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Microsoft, Rebooted, Emerges as a Tech Leader (wsj.com)
277 points by prostoalex on Dec 16, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 286 comments

I was going to rag on this article for touting the the same non-specific garbage we've seen the past couple days like, "more mac users switching to surface than ever!" without any hard numbers, did is go from 20 to 25? But this article is actually pretty interesting.

It focuses on how Satya Nadella has respected the leaders of Companies he's bought out and invited them to key meetings. Using their insight not only for product and company direction, but importantly creating culture as well. Very key to Microsoft and any tech company's success.

I recall hearing many stories about how Microsoft had like 3 managers per programmer, probably exaggeration, but the point remains, who would want to work there if you skilled/lucky enough to choose? Looks like they may be changing in some good ways.

Microsoft used to have a really good reputation for developers. Used to one of the few companies where each developer had their own office.

Like all big companies your experience depends more on your group than the company as a whole. I've got a number of friends at MSFT in various tech roles, some have their own office as a developer, some are in a cube or open floor environment.

My personal experience, having worked on a few skunkworks projects over there with a couple of different teams was that there were two people to an office that was probably originally designed for one. It was a bit cozy in there for my liking but it wasn't cramped, it was quiet, and a couple of people could stand in various parts of common areas and have an actual 'stand up' collaboration. It actually seemed very collegiate. I recognize the fact that since it was an R&D group they probably had better accommodations for this type of stuff, and that they were in an 'old' building that had these personal offices probably helped too.

Like all big companies your experience depends more on your group than the company as a whole. I've got a number of friends at MSFT in various tech roles, some have their own office as a developer, some are in a cube or open floor environment.

Note that the post you're replying to uses the past tense. The vast majority of my tenure at MSFT was in a private office, but that was over ten years ago. It is my understanding that things have changed since.

As of 6 months ago when I was still there we had an office per two engineers. They were changing in other parts of the org to open plan as buildings were being updated. Which is a sad reversal.

Exactly. This was a key part of company culture throughout the 80s and 90s and at the time it was viewed as a signficant productivity win. ('Peopleware' discusses it, IIRC). By the 2000s, with space crunches, they got away from it as a general policy.

They've gotten rid off the office per developer thing now. So not surprised.

A large part is probably demographics of developers is now changing.

It's not entirely gone but it's dying. I'm still in a private office. Lots of devs on my team are doubled up, though. Many teams have already moved to open spaces.

Demographics are a factor. Lots of devs, especially younger devs, and especially devs who've worked at other younger companies are asking for open floor plans. Not all of them, but a sizable chunk. That plus reduced cost for providing office space to devs is pushing the company in the direction of open office spaces. I haven't seen a building get significantly renovated and not end up with open spaces.

My building is currently undergoing a renovation and we still have private offices.

To support your point: a number of people have voluntarily taken over a former conference room to turn it into an open space office.

Personally I have worked in both and don't find one better or worse than the other. I actually value sunlight, direct or indirect, more than the layout.

Amen to sunlight! Why is that such a hard thing for companies to understand?

I think companies should try and support both modes of working. Open Plan offices are okay for some people but completely unacceptable for other people.

Neruodiversity is a real thing that we should be thinking about.

There's been plenty of renovations without removing private offices, but it's mainly paint and carpeting with redone common spaces (kitchen, copy/mail rooms and bathrooms). See 8/9/10/26/27/28 which all were done fairly recently.

It doesn't make sense to gut the interior just to make a slightly different private office configuration, so it probably isn't considered a "significant" renovation.

They are asking for open floor plans? Is there anything young people won't ruin?

I'm skeptical of the claim and suspect it might be (yet another) case of an older developer blaming young people for things.

None of my friends (all in their 20s) prefer open offices.

Meanwhile you've got widowlark (who graduated in the past couple of years based on some brief online stalking) acting shocked that anyone would want a private office.

I'm also not sure how old you think I am. I'm 34, not 74.

Be careful of all the stereotyping though.

I'm 23, have heard of Extreme Programming, and absolutely want my own private office (and, failing that, a silent shared work space).

Sure. I don't think all younger programmers want open spaces just as I don't think all older programmers want private offices. I have interviewed quite a few younger devs, though, who asked about the office situation and expressed either no preference or a preference for open spaces. I feel like I've seen this less with older candidates. This is clearly anecdotal though.

I prefer open spaces. Mostly due to sunlight and the social interaction. It feels more collaborative.

Although I should say our whole team works 1-2 days from home. Different people, different days and we're very okay with that.

We also like to leave developers who have headphones alone and only talk to them over skype/slack.

Open floor plan is great way to have life-life balance and not do any meaningful work.

Do you seriously feel like you need your own office? We live in the 21st century for god's sake. Rather than a private office, I want to work from home most of the time.

That we live in the 21st century is why I want my own office: because it's chaotic and hectic and a place to concentrate is important.

As a consultant, that office does happen to be in my home. But I wouldn't return to a FT gig without having a place where I can go, separating from "home", to work in productive quiet.

I don't need my own office, but I'd sure love to have one.

Yes, they keep requesting open floor plans and talking about this book Extreme Programming which apparently advocates for it...

I don't think most younger devs know or care about Extreme Programming. That book was published 17 years ago.

Yes, I was trying to go for sarcasm since open office plans have been advocated for by programmers for at least 17 years.

Sorry, I missed that.

Try switching "young" to "old", and see how that sentence sounds.

I read Showstopper! about how Windows NT was created and I got the impression that many of those people would be impossible if not closed away from others.

As a developer there's been so many times that I've gotten tired of MS solutions, and get excited about new emerging platforms elsewhere. Then I smirk when MS incorporates that new platform's ideology. Then I'm pleasantly surprised when it turns out to be cool, and often surpassing the original. I've heard some devs claim they cherry pick from other people's work, and others that they work hard to remain progressive and relevant.

I don't know if .NET Core will catch up with Node, probably not, but I respect their effort and believe competition drives the best products and technology.

> I don't know if .NET Core will catch up with Node, probably not, but I respect their effort and believe competition drives the best products and technology.

Comments like these always remind me of the vast the software development landscape is and how each stack is sheltered into it's own little cloister. People live and breath their stack and everything is framed against or in comparison to it.

I have different priorities than you. In terms of IDE quality, debugger quality, flexibility (ability to use actual threads if you want them!), performance... in my opinion .NET Core is already so far ahead of Node.JS it's embarrassing for them.

The only thing I might stack in Node.JS' favor is their NPM package manager. Maybe. Possibly.

Are you seriously saying that NuGet/paket are worse than a flawed package manager that even managed to cause a JavaScript global outage when a padding package was retired? What are your problems with NuGet and paket?

Nuget dependency management is a nightmare for my team. Mostly because there's usually only one package for a given problem, and you're always at their mercy. I suppose it's a community issue, because npm packages I seem to find few complications. Also, I always find plenty of documentation/tutorials/friendly community to help with the package, and never anyone expecting money for a out-of-date pdf generator that works with tooth-picks and bubble gum holding it together (for example). The manager in VS has gotten better, but it's still far more cumbersome than a cli.

Re-read my post.

> I don't know if .NET Core will catch up with Node, probably not

What exactly does it need to catch up to? C#/.NET already vastly exceed anything in Node in performance, features and flexibility.

Well, for starters, a couple learning tutorials/examples that actually work for most people who try it out.

It really seems like you're reaching if that's the complaint you have.

.NET is one of the most documented platforms around. MSDN documentation covers everything[1] at a deep technical level and the official .NET docs[2] are full of tutorials and guides as well as in-depth detail. The asp.net site contains even more specific and use-case based walkthroughs with plenty of other blogs, forums, and even free video tutorials and online interactive courses. [3]

1. https://msdn.microsoft.com/library

2. https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/

3. https://www.asp.net/learn

I worked in MSFT in two different teams. In P.*BI the culture was quite toxic at times. The management can be very rough and political. Re-orgs every now and then. Biased promos. Plenty of people burnt out and left.

When I joined web diagnostics, it was a whole different experience. Nicest, smartest people I worked with. A different culture focused on building great products users love and helping people grow.

Microsoft is a great place to work with very interesting problems to solve if you're in the right team. If you are interviewing at MS, really ask about the team culture and dig deep into it.

> It focuses on how Satya Nadella has respected the leaders of Companies he's bought out and invited them to key meetings. Using their insight not only for product and company direction, but importantly creating culture as well. Very key to Microsoft and any tech company's success.

Sometimes people forget the second part of the Borg's "You will be assimilated" announcement: "We will add your biological and technological distinctiveness to our own." Looks like this is being adopted as well.

Some can't choose.

A friend of mine worked in a startup that was bought by MS.

Somehow MS didn't want a few of the devs, but the CEO made a deal and they all got "included" into MS.

So if he weren't lucky, he probably wouldn't got a big corp job in the first place.

I recently bought a Lenovo sporting Windows 10 and decided to give it a fair try. I've been using Windows exclusively on my personal laptop for about 2 months and so far it's a good experience. This is after 16 years of running linux (or briefly a mac) on the desktop.

