Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
AARD Code, or how Bill Gates finished off the competition (zapread.com)
148 points by bgstry 59 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 95 comments




"My most memorable moment at Microsoft came during a technical review with Bill Gates. I will never forget the moment when I made an apparently obvious point to him. He responded, "What? Do you think I'm stupid?" Everyone was staring at me, and I felt it best not to answer."

Microsoft is hiring!

source: https://web.archive.org/web/20120311005018/http://www.seattl...

https://www.nytimes.com/1999/03/01/business/compressed-data-...


Maybe I'm missing the context here but I'm afraid I don't understand the point of the quote / what it is supposed to illustrate. It looks like someone asked something obvious, wasting everyone's time, and Bill Gates gave a snarky reply. Is there supposed to be something wrong with this conversation?

[On a side note, not answering the question is rather weird, and I can't imagine that this person stayed for long in the company. The only sane answer seems to be "Of course not" + explanation why you came up with the topic.]


Almost anything can be open to (mis)interpretation, whether it is an HN comment or an article in a weekly city newspaper. In the context of the article,^1 I interpreted this quote as a summary of the author's experience working at Microsoft while Gates was CEO because it was, for him, "[his] most memorable moment" of the years he spent working there.

1. The interpretation I choose for this article may not be the same as every other reader. Correctly or incorrectly, I believe that this company did not need to do much in order to continue to generate revenue once the Windows monopoly was established. The NYT article perhaps supports this idea. Microsoft could afford to be behind the curve on innovation, as the author suggests they were in the article. Rather than compete, Gates could simply focus on stifling any competition. Aside from its focus on thwarting competitors by any means necessary, Microsoft could afford to be wasteful. Much of the time spent and work done by employees like the author could very well be irrelevant to the continued success of the company, with no material effect. Time could be "wasted", so long as competition was blocked.

The other point is that there may be some folks who would not want to work for a company with a CEO who behaves like the one in the incident described. Sometimes these are clues about the company culture. Thus, this quote might have meaning to some people, but not to others who are normalised to this type of behaviour.


Yelling at people sharing information wastes time, and wastes even more time in the future as everyone agonizes over trying to predict exactly what Bill G knows, instead of working on solving problems.


Maybe the point was that not knowing something != stupid, but BG equals that to stupidity?


Many intelligent people do. It's a common misconception - and one I used to personally suffer from.


Neither of your cited sources contains the quote.


The quote comes from page 6 of the Seattle Weekly article. Perhaps you missed it.

https://web.archive.org/web/20121026013653/http://www.seattl...


The other one:

"DOS ain't done until Lotus won't run".

See https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=10432608


https://web.archive.org/web/20190908064425/http://www.proudl...

It was an old pre-Windows joke saying, maybe appealing because it didn't seem totally outside the realm of possibility, given other things people saw and heard from MS.

Later variations on the theme came with early Windows, when MS's own application programs were said to get special development support and also undocumented APIs they could use. Supposedly, this gave MS's programs time-to-market, stability, and performance advantages on MS's platform, to unseat previous dominant apps like WordPerfect and Lotus 1-2-3.

Then there seemed to be a later phase of MS, when any kind of competition or partnership with them came with the explicit question of what your exit strategy was, when MS decided to either buy you or stab you in the back.

And lots of complaints from customers over the barrel.

That environment was great for adoption of Linux and for moving some kinds of things to the Web.

I think MS isn't currently one of our biggest problems.

Whether ruthless underhandedness is irrevocably in the DNA of the MS corporation, perhaps laying dormant until they reach a leverage threshold, or with much better public perception management for maneuverings now, I don't know. I certainly hope that they've mellowed out, and are just a typical large corporation.

Not to diss engineering people there. I don't suspect that engineering there was ever much in on any underhandedness in business dealings.


I mean.. I don't think typical large corporations are mellow.

Microsoft has over $100 billion in cash reserves and their OS near monopoly in many computing areas. It's going to take quite a lot of internal heroism to prevent them from using their position as an advantage. Maybe. But probably nothing will stop it.

Look at gaming. Recently got a Windows laptop. When I initially set it up it asked if I wanted Xbox Game Pass with a ton of games for $10 per month. Who can pass that up? Now they have a deal with EA. I am not a big gamer. Now it seems silly for me to buy more stuff on Steam when I haven't touched most of the stuff on Game Pass.

