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Microsoft’s Resurgence Under Satya Nadella (wsj.com)
245 points by yarapavan 14 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 246 comments

Long story, short:

1. Realize the world is moving beyond Windows

2. Cede mobile OS to Android/iOS, that battle is lost.

3. Realize, next great revenue stream is the Cloud (Azure).

To me it was more interesting to get a glimpse of Satya Nadellas thought process:

> "as a CEO you need to create that continuous balance between the multiple constituents [that] is the real job"


> "Ultimately, if we don’t want to have a race to the bottom, we need to have some laws and regulations that govern how participants in the marketplace can make sure we don’t do things that have unintended consequences."

and more.

One might argue that thinking like this can be obtained in a two-day management course, or an afternoon with the corporate head of PR - still, many leaders don't even seem to understand the benefit of putting such into words, let alone use it as guiding principles.

>still, many leaders don't even seem to understand the benefit of putting such into words, let alone use it as guiding principles.

What you're looking at is a second-generation CEO. Nadellas was bred through the executive training program of an established organization, having received many two-day management courses, and he knows that an afternoon with the PR group is a good idea. This is in contrast to Gates and Balmer, which were first-generation "founder" CEOs.

The problem is they are no longer best-of-breed for any of their markets, except maybe Office.

Microsoft doesn't break out Azure revenue, but by all accounts it's quite small compared to AWS.

And Office is very much under threat. If you work with young people you'll notice they tend to prefer G Suite apps over Office - most likely because Google has done a great job getting their software into schools.

Did you know that most enterprises who had "tried" gSuite actually switched back to Office? Office is very much not under threat. By many estimates, Office revenue is over 20X that of gSuite and growing. I agree with you that a lot of young people grow up with gSuite because Google has done a fantastic job getting gSuite into schools and colleges. But when these young people go into corporate America (which is a lot bigger than just Silicon Valley), they quickly have reality handed to them, which is that most real work is done in Office.

https://www.cbronline.com/news/g-suite-vs-office-365 https://www.geekwire.com/2018/google-says-recording-1b-per-q...

Uh, Azure revenue, by many accounts, is greater than AWS:



And sorry, G Suite is a joke compared to desktop Office for serious work. It doesn't matter what the youngin's prefer, what matters is what gets (or facilitates getting) real work done in the enterprise, which generally revolves around Excel and PowerPoint in some fashion.

Microsoft includes a bunch of non-Azure products under their cloud revenue. And they do it to confuse people and falsely claim they're outpacing AWS, which as you just proved, works.

Why shouldn't Office365 be counted in cloud revenue? "Cloud Revenue" doesn't exclusive mean IaaS or PaaS.

Because SaaS isn't cloud computing. SaaS is essentially a fully available software application that you don't run on your own machines.

There's similarities, but key differences that you can easily look up to better understand. Hence part of why most aren't huge fans of including O365 to claim Azure's bigger than AWS.

If the claim is that Azure is generating more revenue than AWS, then yes I would say that is misleading.

If the claim is that Microsoft's cloud revenue is bigger than Amazon's, I would assume that includes Office365. Office365 isn't just Word and Excel on the desktop, it's Outlook, Dynamics CRM, Sharepoint, Teams, etc.

Do you think Amazon subtracts their own massive utilization of AWS out from their numbers? Not likely.

How is buying your own product GAAP? None of the cloud providers can claim their usage of their own products as revenue, it is a cost.

Do you think it’s a major fraction?

I doubt it, but that’s just speculation without anything to back it up.

So any concrete data would be interesting.

Because most of the revenue is from businesses buying it to install Office on their computers and not using any of the online services.

Whether or not a company is taking full advantage of Outlook, Flow, Sharepoint Online, etc doesn't really matter in terms of revenue. If a company is paying for cloud products, that counts towards Microsoft's cloud revenue.

Even if the bulk of the Office365 ecals they're selling are for the lowest tier offering that still includes Outlook and Onedrive which a lot of organizations use fairly heavily.

Exactly! Microsoft is exploiting the “cloud” buzzword when including Office 365. I’m sure old baby boomer investors/advisors/managers couldn’t tell the difference. They want to be in the “growing cloud space”. Office 365 is just a continuation of the monopoly Excel and Word have on the business software market

I agree with you but it makes sense to include Office 365. Amazon offers mail hosting and office software in AWS as well.

Edit: Okay they only offer document storage you still need to edit your documents with MS Office.

I'm pretty skeptical of your claim there. I'm happy to admit I'm wrong if that's truly the case, but let's see some reputable references that backs that up first. I haven't been able to find anything that substantiates that claim.

> G Suite is a joke compared to desktop Office

If there is one area where I've been consistently wrong, it is betting on "powerful/serious tools" rather than simple, ubiquitous things that handle most of what people need. 'Simpler' tends to win vs 'better'.

Simply put, different markets. Students are now using Google Docs, and Sheets works well enough to plan out your holidays.

For someone that spits reports or jangle number all days, G-suite is a poorly thought-out joke.

A simple exemple: it's impossible to make custom styles in Docs. You can just redefine existing styles. And you can only apply one of these styles per paragraph (you can however, manually bold or change the font of some span within the paragraph... but not apply a premade style on a span of text smaller than a paragraph).

Even if the basic issues are fixed, Office is a powerhouse of features for power users, who'll keep paying good money for it, because it's well worth it.

Yes, so you make spreadsheets for the old gen and your boss and you use G-sheets among your peers.

Now if google provides a decent convert to excell converter- they win over time.

My only uses of G Suite are for tracking expenses and one page letters, stuff that even Lotus 123 and Word 2.0 would be too advanced, and I have used them when they were modern.

For anything more serious I drop down into Office.

Or, if corporations like Microsoft did before, bribe the govn't to enforce the use of their products in schools and gvon't institutions, like they did in the '90s and early '00s.

An example: https://www.zoliblog.com/2008/05/19/steve-ballmer-receives-t...

> A Hungarian Government bid, worth $25B Hungarian Forints, roughly $157M was allegedly skewed towards MS

I clearly remember in the late 90s, when all the computer literacy exams were phrased explicitly to use Exel, Word, Explorer. The official European computer competency test (ECDL) until 2013 was explicit about Microsoft products as well: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_Computer_Driving_Lice...

It is hard to convince people like me, who grew up in such level of corruption, that the people who were working for Microsoft as a high-level executive that time, they are not relying on public money any more.

G Suite is all fine for internal communications, but grossly incompetent for making a presentation for anything where aesthetics is for concern. Same for text documents.

That seems more like an entrenched opinion that you've continually looked to reaffirm instead of opening your perspective.

First, serious work & powerpoint? Really? Yeah in an enterprise organization that's largely stuck doing what they've been doing because it's worked - sure, but that's not a technology issue, it's a culture issue.

For example, Google Sheets covers 80-90% of the use cases for Excel. But that's not what you should be comparing. A lot of what folks use spreadsheets for to do complicated calculations, have built lengthy, stitched together macros to automate processes, etc. would be much better in many cases to consider a completely alternate approach.

i.e a data warehouse, hey use a service like BigQuery that requires minimal adminstration and requires users to really only have SQL knowledge.

In order to effectively work across a large organization across different functions, product lines, etc., you have to remove every point of friction that prevents collaboration, etc. Desktop Office is great for individual work, but in today's dynamics, it really seems like you put a ceiling on productivity by sticking to it.

Business users are not going to learn SQL. They're not going to move all their data into the cloud, setup access, manage resources and spend money to run queries that take a few seconds on their laptop. They're not going to use 20 different services to break out scratch work, analysis, charting, and BI from what runs in a single portable file that they can manage and backup and extend in unlimited ways from meeting to meeting.

There are billion dollar businesses that run on Excel, and many workers in all kinds of industries live in it all day because nothing else comes close. Those macros and automations are what empower them to get things done and drive business forward instead of worrying about the "right way" to do something.

This perspective that they're all naive and should use better tools just fails to understand how people actually work, and explains why G-Suite as it is today will never beat Excel.

And Excel is getting cool big data features and Tableau like capabilities.

> continually looked to reaffirm

Huh? I don't recall continually posting about how G Suite sucks. Pretty sure this is the first time?

> Desktop Office is great for individual work, but in today's dynamics, it really seems like you put a ceiling on productivity by sticking to it.

Desktop Office is basically O365 today, and it's pretty much constant collaboration where I work. Not sure how that doesn't meet today's dynamics?

I used Excel for several years, mostly doing development work for financial services companies. I now work at a small/medium-size tech company that uses Google Sheets. Sheets is fine for most of the things we need to do, but our needs are modest. Sheets' overall functionality pales in comparison to Excel, and it often feels laggy even on a good network.

The finance companies I mention above also had data warehouses, but that's a completely different use case and not what Excel is used for. It would not work as a replacement even if everyone knew SQL.

An example would be a PowerPoint presentation showing a diagram linked to an Excel file using SQL Server as a datasource.