The window manager is tolerable (not as good as Xmonad, but equivalent to Unity). Windows subsystem for linux is letting me get my work done with no problems. Anaconda lets me do scientific python work natively from within windows. Emacs seems to work just fine. Cortana is actually pretty cool.

Overall, I haven't felt the need to race back to Linux. I'm surprised to say this, but Windows might be an acceptable linux.

(A while back I wrote about my failed attempt to use OS X: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1787411 )

My experience has been the complete opposite.

I've got a Lenovo Y50 running Win10. With a HiDPI display, it is pretty much unusable. While OS elements scale rather well, most of the software doesn't, even using the "DPI fix." [1] There are also ads on lock screen. [2] The "terminal", PowerShell, is slow to launch, path completions are crawling.

The subsystem for linux is great, and certainly a move in the right direction. There's ConEmu with Bash, which is also usable. Admittedly, if it weren't for aforementioned DPI issues, which have been around for far too long, I'd probably use Windows as my primary OS.

Also have to mention that VS Code is a fantastic editor with an MIT license. So definitely there are strides in a good direction. Compared to e.g. Facebook's "open source" offerings, while great products, yet containing a `PATENT` file in every repo

[1] http://windows10_dpi_blurry_fix.xpexplorer.com/

[2] http://www.howtogeek.com/243263/how-to-disable-ads-on-your-w...

>ads on the lock screen

You understand that you approved these ads when you set up windows initially, and that they can be removed with the flick of a switch in the lock screen settings?

They aren't even the default now, right?

My windows machine does not display them, and I don't remember even being asked.

IIRC the wording wasn't "let us display ads", it was cloaked in some deceptive language.

I don't remember the exact wording, but it was something akin to, "Show Microsoft's images on my lockscreen" or somesuch similar.

It wasn't clear there might be ads there.

I actually have that option turned on, and it's exactly what it says on the tin. Pictures of landscapes/buildings/etc... that you might see in some mid tier gallery and a link to a short description. It's bland, but marginally more interesting than the basic lock screen.

Hi. PM for Bash & Windows Console here:

Glad you're digging Bash & WSL :D

May I ask which Win10 build you're running. If you're on Win10 AU (build 14393.x), you're not yet seeing the huge raft of changes that we've been releasing weekly to those on the Windows Insider program.

Key among the improvements that will be released broadly when Windows 10 Creator Updated ships (ETA spring 2017) include: * MANY improvements to Bash/WSL enabling MANY more dev tools, platforms, an tech to work even more smoothly, plus fixes for networking features inc. ifconfig & ping, traceroute (incoming). Also adds ability to invoke Windows exe's from Bash and vice-versa. * Lots of DPI fixes including many fixes to correctly scale desktop apps and pop-up dialogs (https://blogs.windows.com/windowsexperience/2016/12/07/annou...)


FWIW, the "ads on the lock screen" thing is a wee overblown. Microsoft is the single-party provider of any of their so called "suggested content". Aka, you saw Tomb Raider not because Square Enix paid to be on the lock screen, but because Microsoft was trying to push that you can get AAA games in the Windows Store. The Surface has been up there, I think they put a movie-related one up once or twice, again, referring you to their own Movies app. And they have no animations, moving bits, or arbitrary code.

They're not targeted ads, so they're not using a data profile on you to power them or anything like that. I wouldn't be surprised if they know how many screens displayed them, but there's not a lot of interaction tracking you can really do with a static lockscreen. So it doesn't have the sort of privacy implications of normal advertising either.

So, while you may not like their choice of wallpaper because it is related to a product they are releasing, it's not really much more egregious than the fact that it downloads daily wallpapers on the lockscreen to begin with: It's all stuff selected specifically by Microsoft. And as others have pointed out, it's really easy to shut off.

>you saw Tomb Raider not because Square Enix paid to be on the lock screen, but because Microsoft was trying to push that you can get AAA games in the Windows Store

I would still consider this to be an ad.

I never said it wasn't still an ad. But as I explained, it has essentially none of the problems that are associated with ads. Ergo, complaints about it are more that it offends your special snowflake sensitivity against ads, than that there's an actual problem that needs to be addressed.

My operating system showing me ads is inherently a problem.

In what way? Assuming you've already decided you're okay with rotating wallpapers on your lockscreen downloaded periodically (the only way in which you'll see these "ads"), what is the detrimental effect on your operating system?

We can both agree, I'm sure, that your OS tracking you is a clear problem, and I'm not unable to be convinced on this one here, but I'm going to need to see a line of reasoning on how it harms you.

An ad is inherently antagonistic. It doesn't add to the product I'm using (in this case the operating system); its only function is to try to trick me into buying more things.

Are you suggesting the mere display of a wallpaper from the latest Tomb Raider game is capable of deception? Of "tricking" you into buying it?

Is it going to trick me in particular? Probably not; I'm not likely to buy that type of game anyway.

Would it be using my computer as a marketing tool to promote a product? Yes. A more obvious example might have been if it said something like "Drink Coke".

It's a banner ad, but now bundled automatically into your machine. Even if banner ads didn't track you, I'd still block them. There's a reason marketers pay for them.

Not any more than "upgrade to Windows 7 Pro to access these features" that they've had for years.

I'd consider that an unacceptable ad as well, but I've never had 7 Home.

>> The "terminal", PowerShell, is slow to launch, path completions are crawling.

Powershell often seems to hang on startup when it's actually already up and running. You're left looking at an empty terminal, waiting for a prompt. If that happens, you can try pressing enter, at which point you'll most likely get your prompt, er, promptly.

Yeah, I've noticed that HiDPI support is basically a roll of the dice in 3rd-party Windows software.

They fixed the DPI thing in the early build. At least for the native stuff, like device manager.

I'm a massive fan of .NET and MVC as a development stack and think VS is the bees knees when it comes to my IDE (with a Vi plugin of course). But I'm hugely excited about .NET Core for the sole reason of abandoning the Windows OS. It really is a horror, it comes bundled with crapware which gets reinstalled when a major update is applied, the major updates are foisted upon you whether you want them or not, after a major update they re-pin their own products to the start bar, there is numerous thing you have to switch off to opt out of their data gathering (and I believe there's some data gathering it's not possible to switch off), they don't allow you to uninstall certain software such as Edge, they don't give the user the means to change OS and re-install Windows if your copy of it was bundled when buying the computer, and that's about all I can think of at the moment.

But pretty much everything I listed above is Microsoft willfully doing things at the expense of the user for their own sake. I could list loads of other things that I'd prefer they did another way but I wanted to highlight things that weren't just subjective preferences.

What bothers me is that all the data collection is on by default. If I purchase something I expect it to have my best interests at heart, if I get something for free I expect it to have the providers best interests at heart. Since you buy your computer, all data collection should be opt in. If Microsoft wants to give me a free computer, then make it opt out.

Windows in general does not respect you as its user. I refuse to use software like that. If you want to use software that respects you you'll usually have to use open source. But indeed, what makes it especially egregious is the fact that you're even paying for it.

(It will update itself whether you want to or not and reboot by itself unless you're on Enterprise, etc.)

That's a good way of articulating the issue.

There is something particularly sinister about your OS gathering your data. You can switch out any other software for an alternative but changing OS is a whole other ball game (and one only the technically minded would go through).

Back when Ubuntu brought in their Amazon spyware partnership I jumped ship for Linux Mint. Even turning this stuff off doesn't provide any peace of mind, the system for gathering your data is still in place and why should the user trust that turning the anti-feature off will be honored or that the switch won't be reset during an update.

Even a development tool like .Net core phones home to send telemetry data.

I also got a new win10 HP laptop and new gaming win10 desktop recently, but has different experiences.

I absolutely hate the constant force update/reboot from Win10 and the huge amount background / network activities/connections.

After most of the win10 background networks connections are blocked and force update/reboot is disabled with Windows firewall, the system are usable now.

I tried and found the new Linux subsystem not useful at all. Real Linux inside virtualbox worked much better for my own use.

Searching the net with firefox/google is much faster than Cortana. I found and installed the 8 year old discontinued "Google Desktop Search" Windows App and it can search files in my location system with 100 times better results and so much faster than latest Cortana/SearchUI.

VSCode is very good.

Visual Studio 2015 is just huge complex monster. Took hours to download and install. I tried download a few popular opensource packages (Python, winscp, ... etc) and used VS2015 community edition to build - all failed to build for one reason or another.

> constant force update/reboot from Win10

Really? How often? I have "active hours" set and I rarely get more than one reboot per month. Same with network connections, and what they're doing. Some recorded facts would be more interesting than your impressions...

I have the same experience, it seems everytime I open my win10 laptop the damn thing does updates for many minutes. my windows desktop is more well behaved though. it seems it needs to be actively used so it always stays updated. not an apple fan by a longshot but my office macbook is always ready to be used whenever I open it, even if I do it after weeks.

MS really needs to get their shit together especially on the laptops.

If you have an unusual usage pattern -- eg you only turn your laptop on twice a month or so -- I guess you're going to get a backlog of updates. If you check the update settings, you can set "active hours" when it won't update, or a custom update time when your machine will be on.

