Yearly Rant: What is UP with MS these days?

rant

So what is "wrong" with MS products these days? Some thoughts from the heart (with a smattering of cogent thought here and there)

VSTS

So I have an MSDN subscription. It expires every year. However, there are a number of things that just make the experience so....amateur:

  • Finding out what the difference is between a "Full" MSDN subscription is almost impossible

  • I LOVE VSTS and TFS - about the only thing (along with Azure) that MS does things right. And yet, they still manage to stuff this up. It is embarrassing beyond belief that a user that pays up to AUD 4000 to renew their subscription, has it fail repeatedly year after year. For the second year in a row, renewing my subscription resulted in failure, along with the subscription page failing to show when it will expire. Is my subscription valid? Have I renewed? I have no idea. Subsequent contact with support assures me that it is still valid. Not a nice feeling to have when you have just charged AUD 4000 to your company credit card.

  • And lets not talk about date formats - for 4.6% of the worlds population to think that the rest of the world should use its crap format is just - arrogant and tone deaf. Give us the option to set it. At a minimum. This is not hard people - just totally tone deaf and does not help your cause.

Bing

What can I say that hasn't already been said? Bing is crap. Total, utter, crap. I do not live in the US (along with 95.6% of the worlds population). Therefore the experience I get is total crap. Because, I don't know, your "commander in chief" doesn't like people from "Sh*tholes". Says a lot about your country when your elected leader says stuff like that. And it kinda plays through in your "efforts" to globalise your company. In the end, MS is a US company with purely US interests. Google is as well - but at least it has the presence of mind to actually give a crap about places outside of a dying power. (i.e. Google Home is available in my locale, and actually WORKS)

Cortana

Wow. What a way to write an Obituary. Lets face it - Cortana is dead in the water. Another shining example of how MS had the lead, had the forethought to create an absolute game change of a technology. Then fail to realise this and capitalise on it. If you are not in the US (95.6% of the world) then you are stuffed. Google is a far more credible alternative. Google have already won - MS just will not admit it. So, will Cortana survive? Sure. But it will always always be 3rd. It will never be 2nd or 1st because they lack the ability to Polish their stuff. And the average consumer knows this. They may be dim, but they smell a rat when they see one.

Windows 10

Windows 10 is a step in the right direction, and there are places where this is really good (the subtle Fluent design stuff). The always updated nature. The "evergreen" concept. So, so, so very close - let down by a lack of "polish".

Office/Office 365

An example, at the time of writing, of a steller performer. However, one gets the feeling that it is struggling to stay relevant. As an example. we recently had a quote for some Security screens. One of the organisations that gave us a quote, mentioned that they did all their measurements, plugged then into a spreadsheet, then sent the quote electronically. I mentioned that Office 365 was great value for a business, fully expecting them to be an Office 365 customer. When they said that they used the free Google stuff, it took me aback. See, it does not matter that Google will sell your info for the highest bidder. The average person couldn't give a toss about that. All they see is "free" and fail to see the value in a paid service. It reminds me a lot of the Share Ware times of the 80's/90's. I really think that OSS has won in spite of professionally developed paid software. (there are counter arguments which suggest that the Professionally produced software is pretty ordinary and not worth the money you pay for it cough Oracle cough)

And lets talk about the PowerApps team for a second. The total tone deafness of these guys is epic. Example: The calls for PowerApps to have the ability to be able to render multiple choice check box fields from SharePoint has resulted in the feature being closed as "completed" because you can now select from a drop down, and that people should raise another user Voice in response. My.God. The arrogance of that decision reeks of Java, and I would be so ashamed to be part of that organisation right now. Another product that held such promise that is totally screwed by thinking the wrong way.

At this point in time (January 2018) Office is teetering between success and failure - there are others nipping at its heels. And the failure of an organisation to realise that others are nipping at its heels will lead to its eventual downfall. Take heed.

Surface

So Surface. Another example of an absolutely beautiful concept let down by crap hardware and shit design and absolute amateur execution. There. I said what we were all thinking. Apple fumbled the ball, and MS had the perfect opportunity to absolutely nail it. But, in the end, they fumbled too. And now it just looks sad and so try hard. Surface Book 2 - so close to perfect. Then they shy away from boldness and fail to implement Thunderbolt 3 across USB C. People, this is the future. By doing what you are doing, you are certainly listening to your customers. But you are listening to the wrong customers. Chris Caposela mentioned on Windows Weekly that MS are still investing in Consumer. Doesn't look like it to me.