The basic concept seems obvious to me. Anytime you have a private corporation controlling a platform, it's not going to be fair. See also Google, Amazon, etc.

But thankfully we are making progress on decentralized platforms.


> But thankfully we are making progress on decentralized platforms.

Are we? Curious what progress you see.


Mastodon, Pleroma and other ActivityPub platforms have gained traction with millions of users, even Gab was just a (very outdated) fork of Mastodon.

Matrix is federating chat, with Mozilla, Gitter and numerous others natively using the Matrix protocol. Meanwhile, there are dozens of mature bridges to pull in IRC, Slack, Discord, etc so you no longer have to install their software: https://matrix.org/bridges/


You might also find 'Embrace, extend, and extinguish' interesting.

See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Embrace,_extend,_and_extinguis...


The thing about EE&E is that it's not exclusively a Microsoft strategy. Anyone who develops a popular extension to a standardized format is inherently putting the standard at risk until and unless competing implementations "catch up" and those extensions are adopted back into the standard. Hell, this is what caused the UNIX Wars, and even GNU is guilty of EE&E on the C standard - try compiling the Linux kernel with anything other than GCC (or maybe LLVM) and see how that works.

Google does this a lot too - and usually, when they do it, everything's Free anyway so nobody cares right away. Chrome has basically ended the development of any competing browsing engine by proposing so many standards extensions that only Google's outsized staff could implement them. WebKit survives purely by mandate of the iOS App Store, and Firefox is basically funded by Google anyway. This is arguably more effective EE&E than Microsoft was able to do with Internet Explorer.

(Side note: the whole Oracle/Google lawsuit is basically Oracle trying to litigate EE&E of Java out of existence. This is part of the reason why I can't fully condemn it. If it's wrong for Microsoft to add new class libraries to their own JVM, then it's also wrong for Google to do the same thing. I'd rather live in a world where we can reimplement proprietary extensions, than one where every Free standard has copyright litigation risk associated with it.)


> The thing about EE&E is that it's not exclusively a Microsoft strategy.

That's not exclusive, but they pretty much coined the term and made it in a viable business practice to undermine competition in the most dirty way.


> and made it in a viable business practice to undermine competition in the most dirty way

No, that predates Microsoft by well over a hundred years in the corporate sphere just in the US. They're not remotely close to being the dirtiest at it historically.

If anyone doesn't understand that, go read the history of Standard Oil, US Steel, GM & Ford, or a dozen other giants that have ruled the US economic landscape at one time or another. Walmart has competed as dirty as anything Microsoft has ever done, the same goes for Amazon, Google and Facebook more recently.


China is following that playbook now. Hello America let me embrace you, hey let me do some more stuff for you... well it was nice knowing you see you later!


Well, why, was only America allowed to play it against 19th century industrial Europe?


How does it compare? Targeting engineering laptops to steal fighter jet plans seems completely different then recreating a weaving plant.


Is AARD an acronym and what do the letters stand for?


I had the same question. It's my biggest pet peeve when articles go on with cryptic acronyms (or, in this case, initialisms) and don't explain them.

The Wikipedia article for AARD code explains the source:

> The name was derived from Microsoft programmer Aaron R. Reynolds (1955–2008),[7] who used "AARD" to sign his work; "AARD" was found in the machine code of the installer.


According to Wikipedia: " AARD code was originally discovered by Geoff Chappell on 17 April 1992 and then further analyzed and documented in a joint effort with Andrew Schulman.[2][3][4][5][6] The name was derived from Microsoft programmer Aaron R. Reynolds (1955–2008),[7] who used "AARD" to sign his work; "AARD" was found in the machine code of the installer"


Aaron R. Reynolds apparently had the obsession with hiding a signature in his code (like the AARD one being referred to here).

Other places where you stumble across the name include e.g. FAT32 which has a filesystem information sector[1] in the hidden region after the boot sector which includes similar signatures (AaRR and aArr, byte swapped to little endian of course).

[1] https://wiki.osdev.org/FAT32#FSInfo_Structure_.28FAT32_only....


> AaRR and aArr, byte swapped to little endian of course

Maybe my understanding of endianness is off but isn’t it AaRR -> RRAa?