Dunno if something similar can't be done in Googles office suite as well though.

It can, google data studio more or less is this

I wouldn't call G Suite a "joke", but I have to second the sentiment. For example, Google Slide still doesn't let you adjust the size of the arrowhead of a connecting line: it's tied to the line width.

And this is one of countless random things I could do with PowerPoint 15 years ago, when I was drawing slides for a freaking CS conference.

You ever tried actually using Azure `services`? What a joke! On the surface they try to have feature parity with their AWS analogues, scratch the surface any that illusion quickly evaporates. Nowhere close. As for O365 - old mode, still nowhere close to GSuite for new ways of working.

Yes, they work perfectly fine, if not extremely well, for nearly all of the cloud work I've done, which has been extensive.

What is this new ways of working? Corporate heavily uses Office across all industries.

Azure Active Directory leaves a lot to be desired.

Seem like a phenomenal miscalculation to not have this built out as a cloud service already.

It would help keep more small companies in a Windows ecosystem and bring them into office 365.

The version they have today seems to offer 10% of the on premise solution.

"Cloud" revenue likely includes O365. (Sorry I couldn't find a source for it. But I have definitely read this.)

There is a gigantic market for basic office work that can be done in the Google apps, the Apple apps or the OpenOffice apps just as well as in Microsoft Office. Nobody cares if you think that isn’t ‘real’ work and if Microsoft thinks it's safe because they have the only product for ‘real work’ they are in for a rude awakening. They aren’t however, they have their own online suite that can’t do ‘real work’ either but works good enough for a lot of people.

How is G Suite a joke? It can definitely do some heavy lifting and a lot of enterprises are using it. Granted I've worked at a lot of places and most use office, but the ones that have used G Suite have way more collaboration. Its easier to share, collaborate, and not have files get lost in the shuffle. I much prefer it, plus I love using Sites vs Sharepoint.

PowerPoint for real work? Please.

I'll give you Excel.

Every slide deck ever that a director or VP has used to justify their budget for all that great Excel work. Every pitch deck to win a deal. Every teacher or professor that gives a presentation with PowerPoint. I hate endless slides, but fact is millions of people build and present them every day.

How exactly is all of that not real work?

Well point one I think it's a shit way to disseminate information. Point two and more seriously, the alternatives aren't much worse in PowerPoint's case.

I don't disagree with you at all. But that is real work that millions of people get paid to spend millions of man-hours on. Specifically with PowerPoint. That's all I'm saying.

The question is what counts as "real work". Certainly work done with Google's office suite counts as well, considering that Google and many other companies run their businesses using it.

Most alternatives are much better than PowerPoint. Which isn’t surprising because it’s hard to be worse than ‘20 bullets on a slide’ PowerPoint.

> The problem is they are no longer best-of-breed for any of their markets

Operating systems? I personally love Windows 10 (now its more mature), and Windows Server 2019 is embracing containers.

On cloud, AWS is very entrenched, but Microsoft can capture a lot of the enterprise market. I've worked extensively with Azure, and I think it's a fantastic product. TBH, I'm not sure there is a "best of breed" cloud provider - they each have their strengths and weaknesses, and there is plenty of room in the market for all the big players as well as smaller, specialised ones.

Are we talking about the same windows 10 that blows-up every November to add nonsuch features?

The same! Windows 10 seemed like it started out stable enough, but it’s been getting flakier by the year for me. I’m now keeping a log of things that go wrong with it, just for fun. Every once in a while I look at the list and ask myself, how on earth did they screw up start menu search?![0]

[0] https://m.windowscentral.com/how-fix-taskbar-search-not-work... Had to have a work PC reimaged to fix this. True story.

Enterprises that are on Win10 are likely to use LTSB anyway, rendering this moot.

There are ways for us "end-users" to get a hold of LTSC. First download the demo from microsoft then go to ebay to buy a key from some shady guy for 14$. Seems to work for me :P

Windows operating systems are just a gigantic bloated and underperforming mess.

Server 2019 is no exception.

At the company I work for IT ops deliver VMs as a service. The windows ones have huge disk footprint and take at least 3 times as long to deliver. Moreover dsc is not featureful enough compared with ansible. So it's also a pain to script/automate for. The failure rate is higher. And let's not forget the need to put antivirus on them.

Lots and lots of reasons to escape from that platform, I could go on for a while.

Unless you are deploying Solaris into production, how are those kernels handling asynchronous loads.

Still plain old select(), poll() and AIO?

Yes, and they are plenty fast. The API could be more elegant, but it works fine. Mysql for example uses io_submit. So do oracle, sybase. It's just a matter of developer comfort. They work around it for us. Deployment-wise, linux runs circles around windows.

Having worked in several Java/.NET shops not everyone on our IT would agree with that, specially how easy it is to manage cluster deployments with AD.

Office and windows go hand in hand though. Windows is a clear winner over ChromeOS. For comparing it to MacOS its debatable what is qualitatively better, both systems are full of tradeoffs.

Personally I lean towards MacOS because homebrew and terminal.app are pretty good. Updates are pretty unobtrusive and wifi is easy to manage. I'm not sure that these are hard hitting features for most users.

> Windows is a clear winner over ChromeOS

Could you expand on this statement?

ChromeOS is a North America market phenomenon, hardly used anywhere else.


Those are desktop numbers. Virtually all ChromeOS devices are laptops!

:) These days "desktop" = non-mobile = non-smartphone/non-tablet.

Laptops are desktops!

If you have better numbers for ChromeOS world domination, care to share them with us?

>And Office is very much under threat. If you work with young people you'll notice they tend to prefer G Suite apps over Office - most likely because Google has done a great job getting their software into schools.

It is not. Many are switching to Office 365, those who tried GSuite in Enterprise are moving back.

Young people may prefer GSuite, but then they learn the whole world is built on Excel. Eyes opening for every generation of people coming into work how multi billions dollar of revenue dependant on Excel and no one wants to touch it with a ten foot pole.

There were once kids were using Snapchat and said only old people use WhatsApp. I laughed and replied yeah you are right. Then they left their fantasy youth and join the real world, look at what they use for business? WhatsApp ( Or WeChat in China ).

G Suite is very appealing over MS Office with the collaboration and version history features until you experience waiting MINUTES for spreadsheets to update. If Google moved some of the processing from the user's browser to their servers then, I believe, more people would make the switch.

Office on the web also has the same collaboration features now, and has had for years. Google's real time collaboration is slightly better, but I've worked in organizations that use Office and organizations that use Google. gSuite offline mode makes for many unproductive business flights (ie it simply does not work properly). Large spreadsheets choke up Sheets as you mention.

Office is a huge market.

I live in India, and after years of 'ahem' using office, I started paying for their 4000 Rs (50 USD) per year subscription for 5 PCs, 3 or 5 Tablets/Mobiles pack.

It's awesome.

> except maybe Office.

Not really. But an awful lot of shops rely on their Excel macros. Changing the office suit would mean to re-develop a huge amount of infrastructure.

Regarding #1, eventually I expect Microsoft to release their own Linux distribution and keep Windows as a GUI.

I would not be surprised if their failed project Astoria was reused to run android apps on that.

Speaking as an OS engineer who's worked on both kernels a lot, Windows is way better under the hood for low-latency, responsive end user stuff than linux

Then again, WinMo 7 was way faster and more responsive than Android at the time, and look how that turned out..

The PREEMPT_RT patchset (sometimes confusingly referred to as RT-Linux) is slated to improve the kernel quite a bit wrt. "low-latency" and "responsive" workloads.

I'm not sure why this is such a problem in Linux, where latency is really not such a big problem in Darwin/MacOS/iOS.

Architected for throughput instead of latency.

> Speaking as an OS engineer who's worked on both kernels a lot, Windows is way better under the hood for low-latency, responsive end user stuff than linux

Still it's probably a lot cheaper to fix some latency issues on linux that to maintain your whole kernel. The main issue with linux is the GPL for drivers, a long with kernel API instability.

> The main issue with linux is the GPL for drivers

That's the main benefit with Linux. OEM drivers on MS Windows are a shit show, even on Windows 10.

One costs a lot to maintain, another doesn't.

Windows is a pretty good kernel, GNU/Windows (aka WSL) effectively feels like Linux, with some drawbacks mainly NTFS being very slow (which Microsoft are aware of and working on - see https://github.com/Microsoft/WSL/issues/873#issuecomment-425...).

Yeah I remember reading this particular comment when it was new.

It mostly feels like “ok guys this is the best we get out of this” to me though. If they do not go with a different approach, the filesystem will always be an issue with WSL.

I planned ditching my mac in favor of WSL. Due to MBP hardware issues and the fact that a git status would take 10x time drove me away.

I wish it was good enough though.

I keep a Debian VM around with Samba exporting my ~/src directory to the Windows host. That way it’s possible to avoid file system issues while still being able to use editors and other tools (Adobe CC apps in my case).

git status maybe 10x slower on WSL than native Linux - I wonder how much slower it is than macOS - in my brief use macOS filesystem never felt anywhere near Linux fast to me.

