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Ask HN: What do you want to tell Microsoft?
164 points by petewailes on Sept 17, 2010 | hide | past | web | favorite | 375 comments
Short version: I've been asked to compile a document that will go to various people at MS, including Steve Ballmer (before anyone asks, no I'm not giving you his or anyone elses contact details).

As such, what would you guys like to see from Microsoft in the future? Suggestions can cover anything from IE9 to Windows 8, your thoughts on 7 (desktop or mobile), Xbox, Zune... Also, thoughts on competitors and their movements would be welcomed too.

Please note that this isn't just a feature request list, so anything to do with the strategic direction of MS and/or any of its divisions would be great.

Fire away!

Personally, I think Microsoft needs to make the strategic "pivot" to selling experiences - not necessarily operating systems.

They've done a great job of this with Xbox and Windows 7. I was incredibly sad when the Courier got cancelled. This was a big head pound moment for me. At it's core, MS sells software, but increasingly, it seems apparent that consumers are going to spend their dollars on hardware/software combos (this is primarily a nod to Apple, but look at the care that Google invested with Android - the G1, the close relationship to Droid, and Nexus One, and RIM making all their devices). It's no longer enough to say "here's an operating system, do what you want with it." This was the previous mobile strategy, and now it's gotten them into the position their in.

Mobile seems to be figured out already - MS will be fighting for 3rd place (at least for the next 5-7 years). Tablets is still a potential area for innovation - the iPad leaves a lot to be desired, ChromeOS seems to be dead, Android Tablets have yet to really take off.

Overall - there seems to be an inherent political culture at MS. It's intriguing that Apple has a higher market value with 10% of the employees. I know so many brilliant, smart people that work at Microsoft, but I haven't heard from them in the past 5 years - they seem to all be cogs in a big machine.

Encourage employees to start their own companies. Maybe have a blanket policy of providing seed money to any employee that wants to - YC style. Take a lot of smaller risks instead of few big ones. Zuckerberg would have taken $10,000 for 10% when he first started - now 1.6% cost you $240,000,000! You could have invested in 200,000 ideas for that price. Let your people run with their own ideas, without having to sit through 80 million meetings and having their ideas suffer death by 1000 PM's.

+1 for that last paragraph.

Just thinking that you need a billion dollar product or it's not worth it, will mean that no potentially game-changing ideas that start as a seed and will grow can come through the system. You're left with only the options to buy (but now the other companies will not sell as they have wisened up to their value) or partner (and you'll not get the real benefit or possibilities from it, and your competitors might).

Totally agree. Many have criticized Google's culture of "try lots of things", but it has clearly worked well for them. Microsoft should be encouraging their young, hungry tech talent to be creating tomorrow's killer apps today. Bureaucracy and top-down direction will kill this type of innovation every time.

Google's product development looks strikingly similar to Microsoft's from my POV.

They buy small companies and assimilate their products. Microsoft has done this many times, making many small but "successful" products. So has Google. And they both have just a handful of home-grown products that support their reputation. Personally, I find no fault with the strategy. But I do find fault with the way people use Google to bash Microsoft when they're so similar in this respect.

Everybody knows about Microsoft's acquire / "embrace extend extinguish" so how about a brief one for Google, to reinforce my point.

1. Search - Home Grown, Obv.

2. AdWords - Embrace/Extend/Extinguish - Copied from IdeaLab, Sued, Settled out of Court

3. AdSense - Acquisition

4. Maps - Acquisition

5. GMail - Home Grown.

6. Android - Acquisition

7. Chrome - Not sure entirely, but def based on WebKit, Seems fair to say it's not an E/E/E strategy tho.

8. Display Advertising - Acquisition

9. Docs - Several Acquisitions

10. Voice - Acquisition

re: Chrome

several former GreenBorder employees were named in a description of [Chrome's] sandboxing ability http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GreenBorder

via: http://www.digitalbuzzblog.com/infographic-googles-acquisiti...

The Courier was precisely the device I wanted. I don't know if they had it working as well, or could make it work as well, as it did in the videos. I remember describing a device like the Courier the day before I saw it.

HUGE disappointment.

They had a plastic mockup to film with and added the screens in post. It never existed beyond a video and some photos.

Care to explain how come Chrome OS is dead?

I'm sure it's not "dead", but it doesn't have any "e-buzz" right now. It was designed to be a tabletOS - how come all the upcoming tablets are all going to be based on Android? Are Android and ChromeOS going to interact with each other? It seems silly to have two free products that compete with each other doing very similar things - especially when both of them are supposed to offer the same thing experience-wise.

Android has all the buzz, Android has the market share, Android has all the apps - if I were a tablet maker, would you put Android (a proven platform right now) or ChromeOS on your new tablet? ChromeOS will need some serious help from Google if it's going to be viable (i.e a Google specific device that shows it off). This is a prognostication on my part (a big one), but if Google relies on it's manufacturing partners (without strong direction), ChromeOS will fail.

Chrome OS was not designed to be a tablet OS. It can be used on a tablet, but if you read the launch blog post it's very clear they are targeting netbooks, not tablets. Since that day they have of course expanded to include tablets, but suggesting that was the original idea is misleading at best.

Also, Chrome OS hasn't been released to the public yet and so it's absurd to call it "dead". The planned release date is in October.

Imagine walking in to Best Buy or Futureshop and seeing a line of laptops, some labelled "Microsoft" and some labelled "Google". People are less afraid to move away from MS if they're moving to a company they know and trust, like Google.

Calling Chrome OS dead, at least right now, is a very very silly mistake to make.

We'll see how ChromeOS does! It seems to me that you won't see any netbooks labeled Google - you'll see them marketed as "Acer", "Asus", or "Dell".

Focusing on the web experience and printing (to combine your reply to my other comment) seems like a very narrow niche to me. It seems like ChromeOS is trying to position itself between Android and something like Windows 7.

Surfing the web and wanting to print is a common use case - but in that example, why would I want a device that does that, but not get a full fledged computer? I can't even install my own apps! Why would I need the capability to print - yet buy a device that pretty much requires me to be online all the time?

It just seems very risky to me. Why not add a printing function to Android? Wouldn't it be cool if you could hook up your phone and connect it to a printer and print? Wouldn't Android devices have "proper" flash if they had more powerful processors? (which is a function of mobile processors getting more powerful)?

Keep a notebook for just 3 days, list out every activity that you do on a computer/computing device (tablet, smartphone etc) in just broad terms, personal and work: e.g. read hacker news, write report, review y, code x, watch movie, read magazine, listen to last.fm, gaming, print., scan, take photo, edit photo, check email, check social network, IM etc.

Then put a +1 next to everything you did on the web (or could have been if you Google it and found a web service for that) and a -1 to everything that you could not.

Work out what +1 and -1 as a % of normal. For me it was 95%, for my wife was 100%.

That is why Chromium will work. I put Ubuntu on for my wife put some links titled Facebook, TV, Music. She didn't even notice she was not on Windows anymore.

You hit the nail on the head: "labeled Google - you'll see them marketed as "Acer", "Asus", or "Dell" . People do not care it is Microsoft Windows or not they care that it does what they want, quickly, reliably and cheaply.

My blog on living without Windows, preparing for Chrome: http://rakkhi.blogspot.com/2010/07/preparing-for-chrome-livi...

>People do not care it is Microsoft Windows or not they care that it does what they want, quickly, reliably and cheaply.

Except that this doesn't actually seem to be the case at all. Netbooks had this and the market utterly rejected it. Now they pay much more for Windows netbooks. Before anyone tries to jump into the market with Chrome OS (a less capable OS), they will need to explain why this was the case and what has changed.

You are right - but I could also do everything on Android! I'm not saying that there's a market for a "web-based" experience - I just think Android already fills that gap.

There are very few cases in where having ChromeOS would be superior to a device with Android. Flash? Flash seems to be a processor issue. Android has Flash, and it should get better as mobile chips get more powerful. The whole flash thing may be moot if HTML 5 really takes off.

Printing? This seems marginal to me. "Buy this device so you can print from it" - that does not seem to be a very appealing sell.

Those were both of the features mentioned above. In contrast, if I have Android, I have access to all those Apps. Will Android apps be compatible with ChromeOS. I don't think so - this seemed to be a "feature" of Chrome.

It just seems that Chrome's functionality is a subset of Android functionality. With Android, I don't have the browser open all the time, but I can click a button and get there. Web pages should display the same on both devices - what's the advantage? The keyboard? Android works with a keyboard as well.

I guess what I'm saying is that the market for an Android netbook (vs. tablet - this whole issue is moot to me, they're both "mobile" devices) seems to be larger - it would do so much more than a device that's just limited to the browser.

As I understand it, Android apps are native; ChromeOS apps are webapps, so no they won't be compatible.

Well, look how good Linux did on the netbook. And on Linux you could at least do what ever you wanted if you knew how. I expect this is just another to-be-abandoned-at-some-future-time Google project.

Because netbooks are not the future of ultraportable computing; tablets are, and Chrome OS is primarily part of a mouse and keyboard driven paradigm. Also it is making increasingly little sense for Google to support two divergent operating systems.

That is ridiculous why wouldn't Chrome OS run perfectly on a Tablet? e.g. HTC: http://www.pcworld.com/businesscenter/article/203564/htc_pla...

Also why not try Chrome OS first before you say it is dead: http://chromeos.hexxeh.net/

Combined with office.live.com I have everything I need for 95% of my needs.

I agree with you, ChromeOS certainly doesn't look bad. I just have a hard time figuring out - what's the difference between the two? What use case does ChromeOS solve that Android doesn't solve?

I consider myself web-savvy and fairly technical. If I have trouble answering this question, what is the average user going to think?

People are turning towards experiences - which is a combination of hardware and software. What edge does ChromeOS have that is going to give it a better experience than Android?

> What use case does ChromeOS solve that Android doesn't solve?

Printing. Browsing the web and writing long emails like a normal user, rather than like a tablet user: no weird issues with mouseover, fully-functional built-in Flash, etc, etc. There are lots of differences between the web experience offered by Android and the web experience offered by Chrome OS.

Also, normal people won't have to make a decision in a store about picking "Android" vs "Chrome OS". It's more and more likely that people will pick from the limited few options in the store, and maybe try it out before buying it. If a store sells laptops and some run Windows, some Mac OS X and some Chrome OS, then Chrome OS will be a serious competitor at least in the netbook form-factor.

Tablets are often sold in different parts of a store, or at least together in a different display. You'll see people picking between iPads and Andriod tablets. I doubt that normal stores would display Chrome OS tablets in the same area (but I could be wrong).

> fully-functional built-in Flash

But, but, but Adobe said that full Flash was coming to mobile platforms everywhere. Are you saying they lied?!

Seriously, that's meant to be something Android does.

> "What use case does ChromeOS solve that Android doesn't solve?"

Android is designed for native application based devices, Chrome is designed from the ground up for Web applications. Web applications especially with HTML5 caching technologies, LTE and Wimax, use of whitespace to increase Wifi range is the future and make a lot more sense on tablets than mobile phones.

Even Eric Schmitt says Android is not designed for Tablets:http://www.mobileshop.com/blog/mobile-phone-news/android-2-2...

That's just ridiculous. Is this theonion.com ?

Step outside the bubble for a second. Most people don't have tablets, and don't want tablets.

Strongly disagree. When I see those little sparks of delight in my mother's eyes when she is using her iPad I think I see a pretty strong predictor of Apple 'being onto something'. Tablets are not about being great multiple-purpose devices. They're about being good enough.

I think he is probably drawing on sources like this: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1698213

That has best buy saying tablets are cannibalizing their netbook revenue. This does not mean that netbooks or laptops are dead - personally for the current price I find something like an ACER1215N a lot better value for my usecases than an ipad. This is primarily due to the the HDMI out, USB input for storage, rich client gaming and the fact that I can run any VM for any OS I want. For running MS office / Openoffice also the tactile keyboard is handy without paying for additional accessories.