Sure, I didn't mean to say that one is the byte swapped version of the other, but that those are two distinct signatures which are written to disk, both of course byte swapped (to RRaA and rrAa, respectively).


"How Bill Gates finished off the competition" by implementing functionality that didn't make it in to the commercial release?

Something appears to be missing between the history and the conclusion. However the competition was finished off, it wasn't by code that was never used.


As the article points out, it was included only in the beta release.

IIRC an explanation for this that I read was that the beta release was given to outside testers and journalists writing about it in computer magazines. Some of those journalists would try to run it on DR DOS, get the intimidating error message and be very helpful in spreading the rumor that it doesn't work properly on DR DOS. The final release would work of course and not have a "smoking gun" in it, but the rumor is out there. The later part obviously failed by only disabling, but not removing the code.

On the other hand of the spectrum you have explanations like the one on Larry Osterman's blog, that this was all for compatibility, because early Windows and the DOS underneath would have to interoperate closely and Microsoft would take the blame if anything didn't work properly[1]. Which by the way is also the reason for gems like [2], which could also be re-interpreted as trying to weed out MS DOS clones.

Of course, the first one is only hearsay because I can't track down the source right now, and BOTH statements are from people who also have a stake here, but on opposing sides, so please take both with a grain of salt. It is not necessary that one side is blatantly lying (or falsely accusing). There can easily be truth to both here, with the "compatibility checks" done for semi valid engineering reasons while also having the desired side effect that management wants of making the competition look bad.

[1] https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/archive/blogs/larryosterman...

[2] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=20315453


> never used

It was used in the beta:

When a user ran Windows 3.1 Beta on his computer using DR-DOS he was horrified when the system informed him of a "non-fatal error".


Which of course fed into both the industry press and into the minds of IT managers across the world


> In the final version of Windows 3.1, the code was disabled, but you could easily enable it by changing 1 byte

Why would a user do that, and why should I be mad if they did?


I think this is mainly about the fact that the code was still in there. Disabled, sure, but it kinda indicates that it got quite close to going into the version that shipped.


But the headline is "How Bill Gates finished off the competition". How is it possible to finish off the competition by deploying code that is never even executed once?


As you see in the article, it did ship. but only in the beta version that was sent out to testers and journalists before the actual launch. Normal users never saw it but the people who were informing the users about the product did.


Then when Windows 95 shipped it would not work with Dr Dos even though it was a shell on top of dos.


> "bundling" Windows 95 with MS-DOS (Win95 was a DOS overlay, but installed Microsoft DOS by default, even though DR-DOS could very well have acted as a "shim").

It would be more accurate to say DOS is an overlay on Windows 95, once Windows 95 has booted. The DOS façade may be so convincing that the OS seems to be running on DOS, but that's the exact opposite of the truth: https://devblogs.microsoft.com/oldnewthing/20071224-00/?p=24...

Microsoft could have let people install DR-DOS on Windows 95; DR-DOS is similar enough to MS DOS for the magic to work. But it would have sucked for the end user if they had to buy a second OS to use old apps and drivers, and it's hard to say what the user would gain. The fancy multi-tasking features of DR-DOS presumably wouldn't work while Windows was running, for example.


I don’t think this is quite right ... it was a fully fledged DOS (aka DOS 7) that ran first, described in your linked article as the “bootloader” what you are thinking of is the dos box that is described later, and maybe there is some confusion with Windows NT. I myself many times booted to the pure DOS environment many times using boot disks as some games around that time weren’t facilitated by the emulated DOS environment...


If you boot directly into DOS then you're running DOS, yes. But once Windows 95 has started, there is no DOS “underneath”.


It’s there somewhere. You can “drop to dos” again - but I guess what you mean is Windows has its own kernel and doesn’t rely on DOS for anything beyond booting.

Fun thing I discovered once is that after you shut down, the screen that says “it’s now safe to turn off your computer” actually hosts a hidden dos prompt and you can start windows again by typing “win”


AARD code was aimed at taking out DR DOS, it wasn't the only thing they did to take out other companies.

Stac electronics made some software (Stacker) which compressed your files on the fly, it was very popular in the early 90s, as it could massively increase the amount of non-program space you had on your 40MB hard drive, if 30M was used for applicaitons/OS and 10M for documents, it would give you another 20-40MB of space, tripping or more the free space you had.

