Is Microsoft going soft or maturing gracefully?

Is Microsoft going soft or maturing gracefully?

Summary: Microsoft has changed. No longer the bulldozing bully, Microsoft has become the benevolent giant who's bent on building partnerships rather than empires.

TOPICS: Microsoft

I know it sounds crazy but I've noticed a big change in Microsoft--especially in the past two years. But, it's been coming for about five or more years now and it has nothing to do with Apple. It has everything to do with evolution. In fact, a few months back, I asked Jason Perlow, what the heck was up with Microsoft. Neither he nor I could explain it. After much thought, contemplation and new headlines; I think I've figured it out. Microsoft is growing up. And, not a moment too soon.

Sure, a lot of people weren't happy when Steve Ballmer took the reins from Bill Gates a few years ago. We've all watched his antics on stage, listened to his words in the news and observed his new strategies with awe--and shock. It's a kinder, gentler time for Microsoft and we need to notice it.

I, for one, was impressed with Microsoft's foray into open source software with its Port25 initiative. I was mystified when Microsoft revamped its licensing program, which included a self-service portal, volume discounts for as few as five licenses and a whole new outlook on licensing compliance. I choked on my Diet Dr. Pepper when I read that they're giving away megabuck licenses for Windows Server 2012 and Hyper-V.

And, now, I must tell you that I've now heard it all when Steve Ballmer stated that he sees Microsoft becoming more like Apple. We all know that Ballmer is no Steve Jobs. Heck, he's not even Bill Gates. But, what he is, is clever enough to change what's wrong and to make it better. He actuallly said that "We're making Microsoft cool."

I know. I had to pinch myself too.

Ballmer, cool and Microsoft. All in the same sentence. And, I thought something like that would cause a rip in the space-time continuum so severe that we'd be using our fingers to swipe sticks and stones instead of sleek new tablet computers. Never would I thought I'd hear myself say--or the voices in my head that I attribute to myself say--Microsoft, you are cool.

Now, before you think that I've gone soft in the head over Microsoft, let's take a step back and examine this statement.

Microsoft, for some of us, has always been cool. Yes, they've had their ups and downs--every company has but overall, they've always had a cool factor. I've done crazy things with Windows systems over the years and for all my complaints, it works 99% of the time. That 1% seems larger because of the severity of some of the problems but you really have to admit that Windows (and DOS before it) has taken the world from an ivory tower exclusive computing elite and placed usable computing devices into almost every hand on the planet.

Sure, I still want a Macbook Air, who doesn't. I want one for the podcasting, videocasting, movie-making, creative stuff but, when I get ready to write, explore, play or do technical work, I reach for my Windows computer. It's always been that way.

Yes, I work a lot with Linux too. But, that's a whole other world. Linux is not just a passion, it's also a workhorse and another way of doing things. 

This really isn't odd. I have a limb saw, a chain saw, a crosscut saw and two or three handsaws. They all cut wood but in different ways and for different applications. So it is too with Windows, Mac and Linux.

Windows has always been there. Microsoft has always been there. Microsoft has never let me down. They've never left any problem that I've had unresolved. In the rare instance where I've found a new bug or run into a problem that wasn't already solved, they wrote a fix and delivered it to me. Yep, Microsoft did that.

Oh, hey, in fact, Microsoft should use that as their new tag line: Yep, Microsoft did that.

You're welcome.

And, thank you.

I'm looking forward to the official launch of Windows 8, although I've worked with it for a while, with enthusiasm and with a bit of selfishness. There's a part of me who wants people to love Windows 8 just because it's cool. And, because they'll ask me how to use it. I'm ready.

Microsoft, you are cool. But, you're not like Apple. I don't want you to be like Apple. I want you to be Microsoft: The company that put an affordable computer into everyone's hands. Yes, you're a different company now than you were just ten years ago.

We've all grown up a bit.

You've realized that loyalty, reliability and a steady hand beats the competition. You still have the most popular desktop operating system, the most sought after applications and the best tools available. You also realize that you have to evolve with the times. I admit that you had me worried there for a while but the success of Windows XP let me know that you still had it.

