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Ex-Microsoft exec: company is now "clumsy, uncompetitive"

updated 04:10 pm EST, Thu February 4, 2010

Past MS VP says infighting, fear of hardware hurt

Microsoft has largely lost its ability to direct the industry, former VP Dick Brass claimed today in a telling editorial. He believes the company is now a "clumsy, uncompetitive innovator" and points to the gap in performance between its core Windows and Office businesses versus everything else. Microsoft had its best-ever quarter due to Windows 7 but lost share in nearly every other category, including web browsers, premium notebooks and smartphone sales.

Even brands separate from the usual Microsoft fare, such as Xbox and Zune, haven't cracked the dominance of other products over several years, such as Nintendo's dominance with the Wii or Apple's control of media players through the iPod. The Windows developer has also been historically afraid of producing its own hardware and has clung to platforms like Web TV and Windows Mobile even when fully integrated platforms like TiVo or the iPhone have proven more effective.

Some of the deficit is blamed on publicly visible concerns like poor marketing and its monopolist reputation earned during the 1990s. Brass claims that much of the internal corporate culture has actively delayed or even thwarted innovative technologies. ClearType, the font antialiasing technique used in Windows XP and later, was reportedly stalled as Windows engineers and Pocket PC (now Windows Mobile) executives deliberately found reasons not to implement it until 2001, ten years after it was created.

Tablet PCs may have actually fared worse and effectively handed Apple's iPad the market, the executive says. From the outset, the VP leading Office was opposed to tablets and refused to make a stylus-friendly version of the suite, removing the "killer app" needed for the concept to take off. Microsoft also dismantled the separate Tablet PC group altogether despite an increasing amount of activity hinting at the iPad's unveiling last month. Windows 7 has significant levels of multi-touch input but only has some native app support.

As a result of the conflict, many of Microsoft's more important executives have left, Brass says.

The company has shown some signs of recovery and notably has received a strong critical reception for Windows 7. It's also expected to provide a much-needed overhaul to Windows Mobile with the launch of Windows Phone 7 and gave the Zune a major restart through the Zune HD. Integration is nonetheless considered an important factor, and critics have noted that the console, desktop and mobile platforms today share little in common and provide little incentive to switch away from holistic approaches like the iPhone and its symbiotic relationship with iTunes.



By Electronista Staff
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Comments

  1. phillymjs

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Jun 2000

    +8

    Er, what?

    In the article he said Microsoft was an "accidental monopolist."

    Yeah, they didn't -mean- to do all that strong-arming of OEMs and sabotaging of competitors or anything else that led to the trial-- it all "just sort of happened."

    Please. From the beginning, the company's stated goal was "a computer on every desk and in every home, running Microsoft software," and in during the mid 80s to the mid 90s it became clear that they didn't care who they stepped on to achieve it.

  1. Makosuke

    Junior Member

    Joined: Aug 2001

    +8

    So True, Yet So Wrong

    I find this editorial telling and amusing in that it shows that a lot of the perceived problems in Microsoft are real. Their apparent intra-division incompetence isn't just obvious, it's apparently endemic to the way the place is run. Imagine some of the stuff he's describing happening at Apple, and how Steve Jobs would react--he may be an ideologue, but at least the ideology is spread evenly across the company. Well, that, and he seems to have an eye for things that are actually good, versus just good for the monopoly.

    That said, to quote:

    "At worst, you can say it’s a highly repentant, largely accidental monopolist. It employs thousands of the smartest, most capable engineers in the world.

    Yeah, right. Dozens of legally provable specific instances prove this assertion wrong. He goes so far as to prove this point himself:

    "Microsoft’s Windows operating system and Office applications suite still utterly rule their markets."
    ...followed by:
    "Microsoft’s huge profits — $6.7 billion for the past quarter — come almost entirely from Windows and Office programs first developed decades ago."

    See, the only reason programs first developed decades ago are still the big moneymakers is BECAUSE they rule their markets, and they rather obviously don't rule their markets because they're so awesome. It's called a well-maintained monopoly, not "accidental."

    Also, look at the damage Microsoft caused the world by the complete stagnation of the bug-ridden mess that was IE6 between roughly 2001 and 2006. FIVE YEARS during which the web stagnated because developers--eventually, enraged developers like myself--were held back by the dominance of the completely-ignored IE6. We're talking the biggest advance in human communication since radio being hamstrung for half a decade by MS very explictly not liking the web. At all. Because they couldn't properly exert their monopoly power there. That's not unintentional or internicine, that's Bill Gates and other top dogs saying "We won the browser wars, now let's keep this web thing from eating into our profits by locking people into MS only proprietary technologies."

    Heck, IE6 still holding things back nearly NINE YEARS after it first shipped.

  1. MisterMe

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: May 2007

    +5

    So true, yet so wrong again.

    Brass claims that much of the internal corporate culture has actively delayed or even thwarted innovative technologies. ClearType, the font antialiasing technique used in Windows XP and later, was reportedly stalled as Windows engineers and Pocket PC (now Windows Mobile) executives deliberately found reasons not to implement it until 2001, ten years after it was created.

    ClearType is a Microsoft name given to an Apple invention. Sub-pixel rendering first appeared in 1977 on the Apple ][. However, it is often the example given by Microsoft apologists when asked to name a Microsoft innovation.

    The Good Mr. Brass seems to think that Microsoft's sin is not in appropriating Apple's innovation; Microsoft's sin is in not appropriating it quickly enough.

  1. nat

    Junior Member

    Joined: Mar 2002

    +3

    Makosuke

    well said. well said indeed.

  1. herojig

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Jul 2009

    0

    may they die as a dinasour and leave us quickly...

    may they die as a dinosaur and leave us quickly, like ibm did after os/2 warp. we don't need silly CE phones or better packaged vistas or horrible browsers and expensive game consoles. good riddance to this evil corporation.

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