Has Microsoft lost its 'identity'?

Has Microsoft lost its 'identity'?

Summary: Eric Norlin of Ping Identity writes an open letter to Bill Gates (and Microsoft), telling the big company to get its act together around digital identity. Here's a snippet: The launch of Vista (Longhorn) is widely seen as one of the most important events in the history of Microsoft.

TOPICS: Microsoft

Eric Norlin of Ping Identity writes an open letter to Bill Gates (and Microsoft), telling the big company to get its act together around digital identity. Here's a snippet:

The launch of Vista (Longhorn) is widely seen as one of the most important events in the history of Microsoft. Indeed, part of the challenge of the launch is clearly the representation of Microsoft's constantly growing product set in a cohesive vision. While Vista may be just one of these products, it is a lynchpin that will drive the message of Microsoft far into the future. And, frankly, as I watch the "share your passion" messages, I'm not inspired.

As an outsider looking in, Microsoft often appears to be a ship with more than one rudder – being pulled to and fro by the driving force of the moment—whether it is web services, gaming, mobile applications, or directory deployments. Of course, I assume that I'm wrong; that there must be some grand vision that I do not understand; a master plan that drives the decisions of the most successful software company in the history of the world.

But if that's true, then why don't I understand it? Is it because they don't want me to? Or is it just simply a mistake of marketing? Is the messaging unclear, unfocused, and uncoordinated? I find that hard to believe, but – outside looking in – it really does seem that way.


Topic: Microsoft

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  • Schizophrenia

    The is no ONE M$. There are many different (and competing) departments that all come under the guise of M$. Xbox gaming and Terrawhatever server stuff all come under the M$ moniker, yet have little to do with Riska. Judge Jackson wanted to help us sort it all out by splitting M$ up into pieces - which may have been the best solution for all concerned.

    If this guy was talking STRICTLY about the Windoze OS, then there are many reasons that it looks bad for M$. The key reason I believe, is the spaghetti code mess that the OS is. All of these features that have been pulled out of Riska, would be because of integration issues. Any programmer will tell you that modular programming is the way to go, and Windoze doesn't go there. Besides JUST bad coordination between programming teams (I'm sure that the teams make good code), the "inserts" of code that purposely defeat competitor programs, add to the tangle that is Windoze. Maintenance is 90% of the cost of software (according to software engineering), and M$ is a "shining" example of that.
    Roger Ramjet
    • Off topic curiosity:

      "...the spaghetti code mess that the OS is."
      Did you get to read their code?

      Operative system code is never simple to read, and I it will be even more complicated to write. Yes, I agree that coordination is a fundamental issue to assure working code.

      For example, Linux kernel code (this is the only possible example, because it is open-sourced and anybody can confirm this) breaks the "thy shall not jump with goto's" commandment systematically. Kernel programmers often use this as a "ad-hoc" exception-handling system, for obvious reasons. Unthinkable for applications, where one has enough room to concern about code elegance and assume abundance of resources.

      Anyway, I digress.
      • How did you see their code?

        I mean you make these claims and offer nothing to prove your statement. As far as I know Windows is in all likelyhood the most documented OS in existance and it is all about modularity of reusable code.

        Can you explain how you determined it was "spaghetti code"???
        • Having spoken with many programmers at Microsoft...

          they are very good programmers but comments take up space and they don't need them! These are people who are experts in C and C++ (what Windows and most of the Microsft applications are written in). As to the code quality, that remains to be seen (due to NDA...). All code is kept in source management systems, no comments are in the code itself!
          • Actually...

            I *have* seen the Windows ("Windoze" is neither clever nor original) source code, although obviously (for NDA reasons) I can't give any details. I worked doing blue screen (crash) analysis for several years, and became intimately familiar with the Windows NT/2k/XP kernel and lower-level user mode code there.

            The code is very tight and clean, for C code. Comments are sparse, but that's not a MS-specific problem (try getting coders to comment regularly, I dare you!). The only "spaghetti-ness" comes from the market-driven need to support legacy API's. Even this isn't "spaghetti" code, just convoluted.

            Yes, I've seen some bad code in the Windows source base, but I'd say that 90% or more of what I saw was clean and tight and just what was needed.