If there are others like my netbooks/laptops may decline but not die completely, I would suggest a 60/40 split in 3 years tablets/laptops respectively.

Ridiculous. You can't even type on a tablet properly or angle the display.

Again, I would say that in 99% of cases, people who buy a tablet are not buying it instead of a laptop, but as well as.

If you're pointed at data which suggests that laptop sales are declining significantly in parallel with the increase in tablet sales, I think you need to provide an argument a little more substantial than bluster.

There would seem to be some evidence that some of the people who have to choose now are migrating to tablets but the real test will be when they come to replace them having experienced both. Do they stay tablet or return to a laptop?

Agreed. However whatever that laptop is going to be, you can bet it will be something more powerful than Chrome OS.

What's 'ridiculous' is how much dust seems to be settling on my laptop these days.

The history of computing is riddled with corpses with 'ridiculous'-looking exit wounds.

I was extrememly surprised at the number of people at Singapore's Changi airport who were using their (Apple) tablets in the departure lounges. Still a small percentage of total laptop users, but very noticeable.

And the number of kids showing their parents how easy it was to be online with iPads in the various shops that were selling them.

Step outside the bubble yourself - "most people" don't understand the complicated "Start" menu - they just want to get on with using the web so they can do their internet banking, buy cheap airfares or look at gossip sites. Preferably not at desk. Or with a keyboard.

I love that a couple of the top suggestions are "Microsoft should reduce its number of products" and "Microsoft should start hundreds of little companies". :)

Regarding your last paragraph: I could not agree more. I've described something similar to this to a handful of people at relatively high levels in MS before, and the answer I heard repeatedly was "not a snowball's chance in hell."

If you consider how much money Microsoft has wasted on seemingly failed or useless acquisitions, like $6B for aQuantive or $500MM for Danger, spinning off novel ideas from internal teams would likely have a greater impact at a far lower cost.

Microsoft's advertising still doesn't do it for me. Frankly, most commercials makes me think more about their lameness than the product.

The exception is Xbox ads. As 'rakkhi' noted, the Xbox product line is actually great, and I think its advertising is one reason for its success. Xbox ads, everything down to the cool logo/sound thing in each one, make me think about the product, instead of making me feel sorry for the company that made the commercial.

Start by throwing out all the copycat stuff. ("I'm a PC"...I get it. Stupid. Is that the best you can do?) If you're going to copy anyone, copy yourself: take Xbox ads, and extend their style to the rest of the product line. Then go even further.

I think PlayStation ads had the logo and a sound at the end of commercials for licensed games since the original PlayStation (although there was a voice that said "play station"). Even Wii ads have that though with the bowing i's in Wii and a sound effect. It seems to be a requirement for video game ads for branding. It's a good branding method, but it isn't distinctly Microsoft and they didn't originate it.

I find when they water down the message for mass market advertising they usually end up with selling points that aren't particularly unique. You end up thinking, so yes you can play movies on another device from your laptop, or you can remote desktop to your PC back home but these aren't exactly unique to windows or even new features.

I think they need to really find a better way to differentiate themselves from the competition, it doesn't have to be feature based as OS's have been able to do most of everything the average used would want for a long time, but rather the feeling people get from using it and how it makes things simpler for them.

Microsoft's customer base is huge and their advertising targets the non-technical and "hip" crowds and it seems to me to be doing a decent job. Their advertising generally doesn't target us.

Dog food their own software and systems more, and where it's unpleasant to use - improve them.

Far too much of my Microsoft using experience is of a solid technology which is idiotically annoying, and a new version which ups both desirable features and irritation at the same time.

I mean the remote desktop client which has a ton of user experience flaws which hasn't improved for years, then developed another security warning to pass through every new connection.

I mean the mess of software licensing which got no better, then worse with KMS/MLK keys.

I mean the web browser which is now a web browser with a first time startup wizard full of pestering questions.

I mean the event log viewer which was basic and fiddly, and is now massively complex looking and still fiddly.

I mean the scheduled task list which is now a scheduled task maze.

I mean the Control Panel which is now a Control Panel Advent Calendar.

I mean the Exchange Management Console which morphed into a Half-a-management-console-half-a-scripting-language.

I mean the Windows Explorer which locked up a Pentium 4 when accessing an optical drive or network still locks up a Core i7 920 when accessing an optical drive or network only now it tries to hide the optical drive first.

I mean the IIS6 tree which became an IIS7 "lets arrange everything inspired by our favourite abstract artist!" mess.

On and on and on, they sell me on industry leading desirable features like Branch Cache and Outlook Anywhere and yet my everyday experience is Microsoft the Bully.

"Come here, jodrellblank, we have a brand new system for you to try with $newfeature!"

"Wow! run run run"

Security warning tripwire, Are you sure checkbox, Did you notice the information bar? Would you like to move or copy files from this location? Error 0x28003210D ha ha! F1 for help? Sorry, we removed that help system in this version. Online search? Ours is awful, you'll never find that error. Helpful utility? You no longer have rights to run it, "admin".

Want $feature? Why don't you just come and get it then? It's right here... FOREVER OUT OF YOUR REACH.

cries in a corner

Dog food their own software and systems more, and where it's unpleasant to use - improve them

The bits of MS that do do this (e.g. the Visual Studio team) produce extremely high quality.

Tho' I can't imagine that the Word or Excel teams use any other word processor or spreadsheet...

> "Word or Excel teams use any other word processor or spreadsheet."

Reinforces your point and his. Word and Excel are best in class, nothing else comes close - OpenOffice, Google Docs, Documents to go on mobiles are ok substitutes but not as good as the real thing. This as real impact on your productivity which is why I use office.live.com, can't believe that is free at the moment.

I'm not sure it's comparable: the work of making Visual Studio is much the same as the work that people would do with Visual Studio. But if you are a Word developer, while you'd use it to write a letter, you might not have much experience of using it for a truly large document, like an entire book.

Maybe not an entire book but might you not read/write a large requirements or design document, set of test scripts before it goes into Quality centre for example. Write-up a lessons learned document or review a threat model for a security push before the new version gets launched?

Even so you would not be the typical Word user, who may be very smart and an expert in their field, but know nothing about computers.

I can't imagine that Microsoft doesn't use a Microsoft product wherever they can... surely they use Windows, IIS, etc?

That's true but the devs working on IIS probably aren't using all its features for their own homepages.

But the rest of the company is... What do you think powers microsoft.com, office.com msn etc.

Dogfooding is a tradition in Microsoft, where sometimes pre-beta quality products are shoved down the throat of (sometimes unwilling) devs.

I can't up-vote this enough. Prediction: If Microsoft were to fix all of this in a new version of Windows, 1,000,000 IT support jobs will disappear within a year or two of its release.

Dog food their own software and systems more, and where it's unpleasant to use - improve them.

I actually wonder if, at the MS scale, that can start to be an impediment between the developers living inside the large MS sphere of software and their understanding of what it is like for average users who don't live entirely inside that sphere.

I mean, isn't one of the complaints that they don't make their tools interoperate and play nice with non-MS software enough... don't use open standards and formats enough? Well, from their perspective that would make sense; they are dog fooding inside an all MS zone. Inside that zone, interoperation is shifted down in priority from where outsiders would put it.

They don't just have to dogfood it — they need to do so in a manner such that they get a fresh Out Of Box Experience at least once per week. Make it so they can't get comfortable in their customized setups for long, make it so that they have to confront the defaults and the byzantine ridiculousness involved in getting rid of them.

As it is now, they'd lose every developer's entire Monday to inane wizards, waiting for installers, and dismissing pestering dialog boxes.

jodrellblank - you are the voice inside my head.

I would ask Steve Ballmer whether he is aware of the fact that Microsoft's licensing for Windows and SQL Server makes scaling out impossible and hence knocks their platform out of the race for cloud computing, at least when it comes to web apps.

I would ask him whether he really thinks that SQL Azure with its $100 per month for 10GB price tag is anything but a sad joke.

I would ask the people who design the Microsoft partner programs why their programs as well as their websites are so incredibly bureaucratic and complicated.

As a Microsoft shareholder, I would ask them to show me growth or raise the dividend so I can participate in the slow but still profitable decline that is the inevitable consequence of their current strategy.

Agreed. We used a lot of Windows Azure services for our startup and found ourselves having to architect around pricing rather than creating what we knew should be the correct implementation.

There's a lot of things I love about Azure, but the dev community is getting restless. The forums are always talking about how Microsoft seems to have gone completely quiet on the topic of new Azure Features. Where is the Road Map?! Many people are considering switching to Amazon because of many missing basic features.

What decline? Microsoft reported $62.48 billion in revenue and $18.76 billion in net income for their FY 2010.

Yahoo is "still big in middle America", myspace clung to the fact that they were the biggest social network in America to for a long time. I saw something from Nokia that had some statement about how strong their market share still is.

In all cases like this while the current performance is good their is a downward trend. While a company as big as microsoft isn't going under overnight long term if they don't address certain areas they will become increasingly irrelevant and from there it isn't hard to see fast moving companies like Google and Apple eating away at their market share in the core product lines.

Their share price has gone sideways forever in spite of growing revenues and profits. It's called multiple contraction. The reason is that everyone knows they cannot continue to extract those kinds of margins from people forever for stuff that is basically commoditised.

[Edit] The funny thing is that they were the ones who commoditised computing. They were the ones who made computing cheap and ubiquitous. Now they are on the wrong side of the equation. Now they are the ones defending an overpriced unscalable model as IBM once did.

If all you ever look at is raw bottom line numbers, life is going to be one surprise after another for you.

That's an odd way of advocating hype over facts. And it's a bit of a stretch to pronounce Microsoft's decline if they're not #1 in a couple of trendy areas (cloud computing, smartphones).

Revenue and popularity are tails of trends. If you're looking at the bottom line you're looking at what was previously (possibly several years ago).

People pay a lot less attention to what MS does these days and people are even making new OSes these days. It wasn't so long ago that people were predicting that would never happen again.

Their problem is that cloud computing is the successor of Windows. It's not just some trendy area.

"The network is the computer", eh?

Isn't it? It wasn't back in Sun's days, but I've got more apps open in my browser right now than my dock, and so does the person beside me.

I recently got a windows 7 machine. Some things that bug me as a programmer using it, and make me wish I just paid up and got a mac:

1) WPF - I am trying to use this in my work life. It scares me when I hear your ex-product manager twittering that it's dead. I now feel like I should've done my app's front-end in qt or swing.

2) Will microsoft create in-built, tested, virtual desktop support already? More people use laptops that need it even more. I use virtuawin, but things just don't work elegantly. Mac OS X supports virtual desktops natively, and it works without a hitch.

3) The one thing I actually do like that comes out of microsoft are your office products. I think as people actually go paperless now, it's a good time to double down on investing in OneNote as a platform used across tablets, phones, and PC's. Also allow for one to sync it to say, their windows home server, and let one define tags to be whatever they want -- and you may have something that will make me committed to the platform.

4) It's 2010 and I still use cygwin or a virtual instance of linux just to have a console with the commands I want. Windows PowerShell came wayy too late for me to want to bother spending time learning it. Mac users don't have this problem.

5) Start defining some rules for say "windows experience" PC's. This can be an upper-tier for laptop makers to try and not be cheap. This comes from my frustration last april when trying to buy a new laptop. Go into any b&m store, look at the windows machines - feeling like cheap plastic, glossy screens, and meh build quality - then walk over to apple's corner. It's a night and day difference. There's high-quality PC laptops made (ex: lenovo T series, HP envy), but they're hard to find in stores, and are typically only found online. Microsoft needs to define some rules on what a great PC has, similar to what they're trying to do with windows phone 7.

ad 5): heartily agree.

To make people stop thinking "cheap beige box loaded with crapware" when they hear Windows, MS should reinforce the "PCs at Mac pricepoint are just as nice as Macs" image. They did have a "recommend me a nice Windows notebook/desktop" page at some time, but it was kind of half-hearted and hard to find.

