The smartphone wars: Inauspicious exits and debuts

RIM’s death rattle became audible a few days ago when its manufacturing partner announced that it would no longer be manufacturing Blackberries. And Nokia is entering the final stages of one of the most spectacular implosions in the history of business, taking the Windows phone down with it.

So what’s Microsoft doing? Announcing a brand-spankin’-new Windows 8 phone line with no upgrade path for its Windows 7 customers. Riiiight. Then, stiff-arming its PC and smartphone business partners by telling them it’s going to do an Apple and ein-Volk-ein-Reich-ein-Führer its new tablet – it won’t be licensing “Windows RT”, and nobody else is going to get a piece of the hardware revenue. So let’s see – Microsoft is throwing away both its historic strengths – backward compatibility and a multi-vendor ecosystem that needs it to succeed – and replacing them with, what exactly?

You know, at this point Microsoft’s board ought to replace Steve Ballmer with an orangutan. Screaming a lot and flinging feces in all directions seem to be the job requirements; the orangutan would cover that for a few bunches of bananas a week, and its strategic decisions couldn’t possibly be worse.

My friends who do IT consulting for businesses are telling me that the compatibility break between desktop Windows 7 and 8 is a big enough disruptor that it may actually drive a lot of their customers to move to all Linux, all the time. Which makes sense; if you know all your old application software is going to break no matter what you do, why not bail out to where you’ll never be a victim again?

Nokia is about to lay off 10,000 people, and investors are no longer pricing the stock above the company’s breakup value. According to some hints that have been leaking out of the company, Nokia thinks it has a bright future as a patent troll. Meanwhile, Microsoft is hinting that it might buy Nokia outright, which would be doubling down on stupid. Nothing about Nokias’s strategy, product or brand-deterioration issues is going to be solved that way; “more Microsoft” is the problem, not the solution.

Contemplating these antics there comes a point at which you just want to clutch your head and mutter, in the immortal words of P.J. O’Rourke, “What the fuck? I mean, what the fucking fuck?” Nokia and RIM used to be sound, well-managed companies with earned and enviable reputations. Microsoft was always evil, but it used to be competent evil – not so much at software engineering, but at least its business strategy was ruthlessly effective. Now, what’s become of these three companies may add up to the biggest destruction of shareholder value in history.

UPDATE: Microsoft may not be planning to freeze out OEMs after all. I was relaying a press rumor based on some ambiguous statements from Redmond, but now a top executive at Acer claims Microsoft only plans to be in the tablet market for a short time. If true, this would make more strategic sense – but the real take-away here may be that Microsoft’s messaging is confused, and possibly the company’s planners don’t themselves know which way they intend to jump.

177 thoughts on “The smartphone wars: Inauspicious exits and debuts

  1. “You know, at this point Microsoft’s board ought to replace Steve Ballmer with an orangutan. ”

    The Librarian would like a word with you.

    What happened to the three of them? In a word, Apple.

    Once upon a time, you and I had this conversation, and you said you didn’t think Apple would take over the world of computing. I said they had a different goal: they wanted to be the premier name in electronics, not computing. I wasn’t quite on target, but it does seem to be turning out that way. What I didn’t expect was that Apple stuff would make the inroads into the enterprise that it has. I didn’t expect that user demands would push IT departments that far.

    Even so, Apple innovated, and RIM and Nokia were left scrambling to catch up. The Playbook is a good example: RIM didn’t *get* the iPad, and so in trying to emulate it, they screwed up bigtime.

    For all of Android’s success, Apple is still out-innovating Google. Entire markets exist because Apple opened them up. Google can roll with those punches. Nokia and RIM and Microsoft can’t, and you’re right, they’re going to go broke because of it.

  2. >What happened to the three of them? In a word, Apple

    Part of the explanation, but can’t be all of it. There’s been too much behavior that’s wilfully stupid.

  3. I think RIM can be entirely explained by simply not adapting to a changed marketplace. They couldn’t get past the idea that a smartphone needed a classic Blackberry/Treo user interface when Apple and Google had given the world something much better. When they finally did try, they misfired badly when they didn’t have the leeway to do so.

    Microsoft? You’re right, there’s far more incompetence there, but again, a significant chunk of it is not being able to adapt and execute. The failures there are legion, and enough to have sunk a lesser company, but their Windows monopoly cash cow let them survive mistakes that would have killed any other company. Indeed, it’s not until Windows 8 that they managed to damage *that* badly enough to represent an existential threat.

    As for Nokia, I have to wonder if hiring Elop was cause or effect. I’m just not sure.

  4. > … it won’t be licensing “Windows RT”, and nobody else is going to get a piece of the hardware revenue

    That’s the first time I’ve heard of that. Any links to back that up? My understanding is that third parties will be able to sell WindowsRT tablets.

    > … that the compatibility break between desktop Windows 7 and 8 is a big enough disruptor …

    What compatibility break ? (Nearly) all windows 7 desktop software runs on Windows 8.

  5. @Christof Jans:

    How many experienced Windows users are unhappy with Windows 8? So far the evidence suggests a far worse-than-Vista reaction. That’s a compatibility break, too.

  6. “Microsoft was always evil, but it used to be competent evil.”

    As I like to put it, Microsoft used to be run by an evil genius. When it came time to replace him, the board grossly misinterpreted which of those two qualities was the important one.

  7. @Ravi:
    Sure, but Eric was specifically talking about application compatibility (esr: “if you know all your old application software is going to break no matter what you do, why not bail out to where you’ll never be a victim again?”).

  8. Eric, I’m an associate in the IP group of a firm that does a bunch of Nokia’s IP litigation. I have to say, though, the overwhelming majority of what we do is defensive work. There are a lot of direct suits, and a ton of indemnification agreements (like, for example, when AT&T gets sued for a feature on its phones, and we have to figure out whether we’re responsible and how we’re going to respond to both them and the plaintiff)

    You might consider it ironic, but we’re the same firm–and the same office, to boot–who actually did the substantive IP part of the Oracle v. Google case. I won’t name us, but it’s pretty easy to figure out. (Which is why I’m using a a brand new pseudonym, rather than my usual internet one that traces to me very easily).

    I have to say, from a paycheck perspective, and the stability of our group, reading about what’s happening to Nokia scares the living shit out of me. As far as I know, nothing’s changed on our end as of yet.

    In addition, for client relation reasons, we were early adopters of the Lumia 900 which replaced our blackberries. I expected to hate the windows phone, but I actually kind of love it, at least as a blackberry substitute. I’m a huge android fanboy, but this has by far the best touchscreen I’ve ever used, pretty good battery life, a nice display, and the interface is really clever and well-thought-out, especially compared to other smartphones which seem to be stuck at Windows 3.1 or Windows 95 in terms of the UI. If it weren’t for the utter lack of Apps, I’d actually consider getting and using one

  9. >My understanding is that third parties will be able to sell WindowsRT tablets.

    Microsoft may be having trouble making up its mind. I was reporting a tech-press rumor from a few days ago; now comes another one to the effect that Microsoft only plans a limited stay in the tabled market. Who knows which is true?

    >(Nearly) all windows 7 desktop software runs on Windows 8.

    That’s not what I’m hearing…

  10. Microsoft may have somewhat of a monopoly on x86 desktops and a fair percentage of servers. So far their tablet business have been far less successful. I think that the right thing for them right now is to try something different, and it looks like they do.

  11. >>(Nearly) all windows 7 desktop software runs on Windows 8.
    >That’s not what I’m hearing…

    I thought that was the whole point of the legacy desktop. What’s less-than-perfectly compatible about it? Is it one of those things that developers do that they’re not supposed to do that piss off Raymond Chen a lot?

  12. When the market was based on devices Nokia, RIM and Palm were in their element. They could throw a device out the door every month, didn’t have to worry about upgrading the software, didn’t have to worry about compatibility between devices, barely had to worry about applications. The hardware guys ruled the roost and software was an afterthought.

    Then the market evolved and it became about platforms. Suddenly software was important. Giving the user regular software updates became important and compatibility between devices now mattered as developers didn’t have the resources to target tens of incompatible devices. Nokia didn’t get this and carried on as normal throwing devices out the door. Palm saw the writing on the wall and started working on WebOS. RIM also saw the writing on the wall but as Blackberry sales were running sky high they didn’t bother investing in their future.

    Then then market evolved again and now its about ecosystems. As well as providing a platform for developers to build on, they also needed to provide content and services as well. Nokia had the pieces but because they never built a solid platform across their range they couldn’t put them together in a way that made sense. RIM understood services thanks to BBM but as it hadn’t invested in updating its platform it found itself years behind were the market. Palm had the platform but lacked the resources to build the ecosystem and being bought by HP killed them.

    Just like dinosaurs were too slow to adapt to their changing environment, Nokia, RIM and Palm didn’t adapt quickly enough to the market quickly evolving. Change or die.

    I think we are going to see another change coming along shortly that will disrupt things even further. Instead the PC model of “expensive”* software on “cheap” commodity hardware, we’ll see the model of “expensive” hardware run by free (as in beer) or “cheap” software combined with services and content. If you can’t amortize your software costs across your ecosystem then you won’t be able to compete. I expect that this change will take out some of the second tier Android vendors who are currently bleeding red ink as they won’t have the services and content revenue to offset against the hardware cost.

    * (“expensive” and “cheap” being relative terms)

  13. As with Windows which assured Microsoft’s dominance, the Surface presents an alternative, business-centric narrative for the role of tablets in a user’s life. Microsoft is to be commended for making such a strong showing with this technology. I love my EeePad Transformer, but as it is it’s a mere toy: few if any serious business apps will materialize on it while Android as a platform is wholly incapable of serious content production (too much input and audio latency; more on that later). With Windows on the label, business apps are sure to materialize for the Surface and hence for all Windows 8 devices, and tablets will acquire a stronger niche within the business world. This is phenomenal.

    Windows Phone 8 is what Windows Phone 7 should have been. No more nerfing the API and forcing everyone to code against restricted .NET. When WP8 drops, the apps will come. Enterprise apps, sure; but games as well, which is one of Android’s problem areas. Combined with its superior UI, WP8 will be a contender.

    Another phenomenal thing is that Microsoft is finally realizing the importance of integrated hardware and software working together as a cohesive whole. The only company that really gets this is Apple. Everywhere else in tech, the rule is “hardware companies suck at software and vice-versa”. Apple, again, stands as the lone exception; though if Microsoft has learned something Apple might be in for a bit of competition. This is good.

    As to Android’s latency issues, there’s an advertisement running for the HTC Evo 4G LTE. It shows a bunch of happy people playing their Evos like musical instruments and singing. Down at the bottom it says “Screen image and sound simulated”. This is because what’s being shown is impossible with an Android phone; Android has about 300ms of inherent audio latency which is intolerable for real-time audio. The advertisement is made even more comical by the fact that the Evo 4G LTE has a “Beats Audio” daemon which fires up whenever it plays audio, adding more processing and latency to what’s already the worst thing to happen to audio since Pulse.

    People use their iOS devices as musical instruments all the time.

  14. Jay is right. This is all a response to Apple.

    Microsoft knows that if it wants to stay relevant in consumer technology, and avoid being relegated to the IBM leagues, then they need to break away from their stale old Windows platform. Their massive business installed base has been like an anchor tied to their foot preventing them from innovating.

    Microsoft *knows* that businesses aren’t going to migrate to Windows 8. They’ll all just stick with Win 7 for the foreseeable future. That’s a *gift*. It means they are finally free to innovate again and regain relevance.

    They also realise that Apple’s strategy of ‘building the whole widget’ actually has some value. Imagine that!

    I don’t know if they’ll succeed, but this is exactly the kind of bold thinking that Microsoft needs if it wants to survive at all in the consumer space.

