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Microsoft XBox (Games) Businesses Operating Systems Software Windows

The Soul of A New Microsoft 294

Posted by Zonk
from the nice-picture-j dept.
BusinessWeek Online is running a front page story today about the new future of Microsoft. By 'looking beyond Windows', the company is utilizing fresh blood to come up with new products like the Zune, the Xbox 360, and various online sites. While the Zune probably isn't getting off to as successful a start as they might have liked, the article argues it's a positive sign that they're at least making the attempt. From the article: "The point is that Microsoft needs to find its un-Vista. Several of them, in fact. The software giant is entering perhaps the greatest upheaval in its 30-year history. New business models are emerging--from low-cost "open-source" software to advertising-supported Web services--that threaten Microsoft's core business like never before. For investors to care about the company, it needs to find new growth markets. Its $44.3 billion in annual sales are puttering along at an 11% growth pace. Its shares, which soared 9,560% throughout the 1990s, sunk 63% in 2000 when the Internet bubble burst, and they have yet to fully recover."
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The Soul of A New Microsoft

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  • by A beautiful mind (821714) on Sunday November 26, 2006 @06:14PM (#16995312)
    Thing is, their success with Windows was being at the right place at the right time, utilizing ruthless business tactics and just being plain lucky.

    They could get away for a decade worth of half-assed technical side and marketing because of their monopoly. Thing is, whenever they tried to enter another market, it raised the question why. When looking at their attempts, many people drew the conclusion, that they wanted to compete at any price and that's why they threw their sometimes failing products out there. In retrospect I think we can say that they tried to perform their usual strategy, but without the backing of the monopoly they fell flat on their face. Of course, the notable exception is the Xbox 360. It might be luck, or that the Xbox division independent enough from the core MS that it can make itself work.

    Microsoft is not reinventing itself, at least not yet. Zune is an utter failure and I can't think of any single successful product apart from Xbox 360, Windows and Office that was a success. The last two wells are drying up.
  • by Aphrika (756248) on Sunday November 26, 2006 @06:35PM (#16995484)
    Apple.

    Seriously, in 1997 Apple was on the brink of extermination. It had a stale product line, and abortive OS update (Copland) begun in 1994 which was eventually canned, it's replacement to appear a massive 7 years later as OS X. And you think MS's handling of Vista was bad...

    Them boom! Jobs is back, the iMac appears, OS X appears, the iPod appears, switches to Intel, Apple reinvents itself again - successfully. You could argue that Jobs is pretty much the heart and soul of Apple.

    Microsoft don't have anyone like that. You could argue that Bill Gates is, but most of the projects he's personally championed have been niche markets. Sure, they've had their successful market areas; Windows Mobile, Xbox, Windows Mediacenter, Auto PCs, but you kind of wish they'd look again at what people want.

    Apple get it; get a person iTunes, an iPod and a Mac and they're sorted for most of their entertainment needs. Want it around the house? Get an Airtunes adaptor.

    Sony don't get it; PSP speaks to PS3, and um... ATRAC? Minidisc? Er... Memory Stick slots? Their idea of a digital home doesn't incorporate other vendors and isn't feature-complete. On its own, Sony stuff doesn't make you go 'wow'.

    Microsoft desperately need to get it and the thing they have going in their favour is - ironically - interoperability. Apple and Sony are stuck in lock-in land - our kit, our standards, our profit. If Microsoft took their head out of the sand for a moment and realised this, bit their lip and went with something a bit more open-minded, then they could really make a difference. However, like Sony and Apple, I think they'll be putting their bottom line/market share first, and what consumers want second. It's nice that we're seeing a change though and that they're having a shot at trying new stuff with the Xbox 360 (definitely a great console, no matter how you cut it) and Zune (average first try), but they need to try a bit harder...
  • by NeoNastyNerd (624859) on Sunday November 26, 2006 @06:46PM (#16995618)
    I believe that Microsoft is still being run by its original founders (Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer in particular), who still put forth the old Microsoft mentality. As new blood enters the company and the old (can I say "cancer?"), is finally evicted, they may actually turn into an ethical corporation. If you look at many of the MSDN blogs you can see that the developers coming into the company now are much more familiar with the FOSS and understand what it means. I see a sort of "grass roots" change going on within the company that will really take off once that loud mouth Ballmer finally lets go of his Empire mentality.
  • by tkrotchko (124118) * on Sunday November 26, 2006 @06:46PM (#16995630) Homepage
    .NET = SAA
    Vista = OS/2