For example, they could create some "Windows Experience" (i.e. solid usable box) and "Windows Ultimate Experience" (i.e., reassuringly expensive and stylish) badges for notebooks and desktops that:

* have decent build quality and conform to current ergonomic standards (wrt. fan noise, panel brightness etc.)

* don't include crapware (for some definition of software-that-the-user-doesn't-actually-want; maybe just something like "the OEM does not accept third party influence on the choice of applications", although most PC vendors include software that is simply superfluous.)

* have enough RAM/bandwith/CPU to run the current version of MS office

The "Ultimate Experience" could carry a further requirement to:

* include a current version of MS Office (seriously!) and one of the reassuringly expensive versions of Windows 7

* have nicer-than-usual design and feel (i.e., Thinkpad-quality keyboard on notebooks, desktop PCs that are recognizable and don't look like a beige box).

For example, they could create some "Windows Experience" (i.e. solid usable box) and "Windows Ultimate Experience" (i.e., reassuringly expensive and stylish) badges for notebooks and desktops that

Not MORE badges on a windows machine? I hate all those stickers and badges, and I'm not alone. See http://ipadtest.wordpress.com/2010/04/20/the-cancer-of-micro... for example.

Lots of issues with #2, many of which you encounter on OSX. Immovable dialogs that pop up on one screen while the app is on the other, leaving the app disabled (this is my OSX nit with Spaces). Applications that aren't ready to be shifted offscreen. Applications that can't handle either a larger screen size (if you virtualize as a BIG screen) or the idea that they're not in the minimized state but are not visible. It's a giant mess.

There were always good quality virtual desktop programs running around inside of MSFT written locally, but there was no way to get them up to ship quality when you considered the AppCompat issue.

One thing I both admired and hated when I worked at MSFT is that Apple users are content to purchase updates for every piece of software they own when a new major version of the OS is released.

Sidenote: I'm out of MSFT now and have been in a 100% Apple environment for my research for the last three years.

Re: #1 - WPF isn't going anywhere, and while WPF "in-name" might be frozen in the future, this API "paradigm" of Xaml + code (i.e. that WPF and Silverlight both follow) is huge inside Microsoft and is definitely here for the long run. WPF is definitely not dead.

In fact, there seems to be a lot of initial interest and wonder regarding WPF amongst the public Windows development community.

With Windows developers, you seem to have your small group of moving onto avante garde (for lack of a better term) Microsoft technologies, but most developers wait until long after the technology is mature before adopting it. This seems to be quite in contrast with the OSS world.

Agree about Office. While it's expensive it's still, for me at least, best of breed (except PowerPoint). If I were Microsoft I'd be looking to leverage Office more than Windows.

What do you want microsoft to do about number 4? Appears to me that short of going back in time and making it sooner so you'll learn it, they can't do much now...

I suspect seltzered wants first-class user-level *nix compatibility. The fact that Cygwin exists demonstrates that something along those lines is practical.

one pragmatic idea I had was to help support colinux efforts. There's been a lot of debate in that community over getting support for x64 revisions of windows.

#1) I don't get this one. WPF/Xaml/Silverlight is the best thing to come out of Microsoft in years. I really can't imagine doing front end development in another tech.

MossyBlog is full of shit. Who cares if Silverlight/WPF merge? Do you really think they would push Silverlight as the dev platform for their new phone OS if it was going to be replaced by html5?

Did any of their partners really think they'd push PlaysForSure as the DRM platform for Windows media if they were going to abandon it once they launched their own player hardware?

To Ballmer: Steve, you've done a great job. You have enough money. You have nothing left to prove. Now is your time to enjoy your life. Step down.

To replace you, choose someone no one would suspect. Choose someone young, with a fairly strong technical background and mainly with a lot of vision. (And make sure that person can communicate that vision.) Choose someone who can inspire. Line up (in-house and acquire) some really great technologies and launch them with this person's takeover.

Shed whole divisions; trying to do too much has distracted you.

People have stopped being in awe of Microsoft. Restore that. And then go enjoy yourself.

Microsoft absolutely needs to completely drop the whole "do it our way, or hit the highway" attitude. It may have worked to build MS into the giant it is, but it will absolutely be their eventual undoing. It is because of this attitude that Microsoft has already lost the mindahare of today's young developers. I have never met anybody under 25 years old that is a Windows software developer. At the very least Microsoft needs an internal hippie movement.

Here's some steps that could right a sinking ship:

1) Stop integrating IE deep into the operating system, port IE to Mac, and Linux -- non Windows developers need to develop and test IE, period

2) Stop leveraging your operating system as the sole way to compete and crush competitors (you should know this already)

3) Develop non-Windows software (you need to hire software engineers that aren't drinking your own Kool-aid, ones that are willing to stand up and say "hold on maybe we shouldn't be such assholes")

4) Learn from Apple's OSX strategy -- start developing a "clean-room" Linux or BSD-based mobile operating system, make it a skunkworks project, make the sole aim of the project to one day entirely replace the Windows OS

5) Embrace altruism - provide funding for open source projects that directly conflict with your business model (something like fund development of the Hurd kernel)

A more radical strategy would be to consider breaking the company up into 3 or more separate companies. OS & Mobile, Software & Web, Xbox & Hardware. This would allow each group to innovate without the Windows-only and MS culture hamstrings.

1) might hurt you more than it helps. Firefox is on Windows and Mac, and unfortunately you cannot assume that what works on one will work on the other. Same with Flash. The only way to really test what your site looks like on an OS/Browser is to just get a comp running it.

I'd like to think that I have a good imagination, but I still can't imagine the look on Stallman's face if MS decided to fund the development of Hurd. I wish I could upvote you twice, once for good ideas, and once again for that one unimaginable thing.

The company needs to split in two internally. One side can be the "MS Stack" side that continues with the current strategy milking it for every last penny while it dries up, but the other side needs to become a software company again (as opposed to a stack company). Start bringing your software to other platforms. Why was Office canceled on Mac while Mac is gaining market share? Don't you want money from all the people that are switching their OS but still want your office tools?

Make your products for Linux as well. You could really innovate here because I don't know of any players selling home user level software on Linux. You could even make your own distro to make Linux friendlier without having to take it on as a long term maintenance project (make it open source almost from the start). Then you could even put little stickers on your Linux software that says "Runs best on MS Linux".

The peasants have tasted freedom, you're never going to be able to herd everyone back onto Windows desktops. Those that are gone will stay gone so stop trying. You have a platform to easily be everywhere if you wanted to. Port .Net everywhere and then releasing your products on different platforms becomes extremely cheap. This is really something you could have over all your competitors.

I really think this stubborn insistence that everyone be on your operating system is hurting you. It should be obvious by now that you're not going to out-innovate Apple or even Google so stop trying to. Let the big dogs fight. Get back on everyone's minds again by making sure there is no platform out there where you don't have a best-of-breed, highly talked about product. Make money off them both. Go back to your roots.

Why bother making new desktop products (other than browsers) for Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, iPad?

Why not just make them for the web?

It's not clear how long it will take for web applications to completely displace desktop apps, if this ever completely happens at all (it can't today, and HTML5 still isn't enough for it to completely happen either). They've already got a big investment in .Net, they should leverage it.

* Dual-monitor remote desktop! Please??!!

* What are you guys doing with Windows Installer (MSI)? You create this installation standard which everyone adopts, then you stop supporting it yourself, making people install Office 2007 and Silverlight with BS desktop startup scripts. WTF?

* As alluded to by others here, stop making stupid UI changes for no reason. I've been using Windows since 1992, upgraded to Win7 a couple months ago, and STILL can't find anything. I'm in support, and it's basically impossible to lead a user through anything over the phone anymore, because (for example) getting to the screen where you uninstall a program looks different on almost every Windows version I support, often with multiple variations per OS.

* The .NET runtime gets corrupted ALL THE TIME for our users. This is at least partially because you release patches that fail to rollback upon unsucessful install (see http://blog.usabilitythinking.com/2010/06/root-cause-for-cor...). This was enough of a problem before you started bundling .NET with Windows so that now I can't even have a user uninstall/reinstall it without really messing with his OS.

* This may make me sound silly, but I miss VB6 -- not the language itself, but rather the ease with which you could easily throw together an executable and send it to a user and have it just work. Now, I have to build a whole installer unless I want to have issues with missing .NET versions or weird .NET security issues.

Dual-monitor remote desktop! Please??!!

You need the RDP 6 client (>Vista), but it's there. Open Remote Desktop Connection, Click Display Tab, check "Use all my monitors for the remote session"

You just blew my mind. Thanks!

Windows needs proper package management. Having each application be responsible for its own installation, uninstallation[0] and updates is so last millennium.

Debian and its derivatives have done a good job of it in the Linux world, though they haven't done as well as they could at convincing third-parties to integrate. Google Chrome is an example of how to do integration right: the download is a .deb, and installing it adds Chrome's repository, so you get automatic updates through apt. A repository containing almost every library dependency that's likely to show up along with automatic dependency resolution and updates makes life better for both users and developers.

MS could provide similar functionality for Windows. The lack of an (almost) everything is open source culture on Windows would, of course make some things harder, but it's also a huge opportunity for MS: they could integrate an app store. How best to run an app store is still being explored, but here's what I'd do if I were in charge of such a project at MS:

* Make the standardized packaging format very preferable. Make the tools for creating packages open-source and easy to use. Make the question asked of the user clear and friendly ("Do you want to install Foo app from Bar company?", not "This requires administrative privileges..."). Make verifying your identity as a developer to sign apps with a MS-issued key free and easy.

* Allow side channels: packages installed by other means could add their own repository and use the central update mechanism. Allow them to hook in to the payment mechanism too, otherwise we'll see annoying in-app payments.

* Avoid any attempt to lock in developers to your store as the sales channel: developers will prefer it because users will prefer it. If users don't prefer it, make it better.

* Allow anything non-malicious, but tag things that would offend a large percentage of users. Hide those by default.

[0] Yes, there's a centralized UI for uninstalling well-behaved applications, but that's not the point

It's called MSI, the downloaded files may behave like they're standalone exes, but they're really just bundles of data and scripts for the Windows Installer to take care of. Apple's PKG / Installer.app setup on OS X is very similar. Both are clear platform defaults, with nearly all non-legacy shit using them.

In Vista Microsoft implemented a central update mechanism / repository for third-party drivers, but it's fairly hidden from the user. Apple did something similar in 10.6 for on-demand printer drivers (which previously took up 3gb in the default install) and optional OS features like Rosetta.

Neither could realistically get away with implementing anything that looked like a desktop App Store, no matter how many convenient side channels and alternate repos there were. The amount of drama that would go down just isn't worth it to them.

People whining about it is probably a good indication that it's worth doing. If Microsoft fails to do things that are good for all of its users and most of its developers because somebody might bitch about it, the company is as good as dead.

An understanding that if you're asking us for ideas like this, that if you don't already know what's wrong despite everything that's been written and everything your developers could tell you, you're in deep trouble?

More constructively, I'd like to see Microsoft taking more risks and leading more. Kinnect and XBox Live are good examples of Microsoft being first in or coming up with the best thing out there. You could make a case for elements of Bing too.

So be more ambitious. Too many MS entries into markets now seem me too relying on the MS brand to prop up an otherwise ordinary product (Zune?). You need to either be better on day one or moving with such momentum that you're confident that you will be very quickly. How are you going to move with that momentum? I'd suggest less management and less marketing. Yep some of projects which don't have the current level of guidance are going to bomb out heading in totally the wrong direction, but the ones that succeed will be better than what you're producing now and get there a lot faster.

Your historic approach of watching markets develop and muscling into them using Windows and Office as leverage won't work any more. Windows isn't an effective lever in the new markets and the competitors (Apple and Google) don't shift as easily as they used to. You need to be in earlier and better.

Your developer tools are pretty good but your licensing is a quick route to insanity. I've honestly recommended Oracle in the past because for a proposal I had to put together very quickly, working out the licensing cost for a complex SQL Server implementation was simply too time consuming.

