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