Fair capsule summary of 25 years of MSFT

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1. ========== COMMENTARY ==========

Hi all,

With an antitrust case still pending appeal and numerous other
unresolved legal issues, the state of Microsoft isn't great. Despite
taking in almost $23 billion dollars for the fiscal year ending last
June, Microsoft seemingly has little to celebrate at the moment,
although it did just that last week on its 25th anniversary. But it's
amazing to look back at the past 2 1/2 decades and ponder Microsoft's
effects on us. In 1975, when the company was founded, the PC revolution
was just about to begin. And whether or not you like Microsoft, its
name has been synonymous with this revolution from the beginning.
   In the past, we've discussed Microsoft's innovations, and the
antitrust trial has sparked numerous debates about the company's
business practices. I believe that Microsoft simply acts the way the
company has always acted: as a scrappy, come-from-behind upstart that
wants to win at all costs. This behavior is appropriate when you're in
a crowded field of contenders. But in the company's current position of
dominance, that paranoid personality has begun to bite back. And,
although its list of accomplishments reads like a history of the PC
industry, most of what I remember about Microsoft's first 25 years
falls outside of the mainstream history of computing.
   The beginning of Microsoft's dominance, of course, was the
combination of MS-DOS and the first IBM PC. But Microsoft was pretty
well established at that point, with various versions of its BASIC
program running on everything from the Commodore 64 to the pre-PC Tandy
machines. In Microsoft's early days, the company supported every
machine available in an attempt to be there when one standard took
hold. When Apple began work on its GUI-based Macintosh, Microsoft was
there, making lots of uncredited changes to the Mac UI (Microsoft, for
example, came up with the idea of highlighting the default choice in a
dialog box in bold). Microsoft even supplied the BASIC interpreter for
the Amiga, although Amiga fans will tell you that the feature was more
frustrating than useful.
   After the IBM PC took off and Microsoft had a lock on the PC market,
the company attempted to hand off its control to Apple, even lining up
a slew of hardware vendors willing to make Mac-compatible clones. In
its darkest moment, however, Apple walked away from this chance so that
the company could maintain its high-margin hardware business, a short-
term boon that led to John Sculley's fall and Apple Computer's near
irrelevance. When Microsoft created Windows NT, the company
deliberately designed the system to run on a variety of processors, and
the MIPS version of the OS was completed first, as a proof of concept.
An NT version for the Digital Alpha came within months of the release
of the Intel and MIPS versions, and a PowerPC version followed.
Microsoft's decisions to eventually cancel these non-Intel versions of
NT were based on market realities, but it's easy to forget that
Microsoft actually made a go of it.
   We all know the story about the Windows 95 launch and the browser
wars, but I'd argue that Microsoft did more for the industry with the
skunkworks project that became DirectX, the product of three
individuals working outside the system from within the software
behemoth. DirectX has rallied developers around a single, powerful
standard for game creation and multimedia, freeing them from the
shackles of DOS and from writing individual drivers for display and
sound devices and gaming controllers.
   Years ago, I debated with an Apple fan who tried to convince me that
the Cupertino company had better engineers than Microsoft had.
Ridiculous, I said: Apple owns the hardware platform and knows the
intimate details of the decidedly finite set of possible systems that
can exist out there. The PC, however, is a black hole of possible
hardware combinations. It's a miracle that Windows even boots, let
alone runs and works day after day.
   And ultimately, this might be Microsoft's biggest accomplishment:
Every day, hundreds of millions of people switch on PCs and run their
favorite applications on an OS, Windows, that Microsoft was willing to
kill for Apple, an OS that has been derisively referred to as an
excellent boot-sector virus. We rely on this platform every day, and--
no--it's not perfect. But it's certainly something to be proud of,
something to celebrate. And I think the company deserves at least that.

Paul Thurrott
Windows 2000 Magazine UPDATE News Editor

-- cpr (buytexas@swbell.net), September 12, 2000


White is the color of the one who put cpr in his place.

-- White Text Man (@ .), September 12, 2000.

There's a lot of truth to this. People look at Windows running on their particular flavor of computer, and think that this is THE Windows, and that it's big, or slow, or buggy.

Now consider. Some months back, I finished a very strange computer. It had two CPU's, only one of them Intel. It had 4 parallel ports and SEVEN serial ports, NONE of them standard. It had a built in video, modem, GPS system, audio, flash disk, dual PCMCIA, and very nonstandard USB. It was required to run with neither monitor nor keyboard. It had custom boot features out the wazoo.