    Proving the computer industry is like a Saturday afternoon matinee...if you hang around long enough, things start repeating themselves.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 26, 2006 @06:48PM (#16995646)
    "He died in a bar... I understand Kildall's feelings. Someone had screwed me in the same way that Gates screwed Kildall."

    The way you tell it, it sounds like Kildall screwed himself by measuring his success ("wealth and fame") against that of Gates.

    Bad idea. Envy is not only a shitty business model -- as one J Allard is currently discovering to his chagrin -- but it's also a crappy way to live your life.
  • by Taagehornet (984739) on Sunday November 26, 2006 @07:35PM (#16996032)
    Microsoft has mostly been about making products barely clearing the bar
    Conveniently choosing to ignore the work done by Anders Hejlsberg & Co with the .net framework
    Conveniently choosing to ignore the groundbreaking research on language design and static code analysis done by the Spec# [microsoft.com] team
    Conveniently choosing to ignore that the debugger in Visual Studio stands head and shoulders above the competition
    Conveniently choosing to ignore how Microsoft has been able to establish itself as a major player in the game console world in surprisingly short time

    The list continues, but who am I kidding, could anyone here be bothered...
  • by ProfessionalCookie (673314) on Sunday November 26, 2006 @08:02PM (#16996282) Journal
    Here's some insight [google.com] on how they holidays are looking so far. I know the scale is terrible so here's another that shows how things haven't changed [google.com] much after the original (notice that the Sansa didn't even have that much excitment) announcement- not even for the release date. Also notice the lack of recent news releases for Zune- Google conspiracy? I think Not.

    Finally, something a little more objective [google.com].

    As far as Windows goes, if MS wants to make real progress they'd break binary compatibility (san virtualization per "Classic"), get rid of legacy hardware support and depreciate/destroy old APIs. 'Course my theory is that Microsoft isn't interested in progress. That said, I'm bit jealous of Picasa and the Filmstrip view.

  • Re:Factoid (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 26, 2006 @08:09PM (#16996334)
    antizune.com:

    Registrant:
    Domains by Proxy, Inc.
    DomainsByProxy.com
    15111 N. Hayden Rd., Ste 160, PMB 353
    Scottsdale, Arizona 85260
    United States

    Registered through: GoDaddy.com, Inc. (http://www.godaddy.com)
    Domain Name: ANTIZUNE.COM
    Created on: 30-Aug-06
    Expires on: 30-Aug-07
    Last Updated on: 30-Aug-06

    Administrative Contact:
    Private, Registration ANTIZUNE.COM@domainsbyproxy.com
    Domains by Proxy, Inc.
    DomainsByProxy.com
    15111 N. Hayden Rd., Ste 160, PMB 353
    Scottsdale, Arizona 85260
    United States
    (480) 624-2599 Fax -- (480) 624-2599

    Technical Contact:
    Private, Registration ANTIZUNE.COM@domainsbyproxy.com
    Domains by Proxy, Inc.
    DomainsByProxy.com
    15111 N. Hayden Rd., Ste 160, PMB 353
    Scottsdale, Arizona 85260
    United States
    (480) 624-2599 Fax -- (480) 624-2599

    Domain servers in listed order:
    PARK27.SECURESERVER.NET
    PARK28.SECURESERVER.NET

    antizune.net:

    Registrant:
    Abdulrahman Mashabi
    P.O.Box 3382
    Al-Khobar, N/A 31952
    Saudi Arabia

