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The fall of the Redmond Empire – History lesson not learnt?

Milk, OJ, free candy, art collections, its all there at the Redmond Empire.....

The Roman Empire fell for many reasons, one of which is argued that it it extended its military ambitions too far and another was that it became decadent.  The stories of the Romans hording art/literature, the opulent lifestyles, the conquest, the military might…are these things that different to the corporate monster that Microsoft has become?

It is decadence that I would like to highlight in this article and it was brought to my attention (kindly) by a Mashable post which to me,  shows how out of touch Microsoft has become and how I think Microsoft is completely disconnected from the real world. This decadence may well be the reason why the Kin was released, why the Zune didn’t get the favored response of the iPod, why Bing is nowhere near to toppling Google and why if it wasn’t for OEM, can we really be sure people would be buying Windows 7?  Especially since XP has been given yet another stay of execution, suggesting that people really don’t want to upgrade.  Or maybe its just the products themselves? or how about a combination of the two?

Need further examples?  Look at the Windows 7 party ads.  Could you relate to that?  Or how about the failed “shoe commercial” that wasn’t funny? What about the Kin advert that had complaints?

On top of this creative comparison of a decadent Redmond Empire and Rome, we have Ballmer.  Watching over his empire whilst loyal servants stuff in grapes and pour wine down his gullet [1], well not quite grapes – M&M’s and take away the wine, it’s apparently Milk and OJ.

Before I go any further, let me link the article I refered to above so that you understand where I am going with all this.

Take a look at this article – “Ten Fun Facts about Microsoft” http://mashable.com/2010/07/17/microsoft-facts/ I’m not sure if, in the current climate of recovery from recession, conservative living (and layoffs from Microsoft)  is something that could be described as “fun” with what appears to be a rather opulent lifestyle for those at the Redmond campus.  Now I wonder, what do the customers of “Kin” or “Zune” or “Vista” have to think when they have issues with their investments.  I’m sure they will raise a glass to “good old Microsoft” as the latest Windows exploit which brings down their system is blamed on a third-party.  I’m sure they will smile dreamily into space imagining that whilst they may not be have a great time with a Microsoft product, its creators and staff are “shanting” [3] it up with M&M’s and free OJ.

I expect a claim will be made that any critic of this opulence is  jealousy.  I expect a claim will be made that any critic is envious of the gifts alleged to be showered on the Microsoft faithful [2] around the net and maybe even the M&M’s of Microsoft employee’s.    To those people I would say this – I (and many other writers) have made reasonably successful blogs (average 1000 unique readers daily in my case) out of writing about things which we receive no gifts or rewards for.

I am sure if I applied my skill to the products of the companies who do shower gifts, my tech needs would be catered for free of charge.  So if I am so envious and want a taste of the opulence alleged to be enjoyed by others, why don’t I join the bandwagon?

Firstly (and most importantly) if I don’t believe a product or service is fit for purpose, I don’t champion it and secondly I really don’t need to be gifted a laptop or anything else as I am quite able to purchase them anytime I want.   I have this strange view that my opinions should be based on honest held belief and not paid for…call me silly.  You may not agree with what I say, but the words are mine alone.

Now thats out of the way lets look at some of these “fun” facts about Microsoft (all taken from the above linked article)

Apparently the top two drinks of choice for Microsoft staffers are milk and OJ. There’s also free candy on the Microsoft campus shuttle.

and it goes on:

Each anniversary, a Microsoft employee is expected to provide one pound of M&Ms for every year they’ve worked.

but its not just confectionary to be enjoyed at Microsoft campus’s:

Microsoft is one of the largest corporate collectors of artworks with over 5,000 contemporary pieces including painting, sculpture, works on paper, photographs, ceramics, studio glass, and multimedia works.

And where would we be without Software Patents?  Uninhibited? Not at Microsoft!….. its alleged:

Microsoft also rewards its staff members for securing a new patent. Besides a $1,500 bonus, they get a wooden plaque and a decorative black “cube” that features their name, as well as the title and date of the patent.

