Category Archives: Microsoft

Windows 8, iOS and that weird post by Aaron Holsgrove

[Other](http://daringfireball.net/2011/06/windows_8_fundamentally_flawed) [people](http://curiousrat.com/home/2011/6/12/holesgrove-on-gruber-and-windows-8-a-public-trainwreck.html) have picked apart Aaron Holsgrove’s post on “[Why Windows 8 is not fundamentally flawed as a response to the iPad](http://www.businessinsider.com/why-windows-8-is-not-fundamentally-flawed-as-a-response-to-the-ipad-2011-6)”, but I think it’s worth going over more. It’s a catalogue of mistakes, which would keep the average commentator going for days. Take this, for example:

>If Apple never released the iPhone, we’d be sitting here today talking about how if it weren’t for Android, those three companies wouldn’t be making all of those same changes or something like that – the crippling of those companies was always inevitable. Or perhaps in your case John, you’d be saying it was the Mac and Mac OS X that proudly toppled those giants instead because Android wasn’t made by Apple and therefore doesn’t warrant the same amount of credit or boasting on your part.

I can only imagine that Aaron never saw the early demos of Android, which showed off a [phone much more akin to a BlackBerry](http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WoyoUpawfgU&feature=player_embedded), but with less features and a wonkier interface. Or perhaps he missed out on the later [demo of the HTC Dream](http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=arXolJrLVEg&feature=player_embedded) (which became the T-Mobile G1), which had an interface which was just about on a par with a decent Nokia phone of the era.

Had the iPhone not existed, would Android have been released and done reasonably well? Yes. Had the iPhone not existed, would Android have been as good as it is today? Not a chance. Would Nokia have been able to respond to Android, had Android’s development not been pushed on by the existence of the iPhone? Yes.

In fact, Aaron’s entire piece rewrites history. Take this:

>[Microsoft's] biggest goal with Windows 7 was to develop an OS that was touch friendly and as we all found out, it was a good operating system for using computers with a keyboard and mouse but it wasn’t touch friendly at all.

“Touch friendliness” was a long way from being the biggest goal of Windows 7. Steve Ballmer put it [like this](http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/microsoft/4176373/CES-2009-Microsoft-CEO-positive-after-Windows-7-launch.html):

> “We’ve been putting in all the right ingredients – simplicity, reliability and speed. We’re working hard to get it right, and get it ready.”

Or perhaps Aaron should remember Ballmer’s [remarks from Windows 7's launch](http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/exec/steve/2009/10-22win7launch.mspx):

>What were we really most trying to do? We were trying to make the everyday usage of the PC better in the ways our customers wanted: Simpler, faster, more responsive.

To be fair, Ballmer does mention touch. It comes in the “third bucket” of Windows 7 (where does he get this stuff?):

>And then No. 3, let’s enable a world of new things, new possibilities for software developers and hardware developers and for end users. So you get a technology like multi-touch, which enables people to build new computers and new software. You get literally, I would say, from an end user perspective, dozens or hundreds of new features.

There you go: touch, far from being, “the biggest goal” was one of “hundreds of new features”. And judging by the [image gallery for Windows 7's launch](http://www.microsoft.com/Presspass/gallery/screenshots/windows7.mspx), when it talked about touch, Microsoft was focusing much more heavily on touch-screen PC desktops than tablets.

I could forgive Aaron some of this if he’d actually bothered to do any research. But he hasn’t.

Take this statement about the relationship between OS X and iOS:
>Actually John, iOS IS built on top of Mac OS X and its core principles. It is common knowledge that it is a modified version of OS X with a touch centric shell on top. From the Wikipedia page about Mac OS X:
>Apple also produces specialized versions of Mac OS X for use on its consumer devices. iOS, which is based on Mac OS X, runs on the iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, and the 2nd generation Apple TV.
>Guess what Windows 8 for tablets is? You guessed it – the core of Windows – MinWin – with an alternate shell to Win32 on top that is touch friendly – the ‘Metro’ immersive shell we saw today.

Calling the bits which differentiate iOS from OS X “a touch centric [sic] shell is a bit like calling Android “Linux with a phone-centric shell”. iOS and OS X share core elements, notably the XNU kernel. Beyond that, Cocoa Touch (the API for building iOS programmes) is based on Cocoa, the API for building OS X programmes. But you can’t take a Cocoa-built application and run it on Cocoa Touch, unmodified.

And that’s the aim for Windows 8: Run current-generation Windows apps, unmodified, on touch-based Windows 8 tablets[^2]. The equivalent would be if Apple had aimed to create iOS and let OS X apps run, unmodified, on it. That Aaron doesn’t understand this fundamental difference is surprising. It’s a shame that, instead of relying on a single line in the Wikipedia entry on OS X to “prove” that iOS is just OS X-with-a-shell, he didn’t read the entry on [iOS](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IOS_(Apple)), which has a good description of the layers of the operating system. You’d think that lack of multitasking available to developers prior to iOS 4 might have been a clue.