Windows 8 will make a larger impact still.

So, the answer to the old question, "Where do you want to go today?"

Back to my Windows computer so I can get something done. That's where.

And, now, something I thought I'd never say, "Steve Ballmer, I almost like you." I guess I had some growing up to do too.

What do you think of the "new" Microsoft? Do you think the change is permanent or just another marketing rouse? Talk back and let me know.

Topic: Microsoft


Kenneth 'Ken' Hess is a full-time Windows and Linux system administrator with 20 years of experience with Mac, Linux, UNIX, and Windows systems in large multi-data center environments.

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  • Our experience differs

    I have never believed the hype that Microsoft gave the world the "cheap computer". All Microsoft stuff is expensive.

    It was Apple that gave us the personal computer. IBM tried to prevent that, by hiring Microsoft.

    Why people have such short memory?
    • It's disgusting how facts can be perverted by zealots on blinders

      Why do people believe in pure lies?

      Apple never invented anything. They just stole everything, tweaked it, maliciously patented it, then went on a rampage of disinformation designed to fool feeble minded simpletons, brainwashing them into iSheep.

      Why don't you substantiate your false claims that "Apple gave us the personal computer".

      Better yet, disprove these facts:

      Microsoft researcher, a computing pioneer, wins Turing Award
      By Sharon Pian Chan
      Seattle Times technology reporter

      Chuck Thacker

      For inventing a prototype of the modern PC, Microsoft researcher Chuck Thacker has won the prestigious A.M. Turing Award for a lifetime of contributions to computing.

      "I'm still recovering," Thacker said Tuesday. He found out a few weeks ago, and the award will be presented in June. The honor comes with a $250,000 prize.

      The Association for Computing Machinery announced Tuesday that Charles Thacker, who goes by Chuck, is the 2009 winner of the Turing, named after Alan Turing, a British mathematician often considered the father of computer science.

      The association said in a statement that Thacker was chosen for his work on building the Alto, the first modern personal computer. The machine, which came out in 1974, became a prototype for networked personal computers.

      Thacker, 67, designed Alto while working for the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center in California, also known as Xerox PARC.

      "His enduring achievements — from his initial innovations on the PC to his leadership in hardware development of the multiprocessor workstation to his role in developing the tablet PC — have profoundly affected the course of modern computing," said association president Dame Wendy Hall in a statement.

      The Alto revolutionized computing with a TV-like display technology known as bitmap, which led to the development of the graphical user interface.

      The technology ended the era of text-based computer screens.

      In a statement, Thacker said, "When people say, 'What have you done for Microsoft lately?' I say: 'You don't understand. The most impact I've had on Microsoft was work that was done before Microsoft even existed, when Bill [Gates] was in short pants.' "

      Thacker also coinvented the Ethernet in 1973, which made it possible to connect PCs, printers, modems and other devices.

      Rick Rashid, senior vice president of Microsoft Research, said in a statement that he owes his career to Thacker's work because he used the Alto and Ethernet as a graduate student in 1975.

      Thacker also helped found DEC's Systems Research Center in 1984.

      Thacker joined Microsoft in 1997, helping open the Microsoft Research laboratory in Cambridge, England, then worked on designing the Tablet PC.

      Thacker now lives in Palo Alto and works for Microsoft in Silicon Valley. He is doing research on computer architecture.

      "You have to understand that I've never thought that I would get the Turing award, because the last time the Turing award was awarded to someone who built computers as their primary work, that was over 40 years," he said in a brief interview Tuesday.

      "It's usually awarded to either software folks or theoreticians. And I'm not either."

      He said he plans to give the prize money away to universities, which he has done in the past with other awards.

      There are benefits. "You can get tickets to football games," he said. But "you cannot get parking passes."