Never been bothered by it in practice but good question. The newish filesystem (apfs) feels faster in daily use so your experience might be outdated by now.

Anyone tried ext3 or 4 on Windows?

They already have their Linux distribution, it just doesn't run on the desktop.


However on what concerns the desktop, I am betting more on GNU/Windows.

Why would it need to be Linux? I love linux, but mostly because it works well and is open source. I'd love for a big tech company to put their weight behind SEL4. That would go a long way for Microsoft: formally proven security, tiny footprint, good performance, etc. It's something that has massive potential for super computers all the way down to IOT. It just needs a proper ecosystem behind it.

Or maybe buy QNX off of Blackberry and make it open source again. That would also be nice.

I think as long as Microsoft holds onto Windows tightly the better bet in the future will always be a Linux or UNIX-like OS. Like many other things, the thing that works more like evolutionary systems tend to prevail. Linux might be the dominant race of the UNIX ancestry tree at the moment, but it may not retain that dominance and the thing that will overtake it will probably come from the same UNIX evolutionary roots, e.g. the BSD side where FreeBSD, Darwin, MacOS and iOS came from or the other Linux side branches like Android and Chrome, or somewhere less unexpected. The only way Windows tree OSes will prevail over this is if they allow more branches to evolve, even open source parts of it. User interfaces tend to do better if owned by an organisation with a concentrated purpose and commercial vision, but the stuff under the bonnet seems to do a lot better from being more open and evolutionary.

Looking at the embedded market OSes, everyone is pretty keen in moving away from Linux into RTOS, mbed, NuttX, Tizen IoT, RIOT, eventually Fuchsia, ....

Who knows which ones will survive, however they all have two things in common, they aren't GPL based and just enough POSIX to keep C and C++ happy. Additionally some of them do have stable ABI for drivers.

Linux's long term victory might be constrained to the server room, and even there it is debatable, given the increase in managed runtimes for micro-services, which could even be running bare metal for what I care.

Perhaps Google Fuchsia[0]?

I hope not.

[0]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Google_Fuchsia

Because of the market share and ecosystem.

As you said, it works well and it's open source. But that's not enough, as they could then chose BSD. But Linux is what's used by most, not BSD.

Given Microsoft new strategy to just adopt what everyone else is using, they will eventually use the Linux kernel.

Microsoft already has a lot invested in Linux support. They're not going to switch to something with a fraction of the community and ecosystem even if it has a lot of good qualities.

It would be make me so happy to see WINE supported as the first-class way of running Windows software.

I would fully expect them to buy Codeweavers should they do that.

Win32 binaries running on Wine is one of the best option for desktop software.

It's funny how it is like the polar opposite of UWP, but it just work and I guess that matters more than technical beauty.

I would be surprised if that was the approach Microsoft took, but I wouldn't be surprised to see a supported way of running Windows Apps emerge.

This could be used as a way to maintain backward compatibility in Windows as it evolves in the future.

Valve (Steam) are doing this.

At the rate things are going, may be Microsoft will even open up their Windows kernel, leaving many of the Windows user land and UI proprietary.

I just hope one day they add regular expressions to Excel.

WSL came out of Project Astoria.

Yeah, those help. But it was ultimately recognizing which pie was shrinking and which pie is growing - and is still growing.

MS is a software company. Now that they've remembered that, it's producing results.

Microsoft takes earnest shots at hardware, it might not always work out but I appreciate the effort.

Long live the Zune!

I love my microsoft natural ergonomic keyboard 4000

The Phone OS is still my favourite UI and was incredibly unique when first introduced. Live tiles in an era of pages of icons was way ahead of it's time. The phone hardware was/is great too; the lack of apps destroyed them though

My secondary phone is still a Lumia.

I like my Microsoft mice too.

I'm super loyal to the Microsoft Basic mouse. It lasts forever whereas all the Logitech M100's that I've purchased (and I've purchased a lot of them) don't last more than 6 months. Sad!

+1, had a Microsoft Mouse 5000 for the last ~5 years. Good for larger hands, love the smooth scrolling having got used to it. Needs the odd teardown to remove fluff from the optical wheel sensor, I can live with that fine :)

Surface book 2!

Yeah, those products don't pan out, but ya have to believe they're learning something of value in the process.

Actually, most of Microsoft is still a huge sales organization. Any technical role that is part of a subsidiary and isn’t in support is under sales, and they have been relentlessly driving Azure because that’s their top priority.

I'm not really seeing software, more services including Azure and online versions of apps and even Windows as a subscription. I'm sure there's lots of consulting in there too.

Microsoft doesn't do consulting but has an enormous partner ecosystem.

https://www.microsoft.com/en-CA/enterprise/services?activeta... we kinda do? Microsoft Consulting Services is directly from us, though the extensive partner ecosystem is also important for smaller customers.

Well, there is Microsoft Consulting Services, so it isn’t quite such a simple picture. But it is true that they haven’t gone down the IBM path.

It's a drop in the ocean though, I'm aware there's is a little of that but if you look at revenues you can say that without being too wrong. The in-house stuff is mostly a function designed to enable customers better more than a way to squeeze money out of it. It doesn't even crack the billion dollars (it's around 300M last time I checked).

But yeah, I should have known that given the crowd on hacker news I should have protected my statement from the "actually..." crowd.

They do. Usually to very large corporate customers.

Compare this to Steve Jobs second turn at Apple, in the same short format:

1. Realize Windows has won the PC war.

2. Improve the Mac by calling Next the Mac. Grow the Mac's market share year after year.

3. Concentrate on the next big thing. Ipod, Iphone, Ipad, etc

What does that give us? The question why Microsoft is unable to integrate their mobile OS strategically into their Cloud, in order to grow both.

(The Mac's growth is also due to iPod and the iOS devices.)

Mobile is driven by consumer sales, not OEM or corporate.

Like Blackberry used to be?

"When Satya Nadella took Microsoft Corp.’s helm five years ago, the conventional wisdom was that the company’s glory days were behind it."

Have a look at this MS revenues [1] and consider why for a moment there is any 'conventional wisdom' like this?

MSFT stock price did languish during this time of amazing growth which I guess validates that 'conventional wisdom' was in fact sour, but it's hard to see why it was.

Robert Shiller, in a recent interview on the FT alphaville podcast [2] indicated how so much of valuation was based on 'narrative' and that a lot of this narrative is in fact fiction.

For whatever reason, the industry press never liked Ballmer, and I guess they like Satya. Surely, there have been some changes afoot, but in terms of fundamental business orientation, I don't see any reason why Satya is 'better than' Ballmer. At HN, we might see things like VS Code and open sourcing Chakra as 'important', and although they are relevant, those issues are small peanuts in the MS bigger picture.

[1] https://www.statista.com/statistics/267805/microsofts-global...

[2] https://itunes.apple.com/ca/podcast/robert-shiller-market-na...

> For whatever reason, the industry press never liked Ballmer, and I guess they like Satya

Ballmer made several missteps:

1. Fruitless foray into mobile with acquisition of Nokia and Windows Mobile and Windows Phone strategies.

2. Billion+ dollar acquisition of Skype that basically went no where.

3. Remember a company called aQuantive? Don't worry, neither does anyone else. Ballmer's MS purchased them for $6 billion.

That's off the top of my head, but I'm sure there are more examples.

"Ballmer made several missteps:"

Growing an already massive company company by 3x in revenue is the important thing, which is the 'bottom line' in which missteps have to be contextualized.

Any company in tech is going to make mistakes, this should be happening, so listing them off doesn't so much help - what matters is how all of this works out in the mix.

I worked in mobile during that time, it was vicious. Surely MS could have done better, but I view it more as lost opportunity than failure.

Remember that 80% of acquisitions fail. Google spent $3B on Nest. Apple spent $3 Billion on Beats, it remains to be seen if they'll make that up in profit.

Trying to compete in mobile and failing is a misstep. Microsoft missed out on smartphones, one of the fastest growing and most lucrative market segments in tech industry history.

Trying to compete in search and failing is also a misstep. Bing is just not as good as Google.

It's arguable that Azure would not have been successful under Ballmer either, because it's unlikely he would have embraced Linux to the extent that Nadella has.

The bottom line is that Ballmer was good at growing existing business but Microsoft was late to the game on a lot of industry trends under his watch, and when they did try to catch up they did not do a very good job -- Windows Phone is a perfect example.

It's impressive to grow existing business, but companies that do not successfully innovate eventually stagnate and that's not what investors want to see.

I agree that mobile and search were missteps, specifically putting themselves into a position of competing so poorly in those areas overall. It's also unrealistic to think that one company could own desktop, mobile, search, office, etc.

Microsoft was going to own desktop, mobile, search? $300-$400 billion in revenue? $130+ billion in profit?

