2.01.2007

Going back to basics...


Over the last week I have been on a whirlwind trip around Europe - roughly seven countries in seven days. There has been a lack of updates lately as a result.

So the big news, at least according to some, is that Michael Dell took the helm again at Dell. This certainly didn't come as a surprise to me, as I'm sure many others expected it. Though Dell himself stated Kevin Rollins was doing a great job, I think the article I wrote prior to the HP Voodoo acquisition has an interesting perspective. It seems to me that this announcement was a reactionary announcement rather than a proactive move, which could have happened much sooner. Either way I wish him well in his "new" job, better late than never I suppose.

That leads me to the next story which I wrote for CPU Magazine. It’s about Microsoft – a company that I love and appreciate. Love them or hate them, almost everyone uses them.

I believe when a company gets too large they tend to forget what got them there in the first place. I think Microsoft would benefit immensly if they took the time to stop and go back to their core DNA - what made them successful to begin with. Once they find out what it was, they should expound on it to meet today's market needs.

I wrote this article because I care about the company, and nothing more. There are so many new dynamics in this industry. If companies like Microsoft do not arm themselves accordingly it could have profound long term effects on the rest of the industry.

Here is the article;

Over the last few years, gamers have been waiting patiently for Microsoft to launch Windows Vista. Like many of you I have tested various versions along the way, each time reinstalling Windows XP shortly after for one reason or another.

Delay after delay, I had always come to the defense of Microsoft when people challenged the future of Vista because I believed that it would be the ultimate entertainment OS.

Months later and still a big believer, I figured that Microsoft delayed the launch in order to launch a solid product with few bugs. Vista is late—very late—but perhaps it’s better late than never. By the time you read this, you may very well be running Vista yourself, but at press time the big day has not yet arrived.

I recently attended the big Microsoft Vista pre-launch gala at Caesars Palace, though you’d never know it was a Vista party because there wasn’t much in the way of a business message. In fact, I thought the organizers were more interested in packing people in the club rather than driving Microsoft’s business; the event ended up being overcrowded to the point where any chance of effective messaging was lost.

In any case, I have been using one of the later versions of Windows Vista on my home PC and I can honestly say that I am having trouble getting past certain issues. Though I love and appreciate the entertainment and gaming potential, there are other issues that I have run across which probably shouldn’t be overlooked. I understand that there is a weaning period for any new operating system and I’m certainly willing to give it a chance.

If I were a betting man (and you know I am), I would venture a guess that many of you will go insane trying to set up something as simple as a home network. I brought this and other issues up with some good people at Microsoft in a recent meeting at CES. They assured me that my troubles were due to the fact that I’m running a pre-release build, so I’m hoping the later drops are significantly better.

That said, there are also DRM, driver, and security confusion to contend with. The price of Vista Ultimate is so high that I wonder if Apple will consider licensing its OS to combat the giant.

Don't get me wrong, I like Vista very much, and I think it's the best operating system Microsoft has ever put out - but damn, it took too long to come out. Now people are making fun of the fact that they have so many different versions it's confusing -- you think?

I have to admit that I’m a bit concerned for Microsoft; I have a personal allegiance with them. In fact, I cannot currently bring myself to purchase an Apple product. I once won an iPod, which I promptly gave away, and now I proudly carry a Zune (by the way, this device is tight!).

Why the allegiance you ask? I really identify with Bill Gates’ philanthropic mission, and I respect him immensely for proving to the world that he’s more than a “monopolist.” Bill and Melinda Gates are the most generous people on earth, and it’s odd to think that they, being the richest people in the world, are also among the most deserving. Not only this, but I also believe Microsoft has great products, and their success is key to keeping this industry moving forward.

All said, they have been very accommodating. The company asked me to fly to Redmond and work through my issues, which my contacts truly believe are minor and fixable in fairly short order. I sure hope so, and I have every faith in their sincerity. I have every intention of taking them up on their offer as soon as possible, perhaps prior to launch.

All companies go through similar challenges at one point or another; I have cited many of them in previous articles. I am a big believer that there is one sure way to fix any such problems. It requires going back to basics, going back to what made the company successful in the first place. Microsoft may need to go back to the fundamentals and get rid of the excess fat in certain areas. I believe that deep within Microsoft is the ultimate fighter just waiting to kick butt again.

So yes, I am slightly worried about a thing or two that I have seen in Vista, but I’m not quite in panic mode just yet. I sure hope Bill goes back to Microsoft though, because no one knows Microsoft better than Bill.

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8 comments:

jorge said...

Microsoft is making its OS bigger and bigger with each incarnation. I tried one of the RC's for Vista a few months ago and promptly uninstalled it after a few hours of playing with it.

I actually had complete driver support for all of my components and peripherals with that version, lucky me! Blah blah to make a long story short, it was too full of shiny widgets and obtrusive pop-ups asking me if -I- did something. It got to be too much.

I think Mac is in a prime position now to spring its own OS onto the x86 market. Wow. It's a very simple OS, I think my old folks could handle it. They would make a killing if they could somehow get it to run typical Windows apps and dual boot to Windows XP if the owner wanted.

I wish MS went back to a simpler OS; clean, lightweight, hackable, less obtrusive. Seems like they're going the wrong direction.

Greg Furry said...

Rahul,

Nice post. As a cross platform user I had huge hopes for Vista. I also tested beta versions of Vista that had nice features but still couldn't do simple things like cross platform networking easily.