The program sold for something like $100-200 a copy, but as a 40M hard drive was nearer $1k this was a bargain. Stac Electronics was valued as $12/share at the time.

Microsoft saw this, and wanted it. So they sent in their lawyers to make Stac electronics an offer they couldn't refuse. License Stacker to Microsoft and get paid $0.00 down, and $0.00 per copy.

Stac refused the generous microsoft offer, so Microsoft copied {or bought from another company which had copied} their technology (infringing Stac's patents) and bundled it with Dos 6, something called "DoubleSpace" (it was also a buggy implementation).

Drive compression was important at this time. Gates wore a t-shirt with "We came, we saw, we doubled" on at the Dos 6 launch - it's amazing to think now, but 30 years ago every byte counted, Stac's software saved people a fortune in hardware costs, and the killer feature of dos 6 was compression.

Stac's share price collapsed from $12 to $3 practically overnight.

Microsoft were sued, and they lost. They had to pay about $5 per copy of Dos that had been sold to Stac. Dos 6.21 was released which removed Doublespace, and 6.22 reimplemented the technology as 'drivespace'. This eventually came down a little during appeals when the companies settled out of court (there was a more minor case against Stac for using trade secrets), Stac got about $90m in the end.

Either way, Stac was dead. They fought Microsoft, and despite winning the battle, they lost the war. Stac dissolved in 2002.


The persistent rumors about billg ripping BASIC from a DECUS distribution seem to have finally died down.


I have not heard about that one. Here is some dirt about the origins of Micro-Soft BASIC from Noam Cohen's The Know-It Alls, which seems fairly well researched:

> The timing of Gates's leave [from Harvard] could appear suspect since it came on the heels of a disciplinary hearing with college administrators. An auditor from the Defense Department discovered how much time Gates had spent programming on the PDP-10 computer, which was provided by the U.S. government, and began to ask questions. Gates's explanations were flimsy: first, he was doing work for his own company, and, second, some of that outside work was carried out by Allen, who wasn't a student. The records of the Gates disciplinary hearing are sealed, but accounts say that the punishment fell short of his being asked to leave… Gates, who as nineteen years old at the time, made his case in the club's newsletter, which published his "Open Letter to Hobbyists" in the January-February 1976 issue… Furthermore, there was the computer time, whose "value" exceeded $40,000, Gates informed the hobbyists. This odd phrasing jumped out to some readers, even before people learned of Gates's reliance on Harvard's computers. Gates wasn't claiming that Micro-Soft had spent $40,000 for the computer time, which it needed to recoup; rather, it had obtained that time somehow. Young Gates certainly had chutzpah. He was writing to a bunch of excited young computer enthusiasts to object to the "theft" of a version of a program [BASIC] that was, to start, based on software created by academic researchers working on a federal grant and was created using "borrowed" time on a university computer that was also paid for by the federal government.

p. 73



The article makes an intellectual stretch from dumpster diving and seeing listings for a 36 bit PDP-10 mainframe BASIC and then years later implementing a BASIC interpreter for the 8 bit Altair 8080.

I seriously doubt you'd find any copyrighted commonality in the implementation.


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BASIC-PLUS

> Microsoft BASIC was patterned very closely on BASIC-PLUS. [...] The ability to place logical and loop commands in-line, like I = I + 1 UNTIL I = 10 was not copied over and does not appear on any common version of microcomputer BASIC. MS BASIC also lacked the matrix commands.


NostalgiaNerd did a good video breakdown of AARDCode: https://youtu.be/TIfNIWn2Ad4

Worth watching if you have 20 minutes.


I smell that the same is going on now with Microsoft embracing Linux?

Integrate, extend, extinguish.


I hope it backfires. One example could be that the Linux community creates functions and program names that purposely collide with Microsoft’s extensions, and in that way extinguishes Microsoft.


The last time I remember hearing about this was in the excellent book "Undocumented DOS":

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/603860.Undocumented_DOS

I'd already done a little reverse engineering, writing a simple "undelete" utility for MS-DOS 3.3, etc, but that book opened my eyes to a lot of the hidden complexity in DOS.