  15. Does anyone have a source for the claim that much of the Windows 7 and earlier software will break on Windows 8? First I’ve heard of it.

  16. Could it be that Balmer has never heard of the Osborne effect?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Osborne_effect

    ESR might very well be right about an Orangutan making better decisions. Consider:

    1) Windows Phone 8 kernel is based on Windows 8 (NT family). Windows Phone 7.X was based on Win CE. Will the current Windows Phone apps run on Windows Phone 8? I have severe doubts. Which means a Win 7.5 phone is an even worse investment right now.

    2) The Slate. I think that too will prove to be a marketing blunder. The Slate RT is very different from the Pro in terms of capabilities and focus, yet the form factor is the same, as well as the branding and marketing focus. I don’t think they’ll be able to run each other’s software, certainly not native software (RT is arm, Pro is x86). The closest analogy I can think of is if Adobe had Acrobat which creates PDF’s, and Acrobat Reader which can only read EPUB.

    This looks like a massive debacle in the making.

  17. Jeff, you’ve been drinking the Microsoft Kool-Aid. There are two things that have to happen for the Surface to make major inroads into the enterprise:
    1) It must fail to suck. Microsoft’s record in that vein is spotty as hell. Or are you still using a Zune?
    2) Enterprise IT departments have to push back against the growing BYOD movement. That would be a reversal of a recent but powerful trend. Unless it’s *really* spectacular, users aren’t gonna go buy the Surface on their own when they can get an iPad. Apple does really spectacular. Microsoft can usually manage meh on a good day.

  18. > There’s been too much behavior that’s wilfully stupid.

    In regards to Microsoft, I think it all stems back to the anti trust lawsuit. After that lawsuit Microsoft stopping pushing. Instead they did things like .NET that ultimately add no real customer value, and Office 2007. What Office 2007 says to me is “Office is a mature product, we can’t think of anything new to add, so we will just rearrange the icons a bit, slap a new coat of paint on, and tell you it’ll make you work faster.”

    I’ll also say that security came back and bit them in the butt too. Their systems slowed way down with the overload of AV, and great products like MS Access were totally ruined by the layers of security protection they had to put on there. (Notice I didn’t mention Vista — I figured that one was self evident.)

    I think RIM and Nokia just got fat and happy on their success (which BTW, is something exacerbated by patents.) It is the free market at work, and that is a good thing. Apple did us all a favor by kicking their asses, and Google did us all a favor by being a counterweight to Apple. The only thing worse than Microsoft hegemony would be Apple hegemony. They say that the worst sinners of all are the self righteous and the narcissist. And you can’t get more self righteous and narcissistic than Apple.

    FWIW, I see the same signs of “fat and happy” at Apple since Jobs passed. They are still living on his fumes, but really, what is Apple doing that is interesting and innovative now? Not much as far as I can see.

    However, I work in corporate IT, I guarantee you that nobody here has even the slightest inkling of going away from MS. The investment in terms of software, skills and reputation is way too huge to change. A lot of corporate IT is about gluing together disparate systems: flow this data here, transform this there, ftp this file here. Lots of duct tape that would cost millions to replace, even if shell scripts are awesomely easy.

    Recently they got a Google search appliance for their internal web site. Everyone from top to bottom was freaking out because it didn’t run on a Windows platform. PCI!! HIPPA!!! SOX!!!

    FWIW, I think you, Eric, are being quite unkind. I think comparing Ballmer to an orangutan is very unfair. I represent the International Brotherhood of Orangutans, and they are demanding that you issue a public apology for that dreadful insult.

  19. Also, imagine if Microsoft really did stop licensing their OS to OEMs in the long term.

    What are the likes of Dell, Lenovo, and HP going to do? Shut up shop and go home? No, they’d be left with one last choice: Linux.

    If MS really did go the ‘whole widget’ route (and I don’t think it’s particularly likely) then it might finally be The Year of Linux on the Desktop™

  20. @esr “My friends who do IT consulting for businesses are telling me that the compatibility break between desktop Windows 7 and 8 is a big enough disruptor that it may actually drive a lot of their customers to move to all Linux, all the time”

    So 2013 is the year of the Linux Desktop? Ha.

    Do you have a source for the claim that a lot of software will break between Win 7 & 8? I have seen nothing reported on this except here.

    @esr: i think buying nokia is MSFT’s only move. They *must* have a good mobile strategy. what else can they do? They are sitting on tons of cash. They can keep trying new things and throwing money at the problem until they finally get some marketshare. Unless the window for a new player is closed. I doubt it is.

    Could someone explain what MSFT is thinking/purpose with breaking backwards compatibility for WP8 vs WP7? WP7 was a clean slate. So did they F up the clean slate so badly that they had to start over with another clean slate? what is the deal?

    Or is WP8 now running the real windows OS under the hood so you can run tablet apps on the phone and vice versa? I guess that sorta makes sense. But I think that would be a missed opportunity to leave the legacy of Windows behind.

  21. Yes, Microsoft is reacting to Apple again, and trying to preempt Google’s tablet announcement of next week with something, even if it’s half-baked. (Note that at the demo, nobody was allowed to touch the devices, and there was almost no mention of software.) It seems like this is, to a great degree, about the enterprise: iPads and MacBooks are making major inroads there with growing BYOD policies. Microsoft felt they had to have some sort Windows alternative that the IT departments would feel more comfortable with.

    It’s amazing to me how Microsoft’s moves have become almost entirely defensive, but Apple is scaring their pants off. Note that the iPhone alone now makes more profit than all of Microsoft! Wow.

  22. @PapayaSF

    >half-baked. (Note that at the demo, nobody was allowed to touch the devices, and there was almost no mention of software.)

    You’re right. I noticed this as well. It’s obvious that they weren’t ready to demo anything, but they need to keep reminding people that they still exist and have something relevant to show, even if it is, as you say, half-baked.

  23. What is killing Blackberry? Did someone make an Android phone with an excellent hardware keyboard and well-suitable for emailing while I wasn’t looking? Because it is much harder to write e-mails on my Desire than on Blackberries.

  24. @Shenpen

    >What is killing Blackberry? Did someone make an Android phone with an excellent hardware keyboard

    There is a hardcore contingent of hardware keyboard diehards, but the market is telling us that most people don’t really care that much, and can get on with a software keyboard just fine.

  25. > compatibility break between desktop Windows 7 and 8

    Microsoft is going to deliberately break hardware compatibility too. Windows 8 will not run on x86 processors that do not support PAE and NX bit. Goodbye old not-so-good Pentium 4 and much-more-good Pentium M. Even if your old hardware is powerful enough for you, W8 will die with an obscure error 0x0000005D just because.

    It’s a huge pity that Linux is going to meet those who probably will bail out from Windows with Gnome 3 and Unity.

    http://answers.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/forum/windows_8-windows_install/booting-from-windows-8-release-preview-dvd-error/3ba83d46-d127-454d-96d8-c92d237b0edb

  26. Jeff Read writes: As with Windows which assured Microsoft’s dominance, the Surface presents an alternative, business-centric narrative for the role of tablets in a user’s life.

    Jeff, that was a hilarious parody of the kind of vacuous marketing speak that used to make me want to throw tear gas into the Marketing cubicle farm. If it was intentional parody, I doff my hat to you as I fell for the idea you seriously wrote it.

  27. “What is killing Blackberry? Did someone make an Android phone with an excellent hardware keyboard and well-suitable for emailing while I wasn’t looking? Because it is much harder to write e-mails on my Desire than on Blackberries.”

    I have a Blackberrry for work and a low-end Android phone running 2.3 for home. I can write and send emails faster and more accurately on the Android phone with Swype.

  28. At the time of the announcement of Elop’s successful insertion by paradrop into Finland, I thought that the strategy of MS was to buy Nokia. I suspect that the board of directors of Nokia thought that too.

    Instead, that strategy got delayed for some reason, probably because the CFO of MS thinks he is in charge of strategic thinking. Now MS has killed Nokia by conning them into staking their future on a Windows Phone 7 phone that they just Osborned.

    MS has stuck a dagger in the back of Nokia. I am now doubting that the strategy is to buy Nokia, except perhaps a few shreds of the phone h/w engineering group, but rather to start manufacturing a MS phone themselves.

  29. Microsoft’s position is somewhat interesting. At this point in their corporate lifecycle they should beginning to do an IBM and subliming into elder statehood. Start by slowly divesting the company of the parts that aren’t making money, then move onto slowly divesting the parts that are currently making money but the future isn’t looking too good on, all the while extending and milking the existing cash cows for as long as possible until they finally fall over dead many years down the line.

    Sadly Ballmers ego and hubris will prevent Microsoft from doing this and it will ultimately drive them off the cliff.

  30. I completely disagree that it’s a mistake for Microsoft to break compatibility and walk away from Windows for mobile devices. Windows is a huge pile of cruft, and it is totally unsuitable for lightweight (in a hardware sense) devices. Android isn’t compatible with anything else, and it’s done just fine.

    No, the mistake Microsoft made is waiting too long to introduce a new platform distinct from the desktop PC ecosysytem. Let’s take a little visit it an alternate timeline…

    Around 2006, Microsoft realizes that the future of computing is mobile, and that their Windows operating system is too bloated and too unfriendly to the ergonomics of these handheld devices.

    The company puts forward an initiative to develop such a system. Breaking with past practices, a “skunk works” is formed that is not based at Redmond, reports to no one below the CEO, and is given a clean sheet of paper to develop an optimized product. At the same time, they are told to move fast and reuse whatever they can because speed to market is essential.

    Because of cultural constraints, they avoid anything based on the GPL. However, they quickly realize that a Unix is the way to go. The new system is quickly assembled based on one of the free BSD operating systems, with an interface that coincidentally looks much like the Android of our own timeline.

    In 2008, Microsoft launches the “Robot” operating system to great fanfare, releasing solid developer tools and a core of initial applications. They create an online “Market” for their own and 3rd party applications.

    Although Android comes out slightly earlier than “Robot”, they come out close enough together than users and phone manufacturers take a hard look at both, trading off the higher cost of Robot (due to licensing) with the Microsoft reputation, ready supply of cash, and brand strength. Both systems sell fairly well, and as of 2010 it’s not clear if one will displace the other or which one it will be.

  31. Microsoft under Ballmer keeps trying to be Sony or Apple, and keeps failing miserably.

  32. >Do you have a source for the claim that a lot of software will break between Win 7 & 8? I have seen nothing reported on this except here.

    Fear and Loathing and Windows 8 is a long, interesting article.

    The most important message I want you to understand is this: Windows 8 is not Windows. Although Microsoft calls it Windows, and a lot of Windows code may still be present under the hood, Windows 8 is a completely new operating system in every way that matters to users. It looks different, it works differently, and it forces you to re-learn much of what you know today about computers. From a user perspective, Microsoft Windows is being killed this fall and replaced by an entirely new OS that has a Windows 7 emulator tacked onto it.

    He says most Windows 7 software still works, at least in the , but that the new Metro interface makes it a real pain to get to and to go from one application to another. The biggest problem he writes about is that the new interface, Metro, though very attractive, really sucks for productive work. Also there are many differences and difficulties in normal administrative functions and controls, including ordinary file management.

  33. That was supposed to be “still works, at least in the emulation layer, …” I need to remember to proof read before I hit post.

  34. @Cathy

    I agree. Their main problem isn’t what they are doing but when they are doing it.

    >Windows 8 is not Windows. Although Microsoft calls it Windows

    This is another problem. They are obsessed with their Windows brand. For some reason they see it as an asset. Earth to Ballmer: nobody thinks Windows is cool! It is not a strong brand among consumers. You say ‘Windows’ to somebody and they think immediately of the old-style crufty desktop experience from the 90s and early 2000s. That is the opposite of what they need to convey.

    They’re making a new start with their technology – rightly so – and that should be reflected in their branding. They should come up with a completely new name for Windows 8.