No. That's absurd. Holding Ballmer to account for not conquering planet Earth is not a fair premise. Of course there were lots of 'missteps,' what's described is impossible. Their biggest mistake was attempting all of it in the first place.

> Microsoft was going to own desktop, mobile, search? $300-$400 billion in revenue? $130+ billion in profit?

> No. That's absurd. Holding Ballmer to account for not conquering planet Earth is not a fair premise.

I didn't say Microsoft needed to "own" mobile and search. They just needed to be competitive, instead of trying and failing which is what they did.

Online search is a natural monopoly - being simply "competitive" probably isn't possible, you either win (Google) or you don't (everybody else).

Mobile was obviously a big failure on their part, though I think their only misstep was being late to market.

On the other hand bing has been good for them (and it's great for consumers). Hard to call a multi-million dollar business unit a failure.

Microsoft had mobile in its pocket - original win mobile that competed with Palm had the dominant market share, and it would've had more if they didn't nuke it with revamped win mobile.

> Growing an already massive company company by 3x in revenue is the important thing, which is the 'bottom line' in which missteps have to be contextualized.

Yes, he managed to creatively squeeze revenue out of existing markets. This is what he was known for.

But as far as finding new markets or growing existing markets, he failed and that's all Wall Street cares about.

> Surely MS could have done better, but I view it more as lost opportunity than failure.

Non other than Bill Gates himself refers to MS Mobile strategy as a failure: http://fortune.com/2013/02/19/today-in-tech-why-bill-gates-c...

> Remember that 80% of acquisitions fail. Google spent $3B on Nest. Apple spent $3 Billion on Beats, it remains to be seen if they'll make that up in profit

Ballmer's failure rate on major acquisitions may have been 100%. (I'm not even kidding)

Beats was already profitable when they bought it.


Beats Music was also the foundation of Apple Music which is also gaining subscribers like crazy.


Where's that 80% figure?

As far as I am aware, the Beats acquisition was successful. They bought their streaming music model and put that into Apple Music.

I'd count Minecraft as a success story. (Not sure if the deal closed under Nadella, but it was certainly started during Ballmer's reign.)

> Apple spent $3 Billion on Beats, it remains to be seen if they'll make that up in profit.

Apple made $17.5B in revenue in FY18 in "Other Products". A sizable chunk of that is bound to be headphone revenue (and homepod may also have profited from the Beats acquisition).

Given the healthy margins that Apple tends to have across all its products, it seems plausible that even under quite conservative assumptions Apple easily made a billion or so in profit from that segment. And that's not even counting Apple Music.


Disclaimer: Working for Apple in a non-fiscal, non-Beats related role.

Regarding Skype, it's acquisition has been argued to have been more in order to allow for NSA interception of VoIP traffic than it making business sense, though the truth behind that statement is highly debatable.

Could you elaborate on this? Why would Microsoft want to lose money for the NSA to benefit?

> For whatever reason, the industry press never liked Ballmer, and I guess they like Satya.

Bad business acquisitions and management decisions notwithstanding...

Developers, developers, developers.

Chair throwing.

Bad dancing.

Many other crazy antics.

Being an archetypal business man and probably the defining image of MSFT in the 2000s - you literally couldn’t make it less cool.

Lots for industry media to troll.

Yeah, it basically boils down to the above. He was just the quintessential suit. Regardless, I think his antics were/are hilarious.

... the great quote about the iPhone, and Fred Mertz physique/style.

Ballmer signed off on the Azure investment over 10 years ago.

Today I believe that's their biggest revenue stream alongside Office perhaps.

Big picture, Ballmer was a huge success.

It's arguable that Ballmer would not have run Azure the way Nadella has, e.g. embracing Linux and open source, and it would not have been as successful.

The problem with Microsoft under Ballmer was execution. For example, they saw the potential of the iPod (eventually), but all they came up with was the Zune. They saw the potential of smartphones (eventually) but did not execute well on the OS, the app store, the hardware, and the marketing.

Microsoft was in the smart phone market years before the iPhone was introduced. It was a failure of execution not vision.

By the time the Zune came out, the iPhone/iPod Touch were right around the corner.

Embracing OSS also started under Ballmer.

But also especially with Scott Guthrie, and his role as a leader for the future Micrsoosoft developer platform .

I don't know if Guthrie hired the likes of Scott Hanselman, Phil Haack, Mads Kristensen etc. But they have IMO made a huge impact, but internally and externally for the OSS push.

It's a big corporation and internally the fights had been big, becasue a lot of people don't understand how to sell free software.

Just to give an example.

They are small things, but they could also be good signals- a bit like canaries in the mine.

To say that differently, every story about Google or Facebook is usually some horrible thing. I would not touch their product with a 10 foot pole. A few years go, I uninstalled all facebook stuff and even whatsapps. Now I do not buy anything even remotely connected to google (such as android phones) because it gives me the creeps.

When I buy Microsoft hardware or software, I do not get this bad feeling. So I buy more of it.

You should not underestimate the power of a narrative or even impressions.

"You should not underestimate the power of a narrative or even impressions."

I'm not. I'm saying (from Shiller, world leading economist) - that narratives are usually wrong, and the MS case is evidence.

VS Code and 'open source' Chakra are very, small, things.

They are not even canaries.

(Caveat: Azure allowing linux is important strategically though)

I personally fall victim to this myself a lot, making undue correlations between some tech move or announcement, and actual business robustness. We vastly over estimate these things because we think and care about these issues all day. Most technology customers, and most Enterprises do not. If you have a look at where MSFT derives it's revenue and how consistent it is, that gives a clearer picture.

Second, that MS may appear to be more 'open' in these areas in no way implies any kind of success or revenue growth.

Apple is considerably more 'closed' and they do just fine, for example.

Satya in no way deserves a massive P/E ratio bump from analysts, there is no real basis for it.

MSFT stock price over the last 20 years should have been ballpark commensurate with it's revenues, fluctuating here and there. The 'big lift' after Satya had nothing to do with fundamentals really.

Ballmer took an already great company and massively grew it, launched XBox, moved into the cloud, grew enterprise services substantially, it's one of the most successful and robust evolutions of a company ever.

The 'misperceptions' that lead to 'false narratives' in this case are analyst's readings of pop culture tech trends, and we HN'ers overvaluing the importance of things like VS Code.

I fully agree with your analysis -- the whole of it, including our wrong focus as hackers.

And you're right about Ballmer: he made risky moves that are now paying quite well.

You do not get the creeps from all the windows bloat?

Tons of blinking apps I never wanted all connected to whereever to the internet?

All those nice things like cortana you can only get rid of by messing with registry?

Agressively pushing you to except all kinds of phoning home?

Not saying that google is the nice guy, but thinking MS is nicer ... I don't know

It's because the industry perspective and the business/wsj perspective are different.

I think the industry perspective tends to be ahead of the business/wsj perspective but sometimes incorrect. Tech people are the folks who build this stuff. It takes a long time for upfront investment to filter down through sales and into tangible business results. And then even longer for anyone to notice those results. Whereas the devs / product managers / salespeople are on the front lines seeing all of this firsthand.

A good, concrete example of how this has played out for me personally was that I bought stock in new relic a few years ago. In a nutshell, they were making a product it was obvious people needed, I worked at their competitor and realized they were kicking our asses product-wise, just totally out-executing us and it wasn't even close. I bought a bunch of stock on the theory that the product was getting great adoption and people loved it. Fast forward a few years and now it's tripled/quadrupled. I would've done the same thing with Stripe and lots of others, except they aren't public companies.

Stripe is sort of out of the bag at this point but you'd be surprised how few traditional "business" folks have even heard of it. There are tons of great developer tools, stuff like Sendgrid, Lob, Easypost, etc. that are going to be huge that are still mostly under-the-radar.


I have mentioned this to many.. Satya could go down as one of the greatest turnaround masters of all time. I had consulted with MS a long time ago (2005-6). The work place was toxic. I might have been with the wrong group..but even uttering Java was considered sacrilegious. If you took a Mac to their office, the security would look at suspicion. Needless to say, I never returned back after my stint. Fast-forward. MS is the largest contributor to Linux source. In MS Ignite conferences, it's not about Windows and .Net anymore rather you would find healthy all round discussions. The developer community has slowly started trusting them more than other biggies. Not just Satya himself but he has his second line all focused in creating a customer friendly environment. I will put my money on MS till Satya is at the helm of affairs.

Steve Ballmer, technical bits aside. Just couldn't play as a successful CEO in PR Role. He was too aggressive, abrasive and even somewhat rude.

Aside from that, one of thing most amusing things and one Ballmer excellent business moves was suing nearly every Android Smartphone Company for patent infringement. Microsoft literally makes money off of Android Smartphones but what's confusing to me is how Apple takes all of the flak.

IIRC the android revenue is rolled into the x-box revenue under some nebulous category when they break out revenue in their earning (forget the exact title). This hides the massive losses they are taking on x-box and all things x-box related. The android revenue is almost pure profit and nearly $2B annually. (they make this money by licencing patents to phone makers that use android such as HTC and Samsung)

Do you have any sources or related info about this? That's super interesting.