Happy times are here again?  Think up an idea, it doesn’t matter if it’s not used and slap a Microsoft stamp on it.  Win great prizes!   It can always be used later when Microsoft sees another company being successful at something they haven’t.  In today’s computing world where software patents can be seen as a hindrance to innovation, this particular “scheme” of Microsoft’s disgusts me.  Maybe though the future of Microsoft rests in making money from its vast portfolio of patents?  Want to see a great example?  Check out Microsoft having a Star Trek moment in my article “To Boldly Blow”.  You can read that here.

So we have hording of art, OJ and Milk on tap? M&M’s in abundance…..sounds very much like a modern-day Rome to me.   Maybe if Microsoft concentrated on its products instead of its people living this decadent lifestyle, then they may not find themselves killing products such as Kin, weeks after it had been launched – of course Microsoft was not the victim, the poor souls who bought into Microsoft PR are.

Regardless of your take on Microsoft products, if you were a shareholder, would you be happy with this?  Like the Roman Empire will Microsoft fall? – I’d say no, its got one hell of a war chest to fall back on and I’m sure if was on its way down, it will bring as many others as it can down with it.

Dr Schestowitz from TechRIGHTS sums it up well in my view, I quote:

Microsoft is not disrespected because it’s “successful” (or envied); Microsoft is disrespected, distrusted and also fined heavily because it’s corrupt.

In the meantime though, Windows users can be assured, any issues won’t be Microsoft’s fault, Linux users are zealots and communists, Linux is like a cancer (allegedly said by Steve Ballmer) and Bill Gates seems not to mind piracy of their products since people will “get kind of addicted”.  Happy times and Im sure Microsoft staff will give a thought to an unhappy customer as they wash down their M&M’s with the umpteenth pint of OJ.

And in closing, if the chair throwing allegations in relation to Steve Ballmer are true, maybe he should stay off the M&M’s and their sugar content, also looking into the E numbers in the OJ served at Redmond.

There is plenty more material showing what I think is the gradual loosing of control of “territories”, one only has to look at any tech forum or blog post where people post about alternatives.  Even two years ago, the site Microsoft-watch was renowned as a meeting place for Linux users (in fact I met many online friends there who I am still in contact with.)

All I ask before you donate to the Richmond Empire is to consider alternatives.  I don’t ask you to buy anything, I don’t ask you to install anything. Trying Linux is as simple as booting a LiveCD, who knows you may like it, but even if you don’t, what have you lost?

Notes:

[1] Of course Steve Ballmer doesn’t really have people pushing things down his gullet (I hope) it was written to create a mental picture of a comparison between Microsoft & the Roman Empire.  In any case I don’t think Steve Ballmer would sit on a throne, they are rather heavy and very difficult to throw.  ;)

[2] There have been many revelations of gifts received from Microsoft.  Some people gave this information openly, others were not so keen to do so.  I wonder, what sort of support would Microsoft get if gifts and titles were not showered on its faithful?  Since FOSS software doesn’t really go in for that sort of thing, ask yourself whose opinion would you trust more, comments from someone who writes for free or someone who writes whilst receiving gifts from the company they write about?  I’ll let you decide that one.

[3] Shanting it up is a term used to describe enjoying oneself.  Its usually in reference to alcohol, but in this instance I’ll refer it to E numbers in the free Redmond candy.

Goblin – bytes4free@googlemail.com

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About Tim Sparrow

Online tech writer, novelist/author of sci-fi literature and co-host of the TechBytes Show! I believe in multi-culturism & diversity. Luton Town FC supporter.

Discussion

15 thoughts on “The fall of the Redmond Empire – History lesson not learnt?

  1. Nice rant. Have you checked on the “decadent” lifestyle at Google, by the way? Or the awful decadence prevalent at Oracle? Your article would be much more convincing if you bothered to research the perks that almost ALL the big software companies give their employees. M&Ms and free orange juice are rather frugal, by comparison. But hey, don’t let the facts get in the way of a good rant.

    On your way, then.