  35. @cathy unix has a bunch of “cruft” too. If the unix creators were starting over, I’m sure they would do it differently based on all the lessons learned over the past 40 years or so. Would you write a new OS in C? I don’t think so.

    That being said – *nix has held up a hell of a lot better than Windows!

    A more bold approach would be a complete clean room new OS. Microsoft did start a new OS called Singularity http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Singularity_(operating_system) a few years back. But it has been abandoned. Innovators Dilemma strikes again.

    MSFT needs to sack up!

  36. @phil
    > If the unix creators were starting over, I’m sure they would do it differently based
    > on all the lessons learned over the past 40 years or so. Would you write a new
    > OS in C? I don’t think so.

    Yes you would. And, hey, they DID do exactly what you say, except it was in the mid 80s. It’s called Plan 9, and its impressiveness is offset only by its sad lack of uptake. *que discussion on why P9 never grew beyond niche status*

  37. @phil

    >Would you write a new OS in C? I don’t think so.

    Undoubtedly I would. There is no other language (still!) that brings you close to the metal and gives excellent performance while still being highly usable and friendly to the programmer. C is still by far the preeminent systems programming language.

  38. “why not bail out to where you’ll never be a victim again?”

    What’s the difference between having to retrain your users from Gnome 2 to KDE, Gnome 3 or Unity, and having to retrain them from Windows 7 to Windows 8? That you’re free to do it? That you get the source code? Your vendor is still pulling the rug out from your platform.

  39. And, hey, they DID do exactly what you say, except it was in the mid 80s. It’s called Plan 9, and its impressiveness is offset only by its sad lack of uptake.

    And then they did it again under the banner Inferno; they did NOT write it in C, but in an Alef-descended language called Limbo.

  40. @Jeff Read

    Er, actually wasn’t Inferno written in C? I think only userland apps are written in Limbo.

  41. @jessica

    And you can’t get more self righteous and narcissistic than Apple.

    I give you the FSF.

    Besides, Apple isn’t self righteous as much as arrogant…but at least there is a basis for that arrogance.

  42. > they did NOT write it in C, but in an Alef-descended language called Limbo.

    For (questionable) portability reasons. Inferno runs on _everything_. There’s even a really slick Inferno build for a few Android devices that replaces the Dalvik stack with it.

    Of course, Limbo was the testing ground for many of the ideas Rob Pike brought to Go. Lineages and heredity abound.

    But, most of the advancements of Inferno were ported back to the Labs’ P9 tree, which is itself so simple that porting it to things is nearly trivial anyway.

  43. In addition, for client relation reasons, we were early adopters of the Lumia 900 which replaced our blackberries. I expected to hate the windows phone, but I actually kind of love it, at least as a blackberry substitute. I’m a huge android fanboy, but this has by far the best touchscreen I’ve ever used, pretty good battery life, a nice display [...]

    AFAIK most if not all of the Lumia hardware (including Gorilla Glass display) came from first and last Maemo phone, Nokia N9.

  44. “It’s a huge pity that Linux is going to meet those who probably will bail out from Windows with Gnome 3 and Unity.”

    There are signs that Mint may be overtaking Ubuntu; if so, they’ll be met instead with MATE (A GNOME 2 fork) or Cinnamon (A GNOME Shell fork by people who don’t like GNOME Shell). I’ll probably jump ship to Mint myself when Lucid support ends.

  45. “A more bold approach would be a complete clean room new OS.”

    No time. The whole point of my post was that speed to market is essential, and Microsoft blew it by missing the window.

  46. > Your vendor is still pulling the rug out from your platform.

    Ah, no. You have a corporate infrastructure based on, say, a certain version of Fedora. A new version comes out; for Reasons you need to roll out this new version. “Oh no,” you’d say, “it uses a whole new version of SuperCool Desktop Environment!”

    You can still install or keep a previous version of the environment if you like. Or, even better, keep the core libs you need for the updated widgets and just run some IT-approved, standardized, not-gonna-change-if-it-kills-us window manager.

    Changing the DE has little impact on the core system. GTK apps will still run, Qt apps will still run. Just watch your major version numbers. In a pinch, you grab the source for the previous libs and rebuild against newer libc.

    Your vendor is not by any means ‘pulling the rug out.’ Not the way Apple does or Microsoft has the ability to.

  47. @phil: A more bold approach would be a complete clean room new OS. Microsoft did start a new OS called Singularity http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Singularity_(operating_system) a few years back. But it has been abandoned. Innovators Dilemma strikes again.

    Singularity is not a case of Innovators Dilemma. It’s result of successful James Gosling’s plan of Microsoft destruction. I’m not all that sure Scott McNealy understood what role Sun played in the whole story, but I’m really impressed: with Sun resources snake oil was overhyped to such a degree that Microsoft bought the story and as a result was tangled in production of rival snake oil. The end result is the expected disaster which have real good probability of destroying Microsoft.

    P.S. Note that by “snake oil” I mean not bytecode and not Java language, but the idea that you can create one single “true” high-level environment which you can then use to implement EVERYTHING. This idea was tried lots of times: iAPX 432, Lisp Machines, Oberon and aforementioned Inferno, Java (Network Computer) and Singularity. The end result is invariably tons of resources spent for some cool-looking demo, some pilot projects and lost opportunities (usually companies have no resources to develop both snake oil OS and some alternative OS which has chance to become actually usable). Sometimes snake oil solution evolves and becomes more realistic (Android started as Dalvik/Java-based snake oil system but NDK quickly followed) and now Windows Phone goes the same way… but lost time may prove fatal for the Microsoft.

  48. I think it’s possible that Microsoft has a reasonable motivation in doing this: to show the OEMs how it’s done. A lot of the OEMs don’t really have the right experience in software and UI design, yet they insist on “customizing” the software and hardware and making bloated products that nobody works because they have a pile of features, none of which work exactly right. This is to some extent what’s holding Android back as well, and why Google has been pulling back a bit on the whole “open source” aspect of it, at least as far as the OEMs are concerned. I can imagine that MS is hoping to show the OEMs how to do it right, and hoping that maybe they’ll start making more competent devices as a result. Alternatively, maybe MS is hoping to cut the OEMs out entirely because, contrary to the name, they don’t actually make the hardware (the ODMs like Foxconn do that), they just do the system integration. And it doesn’t really make sense that integration of the hardware and software should be done by a company that doesn’t really know either side very well: it’s more logical for that to be done either by MS/Apple, or possibly by the actual hardware shop if they use a standard open-source platform like Android.

  49. Changing the DE has little impact on the core system. GTK apps will still run, Qt apps will still run. Just watch your major version numbers. In a pinch, you grab the source for the previous libs and rebuild against newer libc.

    I understand that over time even that stops working. However never fear there’s an active, living fork of GNOME 2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MATE_(desktop_environment)

  50. @SPQR
    >They knew it?

    >I wish to retract my accusation above that the death of Nokia was at the hands of Microsoft, your honor, new evidence just brought to my attention clearly establishes suicide as the cause of death …

    One thing that I’m wondering about here is the fact that Elop is a former Microsoft exec. Does that, especially given his actions, scream “conflict of interest” to anyone else?

    In keeping with the murder mystery theme, I think that the “murder meant to look like suicide” cliche may be at work here.

  51. I have thought very long now that this year MS will start to fall apart. The destruction of Nokia and their panicking in the mobile phone/tablet area, MS’ failure to take up the ARM all point in this direction.

    All three MS, RIM, and Nokia were big companies who could not move fast to enter new markets. Mostly because of vested interests and too many people in management high on the “snakes with suits” scale. People high on the sociopath scale have difficulties with learning from mistakes.

    Move fast or die is the motto.

  52. >I have thought very long now that this year MS will start to fall apart. The destruction of Nokia and their panicking in the mobile phone/tablet area, MS’ failure to take up the ARM all point in this direction.

    Actually, as I stated in my above post, I think MS might have planned the demise of Nokia (possibly in hopes of acquiring it).

    But if Elop gets investigated when Nokia collapses, and it turns out he was colluding with Microsoft, the fireball when the whole plot blows up in Microsoft’s face could be quite spectacular.

  53. @Jon Brase
    Too convoluted a plan. Destroying Nokia to buy it cheap would have meant there would be little of value left to bother with.

    Eric, when I see urangutan, I too must think of the librarian of the unseen university.

  54. Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.

    Jumping Off The Burning Platform: Nokia Knew It Was Stuck On WP7 When It Signed On
    http://techcrunch.com/2012/06/21/jumping-off-the-burning-platform-nokia-knew-it-was-stuck-on-wp7-when-it-signed-on/

    Nokia’s CEO Stephen Elop has had a hard time getting his company to jump off the ‘burning platform’ onto the Windows Phone ship, and in their haste to do something quick they made a crucial compromise.

    The first Nokia handsets running Windows Phone would remain stuck on version 7 with no upgrade path to WP8, a fact, according to our sources, that the Finnish handset maker was made aware of when it signed on last year.

  55. >Eric, when I see urangutan, I too must think of the librarian of the unseen university.

    Yes, I knew many of my regulars would, and for that reason almost suggested a different ape species. But, dammit, Ballmer looks like an orangutan!

  56. The quote from P.J. O’Rourke was pretty funny. He was describing the S&L crisis. At one point he said (IIRC) “Perhaps the reader would appreciate going to a question and answer format.

    1. What the fuck, huh? I mean, what the fucking fuck?”

  57. most spectacular implosions in the history of business

    Nokia stock price went from $27.61 on Oct 29, 2007 to $1.93 yesterday on Jun 21, 2012.

    Bre-X Minerals was a “gold” mining company based in Calgary that had property in Indonesia, Its split-adjusted share price peaked at $286.50 in May 1996 and went bankrupt in 2002.

    I put “gold” in quotes because that was what it primarily was – quotes – talk.

    I once worked for a tiny company in which the accountant quit shortly after a barely successful IPO – not a good sign.

    Bre-X had a similar incident when its chief geologist “accidentally” fell to his death from a helicopter.

    Bre-X was arguably a more spectacular implosions, both from a stock price point of view and because it essentially had a gold-vacuum inside.

  58. Bre-X was not an implosion in the history of business, but an entry in the history of criminal fraud. There’s a fundamental difference between driving a thriving business into the ground, and deliberately lying to people to take their money for yourself.

  59. Bre-X was not an implosion in the history of business, but an entry in the history of criminal fraud.

    That is true – Bre-X Minerals never was a real business.

    It was a sort of implosion, though – it had a vacuum inside. If an explosion goes “poof”, an implosion goes “foop” ;-)

  60. @Brian Marshall

    I would suspect that esr’s statement about “the biggest destruction of shareholder value in history” is satisfied by the total capital value lost by these companies ( (highest share price – bankruptcy value per share) * number of outstanding shares ). Additionally (or alternatively), there’s the matter of public visibility; I had (barely) heard of Bre-X (mostly from an expose on CBS’s “60 Minutes”, IIRC), but very many more people have heard of Nokia, Research in Motion, and (especially) Microsoft.

    It would be interesting to work out the formula I mentioned above for our three losers, and compare it to, e.g., WorldCom, Enron, or any other well-known implosion of the last 30 or so years. (For those of a historic bent, you could also do the same for some of the failures of the “Great Depression” of the 1930′s, but then you should also try to adjust things for a more-or-less constant value currency.)

  61. The primary purpose of my post was to be funny. However, the Wikipedia
    Bre-X article says:

    The stock price of Bre-X rose to CA$280 per share by 1997 (split adjusted) and at its peak it had a market capitalization equal to US$4.4 billion, equal to US$6.4 billion in current terms adjusted for inflation.

    I’m not sure how to find out how many shares Nokia had outstanding in 2007.

  62. “Yes, I knew many of my regulars would, and for that reason almost suggested a different ape species.”