    Registered through: GoDaddy.com, Inc. (http://www.godaddy.com)
    Domain Name: ANTIZUNE.NET
    Created on: 30-Aug-06
    Expires on: 30-Aug-07
    Last Updated on: 30-Aug-06

    Administrative Contact:
    Mashabi, Abdulrahman zune@crystalsat.com
    P.O.Box 3382
    Al-Khobar, N/A 31952
    Saudi Arabia
    966506400464 Fax -- 966 3 8059555

    Technical Contact:
    Mashabi, Abdulrahman zune@crystalsat.com
    P.O.Box 3382
    Al-Khobar, N/A 31952
    Saudi Arabia
    966506400464 Fax -- 966 3 8059555

    Domain servers in listed order:
    PARK27.SECURESERVER.NET
    PARK28.SECURESERVER.NET

    antizune.org:

    Domain ID:D128059941-LROR
    Domain Name:ANTIZUNE.ORG
    Created On:30-Aug-2006 16:40:10 UTC
    Last Updated On:30-Oct-2006 03:46:45 UTC
    Expiration Date:30-Aug-2007 16:40:10 UTC
    Sponsoring Registrar:Go Daddy Software, Inc. (R91-LROR)
    Status:CLIENT DELETE PROHIBITED
    Status:CLIENT RENEW PROHIBITED
    Status:CLIENT TRANSFER PROHIBITED
    Status:CLIENT UPDATE PROHIBITED
    Registrant ID:GODA-022994137
    Registrant Name:Abdulrahman Mashabi
    Registrant Street1:P.O.Box
  • by kabdib (81955) on Sunday November 26, 2006 @08:20PM (#16996404) Homepage
    If Gary had been on the ball technically (instead of being self-absorbed and not seeming to worry about the company's long-term prospects) then utter disasters like GEM would never have happened.

    DRI became technically irrelevant around 1986. They could have saved things, they could have hired better people, done some decent UI design, gotten some apps together, done some decent technology, but they just pissed the opportunity away.

    Microsofties might have been arrogant, but at least they were willing to cut you some slack once they realized you knew what you were doing. The DRI folks never got past arrogance and a high-falutin' "we can't possibly be wrong" attitude. Found a bug in the linker, or CP/M, or GEMDOS? You had to prove it six different ways, then they'd fix it WRONG. (My apologies to the (few) DRI people who treated my team like human beings).

    If Killdall had seen the level at which his people were operating, if he'd seen how his company was being screwed up at its roots (quality of code, of design, of customer interaction) then DRI might have survived. They had their chance and blew it, and I don't miss them.
  • Re:What The?!? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Geoffreyerffoeg (729040) on Sunday November 26, 2006 @08:36PM (#16996526)
    Well, Apple has let you burn Audio CDs of purchases off the iTunes store since the beginning. I don't know where you came up with the idea that you cannot burn a CD.

    He's saying that yes, you can burn a CD - the capability is there and always has been there, but there never was the legal right that you may burn a CD - and thus Apple's DRM, in some ways at least, allows more abilities than the law protects rights.
  • by Overly Critical Guy (663429) on Sunday November 26, 2006 @08:52PM (#16996666)
    By 'looking beyond Windows', the company is utilizing fresh blood to come up with new products like the Zune, the Xbox 360, and various online sites.

    Wow, totally wrong. Microsoft is always focused on the Windows platform. What the hell do you think the Zune and the XBox 360 exist for? The Zune only runs on Windows and uses Windows audio formats, and the XBox 360 runs Windows and uses DirectX.