            Among every other reason for us not to write crap code is the fact that we're all expert programmers and very, very tough on each other's code -- if someone here was writting doots code, the rest of us would be down on him like a ton of bricks.

            The security failings that most like to cite as examples of our "bad" code are really more to do with the fact that, due to legacy support, Windows has everything but the kitchen sink in it (when was the last time YOU used NetDDE?) Longhorn (oops, scuse me, "Vista") is making some much-needed breaks with that, stripping out a LOT of legacy API's. It won't be perfect, but much, *much* better. Note that I haven't seen the LH source, but this is what I hear from dev chatter.

            Usually the "Microsoft programmers suck" meme is driven by Linux users who've never written an app larger than 100 lines and who have an axe to grind (heh). We don't suck.

            Note that these are MY opinions, not MS's (just to cover my butt).
          • I agree...

            What I have seen (limited) is very well written code.
          • Actually, I think that the "MS Programmer Suck" ...

            ... comes form the applications and code that people have seen. Now, I haven't personally seen the Windows source itself ... but I have had to analyze things like the HTML that comes from MS Word and FrontPage. I've had to analyze a lot of the SharePoint source especially. Also, the odd macro or JavaScript snippet. I've also gone through the CSS style sheets. That code IS 100% spaghetti -- so it's not that far of a stretch to believe that other MS code is of that same quality.

            True, you don't get to see most of the compiled goodies ... but a lot of the other stuff doesn't impress me. Maybe I'm just looking at bad examples.

            And I'm not saying that open source is much better. I'm just saying that from what I've seen, Microsoft isn't all that detail oriented in their code.

            Just my 2 cents.
          • That's a nice inside look

            Insightful stuff. I don't actually program at all, so... maybe I'll shut my mouth. But thank you for the info.
    • I guess G.E. lost it's identity when it started

      getting into areas other than lightbulbs.

      ZDNet writers do not write stories that will
      tell you something of value. Anymore, it seams, they just write stories that will get people posting, if only to disagree with them.
      John Zern
      • Jack of all trades....Master of none?

        Lets look at it this way....You are going out to eat and there are
        two knew eateries you are curious about. One is said to have a
        chef who has for the past 25 years studdied and practiced only
        food preperation. The other eaterie has an owner/chef who for
        the past 25 years has studdied and practiced food prep as well
        as animal husbandry, astrology, and Nuclear Physics. Now
        which eatery are you instintively leaning towards trying first? Me
        I'd choose the master. Just a hunch but in my lifetime I've
        learned that there is something to know you stuff inside and out
        that makes you better and I've also seen what happens to a
        man/woman who tried to do too much. I think that translates
        very well to organizations as well...Time/Warner anyone?

        Pagan jim
  • Grand vision

    Silly, there [b]is[/b] a Grand Vision. It's that Microsoft has a role in every part of our lives, with no competition tolerated, and rents charged at what the market will bear.

    Listen to Sting's "I'll Be Watching You" for details.
    Yagotta B. Kidding
  • Identity? What is that?

    Are you saying you can't pidgeon hole them like say AutoDesk? If so you are correct, MS has a much further reach into many, many areas.

    But when you think about what Bill G. has said, "Windows Everywhere" and you see what MS is doing it is plain, at least to me, that Windows Everywhere is much more than just a slogan.

    It also occurs to me that David Berlind is correct when he says the infastructure MS is putting together for digital delivery of media will eventaully dwarf the OS business. (Dollar sales)

    Lost their way? Naw, more like exploring lots of possibilities and generating large amounts of cash while doing so.
  • No. They're still greedy, slimy, sloppy vermin...

    BTW: Win95 was their "most important release". So was Windows 2000 (which used Win95 to explain why Win2000 was better; a stupid move for any company with lots of competition may I add)...

    So was Windows XP, being touted as what Win2000 was supposed to have been (once again, crutching on their own prior product in a derogatory way and, once again, not having a fear because there was no viable competition... and as WinXP is what Win2k should have been, why isn't XP --F-R-E-E-- to registered Win2k owners???)