    “Ooook.”

  63. Re: Bre-X fraud…

    What got a lot of people upset was that Bre-X was included in the TSX (Toronto Stock Exchange) Composite Index (I think).

    People were going “How could you include a company that was a complete fraud? We bought because, being in the index, it was supposed to be a real company!”

    But the Toronto Stock Exchange said (in effect) “The index is based on market capitalization – Bre-X qualified.”

  64. What the fuck indeed, but I still don’t think it’s necessary to assume that there is a conspiracy to run down Nokia. I’m willing to believe that the osborneing of Symbian phones was sheer incompetence on Elop’s part. He hadn’t been in the handset business before, let alone dealt with mobile network carriers, and no doubt the Symbian proponents inside Nokia sounded to him like a drag that needed to be shown that things were going to be very different. They all seem to have underestimated just how fast the Symbian market could evaporate.

    Many Microsoft executives and major shareholders were convinced that Microsoft’s many previous attempts at a mobile OS were worthwile, at the time. I don’t necessarily see a reason why Nokia’s board couldn’t have believed that, too, when they approved Elop’s strategy. It’s the board of Nokia, not a group of great visionaries.

  65. >I would suspect that esr’s statement about “the biggest destruction of shareholder value in history” is satisfied by the total capital value lost by these companies ( (highest share price – bankruptcy value per share) * number of outstanding shares )

    Yes, that’s pretty much exactly the measure I had in mind.

    I believe I remember reading about 18 months back that Microsoft’s fall from its maximum share price might all by itself nearly qualify as the biggest single destruction of shareholder value in history – the context was a withering critique of Ballmer’s performance. Given that, it didn’t seem at all implausible that the aggregate losses due to mismanagement at Microsoft, RIM, and Nokia would blow right through any previous record.

  66. without attempting to argue anything on the merits, i hope that a bold and forward-looking management will implement your orangutan idea.
    no downside that i can see, and i would buy stock in ms just to attend the annual meeting.

  67. Nokia – Change in Capitalization

    In 2007 (from annual report)…
    Shares outstanding = 3,982,811,000 = 3.9 billion shares.
    Share price peaked at 27.61 Eur on Oct 29, 2007.
    Eur27.61 * 3.98 billion shares = 109.9 billion Euros in 2007

    In 2012 (from 1st Quarter statements)…
    Shares outstanding = 3.74 billion
    Share price on June 22, 2012 = Eur1.93
    Eur1.93 * 3.74 billion = 7.22 billion Euros in 2012

    Change in Capitalization
    109.9 – 7.22 = 102.68 billion Euros

    Of course, total capitalization can never be realized by selling all the outstanding capital stock…. If you try to sell even a one million shares, the price goes WAY down.

    It is also worth noting that after this terrible loss of capitalization, it is still on the order of 7 billion Euros

    I hack financial statements, too ;-)

  68. @Winter:
    >Too convoluted a plan. Destroying Nokia to buy it cheap would have meant there would be little of value left to bother with.

    Possibly, but whatever the intent was, Elop’s former position at Microsoft and current blundering around at Nokia look incredibly suspicious.

  69. Change in Capitalization

    Enron

    The value of the stock peaked at just over $90/share in 2000.

    The number of shares in 2000 was between 736 million and 874 million (depending on which page you are on)… call it 800 million shares.

    $90/share * 800 million shares = $72 billion

    Bre-X

    According to Wikipedia was $4.4 billion in 1997,
    which is $6.4 billion in inflation-adjusted 2008 dollars.

    Nokia

    109.9 – 7.22 = 102.68 billion Euros from 2007 to Jun 22, 2012.

    The inter-bank currency markets are closed for the weekend – the Euro closed at 0.7957 Euros per US dollar so…

    102.68 billion Euros = US$129 billion

    it makes Bre-X look like peanuts.

  70. @Ferdi Z
    UEFI?

    I think it is too little too late. MS have lost their monopoly years ago (2009). And in a year, consumers will demand Android on their netbook/laptop.

    Actually, in two years their Android phone will dock in their netbook.

  71. You are 100% right, as you usually is on technical subjects. But when I try to bring the same views into the wider world of the financial press, I get treated like a Red Sox fan at a Yankees game. A loud Red Sox fan. In the bleachers at a Yankees game. With the pennant on the line. After the Sawx hit one out.

    So let’s see if we’re right.

  72. @esr> My friends who do IT consulting for businesses are telling me that the compatibility break between desktop Windows 7 and 8 is a big enough disruptor that it may actually drive a lot of their customers to move to all Linux, all the time. Which makes sense; if you know all your old application software is going to break no matter what you do, why not bail out to where you’ll never be a victim again?

    So, 2013 is the year of Linux on the desktop then?

  73. I have been thinking about ESR’s pondering about

    the biggest destruction of shareholder value in history

    and about P.J. O’Rourke’s quote

    What the fuck, huh? I mean what the fucking fuck?

    As I said earlier, P.J. was talking about the S&L crisis.

    (I can’t recall which of P.J.’s books it is from. Almost all my books are in boxes sealed in plastic garbage bags, while we do battle with bed bugs that are sneaking into my apartment.)

    The S&Ls were set up as simple little sorta banks for regular folks, in their 7-11 style buildings and their time and temperature signs outside. The government cut them some slack so that ordinary guys wearing $150 suits could compete with real banks. Their reserve requirement were much more lax than those of regular banks – the S&Ls could count the value of their 7-11 style building and their time and temperature signs as part of their reserves.

    For many years this worked fine. The owners were part of the 3-6-3 club… take in deposits at 3%, lend (mostly mortgages) at 6%, be on the golf course by 3:00.

    The problems began, I believe, when interest rates soared in the late
    ’70s / early ’80s. They had all these long-term mortgages earning them 6% but all the short term deposits at 3% disappeared because depositors could put their money into GICs and CDs paying, like, 11%. The S&Ls were haemorrhaging money.

    When it started getting bad, the government changed the rules and allowed the S&Ls to try to speculate their way out of trouble using their deposits. There was also a lot of fraud and crazy shit going on. As Michael Lewis pointed out in “Liar’s Poker”, it was the first time people wearing $150 suits were speculating in individual mortgage-bond deals worth tens of millions of dollars each.

    The S&Ls tended to not be owned by shareholders; many of the worst instances were owned by Texans. They played some wild games. Some individual S&Ls managed to lose more than a billion dollars.

    Hence P.J.’s quote.

    When the government first admitted to being aware of the problem, it could have been cleaned up at a cost of about $30 billion. But this was a huge amount of money and there wasn’t any day-to-day urgency… the problem got worst. When P.J. was writing about it, it was estimated that it could be bailed out at a cost of maybe $100 to $200 billion dollars. By the time the government actually got around to bailing them out, it was estimated to cost about $500 billion dollars.

    This wasn’t a “destruction of shareholder value” and it was spread around a lot of little businesses rather than one large one. But…$500 billion of wealth… just sort of… went away.

  74. @ Winter

    >And in a year, consumers will demand Android on their netbook/laptop.
    >Actually, in two years their Android phone will dock in their netbook.

    I’d bet you’re wrong on both of these counts. Or more specifically that you’re wrong on the first, and the second won’t have any real impact (as technically, we already have that in the form of the Atrix)

    For your first point, consumers aren’t going to demand Android on their netbook simply because Android doesn’t have any applications consumers want on their netbooks. There’s nothing like office, the games that exist (for the most part) rely on touch screens, and the few productivity apps that would translate usually already have a desktop counterpart. Then there’s the lack of backwards compatibility. If the Win 8 transition is supposed to have businesses jumping ship to linux (not something I beleive), there’s no way that a complete OS jump, with all the incompatibility that implies will be something that consumers demand. They might demand better integration, but android on the netbook itself, I don’t think so.

    For your second point, I think it won’t matter. Either it will be docking in the sense of better integration (some form of Android iTunes with some special bridge plugins to pull from your favorite apps like outlook), or it will be something like the Atrix, which has a number of hurdles to overcome including minimal storage space for home computing (pictures, movies, etc), the fact that your phone is just too easy to lose, and then you have a docking unit that’s useless, the fact that using your “laptop” battery will now also be using your phone battery, and that carrying a docking unit and your phone around isn’t much different from carrying your phone and a tablet around now. Honestly, I think docking setups like the atrix are solutions in search of a problem. Maybe years ago, before netbooks and tablet, they would have solved problems, but now they seem to be the worst of both worlds.

    >History teaches us that beyond Windows XP and Office, everything MS
    >introduces ends in lost money. Predicting their next product will flop is a pretty safe bet.

    I was under the impression most of their hardware lines were profitable. The first Xbox lost money, but the second seems to be doing quite well. Now whether the surface will take off, to me that depends on how quickly microsoft can whip up a tablet version of Office and the related apps (Project, Access, etc), because right now, that is a big hole in the market. It’s ok for now, because people aren’t sure yet what all they want to do with tablets in their business, but it’s not far off, and right now there isn’t any competitor in that space, neither Apple’s iWork suite or any of the OSS offerings provide a good enough replacement.

  75. @tmoney
    MS’ profits on Xbox do not even pay for the interests on their investments. ROI will forever be negative.

  76. Winter, I would not be at all surprised if your statement regarding Xbox ROI is correct, but, with great respect, I’m curious, do you have a source?

  77. @Spqr
    MS invested billions in the Xbox. The interest on that investment should run into a $100M. The last profits I saw was not even $10M. If they recently got over $100M in profits, I did not hear about it.

  78. @Winter

    The only number I have ever seen is for profit/loss on the ‘Entertainment and Devices’ division, which includes, among other things, the XBox.

    However, I have never seen a report on the XBox’s profitability by itself. Nor have I ever seen a source for how much they invested in the project.

    Like SPQR I’m not saying that you are wrong, but it seems to me that there is a lot of missing data here. Do we know enough to draw conclusions?

    Even if XBox is not profitable, it certainly is a very popular product that has experienced massive success in the market. So Microsoft *can* make hardware products that people want. The question is, can they be profitable doing it?

  79. And in a year, consumers will demand Android on their netbook/laptop.

    No.

    Like it or not, the world runs on Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. Unless you start your own business and all your clients are willing to exchange text and CSV files with you, you must — as an ironclad rule of business — have access to a PC running Windows and Office. Period. No ifs, ands, or buts. Don’t talk to me about OpenOffice or LibreOffice. Yeah, those are great. But they’re not Microsoft Office. And just the other day, I received a very important Word document that I had to review; when I opened it up in LibreOffice, only a single blank page was visible. There was no fancy formatting in this document, it was very straightforward.

    So the only way, in business, to keep in reliable communication with your bosses and clients, is to use Microsoft software. If you use anything else, you’re rolling the dice and costing people money.

    The Surface runs Windows and with it will probably run Office. That fact — all by itself — gives it a huge head start in the tablet space, because it fits seamlessly into what just about every business everywhere is already using. That give it an edge over the iPad in certain segments of the market. And Android? Huh — I don’t expect Android to last until 2014 in the tablet space.

  80. > RIM’s death rattle became audible a few days ago when its manufacturing partner announced that it would no longer be manufacturing Blackberries.

    Mr. Raymond,

    How could you be more wrong? Celestica is not RIM’s only manufacturing partner. RIM still employs Quanta Computers, Jabil Circuit Inc., and Flextronics. RIM’s new phones don’t even have keyboards, but rather: touch screens.

    And, you, quoting BGR? Shudder:

    Here is a more reasonable article on the state of play between Celestica and RIM:

    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/technology/tech-news/celestica-to-end-rim-contract-manufacturing-over-next-6-months/article4300184/

    Don’t write-off RIM just yet. Microsoft if sure to purchase them and make a phone for real business people, unlike those toy consumer phones from Apple and Google.

  81. > I don’t expect Android to last until 2014 in the tablet space.

