Microsoft value?

I would ask any reader to this article to first read the comprehensive comment Blevdog has posted in regards to the previous article.

https://openbytes.wordpress.com/2009/04/24/a-microsoft-fail-agenda-yes-blevdog-i-do-want-to-discuss/

As promised I am now going to tackle some of the points and hopefully clear up a few confusions in respect of the initial points I made.  Firstly, (and again) thank you Blevdog for taking the time to reply.  I will quote your comments and respond to them.

What I wont quote is the rather long disclaimer at the beginning.  This is no insult to Blevdog but rather (IMO) a sad testament to the world we live in.  A simple two lines of “these views are my own and not of my employer” would have sufficed, but instead of that we get a long winded disclaimer.  Ill let you form your own opinions on that, but to me it suggests “cave quid dicis, quando, et cui” has never been more relevant.  As I said before I do not believe this is any fault of Blevdog.

So lets move onto the “meat” it was very nice (and interesting) to hear a little about Blevdogs experience/education, I think that says alot about him if he is willing to be very clear on what he has/hasnt done.  I hope readers here remember that whilst there have been allegations on the net of dubious practices by Microsoft, Blevdog is a real person.

The first comment I would like to respond to is:

“I believe that there are two challenges and in the mind of Goblin these are interrelated. The first is a challenge to my Tweet that I believe Microsoft provides our shareholders value.”

Yes in my mind they are, I will explain in a minute but will first quote you.

“Here is why I feel that there is not a direct relevance. The amount of money a company makes is determined by how well it is run from a pure operating income and profit standpoint and the current market valuation while affected by the products and offerings of a company do not in fact reflect whether or not they are providing value to the Shareholder. For simplicity I would break down value in two ways: The amount of growth of share price and the amount of return on investment from a dividend standpoint.”

Sorry, no.  The two (being value of products to customers & value to shareholders are DIRECTLY related) let me explain why.

Surely the foundation of any company is the profit it makes?  A healthy company making great profits passes onto shareholders in respect of shareprices and dividends, or am I wrong?  I company which bases itself on great returns for a shareholder wont rely on “thin air & promises” I would presume it would rely on a solid product/service base.

Now we come to why I challenged Blevdog (and its very difficult with the Twitter 140 limit) My point was, what about the value to customers?  I dont have to quote any of the discontent now since IMO its so easy to find.  Whilst Blevdog is praising the value to shareholders he seems blissfully unaware (or unwilling to acknowledge) that at the core of those sucesses (IMO) there is great change happening, something which will have a bearing on the shareholder (IMO)

This was the whole reason that OpenOffice was put to him, not as a beaming light of all things great in FOSS world (although its a damn good package) but as an example and proposal that should Microsoft customers see value in Open Office and migrate away from what I believe to be one Microsofts biggest cashcows, what sort of value would pass onto the shareholders/prices?  Let me cite some examples of where (IMO) Microsofts product base is being eaten into by alternatives:

Mslive (or its name this week) v Google (I dont think I need to say anything further, its pretty obvious)

Xbox 360 v WII (forgetting about the amount of machines Microsoft had to replace due to them being faulty, is there any argument that Nintendo havent completely destroyed Microsoft on the console front?)

Zune v Ipod (Again, really any point saying anything more?  It does appear that rumour suggests an international zune, but will shareholder value be realized while Microsoft plays catchup to a massively established brand name such as Apple?)

The direction of the Microsoft adverts seem to propose two things (IMO):  Ease of use and value for/saving money.  I put it to Blevdog that the very thing Microsoft seeks to promote can be found in alternatives to Microsoft products, afterall in the case of Open Office I dont think you can get better value than free or can you?