Mobile - you seem to have become obsessed with the iPhone where frankly you're ill equipped to fight. Aim at corporate, go for RIM. You're strong in corporate and if you can't do a better integration with a corporate infrastructure (which is likely based around Exchange) then you shouldn't be playing at all. Once you've got that sorted, then look at the consumer market building on that.

But also good luck. Though I don't think you'll ever be what you were historically, I honestly believe MS could be a company turning out great products and the more competition in the market the better.

Excellent observations. I agree that a major strategic shift is required and that means thinking long and hard about their reliance on owning the Windows platform as their primary competitive advantage.

If I were Microsoft, I would port .Net to other OSs, and aim to own the VM space. With the JVM in Oracle's hands now, there's an opportunity for a new player to take the lead. It's corporate infrastructure, it's a platform play, and it's developer focused, something they're historically good at. As a bonus, it helps them get products like SQL Server on more platforms, and into more customer's hands.

I would like Microsoft's Developer Division to start supporting Linux more ... Windows servers are too expensive for me making scale-out strategies a PITA and IMHO technically inferior to Linux from a startup perspective.

Biztalk/Webspark are nice initiatives, but not enough.

And I would totally shell out the cash for a MSDN subscription / Visual Studio if I could choose Linux for deployment.

Better yet, collaborate more with the Mono project from Novell. Open-source more of the .NET platform.

The few open-source projects from Microsoft built around .NET don't really have an open-source development methodology ... let others contribute to the DLR, IronPython and IronRuby. Don't fear getting your property tainted ... how many projects from Apache have had such problems, or not getting used by the Fortune "whatever" companies?

Collaboration with Mono on .NET would be the "killer" news for me. With Java looking increasingly shaky, it'd be nice to have a second "write-once, run-everywhere" paradigm.

While this may not end up being the greatest of reasons, a lot of my classmates shy away from .NET languages/MSFT technologies because they're more difficult to develop in Linux. Getting rid of that complaint would be super awesome.

> it'd be nice to have a second "write-once, run-everywhere" paradigm.

You can use python or ruby.

He could, but CPython and Ruby are single language VMs.

DN and Java have a larger amount of classes accessible from any language, including Python and Ruby implementations.

It'd be nice if this effort included some SL/WPF support as well. Java still has swing and (gulp) JavaFX, and last I checked they run on any OS. As of now, I'm starting to feel like one has to write in flex if they want a desktop app with good UX to run everywhere.

Different OSes use different UX paradigms.

With Swing you end up with a common denominator, which really sucks and you're better off deploying a web app with a local server and a stripped down Firefox.

Or you could do what the big boys do, share the business logic on all platforms, but implement the UI using native APIs.

Here's a sample: http://www.skybound.ca/ The OS X client is implemented with Mono + MonoMac (Cocoa bindings).

"you're better off deploying a web app with a local server and a stripped down Firefox."

Please don't do this... we use a product that went this route at work and it's a pile of crap.

I was really expecting Microsoft to launch a some ad campaign about .NET and mono after all of this Java/Oracle stuff hit the news. Seems like a missed opportunity.

Of course, as a developer, I hope there to be not just marketing and have a real initiative to bridge the divide.

When it comes to Internet related technologies, Microsoft should stop trying to innovate in a Microsoft centric view of the Internet. Of couse this view does not help Microsoft promote their operating systems and tools but it does open them up to be more about standards everyone cares about and not just the Microsoft circle. There is so much innovation in web development in an ongoing basis, it doesn't make sense for Microsoft to always be playing catch-up or keeping their developer base only in their sandbox.

A good example of a Microsoft centric view of the web is when I was lobbied by Microsoft to add IE8 specific code for enhanced IE8 specific functionality to my site. "Other browsers will just ignore the tags" was the reply to my question about cross-browser compatibility. This is a wrong-headed view of the Internet. Make open standards that are valuable enough for everyone to adopt and lead in that area. IE8 only functionality doesn't help anyone but people who will only ever service IE8 users.

Their adoption of jQuery for use in their tools and participation in the community is a good example of where they are doing what I am advocating. Silverlight, on the other hand is an example of a Microsoft only view of the web.

I find my very smart, very talented Microsoft focused web developer friends are often late to the latest trends in web development because they're so focused on what Microsoft is doing and not where the Internet in general is going. I'm sure this is not representative of everyone who is a Microsoft focused developer, but it does seem to be a case with a majority of people I speak with in that area.

I would say that Microsoft-focused web developers' attitudes have changed a lot in the last few years.

I was at a DevDays event a few years ago, when ATLAS beta (now ASP.NET AJAX) was demoed. There was much snickering when it failed to work perfectly in what the speaker derisively called "the other browser" (Firefox).

Today, I can't see that happening. If a Microsoft web framework failed to work on a non-IE browser, they wouldn't dare demo it, because most of the audience would blame Microsoft, and not the browser.

You want strategy? Ok, here is strategy:

Do something bold for a change, really bold. Open source windows or office, do whatever scares you most and then make a go of it. With the talent pool you've got there you should easily be able to out-compete the market when you've done something like that, it will go a long way towards getting forgiveness for deeds done in the past and it will align your goals with the world much better than where you are today.

If this scares you realize that in the longer term this is where software is going to be. Developers have wised up to lock-in and other tricks and corporations are more and more moving to solutions that they control. The writing has been on the wall for years.

Oh, and stop funding stooges to attack third parties.

> Developers have wised up to lock-in and other tricks and corporations are more and more moving to solutions that they control

Yeah, you can see that with the iPhone, the Apple Store, and all the various clones that pop into existence like mushrooms (hello Kindle).

Sometimes I believe developers live in la-la land, totally disconnected from reality.

There are plenty of attempts at the creation of new walled gardens, but I don't think they will have a very long life.

The examples you give are all tied to very specific hardware, microsoft thrived on open hardware making tools and supporting those tools.

Look at where IBM is going for what microsoft could be like.

I would really like to believe that, but more and more I think we're heading for a closed/industry.

The App Store isn't the only example, how about all those developers integrating their apps with Facebook, Twitter or the Google apis.



Really, open source is growing faster than it ever did before, the products are getting much better, they're slowly wising up to the fact that open source does not mean 'shitty support' or 'no need for marketing'. More and more people are finding ways to make money in open source projects.

Drupal got a very large amount of funding based on software they're giving away (ok, not my personal choice, but still).

And so on. Open source is maturing, and microsoft could do a lot worse than set a trend for a change instead of trying to hold on to the brakes as hard as they can.

I'd argue that putting F# in VS2010 was pretty bold. Certainly that's the thing I'm most excited about, that any major vendor has done recently.

To me bold means directly related to your core business. F# is a neat little language but it's success or demise would not mean much on the balance sheet of microsoft corp.

The developer experience on their OS is directly related to their core business.

The biggest thing Microsoft should do is make the desktop king again. This is possible - users don't care whether they are using web applications or actual apps, but there are huge benefits (in terms of what you can do) to desktop applications. This is evident in the amazing rise of Apple's App Store.

But there's a problem. Web programming, while allowing generally crummier applications, has some benefits that far outweigh this. This is why startups tend to focus on web applications - they're just so much better for startups, for a few reasons. Find a way to give these benefits with desktop applications, and you'll have people rushing back to Windows programming, because you can give a much richer use experience.

The benefits of web apps are:

* Not having to worry about deployment.

* Not having to worry about versioning (because the deployment forces everyone to have the latest version).

* Being able to collect feedback almost automatically, ala Google Analytics. Preferably all kinds of different feedback about exactly how people are using your application.

* Making life easier for the end user - no install, no configuration of things like which folders files are saved in (all the data is saved online automatically), etc.

At the end of the day, all of this is achievable outside of the browser - it just requires a completely new framework for creating applications, which gives all these benefits for free. Not all desktop applications will be able to use it, but this will allow rich applications to be made without sacrificing the amazing benefits written above, which is why so many people turn to the web.

P.S. I don't know much about Silverlight, which might be Microsoft's attempt to do just what I've outlined above. If so, then good going, but it still isn't being pushed hard enough since developers like me don't really know enough about it.

They already did it. It's called ClickOnce deployment ... http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/t71a733d(VS.80).aspx

Doesn't have much traction though.

Rather than duplicate code millions of times to every fat client, why not just help web apps be fast and awesome?

I just really disagree with this: "Web programming, while allowing generally crummier applications"

With HTML5 and AJAX technologies a web application these days can do everything a rich client application can with the added benefit of accessibility everywhere from any endpoint.

"The biggest thing Microsoft should do is make the desktop king again" .... keep flogging that dead horse with your buggy whip

"With HTML5 and AJAX..." Show me a good web app and I might agree. Your point, for now, is theoretical.

GMail. 280Slides. My favorite spread betting site. The web version of the shitty BMC Remedy app I used at work, which was less shitty than the Win32 version. What do you want? Do you you not think any of these are good apps?

Interesting if real. Ok lets go for benefit of the doubt, starting with the highest priority items:

Mobile technology - The Windows phone 7 will not succeed. Sure you will sell a few phones but for the marketing and sheer executive brainspend on this you will not get a profitable return within 5 years. I had a good debate on Quora about what sucess looks like for Microsoft and I don't think this is realistically achievable: https://www.quora.com/Will-the-Windows-Phone-7-succeed-Why-o...

So the best decision would be to give up on the OS and focus on applications such as MS Office and XBOX game centre for iOS and Android devices. Alternatively buy RIM - it is such a good synergy with the current MS business and getting cheaper by the minute.

Consumer operating systems - The days of big desktop being a true star are dead, it is a cashcow at best. Why do you really need more than a XBOX / PS3 and a tablet & phone now? Focus on building from scratch an OS like Chromium that will run on a tablet, boot in under 3 seconds, have IE 9 as the browser and run office.live.com with proper offline mode. Use the Wintel partnership to get firmware optimization with this and use Dell, Acer and HP to get this new OS out on a powerfull (maybe dual screen) tablet by Q2 2011.

Browser - IE9 looks promising but it is a straight up rip off of Chrome no questions. Where is the real innovation - hire some people that will really think outside the box on a browser e.g. how about something like Cardspace from WebOS - organize browser and OS activities by task rather than by tabs and applications

XBOX - This is the one shining light in the last 5 years for MS for me. Focus on leading the industry not following it - how about a true cloud gaming service using optimized RDP or equivilent to allow full 3D rich client emulation gameplay on tablets, TV's and phones

Zune - must support full cloud based music streaming service - do it before Google music.

Augmented humanity - do something to lead and the define to way to private and secure augmented humanity: http://rakkhi.blogspot.com/2010/09/privacy-in-age-of-augment...

The desktop is NOT DEAD. All those other devices are primarily for consuming media -- which is great. But I'm still using a desktop with a keyboard if I want to do any, y'know, work. I spend ~8-12 hours a day on a desktop and everyone else I know with any kind of office-job does too. And that's a lot of people. Tablets/console-games aren't going to change this any time soon.

I'm currently working on a the 3'rd floor of a household brand and as I look around there is not a single desktop, everyone is using a laptop - some with a docking station some without. Everyone has a large 24inch monitor to plug their laptop into. My last company issued an IT direction that we would not buy anymore desktops - only Sunrays for virtual desktops. So as far as the future of desktops in offices, I am not convinced.

You actually said: >>Why do you really need more than a XBOX / PS3 and a tablet & phone now?

A laptop (particularly one of the "desktop replacement" variety) is certainly not in that class. Why would a minor change in form factor force a wholesale change in OS strategy?

I don't think roadnottaken meant towers specifically when he said "desktop." The market data for years has been showing that physical "desktops" are all but dead with laptops taking over, but I believe roadnottaken and the grandparent were debating the future of traditional mouse/keyboard operation systems on desktop/laptop PCs.

Laptops have become capable enough for office needs, but for high-end cad or video work, the high-end desktops they run on are not going away any time soon. Any place where big files get involved, downloading from the cloud still isn't fast enough, never mind uploading.

Same setup here (a very small shop) - everyone usually just plugs in a 24" monitor to their MBP. Can't remember the last time I used a desktop tower. Notebooks, monitors, and servers are the offices of the future.