    Android has a tablet?

    Oh, you must mean the Kindle.

    Got it.

  82. Jeff Read, I fear you are right about MS Office. However, they’ve announced that Office for iPad is coming this year. And is there some reason that OpenOffice or LibreOffice can’t be fully compatible with MS Office? I’d think there are enough Microsoft enemies with deep pockets (esp. Apple and Google) to make that happen, and Napoleon would approve of such a tactic: he liked to attack an enemy where he was strongest, because if you can defeat them there, you have defeated them utterly.

  83. @tmoney:
    >Honestly, I think docking setups like the atrix are solutions in search of a problem. Maybe years ago, before netbooks and tablet, they would have solved problems, but now they seem to be the worst of both worlds.

    Actually, I think dockability to a full-up, desktop-sized keyboard/monitor/mouse setup, and a decent GUI for that setup (that is, a traditional desktop environment, as opposed to just scaling up the phone’s touch GUI) is the more critical thing in the near future. That’s where mobile devices are going to start eating desktop / laptop market share.

  84. “MS invested billions in the Xbox.”

    Billions? Really? I remember a razor company that boasted about how they spent around 400 million dollars developing a new multi-bladed whizbang and thinking, “Could they really spend all that much to produce a razor? Seems awfully stupid.”

    Of course I know that the Xbox is a bigger deal than a razor, but don’t you think there’s some advertising hype involved in the ‘billions’ figure, wherever it came from? Maybe some marketing guy trying to impress his girlfriend? Maybe someone wrote down a ‘b’ when he really meant an ‘m’? When you say, ‘billions’, you’re talking US government military procurement…not game boxes.

  85. Can’t tell teh source of those numbers, Papaya, but they are interesting.

  86. Back in 2002, I compiled a list of Biggest Losers in the IT/telecom bust.

    #1 in market cap loss was Cisco Systems, which dropped $476B – 83% of peak value.
    #2 Deutsche Telekom – $336B – 87%
    #3 AOLTimeWarner – $331B – 88%.
    #4 Vodafone – $319B – 77%
    #5 Nortel – $271B – 97%
    #6 Nokia – $231B – 80%
    #7 Lucent Technologies – $206B – 97%

    WorldCom went from $112B to busted.

    (The most grotesque collapses were in IT, but actually telecom was much bigger. Nippon T&T, France Telecom, BT Group, AT&T, Qwest, Sprint PCS, LM Ericsson, Tellabs, Nextel, Koninklijke KPN (Netherlands T&T), Alcatel – all down 80% or more from peak, all down 25 to 200B$.)

    There is of course the point that the peak market caps were not real value; many of these companies were still large and profitable afterward, as they had been before the frenzy – Nokia for instance. Some however “lost the farm” and either died or survived as a shadow of their earlier selves.

    I have another list from 2002, which has Microsoft losing $250B – 46%. But other companies on that list don’t match the numbers on the first list, and I can’t reconcile them after 10 years.

  87. @PapayaSF

    It looks like that chart is for their whole entertainment and devices division, rather than the XBox by itself.

  88. That’s as close as I could get. I suspect MS may not report profitability for individual items.

  89. @PapayaSF

    >That’s as close as I could get. I suspect MS may not report profitability for individual items.

    Yes. I have never seen anything like that.

  90. @LS and others
    Xbox “profits”

    This is MS, they do not invest in development, but in marketing and subsidizing sales. Here are some “numbers” and and “places” where MS sunk their money in Xbox.

    http://www.ecommercetimes.com/story/17842.html

    http://news.cnet.com/Xbox-drags-on-Microsoft-profit/2100-1040_3-818798.html

    @Jeff Read
    “Like it or not, the world runs on Word, Excel, and PowerPoint.”

    So you predict the iPad will never take off, until MS brings out a version of Office for it? That is a bold prediction.

  91. And some more. Watch the billions fly by.

    Microsoft Declare XBox Losses
    http://www.businessweek.com/bwdaily/dnflash/nov2005/nf20051122_5525.htm

    Microsoft’s Red-Ink Game
    http://www.businessweek.com/technology/content/nov2005/tc20051122_410710.htm

    For more links see Wikipedia

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xbox_360

    Despite the relatively strong sales figures, Microsoft’s gaming division was losing money. Through 2005, the Xbox gaming division had lost over $4 billion, however, Microsoft expected the console to start making money in 2008 due to a loss leader market strategy of selling consoles below cost in order to obtain market saturation and gain profits on software and peripherals with a much higher profit margin. Additionally, Microsoft took a charge of $1 billion dollars on its June 2007 income statement to account for the cost of replacing bricked Xbox 360s.

    emphasis mine

  92. @Winter

    Thanks for all those links, but it seems to be all analyst speculation (and rather old speculation at that).

    We just do not have any numbers that we can have any confidence in. We don’t know how much they have invested and we don’t know how much they have made. It’s just a guessing game, especially when you consider that these devices supposedly work on the razor blade model, and most of the profit should be in the games. It’s no good trying to endlessly estimate profit per unit on the hardware.

  93. @Winter

    >So you predict the iPad will never take off, until MS brings out a version of Office for it? That is a bold prediction.

    In business.

  94. @Tom
    “In business.”

    I am pretty convinced every CEO has an iPad by now.

  95. @Winter

    >I am pretty convinced every CEO has an iPad by now.

    Th CEO can do whatever he likes. And he’s probably only using the iPad for playing games and browsing the web.

    His secretary is still using a PC running Microsoft Office.

    Lots of people who with computer-based jobs in business have iPads, but they also still sit in front of traditional PC at work to get their work done.

    I don’t like it any more than you do, but that’s the world we live in.

  96. @Tom
    “Lots of people who with computer-based jobs in business have iPads, but they also still sit in front of traditional PC at work to get their work done.”

    Which is completely beside the point I was making that people will start to demand Android on netbooks next year.

    I do not see any connection to whether or not the secretary will use Office or rides the subway to work.

  97. @Winter

    It’s relevant to your point because we are now moving to a world where people are using tablets and phones for their personal computing and old-style laptops/desktops for their business computing. There is no point in trying to use Android as a PC OS for business because it does not have the software.

  98. @Tom
    “It’s relevant to your point because we are now moving to a world where people are using tablets and phones for their personal computing and old-style laptops/desktops for their business computing.”

    How is it relevant?

    People will not be demanding Android on netbooks because other people at work use desktop computers with different software? I cannot make that connection.

    @Tom
    “There is no point in trying to use Android as a PC OS for business because it does not have the software.”

    Does not have is not the same as never will have. Claiming something cannot happen because not every prerequisite is present *now* is not having payed attention to history.

  99. @Winter

    >People will not be demanding Android on netbooks because other people at work use desktop computers with different software? I cannot make that connection.

    As I said before, personal computing is fast moving towards tablets and phones. People buying new PCs (as distinct from tablets/phones) are mainly doing so for two reasons:

    1. They are advanced users or programmers who want a full old-style PC OS.
    2. (most people) They need it for work because of MS Office.

    Android does not fill either of these needs. Therefore I do not see why people would start ‘demanding’ Android on a PC (netbook or otherwise).

    By the way, ‘netbook’ is pretty much a dead category at this point (if it ever really meant anything). The low-end of portable computing has been almost completely eaten up by tablets. There aren’t any netbooks any longer. There are slim, light laptops, to be sure, but they’re just slim, light laptops. To call them ‘netbooks’ is pretty meaningless.

    >Does not have is not the same as never will have. Claiming something cannot happen because not every prerequisite is present *now* is not having payed attention to history.

    Sure, Microsoft might eventually bring Office to Android. But within a year? I hardly think so. There would be no point, since Android tablets haven’t caught on.

  100. Which is completely beside the point I was making that people will start to demand Android on netbooks next year.

    The netbook is dead, except for tablets that plug into keyboards. I own one of these; it runs Android. It’s perfectly useless for real work.

    If Android gets a real office suite, that reads and writes MS Office documents 100%, maybe it has a shot. But getting to 100% compatibility would mean having to reverse-engineer and reimplement OLE, COM, the VBA runtime, and the proprietary layout engine whose specs are probably not exactly known even inside Microsoft. That’s why you don’t see it: if anyone did achieve 100% compatibility with Office, it would have been such a Herculean reverse-engineering feat that they probably violated the EULA and copyright law and Microsoft would sue.

  101. @Jeff Read

    >if anyone did achieve 100% compatibility with Office, it would have been such a Herculean reverse-engineering feat that they probably violated the EULA and copyright law and Microsoft would sue.

    Or they would just issue an update that would break everything.

  102. @Tom and Jeff
    Arguing about the future is rather pointless. The future will arrive whatever the outcome of our discussion.

    I think both of you miss the point (and boat) regarding the fate of netbooks/laptops/ultrabooks. And both of you miss the point of what Office compatibility can an cannot do.

    And if I am wrong, we will see that in a year.

  103. @Winter

    >I think both of you miss the point (and boat) regarding the fate of netbooks/laptops/ultrabooks. And both of you miss the point of what Office compatibility can an cannot do.

    What point? Do you contest that the future (and indeed present) of personal computing is going to be dominated by tablets and phones? I think there is broad agreement on this point.

    I know first-hand how compatible open-source office suites are with MS Office. They are not compatible enough. 90% is not good enough. 99% is not good enough. There is absolutely no reason for people in business to put themselves through the agony and inconvenience of not being compatible with the rest of the world.

    It’s the most frustrating thing in the world to have to deal with some stupid document incompatibility when you are trying to get things done in a busy day. We’ve all got enough hassles. Why add one more needlessly?

  104. @winter

    So amusing that you’ll quote 7 year-old history, but not the more modern parts of that same Wikipedia article:

    On January 6, 2011, Microsoft stated that the Xbox 360 sold over 50 million units worldwide during their CES 2011 conference. In addition, they stated that the Kinect sold about 8 million units, 3 million more than initially predicted, during the product’s first 60 days on the market. It was also announced that Xbox live had more than 30 million users, making 2010 the best year to date for the online service.

    Also amusing that you don’t recognize that Windows Phone is in the same division:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microsoft_Product_Divisions#Microsoft_Entertainment_and_Devices_Division

    What’s that, $1B subsidy for Windows Phone coming, soon? People here were shouted down when it was suggested over a year ago. The carriers are listening:
    http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/04/19/us-verizon-microsoft-idUSBRE83I1B820120419

    All Microsoft needs now are a manufacturing partner (Nokia) and an enterprise play (buy RIM for BES).

  105. @Tom
    “What point? Do you contest that the future (and indeed present) of personal computing is going to be dominated by tablets and phones? I think there is broad agreement on this point.”

    I do not disagree. But I think not next year. And I think people will switch to docked (or simply bluetooth like connections) phones with public screens and keyboards. But not yet next year.

    And I think people will start demanding Android on any other GUI beside their phone. Whatever your 100%+ compatibility requirements for office will do, it will not stop the demand for Android on everything.

  106. >And I think people will start demanding Android on any other GUI beside their phone.

    Why? What does Android on other devices buy anyone? On their personal computers at home, they already have Windows, OS X or Linux proper, all of which are vastly more capable than Android, and all of which could run any android app on their own without much trouble.

    What is this sudden change which will cause people to demand that new computers they buy become incompatible with their current devices and less capable?

  107. @tmoney
    People hate change. That made every desktop look the same. That made Windows a monopoly.

  108. @ Winter

    Which seems to more support my contention that people will continue to demand Windows or OS X on their traditional computers as they have for years, rather than change to demanding Android which would look, feel and operate completely differently from any OS they are currently used to.

    So again, what change do you see occurring that leads people to demanding Android on their desktop?

  109. @tmoney
    Change in what they are used to. When they use a phone often, they will want other GUIs to look and behave the same.

    There is a reason all major GUIs have moved to look like a phone interface. Their designers think that will happen too.

