This is why I'll always remain a Microsoft skeptic

This is why I'll always remain a Microsoft skeptic

Summary: Microsoft Chief Software Architect Ray Ozzie may profess that the company's top priorities are transparency, standards and interoperability. But regardless of these kinds of pronouncements, the Softies seem to believe that insisting their actions are altruistic and customer-motivated -- even when they are really motivated by lawsuit threats and other, less-palatable reasons -- will fool its constituencies.


As its leadership has changed, so, too, has Microsoft. But I am never going to stop being skeptical of Microsoft's motives.

Microsoft Chief Software Architect Ray Ozzie may profess that the company's top priorities are transparency, standards and interoperability. But regardless of these kinds of pronouncements, the Softies  seem to believe that insisting their actions are altruistic and customer-motivated -- even when they are really motivated by lawsuit threats and other, less-palatable reasons -- will fool its constituencies.

The latest case in point: The relaxation of the Windows Vista End-User License Agreement (EULA) to allow customers to virtualize the less pricey, lower-end SKUs of Vista. When Microsoft finally relented in January and allowed Vista Home Basic and Vista Home Premium to be virtualized, company officials attributed the change of heart to a newfound "maturity in the industry,” in terms of being able to trust “what’s under the virtual machine.”

But the real reason for Microsoft's capitulation became clear on March 7 via a new joint-status report in the Microsoft-Department of Justice case. It turns out BIOS maker Phoenix Technologies (a long-time Microsoft partner) filed a complaint with antitrust regulators about Microsoft's virtualization restrictions. From the status report:

"Phoenix, which had recently announced a virtualization product, complained that Microsoft's EULA restrictions would deter OEMs from including its product on new PCs, and also deter consumers from using virtualization software made by Phoenix and other companies.

"After discussions with Plaintiff States and the TC, Microsoft agreed to remove the EULA restrictions and has done so."

This isn't the first time in recent memory that Microsoft buried its real motivations for its actions. A few days after announcing what it touted as sweeping interoperability pledges made for the good of its customers and partners, Microsoft was fined more than $1 billion by the European Commission for continuing to drag its feet for failing to make information required to allow its competitors and partners to build software and services that would be interoperable with Microsoft's own wares.

Meanwhile, I'm still wondering why the Redmondians really flip-flopped and decided to support super-standards mode in Internet Explorer 8. Microsoft claims that Opera Software's antitrust complaint had no bearing on its decision. But Microsoft's decision to throw a quote from its chief counsel into its IE standards press release didn't seem like an action motivated by developer and customer love and affection.

In the Phoenix case, Microsoft's behavior change staved off a potential antitrust investigation. In the interoperability case, Microsoft's gyrations were in vain; the company was still fined by the European regulators. But in both cases -- and a growing number of examples -- Microsoft's failure to be upfront regarding its reasons for its behavioral changes leads me to continue to assume the worst about any technology, policy or strategy changes the company makes.

What about you? Do revelations like these make you more of a Microsoft skeptic? Or do you think the Softies are just doing what most execs would do: Hoping against hope that the motivations leading to its actions never come to light?

Topics: Hardware, CXO, Virtualization, Storage, Software, Security, Operating Systems, Microsoft, Enterprise Software, Windows


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • And cue NMB'ers ....

    Personally, I see straight through their horsesh*t.

    Because they've lied so many times in the past, there is a remote possibility that at some time, once, they said something and I was wrongly over-skeptical, but I doubt it.
    • Well, that much is quite obvious

      you view all things Microsoft with a bias from the onset, how in the world will you see anything other then your own predetermined conclusions?
      • Blaming the MS "victim"

        Can you die-hard supporters of Microsoft and critics of so-called "ABMers" not accept the fact that just maybe, Microsoft is the author of it's own misfortune and lack of trust issues?

        Years of lies, abuse, unethical conduct and business practices may be acceptable and ignorable to some but not to the many who have at least a modicum of ethics and sensibilities.

        Please quit blaming the victims of MS actions and misdeeds, or who are for whatever reason, no fans of Microsoft.

        MS has proven time after time a leopard cannot change it's spots. Again, actions and a mindset apparently acceptable to some but not necessarily all.

        • They have changed since the 90's

          At least they're trying nowadays.
          • "At least they're trying nowadays"

            They've always been trying. VERY trying.

            It's far more likely that they just want to be seen to be making an effort because they need the FOSS crowd. Have no doubt, they believe that they're laying some kind of trap to spring on us later.

            They do all the talking, and no-one's listening anymore. Shame eh?
      • The reverse also applies

        But the brand name, the TV adverts, the comfort zone of opening the box and entering the license key.

        Yup, advertising works, don't forget to keep paying towards the next adverts ;-)
      • It is obvious.

        I have been watching MS since DOS 3.0. It has a long history of killing competition by unethical practices and lying about its intent. They killed DRDOS and stole the windows concept. They deliberately put out of business areas that they decided was going to be part of their OS. Netscape browser for example is now officially dead. They went to them and told them they wanted to buy them and if they didn't sell they would kill them. They succeeded.
        Then you talk about a MS bias. It is not a bias but just knowing their history.
        • Microsoft really did not steal Windows

          Not to argue the point of your note, but rather to clarify: Microsoft did not steal windows.