      Well guess what, Mr. Charles Thacker, recipient of the ACM Turing Award, is also a Distinguished Microsoft Technical Fellow working for ... Microsoft

      As a matter of fact a single search for Turing Award Microsoft reveals a legendary group of Computer Sciences luminaries, all working for Microsoft Research, some of the brightest minds of our times, contributing towards the edification and evloution of Mankind as a whole.

      Heck, name me who at Apple received a Turing Award?

      Instead, just Google for FBI file confirms Steve Jobs, and see what is revealed about your deity.

      At least Bill Gates is also known for being the single greatest philantrophist of all times.

      Where ignorance is bliss, 'Tis folly to be wise.
      ~ Thomas Gray

      If you're going to be a zealot, at least get your facts right.
      {Blogging 101}

      Nothing is worse than active ignorance.
      ~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749 - 1832)

      Reality is that which does not go away when you stop believing.
      ~ Philip K. Dick

      When one person suffers from a delusion It is called insanity. When many people suffer from a delusion It is called Religion.
      ~ Robert M. Pirsig
      • Your entry drips of hate and envy

        "Apple never invented anything. They just stole everything, tweaked it, maliciously patented it, then went on a rampage of disinformation designed to fool feeble minded simpletons, brainwashing them into iSheep."

        Wow! I hope you don't own guns...
    • It's exactly b/c Apple being too expensive

      ... that IBM PCs took over to become the go-to personal computing device. Nice try of your revisionist history.
      • not really

        Try to get history correct. You can Google this stuff, so there's no excuse.

        IBM PCs were quite expensive in the 1980s. It took Compaq to make PCs cheap, and even Compaqs cost more than many compact cars back then.

        What drove the PC's success was that MSFT could sell MS-DOS to clone makers like Compaq, and the clone makers who, at that time, had to program their own BIOSes to be as compatible with IBM PCs as possible. It was more the hardware/clone makers which established miscrocomputers than MSFT pre-Windows.

        What cemented MSFT's position was Windows and Office and large organization IT's lemming-like drive for one configuration for all. IBM helped by requiring OS/2 1.x work on PC/ATs. [They had promised AT buyers that there'd be a multitasking OS for them before the end of the 1980s, and they delivered (good for their integrity), but in doing so they missed the first wave of 80386-based PCs (bad for their future prospects).] Lotus Development Corp and WordPerfect also helped by continuing to put most of their development and litigation efforts into character mode versions of their respective programs, thereby missing the first wave of 80386 PCs running Windows 3.x.

        That's what people need to remember: MSFT took a huge gamble on Windows 3.x and Office in the early 1990s, and it paid off hugely because THEY WERE THE FIRST TO EXPLOIT THE NEW HARDWARE (the 80386 CPU). The situation in the late 2000s and early 2010s is uncomfortably different for MSFT: Apple was the first in the touch tablet market. It's very good to be first, and in touch tablets MSFT is most definitely last.
        • You ended that being off

          Microsoft had tablets first, and they did work, but were too expensive. Apple successfully began exploiting the new hardware (smaller components/cpu/gpu/memory/touch screens/etc.) first. Now Microsoft has reworked Windows to actually exploit the new hardware as well. First isn't always best.
          • TOUCH tablets

            MSFT was first with stylus-input tablets which few people wanted. It wasn't just the price.

            Also, nowhere did I say first is best as in product quality, but first is usually better than other positions in terms of sales volume and profits.
      • Not exactly

        The $5000+ IBM PC didn't beat the $1500-$2000 Apple ][ by being cheaper. In fact, it was years later, and only due to clones and system level integration, that PCs became cheap.

        There were three good reasons the PC won. First was IBM... big business trusted IBM. They didn't know anyone else making personal computers -- all of these companies were upstarts.

        Second was the empty 8087 socket on the IBM PC. Drop in that $150 math chip, and your spreadsheet ran 100x-500x faster than it did on a PET, an Apple ][, or a CP/M system (Osborne, Kaypro). This completely changed the way spreadsheets were used... not just a glorified calculator anymore, but a modeling tool.