I'm not so sure, who needs a powerful laptop when you can get a desktop machine much more cheaply and a phone/tablet for mobile?

You don't need a powerfull laptop for most offices you need a thin or zero client like a Sunray and virtual desktop. If your staff to need to move again low power tablet and laptops and connect to virtual desktops for that processing power when it is needed.

I think a tablet with a) a non-glossy outdoor e-ink-like screen b) top-notch software to support note-taking and diagram-creation

will complement laptops much better than they do now.

So the best decision would be to give up on the OS and focus on applications such as MS Office and XBOX game centre for iOS and Android devices. Alternatively buy RIM...

This is not a viable "growth strategy." MS has worked on these boring enterprise products for 15 years already, and buying RIM and developing Office is more of the same. I can't foresee any new tech coming from these boring strategies.

MS's ceiling for mobile market share is 2nd place. This isn't a bad outcome, but to accomplish this MS needs to keep WP7 locked down (so it can compete with the carrier-garbage versions of Android we see now). Who knows? I don't think they're out to "win" consumer mobile; they want to participate in it, pick up good market share, and try to develop brand synergy.

Anyway, MS is an enterprise company at their core, so their performance in consumer mobile isn't a big deal. They know enterprise, so they should stick to what they know. Why not develop custom tablet software for enterprises? Or even new computing (or augmented humanity) devices for businesses/gov't?

The tech space is changing rapidly, and MS could be there to support that change with light and nimble tech. But, given what we know about MS and Danger, they're very far away from developing light and nimble tech. Culture must change at MS.

My thinking on this was that if they bought RIM they would greatly increase their marketshare in those "boring" but profitable "enterprise products". Lets face it the Blackberry OS sux, even v6 is a poor iOs clone and Windows mobile has reasonable enterprise penetration but not great. So put the next version of the Blackberry on a decently powered hardware and WP7. Offer activesync as an option a silver option and BES as gold option. It could be a synergistic mix for both companies that would let the focus on what they are good at (enterprise over consumer in the mobile space), leverage RIM's excellent marketshare and with MS enterprise OS and Exchange products and actually allow them to effectively fight Apple and Google in a very profitable area.

Agree with you on enterprise tablet, imagine the "Blackpad" running WP7

I don't think you have any clue on what you're talking about.

Being rude isn't cool here. Re-read the HN guidelines.

It's real. I know I'm obviously going to say that, but hey.

Also, checking out the Quora thing now. Cheers

This post has so much FUD it makes my brain hurt.

Really? I really try to avoid FUD, this was my honest views, anything specific you thought was FUD?

Your comments on IE9 only reflect the user interface. Writing off the whole browser as non innovative because it _looks_ like Chrome is FUD.

A modest request: please, with each version don't make it more and more difficult to make the Windows explorer behave as in Windows 95. I mean having a folder tree and detailed view. Some people still work a lot with files and folders "the old way".

Bonus points for not moving the configuration screens around.

Things that have changed with explorer: less space for content, caused by adding not-so-useful toolbars, folders tree replaced by "selected" or "favourites" pane, "easy mode" tree navigation that prevents opening more than one branch at the same time, default to "libraries" in Windows 7, default to views other than detail, sometimes very difficult to change, hiding file extensions, folder redirection... Most of the changes can be reverted touching some registry or configuration setting, but it's increasingly difficult and time consuming, and sometimes impossible.

I guess the changes are intended for new users, but it would be very welcomed to have a "classic mode" switch somewhere. Usability is important, but please consider that old users have different usability requirements. For me Windows is less and less usable with each version.

About the config dialogs, I've recently had to make a novice user to change the DHCP settings for Windows 7 over the phone. It wasn't an easy task.

GREAT point. On a fresh Win7 install it takes like 5 clicks to get to 'My Documents', with all the favorites and libraries etc. Do I really need to click past "My Music" folder every time I want to open a file? SIMPLIFY.

In case you missed it: SIMPLIFY.

> On a fresh Win7 install it takes like 5 clicks to get to 'My Documents', with all the favorites and libraries etc

Hmm. Interesting. On my first install it was just there and I could get to it with one click.

you can add My Documents to favorites maybe making it 1 click?

this is actually a good tip, thanks.

You should check out Total Commander:


I'd like to see Microsoft reach out and genuinely contribute to more open source projects, Microsoft has great technologies, lots of smart people, a few pockets of progressive change, but overall, I feel like everything Microsoft gives away or open sources is still part of a grand strategy geared towards locking us all into Microsoft Windows OS and expensive products.

As an open source developer, this was a major factor in shifting my focus from .NET to Java and Python. Even though I still miss real generics :)

Lock-in is a major turn off, and we can smell it. In the long run, I know from experience that open platforms will eventually win, and my expertise there can be more valuable than some certification in a captive technology. Because otherwise in order to sell my services as a developer, I'd have to sell your stuff. I see what you did there... but this may not be best for my customer. No thanks...

Instead why not sell products that we want to use and pay for, that is so customizable and modular that it is simply a better technical choice? Stop trying to trap us!

And please start using the same OSS licenses everyone else is using. Even if it's not the intention, your special MS OSS licenses make us suspicious of your motives. First think that comes to mind when I see a special MS license is "uh-oh, is this another 'shared source'?".

Please abandon IE only interfaces for your enterprise products. Having a fully functioning web interface for outlook web access or sharepoint shouldn't be a big deal, but it is a constant problem, you cant force people to use IE, embrace the alternatives.

Added features are not always good, we know Office is a cash cow, but it is also heavy as hell, offer a slim down office suite, not in software, but in features, or at the very least, allow people to easily turn them off. And please please dont do this format change again (from doc to docx) it was a real dick move. oh yeah, embrace and promote open formats.

While we are on the office issue, WHAT THE HELL is your problem with full compatibility between office for mac and windows office, where is access? why did you remove vbscript from the apple product? did you think people will abandon macros? seriously, what the hell are you doing with this one

Add single instance storage capability to your entire server line, it may sound as a minor feature only but it would make your server line better, also simplify your licensing schemes across the board, it is antiquated and annoying for IT staff who wish to be compliant. while we are at it, powershell and cmd, should incorporate unix commands, why not?

Xbox development should open up more, the Xbox market should be more plugin oriented, services like Pandora would give the best product Microsoft had in years, extra boost.

It wont hurt Microsoft to acknowledge the brilliance of other companies, parroting the line that Microsoft invented the Tablet form factor in the face of the ipad and latching windows7 as an alternative to Ios is shortsighted and makes you look outdated and somewhat ridiculous, paradigm shifts should be acknowledged. Please reconsider the courier.

While we're at it, Crapware and glut should be abhorred and disdained and discouraged. if i buy a new windows7 machine, i dont want to reformat it to get rid of the trialware, crapware that is loaded on the average dell etc... Do you know how much of a performance degradation this stuff does? its comical. the speed (and often stability) gained by the computer you just bought when you perform a clean install, makes it feel like a different computer. you will also save time for small business IT.

Microsoft, you are rarely loved, and only admired with caveats. Work on your image better, you outspend Apple on marketing but still manage to look bad, you are not getting your money worth. Get Microsoft Surface technology to museums and public serving institutions, it will help them serve the public, it will help you look cool.

Dont blame Microsoft for the crapware. The manufacturers get paid a boatload to install it. One manufacturer I know was paid 9 figures for the front page on the default browser.

you are right, I still maintain that Microsoft needs to be more control freak on this. It has direct connection to the degraded windows experience, and is something Apple rightfully latched on to promote the alternative. At the very least promote manufacturers that dont engage in this practice.

To be fair, OWA 2010 is fully functional in all modern browsers not just IE. So they are progressing.

I will admit, i didn't know this, and that is great news. However upgrading Exchange is no trivial task, and it would seem fairly trivial to release an update for their 2007 OWA that fixes this.

The major thing for me is Simplicity!

Buy Opera. They have an awesome browser and such a small market share. The perfect browser to replace IE. If not at least make IE use Webkit or Gecko. Pref. Gecko so its split 2v2.

When I plug a new monitor in I want it to detect it and turn it on, default to extend my screen or ask me what I want to do. Win+p is nice but a lot of people don't know it.

When I plug in new speakers I want the sound to change to use that, or again ask me. I don't want to pull up the damn control panel every time I change speakers.

.Net needs to be able to run on mac and linux. Yes there is mono but its not the same.. I want an official release, same for Visual studio make it run on all 3 major OS.

I want to be able to install IE on linux. And make IE6, IE7.. Installable side by side.

I want something like GnomeDo built in. The startmenu is ok, but not the same.

Drivers are getting better but I still end up having to go download drivers from nvidia, hp or whoever. PITA

Microsoft needs a software marketplace built in similar to the one in Ubuntu. Its so nice being able to open up a software center and click download. No searching the internet nothing.

Same goes for a webapp center within IE.

Release an enterprise IE and a standard IE. Make the standard auto update like Chrome and make the Enterprise version have longer support cycles (basically the enterprise version is what IE is now)

Improve your web apps. Yes you have an alternative to almost everything google has but they are all (arguably) worse.

I think thats enough for now :)

Do something courageous with web browsers - deprecate the IE line of browsers and create a completely new browser based on WebKit. Offer both to users for a few years with a view to phasing IE out completely within X years (say 5).

Maybe offer a way of providing hints (maybe through AD GPOs) of which sites should be opened using which browser - that would probably make short term adoption within enterprises less painful.

I wouldn't want WebKit to become the dominant engine. I like the current competition - it keeps everyone honest. Remember, when IE was the only browser, look at all the trouble that happened!

Yeah - I guess I meant something, anything, that would be a clean break with IE.

Maybe they should buy Opera Software?

"Maybe they should buy Opera Software?"

Yup they should. Opera has an amazing browser and Microsoft could let it shine the way it should. I'm really surprised they haven't already.

I would add to this: make MS web apps compatible with all browsers. It really does not make any sense that for big apps that cost a lot of money like Dynamics apps you have to use IE or the app does not work.

I worked on Dynamics CRM for more than a year and I can tell you this: you do not get any relevant benefit from IE as a platform (as a user as well as a developer), it's annoying for developers that cannot use their tool of choice, it's annoying for client that have to switch to a different browser just to use the app. Moreover it's slow and buggy, and this makes the experience with the app, that is not very good, even less pleasant.

1. Fire your browser team - the entire division. IE is the dead, stinking remains of 90s technology. Save yourself a ton of grief and money and standardize on Gecko or Webkit. Then make it a mandatory upgrade. Do what Apple did - change or get left behind. It may hurt in the short run, but it's paid off in the long run.

2. You know that buzz that Apple and Google have? When was the last time you heard anyone who doesn't work there say the same thing about Microsoft? Your mindshare is a dead stinking corpse in the middle the street that no one cares about.

3. Get smaller and get faster. Mozilla updates every couple of months and its like a party. Safari updates whenever Apple feels like it (which is still faster than you guys). Chrome updates whenever they take their ritalin. They all update faster than you guys. You've got 40 million programmers up there and this is the best you can do?

4. Other platforms exist. At a minimum, your browser should be on them (see point 1 first, though). Us Mac users thank you and curse you (well, I do, anyway) for allowing to have Office. Now go do the same for Linux.

40 million programmers?

Say to Ballmer?

I'd tell him to move aside. Ballmer's a sales' guy. He is clearly a good sales' guy. But he's the wrong person to be determining strategy at Microsoft.

I sometimes wonder what would have happened if Ballmer had gone to Sun, as the sales' guy. Is there an xkcd for that?

I have nothing to say to Microsoft or Ballmer because Microsoft is so irrelevant to me now - both as an internet professional and in my personal life.

I remember installing Windows 3.11 from floppy over my MS-DOS install on a 386 and I've used every version of Windows through to XP since.

But you lost me, all my machines run OS X or *nix, I've never run Windows on the server, I don't own any Microsoft software and I don't use any online Microsoft products (Bing, etc).

