The wages of secrecy

One of my regulars, contemplating the increasingly pathetic series of clusterfucks that have passed for exciting new products at Microsoft, wonders why a company with all its advantages – more money than $DEITY to hire the best developers, lots of experience, dominant position in a major technology market – can’t seem to release a decent product any more.

The answer is simple and deep. It’s because evil is inefficient.

Ethical behavior and sustainability are connected in both directions; the wages of sin are self-damage.

When you pursue a business model based on secrecy rent and control of your customers, you must become the kind of organization that an obsession with secrecy and control requires. Eventually, this will smother your ability to do decent engineering as surely as water flows downhill and the sun rises in the morning.

This is why Microsoft looks so doomed and desperate. Yes, Steve Ballmer is a colossal fool who has never met a strategic decision he couldn’t bungle, but in an important way that is symptom rather than cause. Dysfunctional leaders arise from dysfunctional cultures; the problem behind Ballmer is that Microsoft’s culture is broken, and the problem behind that is that the monopolistic/authoritarian goals around which Microsoft’s culture was constructed are incompatible with any other kind of excellence.

A more poetic way to put this is Tolkien’s “Oft evil will shall evil mar.” Google’s “Don’t be evil” isn’t mere idealism or posturing, it’s an attempt to sustain the kind of culture in which excellence is possible. (Whether and how long this will be a successful attempt is a different question.)

Apple’s turn is next.

293 thoughts on “The wages of secrecy

  1. Well said. Microsoft has spent decades building a world where its own interests are diametrically opposed to everyone else’s. You just can’t turn that around quickly, even if you want to or are capable of it. As the “no one ever got fired for buying Microsoft” generation begin retiring and are replaced by people who grew up having a taste of freedom, the problem is only going to get worse.

  2. I don’t think that’s so simple.

    Apple is no less evil yet so far it progresses just fine.

    I think it’s just usual case of disruptive technology case: smartphones and tablets are poised to overtake PCs in a few years but right now effective hybrid is totally impossible.

    Apple understood relatively early that and works from the bottom: iOS is not a good fit for the laptop right now but it works just fine on smartphones and tablets and eventually it’ll cannibalize MacOS, too.

    Google has no PC OS to protect at all thus it works as typical disruptor.

    But Microsoft is foolishly trying to win using it’s beloved “tight integration” game. This produces hideous Frankenstains which are equally bad on all types of devices. Sure, it’ll become better with time, but this will be, as usual, too late (by the time incumbent finally manages to produce something suitable for both it’s traditional customers and a new niche all disruptors manage to do the same, too – and they basically *own* this new niche while “traditional incumbent” has may be few percents of a market).

    Just *why* the well-known problems with this approach are ignored by Microsoft is beyond me.

  3. >Apple is no less evil yet so far it progresses just fine.

    Until it doesn’t.

    A reason people and corporations do evil is that they discount long-term negative consequences even when they can see those are likely.

  4. Apple is no less evil yet so far it progresses just fine.

    Historically this is just myopic. Apple went nowhere from the late 1980′s to the late 1990′s. People forget that Apple was a few months from being gutted and sold off for scrap parts until the second coming of Steve Jobs.

    The lesson of Apple is clear: personality cults can overcome evil behavior in the short term. Whether this is due to the personality cult leader being a genuine genius, or due to the self-fulfilling prophecy of following the great leader is immaterial (in the case of Apple, it’s probably a little of both).

  5. This post first reminds me why “fustercluck” is my favorite spoonerism.

    The success of Microsoft has always baffled me. I could never understand how business owners could be (perhaps literally) hoodwinked into accepting a contract that makes them pay royalties for software on all the computers they ship, even on those computers that don’t have the software installed. According to the history books I’ve read (I’m trying to download the very first edition of Scott Mueller’s Upgrading and Repairing PCs, but Que’s download page only goes as far back as the sixth, and I’m sure I have read this in another place as well) Microsoft pulled off this feat with the very first version of MS-DOS. I also could never understand that fateful night in 1995 August when people senselessly rushed to buy the Microsoft OS that finally, eleven years behind the competition, featured an interface on par with the Macintosh… many of those people didn’t even own computers!

    I therefore must agree with khlm… it isn’t so simple as “Oft evil will shall evil mar.” (That’s certainly not to disagree with Tolkien; I’ve seen it apply to grocery stores and space programs.)

  6. I’m confused, wasn’t it yourself who called rms “extreme” because of calling certain practices “evil”? And now you’re yourself calling “business model based on secrecy rent and control of your customers” that which requires “wages of sin”. What better describes that model than proprietary license which sole purpose is to protect “secrecy rent” and secure “control of your customers”?

    It would appear that you’re actually saying the exact same thing that rms is talking about all along. The interesting thing about it is that when asked directly, you’d deny it. This is a great mystery to me – in some posts you appear to be almost channeling rms, yet in others you energetically oppose him on subjects you said yourself in other words just moments ago. It’s like some weird schizophrenia where you seem to have some mental barriers in directly coming to certain conclusions even when they directly follow from your reasoning. You are just not taking the next step, you stop right before it and turn around.

    It’s amazing, I won’t stop trying to understand how it’s possible to think in these ways and never realize it until this mystery is revealed to me :)

  7. Ahh…bullshit. The road is littered with the wrecks of “ethical businesses” and some of the most “evil” businesses are successes. Witness Samsung. And Walmart. And Amazon for that matter. Doesn’t keep me from being a Prime member…although I avoid Walmart like the plague.

    Costco is an industry leader in ethical behavior…at least in terms of treating employees fairly and with excellent customer service. It is far more likely that Costco gets buried by Walmart/Sams Club than the other way around.

    And your definition of “evil” is highly questionable. “Secrecy rent and control”? Fancy words for “software product”. Closed source is not evil unless you are RMS or one of his adherents.

    Google is no more “ethical” than Apple. Why on earth would you believe that? Because of GSOC or some pithy saying? I like Chris and some other folks at Google but Google the entity is just another megacorp.

    Microsoft is sucking badly not because of “secrecy rent” but piss poor execution and horrific leadership.

    Sun was sucking badly not because of “open source” but piss poor execution and horrific leadership. Which is more obsessed with control and “secrecy rent”: Oracle or Sun? Which purchased the other at a fire sale?

  8. Nick,

    Eric is smart, and I seriously doubt he didn’t see your reply coming. Had I remembered Richard Stallman and his antics (along with how Eric has lambasted him all these years), I probably would have posted a message like yours myself… Anyway, I’m excitedly looking forward to Eric’s reply, I’m guessing he’s already giving it a lot of thought…

    I’m going to guess it’ll have something to do with evil not being inherent (as Richard believes) but that you can judge a tree by its fruits…

    Terry

  9. >It would appear that you’re actually saying the exact same thing that rms is talking about all along.

    Look again. The bases of our reasoning are very different. Your inability to understand this is your failure, not mine.

    RMS is basically a moralist who uses pragmatic arguments only grudgingly. He starts from a gut-level, quasi-religious conviction that certain kinds of behavior are evil and directs his intellect towards supporting that position. Like other moralists, he believes in the importance of not only right behavior but right thought, and that right thought has to come first. “Good” and “evil” are his native terms of reference, and he reaches naturally for the role of a jeremiad-spouting prophet in the Judeo-Christian style.

    I’m not a moralist. I’m a pragmatist operating at a level of long-term vision and ruthlessness that is difficult for most people to wrap their minds around (and perhaps impossible for you). I don’t give a shit about “right thought” as long as I can elicit the behaviors I want, and I believe “right thought” usually follows changes in behavior as a rationalization rather than causally preceding them. My native terms of reference are efficiency, consequences, and inexorable natural law – when I do the prophet thing it comes out Buddhist or Taoist-flavored.

    RMS’s main weapon is moral suasion. Mine is praxeological analysis. Come back when you understand the difference.

  10. >I’m going to guess it’ll have something to do with evil not being inherent (as Richard believes) but that you can judge a tree by its fruits…

    That was astute of you.

  11. @Nick
    The difference is in methodology. Eric has states he believes that Stallman’s _methods_ are destructively counterproductive. Eric himself is being perfectly consistent here; lurk more.

    @Nigel
    ” “Secrecy rent and control”? Fancy words for “software product”. Closed source is not evil …”

    No, but the kinds of behavior MS has exhibited with regards to their particular closed source certainly can be classified as such. Thus, ‘secrecy rent and control.’ Why you conflate that with ‘software product’ is beyond me.

  12. Historically this is just myopic. Apple went nowhere from the late 1980?s to the late 1990?s. People forget that Apple was a few months from being gutted and sold off for scrap parts until the second coming of Steve Jobs.

    Strange that you think that I forgot about that episode. The fact is: Apple was evil before that crisis (in fact most “evil deeds” Microsoft is famous for were originally invented by Apple), it was actually trying to be less evil in the midst of said crisis (when it started licensing MacOS, worked with other companies to create PowerPC-based “platform”, etc) and it become certifiable evil again after said crisis (one of the first things Jobs did after his return is dissolution of all these alliances).

    Think about it: two periods when Apple was most evil were periods of success, one period when Apple tried to “play nice” it almost went out of business. Isn’t it… strange from POV of the presented theory?

  13. A reason people and corporations do evil is that they discount long-term negative consequences even when they can see those are likely.

    Well, from pragmatic POV this idea immediately introduces the notion of “necessary evil”: if you play nice-nice with everyone then you are quickly killed and it does not matter what consequences your deeds have long-term, if you poison everything around your for a short-term gain then eventually negative consequences from your evil deeds kill you, thus there are obviously some degree of evil which is optimal for long-term survival. Now the question becomes: what determines this optimal proportion? And can any firm survive indefinitely or will negative consequences from even necessary evil will eventually inevitably kill it?

  14. Precisely as I said, you’re using different words to describe exactly the same. What you call “moralist” has very much very pragmatic consequences yet you talk about them as some kind of opposing or mutually exclusive principles – they’re not, that is a false dichotomy that you’ve created for yourself to excuse yourself from getting to the same conclusions as rms.

    You yourself are implying that “business model based on secrecy rent and control of your customers” is “evil” by your own words – this is no different than what rms says any any way, You mention no “pragmatic reason”, you very clearly used the word “evil” – now, does that word not evoke moral connotations? Of course it does, it’s entire definition is an antithesis to “good morals” and there is nothing wrong _or unpragmatic_ about that.

    Morals is just a different word for a set of values that you consider important for a satisfying and fulfilling life – that is the most fundamental pragmatic benefit I can think of. That you’ve chosen to redefine it to preserve some kind of your ideology that rejects anything coming close to being called “morals” is really not my problem.

    When MS or any other company chooses to follow a business model of secrecy and control of their customers and that then leads to bad outcomes for itself or its users rms calls that “evil” or immoral based on that very pragmatic outcome … and you call it, well … also evil it turns out, so what’s the difference?

    Just your stubbornness to follow your reasoning where it logically leads because it conflicts with your ideology of rejecting the concept of morals as the pragmatic tool they are.

    You don’t “give a shit about right thought” yet you rant about “dysfunctional culture” – where do you think culture comes from? Are you listening to yourself, I mean really … who is the one rationalizing here and twisting logic to suit his own desired reality?
    You some

  15. I don’t think evil has that much to do with MSFT’s apparent fade. It’s simply bad vision and bad leadership. They keep missing the trends (internet, mobile, SaaS) until they are way past obvious. And they need to move on to a world past the legacy of Windows. They think Windows is the answer to everything. It’s not.

  16. Another thing to note besides you falsely implying that morals and pragmatism are mutually exclusive is your own very narrow definition of what you consider “pragmatic”. Apparently that doesn’t include my ability to share a program with my friend, or my ability to change a program, pay someone to change a program for me or _safeguard that freedom_ by using a GPL license. (Or presumably for me to advocate for others to use such a license if they care about preserving those freedoms)

    That somehow doesn’t make it into your list of “pragmatic” concerns, yet obviously these are all very much pragmatic considerations. We may debate whether some or all of the are desirable but that changes nothing about the fact that they’re very much pragmatic.

    Your “pragmatism” seems to be restricted exclusively to the “technical aspect” and even that in somewhat narrow way.

    Does this remind you of anything? According to you it’s those pesky “moralists” who are trying to impose their moral values on everyone, that’s why you’re trying so hard to distance yourself from “them” and denounce every suggestion of someone following or advocating any morals, right?

    And what is it that you’re doing here? Imposing on others what constitutes a “real pragmatic consideration” and what does not, who do you think you are telling rms or me what is “pragmatic” and what is not? If I wouldn’t consider GPL pragmatic, and very much pragmatic at that, I wouldn’t advocate for people to use it.

    You imposing on others what they should consider “pragmatic” is no different than your idea of a “moralist” imposing their “morals” – you just call it a different word, you’re a moralist in disguise. RMS is at least honest about it …

  17. “The answer is simple and deep. It’s because evil is inefficient.”

    This may be very deep indeed, in that it’s almost a tautology. But there’s a difference between an internal evil (such as a company being badly run, or somebody dying of disease) and what you might call an external evil (Microsoft’s business practices, or somebody stealing from or murdering others). A certain degree of external evil is necessary and/or helpful under certain circumstances (as khim expressed above).

  18. Sorry, disagree. The reason MS is so screwed up is that it is a large corporation without a decent leader. Economics often talks about the economies of scale, what is rarely talked about is the economies of the small. Which is funny, because anyone who has worked in both big and small companies sees it every day. Large companies dissociate their employees from the consequences of their decisions, good ideas become impossible to bubble up, communication costs rise at least with the square of the number of people involved. Small companies are fast, flexible, dynamic and efficient. Large companies are the antonyms of these. That is why many times new products are bought by mega companies rather than developed.
    The only thing that can stop that is a strong leader who sucks through the BS. The obvious example is Steve Jobs, but Bill Gates in his day made billions of dollars in this way. As did Carnegie, Rockerfeller, Walton and many others.

    Microsoft is mired because it has all the disadvantages of being a huge corporation, and has a dreadful leader. Perhaps openness would help, but it isn’t the root cause.

    FWIW, I would not discount the opportunity that the Surface presents to MS. I haven’t held its funeral yet. It is a reasonable product, and it can leverage MS’s deep embeddedness in corporate culture. iPad just hasn’t made it as a corporate device, Surface is not too late to that game in my opinion. I don’t declare it a success, but it certainly isn’t a failure. However, it is certainly Balmer’s last hail mary, that is for sure.

  19. I rember a joke about there was only one man that could make Bill Gates look good that was Steve Jobs. I used to be an apple fan boy, I have 2 clam shells, 2 G4 ppc towers, an iBook G4, and of course an iPod, but no more. 2 years after putting down about $1200.00 for the iBook they make it obsolete and refuse to support it. Thank you Steve. I have just shelled out $1800.00 for an Alienware laptop and when I ask the tech supported person if I could get that without M$ windoze I was told no you get to pay for it whether you want it or not and if you want to install Linux on it you can “On a seperate drive” like I’m not allowed to wipe the drive and put my O/S of choice on it. As I understand it it is supposed to be about freedom of choice and if I want to buy someones propitiatory stuff that is my choice but it looks like somefolks don’t like me making choices. M$ has deep pokets but sooner or later the well will run dry.

  20. Nick: You seem to be ignoring the difference between arguing for your views, and imposing them on others. This is a dangerous distinction to forget.

  21. Not buying the argument. Name the top three open, sustainable, ethical automobile manufacturers. Ditto for other industries.

    Or does this analysis apply only to software?

  22. @kirk “Name the top three open, sustainable, ethical automobile manufacturers.”

    Do the auto manufacturers routinely engage in the lockout/capture/control practices that are SOP at Microsoft? I haven’t seen it (not that they wouldn’t probably *like* to.) Also, do we not have laws that prevent these particular companies from forcing all service, support, & parts to come from a dealer?

    I doubt this only applies to software, but the need for rapid and frequently disruptive innovation helps accelerate the process. Also, the relatively low barrier to entry for competitors tends to make their “sins” more obvious.

  23. @Michael
    “Do the auto manufacturers routinely engage in the lockout/capture/control practices that are SOP at Microsoft? I haven’t seen it ”

    Toyota tried. They tried to pull a “you void your warranty by getting your car serviced anywhere other than a Toyota dealership, for any reason.” They got slapped down pretty hard, but they still tried. They or others will try again.

  24. This blog post is short. It is easy to quickly read it but miss the point.

    I am relatively new to ESR’s blog. I may be making a fool of myself, here because I am basing this comment on The Magic Cauldron, which was written quite a while ago.

    My primary point is this…

    It isn’t that closed source is evil; it is that a “business model based on secrecy rent and control of your customers” is evil.

    ESR believes in the many benefits of Open Source software but recognizes that it is appropriate for some software to be closed.

    One example in TMC is “software to calculate cutting patterns for sawmills that want to extract the maximum yardage of planks from logs.”

    To grossly simplify…

    If what you have for sale is a new algorithm, you can sell it in the form of closed source software. OTOH, if you are implementing known engineering practice in software, it is often/generally better for it to be Open Source.

    The title of this post might be a little misleading. Secrecy, per se, isn’t evil; basing your business model on secrecy so that you can capture, control and fuck over your customers is evil.

    One other little comment…

    Ethical behavior and sustainability are connected in both directions; the wages of sin are self-damage.

    I believe that this is true by definition – good is what works, in the long run as well as the short run; evil/sin is what should be avoided because, at least in the long run, it hurts you and/or yours.

  25. >Secrecy, per se, isn’t evil; basing your business model on secrecy so that you can capture, control and fuck over your customers is evil.

    Well summarized.

  26. Thanks.

    To explicitly tie this to the matter at hand…

    MS’s business plan isn’t to attract customers by offering the best possible software; the plan is to trap customers – to make current customers feel that they have no option but to continue to give money to MS.

  27. Eric,

    I had to smile at your last comment block. I had to laugh actually. I laughed my headphones right off and almost fell from my chair. The reason I did so is the ironic juxtaposition of my “astute” allegory (and more importantly, its origin) and your words, “he [RMS] reaches naturally for the role of a jeremiad-spouting prophet in the Judeo-Christian style.”

    The er… tree/fruit stuff is from Jesus, see Matthew 7:15-20

    Of course, I’ve learned that the “moralist” approach as described by you, Eric, is completely ineffective at preaching the gospel, be it the one about Jesus or the other about open source software. That’s why Jesus, in most cases, was a pragmatist:

    “And when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto his disciples, Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners? But when Jesus heard that, he said unto them, They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick. But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (Matthew 9:11-13)

    The essence here is what people _think_ they need. The Pharisees (and Microsoft) are obviously sick sinners, that is pretty obvious to the disciples (of open source.) The Pharisees don’t think they need to repent, and likewise Microsoft doesn’t think it needs to practice open source instead of secrecy. How Microsoft thinks about open source is similar to how the Pharisees responded to Jesus, (see the Halloween Memos).

    For pragmatism to work, you actually do have to be a moralist, it is merely a difference in approach. Pragmatic moralists are looking for the greatest good. As Spock (whom I believe is unwittingly quoting Cheng, the Tao author) would say, “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few or the one.” Then there is the selfish person who believes the needs of the one (himself) outweigh the needs of the many (everyone else) upon whom neither approach will work.

    Eric, I accuse you of being a moralist… on at least that level. I hope you’ve seen my point and smile.

    Terry

    P.S.: The gospel of Jesus actually starts when it occurs to the recipient that he hasn’t always been doing the greatest good for the greatest number, and that something powerful in the Universe holds or might hold that against him. It is from that basic concept of being responsible for your fellow man that the need for a Saviour arises. It is extraordinarily rare for a Christian preacher to admit this.

  28. Not so deep.

    This is a no-lose bet. M$ is slowly sucking down into the tar pits, someday Apple will, too. (I suspect Google loses luster before Apple, though not because of phones.)

    And Linux will be superseded someday, the US hegemon will be overshadowed, what we call smart phones will be replaced by something else, we will find deeper modes of collaboration than we currently have, and the sun will go red-giant. And with every event, save probably the last, for every n people who expound about it, there will be about n^1.1 opinions as to why.

    I, personally, blame python 2.7 for global warming.

  29. Deep down, evil equals damage and destruction. MS are evil because they succeed in extracting rent from customers. The beauty of the free market economy us that competitin forces companies to deliver value for money.

    Competition forced Apple to deliver. Monopoly power allowed MS to stop delivering.

  30. @Jessica
    The question is, why does a devious fool become the leader of MS?

    That is obviously because they needed a person who was determined to extract the maximum amount of money out of MS.

    Compare with Steve Jobs. He was an evil genius who became head of Apple again because Apple needed a person to save the company from bankruptcy. This determination saved the company, but wth bad financials during the initial period.

  31. So, to summarize: evil company = intentionally causing harm to your customers. But mental make-up that is consistent with being evil, e.g. secrecy uber alles, causes harm to your development process (not only to customers).

    Isn’t it?

  32. I think Microsoft has suffered because more people have woken up to the bad effects of vendor lock in and proprietary formats.

    In the past decades, Microsoft got away with it because they could suppress information. Now they no longer can. Open Source has achieved critical mass and recognition and there’s no stopping the spread and adoption of Open Source.