    Posted by Richard | July 21, 2010, 8:14 pm
  2. Quote “Nice rant”

    Thanks. Although Im sure most people would have seen that its not really about M&M’s and OJ, it’s more to do with the opulence enjoyed by those at Redmond in the face of layoffs, product cancellations, killed hardware (Kin) and failure to meet the challenges set by their competitors (Google, Zune, etc etc) It was also about “extending military” – since my position on this site for many years has been that Microsoft was trying to fight a battle on too many battlefronts. Again, a comparison that could be drawn to the Roman Empire.

    Want to know why I don’t challenge Google? Because I am very happy with the products they provide. I have no problem with a company becoming a corporate leviathan if the products they are producing are meeting with approval of the masses and more importantly myself… I recommend Google products. Why don’t I challenge Apple? Apple has had some nasty allegations put to it, the reason I don’t is because of all the people that I know who use their products (including my wife) they are on the whole very happy with them. I recommend Apple products – there are many collegues of mine that simply want a familiar (and dare I say) “trendy” system, with no interest in proprietary/foss just in using the thing as a tool.. This is not about poking holes at large companies and as I’ve just finished saying to Robotron its about diversity. Hell, if you check back with a conversation last year with Winobs re: netbooks I even recommended an XP platform. A point which Ive made many times, that I believe XP is rather solid. (and in respect of a recommendation it was in the face of at the time issues where a Linux platform would not have been suitable for the end-user)

    We have seen what happens when Microsoft “rules the roost” we had Vista, Winmob et al. When people spoke out about these products and our dissatisfaction, we were called liars, Microsoft haters and trolls. Its only now (when Microsoft has something new to sell) that we get admitions of sorts, and people generally agree that Vista (for example) was a bit of a pig.

    Now we have a new generation of products and the cycle starts all over again, this is why I think it important that theres fair representation of a plethora of platforms, the last couple of years of hugely popular social networking and online apps/entertainment have shown we need not be platform restricted any more. Theres an alternative for everything (in the main) and people are starting to exercise their right to choose.

    Where I believe the unfairness occurs is when you have companies pimping their wares to the detriment of alternatives that may be suitable to the end user. Out of my two years of running this blog and numerous years of IRC and Usenet, Ive yet to be cheapened by Apple “advocates” or indeed any other product. I’ve fully documented (and had admittions from a Microsoft advocate here) so I don’t need to add that to a list of bad experiences where those with a pro-MS opinion. Infact even now, you can’t debate this properly and couple that with Microsoft PR which paints a whole different picture to that which is available…..let me try to help you:

    Ive laid my views and opinions of why you can make comparisons with the Roman Empire and Microsoft. You disagree – thats fine. What should happen next is that you enter into debate citing examples and then leave it up to the readers to decide. You obviously have an opinion and care otherwise you would not come here, so why don’t you present your argument properly and leave it up to the people reading to decide?

    I would also suggest Apple is not fighting battles on too many fronts (or extending its reach) the same with Google. Thats why those two are not considered to have similarities to the Roman Empire, which is what this article is about.

    Quote “On your way, then.”

    I hope thats more of a pleasantry to close your text, since this is my blog and you are commenting on it. What I would suggest though, if you don’t like what you read (and don’t want to debate) why come here.

    Lets see a properly constructed response. Yourself and Robotron still don’t get it, do you? Messages of agreement and debate on those grounds are always welcome, but what I really look forward to are decent challenges. I cannot condemn you as wrong anymore than you can me, the judges of our words are those that read them anything you want to throw like “rant” or “don’t let the facts get in the way of a good rant.” is merely time wasting between ourselves.

    **Note** Ive been asked to clarify a few points in my text which are now included.

    Posted by openbytes | July 21, 2010, 8:39 pm
  3. You were very kind, Tim. Did not mention the sea cruiser orgies funded by Micro$oft in Israel…
    http://www.globes.co.il/serveen/globes/docview.asp?did=1000533636

    Posted by Agent_Smith | July 22, 2010, 12:13 am
    • Lol, yeah I didn’t mention those because I was trying to avoid the allegations that we have already seen. I was trying to make a point about the over stretching comparisons between the two.

      Now you’ve mentioned it though, yes the allegations of orgies can be added to the list of comparisons between the Roman Empire and Microsoft.

