Why I Distrust Microsoft

This is hardly a statement to make about a leading computing brand when one has recently praised its new and crucial Windows 8 OS. But right after the launch of Windows 8, CEO Steve Ballmer dismissed Steven Sinofsky who had helped Redmond:
a)make Microsoft Office a continuing breadwinner despite the assault from Google Docs, Zoho, and  various shades of the highly recommended and free Libre Office;
b)delivered on time and in specs a completely redesigned Windows 8 that did not repeat the Vista disaster.
So perhaps there is a smidgen of a case for such distrust – not even mentioning the outlandish pricing of Surface RT when Microsoft is trying to break into the tablet and ARM-powered gadget market with no new “Killer App” software  presence whatsoever.

And who  is Microsoft cloning in the phone, tablet and PC markets? Redmond is copying to the nth-degree all of the onerous  Apple Store and Apple iTunes pricing and entry rules plus adopting  the  proprietary  tools and methods  of iOS and MacOS  that prevent cross platform development. Yes, Microsoft has cloned itself on the Apple business model. So now developers in effect are paying both Apple and Microsoft 30% runtime fees to play on their operating systems. And Microsoft wonders why even with “cash incentives” developers have not flocked to develop apps for  its new Windows 8 RT ?? Has anyone seen a “killer” app on either Windows 8 version?

So after being accused of being “Apple Me-too innovators” , Redmond has embraced an Apple Me-too business policy to the detriment of the IT community. And nowhere has this scorn for the development community been more manifest than in  the development and support of Microsoft Internet Explorer. Unfortunately, there is a long history of abusing developers by Redmond which is more more ingrown than me-too.

ienotHardball and Internet Explorer

Hardball is the expression that Microsoft middle level managers use to describe the company’s penchant to  run on the wrong side of good business practices – be it predatory pricing or bundled free giveaways to steal market share. And nowhere is hardball practiced with such devastating elan than in Redmond’s Internet Explorer group. This is the team that promised to deliver HTML, CSS, DOM and JavaScript standards back in 1998 – and have yet to deliver with   still existing proprietary extensions[10 years of the same excuse – “we cant remove them, millions of client programs would not work”] and still incomplete omissions in all 4 1998 W3C and ECMAscript standards.

Of course, as the W3C standards have evolved, Microsoft has played the continuing proprietary and delinquent game on standards. For example, on HTML5 of the 4 major browsers IE has been the most remiss every year for the past 5 in implementing the latest standards [IE10 is at 320/500 vs Google Chrome is at 463/500 on HTML5test.com]. For 8 years, code that  works in Chrome, Firefox, Opera, Safari and/or other browsers does not work in IE so developers have to create hacks or work-arounds.

This is known as the IE Curse. Web developers know to get a website working properly, they will have to spend 15-30% more time on a project to make it work properly in the IE browsers. This is a Web development tax that  business and corporations have been willing to pay as the IE browser retains a 28 to 55% worldwide market share depending on who does the counting . It appears that Microsoft’s monopoly positions in client OS and Office have granted it immunity and the right to play Hardball Business  Practices just like the Big Banks have become Too Big To Fail and Too Big To Prosecute.

Perhaps the epitome of Hardball tactics by the IE team is the recent $732million fine incurred by the IE team in Europe. Computerworld describes the debacle:

European Union antitrust officials today hit Microsoft with a $732 million fine for failing to live up to a 2009 settlement that requires it to offer Windows users a choice of alternate browsers…

The settlement reached in late 2009 stemmed form a complaint by Norwegian browser maker Opera Software, which two years earlier accused Microsoft of manipulating the battle for browser share by tying Internet Explorer (IE) to Windows. After some arm twisting, including a threat to delay the then-upcoming Windows 7, Microsoft agreed to show European users of its Windows operating system a “browser ballot,” a screen that displayed download links to rivals’ browsers, including Google’s Chrome, Mozilla’s Firefox and Opera’s namesake.

But Microsoft made a big mistake: It failed to display the browser ballot to users of Windows 7 Service Pack 1 (SP1) for some 14 months, from May 2011 until July 2012. Approximately 15.3 million users did not see the ballot as they should have, said Almunia.

Last July, Microsoft acknowledged the oversight and apologized, but also downplayed the problem, saying it had been purely a “technical error” and blaming an engineering team… Microsoft monitored itself, says EU, and failed to notice it wasn’t showing European consumers a choice screen for more than a year .

This is Hardball in IE Group Leader Dean Hachamovitch style. It is like agreeing to Microsoft’s EULA terms attached to all its software – Redmond has contrived to make it so that you are out-of-luck if the software doesn’t work and you are busted if you try to get it to work, succeed and make some money for the effort.

Consequences

This blog has pointed out that computing is rapidly evolving into a 3 player market with Apple, Google and Microsoft leading the way. All have a substantial software base including a market leading client OS in either mobile devices, games,  or PCs. These are the OS that almost all new electronic gadgets run on. This is the source of the companies market power – hardware vendors and teleco distributors are absolutely dependent on these OS and what features and apps the OS vendors choose to support.

Microsoft and even Google are now emulating the Apple Monopoly Business. All of them have Stores and Markets that might be called “hardball” if not predatory and dictatorial – “whatever the consumer will bear”. All of them have entered into computing hardware business. Even “Do no evil” Google is adopting predatory pricing and practices. But Microsoft leads even Apple with its finely polished Hardball tactics because it has been doing so for a generation and with its new me-too predatory business policy and continuing short changing of software developers with II and its prorpietary Web offerings. And so that is why I distrust Microsoft the most.

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