My love for computers bloomed when the Internet became available to the measses, C1992. That's when you decided that you wanted to own the Internet so you created your own, MSN Home. It didn't work, and you never really got the Internet until it was too late.

You are irrelevant, Microsoft, and due to the way your company is set up to profit mostly from selling Windows + Office to corporations you will never see any reason to stamp out the irrelevancy until it is too late.

In many ways it's very sad.

Fire your marketing department. Like seriously, I mean it.

1. What's up with the 2 page long name of each products? Windows Live Security Essentials 2. What's up with bazillion version of each OS? 3. What's up with all the ads? Windows 7 launch party with that crappy video, seriously? Is that the best you came with?

Zune was a good product and it was killed because of the marketing strategy. I guess these are problems when you get big and have 100k employee.

I would start with a version of Windows that is not backward compatible with really old APIs (i.e. removing a lot the old cruft) and making the remaining OS be super fast and have low memory usage.

I ask for this because although computers are getting faster all the time, booting and using Windows these days is still an exercise in patience, even on my high end laptop.

I would add specifically that virtualization is overdue. Apple's strategy back in the day was pretty good: sandbox the entire old OS so that users can still get most things to "just work", but then support only a subset of APIs on the new OS. Apple also kept the old OS as-is (i.e. ugly), while using all the nice new technologies and look-and-feel as bait to encourage developers to move.

Yes very good point. Build a good foundation OS and then virtualise for backwards compatibility.

I think .net is a good bait for such a new system. From the little interaction I've had with C# devs, they seem to like it.

There is already the XP mode in Windows 7, which boots a virtualized XP for compatibility.

Thanks. Didn't know that.

Hopefuly this means that implementing the idea I'm talking about is not too much of a stretch from the current code.

What would you consider a maximum acceptable boot time?

As low as possible, and ideally virtually instantaneous. From a cold boot, I'd put a cap of 10-15 seconds tops.

Why would anyone reboot a system, instead of putting it to sleep¹? (Except when restart is required by an upgrade.)

[1] Powered-off-and-ram-image-stored-to-disk type of sleep.

My work laptop (Vista `Enterprise') takes longer to wake from hibernate than it does to cold boot.

But that's hibernate - Sleep takes less than 2 seconds to recover from for me.

I don't know how Apple does it, but both my iMac and MacBook wake up in a second. I guess they keep the ram powered up and only save it to disk (hibernate) when running out of battery (or after certain amount of hours?). Anyway, they are totally silent and consume very little energy when sleeping. That's how it should be.

I love how the difference between sleep and hibernate is abstracted away in Apple's implementation.

Yep, Apple laptops keep the RAM powered up until the battery level dips down to 20%, then it writes the contents to disk when the machine sleeps. It's called Safesleep and you can tweak this if you'd like by using a utility called Smartsleep.

Actually, according to the following sources, the content is written to disk _before_ entering sleep. This can be done very quickly because most of the data is already in swap file.

http://support.apple.com/kb/HT1757?viewlocale=en_US http://www.macworld.com/article/53460/2006/10/safesleep.html http://moishelettvin.blogspot.com/2006/11/windows-shutdown-c...

The OP specifically mentioned saving RAM to disk. I don't trust the battery in this work laptop to hold the state in RAM overnight.

An operating system roadmap that promises to get leaner, smaller, faster on future versions.

Not to flame but I switched to Ubuntu after Vista and never looked back.

Some points:

- It's annoying in this day and age to be forced into using the entire MS Stack when I need to work with one specific technology. For example: if I want to test a web app on various versions of IE, I have to run Windows. OK fine, even though IE is the only browser that is tied to one OS, I'll let that go. However, if I want to use the Microsoft-provided free MS Virtual Machine images, I have to run them on Virtual PC despite the fact that I have a perfectly good VMWare installation. On my Mac, this means running windows on VMWare, and then Virtual PC inside that virtual machine. This is insanity. I'm trying to support your product, you should be making it as easy as possible for me. Even Apple ported Safari to Windows. As a developer, this just makes me feel hostile to MS. Another case: MS SQL Server. It's a real bear to connect to it from unix since (last I checked) there are no official drivers. You have to use some unix ODBC open source stuff and it's just not suitable for production work. My organization has a huge SQLServer instance I can't use because the Linux support is brittle. Contrast that with Oracle who has official drivers for practically every OS under the sun. The Windows for everything attitude has got to change. MS is a software company, not a Windows company. I know MS doesn't have a strong history of "playing nice with others", but it's sorely needed.

- Figure out a way to get corporate IT departments into regular upgrade cycles. The fact that lots of stubborn companies refuse to upgrade because the costs (perceived or real) are high is madness. It's a drag on the whole Microsoft ecosystem and heavily rate-limits the cycle time for new products.

- The segmentation of different Windows versions is just silly. There should be one version of Windows and that's it. It's simple for people to understand and it makes licensing a breeze. Artificially creating different versions doesn't really help anyone. Having a server and a desktop version is plenty (since they are genuninely different).

- MS needs to really decide how much longer they want to push an OS that is based on Windows/DOS heritage and not unix. I know this is tantamount to heresy inside MS. But if you look objectively at how Apple has used open source and unix, you see they are able to get incredible leverage for their size. Not having do to everything in-house and relying on the broader community is pretty good business for them. It lets them focus on the places where they can add value. At some point, it's not efficient for MS to maintain a parallel universe of "invented here" stuff. A proprietary Windows GUI/userspace on top of a unix core (like Mac OS) could really revitalize the whole Windows brand if done properly. It might even draw some geeks back from Mac OS. I became a Mac user because I was tired of dual booting Linux and Windows. I like having first-class email, word processing, photo sharing, etc... but I also want the unix underpinnings for my software development and scientific computing needs. Geeks aren't a big market by themselves, but they really make an impact on the decisions of others.

MS needs to really decide how much longer they want to push an OS that is based on Windows/DOS heritage and not unix

You know the "Windows/DOS" stuff in NT is an emulation layer, right? It's known as WoW, Windows on Windows. The NT kernel is the work of Dave Cutler, of DEC VMS fame, and it is actually very, very good (form your own opinion about what has been layered on top of it).

Not quite :) The DOS emulation layer in Windows 32-bit is called VDM (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virtual_DOS_machine) - WOW is a technology that allows one bitness apps to run on a different bitness OS. WOW used to let 16-bit Windows apps run on a 32-bit OS (i.e. Win95), and nowadays, WOW64 is a shim layer that allows 32-bit applications to run on a 64-bit OS

If Microsoft could deploy a decent unix on top the NT kernel, that might not be a bad strategy. But the fact remains that there are a wealth of unix tools that you can compile and run on an number of unix variants, but are practically impossible to build and run on Windows without heavy customization. I'm arguing that is eventually going to be a problem for MS because they are forced to invent everything internally and can't really easily incorporate what's going on elsewhere.

There's a POSIX subsystem.

Way back in the day, Microsoft had their own Unix, Xenix. However they did a deal with AT&T to get out of the Unix market - they probably still can't sell a Unix even if they wanted to.

Does anyone know what UNIX even is anymore? Does UNIX=BSD? So does that mean Microsoft could sell Linux, since Linux!=BSD?

So, it's a VMS heritage ;-)

Yep, 1979 vs 1970 for Unix ;-)

I think Unix aged better.

Oh, so that what the WoW in the SysWoW64 folder name means

Yep, the SysWOW64 directory has all the 32-bit DLLs in the system (usually an identical copy to the Win7 32-bit DLLs, though not always), and the System32 folder has the 64-bit binaries. Yes, this is confusing, but not breaking apps was more important

Very much the first point here.

Microsoft needs to stop trying to lock me in to their stack at every point and turn. Currently, if I want to use some Microsoft technology i'm forced in to the rest of the ecosystem and that's a hurdle that i'll likely never jump unless there is simply no other option.

In some respects, Microsoft is already at a disadvantage over Free and Open Source technology when starting new projects without legacy issues, just from the simplification of licensing and the supplier diversification. To add extra barriers, such as having to take on larger and larger parts of the Microsoft ecosystem to get the best out of one component just makes things worse.

Positive first step would be once and for all unequivocally clear up any IP issues surrounding both Mono and their library reimplementations to silence any critics. Second would be bringing Mono in to the .NET ecosystem as a first class citizen. I like C# and .NET but i'm highly unlikely to use it unless I have some real choices for deploying it. From what i've seen from Mono, it's an impressive project but not yet on par with Hotspot and the CLR.

On a site note, there have been some positive steps. The move to Apache 2.0 licensing on several recent contributions is a positive step and helps prevent more license proliferation.

Essentially, I want Microsoft to compete for my business with technology that I can deploy without the worry that i'm perennially locked in to one ecosystem and one vendor.

> Currently, if I want to use some Microsoft technology i'm forced in to the rest of the ecosystem

You are missing the point. While you won't be persuaded to lock yourself in, countless businesses are already locked in and won't be able to switch from Microsoft precisely because of the way the whole stack is dependent on all of its pieces.

> I want Microsoft to compete for my business with technology that I can deploy without the worry that i'm perennially locked in to one ecosystem and one vendor.

They want the exact opposite.

> MS needs to really decide how much longer they want to push an OS that is based on Windows/DOS heritage and not unix.

Some of us have the audacity to believe that NT OS might actually be superior to UNIX-like OSes. Sorry, it's true. And this coming from a "UNIX-like OS guy". I'm all for stripping away the DOSification of NT, like drive letters, instead of native (and UNIX-like) paths, etc though.

Edited slightly due to formatting errors on my part

What you say is correct, but in a way that is disconnected from the user's POV.

Consider: the command line is a major drawback of Windows, and that's the most obvious manifestation of the Windows/DOS heritage. In addition to its lack of power, the Window doesn't even resize properly.

Plenty of tools that port easily to OSX or Haiku are difficult to port to Windows. Look at the situation with git.

The situation is poor. Technically, NT (and NTFS, etc) might be great, but aspects of the user experience is awful.

The command line for Windows is now Powershell, which I find superior to Bash in many ways (although I appreciate Bash's relative simplicity, and I am still more familiar with the Bourne shell variants than I am Powershell).

CMD.EXE is still included, but it is the red-headed stepchild.

> the Window doesn't even resize properly.

And the PowerShell window still does not resize horizontally by dragging, which is silly. You can do it by adjusting the window's settings, but this is insufficient. Win32 Console apps need to die.

> Plenty of tools that port easily to OSX or Haiku are difficult to port to Windows. Look at the situation with git.

Of course it is, it was originally written targeting a completely different OS. The same could be said the other way, that's why stuff like WINE and Mono exist.

> but aspects of the user experience is awful.

I concur totally. Getting Windows 7 to what I consider usable (in a power user sense) is a 30-45 minute job with a fresh install (as opposed to ~ 20 minutes on Mac OS X).

I complain about the crappy Console subsystem every release, I'll try to shout louder :)

It will get shot down due to legacy requirements. It boggles my mind they didn't start Powershell "legacy-free" and just emulate/re-implement the existing command line commands.

The problem if you do that, as soon as you run a console EXE, you're hosed, weird things will happen.

As any of us who run resource kit, support kit, or development kit tools have found ;)

Thanks for your unofficial input throughout the threads. They've been great nuggets of info and insight from the inside, so to speak.

Thanks - I certainly don't believe that Microsoft always has a good reason for what they do, but I try when I can to illustrate what was going through the engineers' heads when they built the thing.

When you build a system that has to work for everybody, from your grandma who just wants simplicity, all the way to the Federal Gov't who has complex requirements and restrictions, all while making 100% sure that everyone's programs work flawlessly even if they happen to be horribly written, sometimes you have to make lousy compromise choices, I think that's our biggest challenge by-far, is balancing the n-degrees of concerns through smart, disciplined engineering.

Also, here's a great example of how we have to balance "fix the bug!" with "make programs work!":


> It's a drag on the whole Microsoft ecosystem and heavily rate-limits the cycle time for new products.

I don't see this as a problem; I like the stability of MS vs. Linux (having watched the rise and fall of devfs and hal now, along with the death of gnome-mount, gconf, gdm theming and xdmcp serving, etc.)