I ask you Blevdog, in your opinion with issues like the ones above, with customers seeking their “value” in a plethora of alternatives, hows this going to affect the value shareholders? and whilst they are “jumping in” IMO many users of certain Microsoft products are “jumping out” (IMO the core of what gives shareholders value)

DEBATING THE HOME USER ISSUE

As Blevdog has started (in his post) with the home user (and not enterprise) So will I.  Let me answer some of the points he makes:

“On Microsoft Office vs Other Productivity Tools I will say that my opinion is that OpenOffice and other freely available products are a viable alternative (I might need to take a break to freshen up my resume ) however I feel we provide more value for the following reasons and my justification on why the average user should use Office”

Ok, so Blevdog (in his own opinion, not Microsofts) thinks that OpenOffice and others are a viable alternative, well thats refreshing and now explains why he needed an indepth disclaimer at the begiinning of his post.

So now hes going to sell you MSoffice on the basis of value (since Microsoft cant compete on price of Open Office)

“1) Functionality – OpenOffice and other products are good clones and alternatives but they do not have the same level of functionality. My belief is that Writer is the most feature rich and is a decent replacement for Word.”

Now that comment was a shame.  In my opinion champion a “safe bet” as in Writer (since its OpenOffice that most (IMO) people talk about) and then use the “feature rich” comment which we see posted by Andre Da Costa and many others, so many times before.

Why cant these “rich features” simply be stated, I.e MSoffice can do X, OpenOffice cant.  Whenever I see feature rich used I believe it is a good way to “fudge”, “bamboozle”, “mislead” the user into thinking that a particular package has “magic beans” that no others do.

“There are only minor editing features that are missing and for lightweight editing it will meet most needs. If one were to move into the realm of Desktop publishing I believe that Writer falls short and indeed in many general editing features.”

Ok, what minor editing features?  Please specify, let the users decide if they are viable reasons to choose MSoffice and if they are indeed actually present in OpenOffice or not.

I put it to anyone that uses a “feature rich” comment to justify a package is doing so because they cant start listing features.  If they did I believe they would be found to be in error (in that other packages do have them) or that users were not interested in having the features that are described as “rich”.

In relation to Impress Blevdog remarks ” It feels clunky, is slow” which ironically, are two of the accusations Ive seen thrown at Vista numerous times.  His further comments about multimedia insertion, I would like him to justify.  I have certainly never had a problem with any of the media and would like Blevdog to specify exactly what his issue was.  Again generalizations that imply (IMO) magic beans, yet could mean anything.  Menu navigation of Calc has been stated (I presume the only reason) as to way its inferior.   Again, please specify, I presumed you to be educated and articulate yet you have a problem with menu navigation on Calc?

Next justification comes:

“interoperability – Open Office does not have the same pressures on it to be interoperable nor does it have a requirement to be interoperable. Microsoft supports multiple standards and continues to push to support more and more.”

Im sorry thats complete rubbish, you believe Microsoft products are the only ones who support and push multiple standards?    IMO You can play ball with Microsoft by throwing them it, just dont expect it back.

Are you really saying OpenOffice does not support multiple standards?  You say “nor does it have a requirement to be” why? If indeed we are still talking about the home user.

I have repeatedly asked what benefits (and not just to blevdog) the entire Microsoft product range has over alternatives, and the only benefit I can draw from it is that “all Microsoft products are compatible with other Microsoft products” great if you use all Microsoft products, not so great if you want a little software freedom.

Talking about interoperability on an OS level, I ask about XP/Vista compatibility, and ask Blevdog to consider that when Wine has functionality with a Windows binary, the results (in my experience and others) are far better through a Linux distro than through native Windows.

Back on topic (that being home users and office suites) Ive yet to introduce OpenOffice to an “average user” who then turns around and says “But OpenOffice doesnt do ………”  I put it to Blevdog and anyone who wants to suggest “rich features” in a general way that the “average user” does not want these things in the first place, and even if they were interested, to me they hardly justify the licience costs of MSoffice over FOSS OpenOffice, that to me is value and like I said earlier if/when people see this value in a FOSS alternative wont it surely pass on to the value that shareholders may get from Microsoft stock?  Its about education and making the user aware of alternatives.  If people are not aware of options open to them then the “feature rich” comment will be passed around without the average user actually challenging what exactly it is. (IMO)

“While Goblin was very impressed with the Help forums for OpenOffice I believe that the average user is not going to be as keen to wade through past posts or are patient enough to wait for an answer.”

