Jeff Reifman, a former Microsoft technology manager who currently works for Groundspring.org, has a good feature article in the current issue of the Seattle Weekly about the problems currently facing Microsoft. There’s nothing really new in his analysis of the situation, but I think there are two unusual things about it:
1. Hearing this kind of talk from someone who spent eight years working at Microsoft and who considered himself a died-in-the-wool MS loyalist.
2. Seeing this kind of in-depth analysis in a publication for the general public, instead of just in trade rags or web sites that preach to the choir.
The article starts off:
Why are Microsoft products so endlessly frustrating to use? Even techno-geeks like me get annoyed by Windows. I’m tired of spending the first 10 minutes of my day rebooting just so I can get to work. Microsoft Outlook 2003, the latest version of the company’s e-mail and calendar software, hangs for me about once a day, requiring me to restart my PC. I also have a problem with Word 2003: Whenever I bullet a line of text, every line in the document gets a bullet. Asking Windows to shut down is more of a request than a command—it might, it might not. And recently, Internet Explorer stopped opening for me.
I know I’m not alone. If you’re like me, you’ve invested in technology to become more efficient and productive but mutter about the many frustrations of the digital lifestyle. Technology is my hobby as well as my job, so I regularly ponder why software giant Microsoft Corp., which has more than $56 billion in cash, hasn’t solved more of these problems.
And it concludes:
Meanwhile, Microsoft doesn’t evoke passion in me anymore. Its products don’t excite me anymore. I remember eagerly looking forward to Outlook 2003, only to be disappointed by how complex, buggy, and unimproved it was. “There’s kind of an angst,” says Andrews, the Seattle Times columnist and author. “Microsoft ought to matter to us. There ought to be more of an intellectual and emotional connection. There just isn’t.”
In an age when retailers hire consultants to analyze what hip kids do, you’d think Microsoft would care more about what the hip kids are doing. They’re running around with iPods, using Linux and OS X. A Groundspring intern e-mailed me recently about his new Apple PowerBook: “I think I may be smitten by a computer.” That’s the kind of passion I’m talking about. In its search for market share, dominance, and profits, Microsoft lost the ultimate battle for our hearts and minds. For now, though, it’s still laughing all the way to the bank.