  33. @Jakub
    “So, to summarize: evil company = intentionally causing harm to your customers. ”

    Maybe, in my book the intentions are less relevant than outcomes. Any company that harms people for whatever reason is evil. However, I would take into consideration that incompetence is normally not categorized as “evil”.

    So, whether the harm is intentionally or just collateral damage would not count much. Nor would the the moral value of the intentions themselves be very relevant, eg, torturing people for a good cause.

    The argument, eg, asserted by Nigel above, that good intentions can give bad consequences is irrelevant. I think Eric looks at outcomes, not intentions (I do).

    MS is an evil company because it produces strong negative externalities on the world. The damage MS causes are a consequence of their business model, rent seeking, whatever the damage to the customer and world. The evil inefficiencies caused by MS’ rent seeking determine their internal structure and culture. Which again make them ill equipped to roll out good products.

  34. The first paragraph made my day :D
    But, I have to disagree on the roots of Microsoft’s failure. I’ve worked in a microsoft-copy-of-a-company (i.e. built in MS style). The problem is with their whole working process. It’s more about what “business people” say than what developers and users think and suggest. Microsoft is all about managerial politics, not having the work done. For that reason, highly skilled people tend to advance slowly in the company hierarchy, and are left with no decision-making power. There’s no greater demotivator than having to follow the orders of incompetent people, knowing well in advance what’s going to happen.

    On Google – most of you seem to think they are the good guys. Well, they’ve been circumventing security settings to intrude privacy for profit. They’ve been messing with OpenStreetMap’s database, stealing information from Yelp, and other companies. And, they’ve managed to violate the GPL a couple of times. So, forgive me if I see Gogole to be as bad as Microsoft and Apple are.

    About Apple, and open source: OpenCL, WebKit, support for the LLVM and Clang projects.
    They also gave up patents related to the HTML5 Canvas, and the new nanoSIM standard.
    Now, don’t get me wrong. I don’t say they are nice. On the contrary, they get on my nerve quite often, and manage to produce a lot of bulshit. But, currently, I they seem to be less hypocritical.

  35. @Jessica “The only thing that can stop that is a strong leader who sucks through the BS. ”

    Yes, totally. Jeff Bezos at Amazon is another example.

    As geeks, we talk about MS and Google lots, but tend to forget Amazon’s ambitions.

  36. Interestingly, when they turn out good products, it is in those areas where they don’t take secrecy seriously – PowerShell, LINQ, F#, IronPython + the Dynamics department… Microsoft is basically forced to reinvent itself as a company which does not primarily focus on the normal consumer – the IBM route.

  37. @Shenpen “Interestingly, when they turn out good products, it is in those areas where they don’t take secrecy seriously…”

    Is there an explanation somewhere for the obvious exceptions? Windows 7 is a very nice piece of work: stable, relatively good performer, good UI. It is in many ways the best desktop O/S I’ve ever used. Fortuitous accident, inertia leftover from past successes, secretly contracted out to Torvalds???

  38. @Michael
    “It is in many ways the best desktop O/S I’ve ever used.”

    That would critically depend on what O/S’ you ever used. And what you used them for.

  39. Speaking as a OEM vendor making software and manufacturing metal cutting machines. Microsoft started to loose it way around 2000 when it started running in fear about the internet. Before that it was pretty much about maintaining backwards compatibility and allowing PCs to be used pretty for anything under the sun. The next effect of is that we could easily use consumer PCs for our application.

    Afterwards there was still OEM support but increasingly you had the pay for it by going with the various versions of embedded and modularized windows. The consumer side steadily has become more and more difficult to work with.

    Windows 8 is still usable by OEMs but when they ever truly break the OEM side of things that will be Microsoft Death Shroud. Because like the break between Visual Basic 6 and VB.NET, once you forego backwards compatibility then the vendor, like myself, are free to choose any solution.

  40. Pingback: Microsoft’s essential problem « Quotulatiousness

  41. Their Dynamics department is going strong, precisely because of the lack of secrecy (sharing source with partners and even customers who buy a developer licence). ERP and a hacker culture is like oil and water, they do not mix (remember how bad a rap you gave to payroll software programmers in The Jargon File), yet the closest thing I’ve ever seen in ERP to some kind of playfully creative hacker spirit is amongst Microsoft Dynamics partners: http://mibuso.com/dlinfo.asp?FileID=354

  42. Arthur on Tuesday, November 20 2012 at 4:28 am said:
    > Jeff Bezos at Amazon is another example.

    I am a big fan of Bezos, and I agree, it is his strong leadership which has kept Amazon from getting mired in the tar pit of bigness.

    > As geeks, we talk about MS and Google lots, but tend to forget Amazon’s ambitions.

    The implication is that you think Amazon’s business model is evil in some way. I am not aware of it, in fact, as I say, I am a big fan of Amazon. Aside from the controversy of DRM, what is your concern?

  43. @Michael, this is really subjective, I liked XP more and still use it when I can (not on this laptop) – I care about apps, not OSes, so why use anything that uses more than the minimal amount of resources possible? An OS is from the end-user perspective is just something that lets you run apps. This is also why on the FLOSS side I don’t understand people who go KDE or Unity instead of LXDE / Lubuntu – in both cases you basically click on the icon for Firefox or EMACS or whatever and then you are in that app, so why not go for the minimal version as long as it looks tasteful and has the basic functionality needed?

  44. @Jessica opinions of Amazon tend to be based on whether you are their customer or vendor. From a vendor’s perspective, there is on one side a huge Amazon telling your we are going to pay you X for this device and it is not negotiable, there is on the other side some huge Chinese manufacturing conglomerate telling you we will produce you this device for Y and it is not negotiable, and very often X – Y is a really small number.

  45. @Winter:
    > That is obviously because they needed a person who was determined to extract the maximum amount of money out of MS.

    Yes, that is generally speaking the job of a CEO.

    >Compare with Steve Jobs.

    Extracting the maximum amount of revenue in the long term. What “long” means varies, but usually means about two years. I have said it before, Steve Jobs and his legacy is a far more scary guy than Bill Gates if your concern is being in control of your stuff. The walls on Microsoft’s garden were never as high and inpenertable as the current regime that is the Apple App Store.

    I am not a fan of Balmer. However, I am more and more coming to the conclusion that the Surface, Windows 8, Metro and so forth is actually a pretty good strategic move. I don’t think it is guaranteed to succeed by any means, but I think that without it, MS is guaranteed to fail, so it is a last hail mary, with a reasonable chance of a last second touchdown.

    Windows Phone can’t succeed on its own, but Surface has access to a presence in corporate that will be hard to shake, and is a bastion that Apple has not succeeded in overcoming. It could indeed be a platform that MS could use to relaunch their phone as an extension out of a dominant position in tablet in the enterprise. Don’t underestimate the reluctance of corporate IT to veer away from the “all windows all the time” philosophy.

    I should also say that I have used Windows 8, the release version is much better than the preview versions, and is actually quite usable and has many cool features. It is not Windows Vista by any means.

  46. There are two different aspects to Microsoft’s overall suckiness. One is how they treat their customers and their vendors – their external relations – something they get away with because of their immense revenue from tapping an artery of the PC manufacturers. The second is the vile way in which they treat their employees through byzantine internal politics, incompetent management, and abusive HR policies. The latter continues because of the immense revenue and the momentum of the behemoth. But neither can continue forever.

  47. Shenpen on Tuesday, November 20 2012 at 10:43 am said:
    > very often X – Y is a really small number.

    So you are saying some small company can sit between two gigantic corporations and make a profit moving something from here to there, and somehow that is a bad thing? I think it is a miracle of the modern age.

    Lots and lots of small businesses are using Amazon to make a lot of money. Lots of them set their own prices, and use Amazon as a marketing conduit. Amazon has very loose rules about what can be sold on their site (unlike Apple.)

    Want to know where all the Mom and Pop shops that Walmart “put out of business” went to? They are making their fortune on Amazon and eBay.

    Like I say, it is a miracle of the modern age.

  48. @Terry:

    I could never understand how business owners could be (perhaps literally) hoodwinked into accepting a contract that makes them pay royalties for software on all the computers they ship, even on those computers that don’t have the software installed

    It was simple enough; different pricing for different licensing agreements.

    For example, you’re running a company that sells 10,000 PCs a year in 1987. 99% of your customers want MS-DOS with your computer, since they are going to run DOS software (the other 1% are going to go with Concurrent DOS or something else equally outre?). Microsoft offers you a choice of two deals:

    1) Pay Microsoft $10/copy for every copy of MS-DOS you ship (“per-copy licensing”).
    2) Pay Microsoft $9/machine for every computer you ship, and you can ship MS-DOS with all of them (“per-processor licensing”).

    Under plan 1, you’ll pay Microsoft $990,000/year. Under plan 2, you’ll pay Microsoft $900,000/year. Which contract will you sign? Throw in the fact that it’s simpler/cheaper from a manufacturing process perspective to put the same stuff in every box rather than treat 1% of the boxes you ship specially, and it’s a no-brainer. You come out way ahead paying MS for every computer you ship, instead of futzing about with tracking copies and paying more per copy.

    Microsoft looks like it’s leaving money on the table, but they’re happy because the price of shipping an alternate OS instead of DOS is that OS’s licensing fee plus the $9 you’re paying MS anyway.

  49. You got it half right. The Apple case illustrates where you got it wrong.

    “the wages of sin are self damage” applies, yes, but it stops applying when people believe in the collective vision. Microsoft is doing wrong and their people (on some level) know it. Apple is playing it like another group of totalitarians you cited in your “why I am an anarchist” manifesto.It doesn’t matter whether the engineers are actually saving the world or slaughtering millions, what matters is which they believe they’re doing.

    And that’s the most obscenely terrifying thing I’ve written in a long time.

  50. Steven Ehrbar on Tuesday, November 20 2012 at 10:59 am said:
    >It was simple enough; different pricing for different licensing agreements.

    Your math was a little off, however, you conveyed the point correctly. The manufacturer could very well charge the MS fee to MS users only, meaning that the per MS PC the license cost would be $9/99% = $9.09. And then not charge the non MS PC for a license. So, basically the “hoodwinking” is on the part of the PC manufacturer who is charging a flat fee regardless of whether you get MS or not.

    Of course the manufacturer would be perfectly justified in, instead, slapping a $20 surcharge on the non MS PC to account for the extra cost on a non homogeneous inventory, the extra cost of a “specialty” item. Check out a Sharper Image catalog if you want to know how that stuff is priced.

    So personally, I think all the whining about Microsoft’s OEM pricing is unjustified. If you don’t like it, it is easy enough to set up your own company that does it the way you want it. Especially when it comes to PC manufacturing, which in lower volumes is plugging together legos.

    In fact all the whining about the Microsoft Tax is just another spin on the whole “myth of fair prices” which leads to stupidity such as anti gouging laws, minimum wage laws, and terrible health insurance. See the section on this in:

    http://www.daviddfriedman.com/Academic/econ_and_evol_psych/economics_and_evol_psych.html

  51. khim> Apple is no less evil yet so far it progresses just fine.
    esr> Until it doesn’t.

    Apple’s saving grace was a CEO with impeccable taste in industrial design. Goodness is not the only efficient virtue; beauty is another. Now that Apples transitions to a bean-counting CEO with no demonstrated sense of style its beauty edge will erode over the medium term, while its goodness or evility will remain about the same. So if Eric is right, we should see Apple’s engineering converge towards Microsoft quality within about six years. That’s Job’s death plus the length of a typical product cycle. Incidentally, it is also what we saw the last time Jobs left the company. So how’s this for a test?

  52. I think it would be easier to support the claim that evil scales poorly. The kinds of considerations you mention wouldn’t diminish the effectiveness of a single evil person (compared against a single good person) at all.

    To make the point in a more politically neutral and general way, we could just say that the costs of secrecy increase exponentially with the size of an organization.

  53. >Apple’s saving grace was a CEO with impeccable taste in industrial design.

    One the one hand…does it need to be the CEO? The optimistic case, for Apple fans, is that it’s sufficient to leave someobody like Jonathan Ive with taste running product design while the beancounter-in-charge stays out of his way.

    On the other…six years is a pretty long product cycle in this century. If the design genius has to be the CEO I think we’re going to find out a lot sooner.

  54. @Jessica
    “So, basically the “hoodwinking” is on the part of the PC manufacturer who is charging a flat fee regardless of whether you get MS or not.”

    Any OEM who sold non-Windows PCs got a license raise that would bankrupt them. After the monopoly abuse cases made that practice illegal, MS would raise the license cost uniformly, but repaid the difference in “marketing funds” to those OEMs that sold Windows exclusively. To prevent new monopoly charges, some big OEMs were allowed to hide some token Linux systems on their web-sites.

    For all OEMs, the marketing funds were the difference between profit and loss.

  55. @Winter
    > For all OEMs, the marketing funds were the difference between profit and loss.

    See here is what I don’t get:the original example had 1% non windows PCs being sold. Lets say that is the right number — that is a heck of a lot of PCs. If Dell and HP are screwing people over by billing them the so called Microsoft tax, why didn’t businesses arise to eat up that market inefficiency? After all, 1% of PC sales is a lot of PCs.

    A tax is something you have to pay or your go to jail. Non MS users did not have to pay the tax, they just had to choose their vendor more carefully.

    (BTW, don’t give me the economies of scale argument. If you want a specialized product such as a Linux PC, you sometimes have to pay a premium, that is just the way it is. Any other conclusion is to buy into the myth of fair pricing. Further, economies of scale are often offset by economies of small, especially when, as is the case of the PC world, you can ride the coattails of the NRE paid by the big companies.)

  56. @esr
    > is that it’s sufficient to leave someobody like Jonathan Ive with taste running product design while the beancounter-in-charge stays out of his way.

    Which only works if Ive can convince Cook that, for example, it is worth an extra $3 per unit to make the case out of burnished titanium. Which isn’t always an easy case to make unless you are as OCD as Steve Jobs.

  57. Pingback: DYSPEPSIA GENERATION » Blog Archive » The Wages of Secrecy

  58. @Jessica well in our specific case those margins would not even cover transportation, while selling to the European versions of Wal-Mart (Carrefour to Saturn and so on) actually does bring in some money, but in the overall picture I do agree, there are people who can basically use them as a leverage for ideas with little investment and a lot of return on that, they are just not the people I happen to work for. But no complaints on my side, over here Amazon does squeeze offline shops a bit but their end is nowhere in sight. It still looks like an is undecided battle. People just seem to like the actual physical experience of shopping, especially with complicated electronics where expert advice is useful. This is what sets succesful offline shops apart from failing ones at least here – employees who can actually give useful advice as opposed to minimum-wage shelf-loader simpletons.

  59. @Jessica @Winter

    I think the real point is Linux is not the ideal OS for the desktop where it means retraining users, it is the ideal OS for new devices (smartphone, tablet) where they have to relearn stuff anyway. I think this OEM thing just muddles the picture. There are still few reasons for non-geeks to get a Linux desktop while they are using Android tables just happily. 1% may be a lot of PCs but I really doubt there really was so much demand for Linux PCs especially if you factor in large institutional customers. The take-away lesson from the lack of success of Linux PCs vs. the actual success of Android devices is that different OS adoption generally works together only with different devices with different usage patterns and whatnot, you must make things physically different if you want to combat inertia. If and when Linux desktops will become popular, it will be a kind of working backwards from tablets, like those Asus Android netbooks with the detachable tablet touchscreens.

  60. I don’t exactly agree Shenpen, I think the Windows vs Linux desktop issue shows that Windows really “won” initially over Apple Mac when Linux was not a competitor at all. Windows won over Mac because of the open structure of the hardware allowing more variety of expansion possibilities / peripherals / etc. at an early stage before the hardware was fully commodized as today. Once established as dominant Linux was never going to gain significant share because PC computer makers had offloaded their support of users essentially to Microsoft and there was no one org to pick up the support of user space for Linux.

  61. @Shenpen: “…on one side a huge Amazon telling your we are going to pay you X for this device and it is not negotiable, there is on the other side some huge Chinese manufacturing conglomerate telling you we will produce you this device for Y and it is not negotiable, and very often X – Y is a really small number.”

    So they cut out the middleman and pass the savings on to me? Kind of like Wal-Mart? I ought to start shopping with this “Amazon” company! Do they have a website address on the information highway?

    Seriously, if modern business has a theme then that theme is disintermediation. If you don’t actually own cargo ships, then you’re not adding much value by moving products from East Asia to North America. Do something of more value and you’ll be paid more.

  62. Once again, we’re overlooking the elephant in the room: Microsoft Office.

    Until there is a 100%, perfectly compatible open-source replacement for Office, then open source softweare is the exact opposite of what you want in a business desktop environment, as the city of Freiburg, Germany just found out (or admitted).

    The world communicates with Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, and PowerPoint presentations. Anything but perfect support for these is a non-starter.

  63. The world communicates with Word documents…

    Channeling ESR, I would say, “until it doesn’t.” Fewer and fewer industries care about the M$ flavors in the way you seem to. Nothing says unprofessional like a “.docx” rather than “.pdf” extension on a publicly-available printable file. Most people I know who have to really share spreadsheets rather than making 20 annotated copies for the board meeting are doing so through Google docs. I’ve seen more “Prezi” than powerpoint presentations in the last few months. IANAL, so YMMV.

    Anything but perfect support for these is a non-starter.

    It’s been some time since I was on the Sisyphean M$-office-upgrade backwards-escalator, but I haven’t forgotten it. When they change their formats in an attempt to frustrate the free tools, which they have done on occasion, their support for old formats degrades, and until you’ve spent the money the support for new formats is nonexistent. It’s always cheaper to upgrade LibreOffice.

    As for Freiburg, any organization with documents in legacy formats will eventually have to bite the bullet and perform some conversions. It’s not like old official docs require editing. All the stuff that’s sitting on PC hard drives should be on a set of well-maintained document servers anyway, so they can kill two birds with one stone. They just need to hire some overpriced consulting firm to turn the crank. Every old doc they’re opening in Word now, they should be opening in Acrobat.

  64. @Jessica and @shenpen
    You all advance arguments that assume an open market at near equilibrium.

    Nothong in the PC business is open and at equilibrium. One supplier delivers 90% of all OS and office software. They also controll retail channels. The same with the CPU. Only a handful of OEM’s dominate the hardware market.

    There are few other markets where a new entrance had less chace of success.

  65. @Winter
    > You all advance arguments that assume an open market at near equilibrium.

    I don’t know what equilibrium means in this context, but an open market is one without government control, open to anyone who wants to play. I can’t imagine what restrictions you think there are, outside the patent barriers and anti trust settlements.

    Anyone can enter the PC business. They don’t have a right to somehow automatically gain all the advantages that Microsoft has built by investing billions of dollars and millions of man hours, but why the hell should they? There are alternatives. Consumers still buy Microsoft because, by the selection criteria they consider important (including rational ignorance) Microsoft makes the products that suit them best.

    90% of open source web servers run Apache. That isn’t because Apache has restricted and controlled the market. It is because it best meets the needs of the users.

    >There are few other markets where a new entrance had less chace of success.

    So why is MS running in fear from Android and iOS?

  66. So why is MS running in fear from Android and iOS?

    I don’t see them as running in fear. As Tim Cook commented:

    “There’s a horse in Redmond that always suits up and always runs, and will keep running.”

    Win8 looks to be another Vista so folks will laugh and claim the MS is done for, forgetting that Win7 quickly followed, was successful and well liked by users.

    Surface RT has a lot of rough edges but do any of you folks remember Windows 1.0? OMG what a piece of crap.

    Windows 1.0 – sucked
    Windows 3.0/3.1 – didn’t suck
    Windows 95 – sucked
    Windows 98/98SE – didn’t suck
    Windows ME – sucked
    Windows XP – didn’t suck
    Windows Vista – sucked
    Windows 7 – didn’t suck
    Windows 8 – sucks
    Windows 9 – ?

    It’s like even vs odd number Star Trek movies.

  67. > There are few other markets where a new entrance had less chace of success.

    Off the top of my head: cable tv, land line telephones, power generation, mail delivery, banking, health insurance.

    I would argue that if pc manufacturing had a low chance of success it had nothing to do with a lack of “openess” in the market, and everything to do with the market being so close to being so competitive, that the window of inefficiency before market correction was too narrow for most entrants.

  68. tpmoney – new banks open all the time. The thing that prevents new competitors in things like CPUs and PCs is the volume needed to be competitive, and the sheer capital expenditure to get there. That’s why Intel is going to be the big dog for the forseeable future – nobody else can throw the money at the problems in the volume that Intel can.

    Jess – Disintermediation is the biggest disruption capitalism has seen since the internal combustion engine. You’ve nailed that one.

  69. I think the real point is Linux is not the ideal OS for the desktop where it means retraining users, it is the ideal OS for new devices (smartphone, tablet) where they have to relearn stuff anyway.

    Linux the OS sucks for new devices. Linux the kernel not so bad…but you can start with any solid kernel and end up pretty much in the same place.

    Android the OS works and is getting pretty good.