Our laptops are not having problems but they are in regular use...

  [dozzie@alojzy dozzie]$ uptime
   02:29:42 up 53 days, 11:03,  2 users,  load average: 0.11, 0.19, 0.18

  [dozzie@wolfram dozzie]$ uptime 
   02:29:49 up 9 days, 14:20,  1 user,  load average: 0.25, 0.24, 0.26
One is my desktop, the other is my laptop. What was it with this "unusual usage pattern" thing?

Run "netstat -nob" in a admin prompt and you will see what I mean.

I block all those apps now with Windows firewall except firefox, chrome and Windows defender.

Also you can check out the default windows firewall config and see how many out going connections are allowed AND CONNECTED by default.

I always configure my system network security by default disable ALL and only selected app/ports are allow connect to internet.

Win10 firewall is completely opposite - its default configure for outgoing are "Allow ALL".

You should try out VS2017 (RC). It is much better in terms of performance and setup. And they improved the update thing in the early build. They are giving you a better choice regarding reboot / installing updates.

I have not used windows in a while, but the 2 things I found annoying with Microsoft and the reasons why I switched around 8 years back were:

1) Most of the windows laptops doesn't age very well. By the 3rd year the computer starts feeling like its become quite old. I needed hardware upgrades every year to keep my computer running. One of my friends suggested me to try Apple. I am running a Mac pro which is almost 5 years old but still runs everything and I am confident that I can use it for 2 more years. I can't say that for Windows laptops, partly the reason is the hardware is manufactured by Dell/Lenovo or some other vendor. I hope Microsoft surface books provide some longetivity.

2) My internet experience with Microsoft pushed me to move out of Linux. There are so many viruses/malwares out there trying to corrupt your system. You cannot live without an anti-virus and even then chances are that you will end up corrupting your system and has to do re-install windows or format your hard disk. I am done with that shit now..I don't remember doing any OS re-install or formatting in last 7 years. As a developer I can focus on writing code and browing internet.

Just before writing this comment, I had to work in a client's remote windows machine and it was still a terrible experience. Windows still doesn't have a decent way to tail the logs!!!

One more thing If I am running a server, Can someone tell microsoft :

1) why I need a GUI running on it? 2) The user home folder has "Music" & "Movies" folders. What is the purpose of those folders in Windows Server OS?

I agree that Microsoft is becoming more open as a company and embracing new technologies. But I really think they should drop Windows completely and build a new OS from scratch(Just like they dropped IE & started edge browser) rather than doing patch works and improving it. It has some serious underlying architecture issues.

> I needed hardware upgrades every year to keep my computer running.

I'm finding this hard to understand. Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows 8.1, and Windows 10 all seem to be about the same, spec-wise, and it doesn't sound like you were upgrading anyway. I don't understand in what sense you would need to upgrade your hardware, which, in any case, is the same hardware used in Macs - Intel processors and so forth.

> You cannot live without an anti-virus and even then chances are that you will end up corrupting your system and has to do re-install windows or format your hard disk.

For many, many years now, Microsoft has provided Microsoft Security Essentials, AKA Windows Defender, which is all that most people need.

I have a laptop from 2006 and a desktop from 2009, both of which are my (a developer) primary/sole work and recreation machines. I have never had to reinstall Windows or format my hard disk.[1] In my experience these were things you had to do in the Windows 95/98/2000 era, but not since, barring some catastrophe like a trashed filesystem caused by a failing harddrive.

[1] Though in the interests of full disclosure, I did elect to replace the laptop harddrive with a solid state drive, and at that time I did install a new version of Windows rather than bother with transferring data from the old drive. As to why I did this, well, in 2016, an Intel Core 2 Duo is pretty slow but the easiest thing to upgrade is the harddrive.

>Windows still doesn't have a decent way to tail the logs!!!

    cat -Wait foo.log

You could just reinstall Windows every year instead of buying new hardware.

>Windows subsystem for linux is letting me get my work done with no problems

While it's not bad, they blew the terminal completely!! Why couldn't they at least use something like cygwin's terminal?

You can't delete text properly.

Yeah, the Windows terminal is an albatross since time immemorial. The problem was that the last attempt to rewrite it got vicious scope-creep and we ended up with powershell instead of just a non-stupid terminal.

Powershell is cool. I mean, what's wrong with it? It's the most un-windows-y part of windows. It's a modern shell, I wish bash was that nice to you (quick example: command option completion).

There are plugins for command option completions

I use WSL inside Cmder/Conemu. It's probably not as good as a "true" Linux terminal, but I found it to be better than using the Windows console (which to be honest, became much better in Windows 10, but still not enough). With Cmder, at least I can have tabs...

The terminal doesn't support as many features, but I can say I have yet to segfault it -- which I can't say any day this week for cygwin or MSYS mintty.

Note: MS employee, doesn't work in Windows division.

You can install Xming and then you can use a linux GUI terminal emulator.

>Cortana is actually pretty cool.

A fellow Windows user (with a decent experience on Linux as well). Is there a way to use Cortana from PowerShell/cmdline?

I assume you want Cortana via typing? I press the windows key and just type.

I assume you want to be programmatic with Cortana? - Look up Cortana Skill Kit. It's kind of like Echo's SDK, but cross platform:


I have good luck with VirtuaWin in terms of a better window manager.

The linked to mac experience is 6 years old.

To me, there is no doubt that Windows laptops are seeing a resurgence around Silicon Valley compared to MacbookPro's. Personally I think it is due to their overall superior compatibility with new technologies/hardware (graphics cards for VR and CUDA developers, FPGAs, Arduino, Intel RealSense3D) and better workflows for virtualization/cloud-computing vs MacOS which has become harder to virtualize because of closer binding to the AppStore and withdrawal of access to old OS versions.

As an outsider, I also think Apple seems to have spread their best technical minds thin, by adding the platforms watchOS and tvOS. While I understand the rationale behind watchOS, without the ability for developers to create the watch faces, it's not that exciting a platform, it's too controlled. Anyhow, the result of this talent dispersion, is that they have failed to maintain the MacbookPro's status as the most exciting development platform, which it had been IMO throughout the 21st century.

The idea of having their own "brand" of laptop I think was really important for recognition. It was always easy to tell the Apple users with the glowing Apple logo but the other laptops could be all shapes and sizes and that didn't say there was one competitor or 15. Having the branded laptops making an appearance really helped solidify in people's minds that it was a Microsoft product these other people were using.

That's why I like to put Debian sticker on my laptop. Otherwise people assume I'm using Windows. Kind of silly, but years of Windows domination brainwashed people.

Exactly. An externally visible indicator of the software running on the hardware. The glowing apple on Macbooks, a sticker in your case, or the windows icon detail on the Surface line of devices. I've seen a number of people who have a Tux sticker for the same effect.

I've been completely unable to find a Debian sticker that: a) is big enough to see from more than 3 feet away b) that works on a black laptop.

Do you know of a good supplier?

Thanks for the pointers!

Your 3rd example is the one I bought, but it is clear, so doesn't show up on a black laptop. They don't seem to have a non-clear version of that one.

The non-clear ones they do have are just the spiral, without the word "debian", which seems a little vague for evangelical purposes.

One of these days, I may have to learn how to get stickers made.

I don't see that as the factor, I don't see people using Microsoft branded laptops especially.

I am extremely disappointed in the market of Macbook. It's way too expensive now. Losing 15" is also a big deal.

Losing 15"? Care to explain?

Microsoft continues to try to convince us that they are great with press releases and non-organic stories such as this.

I, my peers, and my co-workers just don't see it. With billions in reserve it's no surprise they are trying to buy popularity.

I find these kind of comments depressing mostly because they scream "group think". (my inner circle says this, so I repeat it) The new MS is much different than the MS I grew up with in the 90s. It's time for the community to recognize this and just let people bask in positive news that is worthy the bask in.

I love my Surface Pro 4, I love the fact .net is cross platform, I love that Azure is fast and easy to use, I love that Office on my mac is current and that Microsoft's mobile strategy is 100% cross platform unlike that of Apple and Google.. I love that MS is honest these days and its disappointing the community is largely dishonest in return.. often snarky.

I don't know if Microsoft's leadership is being honest or not these days. But they're also far from transparent, and definitely working against my interests:

(1) AFAIK, Microsoft continues to assert patents against Linux without giving the broader community enough information to resolve the supposed violations. (I'm not positive about this one.)

(2) AFAIK, Microsoft continues to apply for more software patents, without joining the Patent Commons.

(3) Microsoft seems to intentionally subvert its OS's users' attempts to disable snooping. AFAIK, Microsoft not only refuses to say what data are gathered, but also phone home to so many different IP names/numbers that it looks like they're trying to hide the activity from the OS user.

(4) Microsoft is now "embracing" Linux. Microsoft became famous for "embrace, extend, extinguish". People outside of the CEO's inner circle can't know if that's the plan here as well.

In case you hadn't noticed, "Embrace, extend and extinguish" is from 1995, 21 years ago.