You never sent me a response on the question of what things an app [application] would do that would make it run with MSDOS and not run with DR-DOS, Bill Gates circa 1989


Bill Gates is succesful, kind and generous. He never finished college, he reads books and writes about them on a blog. He is that rare combination of super smart and benevolent at the time. Trustworthy. Just read his best friend Paul Allen's book. He has given away increments of the fortune that he earned through honest, legal business practices. DOJ dropped their case against Microsoft because Microsoft was innocent. Microsoft is a different company now, too. Gates' company brought us open formats, like zip-compressed XML files as Word documents and PDF alternatives like XPS. He was such a thoughtful developer, e.g., overwriting MBRs installed by other OS with a Microsoft MBR, and making it impossible to boot Windows from partitions other than the first one, in case you accidentally tried to boot another OS from partition one. Microsoft could have stayed the same but they have changed with the times. They now control access to your professional profile on LinkedIn and your source code on Github. Other companies can read their useful patents and use their clever inventions, allowing the development of wonderful things like Google Android. They transformed the Microsoft company culture. Every employee receives full health insurance and benefits; no more contract workers. Everyone working for Microsoft is happy now. What a great place to work. All bugs in Windows have been fixed; it is 100% secure and is still found everywhere. This is a true story of the American Dream. Work hard, follow the rules and be kind to others and you too can succeed. Bill Gates, a gifted kid from a wealthy, connected family who made his way to the top the old-fashioned way: he earned it. He has always respected the intelligence of Microsoft users, as the story of AARD demonstrates. Bill Gates is a man that be trusted. Like Mark Zuckerberg. It makes sense that Microsoft was one of the earliest Facebook investors. Both men of great character.

Gary Kildall RIP.


Blink twice if you're currently hostage at a black site in the outskirts of Seattle.


@1vuio0pswjnm7: You forgot to post the sacarism smiley.

“Bill Gates .. was such a thoughtful developer, e.g., autmatically overwriting MBRs installed by other OS with a Microsoft MBR, and making it impossible to boot Windows from partitions other than the first one, in case you accidentally tried to boot another OS from partition one."

I recently bought a brand-new desktop PC after the other one gave up the ghost after eight years of service. After disabling Secure Boot and enabling legacy USB. The PC rebooted with a BIOS Corrupt error. Requiring a recovery of the original BIOS.

So now I'm stuck on this innovative “Windows 10” desktop that is as slow as molasses and the harddrive is continually churning running background process that don't do anything.


You bough a brand new computer without an SSD?


@cl0ckt0wer: "You bough a brand new computer without an SSD?"

I already have an SSD, I was planning on installing it and using the harddrive as an archive. Then adding some extra RAM and an M.2 memory card.


What happens when you make a lot of money? Then you have a lot of taxes. There are various ways of paying those taxes. One of such ways is by making tax deductible charitable donations. Another one of such ways is doing tax deductible research & development.

Most billionaires are also philantropists because they donate sizable amounts of money to different causes. This helps them maintain a favorable public image. It is also a social activity that helps you build relationships with other wealthy people.

Bill Gates does have a bona fide foundation that works on important problems and his approach to solving those problems seems reasonably effective. He is an avid reader and reads hundreds of books per year. He is an interesting person, I enjoy his talks, etc...

But Microsoft is a different story. Behind every Microsoft key product there's some deceiving business deal.

- MS-DOS: Misleading deal involving 86-DOS from Seattle Computer Products

- Windows: Misleading deal involving developing software for the Apple Macintosh

- Windows NT: Misleading deal involving a collaboration with IBM to develop OS/2

- SQL Server: Misleading deal involving a collaboration with Sybase to develop Sybase SQL Server

And the list goes on and on and on.

In addition to the AARD code many other things happened. Linux was called cancer, there were fear/uncertainty/doubt campaigns against OpenGL, against Linux, against many open source projects. Open source communities got pissed off, developers got pissed off, and that started slowly hurting Microsoft. So now they have decided to co-exist with open source.


I'm pretty sure the post you're replying to was written tongue in cheek.


I think your sarcasm detector needs maintenance.


It looks like that post got edited as I was replying to it.


Sarcastic people need to stop writing trollish comments.


I'm not sure how it looked when you saw it, but the current iteration reads like a beat poem. I'd hardly call it trollish, and would reach for satire before sarcasm.


I sort of want to cure autism so I never have to see posts like this again, but I also don't want to lose /r/wallstreetbets... talk about a catch-22.

This isn't sarcasm, by the way; I'm genuinely conflicted.