Im sorry, I dont agree.  Where was the customer support for those with issues/problems with Vista?  Where was the customer support in regards to the complaints?  What I saw with Vista was forums filled with disgruntled customers desperately trying to find an answer to their solutions.  I even saw a Youtube video of one customer, so annoyed at his purchase that he shedded Vista infront of a camera.  Customer support was infact so good for Vista, that there are many refusing to upgrade from XP and those that chose to downgrade back to XP.

Where was the help on New years eve for Zune customers?  I believe that people flocked to forums to find an answer as to why their product had failed.  I also fail to see, in the case of the average user and their expectations of an Office suite that they are going to find many problems with it (since they are based on ease of use) if this support is the basis you have for claiming value, then users, if they really wish can buy support for Open Office too.  I suggest its not, and todays computer user is far more savvy than those of yesteryear.

JUSTIFYING MICROSOFT WINDOWS

Lets now look at the justifications for Windows (as Blevdogs opinions)

“While many users did have problems with Vista a large majority of those complaints were caused to third party device drivers which we are working diligently to correct in Windows 7. I”

Ah, it was 3rd party developers fault that there were problems?  Correct me if Im wrong but shouldnt Microsoft as a developer of an OS should have anticipated these?  and if thats not possible then I presume we can expect more issues in 7 then?  This is rubbish of course.

The problem was Vista (IMO) it shouldnt have been released, it was not ready.  Im sure the good reports about 7 are legitimate, however I believe that 7 is the optimized Vista which should have been put on sale instead.  How do you believe this makes Vista customers feel?  I wonder what they beleive is value?

CONCLUSIONS

Ill end on the next three responses, however this debate has raised some interesting points and more questions.  Since Blevdog has made a comprehensive reply, it would be unfair to expect him to get into a major debate, however if he would like me to clarify any counters I have made, or indeed challenge my views on anything, he is more than welcome.  Before I finish on his final points, I would like to throw the following questions out to everyone:

1. Do you know what these unique features that MSoffice offers the home user, that a/ they require and b/ are worth the money of a purchase?

2. What exactly does Windows/Microsoft product range offer that is unique to them, and cannot be found elsewhere? (that the average user actually wants)

3. Given the “blaming” of Vista’s bad press on 3rd party developers, what confidence does that give you in 7 that it wont be repeated again? (it should be noted that many of the MS faithful have cited 3rd party developers as the problem)

4. If you are one of these 3rd party developers, how does it make you feel that some people blame you for the “unfortunate issues” of Vista?

Right, now onto the final points:

“In conclusion I will say that there are always viable alternatives to products and I love Open Source and Free software, however you get what you pay for.”

A common myth.  As I said above, specify the features exactly, that make MSoffice worth the purchase over the free Open Office.  Get what you pay for?  Explain then Firefox’s rise in market share, to give but one example.  Brasero?  Again, tell me how that package could be any better (since I cant think of any features I need)  In addition, Windows needs a virus suite does it not?  Linux doesnt.  How does your get what you pay for work in that example?

Or what about when you uninstall packages in Linux, you dont have to worry about files being left over or your registry being clogged up.

What about the fact that Linux doesnt need a firewall?  or your filesystem doesnt need defragmenting?  Youre not paying for Linux, yet you do Windows, so where does your theory of “get what you pay for” fit in here.

Its exactly this type of education of “value” that if convinced the Microsoft customer base to migrate, would directly affect the “value” its shareholders recieved.

“The level of effort and time to utilize an open source product takes more of a commitment,”

Rubbish, are we talking home user or enterprise here?  Please give examples.  I dont know about you, but when I used Open Office for the first time I was able to dive right in.  Or are you talking about Linux?  If you are using Ubuntu, you would know that was a myth since I argue that package installation/removal (for example) is easiest in Ubuntu than it is in Windows.  Any new package requires some commitment, and if that is your sole reason for giving as to why people should stay with Microsoft, then its pretty poor.

“Even with all the problems of Vista it is still a fantastic operating system that enables a large part of the world to do business, connect with others and is a productivity enabler.”