The "embrace, extend, extinguish" meme is largely overused these days in reference to Microsoft. If the trend towards using the cloud continues and the desktop OS becomes more of a terminal to cloud services then we could be looking at a modern version of "EEE". Embrace linux for the customers, extend Windows software to Linux for those customers, and let market trends extinguish the desktop OS.

The interesting bit is that FOSS movement that created the modern mainframe, aka browser + cloud, just made it even easier for companies to leech on free software and user data.

That's a good point. I guess the question is, in a case like this, what are the odds that the company's executive-level culture has changed? I don't know.

The manner in which Microsoft pushed Windows 10 may be a data point.

A big part of the current senior leadership wasn't even at the company in 1995.

The sco scam was in 2003 and the recent move towards arm devices that use treacherous computing to lock the user out of modifying their machine was recently who cares about 1995.

This whole thread is about EEE, which is a concept coined in 1995 and my reply was addressing

>what are the odds that the company's executive-level culture has changed?

So, quite relevant.

The point is that they have been user and competitive marketplace hostile far more recently than 1995.

> In case you hadn't noticed, "Embrace, extend and extinguish" is from 1995, 21 years ago.

You jut made me feel old :(

Additionally, it seems it's pretty much the standard way to do business in the tech world these days.

1) This is the entire industry, but much less so today than in 2007.. 2) Microsoft is listed as the highest level of foundation support for the Linux foundation and a member of patent ocmmons. 3) true.. but people seemingly don't care that everyone does this.. have a chrome book? you're being snooped, use a mobile device and mobile apps? you're being snooped.. 4) That was said 21 years ago.. see #2

I actually suffered through corporate pressure against my use of Linux for applications I developed (and users LOVED), because of the press onslaught in the trade magazines about the ridiculous SCO trial. (And then I see from a comment above that this is being appealed. Still. 13 years later. OMG.) So, my cynicism may be intractable.

You may see a "new" Microsoft, but all I see is a Microsoft which is making moves they HAVE to in order to survive. In this world of "the cloud" and the utter dominance of Linux in everything with a CPU that ISN'T a desktop computer, what else can they do but the things they're doing?

That Microsoft is executing WELL is a byproduct. If they didn't, they'd have become the IBM they defeated 20 years ago, and we wouldn't be having this discussion. (They'd offer legacy support for Windows XP, and we'd all wish we could cut them out of the budget, along with the mainframe.) I credit Nadella for this, but none of this is due to some sort of newfound egalitarianism or philanthropy. It's just business.

I find the bright and cheerful comments like yours depressing. They seem to belie a belief that the upper management of Microsoft has somehow been knighted with a sense of civic duty. I see it as the same business shrewdness they've always shown. They no longer have the power to dictate absolute terms to corporations, and must play nice with the rest of the IT world.

And I bet it chaps some of the old guards' asses.

I credit Nadella for this, but none of this is due to some sort of newfound egalitarianism or philanthropy. It's just business.

So, how does that make the outcome any worse? RedHat isn't contributing to the Linux kernel out of a sense of charity. IBM isn't contributing to OpenStack as a philanthropic endeavor. Facebook isn't improving PHP because it's a fun hobby project. They're all doing the things that they're doing because it's good for business. Why is it any worse when Microsoft does it?

No, they're not different from anyone else for having a profit motive, but Microsoft, on the other hand, had a very long stretch of using underhanded and illegal tactics to stifle competition. I would argue that they're STILL abusing their monopoly position on the desktop. THAT is what makes them different than the rest, and that, to me, is what tempers my attitude about these recent announcements.

Another difference is that the other examples you've listed here are all free software. Of all the glowing coverage Microsoft has been getting of late, only .NET on Linux is comparable. But you're never going to get Windows-forms-like applications on Windows (which a surprising number of people seem to think will happen). It's only the web stack. Does ASP.NET really stack up well against Rails or Node.js as a web application stack on Linux? I don't know, but at the least, they have some catching up to do.

But, really, I think it's another example of my main point. Microsoft could have used some pre-existing open source project and built on top of that, but they chose to create another language for the future. It's even pretty good, by all accounts. It's just that, in a world of PHP, Javascript, C++, Ruby, Python, Erlang, and all the rest, what place does a closed-source language and compiler have? They had to make it open source.

> Does ASP.NET really stack up well against Rails or Node.js as a web application stack on Linux?

Yes; have a look at the language column one this page:


I wasn't thinking about speed benchmarks. I was referring to the whole "ecosystem" of the work, from language to plugins to the editors commonly used to community activity around it, etc.

But you're never going to get Windows-forms-like applications on Windows

You absolutely will be able to get Windows-forms like applications. You just won't be using WinForms or WPF. Instead, you'll use Mono and its bindings to GTK or QT. This is exactly how it should be. WPF is an OS specific GUI library. Using WPF on Linux makes about as much sense as using Cocoa on Windows.

But, really, I think it's another example of my main point. Microsoft could have used some pre-existing open source project and built on top of that, but they chose to create another language for the future.

I think you're misremembering history. C# was created because Sun specifically cut Microsoft off from using Java. Microsoft had a project to write its own Java compiler. Sun took legal action to prevent Microsoft from doing so. And this was during the early 2000s. Python, Ruby, etc. were nowhere near mature enough to serve as the primary systems programming language for something like Windows.

Moreover, Microsoft gets a lot of criticism for making C#, but Google gets no criticism for making Go? Isn't that just slightly hypocritical?

Sun cut off MS from Java because MS was creating an incompatible version of Java. That's the extend step.

They were not only dropping standard features like RMI and JNI but also sneaking proprietary methods into standard classes. They could have clearly and honestly put them in a com.microsoft package, but they couldn't trick anyone into writing unportable code that way, so they forked the whole language instead of contributing anything.

> Instead, you'll use Mono and its bindings to GTK or QT. This is exactly how it should be.

Oh, I'm quite clear. My point is that, if the stack had delivered on the premise of the idea of WinForms-level-easy GUI development, why haven't Mono-based GUI apps proliferated on Linux? Yet, after many years of including Mono in Ubuntu, they've pulled it from the default install.

> Microsoft had a project to write its own Java compiler. Sun took legal action to prevent Microsoft from doing so. And this was during the early 2000s. Python, Ruby, etc. were nowhere near mature enough to serve as the primary systems programming language for something like Windows.

Fair enough, but even all the way back in 2000, it was obvious that, if you were going to start from scratch on a language, there was no point in making it closed. There wasn't any more real money to be made in compilers by that point. GCC was being made available on everything, and $1,000 proprietary compilers were dying out.

> Isn't that just slightly hypocritical?


> I love my Surface Pro 4,

I'd love one if I could put linux on it. or if I could buy an OEM pc without an OS (and yes I know there are some vendors that "allow" (just that word makes me cringe) you to do it, but it should be a right). If, by their own definition, it's "intellectual" (and not material) property, then if I dont use it I shouldn't have to pay for it.

If they want to sell Surface because it's an awesome product, why do they need to go out of their way to lock their software on it ? If it's so awesome, surely people would want to use it, right ? If the proverbial destination is so great, why do they need to lock their guests inside ?

> I'd love one if I could put linux on it

You can.


"Something that sets the Surface apart from other popular tablets, is that it doesn’t artificially limit your capabilities. If you want to use it as a laptop, or install alternate operating systems on it, you are free to do so. I think the Surface is going to make a great Linux laptop, and I look forward to spending some time playing with it."

thank you for the clarification. I was aware that linux was great on surface 1,2 models, and last I had checked, either v3 or 4 were completely locked.

You're not their target demographic. 99% of people don't want to put linux on it.

back in the 90's, 99% of people didn't want linux either, and MS did just fine without "physically" locking you out of their competition.

I'm curious if you have a conception of exactly how much money creating, testing, and deploying a SKU of a product actually runs. Now multiply it by the number of permutations of the product. You should get a reasonably large number with six or seven zeroes at the end. Be honest: are they going to even break even off of the micropopulation that cares?

I dont follow your point. I'm not asking MS to sell me a linux version of their tablet. I"m saying they shouldn't use UEFI or other proprietary bootloader tricks to keep me from wiping windows off and installing my own software on it. That would be cheaper for them to do than spending extra development time to keep me out.

But...you can do that. Right now. The Surface Pro 4 has no "bootloader tricks"; it has Secure Boot, which you can disable from the UEFI menu. No x86 Surface ever has ever had any "physical" methods of "locking you out of their competition".

So either you want something that already exists or you want something new, and I'm very confused as to your initial post.

Just goes to show how damaging FUD actually is. Someone made up this fear and people still believe it even when the proof is literally everywhere. They just don't want to look, repeating a lie is easier.

It's more nuanced than just FUD. I admit I may have been wrong and that the surface 4 might work on linux. but its disingenuous to call my position FUD.

at least according to this [1] article, MS requires secure boot in win 10. and the criticisms about UEFI and how it makes linux much more difficult to install (which I have experienced firsthand) are documented on wikipedia [2]. I'm going to enjoy my friday evening and not try to make a solid case, but of course microsoft denies that they ever intended to use UEFI to block competition (because they've never done that before :) ).