Wow:

> On July 6, 1994 Kildall, 52, walked into a Monterey bar. He was wearing motorcycle leathers with Harley-Davidson patches;a would-be biker. There were some real bikers in the bar. Something was said. There was pushing and shoving, and Kildall died from injuries sustained to his head. An inquest called the death “suspicious,” but no one was charged.


"He hoped that Logo, an educational dialect of LISP, would supplant BASIC in education, but it did not"

That's interesting to me, because when I was in grade school, they were pushing Logo, and I didn't like it at all. It wasn't presented as doing much more than ordering a turtle around though.


You forgot to cite how helpful he was with the competition by favoring open formats and interoperability.


I love this (ᵔᴥᵔ).

It seems like it's gotten less comfortable slyly mock crappy realities and I think that's a shame.


Give me $100B worth of M$ options and I'll become benevolent, kind and generous too.


That MBR reference reminds me of the time that OSX just point blank refused to update because I had a multi-boot setup. "It just works!"


Oh that's good, you had me going for a while.


Well, thank God “philantropist vaccine Bill” is a diferent person.


>All bugs in windows have been fixed What? Also Microsoft has brought us open software and open source things in as much as it lets it: Win over the competition Let things be open enough for its ecosystem to prosper but not enough for open software to proliferate as much as it could have They just did not do that as a kind gesture out of their heart or because Bill is a nice guy who loves you but precisely to shut lawsuits, simulate competition and to make a profit so please don’t be so naive.


Don't feed the troll.


It's not trolling, it's sarcasm, although with the crippling inability of far too many HN posters to recognize sarcasm, even when its glaringly obvious, I understand why someone might think it's trolling.


It looks suspiciously like an Adequacy.org Style Troll (AST).


[flagged]


The man is far from being silly. He's got enough time to educate himself on whatever he wants+ access to pretty much any expert in the field you can come come across. Does he know a lot on the subject? I have no idea, because I haven't listened him speaking about it at all. Can he gain enough knowledge in a field other than what made him rich? Sure he can.


"Billy" has donated over $50 billion (that's with a "b") dollars to charity, a good chunk of that to health care both at home and abroad. If that isn't putting your money where your mouth is, I don't know what is.

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/factcheck/2020/06/11/fac...


If a man steals a pizza from his neighbor, and then gives 3/4 of it as a tax-deductible "gift" to his favorite causes, shall we call him a hero?


The problem with that metaphor is it implies 100% of microsoft's profits only exist because of theft. Their software added legitimate value to people's lives. It still does - Outlook & the office suite are still world class at what they do. DirectX pushed the stagnant OpenGL to innovate. Visual studio is fantastic (miles better than current XCode). C# is a worthy successor to Java. VS Code is excellent too. And so is the XBox. And I'm glad windows exists as a counterpoint to the hardware lock-in in the macos ecosystem, and to keep Apple honest.

Microsoft's customers weren't all robbed of their money. And on the other side, Bill Gates has committed to giving away all his money before he dies.

Its like, a man steals one pizza from his neighbor and makes 10 more. He eats one then he gives the rest to the homeless. Should we call him a hero? No - that theft wasn't ok! Is he a villain? No - he made pizzas and gave them away. Villains don't do that.

What is he? He's a man. He exists somewhere in the ethically murky middle. As Solzhenitsyn said, "The line between good and evil passes through every human heart." History will remember him for a lot of things - some good, some bad. Saint and sinner both. Like the rest of us.


> Outlook & the office suite are still world class at what they do.

Yep, corporate GMail had made me detest email, but corporate Outlook made me stop using it.

Also, Outlook for Mac was the only app that I had to actually quit before sleeping a macbook or the battery would die in my bag. Nothing else could compare.

On the server side, nothing mutilates mail quite like Exchange, although recent versions aren't as good as that as the old ones were.

Word and Excel are kind of nice, but I don't use them enough to pay for them, so OpenOffice it is.


Thats nice for you. Personally I use Apple Pages to compose word documents.

But this isn't about us. The question is whether Microsoft's products add real value to their customers. From your nephew with an xbox, to devs in the C# ecosystem, to office workers who use word and excel to get their work done the answer is obviously yes.


> The question is whether Microsoft's products add real value to their customers.