    IMHO iOS is better for most users because of the UI and Core Services gives the devs better tools to make elegant apps efficiently. You can make elegant apps in Android but the UI takes more effort plus Apple has far fewer UI targets (iPhone, iPhone5, iPad in normal and retina which primarily is just supplying 2x assets).

  70. @Nick, What you call “moralist” has very much very pragmatic consequences yet you talk about them as some kind of opposing or mutual
    You are simply confused. Moral actions can be pragmatic, yes. Or they can be self-defeating. The actions are not judged by their effects; they are judged by their compliance with the moral code. Morality is not pragmatic.

    @Eric, My native terms of reference are efficiency, consequences, and inexorable natural law and an almost fanatical devotion to the pope.

  71. A moral code is all about what is pragmatic. For example, for people to invest in the future, planting crops, for instance, they must be reasonably confident that they will get the rewards of their investment. Thus so stealing is wrong. Believing that and organizing to enforce this principle results in wealth being created. The alternative, “might makes right”, does not result in wealth being created; it only works as long as there is wealth to be stolen.

  72. @Jessica
    “…, but an open market is one without government control, open to anyone who wants to play.”

    The first part is both dogmatic and irrational. Historically and empirically, the second part contradicts the first.

    Even Adam Smith already had a field day describing in great lengths how market parties will always band together to block new entrants and conspire against the public. Historically, they did this with weapons. Open markets have always required (armed) protection and regulation to remain open for any length of time.

    PS
    If you want a largely pre-state example, take Tamerlan, who was one of the biggest mass murders in human history. His murderous campaigns were all directed at independent towns that tried to compete with his control over central Asia trade routes.

  73. >A moral code is all about what is pragmatic.

    You’re confused in the same way “Nick Libreman” is. Ethics is pragmatic; morality is not. Ethical analysis asks “What are the effects of action? Do they lead to sustainable outcomes?” Morality, on the other hand, proceeds from premises about what is “right” and “wrong”, assigns much greater importance to mental states and intentions, and treats consequential analysis as irrelevant or at best a secondary and weak form of argument.

    To see that this distinction is live in common language and not just philosophical jargon, compare the following claims: “Pornography is unethical” with “Pornography is immoral.”

  74. Back to MS Office : that’s a tough baby to replace. At least where I work, where plenty of VBA macros do a lot of important job at a reduced development cost. Last time I checked open-source alternative, the macro language was Python.

    Very good language, but I’m not sure converting VBA to Python is a simple task. I’m not sure either that paraprogrammers good enough to make VBA to meet their needs will be smart enough to learn Python. Therefore, switching has a huge cost. Especially, one part of the cost is losing some of the flexibility the tool offers, allowing programming non-programmers to do some automation without needing talent.

    I know many hackers spit on VBA. But VBA offers what “real languages for real programmers” do not offer : the ability to do some automation when you don’t have any programming talent available. And talent is scarce. While VBA is bad news for truly talented people, it is good news for business, that might therefore find cheaper to pay office to everyone than to hire so-called programmers until one shows enough talent to use Python, or whatever “true” language.

  75. @ ESR

    Hmmm… I have never considered this distinction between ethics and morality. Your example doesn’t really help me; I don’t consider pornography (at least of and for adults) to be either unethical or immoral.

    From your first paragraph, I would say (offhand, at 2:30 am here) that ethics is pragmatic, whereas morality takes a step back and turns various ethical principles into rules regarding what is right and wrong so that (most) people can easily learn to act ethically without having to analyze projected outcomes in ordinary everyday decisions. Since punishing someone for doing something that they didn’t realize was wrong is in itself wrong, intentions are important in judging behaviour – in judging morality.

    In other words, ethical principles are the starting point and morality is the “code” that implements these principles in ways that are easy to teach and judge.

    Since I don’t think that I have caught the distinction you are making, can you provide some further enlightenment – perhaps another example?

  76. @ ESR

    Can you provide an example of an act that is immoral that, given some though and analysis, can’t be directly tied back to some pragmatic reason in the big picture?

  77. @ ESR

    My second to last comment is “awaiting moderation” and it occurred to me that it might have been because of the, uh “p” word, I would just like to add that I can see it being immoral for a husband or wife because it can easily result in the other spouse feeling jealous, inadequate and generally threaten a marriage.

  78. @Brian Marshall
    “Can you provide an example of an act that is immoral that, given some though and analysis, can’t be directly tied back to some pragmatic reason in the big picture?”

    Each and every religion has tons of those. Say, eating meat on Friday for Catholics. Empirically, nether using four letter words nor public nudity have bad effects on society.

    In many cases, the pragmatic reasons for a moral imperative are the reaction of others to the immoral person, not the actions themselves.

  79. @tpmoney
    “> There are few other markets where a new entrance had less chace of success.

    Off the top of my head: cable tv, land line telephones, power generation, mail delivery, banking, health insurance.”

    We have had quite a lot of each of these in the last two decades. Even more if you allow identical products over different carrier (eg, wireless/wired).

  80. @ Winter

    Right – religions all have all kinds of moral rules. Some I go along with because they encode pragmatic ethics. The rest are…. well, I consider religious faith to be ridiculous and any religion based on faith to be silly at best and evil in many ways.

    I want a specific example that at least the bulk of us here would consider to be immoral that is not, in the big picture, pragmatic for individuals and/or the society that adds so much to being an individual in it.

  81. @Brian Marshall
    “I want a specific example that at least the bulk of us here would consider to be immoral that is not, in the big picture, pragmatic for individuals and/or the society that adds so much to being an individual in it.”

    Depending on who you call “us” and “immoral”:
    - Public nudity
    - Public toilets like the Romans had
    - Eating cats and dogs
    - Burning paper money
    - Committing “mutual suicide” gladiator style
    - Voluntary suicide by the infirm (the old Inuit fable)

  82. Hmm, not sure if I agree you on this one:

    Evil may cause damage, but there are all sorts of ways to make sure the damage lands on someone else. If predatory/controlling/parasitic behavior were so harmful to the predator/controlling/parasitic entities, (to the hosts/serfs/prey, sure), then why would the world be filled with examples, both natural and social, of these behaviors?

    As far as Microsoft being evil, perhaps I’m just unaware of the history. I started programming and using computers with Windows 3.11, but never really became aware of the wider programming/computing culture and politics until into the Windows XP/Vista/Windows 7 era. Some recent things that Microsoft is trying to do do seem “evil” (attempting to control rather than serve their customers) to me – the locked bootloader deal with Intel, for example. Also, putting all that app-store/media-center crud in your face with Windows 8 is always annoying, unless there is a way around it – to me an OS should install/run what I want to install/run from whatever source, and let this other software accomplish my purposes.

    But as far as XP/Vista/7 goes, I’ve never really had problems with it. As far as I can tell, these operating systems run whatever I need them to run. (It also runs, via Cygwin, just about anything I need from Linux, though I dual-boot to play with Linux stuff in its native environment). In programming for these systems, the Win32 API (crazy mess though it is) is documented and available. I’m having a hard time seeing the evil here. Microsoft asks for $X for a license key for their OS, after which they pretty much leave you completely in charge of your computer. I haven’t had any run ins with intrusive DRM. I haven’t had any remote-control issues like some I have read about with apple. I’ve rebuilt my computer several times and had no trouble reinstalling their software that wasn’t resolved with a quick phone-call. Paying for software that asks for a key once, then leaves you alone (using a sort of real-property convention, however illusory) is worlds more fair and non-controlling than any of the Software-as-a-service, enterprise-licence-server, always-on spyware crud that exists today in engineering software. (Controlling DRM in engineering software is truly draconian – that would be a market ripe for some revolution, if the market weren’t so small)

    Maybe that will change with Microsoft under new leadership. Maybe that hasn’t always been the way they have operated in the past. The accusations of eeevil M$ seem a little hyperbolic to me though, just coming from XP/Vista/7. Evil how? Wanting you to pay for their software isn’t evil. Evil is actively attempting to block/disable programs that you want to run. Evil is attempting to prevent you from using the competition, if you so desire. Adding doodads like iE that you can ignore for better options isn’t evil. (That whole Netscape vs. Explorer thing struck me as silly. Include a browser with their operating system? Gasp! How dare they! Competitive? Sure. Controlling? Not unless they are actually attempting to force your hand by preventing use/installation of something else.)

    Agree with el slapper that Microsoft Office is the key thing that you need to replace in order to compete with Microsoft. By replace, I mean you need something that can read and interact with the full feature-set of the office documents. (Either that, or you need to figure out how to easily install/run office on Linux) I have a Linux computer at work, and what I miss most about Windows (one of the only really essential things, in fact) in that environment is that I cannot read and edit office documents effectively. For better or worse, Office documents have become the lingua-franca of business, even academic communications. If you are doing anything with formatted documents/presentations/spreadsheets, someone *will* send you and expect you to be able to process these. The people you do business with aren’t going to be patient with you if you explain the benefits of some open-standard that none of their stuff can read, or if you try to half-parse their document and end up with something missing half their content (the side comments, the graphs, etc). They need to communicate, and $300 is practically nothing at all, relative to your/their time.

    It seems like open-office was trying to head Microsoft off at the pass and open their formats. Microsoft transitioned to the docx formats, and got around that move. Libre-office seems to continue to make strides in parsing the docx formats, but as of yesterday, still can’t properly render Excel graphs or my advisor’s comments on my paper.

    I don’t think Microsoft can continue to play format games forever though, for the same reason Linux can’t expect people to switch to LaTex/plaintext files – communication has to happen. Doc and now docx are what everyone has their data/communications in, and they’ll go for whatever reads and parses these data correctly. Microsoft can try to push a docxx format, but they wouldn’t dare drop backwards compatibility with docx, doc files. If someone developed something that parsed the full docx feature-set *correctly*, then released it for a lower price or open-source, then no one would have incentive to move to Microsoft’s newest format.

  83. @ Jessica Boxer “Economics often talks about the economies of scale, what is rarely talked about is the economies of the small. Which is funny, because anyone who has worked in both big and small companies sees it every day. Large companies dissociate their employees from the consequences of their decisions, good ideas become impossible to bubble up, communication costs rise at least with the square of the number of people involved. Small companies are fast, flexible, dynamic and efficient. Large companies are the antonyms of these. ”

    Mergers fail about as often as the succeed which should tell you something. The reason for the existence of the firm is primarily to eliminate or reduce transaction costs. What you give up in return is the guidance of price signals within the firm.

  84. Why was this analysis not true 5 years ago? Ten years ago? Both Microsoft and Apple practiced ‘secrecy rent and control of customers’ back then; how can both companies still be operating now?

  85. >Your example doesn’t really help me; I don’t consider pornography (at least of and for adults) to be either unethical or immoral.

    I don’t either. That’s irrelevant – I was asking you to consider the difference between these claims, not to judge either of them.

  86. @ Jessica Boxer
    As somebody who works in the Enterprise space, starting up a new company to take advantage of the 1% of market share being left on the table is less than simple.
    Economies of scale do help with a number of facets of business, including:
    Manufacturing, sales, technical support, and R&D.

    In order to provide the same level of support that one of the big sellers (say, Dell), provides, you’d need to be able to staff your tech support lines to be able to provide the same level of responsiveness. This means either greater variability in call wait times, or a greater rate of staffing. Either one is a marginal net loss.

    Manufacturing is pretty straight-forward. The work per employee performed is pretty much constant, but in general the level of management (should) scales with the log() of the work to be done. Thus a larger company should have lower manufacturing management overhead per unit shiped.

    Sales, advertising, etc. Once you have name recognition and mind share you’re set, but it’s hard to do that as a bit player.

    R&D. This is mostly a fixed-cost per model sold. You could probably cut your product line by 90% compared to what, say, Dell, offers, but you’re only moving 1% of their units. This increases your overhead by 10x what the big retailer is charging.

    Now, you might still be able to make this work *if* there was a strong enough business demand for computers without Windows on them. Assuming that they actually wanted a Linux distro, you have to worry about support fragmentation for different distros. This just adds more headaches and cost on your end, and you’d still almost certainly want to sell a support contract with the Linux vendor for support so that they can handle the issues for you (licensing issues don’t go away).

  87. >Why was this analysis not true 5 years ago?

    Self-destruction on this scale takes time. Often a quite unpredictable amount of time.

  88. Me: “Eric, I accuse you of being a moralist… on at least that level. I hope you’ve seen my point and smile.”

    Eric: “You’re confused in the same way ‘Nick Libreman’ is. Ethics is pragmatic; morality is not. Ethical analysis asks ‘What are the effects of action? Do they lead to sustainable outcomes?’ Morality, on the other hand, proceeds from premises about what is ‘right’ and ‘wrong’, assigns much greater importance to mental states and intentions”

    Wow, it took you a while to get back to me (okay, that reply was to someone else, but still…) I didn’t realize there was a difference between “moral” and “ethical”, they were synonyms to me before.

    Terry

  89. >I didn’t realize there was a difference between “moral” and “ethical”, they were synonyms to me before.

    It’s a common confusion. The distinction was recognized by philosophers as far back as Aristotle, but is often left unexplained or applied inconsistently even today.

  90. ams wrote: “(That whole Netscape vs. Explorer thing struck me as silly. Include a browser with their operating system? Gasp! How dare they! Competitive? Sure. Controlling? Not unless they are actually attempting to force your hand by preventing use/installation of something else.)

    Then you really missed the whole point of the browser wars – control of the enterprise webserver space. The dominant browser would set the standards de facto of what html really was. And the control of that would then control who could effectively compete in the web server market. That the battle ended up being a consumer benefitting draw makes it look meaningless superficially. But it really was not.

  91. arms, el slapper might have a valid point about VBA vs. Python (I say might because I almost never use macros), but it appears that you’ve never attempted to open a *.doc or *.docx file in OpenOffice or LibreOffice 3.x. In my experience, these programs have gotten better at handling the DOC format than Word itself (I’m not sure if this is because of problems with Word or the alternatives not sticking to the DOC standard, but the behaviours I’ve noticed seem like Word is violating the DOC standard and not OpenOffice or LibreOffice!) In any case, the very first thing I do whenever I get a *.docx is convert it to *.odt. It is very rare (now that MS Office can read *.odt) that I ever have to convert it back.

    Considering that OpenOffice and LibreOffice have replicated everything I ever found useful about MS Office (and several MS Office features that I loathe, with changes in behaviour in automatic bullet lists and tables that make coming over a bit less easy) and run so much better than MS Office, it is a little confusing why MS Office still hangs on. One thing I have noticed about everyone among my friends who still use MS Office: they know almost nothing about computers. They can’t tell the difference between bootstrap and hybernate, and either call me or hire somebody when something doesn’t work right. They never play games on computers because they don’t even know enough about computers or games to do that. The interesting thing is that if they have a problem with MS Office, I can install OpenOffice or LibreOffice and they are perfectly happy. That is how good these alternatives have become.

    Oh, if you’re looking for cheap programming talent, one way that might soon become available is to casually strike up a conversation about the new Mojang game 0×10^c. It includes a new microprocessor and associated assembly language that exists only in emulation…

    Terry

    Terry

  92. Laugh at my own doubled signature, I look like a real office software expert with that, huh?

  93. e: Ethics vs Morality

    @ Winter

    I appreciate your response but I don’t consider any of the activities you listed to be immoral – public nudity I consider to be like noise laws – not really touching on what I consider to be right and wrong. And if I changed my mind on this, it would be to say “OK, I agree, no one wants to look at ugly naked people – let’s make a law” – a highly pragmatic argument. Same with all your other examples – they are only wrong (if at all) to the extent that, pragmatically, they are bad for the individual and/or society.

    @ ESR

    The dictionary didn’t help. I would appreciate some more enlightenment.

    Let me try a different approach.

    Morality is what is considered “right” and “wrong” behaviour. Intentions matter because it would be wrong to punish some one that didn’t know they were doing wrong.

    Personally, I don’t consider anything to be immoral unless it is pragmatically unethical. However, I realize that many people, particularly people that get their ethics from religion, disagree and consider a variety of other things to be immoral.

    Am I distinguishing properly between ethics and morality, here?

  94. The problem with Office support is that .doc and .xls are not much more than pointer-unswizzled dumps of Word or Excel’s current document state. Accordingly, properly supporting these formats requires reimplementing much of Word and Excel. No one wants to do — or pay for — that, so the shortest path will always be to just buy the Microsoft software and get on with your life.

    This isn’t eeeevil Microsoft trying to vendor-lock you here. In the late 1980s such an apprpach was wholly appropriate. Arguments about the evils of using a poorly specified binary file format are moot; such wisdom came to us from people with Unix workstations that had migs and megs of memory to play with. In the late 1980s and early 1990s on PC hardware, 640k was all you could count on for a serious business PC, 1 MiB was a luxury. In order to be fast and responsive you had to cut corners and shave off code anywhere you can, and special binary packing/unpacking code was ripe for deletion if you could get by with dumping pretty much straight between memory and disk.

    So the current Office vendor lock is just a nice (for Microsoft) side effect of industry best practice for microcomputers in the 80s. The exact same problems inhere to any vendor’s native format: Photoshop PSD and AutoCAD DWG, for instance.

  95. SPQR, I have nothing to disagree with in what your saying (especially since I was in college during the Great Browser Wars), I’m just uber-amused at your nickname.

    Eric, your comment (not the recent one, but the one before) has got me to really think about “ethical” (something is wrong because it leads to bad consequences) and “moral” (something is just wrong) and why they were synonyms to me.

    First a little background: I do not recall a time in my life when I did not have a moral framework (although I do recall many instances where I acted contrary to it.) I had an inherent sense of right and wrong, a conscience, I guess. I think it’s available to everyone. All my life, I’ve been examining why – why is it wrong to steal or murder? On the simplest level of course, is to consider what would happen if you were the victim of that wrong thing (i.e. The Golden Rule.)

    That accounts for only half the Ten Commandments… are the other five just moral or are they ethical as well? A list of the five commandments that don’t quite fit into The Golden Rule:

    1. I am the LORD thy God … thou shalt have no other gods before Me.
    2. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image … Thou shall not bow thyself down to them nor serve them.
    3. Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain
    4. Remember the sabbath day
    10. Thou shalt not covet … any thing that is thy neighbour’s.

    The five not listed are the obvious ones and criminal acts in most parts of the world, and thus obviously both ethical and moral. What about these? 4 and 10 are the simplest.

    If you are going to commit the sin of the Tenth Commandment without violating 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9, you will soon drive yourself crazy. The Tenth Commandment isn’t a general prohibition on ambition. Say your neighbour has a Ferrari ™. It doesn’t command you against wanting a Ferrari in general, just not that particular Ferrari… unless he’s selling it, obviously. “Covet” invokes something of a blindly willful lust that has no reason or rationale. If you step back from coveting for a moment and examine why and what good it would do you to have a Ferrari, you might conclude that you are much better off with a Caravan ™ to get the family around, a Cavalier ™ to get the groceries home, a Fourtwo ™ because it is easier on gas, or a Bloodhound SSC, because it tops out four times as fast as a Ferrari :p. “Thou shalt not covet” is ethical because the act of coveting blocks your mind from rationale and reason… it is also something I’ve heard far more consistently from Buddhist monks than Christian preachers! (Buddhist monks have equivalents to the first three commandments, I’ll be getting to that.)

    Remember the sabbath day, ignoring the specific tenets of Judaism and Christianity for a moment, prescribes a day of rest per week, one out of every seven. Science has revealed that this is consistent with how the human body functions: this one day allows the body to rebuild its muscles and replenish metabolic stores. Hard training athletes understand this better than I do, and often take rest days more frequently because their bodies work very hard.

    The first three are a pain in the ass, literally as far as Balaam’s concerned (Numbers 22:21-35). How they become ethical instead of moral has to do with human psychology. We humans like to worship. If not God, then something else or ourselves. It is difficult (but probably not impossible or even particularly rare) to never worship anything. What holds your heart and keeps you getting up every morning? Many people have something, but don’t actually think about it enough to even realize what it is; this is why disaster and disability often leads to retrospection and meditation: such a person has lost part of what he relies upon or worships, realizes it, and then tries to figure out what it is and improve his moral/ethical anchoring. If he doesn’t examine, he will usually become depressed and often die (suicide is rare, but I see very often depressed people succumb to illness or even accident resulting from lack of diligence. I believe psychological depression results from the experience invalidating the person’s extant moral/ethical framework, leaving him adrift and uncertain.) Then there are those (I’ve been described as such) who can stride through any calamity and keep their marbles in a row. This requires a very solid moral/ethical anchor. I believe this is a combination of reason and spirituality. Plenty have apparently gotten by well enough with spirituality alone, but I think in these cases, the person has transformed his reason into spiritual terms. Richard Stallman might be such an individual, but I don’t know him closely enough to be certain. Many have gotten by on just reason: the founding fathers of the USA as well as several modern athiests, including Niel de Grasse Tyson, Richard Dawkins and (more famous but not for his atheism) Adam Savage get by just fine with non-spiritual gods. They might be offended at my phrase, but here I refer to “god” as a moral/ethical framework and not necessarily an entity of any type. I’ve seen “Christians” use the Bible itself as a god, which is very unhealthy. Most don’t realize it, so I spot them when they refer to the Bible as “inerrant” or “The Word of God” in ignorance of its origins, translation history, etc..