[1] https://www.extremetech.com/extreme/201722-linuxs-worst-case...

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unified_Extensible_Firmware_In...

It really isn't disingenuous to call it FUD. A simple Google search would've clued you in. You don't have to mean to spread FUD to spread FUD, and you should own it and stop.

Microsoft did not sell computers in the 90s...

Beyond that, I find those that want to run Linux on a Surface often put it in Hyper-V and use putty + WinSCP + $TEXT_EDITOR_OF_CHOICE wired up to WinSCP. Heck, now there's the Windows subsystem for Linux.

X11 and VNC help if you want a Linux desktop, but that's admittedly a less than ideal experience.

Of course, virtualization generally precludes USB peripheral access, so my suggestions are a pure software and web development solution.

It appears that you can, it's just hard: https://www.reddit.com/r/SurfaceLinux/comments/4t64zt/gettin...

It looks like most of the linux issues are due to MS doing some weird architectural things (touch calculations on the GPU, etc), but that's just what I was able to find out with 2 minutes on the first thing google popped up.

I could buy an OEM pc without an OS

I don't know about "without an OS", but Dell is selling a laptop right now that comes with Ubuntu Linux out of the box: http://www.dell.com/us/business/p/xps-13-9360-laptop/pd?3x_n....

And, like others have pointed out, the Surface isn't "locked". Yes, it has SecureBoot and UEFI... just like literally every desktop motherboard shipped within the last 5 years. You can go into UEFI, turn off SecureBoot, wipe Windows and replace it with whatever you want. It may not work very well, but it's totally doable.

If they want to sell Surface because it's an awesome product, why do they need to go out of their way to lock their software on it?

Because the software is part of the product. Apple has shown us that customers do not consider hardware and software to be separate entities. They consider both to be an integrated whole.

I've hated MS a decade ago, because of their position against linux and because of IE6. I've watched them doing big efforts the last few years, and I welcome them - I can't wait to feel good about them. That being, this article indeed sounds too emphasized to not be fishy. Maybe it's a PR article, maybe it's just that the author from this financial publication bought MS shares lately, maybe it's something else, I don't know.

But yeah, I don't see either any major change in mobile MS usage around me.

Do you love the fact that MS earns millions from patent trolling Linux companies? How's that for open source "support"?

All of that was prior leadership. Satya has largely reversed this trend (which wasn't limited to Microsoft) and has gone the polar opposite of open source licensing a-la BSD/Apache licenses (no strings attached) and joining the Linux foundation.

As far as I'm aware MS are still operating their Linux patents extortion racket. What on earth were the Linux Foundation thinking when they allowed MS to become a member? It seems the Linux Foundation is little more than a corporate jamboree.

Without being ideological about baggage from a decade and more in Microsoft's past, it's easy to see that the company it is today has a large and diverse set of products. Many are good, I'd still say some are bad. But it would be simplistic to remain suspicious and attached to an expired narrative.

I haven't used Azure but I know people that have and they all say it's a pleasure to work with most of the time.

As a JVM developer the .NET Core stuff is really interesting to me and I'd love to figure out a way to start using it.

I'd pretty much written MS off several years ago as a fading giant but they're cranking out products and services I want to use now and that I just need to figure out how to get them into my life.

Have you played with Azure or .Net Core? People tend to enjoy the Surface products too.

In this regard I would not say they are "back" but better than Microsoft has ever been. Are they the best at everything... nah but heck the fact that I am saying many of their products are compelling is a big improvement

I got a Surface Pro 3 last year because the form factor seemed ideal for a road trip (I wanted something I could use as a laptop in a motel room and as a tablet in the back seat of a car).

The quality of the machine blew me away. It's easily the best "laptop" I've used in a very long time, and it's become my downstairs computer.

I originally planned to dual-boot it with Arch Linux, but I ultimately decided against it because Windows 10 worked so well on it, especially for the form factor. Any advantages I would've had by running Linux were eliminated by installing Cygwin and KDE Applications (plus PuTTY to connect to my Linode). Since then, that's been augmented by bash for Windows, which is absolutely lovely. Thanks to b4w, it's become my main machine to use when working from home.

More recently, I've visited one of my local Microsoft Stores, and I'm really impressed by the Surface Book and the Surface Studio. Those are some really sweet pieces of hardware.

I used to be a diehard Microsoft hater for most of my life, and now I'm a convert.

I've played with Azure and it's terrible. If a client wants me to use Azure instead of Google or Amazon, I literally charge a premium because it's so much more painful.

I don't see how anyone could possible claim GAE or similar offerings from Google compete anywhere close to what Microsoft or Amazon is providing.

My take on it between Amazon and Microsoft: Microsoft has less functionality but with an easier UI. Amazon is light years ahead of anyone but their UI scheme (from naming things to where they position features and options) is pretty lack luster.

These days, GCP completely blows away AWS in every area where they overlap, especially VMs, networking and cloud storage.

GCP is generally a lot more consistent and modern, having benefited from a clean-slate design and Google's expertise in designing huge continent-spanning infrastructure solutions. Some examples:

* AWS Glacier looks pretty nifty until you realize that Google's equivalent, the coldline storage class, still gives you millisecond latencies (Glacier's is usually measured in hours), at a much lower price point.

* GCP is designed to automatically migrate VMs between physical hosts, with zero application downtime. This in turn is possible thanks to their rather amazing network stack, a completely transparent, encrypted L4 SDN. AWS, meanwhile, suffers on the awkward mess that is AWS VPC (unless one is still stuck on "legacy EC2").

* Google gets things like consolidated billing correct from the start. Other minor things like IAM management and the command-line toolchain are a breath of fresh air.

Not to say that it's all rosy, of course. GCP has its own set of issues, like any product offering, though no major ones come to mind. But it's clear that some of their services (the StackDriver tools comes to mind) are not up to their usual quality standards.

Of course, Google doesn't have counterparts to all of Amazon's offerings, but then AWS has a lot of odd products (much of it targeting enterprises with legacy infrastructure). Google's focus on Kubernetes and containerization means that some of the deployment-oriented services (CloudFormation, Elastic Beanstalk and so on) are less relevant, and for now Google seems to rely on the community/third parties to come up with their own solutions, which I think is a good call at the moment.

Another cool thing I've experienced with Google Cloud: a while ago I had a VM running, with the default 7.5 GB RAM for a 2 CPU VM. Then when I came back some days later, I got a message saying that the VM had only been using ~3GB of RAM, and that I could save money by reducing the VM's RAM, by clicking "this button". Then I clicked the button, the VM's RAM was reduced and, if I recall correctly, it didn't even require a reboot.

That's not only technically impressive, it's also really good customer service.

You can't resize running VMs — Google is good, but not that good. You can stop, resize, and start again, which is still better than AWS (unless they support changing the instance type now). I suspect that the button you talk about did that.

> I don't see how anyone could possible claim GAE or similar offerings from Google compete anywhere close to what Microsoft or Amazon is providing.

I think your information is quite out of date. GCP is competitive with AWS for many use cases and certainly is better than Azure.

The days of GAE even being the primary offering are long gone.

There's a reason that if you look at DevOps tools they all support AWS, most also support GCP, but very few support Azure.

It most likely is out of date, but I've continued to see the same sentiments echo'd from other people recently, so haven't bothered to fully revinvestigate. I got the impression from my time with Google's offerings that their culture of "we're consumer focused, not devop focused" (anything from API's to reporting) completely plastered their offerings in the cloud space.

>most also support GCP, but very few support Azure.

This might be a case of different tech stacks, but nearly everything I work with supports Azure. Sorry to ask this, because it might be easier for you to provide an example or two what you specifically know doesn't work with Azure versus me providing everything that does (and of course, these should be semi-popular tools in whatever "stack").

> I got the impression from my time with Google's offerings that their culture of "we're consumer focused, not devop focused" (anything from API's to reporting)

Huh? What does "consumer focused" even mean in the cloud space?

Google has made a substantial effort to buff up their cloud offerings in the past few years and it definitely shows. (AWS is still my first choice though.)

> This might be a case of different tech stacks,

That's true. If you're working with a Microsoft stack then of course Azure will come out ahead. I'm coming from a generic Linux background.

>What does "consumer focused" even mean in the cloud space?

Nothing. It's their general company culture. They don't tend to actually create good API's/tooling in my experience. It always seems like an after thought. From google maps to their cloud offerings.

>If you're working with a Microsoft stack then of course Azure will come out ahead. I'm coming from a generic Linux background.

I work with Linux and Microsoft stacks on a daily basis, but certainly that could just mean I've chosen tools that explicitly won't conflict with each other. However, I'm still interested to hear what tools don't work with Azure (with the assumption that there is some quality about Azure that prevents/disincentives that tool from doing so).

GCP has enough to handle a lot of cases. Just because it doesn't have some hacked-up version of Elasticsearch-as-a-Service doesn't hurt its value.

Azure has tons of stuff thrown all over it. The UI is absolutely terrible. It's some weird tablet-esque thing that flies out to the side and requires so much clicking around. It's slow. And it's overpriced. AWS's UI, while involved, at least isn't someone's let's-resurrect-Windows-8-UI project.