I'm pretty sure Outlook convincing me not to read corporate mail was not of value to my employer (Microsoft's customer). At the very least, it added confusion and delay when other employees expected me to see things they emailed. Perhaps letting me focus on other stuff was of benefit to the employer, but that's tricky to measure; it's hard to imagine employers want to use a terrible email system to subtly discourage email use, there are more effective ways.


> Outlook & the office suite are still world class at what they do.

“What they do” as in “Suck in money based on path-dependence of familiarity, lock-in, and network effects”?


> Outlook & the office suite are still world class at what they do

OK, now I know you're kidding.


My next door neighbour is a lawyer. I asked about her workflow when visiting during the lockdown.

There's about 40 lawyers in her office, and they have a lot of ongoing cases between all their clients. She spends some of her time each week "filing". For her this means sifting through the firehose of emails and documents that their office receives and assigning every one to the correct case, marking if it needs attention (and from whom), tagging the types of documents, etc etc.

She does all this from home through a custom workflow built on top of Outlook. I'm sure its not pretty in the backend, but can you name a system that would let her do her job more effectively? MacOS Mail? Gmail? Hah! No. Outlook is the tool they use; and it looks like it works well - even working from home.

I don't use anything in the office suite myself, but for my neighbour's office I don't think there's a better choice. Hate on outlook if you want, it solves problems for real users.


Lotus Notes fan?


Call me crazy, but donating some portion of his illegal gains is not super impressive to me.


"donated" to his Melinda and gates foundation to get out of paying taxes and buy influence all over the world. He does it every single year, he simply and legally can claim zero profit by doing so. He's continuing to screw US citizens by not paying taxes at all and buys influence using the profits.

He simply got smarter than the shenanigans he did in 90's when almost got buried. Stop worshiping him, he's still evil to the core.


> Stop worshiping him, he's still evil to the core.

Its not that simple. The Bill and Melinda Gates foundation does amazing, mostly unsexy charity work the world over. Governmental aid organizations rarely want to fund boring infrastructure work like building roads in poor countries, or (before the pandemic) overfunding the world's vaccine manufacturing capability. Nobody wants to fund things like that because it doesn't sound sexy to voters or at charity fundraising events. The B&M Gates foundation does this stuff - and they have for years. Through their principled giving they've improved the lives of millions of people. And selfishly, there would be fewer doses of covid vaccines today without them.

Did they make that money through shady business practices at Microsoft? Yes. Are they using the charity to get out of paying US taxes? Yes. Is the money doing good in the world? Also yes.

The world today would look different without Bill Gates. Microsoft strangled tech innovation for decades, but their charity work has had a massively positive impact on people's lives. Bill Gates also deserves credit for that.


But they convinced Oxford it would be better to sell their vaccine to AstraZeneca instead of donating it to the world for free. BG is a techno capitalist. He thinks technology and capitalism are the solutions to everything.


They also use their money to shout down competing approaches to problem solving. They were a big force in "high stakes testing" and "pay teachers who have higher performing students" backed by shoddy statistical analysis.


The B&M Gates foundation has given 23261 grants[1]. Of course some of those projects turned out in retrospect to be regrettable. Thats way too many projects to get a 100% rate when vetting. Or to put it the other way, if you had to be 100% sure when giving money that it would work out well, there would be a lot of great causes you wouldn't be able to contribute to because of outcome risk.

But even if the high stakes testing problem was entirely forseeable, thats my point! Its not simple. Bill Gates isn't Simple. He's not a comic book villain - Nobody is outside maybe mass murderers. Comic book heroes and villains don't exist in the real world. (And increasingly they don't exist in comic books either.)

If you want to know what he's like, watch some interviews with the man. Gates is obviously trying to make the world a better place. And he's going to continue to do that imperfectly, because he's made out of meat like the rest of us.

And yes, I'm also angry about standardized testing, and the historical stain microsoft has left on computing from the 90s. Angry and grateful, all at once.

[1] https://www.gatesfoundation.org/about/committed-grants


>"FDA emergency use aka unapproved" vaccines

Isn't FDA emergency use still an approval?


It's rather looking the other way and hoping that the blood clots will magically disappear, while the vaccine is tested on an unwitting general population and the company is protected from liability by business agreements.

Quite a bit removed from being approved.




Guidelines | FAQ | Lists | API | Security | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact

Search: