before they let cede the Fortune 1000 market to someone else.

    Also contrary to this guys take it was NEVER about quality. If it was Word Perfect would have won out.

    btw I'd still rather use WP 6.1 over any version of Word even today. Word is infuriating to work with as it constantly has to do things "its way". I just recently was updating my resume which hasn't been touched in years and the act of just adding a simple bullet point in line with the others made me want to smash my head into my monitor.

  • by njdj (458173) on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @06:01PM (#8990122)
    Putting users of 2 products side-by-side and watching to see what they find difficult ... that one idea is probably responsible for a lot of Microsoft's success.

    One specific feature he mentioned as a must-have for the Japanese market, the ability to have a line of text running vertically in a table cell, is still not available in OpenOffice AFAIK.
  • by Sir Holo (531007) * on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @06:05PM (#8990164)
    These blogs are a new form of advertising, kids. This has the same strategy as the "I work at Enron" ad campaign.
    The same thing is done to fight back against the currently very efficient way for consumers to communicate, and share opinions and information about products, companies, etc.. As more and more companies catch on, the signal will increasingly be drowned out by the "marketing" noise, use of the same communication methods for advertising purposes. It happens with every new space; you just have to stay ahead of the curve.

    Marketing - n. Hijacking trusted forms of communication.
  • by hak1du (761835) on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @06:30PM (#8990451) Journal
    His argument is that Microsoft Word won because it was the "best" word processor because Microsoft has listened so carefully to its customers. There are several things wrong with that argument.

    First, it is naive to think that there is a single "best" piece of software for everybody. Is there a single "best" car? A single "best" phone company? A single "best" suit of clothes? A single best food? They tried the one-size-fits-all in the planned economies of Russia and China, and you know how well that worked. It seems naive to think that there is any single word processor that works well for 90% of the people.

    Second, the quality differences are irrelevant to most people. Lotus Smartsuite, StarOffice, WordPerfect, etc. were almost certainly all good enough for at least 90% of all users. But the fact is that no amount of lowering the prices of those other products made them competitive.

    Today, people buy Microsoft Word even though they can get OpenOffice for free. Why? It's not because Microsoft Word has more buttons or more features, it is because the only way people can be sure that they can read Microsoft Word documents is by buying Microsoft Word. Microsoft Word may also happen to be a well-engineered word processor, but the need to read Word's proprietary format was the thing that assured Microsoft Word adoption half a dozen years ago, and it still is.
  • by Ffakr (468921) on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @07:02PM (#8990834) Homepage
    so, Apple lost a customer because he, a computer developer, couldn't troubleshoot a Type 11 (hardware exception) error? Geez, I'd have fixed it if he'd have just asked nice.
  • History Repeating. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by catwh0re (540371) on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @08:07PM (#8991483)
    "..So the Word team organized a special dev team that focused entirely on WordPerfect document import, "reverse-engineering" the WordPerfect file format (documentation for which was jealously guarded, as was the norm back then). Their goal was to make any WordPerfect doc open flawlessly in Word, but in particular their goal was to have no errors at all on printer.tst."

    I wonder which company is jealously guarding their file formats now... I wonder how MS Word would have grown if the DMCA existed then.

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