I know two companies that get tons of free Azure credits, yet still pay for GCP in production just to avoid dealing with Azure. If GCP slowly keeps adding features while keeping simplicity and speed, they're going to make huge strides against AWS and Azure.

What are the problems you have the most with it? I've been working with it for a couple years now and despite a clunky interface (and the bifurcation of the two portals) the infrastructure has seemed pretty solid and has saved us (small dev shop working for small/medium companies) a ton of time and money. For most things (spinning up a new env with databases, redis caches, storage accounts etc) it is remarkably easy once you get used to the process and occasional workarounds. Granted I haven't used the other cloud services and I want to do that on my own time just to have a point of comparison.

I find myself being really suspicious whenever something being used by thousands or millions of people is just waved off by other people as being terrible. To me being "terrible" usually translates as "I started with something else and it works differently than this and its what I'm used to has its own failings and workarounds but I'm at least used to them and more productive there and I don't really feel like taking the time to get used to how things work for this other system."

It's been a while since I last used Azure, but here are some of the bigger problems I remember:

1. No managed option for MySQL or Postgres hosting.

2. Hard to find resources in the panel and lots of confusion on security practices.

3. Instances randomly dying at an astonishing rate.

You're right that "terrible" is hyperbole. I'm sure there are people who are happy with Azure, especially if they're using a Microsoft stack.

Your translation of "terrible" is how I feel about GCP: it's fine, but it takes me longer to do things because I'm familiar with AWS. Compared to Azure, where I would spend hours on trying to do something and still couldn't find a way to do it.

Well, for #1, is that really surprising when they offer Azure SQL Server instead? And they offer a NoSQL option as well (two, if you include their DocumentDB service). #2 probably more depends on what you are used to. #3 I can see being a problem, although I haven't seen it myself. I've had 3 servers running for over 6 months now and they haven't died once.

Just because the suck isn't surprising doesn't mean it's not there.

Like I said, if you're interested in the Microsoft ecosystem then Azure is probably great. I'm not. For running an open source stack, Azure is not competitive with AWS and GCP.

Do you mind elaborating a little on that? Sounds like a rather sweeping statement, like just because...

I may be taking a job with the Azure team soon. What are the biggest pain points for you?

Yeah, every experience I've had with Azure outside of the demonstrated samples tends to be a complete headache.

For me Microsoft was at its best when they cut the cost of the average PC to low enough that nearly everyone could afford one. That's innovative, this stuff is window dressing.

For my poor family I would have to thank AMD. K5 you were crappy but you were my crappy

You wouldn't of been able to choose AMD if Apple and IBM had their way.

I like VSCode, TypeScript and RxJS. But I didn't buy any MS product since Win7.

Seems like the teams behind the JS/TS stuff are pretty cool. Don't know about the rest.

WSJ doesn't accept press releases.

I've been saying the same thing. My coworkers bring up the surface when I mention it, but I don't see it. Tech in general has felt low innovation lately. Its time for silicon valley 2.

Powerful 2-in-1 that works as a laptop and a tablet; runs sandboxed apps from a web store as well as traditional Windows apps; built in AI assistant; excellent pen operation; built in accelerometer, gyroscope, and magnetometer; cloud integration with OneDrive, Office programs, email etc with the ability to continue work from different devices; face-recognition or fingerprint log-on; increased security features....

Yeah, it's hard to see any innovation compared to your granddad's laptop ;-)

Microsoft wasn't the first to do a single one of those things. Copying Apple and Google isn't innovative in my opinion nor Websters.

And Apple wasn't the first to make a touch screen smartphone. They were just the first to do it well.

Lets say their implementations are marginally better.

* runs sandboxed apps from a web store - Android(2008), IOS(2007)

* as well as traditional Windows apps - Only Windows obviously

* built in AI assistant - Apple(2011)

* excellent pen operation - Wacom(1992)

* built in accelerometer, gyroscope, and magnetometer - Every flagship phone since 2005

* cloud integration with OneDrive, Office programs, email etc with the ability to continue work from different devices - Google drive, Google docs, Gmail (2007)

* face-recognition or fingerprint log-on - Available on circa 2000 Fujitsu laptops

* increased security features - SELinux(1998)

I'm not impressed. Most of this stuff has been done for over a decade if the version from 8 years ago is worse that isn't saying much.

Microsoft had precursors for most of those, including pen operation via MS DOS extensions (in the 1989 GriDPad) and the intelligent Office Assistants in Microsoft Office 98.

Otherwise, the interesting point about Windows 10 is that so much of the technology was carried across from the smartphone industry, including Cortana and notifications from Windows Phone.

I'd have thought that creating a converged mobile OS to cover IoT devices, games consoles, smartphones and all types of PCs required innovation.

On the same basis, so did "PC innovations" that included features from minis and mainframes, and smartphone innovations that had already appeared in various PCs and handhelds.

Unless you're actually a research organization, pretty much every innovation will have more to do with implementation than with pure invention.

It's really amazing how the list you created includes different products for each bullet but Microsoft (or M$ if you prefer) combined all of them into a single product which actually functions.

So if Apple threw a stylus and a word processor on the iPhone they would be innovators too?

Microsoft had a stylus and a word processor on PocketPC handhelds long before the iPhone, and Apple had them on the Newton, though Palm was there first....

Going back to 1989, Microsoft had a stylus-operated tablet with the GRiDPad, which was running MS-DOS with Extensions for Pen Computing.

SketchPad was innovative. Otherwise, such claims generally tend to illustrate that the claimant doesn't know enough computer history...

Well, I agree with them not being innovators but they definitely made a marketable product. It's the same thing for which business circles praise Apple. Apple turn already known things into a marketable package which is not so different from what Microsoft did here. That's what being a device manufacturer is about.

Innovations come in small bursts. Take the Surface Hub as an example.

I get that people like the product. I guess my problem is if everything is innovation than nothing is.

May "innovation" is just an irrelevant marketing claim. The claim, whether true or false, doesn't make the product better.

Yeah, ten year ago it was very innovative.

Well old Silicon Valley is not done marketing billion dollar web versions of 30 line Unix utilities.

Maybe we can make all these things again in VIRTUAL REALITY!!!!

And here I thought I was being original, making a series of microservices for linux commandline utilities

why grep, when you can grep over the network?

The young'uns here probably have not lived thru the Microsoft era in the 90s when "Embrace Extend Extinguish" was the operating motto and any Market where MS entered would send competitors quaking in fear.

They were late to the internet party and then under the disastrous leadership of Ballamer (mindshare wise, not revenue) they completely lost the plot.

Now they are indeed enjoying a resurgence, less evil, more relevant and surprisingly accepting of Open source software. How the world turns....

The counterpart to "embrace, extend, and extinguish" was spreading FUD: "fear, uncertainty, and doubt". This was the strategy they took towards Linux, which as open source was not susceptible to embrace, extend, extinguish. So the Microsoft propaganda machine was used to make people afraid of open source, in many different ways.

The current course of Microsoft appears to have changed a lot, with open source being accepted and even "embraced". If someone can explain to me how embrace, extend, and extinguish could apply to Linux, I'd be curious to hear.

What will happen if programmers feel "comfortable" on WSL and MS doesn't implement (or worse, breaks) a system call?

Or, what about if MS decides to make a "nice" "new" system call, whose implementation is closed source.

Will Apache now have to maintain a fork for Windows WSL and Linux?

Will Linux now have to create a Wine-like project to reverse-engineer and fix all the WSL bugs and copy features?

They are still trying to sue IBM for Linux via SCO: http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2016/03/linux-kernel-laws... .

So I see no change.

MS still operates a Linux patent extortion racket yet the tech press seem to be all over them since their recent charm offensive. MS is The Beast and always will be. See http://techrights.org/2016/03/10/charm-offensives-distract/ for more.

Is MS still contributing money to this lawsuit? It was on my poorly written wishlist, but I was not sure about it at the time.

I kind of thought that it was a new microsoft.

Then we switched to office 365 at work. New app icons keep appearing. I love checking them out. They still seem to release a lot of clone like software:

MS flow = ifttt [1] MS planner = trello [2] MS forms = google forms

"MS Power Apps" seems interesting but I haven't had a chance to explore.

[1] http://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2016/11/micros... [2] https://techcrunch.com/2016/06/06/microsoft-officially-launc...

And MS Teams (soon) = Slack

This article loses credibility with the opening line...

FTA: After years of missteps, the software giant is among the few titans of the 1990s to figure out the new world of mobile technology and cloud computing.

Saying MSFT have figured out mobile is a little too much of a stretch. They have tried many things in the space, they have figured out more of what doesn't work than what does. Unfortunately the market doesn't reward learnings alone.

I think if you focus on their mobile apps and services, rather than their mobile phones, the statement has some pretty serious merit. E.g., Azure's mobile services are used very heavily by iOS and Android apps, I see Office all the time on phones, and so on.

Yes. In fact, one of the common complaints of Windows Phone users is that the Microsoft experience is actually better on Android. (Maybe iOS too, but I don't have any direct experience seeing that.)