    What about the LORD? Well, “LORD” is the method Tyndall and others used to render “????”, Yahweh, the name of God (note: it is as inappropriate to say “Jehovah” as it is to mispronounce the names of Tarja Turunen and Janusz Zurakowski, although I’m sure all three will forgive you. As for “Jesus”, his name in his native tongue is probably “Yesua”, but it has become common like some names… “Janusz” above might be such a variant of “John” but I’m not sure. Another example is “Julius” which became “Yulian” in Ukrainian and “Hulio” in Spanish.) Could it be that Yahweh is the best moral/ethical anchor? One thing is for certain: you have to _think_. It’s in the Bible, you can start at Proverbs 8. Job has a lot of little snippets of the science of his day, possibly the most famous being “[God] stretcheth out the north over the empty place, and hangeth the earth upon nothing” (Job 26:7) implying that Job knew the Earth to be a large, spin-stabilized free body in space, a fact which is implicitly obvious if you ever use celestial navigation techniques… Says an expert in celestial navigation:

    “I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with senses, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use and by some other means to give us knowledge which we can attain by them.” – Galileo Galilei

    Could that explain why prophecy is so rare in our time and why so often interpretations of Biblical prophecy make very little sense? God expects us to think for ourselves, but still worship Him. This obviously means He expects us to decide for ourselves whether He is the one to worship. The consequences in the Bible seem to bear that out very well among both the Isrealites and others. This is a means by which the “moral” commandments about worshiping the LORD cross from inherently right “moral” into cause-and-effect right “ethical”. It isn’t so effective today, though (i.e.: those who worship Yahweh don’t get as much protection from Him today, like when the Nazi’s systematically murdered over six million of them… how much over is unclear, but it is known that he killed non-Jewish worshippers of Yahweh.)

    I see two main ways one could become moral/ethical synonymous: One adopts moral behaviour and then realizes why it is ethically right (I chose this approach), and the other is to make ethics your morals, and let consequence guide your path, hopefully in the right direction. Eric put it “I believe ‘right thought’ usually follows changes in behavior as a rationalization rather than causally preceding them.” I remember seeing a parent dealing with a child thus (I don’t think I have these quotes exact.) He ordered the child, “Say you’re sorry.” The child responded, “Why should I say I’m sorry when I don’t feel it?” The parent said, “Say you’re sorry anyway, and you’ll learn to feel it.”

    Terry

    P.S.: “How wrong it is to use God as a stop-gap for the incompleteness of our knowledge. If in fact the frontiers of knowledge are being pushed further and further back (and that is bound to be the case), then God is being pushed back with them, and is therefore continually in retreat. We are to find God in what we know, not in what we don’t know.” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

  96. 10. Thou shalt not covet … any thing that is thy neighbour’s.

    P.J. O’Rourke wrote of a very interesting interpretation of the 10th commandment. I don’t know if it is what Moses had in mind but…

    The idea is to do with the distinction between tribal sort of societies in which everything is shared as the chief commands and what we recognize as modern property rights. If someone has goods that you want, don’t appeal to what is “fair” – go earn enough to acquire the goods you want. Paraphrasing what PJ said: “If people want the government to redistribute wealth, God has provided an answer: Go to hell.”

  97. “The idea is to do with the distinction between tribal sort of societies in which everything is shared as the chief commands and what we recognize as modern property rights.”

    That is very interesting, and one of the reasons I like Minecraft so much. In single player, you are completely unrestricted, able to break anything you want and build anything you want, including a computer of up to 27.5 Mi blocks from redstone (don’t expect the city block sized monstrosity to run very fast though!) I think Minecraft is a very, very crude simulator of heaven.

    Terry

  98. a computer of up to 27.5 Mi blocks from redstone (don’t expect the city block sized monstrosity to run very fast though!)

    To take this a step further away from the topic of this post (an unethical thing to do as there is a risk that it may make our host feel that I have gone from being a guest to a trespasser, but so damn interesting that I will take the risk)…

    I only recently realized that the speed of light is almost exactly one foot per nanosecond. Apparently, the speed of electrical impulses in a conductor are approximately 0.9 c. Now, I am under the impression that my 3 GHz processor only does 3 GHz in the CPU chip but nevertheless… very fast computers simply can’t be large (other than slow peripheral devices).

  99. Jeff Read said: The problem with Office support is that .doc and .xls are not much more than pointer-unswizzled dumps of Word or Excel’s current document state (and then gave an excellent explanation as to why that’s so and why it was pragmatic rather than evil).

    That was “the problem” in, say, 2007.

    Office has used XLSX and DOCX for years now, which are Actual Open Formats [OASIS OpenDocument, based on Sun's work for OpenOffice] (admittedly with proprietary extensions … which are allowed in the spec, and frankly a reasonable thing to have; user stories matter more than procrustean make-it-fit-the-format-without-extensions).

    That’s why OpenOffice and iWork can interoperate so effectively with Office.

    So not only were the Office formats never “evil” by intent* to lock customers in, they’re Open now, for the vast majority of purposes – by which I mean if you “just make a word document or a spreadsheet”, OO or Pages/Numbers can open it in a completely useable way, trivially, and can also write something Office can use just fine.

    (* TL;DR: They were binary blobs because that’s how you make all that fast on a 1 meg 386.)

  100. OK – I promise that after this comment, I will take this post no further afield than the meaning of ethics/morality, but…

    I just realized that massively parallel computers or (effectively the same thing) many computers on a network each working on part of a problem can be spread over the whole world and still solve very large, very parallel problems very quickly.

    But… nevertheless… a foot/ns… that is very fast but these days… in some ways, it must be slow enough to be a serious limiting factor.

  101. Turns out to be about 50-59% the speed of light inside a computer (I looked up a few dielectric constants; semiconductor engineers are now hard at work adjusting kappas to keep Moore’s Law valid for another couple of years: lower dielectric insulators between transistors and interconnects to speed up the movement of signals between the transistors, and higher dielectric insulators to speed up the transistors themselves.)

    In my search, I came across something extraordinarily funny at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Speed_of_electricity

    Someone threw in “Minecraft redstone moves at 1billion times the speed of light, and this is the average speed of electricity. Tyloro is also a genius.” Hopefully he didn’t spoof my IP while doing it.

  102. > Apple’s turn is next.

    And the converse is true as well? If so, it fails to explain Apple’s rise when SJ returned.

    “If you can’t beat em, call em evil.”, eh?

  103. > Self-destruction on this scale takes time. Often a quite unpredictable amount of time.

    Sometimes an effectively uncountable amount of time.

    In the future, all predictions can be true. Sometimes the future isn’t “next Monday”, but rather “after I die”.

  104. “SPQR, I have nothing to disagree with in what your saying (especially since I was in college during the Great Browser Wars), I’m just uber-amused at your nickname.

    You you … you whippersnapper you.

    I’ve been using this nick for quite a long time now.

  105. @Sigvald
    Docx etc are still dumps of in memory states of the document. But now serialized into xml.

  106. “I’ve been using this nick for quite a long time now.”

    Yeah, but somehow I missed it or somehow didn’t connect it to the part of my brain that stores my knowledge of history…

  107. @Brian Marshall
    “I appreciate your response but I don’t consider any of the activities you listed to be immoral – public nudity I consider to be like noise laws – not really touching on what I consider to be right and wrong.”

    I was not talking about your personal morals, which I do not know. You were asking about some “us” that I interpreted as the people who live around you.

    All of my examples have been put into enforced laws in some countries. If you are in the USA, you can easily get some millions of people for any of my examples who will demand it enforced rigorously.

    Btw, the fact that people claim that their morals were derived from their religion is almost always false. Most moral imperatives are much older than the religion they are supposed to be derived from.

    The hallmark of morals is that you demand other people to adhere to them. Many get incorporated into law. Often with rather whimsical rationalizations, say about eating cats and dogs or public nudity.

  108. @Ignatius

    “As the “no one ever got fired for buying Microsoft” generation begin retiring and are replaced by people who grew up having a taste of freedom, the problem is only going to get worse.”

    Really you should qualify what kind of products you are talking about. Office and suchlike – right. Dynamics, no, actually, Navision went from a market niche app in 2001 to kicking everybody but SAP’s ass off the ERP market by 2011. Microsoft CRM pretty much killed Pivotal and suchlikes, although Salesforce.com is generating more buzz. You see in this field the decision-makers are not the technical, IT people, but the old managers, and they are very much brandname-oriented, Microsoft, SAP, maybe Oracle, is what they recognize. They technically have nothing against open source, but they have a lot against obscure open source that is not a huge brand name. Now for example if OpenERP or Compiere was bought by IBM and renamed “IBM Business Suite” – now that would be an interesting battle to watch. Really, the name is everything because trust in everything in these fields. Meanwhile, people give increasingly less fucks about MS Office for example.

  109. @Jeff

    “The problem with Office support is that .doc and .xls are not much more than pointer-unswizzled dumps of Word or Excel’s current document state.”

    So basically like saving a game. Wait, what? This actually makes sense! The “save” button was understood as “save the ‘game’ of editing process, I will come back later and finish the work, then when done, PRINT it out and send the hardcopy to people; the hardcopy is the product” not “provide me with a file other people can open, as a product”.

    Today, “save” means “create product”, back then, “print” meant “create product” and “save” meant pretty much like “saving the game”.

    Wow.

    1.5 microzen booked.

  110. esr:
    >>Why was this analysis not true 5 years ago?

    >Self-destruction on this scale takes time. Often a quite unpredictable amount of time.

    I believe that ethical behavior is a way of improving the odds of good outcomes– it’s a matter of estimation.

    As for ‘ethical’ vs. ‘moral’, I don’t think most users of English use the words to distinguish between rules vs. consequences. I’m pretty sure I ran into the distinction in Sturgeon, though it may also be in Heinlein.

    I’ve acquired a fondness for consequentialism vs. deontology, but that has the problem that ‘deontology’ doesn’t have an obvious meaning. In any case, I believe that because of the limitations of human knowledge, we’re stuck with using rules (hopefully carefully chosen rules) but breaking them when the good or bad consequences are sufficiently obvious.

  111. @ Winter:
    >Btw, the fact that people claim that their morals were derived from their religion is almost always false. Most moral imperatives are much older than the religion they are supposed to be derived from.

    What people actually mean here is that their morals are derived from facts that their religion claims to be true. Those facts (if true) have always been true whether or not they have been recognized by humanity. From inside a religion, the founding of that religion is the time that the set of facts it claims to be true were first recognized, as a whole, to be true (or most recently recognized to be true, if the facts are supposed to have been known earlier but to have been forgotten). So moral imperatives that are advocated by a religion but predate the founding of that religion are seen to be instances where the the facts underlying those imperatives were recognized individually before the bulk of the religion’s truth claims were recognized, or where fragmented memories of a forgotten time when the religion (or some other based on the same truth claims) was previously practiced have been preserved.

    In other words, the religion is seen to have existed before it was first practiced (usually forever).

    This brings up a problem with distinguishing morals and ethics: what is a matter of arbitrary prohibition if you don’t recognize a certain truth claim can still be a matter of pragmatism if you do. Steve Ballmer would see ESR as as much of a moralist as RMS because he doesn’t believe the truth claims that ESR uses to derive that secrecy is evil. (Likewise, I suspect that RMS *is* a pragmatist under a set of truth claims that ESR doesn’t believe).

  112. @ Winter

    Yeah, you are right. I was looking for examples that people, and hopefully I, would consider to be pragmatically ethical but immoral. Your examples pretty much fit the bill, even though I personally don’t really consider them to be unethical (other than maybe public nudity).

    Btw, the fact that people claim that their morals were derived from their religion is almost always false. Most moral imperatives are much older than the religion they are supposed to be derived from.

    I agree that the morals predate the religion but isn’t it true that many religious people get their morals (the particular beliefs) from their religion?

    A sort of related point is that on a number of occasions, I have heard people (ex. Dr. Laura Schlessinger), when commenting about atheism, say something like “But if there is no God, then murder wouldn’t be wrong!”

  113. re: ethics vs. morality

    Is this distinction correct (at least for philosophers that make the distinction):

    - ethics is pragmatically about what is good and bad for people and the society in which they live

    - morality is a set of rules about what is right and wrong that encode a set of ethics so as to make them easy to teach and judge, and where “intent” is important because we don’t want to punish people for doing something that they didn’t know was wrong

  114. I note that Wikipedia (which I realize isn’t necessarily correct) says:

    Ethics, also known as moral philosophy, is a branch of philosophy that involves systematizing, defending, and recommending concepts of right and wrong conduct.

    and

    Morality (from the Latin moralitas “manner, character, proper behavior”) is the differentiation of intentions, decisions, and actions between those that are “good” (or right) and those that are “bad” (or wrong). The philosophy of morality is ethics.

    ESR seemed to be making a more profound distinction than:
    - morality is about what actions, intents, etc. are right and wrong
    - ethics is the philosophy of morality

  115. Actually, in my Ayn Rand years (from when I was 17 to about 20), I believed (and, now that I think about it, still believe) that “ethics is the philosophy of morality”.

  116. @ Nancy Lebovitz

    I’ve acquired a fondness for consequentialism

    I assume/hope you mean big-picture long-term consequentialism.

    Consequentialism generally means

    the consequences of one’s conduct are the ultimate basis for any judgment about the rightness of that conduct. Thus, from a consequential standpoint, a morally right act (or omission) is one that will produce a good outcome, or consequence.

    On an action by action basis, consequentialism can mean “the ends justify the means”, which can justify a great deal of evil action. For example, I believe that killing the president of your business’s competitor is wrong even if you don’t get caught. Killing for profit is wrong because it is a variety of “might makes right” which discourages wealth creation while preying on existing wealth. The long-term consequenses are bad for everyone.

  117. >Is this distinction correct

    Not quite. Among those philosophers who make the distinction (which is a tradition going as far back as Aristotle) the main thing that distinguishes “morality” from ethics is that “morality” includes premises which are not subject to consequential analysis, such as religious injunctions.

  118. @ ESR
    Thanks. I knew that morality can also include non-consequential aspects (“I am the LORD thy God …”) but, thinking in regard to myself, I forgot to include them when writing the question.

  119. @ ESR

    Thinking about this, I am pretty certain that my morality is entirely based on long-term big-picture consequential ethics.

    I have another question. I won’t directly ask about your morality (none of my business and I know the relevant Heinlein quote), but can you suggest any rational principle of morality that isn’t directly derived from pragmatic ethics? That is, no aspects that “are not subject to consequential analysis”?

  120. ‘course the bit about not asking directly about your morality was BS because you believe yourself to be rational.

    Nevertheless, I think it is a valid question and I would value your answer.

  121. @ ESR

    ‘course the bit about not asking directly about your morality was BS because you believe yourself to be rational.

    Just to be absolutely clear, I also believe that you are rational.

    OTOH I truly hope you were joking and/or speaking “tongue in cheek” when, in the post “The microzen: a unit of enlightenment” you said:

    (who, synchronistically enough, signs himself “Foo”)

    .

    If you do believe in synchronicity, I would appreciate an explanation or link to something that sheds light on why you do.

  122. From the descriptions, it seems to me that ethics are a constrained subset of morals that has an evaluation function “consequential analysis”. It’s still based on motivation execution in which certain consequences are “good” and “bad”.

  123. >can you suggest any rational principle of morality that isn’t directly derived from pragmatic ethics?

    No, not in anything I believe. But scratch any conventionally religious person and you’ll find a boatload of them.

  124. >If you do believe in synchronicity, I would appreciate an explanation or link to something that sheds light on why you do.

    Your first guess was right. Tongue firmly in cheek.

  125. >From the descriptions, it seems to me that ethics are a constrained subset of morals that has an evaluation function “consequential analysis”. It’s still based on motivation execution in which certain consequences are “good” and “bad”.

    The difference in style of reasoning matters, though. Moralists eventually fall back on either appeal to authority or the “ick” response that humans evolved to keep them away from sewage and tainted food, because they have to. Ethicists aren’t allowed either move.

  126. >Steve Ballmer would see ESR as as much of a moralist as RMS because he doesn’t believe the truth claims that ESR uses to derive that secrecy is evil. (Likewise, I suspect that RMS *is* a pragmatist under a set of truth claims that ESR doesn’t believe).

    Ballmer’s categorization would be incorrect. First (and as another commenter pointed out) I don’t believe secrecy is per se evil – in fact, I have even occasionally recommended it. But more importantly: I talk and write (by choice) like an ethicist, not a moralist. If Ballmer were to “see” me as a moralist, he would be ignoring just my positions but the manner of reasoning by which I derived them.

    As for RMS, you point at part of what makes the differences between RMS and me analytically interesting if you’re a historian. Near as I can tell (and I’ve known RMS since the 1970s) we believe pretty much the same set of truth claims about things near software engineering. Our differences are further afield than that.

  127. @Brian Marshall
    “Thinking about this, I am pretty certain that my morality is entirely based on long-term big-picture consequential ethics.”

    Given the (computational) limits of human understanding, you will have trouble getting rational ethics for all facets of your life. The number of moral questions you have to deal with in daily life, say, buying groceries, simply precludes you from thinking through every one of them. In some cases, you will not be able to reach a rational conclusion. So you will have to use short cuts.

    All humans have to use short cuts in ethical questions. These short cuts become (or even are) morals.

  128. How does a company like IBM fit into this ? They usually get mentioned in the same breath as Microsoft but have been going strong for over a 100 years.

  129. Actually given that “moral” has meanings like “moral support” or “being demoralized” I suppose morals are those ethics that have psychological rather than physical consequences. If you run a hospital, the ethical part is not putting patients lives in danger, the moral part is not treating the staff unfairly so that they get in bad mood, demoralized, demotivated for work.

    Psychological consequence can be something natural or something claimed as supernatural (stuff that “taints your soul”). In every religion I know of sinning has quasi-psychological supernatural consequences, such as closing down the soul so that it does not let the grace in or creating bad karmic habits and so on.

  130. @ Winter

    I agree. As I said: “so as to make them easy to teach and judge”.

    @ Shenpen

    I think “moral support” and “demoralized” are basically different words than “moral” as in rules of good and bad. They may be related to the word “morale” as in “Morale is high even though most of them are dead”.

    I used such a ridiculous example sentence because George Carlin wrote that “morale” is mostly used in situations where you would expect morale to be bad: school, prison, the army. You don’t (usually) hear people say “Morale was good at the party”.

  131. Brian: “can you suggest any rational principle of morality that isn’t directly derived from pragmatic ethics?

    Eric: “No, not in anything I believe. But scratch any conventionally religious person and you’ll find a boatload of them.”

    Terry: You can scratch me if you like, but as for whether I’m a “conventionally” religious person… Well, on the surface, I can seem like either rational atheist or conventionally religious, I probably seem contradictory to some. The short answer to Brian’s question is “no”. If the question were “Are there any rational principles of morality that aren’t directly derived from pragmatic ethics?” my answer would instead be “Probably not.”

    In my own beliefs, there are moral principles that I believe in and follow that I do believe are ethical, however, it is very difficult to explain my pragmatic reasoning for those beliefs (I know from having attempted it many many times that it is easier to discuss with Buddhists and Taoists than it is with my fellow Christians.) Also, when I do get my points across successfully, they are often not taken seriously. There is a good reason for this: I have moral principles that are derived from pragmatic ethics, but they are not rational.

    When I was a child, I was bullied quite badly, on a par with the most famous victims of bullying Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. I found that if I fought the bullies, I got in trouble with the teachers. If I tried to get help from the teachers, they ignored me. So, I ignored the bullies. It didn’t help much, but it did save me the energy expended by fighting back, and confused the heck out of my father. Resemblance to Matthew 5:44? At the time, just a coincidence, as I had not yet read the Bible. Irrational ethics for an irrational world, I think.

  132. Eric: “Near as I can tell (and I’ve known RMS since the 1970s) we believe pretty much the same set of truth claims about things near software engineering. Our differences are further afield than that.”

    i.e.: the “R” in RMS doesn’t stand for “Rational” (lol). I haven’t read much RMS since discovering ESR, but when I first found out about “free software” (shortly before it became “open source”) I sucked it up like a sponge. Problem is, I don’t recall seeing any rational reasoning or pragmatic arguments, only seeing the points because of my own frustrations with the evils of secrecy. Thank you _very_ much Eric for putting the sense in those principles, no matter how much Richard hates you for it. Also, thank you for going easy on Richard, (Luke 9:49-50 is just a coincidence, right?)

    Terry

    P.S.: Luke 9:49:50 EZ lookup: http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke+9:49-51&version=KJV

  133. Happened to see this video of someone using a Note 2 as a desktop system, with a display connected via HDMI and a full-size keyboard and a mouse. Docking smartphones to workstations isn’t new, of course, but I was impressed, mostly that the quad-core phone looks as powerful as it does. As I write this, I’m actually waiting for the post to deliver an entry-level, single-core Android phone, which seems, in comparison, quaint already. In my defense I’ll say that it’s not my first smartphone and that I deliberately got a physically small and cheap one.

  134. John Brase,

    “In other words, the religion is seen to have existed before it was first practiced (usually forever).”