  110. I missed it last week, but Android daily activations hit 900,000.
    http://www.androidauthority.com/andy-rubin-not-leaving-google-android-activations-94027/

    That is rather a month or two later than I expected. In February, the daily activations were already at 850,000. Either the increase in activation rate has declined to some 15k more daily activations per month, or we are bitten by round numbers and a lag in reporting. At the “historical” increase in activation rate of 30k/month, Android should have reached a million activations a day somewhere this month.

    For the statistics, this is the list of daily activation rates by date.

    60,000 01-04-2010
    160,000 01-07-2010
    200,000 01-09-2010
    350,000 01-02-2011
    400,000 01-05-2011
    500,000 01-06-2011
    550,000 01-07-2011
    600,000 01-10-2011
    700,000 15-12-2011
    850,000 15-02-2012 (actually, Andy tweeted it today 27-02-12, but I stick with the half month)
    900,000 01-06-2012 (tweeted 11-06-2012)

  111. The iPad is currently somewhat hampered with the lack of true Office integration. It’s almost there but not quite. Mail + Cal still not quite the same as Outlook. 90%ish. QuickOffice about the same…90%ish.

    But you know, I still have a laptop so it’s no big deal. On the go its more than fine. Just not there for a desktop replacement yet.

    A Core i5 Surface could replace the laptop but its gonna be a relatively heavy tablet with a compromise for a keyboard. I’m thinking that a 11″ MBA running OSX+Win8 + iPad is still a better combo.

    We’ll see.

    @winter Are you seriously bringing up articles from 2005 regarding the XBox?

    XBox is probably MS’s key asset for maintaining relevance in an Apple world. Overall profit or loss it has been a great investment for MS.

    First it gave MS some experience with a mass market CE device that will help them with Surface. Second it gives them a large pool of games and game devs for their ecosystems. Third it gives them the biggest living room footprint of the major ecosystem players (MS, Apple, Google).

    Whatever else Surface does or doesn’t do it will have AAA games and it will have Office. With smart glass and the XBox MS has a good living story for Surface…as good as iPad + aTV anyway but with the XBox vs the iPad as the key device with a large user base.

  112. @nigel
    “XBox is probably MS’s key asset for maintaining relevance in an Apple world. Overall profit or loss it has been a great investment for MS.”

    That was never my point. I simply pointed out that MS will never recoup the costs of XBox. It might have been a strategic and successful development, but they invested more money into XBox (and Bing, for that matter) than they will ever be able to repay from the profits of these enterprises.

    But if you want to argue that XBox and Bing etc. were necessary to keep their monopoly and with it their 80% margin on Windows and Office etc., then I will not deny that.

  113. IMHO both MS and Google have been flailing around throwing money at new business areas to see what might stick.

    Both are big enough that they can afford to dump billions into either opportunities (XBox, YouTube) and defensive moves (Bing, Android, etc).

    How much has Google spent on Android? How much has it made?

    They spent 12.5B on Moto? Really? Vs $3.1B for DoubleClick (generating 1.5B/year) , $1.65B for YouTube (generating $1B/year), $102M for AdSense?

    If you want to argue that Android is necessary for Google to keep their near monopoly on search (despite MS pouring $$$ into Bing) and their huge margins on ads then I’ll not deny that either.

    I don’t think that the MS or Google shotgun approach is a dumb move…just sub-optimal vs having a focused vision of a new market and executing on it.

    *cough*Apple*cough* Of course, if your vision sucks the outcome is even more sub-optimal than a shotgun approach.

    I also don’t see much difference between the two companies either. Say what you want about the legality of what they did to Sun but they screwed them as royally as Gates would have back in the day…they just got away with it.

  114. @nigel
    All this only because I wrote that predicting the failure of an MS product is quite a safe bet, wrt the Surface. And that the XBox lost MS (a lot of) money.

  115. @Winter

    > they invested more money into XBox (and Bing, for that matter) than they will ever be able to repay from the profits of these enterprises.

    >All this only because I wrote that predicting the failure of an MS product is quite a safe bet, wrt the Surface. And that the XBox lost MS (a lot of) money.

    Again, we do not know this. We’re not even close to knowing it.

  116. @Tom
    We also have no proof Santa Clause does not exist. But we can infer that he does not exist.

  117. @winter I can make the same prediction of every non-ad related investment/acquisition that Google has made…VP8, Wave, etc and Android has lost Google a lot of money.

    Wanna bet that Google+ will be a failure? That’s a fairly safe bet too. But then again, it might not. Facebook could stumble…although most likely if it does it won’t be Google to take advantage.

    Doesn’t mean that neither Google nor MS will find success in their next venture. The odds are for them to get a hit eventually with this many at bats.

    MS is betting heavily on Win8 but even if it fails it can pull a “Win7 after a Vista debacle” and still be successful. Did you bet against Win7 too? That didn’t strike me as a smart bet and a lot of folks Microsoft was doomed after Vista too.

  118. @Winter

    >We also have no proof Santa Clause does not exist. But we can infer that he does not exist.

    I didn’t say that you are WRONG. I said that we DO NOT KNOW.

  119. @Tom
    “I didn’t say that you are WRONG. I said that we DO NOT KNOW.”

    Some reading in philosophy, eg, Popper and empiricists, would help you understand that there are no empirical facts we can be sure of. Absolute truth cannot be reached.

  120. @Winter

    >Some reading in philosophy, eg, Popper and empiricists, would help you understand

    I happen to have a degree in philosophy, but thanks for the condescending tone.

    >there are no empirical facts we can be sure of. Absolute truth cannot be reached.

    Knowledge does not require absolute proof. But it does require reasonable justification. We have no justification for the proposition that MS has not made, and never can make, money on the XBox. We have none of the relevant facts that we would need to reach such a conclusion.

  121. I know first-hand how compatible open-source office suites are with MS Office. They are not compatible enough. 90% is not good enough. 99% is not good enough. There is absolutely no reason for people in business to put themselves through the agony and inconvenience of not being compatible with the rest of the world.

    It’s the most frustrating thing in the world to have to deal with some stupid document incompatibility when you are trying to get things done in a busy day. We’ve all got enough hassles. Why add one more needlessly?

    Really? If this is the most frustrating thing in the world to you, your life must be going very well so far. Doubly so, if you’ve managed to make frustrations go away just by adding MS Office to your life.

    If you’re working with anyone outside your own immediate organizational group, they’re going to have some incompatible software. Not everyone upgrades at the same time, and not everyone has exactly the same incompatible extensions and homegrown IT crap installed on their machines. Quite a few people just don’t understand how their own choice of office software works, and send broken document files unreadable by any software.

    If you’re working with government, or any other organization where IT decision-making processes are only slightly better than random, people working on the same projects can end up not being able to read each others’ documents (or even their own, if they’re old enough), or they can collaborate to produce documents to some arbitrary standard that nobody else on the planet can read properly. Standardizing on only one choice of software makes this problem worse, since it reduces the likelihood that people will have access to software compatible with a document they receive.

    This is not a problem specific to software. I can’t read Japanese documents in Openoffice, but I can’t read Japanese documents in MS Office, PDF, or on paper either. Business people sometimes present challenges even with ostensibly English documents.

    All of those cases are frustrating, but I don’t see how choosing one package of software over another makes all (or even most of) the frustration go away, nor do I see how choosing one package instead of all others makes frustration go away (short of enforcing those choices on everyone you ever communicate with, which severely limits your ability to access opportunity). The best outcome I can see is trading one set of frustrations for another.

    When you get an unreadable document, you can politely ask the sender to send you a replacement document that you can read instead. Often they do, and everyone moves on to be frustrated by more important things. People who send a lot of documents quickly learn what formats they can send without people asking for something else. Sometimes they don’t, and everyone else quickly learns to work around people who make a habit of failing to communicate effectively.

  122. @Tom
    We can make pretty good inferences about the profits and losses from the XBox. The fact that MS refuses to tell us the real numbers does not disqualify our inferences.

    And all inferences and all the evidence we have points to billions of investments and at most millions of profit.

  123. The thing about MS Office is that I’ve never found a satisfied user of the product, nor someone happy to have upgraded.

  124. “Orangutans are skeptical of changes in their cages”… Simon and Garfunkel in “At the Zoo”

  125. @SPQR

    >The thing about MS Office is that I’ve never found a satisfied user of the product,
    >nor someone happy to have upgraded.

    If you’ve never found a satisfied user of MS office, then I suspect you’ve never worked for a large corporation, especially at or with the management level. But even if that were the case, it doesn’t change the fact that A) everyone (that you will interface with) runs on office and B) all the alternatives are worse.

    Whether we like it or not, Office is a defacto standard, and to be perfectly honest does a damn good job of ensuring that one office user can work with another’s documents since about 2000. Heck, they’ve released converters for Office 2000 to work with newer Office 2011 documents. By comparison, we have a LibreOffice document here at work that the windows and linux versions (differing by one minor version number) display completely differently.

    I would love to have the company I work for on LibreOffice, and we tried to convert. The IT department needed to upgrade people off of Office 2000 anyway, so we installed LibreOffice everywhere. And one by one, we’re buying new copies of Office because one by one we’re running into problems that LibreOffice can’t solve, or that are not easily solved without creating friction.

  126. Change in what they are used to. When they use a phone often, they will want other GUIs to look and behave the same.

    @winter:
    I don’t want my desktop to look like my phone. When I’m at my desk (bluetoothed to my phone with a keyboard, mouse, and big display), I want my phone to behave like a desktop. When I’m away from my desk, I want my phone to behave like a phone. They are two different environments in the same device. It has to play both roles well if it’s going to replace the desktop PC, and it can’t play both roles well by trying to be both at the same time. It needs to behave differently depending on the role it is playing at a given time.

  127. Just a quick statement on iPads in the corporate world.

    iPads are everywhere, and they are becoming as popular as laptops, if not more so, in the corporate world.

    I have seen entire sales forces get iPads as their main method of checking in with HQ. They still have laptops, but they leave the laptops at home and use the iPads on the road.

  128. tmoney, no, never. Let’s see the largest company I’ve ever worked for had … hm, 18,000 employees at its peak I think.

    But more interestingly, you quickly abandoned confronting my point entirely to try to make a point that you wanted to imply refuted mine … but didn’t.

  129. @SPQR
    “The thing about MS Office is that I’ve never found a satisfied user of the product, nor someone happy to have upgraded.”

    Add Windows to that. When you talk to those users, they all react with “I have to use it but….”

    Also @Jeff L.
    There are two points here:
    1 Many or, even most, users are afraid of their Windows + Office and panic when an icon or button is not at it’s usual place. They black-out when confronted with a new GUI/Application, afraid to touch something for fear of destroying their work and computer.

    2 An application is also a workflow in code (select this, push that, type there,..). When changing applications you will have to change the workflow. But changing workflow is very difficult as that is never explicitly formalized.

  130. @hsu
    “iPads are everywhere, and they are becoming as popular as laptops, if not more so, in the corporate world.”

    The “Office is all, compatibility must be more than 100%” is just a rationalization to justify resistance to change.

    When there is status involved, like with the iPad, people will put up with (and do) everything just to get the high status object. Then, suddenly, the documents can and will be adapted to the application, instead of the other way around.

  131. @SPQR

    I never wanted to imply any refutation. My point was that your point is irrelevant, and there’s no need to refute it because it can be true and my point still stands. Whether or not you’ve met satisfied MS Office users has no bearing on the fact that Office is the defacto business standard, any more than the fact that the unhappiness of web developers changed the fact that IE was the defacto browser standard for years, and if you wanted a business web site, you coded to IE. Did that change? Sure, as more people started using better alternatives, the businesses followed, though you still need to code for IE. But the key here is that the customers changed the demand. In businesses, the demand for Office is also dictated by the “customers”, in this case the other businesses and people you interact with. If you have an MS office installation from the past 12 years, and I send you an MS Office document created in the last 12 years, chances are you will be able to open that document without anything more than perhaps a converter pack install. And in the few cases where you experience a hitch, those same converter packs do a very good job at degrading gracefully. I know this to be a fact because I support users ranging between Win2k with Office2k and Win7 with Office 2011. By comparison, if I send you that same MS office document and you have LibreOffice, whether it opens properly or degrades gracefully is a crap shoot.