OTOH, I think IE6's 10+ year support guarantee was a bit extreme. But, comparing developing something on IE vs. Mozilla, IE would be the clear winner. I mean, Firefox extensions, which you would expect to be developer-friendly, aren't necessarily compatible between 3.5.x and 3.6.x of the product! Do I really want to be constantly fixing things that used to work every few months? Does the business want to pay for it?

> I don't see this as a problem; I like the stability of MS vs. Linux (having watched the rise and fall of devfs and hal now, along with the death of gnome-mount, gconf, gdm theming and xdmcp serving, etc.)

The problem that I see is that "stability" in the Microsoft world is entirely conditional on your willingness to upgrade everything all of the time since the whole toolkit is in a constant state of flux. Sure, you get working and officially-supported frameworks, but the goalposts are always shifting further down the field, and I think that's intentional on Microsoft's part.

Could you clarify what you mean by: "upgrade everything all of the time" and "the whole toolkit is in a constant state of flux"? What toolkit, and what upgrades? And how is it different to you than the Linux side of things?

I don't think you can say Linux is better in that regard. Every 6 months, there's a new Ubuntu or a new Fedora, and within a couple of years (except for Ubuntu LTS releases, which last three! years on the desktop) they're gone again.

Another case: MS SQL Server. It's a real bear to connect to it from unix since (last I checked) there are no official drivers. You have to use some unix ODBC open source stuff and it's just not suitable for production work.

FYI, you probably want to use the FreeTDS driver on Unix/Linux. It's not an ODBC driver and it is production quality.

I need to check again, but the last time I tried FreeTDS I got scared because of some serious encoding issues that were causing silent data loss. I have been following the bug report and it looks like this issue may have been finally patched recently, but it sort of scared me off from using FreeTDS.

If you're using Java, the MS JDBC driver works just fine.

Even most casual developers can afford $200 for a Windows license to run on VMWare. Contrast that with testing Mac software in VMWare with a Linux or Windows host -- we can't legally do it because it's against Apple's license.

While I somewhat agree that Apple's licensing of OS X is overly restrictive (though the reasons for those licensing terms are fairly complex), the OP is specifically talking about testing web apps in IE, which is the only browser with >1.0 percent market share that does not run on both Windows and OS X.

If you're writing desktop software for a platform, I think it's perfectly reasonable to demand you buy into that desktop OS.

Windows devs can test their web apps on Safari for free, from right inside Windows. Why should I have to drop $200 to make my web app work for most Windows users? That's the point he's making.

Interesting. I have not had any problems using FreeTDS and UnixODBC in large-scale production environments to talk to SQL Server, although I agree that the interfaces of the tools are brittle and pathetically clunky, in a minimalistic sort of way.

I work in VoIP and have several customers who insist on storing all of their production data from open-source Linux telephony app servers in SQL Server because they are otherwise a Microsoft stack shop, and have not had an issue once all the DSNs were correctly set up.

Of course, said organisations are all using relatively old versions of SQL Server and intensely disinterested in upgrading, so who knows what awaits when they finally do and the FreeTDS v8.3 protocol implementation may not work properly anymore.

Have you tried the free VMWare vCenter Converter? http://www.vmware.com/products/converter/features.html

I do not know whether or not they have overcome issues preparing Virtual PC images to run on the Mac yet...

>- MS needs to really decide how much longer they want to push an OS that is based on Windows/DOS

Especially for their mobile offerings. It makes economic sense to push windows, but it's not best for the customer.

I agree 100% with your last paragraph... their desire to keep bolting bits onto legacy software is a major annoyance and leads to a lot of kruft.

NT is not legacy software by any means. If anything, they are bolting legacy crap onto NT OS (such as the concept of drive letters, where the NT OS natively uses more UNIX-like paths)

> However, if I want to use the Microsoft-provided free MS Virtual Machine images, I have to run them on Virtual PC despite the fact that I have a perfectly good VMWare installation. On my Mac, this means running windows on VMWare, and then Virtual PC inside that virtual machine. This is insanity. I'm trying to support your product, you should be making it as easy as possible for me. Even Apple ported Safari to Windows.

To be honest, Apple is much much worse in this sense. I can buy Windows X and install it in a VM of my choice. Try this with OS X. And the only reason I need it is to port my app to their platform, potentially enhancing their ecosystem.

The Xbox (bar it's heating issues) is a damn good product. The advertising still has a little way to go, but over all it's a nice package and it is a good user experience start to finish.

Similarly, C# is a nice language, but I'm not (personally) overly keen on Visual Studio, I like smaller IDEs (personal preference here!).

The main issue that I see is the obsession with integrating everything with Windows. Notice how iTunes is cross platform(ish)? Python is cross platform? Apache is cross platform? Chrome & FireFox are cross platform? I don't think that it's an accident that those are fairly popular -- any one who uses them is not in inherently tied down to Windows, Mac or any other operating system.

I've said this about IE9, cross platform is generally better. Broaden your application's user base and correct the issues with advertising and you'll stand a real chance at turning things around, in my opinion.

Contrary to popular belief, throwing money at an issue does not correct an issue. With the creative markets, you'll need to get hold of genuinely creative people -- scout university campuses, advertising agencies (and anywhere else) and find those who are really passionate about creating something special.

In terms of strategy, if you're the dominant player in the market, it simply isn't wise to make the experience for customers switching to other OSs more comfortable.

The web is on track to have more apps than Windows.

I would like to see .NET framework penetration numbers. A lot of .NET developers still target 2.0 for desktop apps because the perception is that that 3.0+ have a much smaller installation base - even though numbers posted on statowl.com and Scott Hanselman's blog suggest otherwise. This is definitely one case where more transparency by Microsoft would benefit both them and the developer community.

I would also like to see the Certificate Revocation List checked less frequently. Microsoft Office add-in developers actually get penalized for having digitally signed add-ins, since the (daily?) CRL check slows Office application startup significantly.

Talking about penetration numbers on 3.0+, data on WPF and Silverlight adoption would be useful.

MS should also consider making Silverlight and WPF more compatible.

And if WPF adoption is lagging expectations (as I suspect it is), figure out how to simplify it and flatten the learning curve.

I suspect one of the problems with WPF/Silverlight adoption is the requirement to learn another layout language. I'm working on a rather large Silverlight 4 app, and am generally happy I don't have to work on many UI layouts. I can't muster up the desire to learn another markup language.

I know probably no one will care here, but I'd really like to see WP7 availability more than this shameful list here: http://developer.windowsphone.com/Help.aspx?id=fd9b5508-6436...

I'm in Croatia, I have friends in Slovenia (EU Country) as well as Hungary (EU Country)... this is just sad.

Also, I'd like to see XNA spread to web. You can make a prototype game or a full indie game already for Windows, XBOX and WP7 from the same codebase, so why not extend that further to either Silverlight or a plugin like Unity? That would rock.

App store for PC would be a nice idea for windows, if done right.

And, finally, Windows Live for games tied into that app store would be neat, but I think it would even be better for microsoft to buy Steam platform and integrate it into windows. Yeah, I know - a far fetched dream.

The main point that could be a real changer for me (being a web developper) is : Make sure everybody has the latest version of your free softwares (and I'm really thinking about internet explorer here). It's a real pain to have to support IE6 still because our clients use it and now that IE9 is coming out, we know how it will take years for everyone to switch. Their release cycle is completely broken and they will be left in the dust by competitors if they keep doing this.

That's ok, Steve gave out his contact info at TechEd 2005: http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/exec/steve/2005/06-06Tech...

Here's my question: I was a blue badge in Program Management for four years. I left in 2007 because I didn't want to deal with an atrophying bureaucracy, nor did I want to play corporate politics just to get a 5% raise each year.

I know a ton of other people who have left over the past three years, and more who are considering leaving now. I talk with ex-MSFTs who ended up at Google or Amazon, and their only regret is not leaving years earlier.

How do you stop this sort of brain-drain, and turn Microsoft back into a company where the industry's best want to work again?

Please twist everyone's arms as hard as you can to get them upgraded to IE9 ASAP.

Please get modern browser in Windows Phone 7.

IE7 makes my job miserable.

About IE9:

* add support for websocket

* add support for webgl

* make it cross-platform

* make trident open source

Yes, I do realize the last two are very unlikely and probably webgl too as MS tends to boycot everything opengl but if they added SVG maybe there is hope for this one.

Also, try to stop BS marketing such as:

* http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/internet-explorer/product...

MS should be smart enough to make the best RDP client (the app to connect to Windows machine) for iPhone with the best encryption. And to work with XP too.

Also forget the "effects" that are not good over the wire. The goal is the best possible experience when the desktop is accessed remotely.

Rationale: There are enough people that need the power of the Windows based computer (power means the software developed in all these years) but who want to access their desktops from iPhone. Even if iPhone is the competitor, if you allow users to use your system from it the users will be more committed to the desktop Windows platform then if they have to look for the new solutions for everything.

* you still have time to do the right thing with IE9 to introduce chrome like auto-update, and shorten your 2 year release cycle to at least half a year

* don't drop support for xbox 360 as soon as the next one comes out, that really hurt with the first one

* windows is a great development platform if you work with Microsoft tools. Make it more friendly for other technologies to. For instance: make a unix/linux compatible shell, so I can use all the tools, that I now have to ssh to some server, locally (cygwin is a pain in the ass).

* for the love of all that is holy do something about IE6&7

Stop with things like the funeral parade for the iPhone. Really guys, that was really lame.

MS should refocus on its priorities. Every now and then comes out the iPhone killer and fails. Even if you have a good product with Windows Mobile 7, iPhone should not be your target. Android is eating your market share. The iPhone is a closed box from Apple, Android is the OS that runs on phones from different manufacturers, which is the same strategy of WM7 (by the way, why does everything get called Windows at MS? You don't even have the window concept on a phone).

I really wish Microsoft would stop making half assed versions of stuff that other people have done better just because they somehow think they should.

Each time I see something like Bing or Zune I just wonder why MS does it, they're pissing away their credibility by desperately trying to be google or apple when patently they're not.

I'm an app developer for iPhone and I would love Microsoft to up it's game in Mobile. Apple are a bunch of elitist control freaks that piss me off every time they open their mouthes, google just want to sell more advertising and are desperate for the chance to do that in your pocket as well as on your laptop. Build me a platform I can port my app to with a minimum of fuss and I will jump at the chance.

Now if I were them I think I'd try and build on the one area they've been a success in the consumer arena. xBox. Build xbox mobile, do a deal with one of the other major carriers (who isn't at&t) for the exclusive ability to do multiplayer gaming over their 3g network for a flat rate. Get your existing game developers to build for it, but make sure it's possible for independent developers to build for it as well. Doing that would be something seriously exciting and would offer a choice that doesn't currently exist.

SQL Express Server 2005 does not come with SQL Server Agent so no schedule backups and many apps have manual backup only. (did they fix this in 2008?)

Put some resources behind the Event Log "more information" links that takes you to the Microsoft website and says "We're sorry" no additional information is available even for MS products. At the very least, configure the link to do an Event ID and Source google search instead of the worthless "I'm sorry" web page.

1) Change the name of Microsoft Security Essentials so people will have an easier time finding it and knowing what it does. Market it better, while keeping it free.

2) Have more free options available for small businesses and teams running the .NET stack. BizSpark is a step in the right direction, but for cash-strapped startups who want to test ideas out in a production setting, it still doesn't compete with the free open-source alternatives.

3) Focus more on getting program installations done right. For example, SQL Server 2008 has taken a step backwards in terms of installation. Errors happen quite frequently during the install/upgrade process--it shouldn't take several hours of fighting one installer to get it working properly.

4) For popular third-party programs that work correctly with Windows, it would be nice if Microsoft had an online database of checksums that Windows can transparently check the program against. If everything looks good, don't present the user with "Confirm/Deny" choices, just install it. Otherwise users become jaded and used to clicking on "Confirm" even for popups that require more thorough inspection.

