Lessons of Failure
Humans + Software Development = Always Interesting

Archive for September 2011

Dear Microsoft,

I can’t tell you how much it pains me to write this letter.  I thought we had a great relationship as developer/software provider.  I left my Apple roots in the mid-90s for your brazen swagger and staggering command of the market.  Lately it seems like you just don’t care.  And by lately, I mean the last 10 years.

Unfair you say?  Well, let’s talk about all the times you’ve let me down in the past decade:

PC vs. Mac

(Credit: Apple)

Windows Vista:  I think it’s fair to say that keeping me as a developer on the same platform for 6 years is pretty bad, but when it makes my customers stay there too and keep me entrenched on old platforms for far longer than I’d like, well that can be downright intolerable.  Your market share for XP on the desktop is a staggering 50%.  That’s like driving my car from high school…when I’m 35.  Your own numbers can’t hide the fact you’re struggling to get people to care.  Your incessant need for complexity in upgrade plans, coupled with astoundingly high prices to upgrade, not to mention the requisite hardware changes as well, pretty much made everyone take stock and sit back on their ancient PCs for another few years.  Writing software for these clients is about as much fun as shoveling a barnyard full of manure.  Wait, the manure pile is at least outside where I can get sunshine and fresh air.  You’re less fun than that.

.NET, Silverlight, and a wide variety of aging platforms:  Developing on your platforms is like building the World Trade Center on the shifting sands of an earthquake zone.  Everyone knows it’s not smart, but we’re stuck with it because of prior commitments.  Speaking of commitments, can you keep a platform alive for more than a few years?  Let’s list the litany of technologies released and then abandoned by you in the past 15 years:  ADO, Silverlight, DNA, BizApp, .NET, J#, XNA.  With Windows 8, we’re now going to write everything in HTML5 and Javascript?  Hello 1999, we were doing that ages ago, and with you leading the way.  But not this time.  Hell, you’re having such a hard time following, you aren’t even on the committees anymore.  (And you just announced that you’re canning Silverlight and ALL plugins for your newest browser)  Are you guys even listening to the conversation anymore or are you just mumbling to yourselves in the corner?

Windows Server:  Windows 7 came after we all gave up on Vista, and that’s worked out pretty well now hasn’t it?  (See my market share remark above).  But on the cusp of Windows 8, you claim you’ve defeated the dragon of Linux?  Seriously?  We stopped taking Windows seriously as a server platform years ago.  The only ones left who care are those stuck with Exchange or Sharepoint in their companies.

Windows 7 Mobile:  I’ll give you props for making a gutsy move here.  Acquiring a dying company, killing their development platform and shoving yours down their throat takes a whole lot of chutzpah.  But Google and Apple aren’t even taking you seriously as competition, and neither are consumers or developers.

Skype:  Picking up a company that doesn’t even use your core technologies ought to be a clear signal you’re not making the right move here.  eBay couldn’t figure out what to do with them, and we all scratched our heads about that one…what makes you smarter this time?  No one else seems to know, the smart money says you don’t either.  Gambling is always a sign of a dysfunctional relationship.

Not looking your best, are you Steve?I’ve grown in the past 10 years.  You’ve floundered.  I’m trying to stay on top of the market trends, meet the needs of my consulting clients, and learn exciting new technologies.  You’re nowhere to be found in any of those places.  I can’t take this anymore.

So Microsoft, I’m breaking up with you.  You used to woo me with a promise of more software, better games, more developer energy.  But that was a long time ago.  You’ve been sitting on the couch, drinking beer and watching too many Windows Media Player videos.  You’re fat, old and tired.  I can’t live with that anymore.  Apple won my heart back.

Apple did everything right the past decade:  a good phone, a good tablet, good operating system and good hardware.  They made it easy for me to work on whatever I want by supporting virtualization of any operating system.  Most things just work right out of the box on my Mac.  I haven’t had that experience with you in years.  And most of my developer friends agree on that point.  Last conference I went to, 80% of the attendees had Macs.  Half of those do Windows development on them.  I run Linux and Windows 7 in the background while I work on the Mac.  Doing that on a Windows machine makes it want to roll up into a ball and cry like a baby.  I can’t take changing your diapers anymore.

I’ve had enough.  We’re through.  And just so we’re clear, it’s not me, it’s you.

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