And it ran Windows just fine! No WAY could Microsoft have anticipated such a hardware platform. Yet Windows supported every feature! I may curse Windows when it occasionally crashes, but considering the incredible range of things it is *capable* of doing quite well, you have to be astonished.

-- Flint (flintc@mindspring.com), September 12, 2000.

A pretty good article cpr. And for you to get that from me, it must be a GREAT article (grin) ...

How's it going Flint.

"I may curse Windows when it occasionally crashes"

As a network administrator, I work with about 50 different Win computers. A few in this department, running their set of applications, a few in that dept, with different apps, etc. One thing that I think I've discovered, is that when one does crash, it usually isn't Windows fault. It's usually a game, or a third party developer add-on, or a third party device driver, or some plug-in, that caused the problem.

My "primary" machine at home is almost pure MS software. Win/95-B, with all of the "Windows Update" patches, IE/5-SP1, and Visual Studio/6-SP4. This machine almost never, and I do mean never, crashes on me.

But my "other" machine at home, even though it has the same versions of everything (except no Studio) "crashes" constantly. But this is also the machine where I try out games, download and play with shareware, etc.

People are quick to blame a "crash" on Windows. But if they took a closer look, I think they would usually find that it is not Microsoft's problem. Think about it. There are thousands of Win applications out there, from almost as many companies. Not all of them are "top shelf" quality products.

The Win architecture does have some problems, with things like DLLs. So when people see a problem related to a DLL that ships with Win, they jump up and point the finger at MS. But usually, if one looks closer, the DLL was customized, and installed over the original, by a third party software product.

I'm not a big fan of Microsoft. But the fact is, since I am a software developer, and if I want to survive in today's market, I'm forced to develop for windows. But all considered, it really isn't that bad...


-- Sysman (y2kboard@yahoo.com), September 13, 2000.

MSFT has a new approach to the OS than before. Mental midgets can't seem to understand this is not the "old MSFT" that shipped slop. They now have most of their act together for the shots upward to the Enterprise UNIX box levels and more.

Sun and Oracle won't get away with their sneering jokes about MS much longer. They should take a clue from IBM Global which is now working with MSFT because they have to. The "cost factor" is just to significant and the ARG[] for total cost of ownership is now on MSFT's side.

At the core of that was driving "support issues" down to minor costs and that was a prime "design goal" of Windows 2000, SQL Server 2000 and Office 2000. They even give users the "book" inside the Help menu so there is not excuse about RTFM.

They are finally getting things right as one would expect of a company now in their leadership position. The joint use of Win2k, SQL Server 7.0(2000 next) and Office is so important that they are debugging everything under their own roof and that alone gives them the Knowledge base to help ISVs fast. Some of this is in WIN M.E. and all is aimed at reducing the cost of "support".

The good news for I.T. is that MS now acts on the secret of I.T.: "never let the Users touch the motor". Popups have the "call your administrator now DUM DUM" for many functions.

Consumers will still screw up their home boxes but at least in business you won't have "the talent" out replacing Printer cartridges or plugging the box back into the wall or net cable. Any small business person who does not move up to Win2000 Professional even for single box use is throwing money away.

Everything must "conform" to it or else. Most of the MS Apps. now fly under Win2000 vs. all sorts of "issues" (or as they call it "undocumented features") before the SP-1. Because of the Zone alarm problem, I had to uninstall SP-1. It was the cleanest "uninstall" I have ever seen for something that big. The roll back was flawless. On the second shot, the installation was brainless. That removes any "objections" to "rolling upgrades" MSFT's latest kick.

Windows 2000 Prof. does not "have problems with dlls" or drivers as in the past. It has a simple solution for them. Unlike all other versions, you call up task manager and close the app. should one lock. You then call the vendor and tell them the app is not W2k compliant. Many now have patches that fix what were minor workarounds that eliminated the DLL problems.

That is very nice for MSFT because they found in R&D that 85% of the problems and service desk calls were coming from Drivers and a few from the dlls. The conflicts with Office 2k are mostly worked out if you install SP-1.

For the Dlls they also have Installer which will allow the placement of versions of the same dll and install the app around the dual or more dlls. After some problems with Zone Alarm and SP-I (resolved at Zone Alarm), the W2k SPI has resolved even more problems all by itself.

SP-1 has also upgraded use of Memory so it runs apps faster and what is very nice for me, gotten DEFRAG to speed up. It looks like they have worked out a new way for the incremental Defragging that reduces down to less than 15 minutes and sometimes less than 5.

-- cpr (buytexas@swbell.net), September 13, 2000.

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