More evidence of Aaron’s lack of research comes when he starts talking about iWork for iPad:

>Now, the deal with iWork for iPad is that it’s a skinny rip-off of iWork for Mac because Apple’s original pitch for the iPad is that [it’s a consumption device](http://andheblogs.andyrush.net/ipad-its-a-consumption-device/), not a creation device[^1].

Odd that Apple should introduce iWork for iPad — something that’s all about creation — at the same time as the original iPad. You’d think they wouldn’t bother if it was a “consumption device”.

Also odd that the only evidence that Aaron can find of Apple saying this is a blog post from Andy Rush, who does not work for Apple. No quotes from Steve Jobs. No quotes from Scott Forstall. No quotes from *anyone* from Apple.

Because, of course, Apple’s original pitch for the iPad *wasn’t* that it was a consumption device. Aaron has just made that up.

Now I’m less bearish than either John or Harry about Windows 8. Windows 7 was such a vast improvement over Vista, and in such a short period of time, that it showed Microsoft can raise its game when it needs to. Microsoft also showed the right stuff when it ditched its previous mobile efforts in favour of Windows Phone 7, which has a genuinely innovative interface and some really nice touches — again, developed fast.

On those grounds, I think it’s foolish to write Microsoft off. But pretending that iPhone didn’t matter, rewriting the history of Windows and attributing stuff to Apple which Apple never said isn’t arguing the case for Windows 8 — it’s arguing the case that you don’t know what you’re talking about.

[^1]: I suspect the reason Aaron has chosen this link is pretty simple: Andy Rush’s blog post is top result if you Google “iPad is a consumption device”. Obviously, that’s good enough for Aaron.

[^2]: Or is it? It looks from some of the things that Microsoft [has said since](http://arstechnica.com/microsoft/news/2011/06/html5-centric-windows-8-leaves-microsoft-developers-horrified.ars) that in fact, you’ll need to completely redevelop apps, possibly even in a different language, to use the touch-based “Metro” experience.

The bit that John Gruber didn’t quote from Rich Mogull

The bit that John Gruber left out of [his post][daringfireball] quoting [Rich Mogull on the Mac Defender malware][macworld]:

>Windows 7 is actually more secure than OS X

I wonder how many of John’s readers will pick up on that.

[daringfireball]: http://daringfireball.net/linked/2011/05/25/mogull
[macworld]: http://www.macworld.com/article/160098/2011/05/macdefender.html#lsrc=twt_macworld

Why the spec sheet method of buying a computer is dead

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - MAY 09:  An Apple Store ge...

Image by Getty Images via @daylife

Poor Charles Arthur. Charles wrote a relatively simple post asking the question of why the Mac has proved to be so successful lately, out-performing the overall computer market and growing its market share. And in response, he got a 500+ long comment thread in which multiple geeks are arguing over how the specs of the Mac do/don’t compare to Windows machines.

I’m greatly enjoying the batting around of specs like people buy computers based on specs anymore. If there’s one thing that the huge demand for netbooks a few years ago proved, it’s that people buy because they can see how a computer can do something for them, not on megahertz.

In the case of netbooks, the “something” was being a machine they could carry everywhere, and do simple stuff on. In the case of Macs, it’s having access to easy to use, powerful software like iPhoto, iMovie, and so on – in a package that’s good looking, well designed, robust, and so on.

It’s about the whole experience: Compare buying a Mac in an Apple Store to buying a Windows machine in PC World and you’ll see what I mean. Compare the ability to take your machine back if there’s a problem with it to a Genius Bar and have someone help you sort it out in a way that’s friendly and not patronising.

This is the thing that advocates of the spec-sheet method of buying computers, or any product for that matter, don’t understand. What lifts a brand from being a making of generic boxes into a real identity isn’t simply the spec you get for the money, but the overall experience of buying and owning the product.

To give a non-Apple example, consider Dell. What set Dell apart from other PC manufacturers was the build-to-order approach which let you tailor the product to exactly meet your needs. You went to the Dell site, and you got exactly the machine you wanted. It was competitively priced, but it was rarely (if ever) the cheapest option. The experience was simple, straightforward, and gave you what you wanted. In short, a good brand experience.

Unfortunately for Dell, this was a part of the brand experience that was relatively simple for other companies to copy, and it’s lacklustre performance in the market coincides with other companies copying this approach. Now, I can get a totally customised machine from most PC makers – so what’s left for Dell to say is unique about its experience?

People buy Macs because the experience of buying, owning and maintaining a Mac is better than the experience with any other computer maker. It’s the experience that matters, not the specs.

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Why Microsoft bought Skype

Cringely thinks it’s simply to stop Google getting it:

“Were Google to buy Skype they’d convert those 663 million Skype subscriptions to Google Voice and Gmail and in a swoop make parts of Yahoo and MSN irrelevant. They’d build a brilliant Skype client right into the DNA of Android, draining telco revenue and maybe killing smaller players like Windows Phone. They’d cut deals with equipment makers like Cisco (Linksys) and NetGear and steal voice revenue from telcos and cable companies alike.  That’s all Redmondesque behavior and if anyone is going to be behaving that way, Ballmer feels, it had darned well better be Redmond.”

That sounds like a perfectly Redmondian argument to me.