          The concept was invented at Xerox PARC in the 1980's. Xerox marketed it under the name of "ViewPoint" (later "GlobalView"). Xerox did not patent the GUI nor the desktop and blank sheet metaphore for various reasons having to do with the immature state of the law at the time.

          Apple took the heart (though not the soul) of the product and installed it on Lisa, which failed in the marketplace.

          Microsoft took its turn at the available technology. Microsoft/Bill Gates successfully productized the GUI, the desktop and blank paper metaphores, marketed the latter as separate applications (Xerox PARC had as plugins to the blank paper metaphore), and returned the multibutton mouse, and the rest is history.
          (Blank paper metaphore: Take a sheet of virtual paper and do anything on it, draw, tables, text, spreadsheets, graphs, whatever ... without ever needing to "load" a seeparate application. The Xerox blank sheet metaphore enabled the user to do anything and everything on a single sheet of paper!)

          When Apple sued Microsoft for infringment, Xerox appeared as a friend of the court, declaring it's authorship and hestening the dismissal of the law suit.

          The best that can be said of Microsoft is that it is a fabulous marketing house, great at buying and clobbering competitors, great at tweeking existing software, but despite it's billions of dollars in revenue, Microsoft has never really "invented" anything.
          • Microsoft really did not steal Windows

            According to Bill, much of it came from "the garbage cans at the Computer Science Center".

            Gates: "No, the best way to prepare is to write programs, and to study great programs that other people have written. In my case, I went to the garbage cans at the Computer Science Center and I fished out listings of their operating system."

            Was that stealing? It depends on the value the Computer Science Center placed on their garbage. They probably would have paid Bill (or anybody else) to take their garbage.
            Ole Man
          • It's a matter of perception

            Most of us who hate Microsoft for the unethical methods they've used over the years don't actually know whether or not they are guilty of all the things for which they are blamed.

            But it is our perception, for the most part, that personal experiences with the company over the years tend to categorize them as the kind of company that are guilty of most of the things for which they are blamed.

            There are defenders of Microsoft who will fight each and every battle staunchly; why, I don't know. But if ever there is a company who can build an OS that will work with the majority of the programs most of us use I will switch in a heartbeat, even if the OS costs more.

            I wonder what the next Microsoft OS will hold in store? Why not one OS that can be unlocked for any style of user?

            Microsoft, the company, reminds me of a small country called Iraq. I view them both with the same degree of skepticism and distrust.

            I will probably be hunted down and beaten half to death for voicing this opinion. But it is how I feel.
        • Buying out

          Teehee, reminds me of a classic moment in television when Bill Gates "buys out" Homers Software Startup (i think it was a software startup...)
      • All things are not Microsoft

        Duh. You don't need bias to be able to see the pure evil that eminates from Microsoft. Only a deaf and dumb person could miss that.
  • RE: This is why I'll always remain a Microsoft skeptic

    By "skeptic" do you mean "full press mentally ill foaming at the mouth Slashdot Microsoft hater"?

    Nope. But go ahead ... finish off your credibility. Oh wait ... never mind. It was already gone.
    • You hit the nail on the head!

    • Oh my, an ABMer dream thread

      can't wait for the pitch fork carrying villagers, . . . . wait, ABMers are using it so this article probably isn't in their scope. . .
    • Yep...

      ...flaming her is a really good way to get her to change her mind and an even better way to get ZDNet to drop her (not).

      If you think her stuff is junk, why do you read it, anyway?
      John L. Ries
    • I suspect she mean skeptic literally

      [By "skeptic" do you mean "full press mentally ill foaming at the mouth Slashdot Microsoft hater"?]

      And you?
    • RE: This is why I'll always remain a Microsoft skeptic .

      Exactly!! The lady seems to conveniently forget that her job exists only because of Microsoft and Windows software. She also forgets that Microsoft is a HUGE business worldwide which sometimes has to make decisions which are necessary for business purposes but are not popular with some of the users. It also must be careful to evade monopoly status. Folks who used to HATE XP and IE6 due to perceived lack of security NOW absolutely love both and hate the replacements, Vista and IE7. Go figure!!!
      • To the boy who CAN'T READ WELL....

        Man, i re-read the main article 4 times in a row and i wasn't able to spot any phrase like "i hate microsoft" or ".. i'll never use MS software.."" or even an ".. i'm a devoted linux user...", none of them are present, you on the other hand are assuming too much, the lady just says she's SKEPTICAL.

        i'll put this in a everyday example ( hope it's isn't too techie for ya )

        you own a car and you switch every year to the next's year model, you love that car maker and that model in particular, but after several years, realize that the mileage isn't right, after asking a lot of people, you found that the mileage comsuption was "tuned" in order to maximize this result, you'd probably keep buying that car, 'cause you love it, but you'll remain skeptical about the mileage every time you switch a new car.

        Ps. english isn't my first language ( an even i managed to understand her point ).
  • Still up to their old tricks . . .

    See ZDNET article today titled "Gaps found in Microsoft Exchange API documentation".

    One quote from the article: "we have spotted over 200 undocumented exceptions".

    This is just another of their old tricks - incomplete/inaccurate specs. By the time they are forced to clean things up, it will be too late for any real competition.

    Basic Logic