    Not always. In traditional Judaism, a standard formula divides religious laws into three categories. The first category are things like the law against murder, that would be obvious to any decent society—natural law, if you will.

    The second category are commemorative and communal acts that only have meaning within the Israelite/Jewish nation, but which within that context are perfectly understandable—for example, national holidays, or wearing special symbolic clothing.

    The third category are laws that are utterly unfathomable and seem to have no basis in reason or national existence, but which God had some reason for and so we practice anyway. The prohibition against mixing wool and linen in clothing is a classic example.

    In short, don’t generalize too far from your own limited experience with religions and invent universal principles where none exist.

  135. @ Terry

    Brian: “can you suggest any rational principle of morality that isn’t directly derived from pragmatic ethics?

    The short answer to Brian’s question is “no”.

    and

    If the question were “Are there any rational principles of morality that aren’t directly derived from pragmatic ethics?” my answer would instead be “Probably not.”

    Um… These are the same question.

  136. @ Terry

    So, I ignored the bullies. It didn’t help much, but it did save me the energy expended by fighting back, and confused the heck out of my father.

    Other than confusing your father, it seems to me this was a pragmatic choice – not a great result, but the best available. Why is this not rational? (I don’t normally find myself asking Christians this question about their beliefs.)

    Matthew 5:44 -

    But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,

    I don’t see the connection – you weren’t loving your enemies according to your story, you just found the apparently optimal way to deal with them.

  137. Brian,

    First, you completely missed the difference between “can _you_ suggest any rational principle of morality that isn’t directly derived from pragmatic ethics?” (my emphasis) and “Are there _any_ rational principles of morality that aren’t directly derived from pragmatic ethics?” (again, emphasis added.) That was a surprise.

    As for your question “Why is this not rational?” in response to my bullying story, it does of course depend on how you define rational. The thing is, the idea of Matthew 5:44 is related to my actions, but most people (even preachers preaching the principle) do not find Matthew 5:44 rational. Think about it, and if you see what I can’t use words to explain, it probably rates more than one microzen.

    Mastiff,

    Can I get the source on your three categories of Jewish/Israelite law, especially on the stuff that is actually in the Bible and not things like the Talmud and other traditions? I would like to look into it further if that’s possible.

    Terry

  138. Why all this nonsense about moral vs ethics? The best reason for using free software (Yes, i said Free) is because it is Good For You ™. Pure selfishness. Be my guest to classify it as an ethical or moral standpoint.

  139. @ Terry

    you completely missed the difference between “can _you_ suggest any rational principle of morality that isn’t directly derived from pragmatic ethics?” (my emphasis) and “Are there _any_ rational principles of morality that aren’t directly derived from pragmatic ethics?” (again, emphasis added.)

    I still don’t get your point. ESR is an intellegent, rational, well educated person and I asked him what he thought. The “can you suggest” phrase just reflected my expectation that the answer would be no. As it turned out to be.

    [snarkiness>I agree that Matthew 5:44 is irrational nonsense.</snarkiness]

  140. @ Robert Andersson

    Why all this nonsense about moral vs ethics?

    Basically just my curiosity. ESR made the distinction, which I had never heard of before. It is an issue that is of interest to philosophers. Of course, many people (including I) consider the words “morals” and “ethics” to mean the same thing in common usage. However ESR’s point interested me, so I pursued it.

  141. Pingback: You Gotta Pay the Rent to The Man, Dude | Daily Pundit

  142. @ Terry

    I stepped over the line by implying that you believe that Matthew 5:44 is nonsense.

    Let me do this in two steps.

    I agree that Matthew 5:44 is irrational.

    Rational people think that an irrational statement is nonsense, or, in any case, not something that they would believe.

    My apologies.

  143. @winter
    >> “…, but an open market is one without government control, open to anyone who wants to play.”
    > The first part is both dogmatic and irrational. Historically and empirically, the second part contradicts the first.

    One person’s dogmatism is another person’s definition. The only entity that can prevent me selling something into a market is the government, except when the government fails in its most basic duty — which is to prevent one person using illegitimate force against another.
    If I had said “government involvement” both your statements would be correct. I didn’t though, I said government control, which is entirely different. Governments do have some value to provide in a market, specifically preventing illegitimate force, enforcing contracts, and providing such things as currency and fair weights and measures. There are private alternatives to these sorts of things, but they are ways a government can assist am market.
    Nonetheless, traditionally governments have gone way beyond that. Things like patents, licensing laws, standards enforcement, manipulative taxation, monopoly enforcement and so forth crush the openness in markets. Cartels, for example, are almost always built on the foundation of rent seeking and punitive laws.

  144. @Brian

    Apology accepted, for what little it’s worth. This is Armed and Dangerous after all, we can expect to get our tongues stuck to our cheeks every now and again, lol. You had very little to apologize for.

    What we’re getting at, of course, is that men of reason (thinking of the USA founding fathers and speakers at the Reason Rally) accept the parts of the gospel that are reasonable, judge Jesus as crazy at parts like Matthew 5:44, and think the whole immaculate conception, bringing people to life, transfiguration and resurrection stuff is all so much hogwash. Worse are the ones who throw out the entire gospel, including the ethical parts.

    Terry

  145. @ Terry

    In this kind of discussion, nothing I can say is going to be “nice”, but….

    For a Christian, you actually do seem to have a brain that works.

  146. Many Americans seem to have an almost religious-style faith in the wisdom and rationality of the Founding Fathers… that isn’t really true because it isn’t faith – there is no doubt the folks existed and there is much original material on which to judge them.

    Anyway, this almost-worship of the Founding Fathers is, in principle, bad, except that:
    1. They did seem to be very wise and rational for the most part
    2. The principles that underlie the US are WAY better than just about any alternative.

    Canada is different. The history is so boring that very little of it is taught and next to none of it is remembered…. Let’s see, we have:
    - The Hudson Bay Company
    - various trappers and explorers, many of them French
    - a few minor wars that no one remembers
    and…. that is about it.

    Oh, yeah… Be Nice.

    If you signal to change lanes, within a car or two someone will let you in. I had a car in which the alternator quit. The battery was dying and I was trying to get it to the dealership. The battery would die, I would open the hood, a guy in a pickup would stop and ask if I need a boost… I got about 3 boosts before it just wasn’t worth it – with no alternator, a boost would get me about 100 feet.

    OTOH, once when I was down for a conference in Orlando, I pulled into a 7-11 or something and a guy on the street stopped his car to tell me I had left my lights on. When my (now ex) wife and I were on our honeymoon in Hawaii (on Kauai), we got to the small, nice motel late and the owner wanted to know if we wanted to borrow his car to drive to the restaurant. I have had many similar experiences with Americans.

  147. Oh, yeah… We also have the CPR – the Canadian Pacific Railway… there is also another railway, but I don’t know how it relates to this… laid track across the country and left a string of Cantonese Chinese restaurants along the way.

  148. >For a Christian, you actually do seem to have a brain that works.

    It’s true.

    Being insane doesn’t imply general impairment of intelligence. It’s possible to be crazy as a bedbug and still more than merely functional in areas that are not adjacent to the delusional system. The case of W. C. Minor is well known, but I find the way such compartmentalization manifests in people afflicted by religious faith far more interesting. It’s perversely fascinating to map the boundary where their ability to reason switches off…

  149. I probably know more about Canadian history than the average American. Boring it hasn’t been, but we have a tendency to get lost under the shadows of our allies (or Allies in WWII’s case.) The British in the case of the War of 1812 (which is understandable since Canada didn’t officially exist and all the antagonists we now consider Canadian were considered British at the time.) I got a kick out of how Sir Brock and Tecumseh marched up to Detroit with a few hundred each of Iroquois and British. The latter just made noise, while the former, after a single cannon volley, explained to the commander of the US forces (who outnumbered the combined Canadian force just over two-to-one), something to the effect of, “Me and my men can be civil, I can guarantee that, but er… these native fellows aren’t with us, and I’m not sure what they’re up to.” The Americans surrendered without firing a shot. There’s a tale of how an LCA arrived at Juno Beach on 1944 June 6 and had the bad luck of landing right in front of this bunker on a sandbar. 28 people were in it, two squads of 14. One squad was completely wiped out, and twelve of the other were also killed. One of the two soldiers remaining boosted the other over the face of the bunker, and this other popped a grenade in the back. U-boats were getting right up into the St. Lawrence River and it was covered up until the 1990s. I haven’t been able to verify the tales of Canadians cracking open Panzers with crowbars while we were pinching the Nazis in the Chambois Pocket (We had Falais, the US had Argentan, and the Nazis were screwed.) One of our sink-by-themselves Victoria (aka Oberon) class submarines apparently pinged the Los Angeles while a documentary crew was aboard! Canadian history is extremely interesting, and I think I should brush up a bit on it.

    I hesitate to call myself Christian, actually, since I don’t fit any of the definitions given by the Barna Group in their book “unChristian”, a rather lengthly complaint about how Christians in the US and Canada haven’t been very Christ-like (the founding fathers even complained about it.) Anyway, I think there is another Christian with a brain that works, name of Malcolm Scott Peck. If you want to learn how you can be a Christian without being a dipshit, I recommend his books “The Road Less Traveled” and its follow-up volumes. Eric might get a kick out of this: at the time Scotty wrote the first book, he was Zen Buddhist. It was because of this, after I had been through my eleventh church in Calgary (and pissing off a great many ecumenicals along the way), I actually attended and volunteered at Avatamsaka Monastery on the west end of downtown Calgary for my last couple of months in that city.

    Terry

    P.S.: Along the way, I taught myself rocket science; history’s disadvantage is that you can get it all wrong without killing people early in the learning process.

  150. @ Terry

    There are some interesting stories about Canadians, but the history of the country itself… We seem to have sort of slid into being a rich (if indebted) first world country, largely through our good relations with the UK and the US.

  151. >Being insane doesn’t imply general impairment of intelligence.

    Or even general rationality, considering the number of good but religious professors and physicians.

    Although, physicians as professionals, are one of the least knowledgeable about their professions, compared to, say geologists or chemists. There seems to be as much to know about what goes on inside a human body as outside.

  152. Terry,

    As near as I can figure, two of the three categories were discussed by Maimonides (Rambam); he doesn’t discuss the category of national observances, possibly due to being an Aristotelian. But he seems to be referring to an earlier discussion in the Talmudic literature, that I can’t dig up off the top of my head. From ten minutes of googling, the best I could come up with is the discussion here:

    http://www.rationalistjudaism.com/2009/07/rambam-on-reasons-for-mitzvos.html

    I’m not sure when the third category became standardized; I know that discussion of the three categories is all over the place in Chabad doctrine.

  153. OT: Eric, have you seen http://falkvinge.net/2012/11/20/europarliament-scolds-visa-mastercard-paypal-for-killing-wikileaks-donations-initiates-regulation/ ? It appears that the Piratpartiet is trying to use statist regulation to safeguard freedom, and as an anarchist I’m sure you know how /that/ goes… Have the PP lost the plot? It’s a shame if so, because many of their goals are aligned with those of the hackers.
    As a related question, what’s the libertarian solution to credit card company idiocy? I think I can guess part of the answer…

  154. Earlier in this thread, there was talk about “Why did MS not deliver bad products earlier?”. But they did! Windows ME, CE, Vista. All the stuff we happily forget, Bob, Kin, DOS1, 2. The stagnation of IE for a decade. And the Mantra of “Never buy a MS product before it is on version 3!”. And the whole malware economy could evolve unchecked because of the lousy foundation of MS Windows/IE/Outlook.

    And Windows Phone 7 which could not be upgraded to 8?

    Earlier, MS did not care about these utter failures because they had an absolute monopoly. They could mess up their users’ computer, and these users had nowhere to go (or so they were convinced). Around 2009 they lost their monopoly, first with the Linux netbooks MS had to stamp out, then with Apple getting inroads in laptops and desktops. Then the Smartphone era started and MS lost out completely.

    In every case MS had the technology and the people to get into the game (search, tablets, phones, early NT). Every time, their deviousness got the better of them and they screwed up.

    Here is another update on “mess up our users”:

    Here’s Some Bad News If You Bought A Windows Phone This Year
    http://au.finance.yahoo.com/news/heres-bad-news-bought-windows-172100188.html

    Microsoft’s intentions were good when it announced Windows Phone 7.8. It clearly didn’t want to punish early Windows Phone adopters. But now it just feels like Microsoft was misleading Windows Phone owners to avoid a bunch of complaints. If Windows Phone 7.8 is coming, Microsoft needs to tell its customers when. If it’s not coming, Microsoft needs to bite the bullet and admit it can’t fulfill its promise.

  155. Bob

    I actually feel kind of sorry for Bob. Far stranger ideas have come out of academia for “revolutionary desktop replacements” and ultimately it was an idea ahead of its time.

    After all, what is Siri but Bob with modern search heuristics and the kind of voice recognition that wasn’t available back then.

  156. @JonCB
    “After all, what is Siri but Bob with modern search heuristics and the kind of voice recognition that wasn’t available back then.”

    When you eat, you judge a dish based on the execution (ingredients+cook), not on the idea behind the recipe.

    Bob was bad, not as an idea, but how it was executed. Siri is “loved”, because it seems to be actually useful.

  157. I think of Google as a fairly secretive company– they want everyone else’s information to be public, but they keep rather tight control of their own information. Am I missing something?

  158. @Nancy Lebovitz
    “Am I missing something?”

    Google used to be fairly open about most things, except their basic algorithms.

    However, lately they have become very closed even in purely scientific fields. So much so that eminent researchers start to decline offers to work there (sabbaticals etc.).

    We’ll see how long they can keep this up without deteriorating their work.

  159. @Winter
    > Bob was bad, not as an idea, but how it was executed.

    You are so wrong dude. *Bob* got Bill Gates laid by a super hot chick. Surely that is worth a few hundred million dollars of waste?

  160. @Winter
    > More about the decline of MS:

    As I have mentioned before, I haven’t written the eulogy for Surface yet. Christmas sales aren’t so important in the big strategic picture. From what I can see, the purpose of Surface is to capture the tablet market in the Enterprise, and possibly leverage that into enterprise phones.

    There is a big fat hole there that Apple isn’t filling, and in a marketplace that Apple tends to eschew, tends not to understand. And it is a gigantic market. Microsoft is well position to capture that market, and do their usual leverage thing. There are a lot of Windows experts making those buy decisions. Christmas sales don’t matter in that market. It is a non peaky market with significantly higher margins that consumer. (Have you SEEN how much SQL Server Enterprise costs? They just substantially hiked the price to per core instead of per box.)

    As I have said before, lots of people seem to snicker at Windows 8, but I suspect they haven’t seen the final product. I have, and it is pretty good — a lot better than the CTP that most people reviewed.

    I’m not making a prediction, I’m just saying there is an opportunity for Microsoft here. They aren’t dead yet, and 12 months from now everyone might be saying that Balmer was a genius. Of course you could also be saying Jessica is an idiot — which is always a distinct possibility :-)

  161. There is a big fat hole there that Apple isn’t filling, and in a marketplace that Apple tends to eschew, tends not to understand. And it is a gigantic market.

    Have you checked recently? Enough executives carry iVeblenGoods that there’s a demand for them in the enterprise space, and Apple has responded with a special enterprise developer program that enables businesses to authorize, sign, and distribute apps to corporate-owned devices.

    But Android is completely, out of this space, and it will be divvied up by Apple and Microsoft.

  162. @Jessica
    Surface tablet a hit in enterprise? I would Noeth discount theater. Especially because I An largely ignorant kabouter theater marketing. Windows8 Metro, lessen likely. Mauve SP3 witheren classic look.

    However, hoe should Thuis plat out against 2+ Billito android installations?

  163. @Winter
    > Surface tablet a hit in enterprise? I would Noeth discount theater.

    I’m thinking that perhaps you typed this on an crappy phone keyboard, because it doesn’t look dutch to me!

  164. @Jeff Read
    > Have you checked recently? Enough executives carry iVeblenGoods

    Sure, but plenty of execs carried Macbooks too, doesn’t change the fact that enterprise computer systems are designed to work in Windows (mostly.)

    > special enterprise developer program that enables businesses to authorize, sign

    That is a wise choice on their part. I hadn’t heard about it, which isn’t good, since I really should have given what I do for a living.

    > But Android is completely, out of this space, and it will be divvied up by Apple and Microsoft.

    Maybe. Android really is still futzing around with tablet. I don’t think they are done. There are lots of Apple haters in corporate IT. They’d prefer Microsoft, but if they can’t have that, they’ll want Android.

  165. Aarhh autocorrect went life again without me noticing.
    Please disregard or delete.

  166. >Canadian history dull? Read up on the Fenian raids

    I tried, man, but all I could do was skim through part of it. To me, it is like reading the fine print in an insurance contract. Maybe this is more a reflection on me than history, but I just can’t read that stuff. I would guess that a vanishingly small number of Canadians know about it and even fewer care. The little wars and skirmishes in the 1800s basically mean nothing know.

    Of course if Quebec (or Alberta) ever seceded from Canada, that would be interesting. The problem with Alberta seceding has its potential problems. Alberta is a very conservative province on the whole, and, given enough time and some political weirdness I could almost see having whipping posts being set up. OTOH, Alberta, and particularly Calgary, are becoming more and more Cosmopolitan – we have nice tits here – no wait… more cosmopolitan – the influx of people from everywhere (in a good way, because the come here for jobs) hopefully more than cancels out the religious farmers.

    Actually… we have a lot of Veitnemese people in Calgary, and two of the lasting effects of the French in Veitnam are:
    - the only drinkable coffee in the far East
    - nice breasts on delicate, absolutely beautiful Asian chicks

  167. @jessica so android adoption is driven by hatred? :)

    Obviously, the driving factor will be enterprise service compatibility. IT wants to be able to provision all the devices from a small (preferably single) set of images and be able to remotely update, disable or wipe and have it all behave nicely with all of their existing, mostly microsoft, infrastructure.

    For this most folks use Good and quite a few former Blackberry shops are now pure iOS shops. Wierdly, Apple is ahead of the competition for enterprise.

    Some IT folks may hate Apple but they probably hate unauthorized sideloading more. Apple’s enterprise dev program, while a tad clunky in the provisioning, allows enterprises to sideload their own apps while preventing any other sideloading without a jailbreak which they can detect.

  168. Boring History and Nice People….

    Americans are taught a lot more about their history than Canadians and most Americans have at least heard of the Founding Fathers, Declaration of Independence, George Washington, etc.

    In Canada, we didn’t really have founding fathers in the same way. We just gently slid away from Britain in a nice mellow fashion (for the most part) over the last 150 years or so.

    OTOH, (although I don’t know how many Canadians know this or even how true it literally is) but (at least when I was a kid), we were taught that Canada is the only country that went from being a colony (maybe of Britain) to being a real country with no violence and very little hard feelings on either side.

    Funny thing is: We are still sort of (at least pretending to be) a colony of Britain. Government owned land is called “Crown Land”. When certain kinds of leases are given up, the land “reverts to the crown”. Our coins have the Queen on the “head” side. Government acts start like:

    BILL 29 — 2004
    MINERAL TENURE AMENDMENT ACT, 2004
    HER MAJESTY, by and with the advice and consent of the Legislative Assembly of the Province of British Columbia, enacts as follows:

  169. @Nigel
    > IT wants to be able to provision all the devices from a small (preferably single) set of images and be able to remotely update…

    This is really pure Apple religion. Which iPad are they to image? Which iPhone? Which laptop? Which desktop? You surely know the solution to this putative fragmentation problem in Android is the same as the it is with laptops, namely a corporate policy to buy one and the same brand. FWIW, Apple products are very expensive, and that is a big deal when you are buying a lot of them. The biggest question for many IT departments will be how seamlessly does it integrate with Active Directory and Microsoft Exchange.

    But regardless, it offers another hole for MS to squeak into.

  170. Actually…

    The Asian coffee situation is based on PJ O’Rourke’s experience (I am not sure how recently) and my experience in Singapore and Tokyo in the 1980s.

    The well-endowed Asian chick business is pure speculation on my part.

  171. @Brian Marshall

    Funny thing is: We are still sort of (at least pretending to be) a colony of Britain. Government owned land is called “Crown Land”. When certain kinds of leases are given up, the land “reverts to the crown”. Our coins have the Queen on the “head” side.

    The way we’re taught to think of it here in Britain is: the UK, Canada, Australia etc. are separate sovereign countries that all just happen to have the same head of state. The UK isn’t in the business of having colonies any more, it’s just first (if that) among equals in the Commonwealth (which is why our government’s foreign affairs department is known as the Foreign and Commonwealth Office: it used to be the Foreign and Colonial Office; before that, the Foreign Office and the Colonial Office were separate departments).

    Incidentally, some are predicting that there will be interesting developments when the Queen passes on. Prince Charles is sufficiently unpopular in some quarters that it has been suggested that the succession should skip him and go straight to Prince William. Now, if that happened, and he became King of the UK, there ain’t no law says he would automatically become King of Canada, or of Australia, or any of the other Realms and Territories, as the saying is. Now, I get the impression that most people in the Commonwealth of William’s generation and younger, who are apt to have to deal with this whole issue if and when it arises, think the idea of monarchy is just too silly to put up with on any basis other than Just Not Thinking About It, and if we’re forced to think about it to any extent, well, the dominoes could topple… interesting food for punditry, what?

    Now, what were we talking about? Evil? Secrecy? Software?

  172. @ Phil R.

    Now, what were we talking about? Evil? Secrecy? Software?

    Evil, Secrecy, Software, and the effects of French colonialism on coffee and anatomy.

    In any case, one more off-topic comment…

    Did you or anyone notice that before Prince Charles accidentally made a fool of himself, in photos, he had all the expression of a starfish. But after the idea of the crown passing to Prince William (if at all) became common, in photos of Prince Charles, he actually looks like a real human being with emotions and everything?

  173. @jessica

    This is really pure Apple religion. Which iPad are they to image? Which iPhone? Which laptop? Which desktop? You surely know the solution to this putative fragmentation problem in Android is the same as the it is with laptops, namely a corporate policy to buy one and the same brand.

    Well that’s a weird assertion because it’s NOT an Apple thing but has always been more of a Dell/HP thing. As you say, they buy scads of the same machines with maybe 2-3 options and mass configure them. Likewise with the blackberries.

    iPhones and iPads just happen to fit this workflow, not by design, but because Apple has a very tight consumer lineup and they have a very safe walled garden for their consumer users. And they have a long product lifecycle with around 3 years of very solid OS support. Heck, iOS6 works on the 3GS. Maybe without the bells and whistles but any security updates are baked in there. Not bad for a circa 2009 smartphone.

    Android not so much. Simply buying many of the same phone, except perhaps the Galaxy SIII and the Note, doesn’t fit the profile. And I wonder whether or not Samsung will update the SIII and the Notes for three years because of their SAFE program. That just started this year so it has no track record yet. Apple’s track record is pretty well established.

    A good enterprise Android phone/tablet is bootloader locked, won’t run any non-signed apps not approved by IT, will get regular security and regular OS updates for 2-3 years and have a 1st class enterprise experience (arguably Good isn’t all that good at that but probably good enough).

    I agree that MS has a window of opportunity here given they control the enterprise side and the phone/tablet side. Frankly, I have no idea why they don’t buy RIM and Good Technology and orphan both iOS and Android support and effectively take over the enterprise market.

    Given their current pathetic mobile market share I doubt they’ll even run into any legal issues. Maybe Visto/Good Technology doesn’t want to sell.

  174. “Actually… we have a lot of Veitnemese people in Calgary, and two of the lasting effects”

    What a coincidence! I just got an email from one of them. Stop by Dragon City Mall across from from the TD Canada Trust on Centre St. on 4th Ave and head to the middle of the first floor, just north of the escalator, “My Vietnamese Delight” and tell them I sent you. “Terry says ‘How do you do?’ and ‘What are you up to?’” and they’ll probably remember me. They make really good Yakisoba (yeah, I know it’s Japanese, but they also make very good firmly Vietnamese subs, my favorites were the Bo Sate and Cha Lua.)

    “I tried, man, but all I could do was skim through part of it. To me, it is like reading the fine print in an insurance contract.”

    To me as well: there are plenty more interesting things in Canadian history than the Fenian Raids. We have the nose of an aircraft that would give the Raptor and Lightning II quite a scare sitting in a museum… We rolled it out on Sputnik Day! 1958 Veteran’s/Armistice/Remembrance Day it dang near set a speed record (Mach 1.96) while overweight, running on derated engines while climbing and not even at full throttle. :p (Add to that, the company that made it is alleged to have made the world’s best UFOs as well.)

  175. “…some are predicting that there will be interesting developments when the Queen passes on. Prince Charles is sufficiently unpopular in some quarters that it has been suggested that the succession should skip him and go straight to Prince William…”

    They should follow Sweden’s example – His Majesty holds the civil service rank of ‘king’, with the right to retire at age 65 with a government pension. I only hope that, when that happens, the Swedes make the Crown Princess take and pass a civil service exam for the post.

  176. @ Terry
    >Do you avoid downtown because of the trucking faffic?

    Yeah…
    - Traffic and paying maybe $16 to park (there are cheaper places, but they are filled by 8:00 am – pay the high price and there are free stalls in the parkade

    - I am basically retired after spending most of 30 years downtown, and I am sort of sick of it

    - I hardly ever eat out.

  177. @Jessica
    “From what I can see, the purpose of Surface is to capture the tablet market in the Enterprise, and possibly leverage that into enterprise phones.”

    Second try, now with a real keyboard.

    The Surface could be a hit with enterprise. I do not feel qualified to make any statement on that topic. However, the real volume is in the consumer market.

    Billions (>3) of Smartphones will be sold in the coming years. Almost all of these (>90%) will end up of being Android phones. All these people will shift effortlessly between phones, bigger phones, small tablets, big tablets etc. So there will be hundreds of millions of tablets sold to people who are using Android phones on a daily basis.

    Guess which tablets these Android users will prefer? Guess which tablets will get the most developers?

    Then there is this whole “competition” thing. MS have shown time and again over almost three decades that they cannot compete on price and quality. Whenever MS cannot beat the competition into submission with marketing, money, or monopoly leverage, they loose.

    That was the original question that motivated this blog post:
    “Why can MS not produce a decent product, even if their life depends on it?”

    Earlier in this thread, it was asked why MS only now fails? But they did before: DOS 1&2, Windows ME, CE, Vista, etc Earlier, Windows users believed they did not have an alternative. So MS could mess up their computers, and they would still not be deserted by their users. But with phones and tablets, users do not even have to use their products in the first place.

  178. Notice you’re not updating your comScore page with any regularity.
    http://www.catb.org/esr/comscore/

    Taking a quick glance through the press releases, it looks like iOS has been outgrowing Android on smartphones for the last 5 months straight. New numbers are due out next week, and it will be interesting to see what impact iPhone 5 has on Android.

    “Google” “Apple”
    Sep 2012 0.9 1.9
    Aug 2012 1.7 2.4
    Jul 2012 1.4 2.0
    Jun 2012 0.6 1.7
    May 2012 0.8 1.7
    Apr 2012 2.2 1.9
    Feb 2012 3.2 1.5

    It’s commonly known now that this is really a race between Samsung and Apple, since nobody else is making bank on the results.

  179. Never attribute to malice (evil) that which is adequately explained by stupidity (poor leadership).

  180. @Winter
    > Second try, now with a real keyboard.

    BTW, one of the things that I think is important about the Surface is that a full keyboard is an out of the box option. Yes, yes, I know you can buy keyboards for other tablets, but people don’t, and with Surface they do.

    > However, the real volume is in the consumer market.

    Total Profit = volume x per unit profit

    The margins on Enterprise are much higher, and the upsell much, much higher. Apple does good on its margins, but will get squeezed eventually. Pricing in the Enterprise is much more inelastic. Consumers will switch from one eco system to another for $50 or less.

    > All these people will shift effortlessly between phones, bigger phones, small tablets, big tablets etc.

    Effortlessly only if they are the same. If you job requires you to use a Surface to be compatible with the massive Microsoft infrastructure investments your employer has already made, then you get a friction point if you carry an Android phone. Why not just buy a Windows phone? It will integrate so much more easily with your work email….

    > Whenever MS cannot beat the competition into submission with marketing, money, or monopoly leverage, they loose.

    Seems to me that with Surface they have a big lever to work. I guess that is my main point.

    Again, I am not making a prediction of the resurgence of Microsoft. But Surface and Windows 8 plays to their strength, and so, if the gambit works, Balmer will be lauded as a genius.

    FWIW, for the first time in years I am thinking about buying stock in MS.

  181. @Jessica
    I am not interested in MS’ profits. Profits are not phones and tablets in people’s hands.

    The number of people who get a company tablet will be small compared to those who buy one themselves. The same with phones.

    Billions of people using Android phones will be a consiserable drag force. Loik what happened to RIM

  182. @Winter
    > I am not interested in MS’ profits. Profits are not phones and tablets in people’s hands.

    Sure, but Balmer is, and the subject under discussion is whether Balmer is an idiot, and whether MS can make good products (good being defined by MS as profitable.)

    I contend that the jury is still out.

    BTW, I read an article recently that seems related. John Dvorak poses the question: why did HP buy Autonomy rather than build it, regardless of whether it was a fraudulent deal. The answer is obvious to me — big companies like HP just are not capable of doing so, the inertia of “big” makes it too difficult.

    http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2412366,00.asp?kc=PCRSS03079TX1K0000585

  183. Billions (>3) of Smartphones will be sold in the coming years. Almost all of these (>90%) will end up of being Android phones. All these people will shift effortlessly between phones, bigger phones, small tablets, big tablets etc. So there will be hundreds of millions of tablets sold to people who are using Android phones on a daily basis.

    Currently there seems to be a great disparity between ownership and usage. iOS, despite a smaller market share still dominates web usage and apparently black friday sales.

    If folks aren’t really using their android phones as smartphones and aren’t buying many apps for their android phones there’s no stickiness to the platform. Buying a Windows or iOS tablet is just as effortless.

    Guess which tablets will get the most developers?

    The ones that make developers the most money and are easiest to code for and support. But right, you aren’t interested in profits. Developers are. We have things called mortgages and bills and like luxuries like food and clothes.

  184. Notice you’re not updating your comScore page with any regularity.

    Soaring iPhone 5 sales in US knock Android into second place

    The latest smartphone sales data from Kantar Worldpanel ComTech shows that strong uptake of the iPhone 5 over the past 12 weeks* has boosted iOS back to the number one spot in the US. It now has a 48.1% share of US smartphone sales compared with Android which has 46.7%.

    Dominic Sunnebo, global consumer insight director at Kantar Worldpanel ComTech, comments: “The last time we saw iOS overtake Android in the US was when the iPhone 4S was released and Apple managed to retain its lead for three consecutive periods. This time we predict that Apple will beat its previous high of 49.3% and achieve its highest ever share of the US smartphone market within the next two periods.”

    http://www.kantarworldpanel.com/Global/News/Soaring-iPhone-5-sales-in-US-knock-Android-into-second-place

  185. Apple does good on its margins, but will get squeezed eventually. Pricing in the Enterprise is much more inelastic. Consumers will switch from one eco system to another for $50 or less.

    You mean like how Audi, Infinity, Lexus, BMW, etc get squeezed? Apple isn’t quite that luxury a brand but it is a premium one.

    Folks will and do pay extra for Apple products because of build quality and design…just like they used to for Sony products. Their reputation and brand loyalty was top notch for a long period even after actual product quality fell off. Apple is still executing well and developing great products.

  186. > Apple is still executing well and developing great products.

    Debatable. There’s the Maps issue, which is a huge joke _within Apple_. And the iPad mini reeks of defensive posturing. They’re gliding fine so far because they’re Apple, but we aren’t seeing the kinds of powerful innovation they’ve been doing in the last five years.

  187. @Nigel
    > an like how Audi, Infinity, Lexus, BMW, etc get squeezed?

    They are not mass market products. You can charge a premium if you make awesome stuff, and are willing to accept that you will, consequentially, have a smaller audience.

    Not necessarily now, but in the long term anyway.

    That is especially so now that the captain of the ship isn’t as OCD as the prior captain was.

  188. When you eat, you judge a dish based on the execution (ingredients+cook), not on the idea behind the recipe.

    Your metaphor is inappropriate. By suggesting that this was based on a recipe you’re suggesting that other people had done it properly beforehand. The whole point of Bob was that it was blazing a trail apart from the standard “desktop” metaphor.

    Ultimately the only execution that would have helped Bob was one that involved keeping it as a research project and telling marketing to bug off. The ingredients didn’t exist at the time to make it work in the user space. And the cook was working off theory and intuition not a recipe.

  189. @jsk> There’s the Maps issue, which is a huge joke _within Apple_.

    Is Richard Williamson laughing?
    Is Eddie Cue laughing?
    Scott Forstall?
    Tim Cook?

    Who *exactly*, _within Apple_ is laughing? I can’t tell.

    And before anyone runs for “they did it for the PR!”, there no HR decision Apple can make vis a vis maps, hire or fire, that would be sound to announce during the holiday shopping season. No discretionary high-level firings of any sort are going to happen during the holiday shopping season; The holiday shopping season is to consumer electronics what benefits enrollment is to health insurance companies: total operational lockdown.

    Thus, given that someone at Apple involved in maps was just fired, it probably wasn’t discretionary.

    _No joke._

    Apple Maps is actually quite decent if you view it as a 1.0 product. Anyone expecting it to be truly competitive with Google Maps on the first go needs to reread Joel Spolsky’s old essay on the 10 year rule for good software.

    The failure of Apple Maps is that the execs made the decision to replace a superior product with it while simultaneously messaging that the new software was actually superior to the old one, when it clearly wasn’t.

    Richard was in charge of the entire Maps project (client and server). His decisions were mostly pressure from Forstall, but that’s how things were always done under that organization. Apple’s magic always seems to fall out of the chaos from it all, and client side, the app is worlds better than anything else out there. (Proof that formula still works well client-side.)
    It’s the data everyone is upset about and it can’t be fixed under the same chaotic management style that Richard and Forstall were in charge of.
    Richard was also in charge of several other iOS groups that he would have lost during the recent reshuffle.

  190. @Jessica> FWIW, for the first time in years I am thinking about buying stock in MS.

    So, translated, you believe the hype.

    Noted.

  191. Apple could buy Nokia, just for Nokia’s map data.

    That would put Apple on footing with, if not ahead of, Google in the map space.

    It makes me wonder if Apple is just waiting for Nokia to dig itself into an even deeper hole, making their stock price more favorable to such an acquisition.

  192. “Earlier in this thread, it was asked why MS only now fails? But they did before: DOS 1&2, Windows ME, CE, Vista, etc”

    “Apple Maps is actually quite decent if you view it as a 1.0 product. Anyone expecting it to be truly competitive with Google Maps on the first go needs to reread Joel Spolsky’s old essay on the 10 year rule for good software.”

    I’ll ask everyone to consider both of these together. The point is that a large organization with deep pockets can stay in a market until it gets good at it. Persistence pays off. Ask SPQR…when the Romans were defeated by the locals, they simply sent another legion. They had an endless supply of ambitious thugs all looking to earn a triumph, plus far more resources than any of the places they conquered. It was only when they abandoned their persistence (in Germania) that they sealed their own doom.

  193. @LS
    “The point is that a large organization with deep pockets can stay in a market until it gets good at it.”

    This year is a make or break year for the future of MS. Personal computing is shifting from desk/laptops to Smartphones and tablets. Shortly, half of humanity will use Smartphones, tablets, and the “Cloud” as their main ICT devices (the other half doesn’t use ICT). MS is currently all but absent from these markets, and therefore, is looking at a very bleak future of being an ex-monopoly with less than 80% margins.

    Under these circumstances, they fail to release decent products, with phones that do not phone and tablets that fall apart. The question was, with all their money and might, why could they not get their act together and release decent products?

    We know why they could get away with rubbish in the past. They know they cannot now, so why don’t they get their act together?

  194. @Jeff Read
    “Apple could buy Nokia, just for Nokia’s map data.”

    Why not simply buy TomTom, which delivered the map data they messed up now.

  195. @Nigel
    ” Notice you’re not updating your comScore page with any regularity.

    Soaring iPhone 5 sales in US knock Android into second place”

    Because USA numbers have dissociated from the rest of the world. iPhone market share in the USA is going up to (maybe?) 50%. World wide, iPhone market share is down to 15%.

    Tracking the US numbers (300M people) does not tell you the interesting story (7B people).

  196. @Winter “Tracking the US numbers (300M people) does not tell you the interesting story (7B people).”

    The US is the most important market in the world. But yes, there is a major divergence.

  197. This sort of finding is what I’ve never seen addressed until the last few days. It seems like Android users are much more likely to use their phone as just a phone than iPhone users. iPhone users are much more engaged. This combined with the more favorable (higher income) demographics means an iOS user is more valuable than an Android user.

    http://www.asymco.com/2012/11/27/android-engagement-paradox-validation/
    http://gigaom.com/mobile/why-are-android-users-less-engaged-than-ios-users/

  198. @phil (and others)
    “iPhone users are much more engaged. This combined with the more favorable (higher income) demographics means an iOS user is more valuable than an Android user.”

    I expect that the consumption of Champagne, Rolex’s, BMW’s, and bags from Louis Vuitton will also be much higher in iPhone users than in Android users. Just as “data plans” with lower caps.

    Is this relevant? If you want to make money in the luxury market, there is only limited amount of room for developers. There might be more money available, until the numbers start to go 10:1 or so. But in all luxury markets, the number of high earning production names is still small. Louis Vuitton bags make a lot of money. The people who actually produce these bags make little more than those who produce “generic” hand bags.

    The same with iPhones. Apple makes a lot of money, but I presume the factory floor workers make the same whether they produce iPhones or HTC phones.

    You can easily predict that in the iApp market, the shakeout will result in the same distribution: A few “houses” will sell the high margin iApps, but the developers will see the same money whether they write for iOS or Android.

    On the other hand, the real money in mobile business is not in the App store, but in services. The same as in the mobile phone market.

  199. We know why they could get away with rubbish in the past. They know they cannot now, so why don’t they get their act together?

    We know from prior markets that Microsoft missed the boat on (internet, gaming) that they can always catch up — and even wind up on top — via the usual tactics: aggressive marketing, shrewd negotiations with OEMs and other partners, “money hats” (i.e., buying a developer base), etc.

    They can do the same with mobile. Remember, they have Office as their ace in the hole — without which, there is no personal computing.

  200. @LeRoy
    > So, translated, you believe the hype.

    Yes, in these parts I am well known as a gullible fool.

    I suggest you actually read some of the reasons behind my comment, which are based on a substantive analysis of Microsoft’s competitive situation.

    You on the other hand dismiss this data without a thought because “M$ is doooommmmed”. “Evil gets its Karmic payback….”

    Really, who believes the hype?

  201. Because USA numbers have dissociated from the rest of the world. iPhone market share in the USA is going up to (maybe?) 50%. World wide, iPhone market share is down to 15%.

    Tracking the US numbers (300M people) does not tell you the interesting story (7B people).

    Gee, it was really interesting until Android started losing share after hitting that magic 50% mark.

    The US may only be a distant 3rd to China and India but it is still the most important software market.

  202. @Winter you didn’t even try to rebut the engagement point. If people aren’t using their Android phones as smart devices, then their marketshare count is irrelevant.

  203. @phil
    ” If people aren’t using their Android phones as smart devices, then their marketshare count is irrelevant.”

    Irrelevant to whom? I think these people consider their Smartphones a very relevant device. And they will not buy one if they do not use them as Smart Devices.

    The fact that they might use them predominantly at WiFi hotspots, or at home, or are economical with their expensive data service is irrelevant to me, and to them.

    We cannot all spend like “high potential” USA Americans yet. And there are people who do not lose sleep over USA App makers’ income.

    @Nigel
    “Gee, it was really interesting until Android started losing share after hitting that magic 50% mark.”

    No, it was interesting as long as the USA tracked global numbers. It ceased to be interesting to me when the USA market went their own way.

  204. I guess Eric needs a new smartphone article…

    Anyway, I’m not sure I believe all the web stats about android vs. ios. Having said that, the best stats out there are probably the ones from akamai, and they appear to show that the disparity is much smaller when examining cellular browsing, as opposed to WiFi browsing.

    So apparently, lots more people use iWhatevers over WiFi than use android over WiFi.

    But I don’t necessarily believe this, either, for reasons that I have posted here multiple times, that (to my knowledge) nobody has ever posted a refutation to. Here’s a starting point for thinking about this:

    http://www.guypo.com/uncategorized/mobile-browser-cache-sizes-round-2/

  205. So apparently, lots more people use iWhatevers over WiFi than use android over WiFi.

    That’s an awful lot of hipsters sitting in Starbucks.

    While the usage totals may be influenced by browser caches and such, the difference between the cellular and WiFi figures would seem to have to be demographic in some way.

  206. @Patrick – good response. But there is a still a major disparity in Akamai’s results for Android vs iOS no matter how you look at it. It’s large difference for total. Huge difference for WiFi. And tied for cellular. So even for cellular if you factor in that Android has a considerably larger marketshare. (55% to 35% or so in the US), iDevices are gettings used considerably more web use than Android. I’ll read the cache link next.

  207. @Patrick there are many ways to measure browser usage. I think the most common one is Google Analytics. This would not be skewed as it’s based on javascript execution in the browser.

    Akamai obviously doesn’t use GA of course.

    I really doubt caching affects these stats much, if at all. The act of requesting a resource to see if the cached version is available passes along the browser information, no? I should look at some HTTP headers I guess.

    this might be of interest too:
    http://arstechnica.com/apple/2012/09/developers-claim-safari-in-ios-6-breaks-web-apps-with-aggressive-caching/

  208. @Nigel
    “It now has a 48.1% share of US smartphone sales compared with Android which has 46.7%.”
    “The US may only be a distant 3rd to China and India but it is still the most important software market.”

    Gartner’s last report shows us how different the US market is in the global view of things.

    Gartner Says Worldwide Sales of Mobile Phones Declined 3 Percent in Third Quarter of 2012; Smartphone Sales Increased 47 Percent
    http://www.gartner.com/it/page.jsp?id=2237315

    Market Share (%)
    OS 3Q12 3Q11
    Android 72.4 52.5
    iOS 13.9 15.0

    We can expect a very strong 4Q12 for Apple, but year over year there is a decline.

  209. Back to the original subject of the Post: Microsoft’s evil and decline

    Is Microsoft On The Verge Of A Sudden Collapse Or Just A Long, Slow Decline?
    http://www.forbes.com/sites/anthonykosner/2012/11/26/is-microsoft-on-the-verge-of-a-sudden-collapse-predicted-by-catastrophe-theory/?utm_source=forbespicks&google_editors_picks=true

    I hope this isn’t true. Microsoft has been a stabilizing force in the market and many users are very attached to its products. For the first time, however, businesses can look to Google and to Apple and see plausible, battle-tested alternatives to the products they have used from Microsoft—for much less money. And in a bizarre way, Microsofts spasm of innovation has made the company now a destabilizing factor for IT departments and Google Docs is looking an awful lot like the old guard.

    I think there will be a collapse of MS when the shareholders see the discounted expected future income of the company become negative. At that moment they will try to liquidate the company.

    Personally, I am puzzled why they have not already forced MS to switch to “cash cow” status and shut down all money losing endeavors.

  210. MS collapsing 12/20/2012 would be rather fitting ;-)

    Won’t happen this fast, I know.

  211. @Winter “Irrelevant to whom? I think these people consider their Smartphones a very relevant device. And they will not buy one if they do not use them as Smart Devices.”

    The whole point is that many more Android users aren’t using their devices as “Smart Devices” than iOS users. iOS users are more engaged.

    Do you deny the data?

  212. My dad has an Android smartphone that he got with his ultra cheap T-Mobile plan. He barely touches the thing; and realistically, who would? It’s got like a 320×200 display.

    A lot of devices that technically count as smartphones are barely usable as such. Add to that the fact that many nontechnical consumers don’t know what a “smartphone” is — but they know what an iPhone is, and that it is differentiated from ordinary phones by its apps and internet capability.

  213. @phil
    What data tell us a sizeable fraction of Android users does not use any Smart Functionality?

    My impression was the data you mention is about hitting certain we sites. There is a large distance to say Chinese Android users use their phones as dumb phones.

  214. Microsoft has halved its OEM orders for Surface tablets.

    Best think longer and harder before purchasing that Microsoft stock, Jessica.

    I don’t share Eric’s totalizing view of open source; to me this is the mark of “the wages of a shitty product” rather than “the wages of secrecy”. Out there in the marketplace, products matter; source matters not a whit.

  215. Microsoft seems to “claim” that they already sold 40 million licenses of Windows 8 in the first 30 days.

    It must be a pure coincidence that this is exactly the number of Android activations in 30 days.

  216. @phil:

    That article assumes a conclusion. At least it is honest enough to state (near the end, of course) “To be clear, the data we’re looking at is from the U.S. only, and it’s based primarily on shopping traffic.”

    I can easily believe that the most avid web shoppers own and use iPhones. But I can also easily believe that they are so avid that they actually comprise but a small (and shrinking) portion of iPhone users.

  217. @phil
    You go from
    “Android users use their phone less for/during shopping” to “Android users are less engaged” (engaged in what?), to “many more Android users aren’t using their devices as “Smart Devices””

    I do not see the connection between shopping with your phone, engagement in the digital society, and using your Smartphone as a smart digital device.

    There really are many people that express personal and intellectual engagement in digital channels other than shopping.

  218. @Winter @Patrick Ok, a lot of the data was for shopping.

    What constitutes engagement (or “smart functionality” for the pedantic @Winter)? Shopping is big. So is web usage. So is app usage. Do you agree with this? What else would you add?

    @Winter – Are you dismissing shopping as unimportant despite the fact that the entire world economy is driven by buying things? Shopping is done via web or app usage (engagement on your smart device). And everyone in the world shops.

    For web usage, every survey I’ve seen shows higher iOS usage despite its lower marketshare. All I see is denial (“it’s not true because of X”). These survey have an error margin of course and ad network surveys are worthless. But given that all the analyst surveys agree, I have a hard time thinking they are all wrong. And @Patrick pointed out another source: Akamai.

    App usage: I don’t have any data handy on this, I can look later. Would you guys agree this is a good metric of engagement on a smart device?

  219. @phil
    I still cannot square:

    For web usage, every survey I’ve seen shows higher iOS usage despite its lower marketshare. All I see is denial (“it’s not true because of X”).
    With
    many more Android users aren’t using their devices as “Smart Devices”

    These two statements do not share a logic connection. I never denied iOS owners consume more TCP/IP packets (which is simple an empirical fact). I simple do not see how you can draw your conclusion from this fact.

  220. @Winter I’m not really sure how to respond to that. Please tell me what constitues using their devices as “Smart Devices”. Seems to me like web browser usage is one of the most (if not the most) important “smart device usage” metrics.

    If it’s not web browsing, what is it?

  221. @Winter I’m not really sure how to respond to that. Please tell me what constitues using their devices as “Smart Devices”. Seems to me like web browser usage is one of the most (if not the most) important “smart device usage” metrics.

    If it’s not web browsing, what is it?

    It is whatever Android users are doing a lot of but Apple users are not.

  222. In other words, Android users are going to POTS and that’s all that matters, lol.

    I don’t shop online, and I chuckled to myself after reading “There really are many people that express personal and intellectual engagement in digital channels other than shopping.” thinking “most of them are probably signed up to Armed and Dangerous!” There is one shopping feature that the internet is inherently limited in providing, “Cash and Carry”.

    I have a more interesting theory: The “engagement” we’re talking about are those activities that have a tendency to compromise privacy, and that generally Android users are more privacy conscious than iOS users. I think their choice of picking an Android phone over an iOS phone is actually a reflection of this, and after that, their reluctance to “engage” over their phones is a natural byproduct of their privacy concerns. I, for one, want as few passwords on my easily lost/cracked phone as possible, be it Android or iOS. Those who are more privacy conscious are also more conscious of Apple’s tendency to lock their customers, and that is the real reason why I am never, ever going to purchase an iPhone. (I s’pose I should mention that I’ve seen iPhones plugged into PCs for no other reason than to charge the battery crash the PC to such an extent that the operating system needed to be reinstalled!)

  223. @winter
    “Smart==Web?”
    IMO, yes.

    But what do *you* think smart means? Phone calls? Email? Text messages? Carrying a phone in your pocket? Paperweight? You aren’t answering the question at all.

  224. @phil
    But why do you need a $600 iPhone to browse the web? You could do that on a Symbian phone years ago.

  225. @Phil:

    App usage: I don’t have any data handy on this, I can look later. Would you guys agree this is a good metric of engagement on a smart device?

    Depends on what the point trying to be proved is. If the point is “stickiness”, then yes, app usage might be a useful metric. But I don’t have a clue how anybody could provide this info, and would have to think carefully about whatever methodology they claim to have. (It’s easy to see app download statistics, but app usage statistics are a completely different kettle of fish.)

    If the point is whether or not Android users use their phones for anything except phones, then you have to take web usage into account. As Terry points out, the mere fact that some people decline to shop on a portable device (which is where a lot of the metrics come from) isn’t necessarily an accurate reflection of “engagement.” As you point out, the akamai data shows iPhone ahead as well, but as I point out, better caching on Android devices could render that somewhat less meaningful as well.

    One thing the akamai data shows pretty clearly (IMO) is the dominance of Apple in tablets. I think that fully explains the fact that iOS usage is much higher than Android over WiFi. If this theory is correct, expect this number to shift a bit as Android tablets become more popular.

  226. ” If the point is “stickiness”, then yes, app usage might be a useful metric. But I don’t have a clue how anybody could provide this info, and would have to think carefully about whatever methodology they claim to have.”

    The anonymous usage statistics and bug reports that I always turn off…

  227. @phil
    My smartphone uses?

    All your suspected uses, plus pictures/movies, calendar, whatsup, podcasts, navigator, door-to-door public transport travel planning, off-line maps + GPS, weather radar, news, blog reading. And I write many comments on my phone.

    But I only use 3G when I am commuting and my train does not have WiFi.

  228. New comscore numbers are out.

    Also, partially related to original topic, if X is current sales, that gets reported by a few outfits, and the integral of X is reported by a few outfits such as comscore. But we don’t usually get much reporting on the derivative of X (which, as we have discussed here on many occasions, is a very interesting number). Herewith is the first article I’ve seen in awhile that gives a nod to the derivative:

    http://www.fiercemobilecontent.com/story/kpcb-android-adoption-growing-6x-faster-iphone/2012-11-06

  229. @Jeff Read
    “I don’t know what sort of world Tomi Ahonen lives in,”

    Let’s see if the Lumia 920 sales can be sustained past the initial rush. There seem to have been quite a few people who postponed buying a Windows phone when they learned that the WP7 handsets would not be upgraded. You can see this in Nokia’s most recent quarterly numbers, too.

  230. “I did not believe MS’ tablet would be a block buster, but after reading this [story that reminds Terry of anecdotes of ex-Soviet grocery stores that came out after Glasnost] I almost felt sorry for MS. Do not worry, I could suppress the urge.”

    I was suppressin’ no urges, I laugheded my ass off for several minutes…

    Oh… er….

    Did you mean urge to feel sorry for MS? (/me laughs another ass off)

  231. Talk about desperation:

    Microsoft looking for Android malware horror stories
    http://www.androidfree.us/2012/12/microsoft-looking-for-android-malware.html

    I’m not sure what Microsoft are trying to achieve by this, maybe they are saying that Windows Phone doesn’t have a malware problem and by highlighting the fact that Android is targeted by malware writers.

    Much more effort has gone into making Android more secure than has been spend by MS since their inception. For a platform with 500M users, I see surprisingly little malware.

  232. And the obvious backfiring of MS’ hate mongering linked to in the comment above:

    Microsoft Android hatemongering #droidrage campaign backfires, brings on the #windowsrage
    http://www.phonearena.com/news/Microsoft-Android-hatemongering-droidrage-campaign-backfires-brings-on-the-windowsrage_id37368

    In response to that, users on Twitter did the most obvious thing – create a #windowsrage hash tag. What’s funnier is that now it is trending on the microblogging platform.

  233. Microsoft looking for Android malware horror stories

    Smearing a rival with FUD is a time-honored tactic. Apple’s been attempting it against Android for far longer and it doesn’t seem to be working for them.

  234. NTT Docomo loses record 40,800 subscribers in Nov, as iPhone gains

    Japan’s dominant mobile carrier NTT Docomo Inc said it lost 40,800 subscribers on a net basis in November, as users switched to Softbank Corp and KDDI Corp to grab an Apple Inc iPhone 5 supplied in Japan by the two smaller carriers.

    http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/12/07/us-nttdocomo-users-japan-idUSBRE8B604Z20121207

    No FUD there and they seem to doing well all on their own in competing against Android.

  235. @Nigel:

    > No FUD there..

    How do you know? We all know that iWhatevers appeal to some people. 40K subscribers out of how many? Also, Softbank has been selling iWhatevers for awhile, and they’ve been available on the number 2 carrier KDDI for a year. Is the iPhone 5 really that much better, or is something else going on? Why is Docomo losing customers now, and not two years ago?

    Finally, we also know that google play is kicking butt in Japan:

    http://gigaom.com/mobile/google-play-is-really-big-in-japan-and-bringing-in-record-revenue-too/

    @Greg:

    Yeah, I’ve been looking seriously at a T-Mobile value plan. What they say about the disappearing subsidy is interesting, though — perhaps the iPhone financing winds up being through a bank? That would probably be beneficial all the way around — T-Mobile keeps cash, bank sells loan on a device that works beyond T-Mobile’s network, end-user gets pricing transparency.

  236. @patrick Where is any fear, uncertainty or doubt in that statement? A statement made by NTT Docomo and not Apple. They are called iPhones not iWhatevers. Can you be more childish?

    The point is that Apple has not spread FUD about Android and is highly successful anyway much to y’all’s chagrin.

    Is the iPhone really that much better? No, but it is a distinct competitive advantage for those carriers that have them against those that do not. Multiple carriers have stated this but yet you guys always want to portray this as something questionable.

    “NTT Docomo said it was the first drop in the number of users in over five years, and its biggest user decline on record.

    The number of Softbank’s subscribers grew by 301,900, with the upstart carrier winning the most users on a net basis for the 11th straight month. The number of KDDI’s users grew by 228,800.”

    http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2012-12-06/business/sns-rt-us-nttdocomo-users-japanbre8b604z-20121206_1_ntt-docomo-kddi-corp-iphone

    Everyone else showing large gains while NTT posted “record losses” in net subscribers.

    This analyst has an estimated 4.4M iPhone sales in Japan for Q42012. Assumptions and methodology in his post.

    http://www.tech-thoughts.net/2012/09/iphone-sales-estimates-by-region.html#.UGRJBhgZGB5

    As whether there are other factors at work Softbank has stated that the iPhone was a key reason for it’s growth back in April:

    “The iPhone continues to be the key for growth and profits with cellphone carriers in Japan, as third-ranked provider Softbank Corporation posted a 65.4 percent increase in profits for its fiscal year, which ended in March. The company credited growing subscriber numbers and iPhone 4S demand as factors, despite the emergence of rival KDDI Corporation as an alternative provider of iPhones. The company had spent heavily on promotions to avoid having customers change to KDDI.

    The company credited the rise in subscribers equally with sales of the iPhone 4S in explaining the company’s growth, which had “far exceeded” executive predictions made in late 2008 at the beginning of the global financial crisis. More customers using data-intensive iPhones and iPads had provided increased revenue, it said, with typical monthy revenue rising 10 percent year-over-year in 2011.”

    http://www.electronista.com/articles/12/04/26/beats.back.challenge.from.kddi/

    Given that the iPhone 5 is more compelling than the aged iPhone 4S I would assume that this trend did not stop and given that the iPhone always has an uptick after launch that this IS the key factor for NTT Docomo losses GIVEN THIS IS WHAT NTT DOCOMO HAS STATED.

    No wait, it is more probable that these losses are due to some other mysterious factor because “iWhatevers” aren’t REALLY compelling except to some small subset of users and this is FUD.

  237. @Nigel:

    Where is any fear, uncertainty or doubt in that statement? A statement made by NTT Docomo and not Apple.

    It’s not clear that NTT Docomo made that statement, if you read carefully. But even if they did, that would be the excuse whether it was true or not. As I said — the iPhone has been softbank for a very long time. Why is it a problem now, all of a sudden?

    The company had spent heavily on promotions to avoid having customers change to KDDI.

    Ahh, the truth is out. Well, this doesn’t comport with your statement “all on their own.” No, it’s another case of buying customers by heavily subsidizing their iPhones.

    given that the iPhone always has an uptick after launch that this IS the key factor for NTT Docomo losses GIVEN THIS IS WHAT NTT DOCOMO HAS STATED.

    Yeah, ‘cuz every company knows exactly why their customers leave. LOL

    But seriously, read the original short article you posted again, and see if you can tell me with a straight face that NTT definitively said that, or whether on re-reading, you might think that there is a small possibility that, just maybe, that part was the reporter connecting the dots for the reader.

  238. @patrick

    Ahh, the truth is out. Well, this doesn’t comport with your statement “all on their own.” No, it’s another case of buying customers by heavily subsidizing their iPhones.

    And Samsung didn’t spend hundreds of millions on advertising, etc. “All on their own” clearly is in reference to not using FUD.

    Given that you guys didn’t believe Sprint either I guess it’s par for the course that you guys don’t believe that the lack of the iPhone is significantly impacting NTT Docomo too.

    Even though the iPhone consistently sells well in Japan taking about one third of the smartphone market. It’s entirely funny that you think that some mysterious cause is impacting NTT Docomo and not the fact it’s locked out of 1/3 of the smartphone market because they refused to give up the bloatware they infest in their android handsets.

  239. @Nigel:

    And Samsung didn’t spend hundreds of millions on advertising, etc.

    So advertising expenses (which, btw are also incurred by Apple) are the same as subsidizing phones? Interesting.

    “All on their own” clearly is in reference to not using FUD.

    Maybe to the author. Not to this reader. Especially on the first post you made, within the context of previous heavy discussions around here about subsidies.

    In any case, on a subsequent post, you clarified that Apple hasn’t been spreading FUD about Android. How do you know? In the US, they’ve been telling retailers and others they will be in trouble for carrying Android phones. More subtle than Microsoft, to be sure, but it is FUD all the same. And as I mentioned, I’m not convinced you read that first article right — it doesn’t explicitly say that NTT _itself_ attributes its losses to the iPhone.

    Given that you guys didn’t believe Sprint either I guess it’s par for the course that you guys don’t believe that the lack of the iPhone is significantly impacting NTT Docomo too.

    I have said that the iPhone contributes to a zero-sum game for the carriers where Apple sucks up all the profits, due to subsidy. I have compared it to eating fugu. You can show me where I was doubtful that carrying the iPhone was the right thing for Sprint to do, but you absolutely cannot show me where I ever said that they wouldn’t pick up subscribers by carrying it, because I never said that. I still believe Sprint had other options to pick up subscribers (like charging less). Maybe they made the right choice. Next quarter, when T-Mobile sells iPhone and transitions its network to be more compatible with AT&T’s it will get interesting.

    Even though the iPhone consistently sells well in Japan taking about one third of the smartphone market.

    One one hand, you can’t show me where I disputed this. On the other hand, that’s only about 8% of the handset market. It will be interesting to see where they stand vs. Android in a few quarters.

    It’s entirely funny that you think that some mysterious cause is impacting NTT Docomo and not the fact it’s locked out of 1/3 of the smartphone market because they refused to give up the bloatware they infest in their android handsets.

    Again, my question was what changed. I never questioned that some consumers would want the iPhone. One of the articles you referenced gave a clue — apparently Softbank actually stopped their phone promotions and invested more heavily in its network.

    If NTT Docomo can avoid carrying the iPhone, and only give up a few hundred thousand subscribers by doing so, it might be worth it to them to keep avoiding it. But if not having the iPhone is masking subscriber gains they would otherwise have made over the preceding few quarters, then it might be something they want to carry, if they can do the right sort of deal with Apple.

  240. So advertising expenses (which, btw are also incurred by Apple) are the same as subsidizing phones? Interesting.

    Yes. Both (advertising and sales promotions) usually come under SG&A. And this was Softbank offering sales promotions (presumably on all phones to stem any migration off Softbank) not Apple.

    Apple’s SG&A are low (6.5%)…and that includes the expenses of running their retail stores. In comparison Samsung’s SG&A are 16.5% (as a percent of sales).

    http://www.asymco.com/2012/12/05/the-mystery-of-samsung-electronics-sga/

    In any case, on a subsequent post, you clarified that Apple hasn’t been spreading FUD about Android. How do you know? In the US, they’ve been telling retailers and others they will be in trouble for carrying Android phones.

    Citation. In no case have I read that this is occurring (Apple threatens retailers over carrying Android) and in fact many retailers push Android or Windows phones over iPhones due to spiffs (sales promotions).

    Samsung seems to spend quite a bit on sales promotions.

    http://www.asymco.com/2012/11/29/the-cost-of-selling-galaxies/

    As both a percentage and an absolute number Samsung spends a LOT more than Apple on advertising and sales promotions…double or triple. No wonder all the other Android vendors got absolutely crushed selling a similar product without that kind of massive marketing campaign.

    (To make Winter happy I will note that Nokia/MS offered huge spiffs on WP7s…$10-$15 per handset sold).

  241. @Nigel:

    And this was Softbank offering sales promotions (presumably on all phones to stem any migration off Softbank) not Apple.

    Which is why I took exception to your “without any help” comment, placing it in the context of the previous discussion about subsidies.

    Citation. In no case have I read that this is occurring (Apple threatens retailers over carrying Android)

    Sorry, I was typing too fast there. Not Android generally, but the best-selling Android handsets specifically:

    http://bgr.com/2012/07/13/apple-samsung-patent-lawsuit-retailers/

    As both a percentage and an absolute number Samsung spends a LOT more than Apple on advertising and sales promotions…double or triple. No wonder all the other Android vendors got absolutely crushed selling a similar product without that kind of massive marketing campaign.

    That is interesting data, and you’re right that it shows Samsung’s willingness to invest heavily in market development. But to be clear, I was talking about how direct, substantial “subsidies” (reduced handset price, usually in exchange for higher ARPU and/or a longer contract term) from carriers help prop up Apple’s marketshare, not how money spent by Apple or its competitors affects consumer behavior.

  242. Very on Topic: WP8 RT seems to be consistently incompatible with anything else out in the mobile space. It is the MS way or the Highway.

    I read a lot of complaints that WP8 RT (WP8 in general) does not support OpenGL, and rumors say not even the ANGLE compatibility layer, Win32 API, etc.

    Windows NT coming to phones with Windows Phone 8
    http://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2012/06/windows-nt-coming-to-phones-with-windows-phone-8/

    The native code support won’t cater to every possible demand, however. Notably, OpenGL ES, the 3D API used by iOS, won’t be included, and so 3D applications will have to be rewritten to use Direct3D.