Personally, the main thing I dislike about Windows is the lack of proper window management. There's no real Focus Follows Mouse, you have to use third-party applications to get windows to Stay on Top, or to have a second taskbar on your second monitor, etc. It's unfortunate that your OS is called Windows, but compared to your competition you are severely lacking in your ability to usefully manage windows!

And then, Visual Studio raises itself on activation, making focus-follows-mouse too frustrating to keep using, so you can't even use one of the focus-follows-mouse apps if you use Visual Studio.

If folks want to mail SteveB, just mail steveb@microsoft.com. He has given out his email address on multiple occasions (like http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/exec/steve/2005/06-06Tech...).

I can attest that he reads all his emails and often responds (I am low in the MSFT food chain but have always gotten responses from him).

In regards to IE9: please please please make this easier to install. Currently this is what I need to do to upgrade to IE8:

Log in as Administrator -> Install an update to the machine (Why?)

Reboot the machine (Why?)

Log back in as Administrator again -> Install IE

Reboot the machine again (Why?)

Log in as the user that users the machine. Launch IE: "Hello would you like to participate in BLAH BLAH BLAH?. (Why are you asking me this? I just want to go to youtube and watch a video!)

[Yes] [No]

Compare this to Chrome, or Firefox or Opera.

Log in as Administrator -> click on executable -> Next Next Next -> Launch Chrome -> Go to youtube -> Done.

There are things that would make my life a lot easier too, but this is very small picture stuff (but I think it reflects a bigger problem.). These tools may already exist, but I don't know about them...which is a failure on the part of microsoft:

I want a tool that will automatically audit my MS office license keys for me. Scan my network, tell me who has what keys.

An asset management tool in general would be nice. Scan my network, give me back a list of all of my machines, What user is currently logged into that machine, and what its IP address is. Yes, this is already possible using a few other tools, but it would be nice to have it all in one place (again, if this exists already, please tell me).

Other things that would be great:

Give me a centralized repository of windows ISOs and Office installs. You can get these things, yes, but it involves jumping through a bunch of hoops. Just give me microsoft.com/downloads and present me with copies of your OS, and office. I'm not saying give away product keys (obviously), just media.

Btw, what you guys did in Russia this week was really really cool. I actually had a lengthy conversation with a friend of mine about how awesome of you that was. In all honesty, you guys are doing a lot of really really amazing things right now. I am still in disbelief at how I could just email some very nice woman at Microsoft Research, ask her for a peppermill, and have one show up at my door a few days later. That kind of stuff warms my heart. So does making the N-GRAM data from bing available to students for free. That type of stuff is awesome, and that is the type of stuff that makes me want to support you guys. Keep that up.

Thanks, Ryan

Don't forget the ridiculous prompting for phishing/search engine/etc after that.

Just let me use the damn browser.

So, I think I'm a pretty good programmer (Resume's in the profile, if you're curious) and I happen to be interviewing with Microsoft on the 11th, so here's my perspective.

From a recruiting point of view, the way you guys outsource travel arrangements is a total PITA. Source Sure (or whatever) really, really sucks, and it's bogus that interviewing for a job should be more time consuming and paperwork intensive than my taxes, and complete with an audit. You don't have to go full-out Fog Creek on your interview process or anything, but I think taking the arrangements back in-house would do wonders for you guys.

Other than that, it'd be cool if I could be convinced that I would work on something interesting and meaningful without having to watch out for Office Politics and mismanagement (what I was overwhelming warned about by former full-time employees as well as former interns). It is my sincere hope that such bubbles exist within Microsoft for at least a small portion of your developers.

Linkrot on MSDN is a serious problem, as is the MSDN search.

I've resorted to using Google to find documents on MSDN because its index seems to be more up to date and tends to give me the non-broken links (why doesn't Microsoft use Bing to power MSDN search!?!?).

Navigating MSDN for documentation is painful at best.

Also, it would be really nice to have all of the .net exceptions well documented in one place.

1. Please create a public/private App store so I can easily install a WPF app. In general, make it as easy to install a desktop app as it is right now to install an iPhone/iPad app. Not just the mechanics of the installation, but also the friendly discovery process with descriptions, screen shots, reviews, etc.

2. Windows 8 needs to run well on tablets and touch needs to work just like it does on the iPad--don't show me the cursor. I don't care if they cost 3x what the iPad costs, but I need a good tablet experience for our business clientele. And I definitely mean full Windows 8, with MS Office. If the early releases of Windows 8 don't run well on tablets, we'll be writing iPad versions of our apps.

3. Keep up the good work with WP7, C#, Visual Studio, WPF/XAML, Dynamics and Sharepoint 2010. Please make SharePoint interoperability a priority across your entire business product line. Good call on killing the Kin.

Suggestion to Microsoft - Do less, but better. My faith in their products has slowly grown over the last 10 years, however they still suffer from trying to have too many fingers in too many pies. And in my opinion their products suffer for it. Maybe they should put more focus into fewer products?

I am not happy with Microsoft's splintering of Windows into so many versions. It is a waste of time. I say just offer one client version of Windows and sell it for a flat price.

I would also like to suggest giving me more options on what I install during the install. I'm not suggesting this option be something that normal users see, it can be hidden away somewhere, but to make me install a web browser I won't use is silly. (And no, the current "hide access" way of doing this, after the bits are infecting my hard drive, is not satisfactory.)

Bitlocker should accept pass phrases and be easier to enable if one doesn't have a TPM.

Finally, I think it is high time that Windows allows people to have their home directory anywhere they want to; especially during account creation. This is something that should be an option in the Users control panel.

MS, please stop trying to sell 8 different SKUs for each new version of your OS. Just sell one. Thank you.

A properly standards-compliant browser. I know IE9 has partial support for CSS2, but I want them to go the whole hog (css3, acid3, svg, etc).

Spend the same money on startups that Microsoft spent to destroy startups in the 80s & 90s.

Please stop it with installers that download other installers. If I want to download Live Messenger, I don't want to download a program that'll download Live Messenger.

"Alright! Download finished! Wait, downloading messenger? What did I just spend 5 minutes downloading?"

Don't let dynamic languages in the CLR die!!! (IronPython, IronRuby)

Reach out to ClojureCLR too!


1. Don't buy Nokia; waste of money and no help in sorting out a mobile strategy 2. Port CE to ARM as soon as possible before the entire tablet/phone market is lost 3. Focus on the enterprise market where you potentially contribute value added and move out of consumer software apps which will all be free, web-based in five years 4. Focus all software development on smaller code that assumes no hard drive and 4GB or less of flash memory in the device; really understand products like Dropbox as a means to see a software strategy going forward 5. Abandon the strategy where all the software (Office, IE, etc) only runs on Windows

I want to say, "Thank you." Lately, I've been working to print Office documents and Outlook emails to PDFs for a product in the legal industry, and Microsoft's documentation, their CodePlex projects and their interoperability teams have made this process surprisingly painless.

It's a pity that IronRuby was largely cancelled, however—I would love to have more high-quality dynamic languages under .NET. Microsoft has a variety of excellent static languages, but dynamic languages like Python, Ruby and JavaScript are all very popular, and Microsoft hasn't had a popular tool in this space since Visual Basic became a static language.

At this point probably the smartest thing which Microsoft could do would be to adopt some Linux distro (perhaps OpenSuSE, which they already have some relationship with) and base all of their future development on top of it. At a stroke this would eliminate many of their security and malware problems, dramatically improving the user experience.

Windows remains prevalent, but at present as a software developer I'm not seeing much of a future for it, other than as a legacy system that I may need to support, and am recommending home and business users to move to other platforms (either Linux or Mac) whenever that's possible.

I love Linux as much as the next guy, but this is off base. A good deal of Microsoft's strength lies in backward compatibility and entrenchment. Serving up a brand new OS could potentially destroy that competitive advantage.

A better strategy might be to incorporate better support for open protocols and document formats into their products and allow easier interoperability with the outside world. My biggest beef with Windows has always been that it's difficult to interact with its products using third party tools.

I disagree. I think much of the weaknesses of Windows - especially its security woes - are due to trying to be too backward compatible with previous versions, which has meant that long standing problems have either not been addressed, or only inadequately patched over.

Making a clean break with the past and moving to a new system where network security is fundamentally designed into the product from the very beginning, even if it's not based on a Unix clone, would be move in the right direction.

Backward compatibility may be a weakness in security, but a strength otherwise. I like it very much that I can still run many of my games that I purchased in the 90's on the Windows 7. AFAICT, Linux can't easily offer such a long binary backwards compatibility (please correct me if I'm wrong).

I also think that - along the lines of what tmountain said above - more important than open source code, is that protocols and formats are open.

Oh my FSM please no! That would remove the one and only mainstreamish OS that isn't an unix-clone from the market, leaving the computing world permanently crippled. Why do people want that sort of monoculture?

Also, if you seriously think user experience is better on Linux, I wonder have you used a modern Windows lately?

I expect alarm to be the natural reaction, but at this point I don't think it's an overstatement to say that Microsoft needs to do something fairly radical if it wishes to remain relevant in its traditional markets. In technology you can only rely upon inertia for a limited time. Most users don't care whether they're using a Unix clone or not.

Two things really stand out for me.

1. Please, please, PLEASE take the App Store model that Apple has used and apply it to Xbox Live. There is already a process by which developers have to get their wares certified to run on the Xbox so the review process is pretty much already in place. The barrier to entry on the 360 needs to be significantly lowered (there have been half-baked efforts, but nothing terribly inspiring). One of the most exciting rumors (that didn't happen) about the Apple TV was that it would be running iOS and allow for apps on a television. The Xbox 360 is in a great position to make this a reality. Let me write tiny games/apps for the 360, and let it be easier to get them on Live than it is to get on Apple's App Store.

2. The way the entire company thinks about User Interface / User Experience design is, if I may be impolite, fucked. What little I've been able to read regarding how MS goes about designing the parts of their software that people see and use comes down to this; We follow whatever Office does and middle management sanitizes everything. It's no wonder that something great like Courier died inside of Microsoft. Designing applications for humans is very, very hard. Designing applications for humans inside of a huge bureaucracy is next to impossible. There are probably people working at MS with titles like "User Advocate" and other nonsense, but the end product reflects that those people are incompetent, impotent, or both. A team of powerful, capable people need the ability to "stop the line" and say no to the bullshit. The company has coasted for far too long on UI/UX familiarity due to the pervasiveness of its products. People hate using MS software. My family hate their Windows PCs. The gloss and fresh paint of Vista/7 haven't addressed the common person's frustration. In a business environment people have an incentive to adapt to bad software and work around it. At home my mother just wants her computer to print a photo at the click of a button, at the proper resolution, with the right orientation, and exactly how she sees it on the screen. Experienced business and technical users have mentally blocked out the usability cruft of the last 20 years, but the consumer market is and will continue to be unforgiving. This is why Apple is eating your lunch.

RE: #1 Have you checked out the XNA Creators Club and Xbox Live Indie Games? This seems to be exactly what you're looking for and has been around for a while.



Yes, I was aware those programs when I made the post ("there have been half-baked efforts, but nothing terribly inspiring").

They're limited in that they don't have the same abilities as professionally produced games. What I'd like to see is a leveling of the playing field when it comes to online digital game distribution for consoles. Restricting some of the system's abilities (ala iOS, etc) is naturally going to happen, but anything a professional title can do, my (hypothetical) game should be able to do as well.

There are also a lot of interesting possibilites for streaming video, etc like what you're starting to see on iOS devices. The situation for content might be a little sticky considering that MS does its own distribution deals. At the very least opening the field up to smaller shops and lowering the barriers and costs to entry would be a huge step in the right direction and MS would still get a cut as the apps/games would be bought with Microsoft points.

Commenting from my personal experiences, great games like Limbo are ghettod off in some indie area, but crap like Dead Rising 2 are in a completely different place - with pictures of a box, like it's going to be mail order or something.

Show me ALL games, sorted by downloads, ratings, newness, genre, and/or suggestion.


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