From Microsoft's perspective, I'm sure it's hard to argue with the market share figures. When there's 20 times as many users on a particular platform... that's where the staff time will go. It's not the Office group's job to sell phones, they sell Office.

2016Q2: 87.6% Android, 11.7% iOS, 0.4% Windows Phone, 0.3% Others


They might not be a huge contender in the smart phone market, but are tablets not considered "mobile"? I agree, it might've been more appropriate to not generalize with saying they solved mobile and instead point out a particular mobile offering that is excelling or something.

Tablets, 2-in-1s and most laptops are actually mobile. This is one of the reasons why Windows 10 is in large part a mobile operating system.

The next generation of ARM-based Windows 10 tablets, 2-in-1s and laptops will also be much more SIM-friendly.

I don't agree with the notion that Surface and the chincy touch enabled notebooks are mobile. A laptop with a touch screen is still a laptop.

In 2000 no one was talking about Dell or HP/Compaq as leading mobile. They were selling what they still are selling, laptop computers. When Mobile came along people recognized it for what it was, something different than general purpose computing of the past.

To say Metro, Windows Phone, Lumia, the write off and destruction of Nokia or touch enabled laptops were anything but failures of MSFT to figure out mobile is misguided.

Knowing when to stop throwing good money after bad is, in a sense, figuring things out.

Mobile means more than just phones.

It takes learnings to get to earnings or to have any other worthwhile yearnings.

You need to be on the right end of more successes than failures otherwise you learnings aren't worth much.

Microsoft has done some very good things and some very bad things. I'll let everyone else point out the bad things because there seems to be plenty of that.

I personally like the:

  Surface products,
  .NET Core,
  Visual Studio Code, and
  the Hololens.
These are all recently new developments for Microsoft that are really awesome. The fact that a lot of this has become open source is even better. You have to give Microsoft credit for one thing, they've shifted the company so much and that is impressive for a large company.

I enjoy Azure but I understand some people's frustration with it so I exclude it from the list above, I get that it's contentious so I'm leaving it off.

Microsoft has a huge, huge intellectual capital in Microsoft Research. They have very interesting results and experimental ideas in programming languages and interaction design, and I'm sure they'll have most of it patented.

> They have very interesting results and experimental ideas in programming languages and interaction design, and I'm sure they'll have most of it patented.

That's the problem with Microsoft. They make their money by holding on to their IP (Windows), rather than spreading it around (like Google, with eg. Kubernetes), and I don't think this will work for anything like it has worked for Windows.

For example, Microsoft didn't design the current default (dare I say) cloud runtime environment Kubernetes, because they would rather keep their technology within the Microsoft ecosystem, in order to attract customers to Windows (which is where they make their money). Google, on the other hand, is willing to let go of their IP (using the Kubernetes example), by donating it to a non-profit, and thus having it succeed because open standards always succeed in the end. It's just not possible for Microsoft to create some service within Azure, and have it become the "Windows of the Cloud". Companies just aren't willing to tie themselves to any particular vendor, and in that light Microsoft just doesn't seem that attractive.

Have you personally tried the Hololens? They appear to have oversold the qualities of at least the first version.

Yes and I recognize that there is a lot of room for improvement, but it's a really cool idea and I think it's the best Augmented Reality product on the market right now. If there is another one then let me know, because I'd love to see it.

The biggest issue with Hololens is it's field of view.

I guess it all comes down to how expensive they'll be (at least for consumer applications). The $3000 cost for the new developer edition doesn't bode well, IMO.

I tried one and was impressed.

The limitations are real, and if they can't solve them and get the cost down it will remain a niche product for business, but I have no reason to believe that's the case.

I personally tried them and was very impressed. Sure, field of view could be better, but as far as I know they are the only company that have figured out how to do inside out tracking 6 axis tracking. It's also a fully untethered experience, which put them ahead of pretty much all the competition in term of AR (in my opinion).

I just can't agree with this conclusion.

Microsoft has taken some great steps since Nadella took over. Doing more projects aimed at regular developers and taking baby steps towards open source, but that is not enough to be a leader.

In fact, I think in 2016, we are in a much worse place when it comes to tech leadership than we were in the late 90s and early 00s. The tech world has been poisoned by money and everything is focused on maximizing profit. Almost nothing is being created because it's innovative or really life changing. The new products that are coming out like Google Home or Microsoft Office 365 which claim to be innovative, really aren't. They are repackaging an existing product in a new context. That's called marketing. That's not tech leadership.

In the 90s we had the launch of Linux, the web and home internet access.

In the 2000s all we've really had is smart phones. Everything else has just been building on what was done in the 90s because the people in charge are all marketers and profit seekers.

Do something truly innovative with all your billions Microsoft, and then I will buy that you are a tech leader. No amount of press releases or fluff articles will convince me.

> "Do something truly innovative with all your billions Microsoft"

What exactly are you looking for? Are devices like HoloLens and Kinect and Surface Studio not innovative enough for you? What would you class as 'truly innovative'?

No, they aren't. Kinect was using motion tracking and stereo vision technology that already existed. They just refined it and it was clearly a dead end. Also it was just a "me too" response to the success of the Wii.

Surface studio is just a big touch screen. Nothing new.

HoloLens is the most innovative but again this kind of AR has been around for a while, it's a refinement and I think it will just be a dead end like Kinect ultimately.

Truly innovative means something that actually changes things. I think the list I gave in my comment makes that pretty obvious; the web, home broadband, Linux and smartphones. Those changed the world. The Surface Studio will not.

> "the web"

Okay, but that's sort of technological shift is rare. Nothing else in my lifetime has come close.

>"home broadband"

Just a refinement of the web.


Linux is based on designs from the 70s, it was old before it was first released.


I hope you realise smartphones did not start with the iPhone. The smartphone has gone through a long period of iterative design improvements.

If you're looking for a product that emerges out of a vacuum, you won't find it, all products build upon their predecessors, even the web (which made use of existing telecommunications infrastructure and existing work in the field of computing).

What you will find are new forms that build upon the past. For example, quantum computing is a relatively new field, but has roots in the existing fields of computer science, physics and electrical engineering.

Would quantum computing count as 'truly innovative' to you? If so...


> >"home broadband"

> Just a refinement of the web.

What? Not remotely. It enables the web but the underlying technologies are totally different. Home broadband also enabled a lot of other things. Your statement makes me think you don't actually understand technology at all.

> Linux is based on designs from the 70s, it was old before it was first released.

Again you're failing to understand what was revolutionary here. GNU had been around for quite a while. It's Linux that was revolutionary. It's a kernel that worked well and that people could contribute to and package up with GNU to enable operating systems of very high quality.

> I hope you realise smartphones did not start with the iPhone. The smartphone has gone through a long period of iterative design improvements.

Aye carumba. What were called smartphones before the iPhone were awful. WinCE was a disaster, and Blackberries were a niche tool for a niche market. iOS and Android devices made computing usable on a mobile platform by everyone for the first time.

Of course everything builds on the past, all of these things are based on integrated chips and transistors and on and on.

But some technologies are actually revolutionary (like the ones just listed) and others are not (Kinect.) This is obvious by the impact or the lack of impact that they have.

You are not fun to talk to because you are missing very obvious things, and I think you're doing it deliberately, so I'm done with you.

> "What? Not remotely. It enables the web but the underlying technologies are totally different. Home broadband also enabled a lot of other things. Your statement makes me think you don't actually understand technology at all."

In terms of impact, which is seemingly how you want to measure how innovative something was, home broadband changed how much the web was used. Compared to the dial-up era it made the Internet something people could connect to 24/7. However, in my own personal experience I was already a heavy Internet user before home broadband, so it mostly changed how quickly things got downloaded. I still watched videos, listened to music, chatted to strangers, played games, etc... in the dial-up era.

>"Again you're failing to understand what was revolutionary here. GNU had been around for quite a while. It's Linux that was revolutionary. It's a kernel that worked well and that people could contribute to and package up with GNU to enable operating systems of very high quality."

If open-source was the thing you wanted to point to as innovative, then you should've said open-source. Other than the development methodology behind it and how widespread it is, there's not much that's interesting about Linux. As for 'enable operating systems of very high quality', that's debatable. High quality compared to what? Linux is far from perfect. To give one example, CoreAudio is far better than ALSA or ALSA+PulseAudio when it comes to flexibility and latency respectively.

>"Aye carumba. What were called smartphones before the iPhone were awful. WinCE was a disaster, and Blackberries were a niche tool for a niche market. iOS and Android devices made computing usable on a mobile platform by everyone for the first time."

Again, this seems to come down to you wanting to measure innovation in terms of impact. Quite a bit of the UI of the iPhone has its roots in the PDA market, which was arguably also started by Apple with the Newton. The iPhone introduced capacitive multitouch, and had a sleek design, but if it didn't become popular it would've been just another evolution of the smartphone, just like the LG Prada.


>"But some technologies are actually revolutionary (like the ones just listed) and others are not (Kinect.) This is obvious by the impact or the lack of impact that they have."

So it's not the design that's revolutionary but the impact it has? Was putting wheels on luggage revolutionary?