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Why “evil” is the most over-used word in tech

One of the things which you often hear reading tech blogs, and particularly the comments, is that such-and-such a company is “evil”. What this usually means isn’t that they’re deliberately employing children or forcing workers to work in polluted factories which damage their health.

Instead, the cry of “evil” is used to describe companies that are trying to maximise their profits. That could be by destroying a market by giving away products to undercut competitors. It could mean locking customers in to platform so they face barriers if they want to switch to something else. Or it could mean trying to take a slice of income off every transaction made on their products.

This is a fundamental error, and it misunderstands what companies are designed to do. In a post on his blog, BBC business editor Robert Peston sums this up in relation to multinationals trying to minimise how much tax they pay:

“But given that company law obliges company directors to give greatest weight to the interests of their shareholders, criticising company boards for striving to minimise tax is a bit like attacking gravity for making the rain fall down rather than rise up.”

The same is true of tech companies. Apple isn’t “evil” because it is attempting to squeeze money out of publishers. Microsoft wasn’t evil when it tried to tie Office and Windows. Google isn’t evil because of its practice of giving away stuff which its competitors make money on.

They’re all just companies, trying to make the best returns for the only people that matter, legally, to them: The shareholders.

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Apple 2011 = Microsoft ’97

Brilliant comment from “Chucky” on a post from from Michael Tsai:

Microsoft in 1997 had a very specific corporate strategy. They had a temporary situation of great market leverage. And rather than concentrating on making better products for their users, they began to concentrate on two objectives:

1 Using their leverage to avoid the rise of middle-wear.

2 Using their leverage to grab a rent-seeking slice of the commerce their users did out on the internet.

Microsoft in 1997 was willing to be incredibly evasive and disingenuous in its pursuit of those goals.

Does any of this remind you of Apple in 2011 in any way?

Apple has steadfastly avoided the creation of middleware on iOS – stuff like Flash, which acts as a layer between the OS and the application. And it is now using its leverage over the platform to grab a slice of all the commerce people do through apps.

Who’d have thought that Steve Jobs would have stuck so closely to the playbook written by Bill Gates?

The Nokia/Microsoft Elephant Tango

Alan Patrick ponders if Nokia and Microsoft ever be Mobile?:

“The reason the JV is happening is that the assets being brought to the table are not so much incredible but non-credible. The two companies have completeley dropped the ball in mobile over the last 5 years, from positions of strength, due to a combination of world class arrogance, incompetence and intransigence. The question is, can they remove the cultures that made this happen?”

My short answer: No.

My longer answer: You can see that Nokia doesn’t comprehend what went wrong by the fact that it’s got the right to customise everything on Windows Phone, something no other licensee has. That Microsoft has allowed Nokia to insert this clause shows that it doesn’t understand the success of iPhone (and the failings of Android).

Bing: Why Google’s Wrong In Its Accusations

Danny Sullivan on Bing: Why Google’s Wrong In Its Accusations:

“Meanwhile, I’m on my third day of waiting to hear back from Google about just what exactly it does with its own toolbar. Now that the company has fired off accusations against Bing about data collection, Google loses the right to stay as tight-lipped as it has been in the past about how the toolbar may be used in search results. Google’s initial denial that it has never used toolbar data “to put any results on Google’s results pages” immediately took a blow given that site speed measurements done by the toolbar DO play a role in this. So what else might the toolbar do?”

I can understand Google’s annoyance at what it sees as “copying”. But if it’s going to throw around accusations like that, it had better make sure (1) it is right, and (2) it’s not doing the same thing itself.

Why Microsoft is right to hold off on a tablet

MUNICH, GERMANY - OCTOBER 07:  Chief Executive...
Image by Getty Images via @daylife

Joe Wilcox, Betanews:

“Ballmer was right not to make any major tablet announcement, showing off something that wasn’t ready. Any zealous tablet push would have led to bloggers, journalists and Wall Street analysts making iPad comparisons. By staying away from Apple and iPad, Ballmer kept the message pure, which is good marketing. Ballmer set the keynote agenda on his terms rather than taking the position of following a competitor. Surely there was temptation, and pressure, to directly respond to iPad. Ballmer showed leadership by waiting.”

Joe is absolutely right. The last thing that Microsoft needed from this year’s CES was another version of the Courier debacle. By focusing on products that it was ready to announce rather than products the pundits think it needs, Ballmer did the right thing – and, of course, copied something straight out of the Apple marketing playbook.

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Today’s Apple Tablet dumbness: Step forward, The Apple Blog

How to put this? Oh yes, “the stupid, it burns”.

Liam Cassidy has used his magical gift of clairvoyance and decided that a product about which no one knows any concrete details is better than a product which has been publicly demo’d for 30 seconds. And he’s managed to write 845 words of detailed analysis on why these pixies are better than those unicorns.

Liam, I hate to break it to you: but you know nothing about either product. That’s “know” in the sense of “actually know”, not “think”, “have an opinion about”, or “need to write a long post to get my monthly pageviews up, otherwise I won’t hit my targets and will get fired.”

(Image from nDevilTV)