    @ Winter

    >The “Office is all, compatibility must be more than 100%” is just a rationalization
    >to justify resistance to change.

    No one ever said that compatibility must be over 100%, just that it needs to be better than it is. And as much as you may hate to admit it, the iPad compatibility is better than LibreOffice. At the same time, it’s not perfect, which is why so many people are waiting anxiously for Office for the iPad.

  132. When there is status involved, like with the iPad, people will put up with (and do) everything just to get the high status object. Then, suddenly, the documents can and will be adapted to the application, instead of the other way around.

    Perhaps it is “high status” (@ $399? Really?) because it doesn’t suck?

    Nah. That would imply it has something other than “status” going for it…where is my rolleyes smilie when I need it?

  133. @tmoney
    “No one ever said that compatibility must be over 100%, just that it needs to be better than it is. ”

    But it always needs to be better, until it has to be bug compatible (which I consider more than 100% compatible).

    I have heard that for two decades now. Compatibility is the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. You can chase it, but you can never come close enough. Except that I have not used MS Office since early 2000s, and I have been just fine communicating with people who do. It is always someone else who has the problems.

    Now, when I talk to Office users, they constantly have problems with incompatible versions of documents.

  134. >Except that I have not used MS Office since early 2000s, and I have been just
    >fine communicating with people who do. It is always someone else who has the problems.

    And if all you’re doing is using word processing to communicate simple personal text documents back and forth, I imagine you wouldn’t have many problems, as I haven’t either. Of course, you and I are capable and willing to go through the steps to make sure we don’t, including exporting to alternate file formats to ensure we don’t.

    On the other hand, god help you if you need more than 65k rows in your spreadsheet (http://www.oooforum.org/forum/viewtopic.phtml?t=75659). That limitation was the reason why mid deployment at the company, we had to move everyone from OO to LibreOffice, where at least they fixed that one.

    And forget working with any .docx with any formatting beyond that which you can do in a rich text doc. Don’t even think about trying to share a powerpoint (the life blood of the corporate world) with Libre Office user either. You’ll be lucky if the only thing that’s wrong is that some images and backgrounds don’t line up properly. And as I mentioned before, LibreOffice can’t even get a Base document to format correctly between different OSes, so don’t even bother attempting to open that access db, because you’re not going to be able to do shit with it.

    And of course, the long answer is that most of these things with some time and effort are resolveable. But you know what? I’ve got better things to do with my time than spend all day going from desk to desk helping people convert between file formats and work around the issues that occur when trying to talk between LibreOffice and MS Office. It’s easier, and honestly, it’s cheaper (when considering lost time and delayed projects), to just buy everyone a copy of MS Office and be done with it.

  135. @tmoney
    “And forget working with any .docx with any formatting beyond that which you can do in a rich text doc. Don’t even think about trying to share a powerpoint (the life blood of the corporate world) with Libre Office user either.”

    Funny, the other day I heard complaints from someone from a large municipality who could not open Office documents send over the email with the MS Office version all civil servants had to use. Actually, none of the people from other institutions needing to read this document were able to open it. LibreOffice would at least have allowed to open that document.

    And then all these high school students who fell for the “free demonstration version” of the newest MS Office. Only to find out they could not read their home work created with it after the test period expired.

    For every LibreOffice user with MS Office compatibility problems, there are hundreds (thousands?) of MS Office users with MS Office compatibility problems. Why is that not a problem?

  136. @ Winter

    >Actually, none of the people from other institutions needing to read this document were
    >able to open it. LibreOffice would at least have allowed to open that document.

    What makes you think LibreOffice would have done any better opening an obviously corrupt file?

    >And then all these high school students who fell for the “free demonstration version” of
    >the newest MS Office. Only to find out they could not read their home work created with it
    >after the test period expired.

    Wait, when did demo software with an expiration date suddenly become something you “fall for”?

    >For every LibreOffice user with MS Office compatibility problems, there are hundreds
    >(thousands?) of MS Office users with MS Office compatibility problems. Why is that not
    >a problem?

    Four reasons:

    1) Most are solvable by way of a simple converter pack installation.
    2) Of those that aren’t solvable by way of converter pack installation, most of the rest are problems the people have already been trained or learned to work around. Invested learning time which would have to be done again for a new software platform.
    3) Of the ones that the user doesn’t know and aren’t solved by the converter pack installation, the remainder can be solved with a call to microsoft support, who despite being outsourced, will still be more helpful than the Open Office support forums who’s standard answers consist of “RTFM”, “Implement it yourself” and “Why are you still on version 3.2.0? You should upgrade to 3.2.57″.
    4) Of all the remaining that can’t be solved with one of the foregoing, the rest are known issues, and the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t.

    You seem to be misunderstanding me. I have no love for MS Office, nor its many quirks or pay to play upgrade treadmills. But I do acknowledge that MS Office is the undisputed king at what it does, is a defacto standard and despite its many faults, still has fewer faults than the alternatives. And as a result, I acknowledge that Open/LibreOffice is not and will not surpass it for some time to come.

    Firefox succeeded because it did everything IE did, and did it better. LibreOffice doesn’t do everything office does, and it doesn’t do them better either, hence LibreOffice isn’t a replacement for MS Office.

  137. > The thing about MS Office is that I’ve never found a satisfied user of the product

    Meet the five members of my immediate family.

    > , nor someone happy to have upgraded.

    I haven’t asked my wife and daughters this question though. I wasn’t happy to upgrade, but I am now. I frequently don’t like upgrades, even of FOSS products, like Eclipse, because they cause me work I don’t like for features I don’t care about.

    > Add Windows to that. When you talk to those users, they all react with “I have to use it but….”

    Meet the five members of my family. As regards updates, it depends on the release. We all liked XP, but we haven’t all switched to Vista yet, because we drive cars and computers till the wheels fall off.

    Yours,
    Tom

  138. So Google announced the Nexus 7 — a 7-inch tablet — and the Nexus Q — a media… ball… thing.

    What I don’t understand is — How do they expect to make money off these things? Amazon and BN sell weak, underpowered 7″ tablets at a loss in order to get people locked into their online storefronts to sell books and shit. Now along comes Google with essentially a 7″ Transformer tablet at the same price point? Do they really think “Google Play” is going to make back the gobs of money they’re throwing away with each sale?

    And the Nexus Q looks like it does less than an Apple TV at 3 times the price.

    Android is turning out to be a tremendous money pit for Google. Meanwhile, iOS devices account for more than half of Apple’s revenue and are the reason why Apple is literally the most successful company in the history of Western capitalism. That’s why one of these operating systems will be remembered as the one that changed the world; and the other will be remembered as an interesting experiment that turned into a financial disaster.

  139. Funny to think that the kind of folks that believe that there are no happy Windows users are the same kind of folks that believe there are no happy Linux users.

    They’ve just taken opposite sides is all.

  140. @nigel
    I have quite a lot of experience with windows users. None of them were happy windows user. Most of them were afraid of windows.

    On the other hand, I must admit that I don’t know any unhappy Mac users and only few unhappy linux users.

    Maybe the latter two groups are happy because they chose their computer platform out of free will?

  141. @tmoney
    You are reciting the holy MS incantation of “Blame the User”.

  142. @Jeff Read
    “Android is turning out to be a tremendous money pit for Google.”

    Funny, how MS dumping billions and billions into Skype, XBox, and Bing get applause for strategic thinking (not from you, I know), but Google making billions from search is considered a bunch of morons because they conquer the future computing platform of 7 billion people.

    Somehow, I can see the rationality of MS squandering money even though they are too incompetent to succeed. It is trying and likely fail, or not trying and certainly fail. I can also see the rationality behind Google poring money into a venture that gives them first class access to the worlds next computer platform.

    Strange that you cannot see why that is very rational behavior.

    @Jeff Read
    “Meanwhile, iOS devices account for more than half of Apple’s revenue and are the reason why Apple is literally the most successful company in the history of Western capitalism.”

    If that is how you define success, you could be right. If you think getting 7 billion people on the internet should count as success, Apple is only second.

  143. @ Winter

    >You are reciting the holy MS incantation of “Blame the User”.

    Sorry what? Are you and I even reading the same comment thread? I’m pretty sure I’ve said multiple times that the problem is that LibreOffice is not better than Microsoft Office at the things people want to do. A problem which falls squarely on the developers of LibreOffice.

    The users are doing exactly when I expect them to do, take the path of least resistance and surprise in order to accomplish the task they set out to accomplish. And since none of the users are setting out to accomplish the task of “Using an open source office suite”, the path of least resistance and surprise is MS Office.

    Users aren’t dumb, but they aren’t computer people either. They use the computers as tools the same way they use pens and paper and staplers. They have invested a certain amount of time in learning how to use this tool, and they are going to make the decisions which get the most benefit out of that time invested. LibreOffice is not that decision, and won’t be until either it acheives near 100% compatibility, or until its perceived benefits outweigh the costs needed to invest in it.

  144. @tmoney
    Then in detail

    @tmoney
    “What makes you think LibreOffice would have done any better opening an obviously corrupt file?”

    The file was not corrupt, but the receivers were still kept on an older version of Office. The ICT department was still not ready to upgrade.

    @tmoney
    “Wait, when did demo software with an expiration date suddenly become something you “fall for”?”

    They fell for the bait. And these children were not the only ones.

    @tmoney
    “1) Most are solvable by way of a simple converter pack installation.”

    If the employer installs it.

    @tmoney
    “most of the rest are problems the people have already been trained or learned to work around.”

    Blaming the victim

    @tmoney
    “the remainder can be solved with a call to microsoft support, ”

    Hollow laughs

    @tmoney
    “4) Of all the remaining that can’t be solved with one of the foregoing, the rest are known issues, and the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t.”

    Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.

    @tmoney
    “LibreOffice doesn’t do everything office does, and it doesn’t do them better either, hence LibreOffice isn’t a replacement for MS Office.”

    There is a nice lesson here about the power of controlling the standard. If you control the standard, no one will ever be able to comply by it but you.

  145. I can also see the rationality behind Google poring money into a venture that gives them first class access to the worlds next computer platform.

    No, I’ve seen the argument that Google is trying to stave off a threatened Apple dominance by

    But there’s a problem: Apple makes all that money by selling products that people actually WANT to buy. Google is forced into the position of building and dumping a clone platform so aggressively that people HAVE to consider it. Think about it: their end run around Apple’s relentless focus on quality and user experience was to provide a smartphone platform that still hands control over the final UX to manufacturers and carriers, just like in the bad old dumbphone days.

    Manufacturers and carriers are Android’s target market, not you.

    And they’re doing it with this bizarre, dot-commy strategy of burning through butt-tons of money dumping the product in order to “monetize eyeballs”.

    So no, I don’t see the rationality behind it. It’s a panicky, defensive move. Like Microsoft, Nokia, and RIM as discussed by Jay Maynard, they are reacting to Apple. It just so happens that Google reacted quickly and early enough to last this long in the mobile space. But the iPhone is self-sustaining; Android must, eventually, run out of gas. Google doesn’t have an Office to keep it afloat like Microsoft does. It has search, which no one has to turn to them to use. (DuckDuckGo is becoming increasingly attractive because of its privacy policy, among other things.)