    Meanwhile, Littlehorn, Windows Venereal, or whatever they want to call it, gets features hyped up for years removed in an attempt to move the release date a year forward and stop all of those nasty rumors claiming Littlequality was nothing more than petty vaporware... (Aren't y'all glad you bought MS's "Software assurance" every year, thinking you'd get a new release for your OS and/or Office package if they released it? I hope not, I'm hardly surprised MS never bothered with new version releases; it wouldn't be profitable for them... I'm assured that with open source, I won't be suckered into those "legal thievery" contracts... but I digress.)
  • Eric, it's obvious you don't understand.

    "But if that's true, then why don't I understand it? Is it because they don't want me to? Or is it just simply a mistake of marketing?"

    Eric, you are absolutely right. You don't understand Microsoft. You don't understand their business model. You don't understand their success. This is why you don't have their success. It isn't Microsoft's obligation to teach you the secret to success, that's your problem.
  • Not a Leader "anymore" - never were

    Problem is, MS has a reputation as being a technology leader.
    The corporate world expects them to lead. This letter expresses
    that. Unfortunately, they aren't a leader - never have been.

    Every single software idea they have including their OS is
    something someone else did first. They occasionally improve
    upon it but the original idea is never theirs. Take their latest
    focus on Google for a sterling example.

    Their reputation is rooted solely in being smarter than their
    customers. That's no longer as true as it once was. It's like your
    first grade teacher. At the time, you thought she was SOOO
    smart. She was not especially smart, just a lot smarter than you
    were at the time. Microsoft is no longer a lot smarter than their
    average customer.

    I'm not talking about the geeks they keep chained to their desks
    in Redmond and Bangalore. That's yet another problem. Great
    software simply CANNOT be designed by committee - EVER!
    Microsoft is so big now that nothing they do isn't done by
    committee. Hence, no great software will be forthcoming from

    The great software will come from others like Apple and the
    committees at Microsoft will pour over it and rewrite it for
    Windows with advice from their legal team to avoid being sued.
    As such, it will never be quite as good as the competition, but it
    will be good enough.

    Good enough can still make boatloads of money. But it ain't
    good enough to be considered the market leader anymore. MS
    isn't out of the game, by any means at all. They're simply going
    to have to get
    used to a slowly shrinking market share. After all, at 90%, they
    can afford it.
  • Trying to be "all things to all people"

    It just doesn't work. People are different. Different experiences.
    Different interests. Different needs. Different preferences.

    Microsoft doesn't get that. They want to be the only software
    company. The only media company. The only technology

    As the PC market has expanded, including more demographics,
    Microsoft has reduced the options they offer. XP is the only OS.
    Office is the only office suite. At a time when they should be
    expanding their product line, they are contracting it. Why?
    Laziness and lack of competition. They want to maximize their
    profits and minimize their efforts. Sit back and watch the profits
    roll in. Consequently, their customers will have to be satisfied
    with what Microsoft is willing to produce at whatever price they

    There is an alternative.

    Think Different
    Haterock Davidsfather
    • My reply

      I really agree with your statement.

    You all sound so bitter it's funny. I think you are missing the point. MS is a business not a group of developers committed to pleasing the programmer community. Ther are not interested in leading the IT community. So stop looking for them to lead it. MS is here to make money, and history shows they are pretty good at it. So get over this lead me, please be more moral bull!

    What do you mean by 'grand vision', please were talking about technology. How far out do you think most technology groups plan. MS changes with technology, you may not agree with it, but that's why they are so successful. Ask SUN what their grand vision was a few years ago. I bet they won't tell you it's linux and x86 hardware.

    I don't agree with everything MS does but I do understand it's business not personal. And in business it's a dog eat dog world. you use your advantage to stay on top and that's what Ms does. So be big boys and deal with it.....
    • It IS personal

      It's totally personal when my favorite hobby OS gets gets crushed to death by software patents and misinformation. That's not business, it's tyranny.
    • It's just business

      "it's business not personal" has got to be one of the most obscene phrases of the 20th century. It has been used to cover more immoral behavior than we will ever know.
      Just because an action is not aimed at a particular person, should not mean that ANYTHING goes. Even if a person feels no spiritual responsibilities, they have a responsibility to the community that has nurtured and protected them. (And trust me, if they are as successful as MS, they have been nurtured and protected.)
      The Golden Rule should always apply.