Looks like "new" Microsoft is not aggressively going after that pie. https://finance.yahoo.com/news/microsoft-may-relinquishing-b...

Arent most of those patents pure junk? Afair the only valid patent in there was something to do with FAT long filenames , and that one was killed with Linus help back in 2013.

I can't recall but I think many of them were User Interface related and rather specific.

Not like the Apple claim of "Rounded Rectangles" but I will admit that it did appear even at face value that both Apple and Microsoft had a strong case against HTC, Samsung, etc.

But I guess one of these makes better headlines for clickbait. YMMV.

A VC friend of mine characterized these kinds of answers nicely: incredible, profound bullshit that no one seems to know how to cut through.

On a level specific to Microsoft, their biggest threat is how agreeable and self-deprecating everything they do is now. Corporate cultures thrive on hierarchy, and yet their employees are pretty comfortable admitting to their friends that Windows and Azure are crap. The quiet trie flippers at Google, Amazon, Facebook, Oracle and Apple never speak ill of the product. Those people go and hunt leakers.

Nobody at Microsoft wants to hunt leakers anymore. That bloodthirsty lust for dollars is what made it possible for a whole generation of middle managers to hit the country club in the first place. So what does it say that the us-versus-them mentality is gone?

The CEO should be going out and saying, "Come work for us. Look how much nicer we are. Trie flippers might score better on their programming quizes, but they're insufferable." Instead he's talking, in coded language, about expanding to serve the Chinese government, which is impossible in an organization that believes in personal freedoms and positive life outcomes.

On a meta-level, what do we do with all the CEOs who are essentially beneficiaries of our increasingly correlated bull runs? Has it really boiled down to, "Since non-mineral and utility revenues are correlated at huge market cap companies, you're a good CEO as long as your likable?"

Bill and the board deserve credit for bringing in Satya to captain the ship and steer it.

The ship is still afloat, with a captain able and willing to navigate it into new territories. That's really what they're doing and I think that in itself is a re-invention and worth remarking about.

Now, you can give them shit for the design of their ship, failures, practices, etc.. and rightfully so, but they are definitley re-defining their business in real-time, in my opinion.

I'd love to hear if any of that resonates as I haven't worked at Google or the other companies you listed to get a scope of the culture.

edit: steer


> and yet their employees are pretty comfortable admitting to their friends that Windows and Azure are crap

You make a whole lot of claims with absolutely zero evidence to back it up.

I take it you don't know anyone who works at MSFT?

I work at MSFT.

There's a difference between being critical of a product in an effort to improve it, and classifying the product as 'crap'.

My opinion, and I think most msft employees would share it, fall into the former, and not the latter. There's a lot to be proud of in both Windows and Azure, even with full recognition that they aren't perfect.

I don't buy it. MSFT employees go home to their extended families during the holidays just like many of the rest of us do. There, just like the rest of us, they will be expected to maintain their non-technical relatives' Windows PCs, or at least explain why said computers are so badly hosed.

They are doing a terrible job on Windows and they have to know it, if only at a subconscious level.

What about bing then ?

Folks at every business I know eventually talk crap or otherwise grumble. Whoop de do. There's very little signal in that, especially for a business like Microsoft where everyone is an armchair analyst and can't go five minutes without mentioning "Embrace, Extend, Extinguish" because they think it makes them sound smart.

People at Amazon and Oracle complain all the time, you should talk to them. I think honesty is far more important than pretending everything is great when isn't. If this is the case then you are part of a cult. I think you'll also seen a wide variety of opinions on Windows and Azure, mostly related to the individual products at Microsoft. Having worked there I know quite a few people that were big fans of the NT Kernel, C#, .net, and Azure services like Storage and App Insights. People will also acknowledge the bad parts, which is critical if one wants to improve.

Satya became CEO in February 2014. Since then, Microsoft's stock has significantly outperformed Google and Apple, and slightly outperformed Facebook. While it significantly underperformed each of those in the years before. So it's not just the bull market.

The stock rise was a function of changing analyst ratios - not changing fundamentals.

Ballmer grew the company like a machine during his tenure.

Satya has been iffy, in fact, without 2018 numbers, quite unstable in fact. It's just that that 2018 numbers were good enough to bring everything back to nice growth.

Without a lot of movement in P/E ratios, both CEO's would have really been doing about the same.

Basically, the stock was held back for whatever reason during Ballmer years, even as sales were growing well. Then when Satya took over the ratios changed and the stock flipped up like an elastic.

Satya's a good guy and the right choice but I don't think he's done anything quite fundamentally important yet relative to Ballmer.

The mentality is still there, but years of polish has made it hard to detect by outsiders. I wouldn't for a moment attribute any of MSFT's moves to goodwill.

They were bareknuckled and bloody for years - they got slapped by regulators for it and it was forced under the surface.

Microsoft deserves to go gentle into that good night because of all the damage they’ve done to the computing industry over the years, for example killing Be and Netscape with monopolist tactics and creating a terminally insecure software monoculture of the lowest common denominator of Windows and IE, that we’re still recovering from today. (Google is repeating the lesson today - Android is the Windows 98 of mobile).

I’m glad to see them disappear and it drives me crazy to talk to all of these people who think Office 365 and Azure are sex on a stick. They’ve either forgotten the past or they don’t care.

Microsoft deserves to die.

> They’ve either forgotten the past or they don’t care.

Or they're too young to know or remember!

Working with recent grads, I've discovered that for most of them Bill Gates has always been this grey-haired, well-natured philanthropist. They can't believe it when I tell them of how universally reviled Microsoft was, and I feel like Grandpa Simpson talking about onions in his belt :(

I speak here perhaps not only for myself but others: although Microsoft had been reviled, and still is, somehow Gates escaped that personally. I've never felt that I dislike Bill Gates.

There had been a smaller Microsoft before the rise of MS-DOS and Windows. Microsoft was a vendor of BASIC interpreters that were integrated into some 8 bit microcomputers, which I used. The Apple II's "Applesoft" basic was derived from Microsoft's work. Its name is a portmanteau of Apple and Microsoft, a kind of touchstone that highlights a complex history of cooperation and rivalry between the two.

Here, let me fix that for you:


Bu xie, my pleasure.

I actually had that in an earlier edit of my comment!

I got rid of it for lack of stability in the URL. There doesn't appear to be a nice semi-permanent home on the web for these photos.

I am not a big Microsoft fan, having not used Windows or any MS products in about 16 years, until VS Code came along. But this kind of black and white thinking is just at odds with reality. Nothing is wholly good or bad, and so to with Microsoft.

They were part of a small group of companies that pioneered Desktop computing. They did so with forceful business tactics, but they changed the world nonetheless, and really did help place a computer in every home.

Ths history books will remember their contributions as well as their sins.

Seeing Microsoft die would give me great schadenfreude, but all big companies do some good things and some bad things, so it's worth focusing on their specific sins. I see two of them: their desktop monopoly and their Office monopoly.

Their desktop monopoly isn't what it once was, especially considering that most people get online today using mobile devices. But it never really went away. Windows is the only commercially successful desktop operating system. Everything else is a niche product without access to the enormous ecosystem of Windows-only desktop software. Desktop Linux exists, but it isn't any kind of commercial success. The Mac desktop exists to sell Apple hardware, it isn't a product on its own. And part of the reason it exists at all is that Microsoft publishes a version of their office suite for Macs.

MS Office is absolutely entrenched in corporate computing. Many of us here on HN can get by on non MS Office products, but if you're exchanging Office documents with customers you absolutely need to use MS Office to get a decent level of compatibility. For a huge number of businesses, there simply isn't any choice.

Microsoft isn't about to go out of business and a lot of people enjoy using their software and feel productive. People should have a choice. Microsoft could go a long way to repent for their sins if they open up both Windows and Office to the point where there are significant viable alternatives to both. Microsoft should be able to compete on quality, not on possessing the keys to their proprietary kingdom.

I'm not holding my breath.

Then certainly Google deserves the same (i.e. gentle into the night) and then some. Not only have they done plenty of damage to the computing industry but they've normalized a lack of privacy in doing so. That is, Google has done social, if not sociopolitical damage (that makes MS looks like the tooth fairy).

Your disgust is fitting. But let's be sure the context is appropriate as well.

> damage to the computing industry

What are you talking about? Citation needed.

> Android is the Windows 98 of mobile

IMO Android UX is way better than iOS when used on a right device. I switched from iPhone to Pixel and it's a delight to use. I am not going back to iPhone soon ...

It's important to know when to give up, sure, but what did he actually start? Everything that carries MS today (Azure, Exchange Online, subscription software, Office 365, XBox) was started and got traction under Ballmer.

Everything is about perception. What Satya did was change Microsoft's image and culture for the better, insuring Microsoft's cash cows have a future and stay relevant in a world that is changing rapidly with other strong competitors.

