Re: The One Thing...

From: Charlie Stross (
Date: Thu Jan 25 2001 - 06:21:13 MST

On Thu, Jan 25, 2001 at 11:42:04AM +0100, wrote:
> I honestly don't know of a single instance of a decent MS product having
> been developed entirely in-house. Max, anyone, please tell me one, I
> honestly want to know. Such a case needs to be studied, since being an
> excellent diagnostic, the first step to therapy.
Was Microsoft Works developed in house? I seem to recall that it
was. Works 1.0 for DOS was a dog, but by version 2.0 (1989!) it had
matured into a _nice_ lightweight integrated suite, and Works 4 for
Windows was a classic -- it had the 10% of the features that everybody
needs, with none of the cruft that has piled up on top of Microsoft

But, IIRC, Microsoft killed Works because it was chewing into sales
of their (high-end, bloated) flagship product line.

> My point is that there's something strange going on inside Microsoft.
> They have money to hire the best of the best in the industry (their
> job interviews is state of the art in Spanish Inquisition), and they
> did. But somehow, the company structure is scrambled, and, worse,
> scrambled in a way which actively resists fixing.

My personal theory is that Microsoft is the world's greatest marketing
company. Good software quality is orthogonal to marketing. In fact, once
you have the market by the throat, _poor_ quality is more desirable,
because it forces people to keep buying faster computers (more Windows
licenses! Yippee!) and upgrades (more Office licenses! Yippee!).

Of course, this is not a long-term survival strategy, as witness
the identity of the first operating system to ship on the IA-64
architecture. Microsoft will get the shit kicked out of them by lean
and mean competitors, just as IBM did in the 1980's and early 1990's,
unless they manage to buy the US government lock, stock, and barrel. And
at least one of the competitors (Linux) is so lean and mean that Microsoft
will have to fight hard to keep it from chewing their guts out.

Obligatory dystopia: "Outlaw School", by Rebecca Ore. A novel I heartily
commend to all Extropians, with the caveat that you should *not* read it
when you're feeling depressed.

-- Charlie

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