I dont know which Enterprise you are talking about, but would you not agree that mainstream press has reported businesses may be boycotting Vista altogether?

What about the governments who dont agree with you? Let me give as an example the French police who have migrated to FOSS.

In relation to your “fantastic OS” I believe you will find customer who even though they have no intention of moving away from Microsoft products have numerous issues with the fantastic OS you mention.  Again you use buzz words which sound great but mean nothing. “productivity enabler.” sounds great, but in what way?  I consider myself far more productive in Linux than I ever was in Windows.  The difference between myself and you (blevdog) is that instead of using buzzwords to (IMO) fudge around an answer, I actually give examples (see above)

So that was Blevdogs answers, again his own opinions, although with the use of buzzwords I cant help feeling that the answers were not complete.  I dont suppose you can blame him, since he works for Microsoft, however it goes back to what ive said previously about impartiality and since he’s identified as a Microsoft employee his opinions will still have to tow some company line (even with his disclaimer at the beginning)

Thank you Blevdog.  I sincerely hope you return, and I also hope that this discussion lays to rest any of the allegations floating around the net that I like to pick fights or flame.  Honest held belief and adult discussion are all im after and I want the most important person of all (the end user) to make the right software decisions for them based on diverse opinion and factual information, whatever they may be.

Goblin – bytes4free@googlemail.com

9 Comments Add yours

  1. openbytes says:

    So Blevdog has proved that a reasonable and vulgar free debate is possible when talking about FOSS/Microsoft. I urge people to keep up to date with him on Twitter.

    I think we have many areas where we completely disagree and this to me is the basis of good debate.

    I would like to stress that this is nothing personal. We are talking about software, and I hope whilst debates may get “heated” if the subject was non-IT related we may even have common ground.

    Openbytes has covered odious practices, but in this case I think its been different, Blevdog has made no secret about his employment, hes been open about his background, and whilst his choice of buzzwords and loyalty will always for me raise the question of its basis (that being employment) I think everyone will agree that his opinion is valid and needs to be considered.

    In some respects this was not as “fun” as debating with one of the usual MS faithful who seek to promote through deception/FUD (as they are good to expose) but the resulting views (and hopefully followup) will give people (hopefully) more “food for thought” when considering what software solutions are best for them.

    That is afterall, the reason why I set this blog up.

    Cheers!

  2. Will says:

    I’d like to pick a few more small nits in Blevdog’s argument.

    First, as a general comment, there are many add-ons available for the OpenOffice suite, available at the OpenOffice website. While the add-on ecosystem there isn’t quite as big as, say, the Firefox add-on ecosystem, there are still packages there that might put in desired things that are lacking in a stock install or at least lessen any perceived shortcomings, but this will vary greatly with the individual user and their demands of the program.
    ———————————

    Now on to specifics:

    “If one were to move into the realm of Desktop publishing I believe that Writer falls short and indeed in many general editing features. The fonts are more limited, there isn’t a reader view, drawing and wordart features are missing, there isn’t a grammar check, the language execution is clunky.”

    Could be. I don’t do desktop publishing, and the little bit of amateur work I did back in school was years ago. But if I were to do any desktop publishing these days, I probably wouldn’t use Writer or Word. I’d first look at Scribus, an open source application designed specifically for professional desktop publishing.
    ———————–

    “Open Office does not have the same pressures on it to be interoperable nor does it have a requirement to be interoperable. Microsoft supports multiple standards and continues to push to support more and more.”

    ODF says hi. Microsoft may wind up supporting it as of the next service pack for Office 2007, but it will still be a few years late on that. ODF was approved as an international standard in 2006, and, according to Wikipedia, OpenOffice supported ODF (which wasn’t even its original native format) as of 2005. Honestly, I don’t know how Open Office handles OOXML files since no one I know uses them, but since Microsoft Office itself doesn’t yet support OOXML as it is defined by ISO, we’ll just call that one even, break it off here, and not go into the various unpleasant tracks which this point could spring off into.
    ———-

    “I believe that the average user is not going to be as keen to wade through past posts or are patient enough to wait for an answer. This is not to say that it isn’t a possibility, but I believe from any honest perspective our support channels are wider and deeper.”