Ballmer's style of leadership would not fly today. Saying stuff like Linux is cancer, the iPhone a toy/joke, acting like a clown during conference.

"What Satya did was change Microsoft's image and culture for the better, insuring Microsoft's cash cows have a future and stay relevant in a world that is changing rapidly with other strong competitors.

Ballmer's style of leadership would not fly today. "

Totally disagree.

Which of MS customers do you think care about 'perception' of how nice the CEO is?

Do you think Siemens is going to spend $500M on Google cloud because their CEO is nicer than Ballmer was?

Which Windows users are thinking about Satya vs. Ballmer? 99% of Windows users have no idea who either of those people are :)

Satya's 'nice guy ways' are almost irrelevant to the business overall, other than maybe recruiting, or something like that, but I doubt they've ever had a problem.

Analysts and investors read GAAP statements and those are 100x more important than 'how nice' the CEO is perceived.

Some issues, like Linux as you mention, I think are important, but I'll bet that Ballmer would have arrived there anyhow.

Linux support was not so much a strategic decision as it was a 'forced hand'. They had basically no choice and the decision was inevitable.

I think that the reason Ballmer was disliked by Wall St. was A) the failure of Windows Mobile b) the perception that Windows was in decline (it's not) c) Cloud revenues had not yet hit the big time yet.

I actually feel that the P/E ratio pushed on Ballmer would have come around for him eventually.

I like Satya, I think he's the right choice - but he still has to prove himself. As of today, he's mostly riding Ballmer's coattails.

There is one area where Satya is better leadership-wise. The success of Microsoft in the long term ultimately depends on its ability to run a good engineering organization. Everyone at MS knew Ballmer was never an engineer, so he had very little respect from the engineering rank and file. His brash, business oriented personality and the lack of "filter" did not help matters. While it is true that customers largely don't give a shit who runs Microsoft as long as it's run reasonably well, Microsoft employees (and prospective employees) do care, and the ability to attract and retain them is the cornerstone of Microsoft's continued success.

I saw a post in another thread that suggested that former enlisted men do better as officers than people who were never soldiers. The same is true here in terms of people leadership, if not the vision.

Does anyone know the major departures during Ballmer? I know the original lead for Microsoft Windows Server Manager and MMC.exe literally quit and morale hit the absolutely floor among the entire organization. He eventually ended up at Amazon and another guy ended up at what became Pivotal.

This goes beyond what the customers think of the CEO. This is about culture, about employees morale, about attracting developers who may have been against using some of MS products in the past for all sorts of reasons.

Perhaps having Linux in Azure was inevitable, like you said, but I don't think something like the Linux subsystem stuff they implemented in Windows 10 would have been OKayd by Ballmer. Same thing with stuff like VS Code and the new switch to Chromium for Edge.

It's about a culture where these kinds of ideas are encouraged and can develop into features and products.

Why is Google so successful? Because the culture allows people's ideas to develop into what became huge products loved by millions of people.

"Why is Google so successful? Because the culture allows people's ideas to develop into what became huge products loved by millions of people."

So During Ballmer's tenure, they always made a ton more money than Google.

So 'Ballmer's culture' was therefore the winner?

I'm afraid your argument is not based in how the world works actually works - it's more based on a 'feeling' of how people think it 'should work'.

Ballmer was somewhat aggressive in character, so was Gates by the way - they build a world class company that changed the world.

And FYI just because he was aggressive, does not mean he didn't 'foster change' or 'allow ideas'. It's really more a disposition than anything.

And FYI - MS made it's money by focusing on Windows, that decision is not because 'Ballmer is mean' and 'Satya is nice' - it has nothing to do with their emotional posture.

To imply in any way that they were not successfull or couldn't adapt, while they launched a series of world class products is just false.

" Because the culture allows people's ideas to develop into what became huge products loved by millions of people."

You mean while they spy on your every move? You've seen the headlines right?

Google is prying into my (and your) personal life in every possible way and trying to leverage that.

Was 'meanie Ballmer' every trying to read your mind to profit off of that? No?

>So During Ballmer's tenure, they always made a ton more money than Google.

As expected, since Microsoft is an older and much more established company.

>Ballmer was somewhat aggressive in character, so was Gates by the way - they build a world class company that changed the world.

Nobody is denying that.

"Before becoming CEO, he was Executive Vice President of Microsoft's cloud and enterprise group, responsible for building and running the company's computing platforms, developer tools and cloud computing services"


When I left MS in late 00s, he was still in Bing. From what I heard Bing, ironically, _still_ doesn't use anything Azure and builds its own cloud infrastructure. :-) Exchange runs its own bespoke stuff, too. I suppose much like Google Search, Gmail and Ads don't use GCP, but worse, because at least Google has one offering internally and one externally, whereas MS has multiple.

Certainly starting new stuff is important, but I think it's worth pointing out that focusing your efforts is one of the hardest things to do. One could argue that it was more important for Microsoft to become competitive in things like Azure, than it was to start new things. It's kind of like how successfully retreating is, militarily, more difficult than successfully attacking, because you're already in a bad situation.

But, pretty soon, it will be time for Microsoft to prove they can start new stuff again, you're correct on that.

Is a CEOs job really to start new stuff? As someone points out below, Balmer also started stuff that cost the company, windows phone, Skype etc. So I disagree that a CEO should be measured by only things he started that were successful. I think a CEOs job is that of a sustainer of growth, which can be done in many ways and doesn't necessarily need new products.

Arguably, yes, if the company is to sustain itself in the future. And yes, some stuff will fail. You still have to try though. Consider this: if Ballmer did not start all those things, MSFT of today would not see quite the "resurgence" the article talks about, no matter who's at the helm.

A big resurgence: They make an operating system that supports Linux with just a few clicks. They make hardware devices that can also natively run Linux very well, for when I need it.

It feels like Apple when OSX was introduced, only better.

Many people here may not like Windows 10, but the more I use it, the more I like it.

It’s two completely different UIs beaten together into an incoherent lump. I will give it one thing, it’s not as deliberately user obstructive as Vista or 8.

I bought a laptop for my daughter with 10 on it and got a (completely legit) license key for Office from work. Oh. My. God.

The laptop already had a different Office SKU on it, so I couldn’t use the key with that. The key I had didn’t work with any of the MS online licensing sites and I wasted 2 hours trying to figure out what to do. In the end I got on to a support rep via online chat and it took him an hour remot desktopping in to run some command line utilities to remove old Office install, clean up some stuff and get the machine licensed. It was unbelievable.

I am writing this from my personal Windows 10 machine and I am not a big fan.

Random things that have aggravated me just in the last few days:

  * For some reason I suddenly had to create a pin a few days ago to login instead of my password. why?

  * skype is now magically in my list of background programs. 

  * There is news in the start menu when I want to launch an app!?

  * whenever I want to do something a little hard, like copy a large number of files, things tend to go pear shape very fast.

  * It's very hard to find basic settings from the start button search thingy.  Chrome OS and OS X are way better at that. 

  * windows shell still is unpleasant, and the goobuntu subsystem just isn't convenient due to the incompatibility of windows file paths. Also it's very ugly for some reason

  * More generally dealing with Windows drives drives really sucks. I'm always shuttling things around trying to fit them into particular drives. Linux LVM is so much better.
I could go on. I wish they'd just go back to being an operating system. Now that they're not considered a monopoly anymore they're taking the opportunity to jam their whole 1st party ecosystem of crap down Windows 10 users throats. It's not fun for me.

The only reason I pay for Windows is to play games. I prefer Linux as a user, but the hardware and display issues are a pain. I also agree that Windows feels snappier and prettier. Chrome OS with Crostini would actually be pretty perfect if it didn't crash on me every couple of hours.

Have you tried Linux recently? I installed arch a few months ago, and almost all of my steam games run on it out of the box (no extra setup required).

I have an AMD Vega 64 graphics card, drivers are all handled automatically.

My Xbox 360 controllers with wireless dongle are handled automatically.

If you want to use xbox one controllers, any bluetooth adapter will work out of the box, but you do have to install a package called xpadneo.

AMD drivers on Linux are great right now, and most hardware is supported with nothing extra.

I use it daily for work. Haven't used it at home for years.

My main blocker games wise is Battlefield series which I don't believe works on linux.

Why is somebody posting articles behind paywalls?

And then: "We do not accept cancellations by mail, email, or by any other means. "


The only product from Microsoft I use is Windows and they're ruining it. So, sorry Satya, but...

You don't use GitHub or LinkedIn or Skype either?

You might also rely on sites that are built with Microsoft technologies (Stack overflow for example) or find that your workplace gets by with Excel.

It's hard to say you don't use their technologies.

I agree with you, I often find I like Microsoft's services and subsidiary products (those you listed).

I also use the crap out of Excel.

But he's right Windows is taking a dive. And other Microsoft products. Example number 1: Excel has these cheesy glide animations that do nothing but slow down imports.