    Though the core components will be shared, Microsoft did not go into detail about which APIs would be available to phone developers. Windows 8 introduces a new API named WinRT that is designed for the development of Metro-style applications. Windows Phone 8 will support some pieces of WinRT, along with some unspecified subset of Windows 8′s security, networking, media, audio, and sensor APIs. Longer term, the company plans to align the two platforms ever more closely.

    And somewhere I read a comment that I do not understand, but people were in arms about it:

    Further restrictions are exposed in the Microsoft Store requirements, which for example require object code for all shader binaries, which means it is not possible to dynamically compile shaders which is another huge let-down for developers.

    http://communities-dominate.blogs.com/brands/2012/12/android-won-windows-lost-now-what-the-battle-of-the-century-is-decided-microsoft-relegated-to-ever-s.html?cid=6a00e0097e337c8833017ee634eb5e970d#comment-6a00e0097e337c8833017ee634eb5e970d

  243. Mac OS X is a made by an evil secretive(tm) corporation and has not jumped the shark (the supposed iOS-ification of OS X was a lie to dupe Microsoft into putting Metro in WIndows 8, so don’t mention it, it never happened).

    Anyway, let’s talk about the UI mess in Linux: Unity, Gnome 3, KDE etc. Sure, you are free to use some UI made by three guys hacking in their basement (Cinamon, xfce, ldxe) and pretend there is no problem, but there is.

    Essentially the secretive/evil thing is completely irrelevant. It boils down to 1)taste and 2)not getting carried away by passing fads (woo! touchscreens will dominate on the desktop).

    You ‘ve fallen into the pit you accuse other of falling into: Jumping to conclusions and and finding correlations that don’t exist.

    And before someone says something about Windows Phone being a failure, Android is sitting on a rotten floor ready to collapse. Most Android phones are still running Gingerbread (how many years old Gingerbread is by now?) so most users are judging Android based on that, and the quality is generally going south as OEMs make their custom UIs more pervasive. Sure, Windows Phone did a mistake by not allowing upgrades of WP7 to WP8, but that it. One mistake only. WP8 will last for at least 18 months and is going to be properly upgraded and supported regardless of OEM.
    It’s the same fragmentation, UI differences and incompatibilites from OEM to OEM (and OEMs using upgrades as a leverage to force people to buy new machines by not providing upgrades for old machines) that drove people from Unix to Windows, and the same will happen for Android and Windows Phone.

  244. @kurkosdr “Sure, Windows Phone did a mistake by not allowing upgrades of WP7 to WP8, but that it. One mistake only.”

    I do agree with the overall principle of your comment, but I don’t agree with its predictions. The reason why is because this one mistake fits the pattern of what you accuse the OEMs of, only you don’t seem to think that Microsoft is capable of the same thing. It seems to me this is exactly what Microsoft did: not allow upgrade of WP7 to WP8 specifically so you’d have to buy a new piece of hardware. You might think that this makes no sense because Microsoft doesn’t make phones, but don’t forget that Microsoft’s bread and butter, in more than just phones, is OEM royalties paid on OS licenses; has been for thirty years. The real mistake is throwing out all those APIs Winter mentioned, and I’ve read two different articles talking about how RunTime could become like XBLA and charge software vendors a $40k license/certification fee for just a patch. Translation: expect a cornucopia of iOS and Android apps while Windows Phones lie naked in the desert.

  245. @Terry

    Yes, it was a collosal mistake of Microsoft not to allow free WP7 upgrades to WP8, just because their corporate culture prevents them from giving major versions for free.

    But, think that for a moment: If you buy a WP8 right now, you will have 18 months of upgrades. A guaranteed self-life of 18 months. Can you find me an Android phone that has this characteristic and isn’t an overpriced Nexus? Not easily. Even Samsung, the most trustworthy company when it comes to upgrades, forgets their Galaxy phones too soon and too easily. And let’s talk about LG and Motorola…

    Is the situation with Windows Phone upgrades perfect, or even good? Of course not. But the situation with Android is so lame, that we are one step away from being convinced a 500 euro handheld computer (smartphone), is a disposable thing. Upgrades will kill Android. It’s a tired predicition, but has many chances of being true.

  246. I think the WP7-8 upgrade denial was because of hardware requirements. What was evil was to rush out a Nokia phone with a setup they knew would prevent upgrades. And not telling that in time.

    It was Nokia who suffered from the Osborning of their phones.

    But it showed againn that MS ccannot release decent products if their life depend on it.

  247. Can you find me an Android phone that has this characteristic and isn’t an overpriced Nexus?

    Slight tangent, but it needs to be pointed out this is obsolete information. The newest Nexus phone has the highest-performance innards currently available and is, compared like-to-like, about half the cost of comparable models. At that price point (even without LTE) they can’t get enough of them made to keep up with demand.

  248. I’m writing this on a brand new Lenovo laptop that the postman brought earlier today. The machine came with Windows 8 on it, and I figured I’d try it for a few minutes to see what the fuss is about. Get at least something for paying the MS tax, before wiping the drive and installing Fedora.

    Jesus H. Christ. “Usability disaster” would be putting it mildly. The switching between the tablet/touch UI and the conventional desktop UI is pure insanity. There seems to be e.g. a separate “app” version of Internet Explorer, with a completely different UI, starting from the URL being at the bottom of the window instead of at the top as in the “desktop” IE. Then there were the live tiles. They’re a bit like having your browser set to a home page with ten blink tags from 1996.

    On top of the usability problems, it looks like shit. The flat, completely two-dimensional graphics just look bad, and the white-on-color icons are actually harder to read and tell apart than conventional colorful ones. A lot of visual information has been thrown out with the colors (Gnome Shell and Unity have the same problem in some places).

    This is the first machine on which I’ve disabled Secure Boot, and it took me a moment to figure out how to do it. I actually felt a physical sense of relief when I wiped Windows 8 and installed Fedora. I’ve had my reservations about Gnome Shell, but suddenly it looks like the paragon of UI design.

  249. @Mikko

    Here is an animated review that explains your feelings. The key phrase is “User Hostile”:

    Windows 8: The Animated Evaluation

  250. @Winter: Wow. Thanks for the link. I had read Jakob Nielsen’s (name misspelled in the video, btw.) analysis before, and after trying Win 8, I completely agree. The graphic design bit is especially baffling to me. I don’t think anyone would design a web page where the links looked the same as regular text, yet they did that with the Win 8 Metro menus. This laptop I just got doesn’t have a touch screen, so I didn’t even realize the problem with the swipe gestures.

    By the way, the people who complain about Google pushing Google+ and other services at every turn in Android should try Win 8. At least in the default Metro UI on this Lenovo machine, you couldn’t take a breath without getting asked to log onto Microsoft’s services or to create an account. It was way beyond anything I’ve seen on Android.

  251. It seems to be WP8 or the street for Ballmer. Personally, I had not expected that Ballmer would complete this year as CEO at all.

    Window pain for Ballmer
    http://www.nypost.com/p/news/business/window_pain_for_ballmer_4hGeo5cjUHOi6WM0n3UuNJ

    The success of Microsoft’s mobile strategy doesn’t hinge only on this quarter’s sales. But if the company can’t boost results into next year, Ballmer would become vulnerable, Milanesi said.

    “If Windows 8 were to fail, Ballmer would be questioned,” she said.

  252. Hey Mikko,

    I just bought my first Windows 8 laptop as well. It’s a hybrid tablet/TabletPC/laptop thing from Sony.

    Windows 8 is slightly better with a touch screen, but it’s still an unmitigated shitfest that I hate with a passion. I was all too glad to scrape it off and put Linux on. But getting Linux onto one of these things is hard. Like, put-a-custom-ROM-on-your-cellphone hard, and EFI Secure Boot is mostly to blame. Part of that is the major distros haven’t caught up to the EFI New World Order, part of that is that system vendors are free to implement EFI however they please, so you can’t tell if the bootloader is in /EFI/Boot or /EFI/Microsoft/Boot in your system’s main partition, part of that is that “legacy boot”, if available, just won’t boot some legacy disks. And some of these will get fixed but the showstopper won’t: any OS that requires you to mess around in your BIOS is absolutely a non-starter in the casual space, and anything that requires you to recompile your kernel is out for all but hardcore enthusiasts. Yes, I actually did have to recompile the kernel (and tweak the source) to get everything working on this beast: the tablet bits were a brand-new part from N-Trig that wasn’t recognized by its USB Product ID in the stock kernel.

    Microsoft now owns the keys to the kingdom for the entire PC platform, so while Windows 8 is a pile of shit, it is probably the path of least resistance.

  253. > Like, put-a-custom-ROM-on-your-cellphone hard, and EFI Secure Boot is mostly to blame.

    In the case of my Lenovo laptop, it possibly wasn’t quite that bad, but yes, several degrees more complicated than an old-fashioned BIOS. I hadn’t installed Linux on a brand new machine in a while and I hadn’t really been following the hardware market. I only had a vague idea that there is a new secure something or other in the firmware and that it’s going to be a problem. It took a while to find help on the web, and actually getting at the EFI firmware settings required rebooting Win 8 twice with specific settings. Before I realized this, I tried to boot the machine off of removable media several times, which would fail silently with no indication that the reason was that Secure Boot didn’t like the uncertified OS. I don’t think someone with experience of old-fashioned BIOSes just dabbling around would ever get anywhere without actually reading about EFI, the Win 8 reboot options and Secure Boot. I still don’t have any idea of how to set up a Win 8 and Linux dual boot system, or, actually, even how to get at the EFI firmware settings again, now that there’s no Win 8 on the system any more.

    Fedora 18 actually installed on this system without the slightest problem, even though it’s a beta version with a rewritten and buggy installer.

  254. Tomi Ahonen wrote in a blog post on Christmas Eve that the market share of Windows in handsets seems to have declined further after the release of Win 8 and Symbian, of all things, is slightly up. This is based on November’s numbers alone, so it’s very early days for Win 8, but it certainly doesn’t look like Win 8 will change the direction for Windows.

    Ahonen says that the Nokia N9 is still outselling Nokia’s Symbian and Windows phones in China. He’s made it pretty clear that he has some sort of a fetish for the N9, so I don’t know if the claim is credible at all, but it would be pretty astonishing if it was true.

    http://communities-dominate.blogs.com/brands/2012/12/kantar-november-numbers-suggest-decline-in-windows-phone-and-increase-in-symbian-nokia-is-so-doomed.html

  255. Windows Phone 8 beats Android and even iOS in terms of customer satisfaction.

    I said it before, and I will say it again: the target audience of Android is not you, the end user. The target audience of Android is the manufacturers and the carriers. Android moves more units because not everyone can afford to buy an iPhone, and carriers have a hard time affording to sell the iPhone and eat the subsidy differences between it and Android, so they heavily promote the Android phones — unless, of course, the customer specifically requests an iPhone.

    I suspect that the reason we’re seeing so few Windows Phone 8 units being sold is for the reason Eric mentioned: carriers fear Microsoft (in the U.S., the carriers want to be the ones locking you in and gouging you and don’t want to give that power away), so they bury the Windows Phones and aggressively promote the handsets running the OS which panders to them: Android. But from an end user perspective, both Windows Phone 8 and iOS are superior.

  256. Windows 8 does not suck. I’m impressed that such a polished product came out of MS even if it took their raw terror of being crushed by Apple to make it happen. Giving MS this much respect is difficult for me because I remember the truly-evil MS of the 1990′s, but credit where credit is due.

    If you think Win8 sucks, here’s why I disagree.

    Windows 7 is generally well-liked even though it contained a Start menu that I will rate as being generally “crappy” (without further explaination).

    Now here’s what you are missing. In Windows 8, Windows 7 still exists as a subset, and you can ignore the Win8 parts you don’t like while continuing to use subset-Win7 as if nothing had changed. The only difference of note is that on the desktop, the crappy Start menu has been replaced by a crappy Start screen.

    Other than the modified Start menu, the Win8 desktop is the same old Win7 desktop with the same old windowed apps that you are already used to. Granted, the Internet has reached the vast consensus that the new Win8 Start screen sucks, with all its tiled windows and new-style apps that are strange and frightening and there are several obvious usability gaps in there.

    But who cares? The Start screen sucking is not the same thing as Windows 8 itself sucking. Win7 had a sucky Start menu, after all, but most users thought Win7 was a adequate if uninspiring product. If, hypothetically speaking, the Start screen is a Good Thing, then it will gradually eclipse the subset-Win7 inside Win8, and that will be Good for everyone. If, OTOH, the entire internet is correct that the Start screen sucks, then it will gradually be ignored as everyone realizes that the desktop inside Win8 is still adequate for their needs.

    Also, I’ve noticed Win8 boots up faster and has improved features like an enhanced Task Manager.

    So now you know, you can ignore all the Win8-hating. Those people are talking about the Start screen, which you don’t have any reason to care one way or another about.

  257. Now here’s what you are missing. In Windows 8, Windows 7 still exists as a subset, and you can ignore the Win8 parts you don’t like while continuing to use subset-Win7 as if nothing had changed.

    No. You can’t. Not without installing Start8.

    Microsoft has decided that Metro is How Things Will Be Done Now, and the inclusion of Win32 backwards compatibility is a sop to their installed base, deprecated and to be removed in a future release (much like the Program Manager in Windows 95 and some later versions). Exhibit A is the fact that whether you like it or not, you WILL have to deal with the cruddy Start screen. It’s how you launch your programs, even Win32 desktop ones. There are even some system settings that are only available from the Start screen and not the control panel; and, bafflingly, some that are only available from the control panel and not the Start screen.

    So no, you can’t ignore it, because by design it stands between you and your programs. It will add to users’ confusion and frustration and decrease their productivity because the UI has shitty conveyance and is overall very clunky to use. And God help you if you have a keyboard and mouse, and no touch screen or touchpad. (Think: office workers, gamers, etc.)

    And I’m not even getting into the Secure Boot stuff. Remember the fears surrounding Palladium? Welcome to that nightmare. Microsoft managed to sneak it in the back door. At the last minute they added in a requirement that x86 vendors must support disabling secure boot, but that was only due to public outcry, and it’s clear the entire x86 paradigm is going away. The future of Windows is visible in the form of Windows RT.

    In short, Windows 8 is a confused clusterfuck with multiple personality disorder, and the only way it will be fixed is if the Metro crap pisses users off to such an extent that it achieves Zune sales numbers. That’s possible, but not likely: remember the PC platform is Microsoft’s now, and your choices as an OEM are to either comply with Microsoft’s logo requirements or get the hell out of the PC business.

    All I can say is, thank god manufacturers like Asus are hedging their bets, and thank God for upstarts like the Raspberry Pi.

  258. > Microsoft has decided that Metro is How Things Will Be Done Now

    Decisions can be changed.

    For now, for all the apps most anybody cares about, (the desktop apps), Win8 is Win7 with a modified way to launch programs.

  259. @Jeff Read
    From the link:
    “It should be noted that these numbers are pulled from a limited amount of customer engagement and reviews. It should not be seen as a definitive look at overall satisfaction.”

    Hardly any WP8 phones have been sold yet. Still, WP8 tops the charts in customer satisfaction. Moreover, every blog mentioning iPhone, Android, or Windows Phone is inundated with happy Windows Phone 8 users. So it must be true.

    But we could have know this. All other MS products ever released topped the customer satisfaction charts. Whether these products sold or not. Hey, Windows 7 was even loved more than Apple OSX:

    Microsoft Outpaces Apple in Customer Satisfaction: Chart of Day
    http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=newsarchive&sid=aajIjMcEp.E4

  260. Winter, I think that second link was better aimed at Shawn. I won’t contest that Windows 7 is way better than Windows 8.

  261. I will. Ignoring the question of how you launch apps *that are not already pinned to your taskbar* then Win8 is the same or slightly better than Win7 from almost any user’s point of view.

  262. Note that “almost any user” may not include you, but the fact that you are here means MS doesn’t give a flip about you.

  263. Note that “almost any user” may not include you, but the fact that you are here means MS doesn’t give a flip about you.

    Windows 8′s slow sales — lower than Vista’s in the same time frame — suggest that “almost any user” does not include a lot of people. And no, I don’t believe Microsoft gives a flip about any of them.

    Microsoft not giving a flip about its user base is how it got in this situation, and may yet get Ballmer fired.

  264. @Jeff Read
    I have had to code for IE in the past. I would have loved to have been able to dump that nightmare.

    But if the accusations are true, this sounds like a new anti-trust case.

    Incidently, MS are currently looking for an excuse for new anti trust cases against Google.

  265. I see another important contrast between Microsoft and Apple.
    Bill Gates wanted to take over the world . . . and effectively did. (“A computer on every desk and Microsoft on every computer.”) The immediate problem is that logarithmic growth ends very suddenly. (A classic is when AOL ran out of newbies.) When the office desktop market “matured” to primarily replacement, real growth hit a wall. Then there’s the problem of never having asked “Then what?” about the original aspiration. Microsoft hasn’t a clue yet.
    Steve Jobs wanted to change the world. If you succeed, there’s no problem with what’s next — do it again! And he did.

    One of my current litmus tests for trendy entrepreneurs is, “How long is your business model good for? That is, how much time do you have to make your bundle before getting disrupted yourself?”

  266. Incidently, MS are currently looking for an excuse for new anti trust cases against Google.

    Microsoft probably figures a little turnabout is fair play. They nearly lost it all because of the DoJ prosecuting what turned out to be a frivolous antitrust case against them.

    Yes, history has vindicated Microsoft on the browser issue. At the time (late 90s-early 2000s), Internet Explorer decisively won the browser wars simply because it was much, much better than anything else available in that era. The proof is it wasn’t too hard for Chrome and Firefox to take over the world once they became actually good — even in the United States where very little antitrust action was actually taken against Microsoft.

    Now, Google is an OS vendor (according to some analyses, the #1 OS vendor in the world, banishing Microsoft to a dim corner of the personal computing ecosphere), a browser vendor, and a supplier of the definitive search and other online services. They’re in a very powerful position to control which browser and mobile OS gets preferential treatment, as we’re now seeing with Google Maps locking out Windows Phones. If I were a member of Microsoft’s executive team, I’d be thinking “if the government nailed us back in the 90s, they should nail these guys because what they’re doing has much bigger ramifications.”

    The FTC has found Google to be, as yet, guilty of no wrongdoing that warrants antitrust action, which is good — but that means also that the antitrust action against Microsoft was silly and unwarranted.

  267. @Jeff Read
    Blaming the victim(s), revisionist history.

    MS have broken each and every law in commerce. They have paid $1B a year in criminal fines and private settlement since the early nineties. That is for two decades in a row.

  268. @Jeff Read
    “I don’t know what sort of world Tomi Ahonen lives in, but I don’t think it’s the one where the Lumia 920 is AT&T’s #3 smartphone.”

    In the “meaningless statistics department”, now Amazon io AT&T:

    Amazon’s top selling laptop doesn’t run Windows or Mac OS, it runs Linux
    http://www.zdnet.com/amazons-top-selling-laptop-doesnt-run-windows-or-mac-os-it-runs-linux-7000009433/

    The bottom line is Windows 8 PC and laptop sales have been slow. So, what, according to Amazon, in this winter of Windows 8 discontent has been the best selling laptop? It’s Samsung’s ARM-powered, Linux-based Chromebook.

    Maybe, some of Android’s success is infecting laptops? Or WP8 ails are infecting W8 sales?

    If you standardize on a single Trademark & UI, and people do not like one product, they might stop buying the other.

  269. > Maybe, some of Android’s success is infecting laptops?

    I doubt that. Looks like the success of that Chromebook is mostly about the price. It’s very, very inexpensive and apparently not badly built for the money. Given that it’s selling as well as it does, I guess the buyers understand that it’s not a Windows PC and they’re fine with that. I know quite a few people among my friends and family for whom it’d be perfect.

    > Or WP8 ails are infecting W8 sales?

    Users seems to resent W8 much more than they do WP8, but I guess “ails” could include the problems MS has with the carriers etc.

  270. @Mikko
    “Users seems to resent W8 much more than they do WP8, but I guess “ails” could include the problems MS has with the carriers etc.”

    Tomi Ahonen has a new blog post. What is remarkable is that 5 of the 7 disasters involved Windows Mobile or Windows Phone. Microsoft’s Windows is a kind of widow-maker in smarpthones.

    The Seven Biggest Collapses in Mobile Handset or Smartphone History – this is part 3 in the Nokia Disaster analysis series
    http://communities-dominate.blogs.com/brands/2013/01/the-seven-biggest-collapses-in-mobile-handset-or-smartphone-history-this-is-part-3-in-the-nokia-disa.html

    Of the biggest failures on this list, most had decisive or contributing damage from attempting a Microsoft cure to their troubles. Windows is to winning in smartphones like water is to fire. LG, Motorola, Palm and Nokia on this list have felt damage from attempting a Microsoft cure. Note – nobody has ever used Windows to gain significant sustainable share in smartphones. Even HTC shifted away from Windows to Android the moment that became possible and HTC had at that time sold half of all Windows phones ever made.

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