      Posted by openbytes | July 22, 2010, 6:32 am
  4. Seems like one of our favourite MVP`s co-shills is trying out some non MS devices, what will the other MVPs say?….what will MS say?, oh my..

    http://www.zdnet.com/blog/microsoft/i-confess-i-bought-an-ipad-and-so-far-i-love-it/6912

    Posted by chew | July 22, 2010, 9:54 pm
  5. The analogy you have provided between the Roman Empire and Microsoft is an apt one. Although MS run will be much shorter in length. Already the decline and fall of MS is in abundant evidence.

    Interesting enough, the Romans almost always had the Senate confirm the Emperors that reigned during the Empire part of its history, and continue to call the “Empire,” a Republic. This facade was a tool used to entice citizens to support the Empire. In the end the the Roman Empire was destroyed by a relatively small bands of Barbarians. North African Roman provinces being an example of being overrun by approximately 80,000 Vandal soldiers. Once a country loses the support of its citizens, the end cannot be far off. MS faces greater opposition from its new products getting it’s customers to use them. I suggest the forced lock-in off buying an OEM computer with virtually the only choice windows, has in the long term, made MS and Ballmer lazy to improve the product, but also caused resentment in many users.

    To carry your analogy further, how about a comparison of Ballmer to the Roman Emperior he most resembles? I would suggest Nero, who was rumored to have vittled while Rome burned. True or not, the rumor help turn popular opinion against him.

    Posted by Chips B. Malroy | July 25, 2010, 3:44 pm
    • Yes. Make sure that they’re held accountable for software operated outside of their control, on hardware that they didn’t choose, for purposes they didn’t intend or test for, monitored by people they had no association with, linked to systems they did not know about, running custom software they didn’t build, and in an environment they had no input into.

      You go and file that suit, chew. Let’s see how far you get.

      Posted by Richard | July 28, 2010, 1:13 pm
      • I think you’ve echoed the Microsoft line perfectly. It’s never their fault is it? Just like the stock exchange found out, its just another implementation where a Microsoft product has not performed. Unfortunately for Microsoft, people these days have a choice of alternatives.

        Posted by openbytes | July 29, 2010, 6:17 am
        • What line? I’m encouraging him. If he feels strongly about it, let him take it before an unbiased judge or prosecutor who doesn’t have any interests, fiscal or otherwise, in the matter. If he gets laughed out of the court system, that means that a totally unbiased person agrees that he should stop smoking his socks and get out of his mom’s basement (or, if you’re a Paranoid Zealot, it means that Microsoft has bought off every judge and prosecutor in the country). So, let’s see how far he gets.

          Posted by Richard | August 1, 2010, 5:53 am
          • Of course you are encouraging him….

            Richard I don’t know what is more silly, your relentless attempts to disrupt or your apparently belief that your sarcasm and dismissal of someones issue won’t be noticed….

            Keep trying Richard, but more importantly keep reading.

            Posted by openbytes | August 1, 2010, 8:27 am
          • Hmmm, I just posted a link, on the other hand Richard you are the one that seems to feel strongly about it. So strongly in fact that you attacked someone who posted a link, for your information I did not write that article. As I mentioned before why would I need to sue MS? Your replies seem to suggest I need to do that. You know maybe If I did have an oil rig that did explode due to the use of shitty software I would! (who am I kidding, I would`nt use Windows in any important capacity short of entertaining a 7 year old, oops sorry Ricky, that sounds like you). Did I, in posting that link insult your favourite toy? If you feel so strongly about it feel free to comment on the original computerworld article.

            Remember folks
            Friends don`t let friends use Windows

            Posted by chew | August 1, 2010, 5:33 pm
  6. Oh Ricky you`re so fine, you`re so fine you blow my mind, Hey Ricky.

    I have no reason to sue, I know better than to use shoddy i`ll conceived products from Microsoft.

    Happy registry editing day, the only holiday that comes twice a week.

    Posted by chew | July 28, 2010, 2:15 pm
  7. I`m willing to bet practice is widespread, but just how widespread?

    Posted by chew | July 29, 2010, 11:39 am

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