I export a report from quickbooks to excel and if it's a large one it almost feels like Excel will crash just from processing so many animations.

I tried turning it off, but it's not as easy as it looks.

> You might also rely on sites that are built with Microsoft technologies (Stack overflow for example)

... which is also reliant on HAProxy, ElasticSearch and Redis, but that part doesn't get quoted so much.


My wife just spent several hours making a Word document, then it refused to save ... It didn't even say why it couldn't save. She is a long time Windows and Word/Office user, and pretty good with computers. But she is starting to hate technology more and more.

Github is a recent acquisition, but Linkedin and Skype are not exactly shining examples.

> It's hard to say you don't use their technologies

Use or rely on. I have to rely on Windows. Everything else you listed has acceptable replacements.

I don't use github or linkedin. I don't use skype either... because Microsoft ruined it and everybody left (for business now I use Hangouts and for gaming now I use Discord).

I'll bet you use Azure though (even if you don't realize it). I guarantee you use apps/websites/services that leverage Azure.

that's clearly wrong. not everybody left. you left

Everyone I know quit using Skype too.. it's tough to have this argument without access to expensive market research reports, though

More anecdotally, the only time I used Skype in the last few years was when I had a remote job interview with LINE. (Ironically, LINE's core product is a Skype competitor, and they refused to use it for the interview even though I said I'd rather stick with LINE and not install Skype. If that isn't a red flag, I don't know what is, haha)

How are they ruining Windows? People have been saying this since XP (before SP1 or SP2, when everyone hated it.) Yet there's not much evidence to support it...they are actually doing some really cool things with Windows now like adding bash and having different flavor Linux subsystems. The main issue I've had is some lack of quality control since they let go tons of testers and used Insiders instead. That has not effected me personally, but it has become a public perception they need to clean up.

Windows is subject to this sort of bizarre conservation of awesome. Any improvements in one area must be counterbalanced with an absolute shitshow in some other area. Windows 95 brought full 32-bit-ness to the average desktop, but it was a crashy buggy mess based on DOS that should have never existed because Windows NT was a thing. Windows 98 improved on Windows 95 in some ways, but introduced completely unnecessary IE integration and the Active Desktop nobody used. Windows XP finally brought the NT kernel to the consumer desktop, but it looked like Fisher-Price and introduced phone-home DRM integrated at a system level. Windows 7 seems immune to this rule, being a massive improvement over Vista and XP with few drawbacks, but was bookended by pure-shitshow releases Vista and 8. Windows 10 fixed many of the problems with Windows 8, and gave us nice things like WSL, but also gave us built-in spyware and ads-in-the-start-menu malarkey.

There's a reason why people say 2000 and 7 were the best Windows releases ever.

A lot of those things you've cited are very nearly myths.

Windows 7's adoption of online-only functionality dwarfs XP's.

Vista and Windows 7 are extremely similar. I've easily fooled several Windows 7 die-hards that they were using Windows 7 while they were in-fact using Windows Vista. They are virtually the same operating system. Microsoft did the same in a series of television commercials.

Spyware and application telemetry are not the same thing. I don't know why I continue to beat this drum, though, it never sways anyone, facts be damned.

The suggestions (yes, they are arguably ads) are easily turned off and never return, and this setting syncs across devices logged into the same Microsoft account.

No operating system is perfect, and no company is perfect. Is there any other fucking massive tech company in the middle of a huge turnaround like Microsoft is? I can't think of any.

Yet, many people will always have a very special place in their heart for attacking Microsoft, and they'll never relent, no matter what Microsoft do.

I do NOT understand it.

> Windows 95 ... should have never existed because... NT was a thing.

Windows NT needed way high-end hardware to be usable at the time. (Even Linux did, if you wanted to use a Win95-like GUI and not be limited to the text-only CLI.) Windows 95 was a hack, but it was still miles better than pure MS-DOG and 16-bit versions of Windows.

> Windows 98 ...introduced completely unnecessary IE integration and the Active Desktop nobody used.

Completely unnecessary? Used ChromeOS lately? Guess what, that integrates the web browser at a far deeper level than Win98 ever did. And Active Desktop-equivalent technologies are only coming back into use very recently, with things like Web Notifications, ActivityPub, Progressive Web Apps and the like.

> Windows XP ... looked like Fisher-Price ...

Except that you could disable the Fisher Price bits, either in XP or as late as Vista and Windows 7.

> Guess what, that integrates the web browser at a far deeper level than Win98 ever did.

That's the entire point; it uses the web browser because the web browser became an operating system (in the "application platform" sense of the word, not in the "kernel" sense) in its own right, and ChromeOS is Google's attempt to follow it to its conclusion. This is categorically different than Windows' deep and arbitrary integration of Explorer.

> This is categorically different than Windows' deep and arbitrary integration of Explorer.

Nope, Internet Explorer had its own "application platform" for the browser at the time, known as ActiveX. Of course ActiveX came with huge security drawbacks, not unlike Windows 9x itself, but OTOH it was somewhat usable compared to the security-oriented Java "applets". And ActiveX components did find some use in Windows 98, much like the web-based components in ChromeOS.

Windows had "web apps" before the term was even invented.


I'm not the one you're asking. But to me, the (most recent) way they ruined Windows was the new interface. I don't want to interact with my desktop via a phone/tablet interface. I don't want to use a touchscreen. I want to use only the keyboard and mouse.

More: I don't want to use my computer as a media consumption device.

So for me, all the new UI changes are counterproductive. But that's me. Others have different usage profiles; whether it's a net win or a net loss depends on the customer mix.

So, it seems like you are describing the car crash that was Windows 8?

Seriously, if you haven't tried Windows 10 since it first came out, try it - I held out on Windows 7 for years, but I'm really glad I switched.

I can’t thing of anything useful that MS added since Windows XP.

Going from 16 bit cooperative to 32 bit preemptive in the 3.x to 9x change, useful.

Going to multiple accounts with permissions in the 9x to XP change, useful.

Rearranging the UI time and again since Vista, and sucking up CPUs with scannning processes, so what?

Note that I really only used Windows at work, anyway (instead of Linux, or more recently OSX), and I managed to avoid the post-7 cluster-bomb entirely at my current job.

I see Windows 10 as a part of the continuing evolution of Windows - it's not a million miles away from Windows XP, but I wouldn't want it to be.

Some new features:

- Cortana (I don't use it, but I know lots of people that do)

- The Windows Store and UWP apps

- High DPI support (this is something MS does very well compared to Linux desktops)

- Windows Hello (I find this really for signing in with a fingerprint)

- BitLocker (this is a bit one, IMO)

- Device Guard (Enterprise only, AFAIK. Very usual in certin environments)

- Windows Defender (it's now a 1st class AV - I have no reason to use anything else)

- Window Defender Exploit Guard

- Windows Defender Credential Guard

- Windows Defender ATP (only for large enterprises, but it's amazing)

- Windows S mode (this is a pretty big deal, and it's suitable for a lot of consumers, even if it's not exactly HN users' target market)

- Improved VPN support

- Built-in snipping tool (WIN + SHIFT + S)

- Dark mode (I like this)

- Improved Start Menu (IMO)

- Task switcher

- Action centre

- Improved command prompt (even supports copying with CTRL-C, how incredible!)

- Edge (OK, maybe moot now)

- Multiple desktops (yes, I know these have been a feature of Linux window systems for decades)

I imagine I've left out quite a bit too.

The secure driver model.

I'm on 10. I still hate the interface. Yes, it's better than 8 was, but that's not much. They took a step in the wrong direction, and then they took a half-step back. I mean, that's better than nothing, but it's still less than good.

But all the cards and the tablet interface stuff ... is all side stuff that you don't need to use? At least I hardly ever see any sign of it.

Am I missing something?

There was an issue a LONG time ago when the tiles were more front and center but they dumped that a while ago.

I agree with you generally but it's not just the tiles. They also made a lot of changes around how settings and other features are accessed to make them more touch friendly, and if you're just trying to get in and change a thing it's often more work to get to it. There are ways to work around almost all of it but its just sort of ongoing evidence of a design direction that didn't really pan out for the mobile users it was intended to serve, and makes life a little harder for technical desktop users. These days I only use Windows 10 for gaming and to host my ubuntu laptop over VNC. If it weren't for games/steam I'd probably uninstall it.

I actually like the settings changes. Fewer things on each screen and the search-ability is pretty great now.

Still have to dig several screens deep to access common settings. Still prefer the old-school control panel.

You can find them by typing into the Start Menu.

Just because you can now search for them (a bonus), doesn’t mean they should then be buried (a negative).

Considering Microsoft is likely killing live tiles and there isn't much of a touch interface at all, I don't understand your problem. Are you talking about Windows 8? I genuinely don't know exactly what you mean at all.

The heavy-handed updates forcing frequent reboots are the deal-breaker for me. It seriously pisses me off to come back to my machine only discover that all those editor windows I had open gone, the IDE close, and all the open browser tabs lost, etc. Why are frequent full reboots even necessary in this day and age?!