    This next point is mostly opinion, but please bear with me. I took a very quick look at the Microsoft website. The support options with personal contact (email, IM chat, phone) each cost $59.00 per help request. There were some self support options, as they were called, but this to me doesn’t seem that different than googling around for help or visiting forums. Not to mention that, on a forum, the user has the benefit of being able to ask a question about their specific problem and a get a response, rather than looking around hoping that enough people have had similar problems so that the answer can be found with an internet or knowledge base search. Maybe there are other options on the MS site that I just didn’t see in a quick search. Here I’m speaking purely about the home user, as Blevdog did, since in enterprise support both Microsoft and Open Source offer paid support contracts.
    ————————–

    “As a technical user being told to RTFM didn’t cut it for me and I don’t believe it would cut it for the average user.”

    I’m sorry that Blevdog got that response, but I’m reasonably sure that he didn’t hear that on the Ubuntu forums, and I’m 100% positive that he didn’t hear that from someone on the Ubuntu forums that was following the letter and spirit of the Ubuntu code of conduct.
    ——————–

    “Trying to figure out how to do something and then you have to edit a config file or wait for RPMs to update, trying to find the right command etc. Can you imagine the average user in VI?”

    Well, my snide answer might be something like “That’s what you get for using RPMs instead of DEBs or something else”. (I had some bad experiences with the early Fedora Core releases myself. Fedora Core and I finally buried the hatchet in each other and called it a day. I hear that Fedora has improved much since then, and maybe one day I’ll care enough to find out.)

    But on a more serious note, I’m finding that the amount of times I need to edit a config file in Linux has gone down near exponentially over the last 3-4 years. There’s a gui for just about everything now. Maybe not completely everything, but it has to be getting close. I can’t even remember the last time I edited a config file in general purpose use. And no, I can’t imagine the average user in vi. I’ve learned it a little bit in the past, and despite recognizing its power and efficiency, I can’t bring myself to use it often, even when coding. But then, who needs to use vi if they don’t want to? That’s what emacs, gedit, Kdevelop, and several other programs, both pure text editors and full blown IDEs, are for.

    —————————–

    “The level of effort and time to utilize an open source product takes more of a commitment, technical savvy and patience than the average user has.”

    That is less true now than it was in the past, both due to a larger percentage of the population becoming more tech savvy, and due to the “tech-savvy barrier” in Linux lowering in the last few years. And while the “tech-savvy” point may still be valid, to some extent part of the “tech-savvy” barrier is simply unfamiliarity with a new OS and its paradigms. The unfamiliarity problem applies to someone switching to OSX, yet people do it. The same problem presents itself to people learning Windows for the first time. And, judging from what I overhear in tech stores, especially potential first-time buyers in Mac stores, I think at least some of the true “tech-savvy” point against open source can be counterbalanced by the tech savvy required to properly protect a Windows PC from malware as well as perform regular maintenance such as hard drive defrags, both of which are not necessary in Linux or OSX.

  3. Will says:

    But all that said, I also want to thank Blevdog for a coherent and polite debate.

    (The world would be a much better place if there were less of that other kind of “fun” in it.)

  4. openbytes says:

    Agreed will. Makes a change from the types we see on Microsoft Watch, doesnt it?