>"You are not fun to talk to because you are missing very obvious things, and I think you're doing it deliberately, so I'm done with you."

Feel free to ignore me if you like, I'm not fussed.

They're using their billions to buy advertisements like this 'article'.

How do these paywall articles keep finding their way to the top? I call BS.

Use the link named "web" below the submission title to bypass the paywall.

It just searches google and when I click it, they still want me to subscribe.

Incognito mode

That doesn't work for me (I still get just the snippet). Ah well, let's find something else.

In this case the posted article can't even be found in the first page of search results.

They are brigaded to the top. It's profitable.

Not to say that Microsoft hasn't done some good work in say Linux lately because of Azure, but I just don't see Microsoft as an innovator, it's very hard to see a company that makes 2 billion a year off android patent's as innovative... I wonder how much of Microsoft in the future will be a tech leader, versus a patents company.

I don't think this is an accurate view at all. How can you say they aren't innovating when you've got Microsoft Research still going strong with the fruits of its labor becoming visible in commercial applications such as speech, augmented reality, etc.

Not to mention the open source efforts they've put forth with .NET -- which admittedly is still in rough shape but certainly seems to have a future.

I don't think it's quite right to discount Microsoft entirely and see them as the next IBM.

Agree, even when Microsoft was unpopular and declining in relevancy MS Research was putting out the best information out of any tech company.

Please browse https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/research/ and try to find a comparable resource from anyone else.

These are just as respectable: https://research.fb.com/publications/ https://research.google.com/pubs/papers.html

I have a fair bit of respect for Microsoft research lab's and it has also done a fair bit of interesting work in hardware, I was talking about Microsoft as a company in it's totality.

I always viewed Microsoft research labs as a spot of bright light in an otherwise relatively dark company, perhaps that is slightly schizophrenic of me.

This. I've made comments like this more then once on HN: people see 'microsoft' and they think it is just the company selling an OS and office suite and forget or don't know there's more to it. The research for one, which has indeed been going strong for decades, but now also the hardware side which does have at least some innovation to it imo.

Is it just me, or is the usual "copy title, paste into google search" not working this time? I can't manage to find the google search result for this article, even after trying many combinations of google filters/date filters.

They've caught on?

I think it's just you.

They don't want to disable that, because it's an easy and free way for them to rank higher in search engines.

News about M$ must be paid news.

I don't buy it. As a formerly epic consumer of Microsoft products, I can't say I've actually seen ANY change other than a new fluffy marketing facade and a figurehead who appears to be able to walk on water unquestioned simply because he's not Gates or Ballmer. My rationale is as follows:

There is a massive decline in privacy with Windows 10 and retrofitted code to Windows 8.1. There is no option to disable these unless you eviscerate it with a 3rd party tool and/or get a licensing agreement that allows you to use Enterprise Edition and push out GPOs. There is no discussion from Microsoft on this other than some weasel words which say nothing of value. You have to resort to whack-a-mole techniques to secure yourself or business and use their products. The only responses are similar to "we have privacy policy. privacy good!" (read in Lars Ulrich Napster Bad voice).

The migration to a subscription model for everything is bad. Everyone ends up paying more over time and for it we're getting online software delivery that at some points doesn't even work properly or leaves you in the dust. What you end up buying is golden handcuffs.

There is so much fragmentation, it's unreal. As someone who deals with .Net a lot, there is no conclusive plan that lasts more than a few weeks. Tools are volatile, frameworks are fragmented, tooling is pushing more features instead of quality. The rate of churn is also so high, no one knows what the hell is going on. Add to that, reckless abandonment of the last few years is still a major policy. Even looking at Microsoft Office extensions, the bread and butter of many industries, no one has any idea what they hell they are playing at with VSTO and Office 365 at the moment. They plugged a half baked script API in it and consigned everyone to the side bar. No one talks about fight club, or VSTO either apparently.

There are still really bad quality issues. Not a single day goes by where anything isn't poking you in the eye to the point you want to throw your computer or handset out of the window. There is no way to report this or get it fixed conclusively. Even enterprise reps have no idea how to get products fixed at the moment. It has become worse than the days of Microsoft Connect which was a "write this down so we can close it and say fuck you". A lot of things simply just don't even work properly as well. Shit is shiny but it's still shit.

Customers are getting a pricing shafting across the board. Average Joe Consumer doesn't see this but enterprise pricing is paying for all of this. It's horrific some of the prices I've seen floating around recently.

On top of this there is also a new policy of telling the customer what they're getting and being permanently correct. Occasionally to appease the masses, one or two things a year in one of their uservoice type systems close to the business vision (which appears to be totalitarian cross platform domination) get chucked out half baked with a grand announcement. This is celebrated as a major success while a thousand new and old paper cuts, well actually proportionately speaking, eviscerations with a knife, go unnoticed.

I'm not saying they are worse than any of the other larger "tech leaders" but they are not worthy of the mindless praise that is slathered all over them by some members of the tech community and the media recently.

Look Who’s Back! Microsoft...

That could be the title of a horror movie...

Great comment from Mark stamp in the comments section.

> Under Mr. Nadella, Microsoft is shaping up to be the only pre-internet tech giant to escape the decline of its legacy product—the Windows PC operating system—and emerge as a leader in the new era of cloud computing.

Other than Apple, Oracle and IBM?

This is the IBM that has enjoyed 18 consecutive quarterly declines in revenues, including the most recent 21% fall in hardware revenues? ;-)

It has bought more than 100 companies to try to reverse its decline (including Softlayer), so maybe it won't get much worse. However, this is a company that used to be a titan when Microsoft was a midge on its PC division's backside...

Apple is the only one of the three that could credibly be said to have "escape[d] the decline of its legacy product" and none could be said to have "emerge[d] as a leader in the new era of cloud computing".

Tens of billions of dollars of cash laying around, used well, enables a lot of pivoting.

When you are Google and Microsoft is seems you don't pivot you just try all the ideas at once

Well said! 'pivot' is too limited of a concept for what they're doing.

At what point can we safely assume that Balmer was simply incompetent?

Balmer was good at what he did: making Microsoft lots of money.

Balmer ran MS from 2000 to 2014. Here's what the profits for that time period (since 2002) looked like: https://www.statista.com/statistics/267808/net-income-of-mic...

So not incompetent, just focused on something else.

Revenue isn't the issue. It's the sheer number of missed opportunities and bumbles during Balmer's tenure.

Search / Online Advertising... lost to Google. Google went from under $1B to $74B. Could have been Microsoft's. https://www.statista.com/statistics/266206/googles-annual-gl...

Smart Phones... lost to Apple and Google. During Balmer's tenure Apple went form ~$1B in to ~$54B. Could have been Microsoft's. https://www.statista.com/statistics/267728/apples-net-income... And... what did they even get for a $7B investment in Nokia?

Cloud Services... lost to Amazon. AWS has grown to $10B -- with no end in sight to the growth there. Could have been Microsoft's. http://www.recode.net/2016/4/28/11586526/aws-cloud-revenue-g...

Online Office Tools... including email servers for SMBs... lost to Google. Despite having a near 100% share in office tools prior to the advent of Google Docs. The UX for their first generation of "flat office" made it damn near unusable. Personally I still think Office 365 is weak compared to Google Suite. $9B investment in Skype... only to have it be less interesting than Google Hangouts or Slack.

Microsoft Project / Project Central is all but irrelevant at this point. Lost out to Atlassian, GitHub, Trello, Asana... 200 other tools.

Windows 8...

So Windows 10 has been nice. Office 365 is getting there. Azure has been improving as well. It's clear someone lit a fire the last year or so to fix all the shit that was stagnant or fucked up during the last 15 years.

I'd say he was average at making money. It sounds impressive but you need to annualize and compare it to the market as a whole.

5.36B to 22B in 12 years = 11.7% annualized profit increase from 2012 to 2014.

However, MSFT stock appreciation was 22 -> 41 or 5.2% annualized. (Stock includes expectations of future growth, etc.)

Average S&P was ~7.8% for that time period.

Ballmer would have done better for investors by just investing in an index fund.

You including their 2003 stock split in your calculations?

edit: because, if not, it's more like a 9.85% return on the stock

Thanks for the catch; I didn't account for the split. Still, it looks like the SPY handily beat MSFT's return over that time period.


Microsoft feels now, from software developer perspective, as if they finally leashed their lawyers and peddlers, that were running the show for previous decade or more, and let the engineers have a saying in what should be produced.

Express/Community versions, VS Code, typescript, open source, github, browser standards, Windows 10. So many good signs. I can't name the other company that have shown so many good signs in recent past.

So the pendulum has swung yet again!


MS has gone up 131% since that essay. I love the silly suggestions in it, too, about putting shielding around a hypothetical new MS to prevent Redmond ideas from getting in. And it'll be fun to see how their $25BN investment in a SV company, LinkedIn, actually pays off.

> There can only be one big man in town, and [Google is] clearly it.

This is still mostly true, and Amazon is in an even more interesting position than Microsoft will ever be in.

I buy cluster-compute time, movies, and sacks of organic flour from the same company.

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