    This author is arguing that Microsoft is going outside of Windows with these devices, when Microsoft is actually using them to drive even more dependency on Windows and its related technologies. Every single thing Microsoft does can be viewed through the prism of preserving or extending their platform in some way. The Zune is a response to the iPod's Windows-independent digital media, and the XBox was a response to the Playstation's gobbling up of the PC gaming market, .NET and web services was a response to Java, and so forth. The company exhibits a sort of reactionary paranoia to everything that is always intended to preserve the Windows platform.
  • Re:What The?!? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by jrobinson5 (974354) on Sunday November 26, 2006 @09:00PM (#16996720)
    For one thing, the ability to use it on more than 5 computers. Most people don't have this many computers, but those who do still have the legal right, but not the technological ability, to do so.
  • by sepharious (900148) on Sunday November 26, 2006 @09:37PM (#16996962) Homepage
    make windows open-source and sell support for it, the user-base is already there, the software support is there and contrary to what alot of /. thinks, there are good ideas and features of Windows that could be further developed by the inclusion of a wider development audience. this may not be the cash cow that Microsoft is used to, but its better than dying off from a lack of creativity and vision. and maybe, just maybe, they'd get some of their more elusive projects out of the door (WinFS anyone?)
  • by gamer4Life (803857) on Sunday November 26, 2006 @10:11PM (#16997232)
    We're the ones that are funding all of Microsoft's foray into console development and digital music players. We pay the Windows tax which gets funnelled into these worthless products of theirs. Not much of what Microsoft does is innovative. XBox? Zune? They do nothing for the advancement of technology. At least with Sony, they innovate somewhat. From the Cell to Blu-ray, at least that's new. Microsoft just takes a market segment and uses it's Windows monopoly to dominate.

    Boycott the Zune and the XBox - get them to do something innovative for once.

  • by mdfst13 (664665) on Sunday November 26, 2006 @11:01PM (#16997516)
    Of all the people with whom Microsoft has dealt, they did well by Kildall. Since their software ran on CP/M, they kept sending him customers.

    IBM wanted software written to work with their new PC. A high ranking executive knew Gates' mom (Mary Gates). IBM approached Microsoft and asked for some help. As part of that talk, Microsoft told them that they were using CP/M as their OS and sent IBM to Kildall. Kildall almost screwed Microsoft here. IBM and Microsoft had a deal, which almost failed because of Kildall's failure to nail down a deal. Microsoft saved the deal by delivering a version of QDOS (which Patterson originally developed because Kildall didn't want to port CP/M to the 8088 chip). Why did they need a CP/M clone? Because their software ran on CP/M.

    Microsoft handed Kildall the biggest software deal ever, and he dropped it on the floor. Note that this is discussed in your wiki link. Check out the "Oral History" of Gordon Eubanks.

    Anytime Microsoft abuses its monopoly power, remember this. It's all Kildall's fault. Without him, Microsoft would never have entered the OS business. They would have stayed a compiler company and instead of using their PC OS (sales via IBM) to fund the development of Windows and Office, they would have had to have done so with just compiler sales.

    Microsoft had two major events that led to the current situation:

    1. Being forced to enter the OS market.
    2. Betting the farm on the Windows version of Office.

    Note that without the OS business, they might not have been in a financial position to develop Windows or Office. Businesses around the world might be using Word Perfect and 1-2-3 as the standards still.
  • by daviddennis (10926) <david@amazing.com> on Sunday November 26, 2006 @11:46PM (#16997802) Homepage
    I think there's a little more to the story than this. Qdos had some features that made it distinctly superior to CP/M, and CP/M itself was largely based on an even more ancient operating system.

    For instance to copy a file, CP/M required that a program called PIP (Peripheral Interchange Program I think) be on a floppy disk in your computer. You could then use its arcane syntax:

    A> pip
    *a:=b:foo.txt

    Qdos had a copy command in memory so it didn't have to be ondisk. The syntax was also a little more intuitive:

    A> copy foo.txt b:

    I might add that if my memory serves the PIP command and CP/M's 6+3 file structure were copied from DEC's RT/11 operating system. Essentially, CP/M was RT/11 for microcomputers except it left out some of RT/11's nicer features, like background processing.

    Qdos was a solid incremental improvement then. It added commands like 'copy', replaced the 6+3 file system with an 8+3 file system, and I'm sure there were other improvements I know little about.