  5. Blevdog says:

    I am still working on some responses to Goblin, but I did want to say to Will that you do have a valid point. Although I do have some FOSS OS Distros installed I have not really played with anything since FC3, so I think I need to mess around some more and then I can perhaps a more time relevant discussion. A couple of points.
    By interoperability and the pressure of interoperability I am not only talking about formats, but also backwards compatibility (soon to be remedied in Win 7 with XPM), Macro, VB, Expression support and also back office integration. To my knowledge there are not any major ERP, CRM, BI, systems that rely on hooks into OpenOffice to support back office systems integration. (Correct me if I am wrong and I know this is not a home user problem but it does go to the pressure thing).
    One thing I would say is that both you and Goblin point to not having to have Antivirus or a Firewall on Linux. Do you believe that the average user, not technical users, are going to realize and understand the need for segmented user accounts, root discipline, IPTables configuration? I personally don’t run either AV or Firewalls on my Win PCs, because I am very disciplined with how I handle all files, and outside contact. (Opening myself up for an attack I know) My belief (and I am really trying hard not to use buzzwords) is that Windows could be just as secure as Linux and enforce the same restrictions, but it would not be a very successful OS. If you have ever used Windows Server (pain in the arse just to get to a web page) then you will see what I am talking about. My belief (and I believe UAC points to this) is that people are willing to sacrifice some security for convenience (sad but true). And if you tell me that Linux OS are convenient and don’t require multiple Password entries and read, write execute manipulation I am going to call liar liar pants on fire (j/k). I saw on forum talking about CLAM AV that an “advanced user” recommended that new users should not attempt to install programs outside of the Distro because they are opening themselves up for attacks and as long as they don’t do that they don’t need AV or Firewalls. (http://www.linux.com/?module=comments&func=display&cid=1143853) Not sure if this is indicative of common mentalities today, but it does ring true with my former experiences.
    The problem with UAC is we got a little too happy with it and trained users to just say allow. Imagine if we would have required password entry for su -[elevate permission user]? There would have been a ton of unhappiness.
    A couple of questions for you and Goblin.
    What would you like to see Microsoft do? What can we do differently realizing we are still a company that has a fiduciary responsibility to the owners of the company?

  6. openbytes says:

    Firstly sorry, your comment again was put into the moderation list. I cant work out why AKISMET doesnt like your post since all posts should be placed here without the need for moderation.

    Quote Blevdog “What would you like to see Microsoft do? What can we do differently realizing we are still a company that has a fiduciary responsibility to the owners of the company?”

    Very nice question (allows me to be creative!!)

    1. I think instead of trying to be jack of all trades master of none, Microsoft should concentrate resources to a smaller number of products and make them the best they can be.

    2. I think Microsoft should have prioritized smaller spec releases over features, and again stop trying to be jack of all trades, which invariably ends up with users machines being clogged up with addons and extras that IMO affect performance.

    I think MS (in the case of an OS) should realize that an OS IMO should be something that runs quietly and unassumingly as possible in the background, using as little resources as possible and acting as a launchpad for applications of the users choice. I believe Microsoft deploys and views its OS as a platform for selling more products (IMO)

    3. Change public opinion – I think things like Mojave did nothing to help Vista and the allegations of sending laptops to bloggers must stop. I think if Microsoft acknowledged Vista for what it was, that would go a long way to restore faith in what they say. Afterall the same great things being said about 7 were being said pre Vista (IMO) – Maybe also offer a free 7 upgrade to Vista users.

    4. The campaign against competition via its patent portfolio should stop. You only have to look at how OpenSUSE is viewed by some (myself included) to see that companies who get involved with patents/Microsoft dont get viewed favorably (IMO)

    5. Tackle their piracy issue. Despite what I think of certain Microsoft products, I think its outragous that Microsoft has allowed BT and other P2P to become flooded with their products (even Atari was able to make some inroads in the prevention of piracy). There is an argument that it helps “get people hooked”, but I disagree, the people who download “warez” have no intention of buying the product when they can get it for free(IMO)

    6. There are numerous allegations of dubious practices by Microsoft on the net. I am neither in the position to confirm or deny them being legitimate, however if they are true they need to stop and if they are not Microsoft needs to release statements refuting them vigorously. Microsoft (IMO) has started to become viewed (rightly or wrongly) as a monster (IMO), that cant be good for PR surely?

    7. Stay away from involvement in the Open Source scene. Even with the best of intentions (IMO) proprietary and FOSS are incompatible. Microsoft should be sticking with proprietary and selling itself on the merits of the features it offers. Not trying to get involved in a scene where (IMO) I dont believe they are welcome.

    There are many more..

    And finally (on a light hearted note) a banning of any Microsoft employee using the words “feature rich”!

    Thanks for coming back!

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