The thing that caused me to post was your ipod comment. That is just silly. If I were you I would be buying all the Apple products I could get my hands on especially the ipod. It seems this was the Zune teams problem. The Zune would be a great device if the ipod didn't exist. You need to know your competitions product inside and out to better compete. If you don't know what the other guys are doing first hand how do you measure yourself?

Jason said...

sharikou: That's a load of crap. Once people start running with 4GB or more memory, then the 64-bit version will most certainly be necessary.

And AMD's "lagging technology" sure was whipping the Pentium 4 for years. AMD knows how to design an efficient processor, and I'm sure it won't be long before they come out with something that's really competitive with Intel's latest offerings. If you're not out to get the absolute fastest processor available, then AMD's current processors are still a good option.

I run nothing but AMD in my home computers. Not just because I like their products, but because I get sick of seeing so many Intel processors at work.

Tyler said...

I played with the Vista RCs on and off as they came out but I'm in no hurry to install it permanently. While I think it is a worthy Windows upgrade, I think the 6 versions are a bit silly. I can understand 3, an emerging markets version, a version for normal home use (with HDTV and cablecard support) and an enterprise/ultimate edition.

Most enterprises are going to customize their install of Windows anyway, if they don't want to install the Premium Games or HDTV support, they won't (why exactly does Vista Business have Premium Games but not BitLocker, anyway?).

I don't actually understand the desire for companies to bust out with several more SKUs than they need, especially when it comes to software. Adobe has two SKUs for Photoshop, a big shiny useful version for professionals, Photoshop; and a severely dumbed down, usable, highly capable version for amateurs, Photoshop Elements. They don't have a version for design firms, and a version for emerging markets, a version for the somewhat amateur and the somewhat professional, and a version for the guy who wants it all plus little extra gizmos.

Sometimes, simplicity is the answer.

Chad said...

Um...that sharikou comment should be taken off. I read his blog...he definitely didn't post that. maybe change the name to anonymous...
I'm glad to hear someone that isn't so "bash in microsoft's brains!" If people really hate it as much as they act, try gaming on Linux. use wine all you want. But, i do with they would make a versions of the os that was made for speed, not looks.

Anonymous said...

Sharikou,

I am freaking puzzled.. Where in the hell is your pro-AMD64 crap? Is it a typo?

You must be kidding, right?

Varun said...

I couldn't agree with your comments more about the problems with Vista.

I installed Vista with no driver problems on a Shuttle SN26P with a RAID 0 boot drive, nvidia 7900 in SLI. The only small glitch was the built in Realtek Envy audio, which was fixed with a quick download from the Realtek web site.

I notice constant activity on my computer running Vista, and the system fan is spinning a lot more often, with more overall system noise. Performance is snappy, but I'm underwhelmed by the Aero interface. It honestly feels like the old XP interface with the menu options moved to different places so you have to find them all over again. I wish Microsoft had spent time creating more 3D visual interfaces that really took advantage of all the graphics. I remember articles a couple of years ago with a prototype interface called "athena" that microsoft was developing. What happened to that?

I haven't had problems with home networking like you mentioned, and Vista has worked well in my network with my D-Link gigabit router. It can connect to my RAID-5 server and mount home directories with no problem.

The integrated apps like media center, media player, picture viewer are okay, but they don't hold a candle to third party apps such as ACDSEE (verion 6, not the newer bloated crap, thank you), zoomplayer, winamp, and iTunes.

I do a lot of home theater stuff with my computers, and I think Microsoft is way off track with their Media Center product. DRM is never going to be accepted by people, unless it is really unobtrusive. Media Center should allow people to put fair use digital copies of the movies they purchase on their computers so they can create a movie jukebox. Either Microsoft should just accept that people want to treat movies like they do mp3 music and allow digital copies on the hard drive, or some third party app will finally do it well, and become the standard.

One program I use is called MainLobby http://www.cinemaronline.com/

This program is awesome and can serve as a gorgeous front end to media with DVD cover art, a back end Access database, and two way communication with remote controls and other devices.

Its problem (along with other programs out there that are similar) is that they are complicated, and require a lot of knowledge and custom programming. Therefore, it is relegated to a professional installer and not to the average home user.

However, the end results are amazing, and it is truly a wonderful sight to see all your DVD movies with thumbnail art in an easy to use interface on a 100" screen. That is where Vista should be going if it wants to be taken seriously for home entertainment. Microsoft should stop harassing home users with DRM and HDCP issues. They should figure out what people really want to do with their computers in home entertainment, and create a truly useful shell that can house all their media.

The DRM issues will probably be one of the biggest reasons the zune will fail.

Finally, has anyone figured out how to remove that annoying "Urge" icon from the menu bar in media player 11? That may be one of the single biggest reasons that I don't ever use media player, and sums up the "ram it down your throat" mentality that microsoft operates with.

In the mean time, I will continue to use Zoom Player and winamp, thank you very much.

Varun

Anonymous said...

Well Rahul, I finally have a substantial disagreement with you...

At least you do admit your allegiance to Microsoft, but to say Bill Gates is a *quote* monopolist is just wrong. Bill is following the path set by the robber barons of the past and giving in to his own guilty conscience.

Microsoft's products are not perfect, just like all others, but I would give them much more credit if their corporate actions weren't so reprehensible. They have done everything in the name of the dollar and been wildly (monetarily) successful- but that doesn't mean they are 'good' or that their actions should be emulated.

I don't expect you to agree with me as your business depends on them, but I just can't listen to that...