But for all that, I would happily buy a Surface Book 2 15" - oh wait - I am not in the US so sucks to be me. What a fantastic way to treat your "customers". And then they wonder why people give them so much crap. Seriously MS - wake up and smell what you are selling.

Edge

Another example of opportunity lost. Edge is a great browser. Except when it is not. Which, for the average person, is 90% of the time. Another example of lots of tiny cuts, that eventually wear you down

  • Extensions slow Edge down to a crawl. I mean. Really. Lastpass, ad Block Plus, RSS ready slows ALL page loads by 2 to 3 seconds.

  • Doesn't work consistently for all sites. One of my banking sites ( a top 4 in AU) just does not work with edge. Because they couldn't be bothered to code for it - or edge does some dodgy stuff. No idea. The average person will not care. And if they are using Windows S then they are totally hosed. Reality is that THIS is what stops people using it. Paul Thurrott has mentioned this a few times, and he is totally on the money here.

  • If something is going to crash on your system it is Edge. Several times a day. At least. On MS hardware. Totally unacceptable and amateur.

  • And, most damning of all, a 6 month release cycle. This is fine if you are on par with the competition, but there are so many little things that add up to a big thing (no Web Workers, RTC, etc). The worst part of all of that is that they see no problem with it, and hence, everyone else will laugh at it and ignore it. Consider it that poor kid in school who always thought he had to try so hard to be part of the group, when if they had just stopped trying to be something they are not they would have been so much happier.

I remember a few years ago (probably around 2010) there were a lot of calls for MS to just give up and go with Webkit. I was one of those that agreed, and you know what? I still do. Edge, for all its great features (if you are in the US of course - no bookstore for you if you are outside of the US) just seems so try hard - lacking in that Polish that competitors have. To borrow a phrase from a controversial orange person - So sad.

XBox

A rare point that has great credibility let down by a period of shitty marketing and hardware decisions. It still has its issues (PS4 outsell them 2 to 1) but it still has great brand recognition and loyalty.

Azure

The other thing that MS is doing SO right. Run by a former DEV. NOT a marketing person, or a bean counter. It has its issues, sure, but they are really doing things right, and are the 1 great hope for MS in the near term (Not the long term - others will catch them)

In the end, it will be death by a thousand cuts that will end MS. Which I both look forward to and lament. MS have change the world in so many
very very very important and fantastic ways. It is terribly tragic to see what was once a shining beacon of hope and excitement for all humanity
come to this. Unfortunately, it really does seem that MS have become a victim of their time. Things were different and dare I say it, more innocent in those times. The world has changed, and to paraphrase Stephen King, the world has moved on. And for that I shed a tear for what was once a juggernaut you could rely on.

These days?

Not so much. I really do think that MS are dead in the water. Their total failure (and yes - it is a total failure - bigger than Mobile) with
Cortana will be their consumer undoing. It is a joke. Ask any normal human being. If you are not in the US (95.6% of the world population) then your options are Google or .....no-one. Doesn't matter that Google will sell your soul, or is not the best - it works and is available. Cortana - well, lets just say, that 90% of the time Cortana does not understand what I say. For another example of a total lack of polish: on my iPhone, where she nicely pops up and says that I mentioned in an email that I would do something, she pops up a message saying that I said I would do something. Then gives me no way to automatically set as reminder. None. This is totally amateur hour with a total disregard to polish. That is why Apple succeed - Polish in everything they do (OK to be fair, they really slipped in recent times - but the perception remains that they "polish" their stuff and take the time to do it. MS? Not so much.) Groove was a rare example where they started to actually give a crap - but like all MS stuff that is actually good it is left to die. I really like groove as a music player (all performance issues aside - lets just say that using Groove on a Surface Book with Groove running on a separate Virtual Desktop killed performance for everything else, pushing the CPU to 100% - But I suspect that this is the fault and total failure of UWP)

I wonder if perhaps their mantra of "it is what our customers are asking for" is because the customers that they focus on are the Business consumer, and not the normal consumer. The normal consumer does not care - they just want stuff to work as cheaply as possible.

phew. I feel much better now :)

Richard

Richard is a Director and the principal Consultant at Dev iQ Pty Ltd. He specialises in SharePoint, Team Foundation Server/Visual Studio and .NET Development.

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