Those reboots are heavy handed because attackers are heavy handed with new attacks and if not forced to reboot, you never will.

You get plenty of time to prepare for the reboot that's coming. You can even delay it by a day or more.

It isn't Windows' fault that you aren't prepared for it when it comes; it's yours.

This ridiculously idiotic notion of "security" needs to stop. Especially when "fixing" things that already require full admin access anyway. True remote exploits are (fortunately) very rare, and even then there should never be a need to reboot --- patching files in memory was perfected years ago.

Give the users freedom to choose when to reboot, and even to choose whether they want to. Some users will continue to manage to get infected with malware despite constantly being disrupted by the constant reboots, others never installed a single security patch and yet would never be infected due to what they do (or what they don't, to be more accurate.) But that's their choice and theirs alone.

Unfortunately it seems companies are far more authoritarian and would rather breed a docile obedient type of users in which to force their ideas on and control.

I will resist the urge to post that old Benjamin Franklin quote again.

Well when someone's Windows computer gets infected, that person rarely blames themselves. They blame Microsoft.

I'll take the updates and reboots. I don't know what exploits are coming tomorrow, and I know very little about the ones currently in the wild. My SSD allows reboots carrying updates to happen in just a minute or two.

I will do my due diligence and protect myself.

If you don't want to, don't use Windows, then you won't have anything Windows-related to complain about.

> Unfortunately it seems companies are far more authoritarian and would rather breed a docile obedient type of users in which to force their ideas on and control.

You are on drugs or are otherwise compromised logically. Tech companies are nowhere nearly as organized as would be required to make this a reality.

You're saying that the manufacturer of an OS that requires reboots for certain fixes to be patched onto the operating system is actually an authoritarian regime grooming its users toward a manufactured Idiocracy?

I'll have whatever you're having. It sounds like LSD but only for geopolitical concerns.

>I will resist the urge to post that old Benjamin Franklin quote again.

Good, because like everyone else who does, you'd probably misrepresent what he actually meant by it.

This might be something you like then:


No forced updates, no store apps, no Cortana.

It's ok if they are necessary. It's not ok if they are needed ASAP.

I agree with the gp that consecutive full reboots definitely shouldn't be necessary. That Windows forces your hand on when to reboot just worsens the case.

The state of Windows update is terrible to me. Say what you will about Linux, but updating on most distros is a breeze compared to Windows.

There are for sure features that I disagree with in Win10 like telemetry and automatic reboots while I'm using the computer (which has been resolved), but it's a far stretch to say they're ruining windows. I don't think I've ever had a full crash on my current Win10 box that I use daily. Driver issues are almost nonexistent. It does everything I need it to without issue. I'm not sure what else I would want from an OS.

How about not having spyware? I don't think we should use the word "telemetry" when we do actually mean spyware. Telemetry, in connotation, is data used for diagnostic, maintenance, and 'real' quality assurance. I opt-in to various forms of telemetry for a number of different pieces of software I use. I'm happy to help other developers create a better product. What Microsoft is doing goes far above any reasonable notion of telemetry alone.

Disable all telemetry options so much as you can. And then setup a sniffer, run Wireshark, etc on your traffic. Windows 10 is a disaster. It is constantly phoning back home, through a wide array of different addresses, sending back unknown data to Microsoft. It's safe to assume that, at the minimum, they're building extensive profiles on users which, in the most benign case, will be used to facilitate targeted advertising and messaging.

Aside from that there are also technical issues with the OS such as treating production deployment as sending out code seemingly just after it passes the 'it compiled' standard of quality assurance. An update for Windows 10 in April of last year was one of several that has resulted in bricking numerous machines. Another update a few months back was deleting files on users machines resulting in Microsoft having to roll back the update, and so on.

Not only is this itself all completely unacceptable, but I think it also reflects the new direction of the company. Even if you might be willing to tolerate their actions, and failures, today I think this reflects a new Microsoft. Put another way I think these issues are likely to become more substantial, and not less, as time progresses.


As an aside, I say this all as a Windows 'enthusiast.' My 'native' environment is Visual Studio working in .NET, C# in particular. I've also been using Windows since 3.1, but Windows 10 is simply unacceptable to me as an operating system. I'm still happily running Windows 7, which also has no issues with stability/drivers. The day Microsoft decides to try to make Visual Studio Windows 10 only is the day my Ubuntu partition gets bumped to the top of the boot order.

So yeah, at least from my perspective, Windows under Nadella has indeed been destroyed.


We don't know what data Microsoft is sending back but for whatever reason we've somehow concluded it must be incredibly invasive to the point where it's spyware?

If you are that concern with security. Use an air gaped device or don't even use electronic storage at all.

Or better yet just purchase Windows 10 Enterprise and turn all Telemetry off - which is entirely supported.

They don't make a secret of this. Here [1] are their terms of service as it relates to privacy. They add a substantial amount of fluff that has no effective meaning in the terms. For instance one of the most overt example of this is in this statement,

"We share your personal data with your consent or to complete any transaction or provide any product you have requested or authorized. We also share data with Microsoft-controlled affiliates and subsidiaries; with vendors working on our behalf."

They lead with consent as if it means something, but it is part of an "OR" clause. That means that they are listing consent as but one example of scenarios where they will share your data. It's tautological fluff. This clause can be accurately stated as, "We share your personal data with Microsoft-controlled affiliates and subsidiaries, and with vendors." Here are the entire terms with the unrestrained fluff removed:

"Microsoft collects data from you, through our interactions with you and through our products. You provide some of this data directly, and we get some of it by collecting data about your interactions, use, and experiences with our products. We also obtain data about you from third parties.

We use data to personalize our products and make recommendations, advertise and market to you, which includes sending promotional communications, targeting advertising, and presenting you with relevant offers. We combine data we collect from different contexts (for example, from your use of two Microsoft products) or obtain from third parties to make informed business decisions.

We share your personal data with Microsoft-controlled affiliates and subsidiaries and with vendors working on our behalf. Your ability to access or control your personal data will be limited, as permitted by applicable law."

I've removed fluff but in no way changed what was stated or removed it from context (aside from non-meaningful fluff). What is said above is literally in the terms you agree to with Windows. This is the reason that in times past if you wanted to upgrade from e.g. Windows 98 to Windows XP, that you went out and spent a hundred bucks on an upgrade key. Yet to not 'upgrade' from Windows 7 to Windows 10 for 'free' you had to aggressively fight off Microsoft who made every effort to force you to 'upgrade.' It's because the operating system is spyware and thus profit is generated primarily not by sales, but by harvesting and exploiting data on the people using it.

In times past Microsoft had a strong monopoly on the software market. Now a days every product I use and game I run, besides Visual Studio, is supported natively or through WINE/Proton on Linux. Creating some false dichotomy of 'don't user computers or the internet' or 'use windows' is just weird, especially on a site like this. Windows no longer has a monopoly. But I do think Visual Studio is a really great product, and so I'm happy enough to continue using Windows 7 with the spyware 'updates' disabled. But the moment that they decide to try to spin that product onto Windows 10 (which I suspect may happen with Visual Studio 2020) - then I lose my final tether to this ecosystem.

[1] - https://privacy.microsoft.com/en-US/privacystatement

The Data Diagnostic Viewer lets you view telemetry and diagnostic data sent to Microsoft:



I have an annoying recurring bug in explorer.exe where, when playing full-screen media, the task bar is shown, obscuring the bottom of the content. I have a batch file on my desktop to kill/start explorer.exe it happens so often. That type of issue never happened in Windows 7/XP.

Seconded. Back when Windows merely had the occasional bug, it was still a worthwhile tool for me.

Now that it has mandatory telemetry and unavoidable updates (at least for non-enterprise users), the value proposition has gone into negative territory.

I'm sure Microsoft has their reasons for doing this, but unfortunately it's clear that our goals are too misaligned.

I switched on my win10 box today, opened a shell and typed ”ssh otherbox” to ssh into my linux box.

Unless we are having the “but telemetry” discussion (again) there are very few ways that 10 is worse than a previous version.

I don’t think Windows 10 is worse than its predecessors, but the start menu being full of advertisements and crapware on a fresh install is pretty shameless (especially after I’ve spent $200 on it)

I've seen a lot of "Windows ruined" stuff, articles and such, but they always seem like issues that were always there about patching issues and such... or even just stuff that isn't an issue anymore.

I swear I see a lot of complaints but the things people cite seem like nothing new or ultra minor stuff that you could have cited all through Windows history.

I still have a Windows around for running Visual Studio and it seems the next iteration is resolute about making the GUI worst again (previous successful attempt at it was VS 2012).

Are you talking about the 2019 RC? What did they do UI wise? Screenshots I have seen all show very minor cosmetic changes.

What resurgence? From a consumer point of view, MS is all but gone to the corporate pastures where Oracle feeds.

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