    The original developer of QDOS worked on and off for Microsoft for over a decade in total. He also founded other companies. It doesn't look like he's mad at Bill most likely because in the aggregate Bill paid him quite a bit of money as an employee, and by taking over one of his later companies. Although not as rich as Bill Gates, I'm sure he's very comfortable.

    D

  • by I'm Don Giovanni (598558) on Monday November 27, 2006 @01:12AM (#16998280)
    Win95 was barely on pare with Mac's System 6? Are you that ignorant?

    Win95 had pre-emptive multitasking and separate address spaces for each app. Mac OS used co-operative multitasking and shared memory space for all apps and the system until OSX. (I don't even know that System 6 had multitasking at all; iirc it had MultiFinder, which allowed the user to switch between multiple running tasks, but the tasks didn't run simultaneously. System 7 either introduced multitasking (co-operative) or at least vastly improved it over whatever System 6 had).

    And the api of Mac OS was horrible; horribly primitive. The api actually relied on publicly accessible system globals. Please!! The api relied on apps to explicitly manipulate fields of system data structures (Window and GrafPort structures, for example). It had ancient concepts like "hi" memory and "low" memory. It had "grow zones" to handle cases where an app used more memory than was allocated to it, which brings up another horrible aspect - the user actually had to explicitly tell the OS how much memory to allocate to each app. This is the system that you're praising! It was good when released in the 80's but by the 1991 and certainly 1995, it was horribly dated. Even Apple knew this, which is why they spent a few years trying to create a modern version of Mac OS in the failed Copland project (not to mention the Pink and Taligent fiascos, which were also failed attempts to create a modern OS). Classic Mac OS was NOT a good OS by any means when Win95 was released.
  • by I'm Don Giovanni (598558) on Monday November 27, 2006 @01:36AM (#16998372)
    "They never innovated a single thing."

    Weren't they the first to have a web browser component usable by other apps?
    And they have MCE, which Apple is copying with FrontRow. And now there are rumors that Apple will be copying Tablet PC.
    Excel had tabbed worksheets long before the concept was added to browsers.
    Excel introduced pivot tables.
    Microsoft introduced the "squiggly" line for on-the-fly spell check.
    Microsoft introduced the ability to embed one app's object into another app's document and allow the user to edit the object inplace using the object app's tools (I refer to OLE). Windows has had that since 1993 while Linux and Mac still have yet to have anything to rival it.
    Microsoft had Terraserver, which Google ripped off with Google Maps.
    Microsoft introduced the ability to edit and recompile C code while debugging it.
    Microsoft introduced the "floating pallette" of Mac Office.
    They have many innovations in Office 2007.

    Microsoft has had many innovations (they have the 2nd largest software patent portfolio (second to IBM)). I won't list them all (you're ignorant ass isn't worth the effort). They have a lot more innovations than does the Linux "community" or Apple.
  • by KDR_11k (778916) on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @03:39PM (#17022140)
    Yes but usually it's win on first try or die failing. MS is using their vast profit from their monopolies to force a console into the market against all forces of the market itself. The Xbox lost 5 billion dollars and sold barely more than the Gamecube. Only their monopolies kept it alive, everyone else would have thrown the towel after such a miserable bilance. Nintendo had reason to stay since the Gamecube was still profitable but the XBox was an utter failure by both metrics (sales and profit). MS is simply persistzent and rich enough to afford it. This is the brute force approach and the only way they can make their investment back is gaining a monopoly. Never mind that last I checked leveraging a monopoly you have to gain another monopoly is illegal (and I've seen a former monopoly telco get hit for "selling" phone time below cost to undercut competitors). While the razor and blade business model may be standard for the console market (although it was usually break even on the console instead of the huge losses we're seeing now) I'm not sure MS can do that as a convicted monopolist.

"Mach was the greatest intellectual fraud in the last ten years." "What about X?" "I said `intellectual'." ;login, 9/1990

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