  146. @Jeff Read
    “So no, I don’t see the rationality behind it. It’s a panicky, defensive move. Like Microsoft, Nokia, and RIM as discussed by Jay Maynard, they are reacting to Apple.”

    Except that Android is now at 900k activations a day. And Apple is copying features of Android phones in their iPhone. Android is still outselling iPhone 2:1.

    Google’s income is still growing. So the “running out of steam” part might very well be behind the far horizon. Say, when 13 out of every 14 humans have an Android phone, and the remaining 1 an iPhone.

  147. Android must, eventually, run out of gas.

    Google has roughly $50 billion in “cash and short-term investments” on the balance sheet.

    So, let’s assume that they’re losing, oh, $100 per Nexus 7 shipped. In that case, they “run out of gas” after five hundred million Nexus 7s have shipped, or five for every iPad Apple has ever shipped—and they still aren’t in debt. So then they discontinue the Nexus 7 and stop the bleeding of the cash, in a world where the dominant tablet platform is Android 4.1

    Or, alternatively — Google has been making about $2.5 billion a quarter, according to its income statement filings (even with all the costs of developing Android as a platform). So, at that same $100/unit loss, they could sell twenty five million Nexus 7s a quarter, indefinitely, without touching their assets or borrowing a dime.

  148. @Winter “RIM “refocusing”, ie, close to collapse”

    The 43% drop in revenue and going from a 695Million$ Profit to a 518Million$ Loss for the same quarter year on year is also signs of a fast spiral down the drain…

    Eric’s Comscore data for US user base shows them on a steady downward slope for Feb-April 2012 after holding more or less steady for the previous 6 months. I wonder what the announcement that BB10 is delayed until sometime in 2013 will do to sales for the rest of this year. Wasn’t that supposed to come out late 2011 or early 2012?

  149. @ Winter

    >The file was not corrupt, but the receivers were still kept on an older version of Office.
    >The ICT department was still not ready to upgrade.

    Given that I know for a fact that you can open most office 2011 documents in Office 2000 (with a converter), I have to wonder just how old a version of office they were using, and equally wonder if we think that a version of open office from that same age would have opened an equally newer open office document. Being open source doesn’t prevent file version issues.

    >If the employer installs it.

    If your employer is unable or unwilling to install free compatibility updates for new document versions, it doesn’t matter if you use OO or MS Office, you’re not going to be able to open newer formats. OO1 won’t (natively) open newer OO3 documents, and MSO 2000 won’t (natively) open MSO 2011 documents.

    >Blaming the victim

    That phrase, I do not think it means what you think it means.

    >Hollow laughs

    Yet, you probably think asking for help on the OO forums is a perfectly good idea. From this I can also tell you have likely never actually dealt with MS business support before. While not something I would recommend doing for your health, they still actually do provide real and usable support.

    >Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.

    That phrase, I do not think it means what you think it means.

    >There is a nice lesson here about the power of controlling the standard. If you
    >control the standard, no one will ever be able to comply by it but you.

    It’s more than just the standard format though. Simple operations like splitting text into columns, or merging them back even just a year or so ago were tasks that OO Calc didn’t support, or didn’t support to the same degree that Excel did. OO still can’t do page numbering / headers / footers right. Forget the damn document format for a moment, because we configured OO (and later Libre Office) here at the company to auto save to the MS formats, so there was no format compatibility issues. The things that are pushing us back to MS office is that OO/LO just don’t let you do the things that MS Office does, and has done for years. We’re not talking format parity here, we’re talking basic feature parity. Earlier I linked to the row limit issue, here is the voting thread (https://issues.apache.org/ooo/show_bug.cgi?id=30215) it took over FIVE YEARS to fix this bug. Here’s a question for you. If your company got a data file from a partner with over 65k rows, would you have been keen on waiting 5 years for a fix for something that you could solve simply by having bought the better piece of software in the first place?

    At this point Winter, I have to assume that you are so blinded by your hatred of all things Microsoft that you just can not reasonably see how far away from being truly competitive OO/LO really is. And so, I’m done arguing with you on this point, because clearly you will never concede that MS Office holds its position of importance for any other reason than mass brainwashing.

  150. @tmoney
    Maybe it is informative to know that I mainly use LaTeX. I base my opinion of MS Office on others who use it on a regular basis. They simply tell me about their frustrations.

    As others have remarked here. There seem to be only few happy Office users.

  151. winter,

    > @nigel
    > I have quite a lot of experience with windows users. None of them were happy windows user. Most of them were afraid of windows.

    Four words. Truly massive confirmation bias.

    I know lots of Windows users too. Many are happy users. Most are not afraid. Many do not like Linux or Apple, just because they aren’t used to it. I am one of those users, myself. I can see that the Apple GUI is dead nuts kewl. I understand why people love it. It’s beautiful. But it doesn’t not work the way I expect. You are describing my sister a little. I wouldn’t say she was afraid of Windows, or that she was not happy with it. But she does like Apple better. Mainly because it does not accumulate cruft and malware, and because of the beautifil physical display. OTOH, she never once mentioned the supposed superior user interface.

    Now that I know that you have never met any happy Windows users in spite of lots of experience I can properly discount any anecdotal evidence you have or will supply. It’s not a 100% discount. I’d say about 80%.

    Yours,
    Tom

  152. BTW, anyone care to comment on this:

    “iPhone 4 on Virgin Mobile costs $549.99 for the 8 GB model and iPhone 4S $649.99 for the 16 GB model, with no contract, and no activation or roaming fees.”

    Plus:

    “… With the discount, Virgin Mobile offers a $30 a month plan with 300 voice minutes, unlimited text and 2.5 gigabytes of data before throttling; a $40-a-month plan with 1,200 voice minutes, unlimited texts and 2.5 gigabytes of data before throttling; and of course the unlimited plan we started with. With the cheapest plan, after six months, Virgin is cheaper.”
    — New York Times

    http://gadgetwise.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/06/12/pre-paid-iphone-shoot-out-cricket-vs-virgin/

    Yours,
    Tom

  153. An interesting article I stumbled on via HN, Why Files Exist, is both about why keeping explicit files is important to Open Source (interoperability) and why iOS is heading for trouble as people try to use it as a general purpose OS.

  154. Tom DeGisi, Winter, Nigel,

    The number of happy computer users, I’d say, is vanishingly small. Humans do not cope well with novelty. If aliens were to land, I’d say that a big chunk of the civilized world would find it distressing, and even continue to be distressed if the aliens were nice, peace-meaning folks like Vulcans or something. It would profoundly upset how they view the world and their place in it. My mom has a difficult time with time travel. It disturbs her, and she actively shields herself from thinking too much about it, lest the implications cause her very mind to come undone.

    Computers are like aliens. They’re much more like people than most other machines (your Hoover vacuum cleaner can’t take written orders and can’t remember things), but they’re more like machines than people or animals are. They fall into an uncanny valley in the spectrum of things we have to interact with, and people tend to be suspicious of a computer’s unfathomable “hidden motives” (the practices of proprietary software companies obviously not helping here).

    Most people may eventually learn to tolerate one kind of computer, after they learn the ins and outs of how it (apparently) works (things like Ctl+C means cut, Ctl+V means paste, and so on). Presented with another kind they are thrown for a loop and have to begin the whole readjustment process all over again to the presence of this inscrutable alien thing in their lives.

    There is a morlockian underclass of our species — let’s call them “hackers” — who are so peculiarly wired as to get a little dopamine hit every time their consciousness is expanded. They’re fascinated by the implications of time travel, aliens, or even more mundane things like sapient dolphins. (There’s a reason why SF fans and hackers overlap a huge amount.) A small thing like a computer is no sweat for this group. “You mean you’re selling electronic genies that do whatever I instruct them, without fatigue or complaint? Cool, where do I buy one?” This class will take delight in any type of computer running any type of OS, as long as it didn’t actively oppose their tendency to explore and to push boundaries. They are the prime candidates for what I would term “happy computer users”.

    They are also, sadly, very much in the tiny minority.

  155. An interesting article I stumbled on via HN, Why Files Exist, is both about why keeping explicit files is important to Open Source (interoperability) and why iOS is heading for trouble as people try to use it as a general purpose OS.

    Eric himself raised many of those same points in defense of the file, after Jaron Lanier attacked the file as a philosophical concept with his characteristic postmodern bathos.

    Me, I’m in a somewhat middle ground. Still waiting for the database file system to take off like Microsoft promised us it would; and hopeful for a new future of superfast, nonvolatile RAM that will let us treat all our computers’ storage as one big randomly-accessed data structure. In the meantime, the file is an incredibly useful abstraction for today. What I can’t stand is the abstraction of the document so beloved of GUI designers.

  156. Jeff Read,

    Do you have children? Children cope with many kinds of novelty very, very well.

    Yours,
    Tom

  157. @Jeff Read
    Yes. That the best lawyer may win.

    I am reading a book “Third world America”. The fact that the title does not say “USA” say enough about its global viewpoint (none). But it is a nice overview on how the US is able to work itself down to developing country status. This software patent business is a prime example. The patent is about using knowledge to give answers.

    Can it get worse?
    (rhetorical question, yes it can and will get worse).

  158. @Jeff Read and all Apple fanboys:

    In your opinion that patents are a reflection of Apple’s innovation, quality and sophistication? Really!?

    Hypocrisy and shame are words that neither you nor Apple know the meaning of!

    The only innovation that Apple knows about is protection racket and they should talk to the Mafia about that.

    Now that Apple has lost the edge and with every new release it’s starting to copy Android more and more, Apple’s has show its true face: not quality, not innovation, but cowardice and dishonesty.

    America has a justice system that would make every totalitarian and fascist regime around the world proud.

  159. Instead of venting my own uninformed opinions, lets hear what Judge Posner has to say about Apple’s patent war. I get the impression that the legal scholars in the USA are fed up with the destruction caused by these patent wars.

    Apple’s patent absurdity exposed at last
    US appeal court judge Richard Posner has finally said the unsayable: that Apple’s and other tech firms’ patent battles are a ridiculous abuse of intellectual property law
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2012/jul/01/apple-google-patent-case-john-naughton-comment

    Until now. What happened is that Posner, in an unusual move, got himself assigned to a lower court to hear a case in which Apple was suing Google (which had purchased Motorola in order to get its hands on the phone company’s patent portfolio) over alleged infringement of Apple’s smartphone patents. Posner listened to the lawyers and then threw out the case. But what was really dramatic was the way he eviscerated the legal submissions. At one point, for example, Apple claimed that Google was infringing one of its patents on the process of unlocking a phone by swiping the screen. “Apple’s argument that a tap is a zero-length swipe,” said Posner, “is silly. It’s like saying that a point is a zero-length line.”

  160. Pingback: COB-72: bureaucratic emergency procedures

  161. john,

    The patent in question concerns Siri. It covers how Siri is able to guess the content of an English sentence, and heuristically select one of several data sources which is most likely to provide an answer to the query.

    That’s what Apple nailed Samsung on. Cloning Siri. And Siri IS an innovation.

    Before you go on about how fucked up and backward Murka is, do bear in mind that Apple has successfully gotten injunctions against the sale of Samsung products on far less significant patents, in civilized places like Germany. So save it for the health care debate.

  162. After all the talk about WIndows 8 and Metro and alienation of the existing user base to chase ‘mobile’ rainbows…. MS is putting Metro in *server* OS’s, too. I don’t normally read Windows forums much, but it’s been very interesting reading discussions about Metro in the Server 2012 RC.

    Typical quote:

    All of the adherents say just click CTRL-X-UP-ARROW-ENTER-ENTER-RIGHT CLICK but they have been religiously drinking this Kool-Aid since it first leaked. I just want to be able to manage my damned domain, recover a deleted user object once in a blue moon, and review the event log without missing yet another lunch break. The tools in 2008 R2 was a signifiant step forward; now it feels like running an enterprise from Windows Phone 7.

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