        Finally, it was the Clone. No one could clone a Commodore machine -- too many custom ICs you couldn't buy. Franklin Computer did clone the Apple ][, and wound up in court for also cloning, exactly, their software. But the IBM PC had the CP/M-like BIOS plus a trivially simple motherboard design. And yeah, a few IBM patents in the way, but IBM was happy to license any of their patents (same price if you license 3 or 300,000). This allowed for direct, socket-replacement levels of competition that weren't possible between the proprietary systems, and ultimately, super-cheap PCs.
    • Re: Our experience differs

      Apple popularized the personal computer, but then they never intended to reach out to everyone. They only intended to reach out to Americans, especially those who have money. They wanted and still want to monopolize the computer and smartphone industry, just because they POPULARIZED it and SOLD it first.

      (The IBM 610 was designed between 1948 and 1957 by John Lentz is according to Columbia University, the first personal computer because it was the first programmable computer intended for use by one person (e.g. in an office) and controlled from a keyboard. Apple's Lisa in 1983 became the first personal computer sold to the public with a GUI)
      • Except

        There were Apples before the Mac. The Mac gave Apple enough of differentiation to go after a separate market that the PC did not do was well in (niche). Until Apple started making entertainment devices, they were only a used by a small number of people.
    • Troll

      Why don’t you row to Antarctica where you can troll yourself in peace??
    • If you want to get technical...

      Commodore gave us the personal computer. As we C= folks like to say, when Woz built the Apple I, he started with chips... when Chuck Peddle build the PET, he started with sand. Peddle designed the 6502 processor that not only went into his PET 2001, but the Apple ][, the Atari, and various other early personal computers. The first Apple was a motherboard with a machine language monitor, the first PET came with BASIC and tape storage. In 1977, the 8K PET cost about half that of the 4K Apple ][.... cheap computer indeed.
      • And, and, and...

        Remember the Sinclair and the the Heathkit? One was a DIY thingy and the other was prebuilt but cheap and small. And, we thought we had it so bad.
        • Heathkit and Commodore

          I loved Heathkit and built several the C64 was the cool computer at the time Apples kinda of sucked due to the expense well I guess that has not changed. The Sinclair was interesting but under powered initially with small memory like the vic 20. I still have a SX-64 it does not get much use anymore but in the day it was so cool.
    • it is time to bent

      to us: Apple... and all the of us ...the sheeps ... so wrongly called fanboy

      It is the time of the truth... we are saved by apple... and apple is in our hearts.... and souls...

  • Wow, I am impressed with your journalistic integrity

    and courage for stating what a silent majority feels. Even though you are opening yourself to the wrath of Apple and its zombie faithful followers.

    You have brought back some of the respect and hope that was lost during the brainwash campaign unleashed by the mighty Apple propaganda machine.

    Thank you, sincerely.
    ~ WinTard

    Courage is knowing what not to fear.
    ~ Plato

    In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock.
    ~ Thomas Jefferson (April 13, 1743 – July 4, 1826) was the principal author of the Declaration of Independence (1776) and the third President of the United States of America

    Character is a diamond that scratches every other stone.
    ~ Cyrus A. Bartol, 1813-1900

    Courage is the ladder on which all the other virtues mount.
    ~ Clare Booth Luce, 1903-1987
  • light sentence

    ((( "Ballmer, cool and Microsoft. All in the same sentence." )))

    Perhaps it's telling that neither sentence contains a verb.
  • I really enjoyed your article.

    Now, understand this, stop, just stop, using so many commas, "all in the same sentence."
    • I, can't, stop, doing it

      I'm commatose and it's very Shatnerian to use lots of commas. I think in Shatnerian burst-comma-pause-burst patterns.
  • I've seen hints of it...

    ...but I'm far from convinced. It seems to me that Steve Ballmer is bent on making MS more like Apple in all of the wrong ways and precious few of the right ones (don't look for a RDF to be generated around MS any time soon).

    So I think I'll continue to use my "unauthorized" Linux and Android systems for the foreseeable future.
    John L. Ries