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Dear Microsoft,

            Over the last year or two you’ve done some great things.  You’ve also done some stupid things.  Here I will point out both the good and the bad, and attempt to clearly contrast what you should keep doing and what you should stop doing.

Good thing #1)  Microsoft Office 2003.  This was a great product to begin with.  But more important than that was your follow-up.  The swift, decisive implementation of InfoPath and OneNote SP1 with countless features that developers and users were clamoring for is a perfect example of Microsoft’s good behavior.  The quick, solid “preview” releases of both SP1 products and the final shipping versions both showed a willingness to listen to user feedback and quickly work to give them what they want.  No limitations, no caveats, no holding back… Microsoft at its best.

Bad thing #1)  Waiting forever and a day to decide to make IE 7.  It isn’t that I have a problem with IE 6, or that I don’t understand all the great work the IE team was doing.  The problem is that your USERS have been demanding new features (tabbed browsing, better plug-in system, better management of security zones, better standards support, RSS support, etc) and you hadn’t even acknowledged their existence.  Back when Apple released Safari and you canned IE for the Mac, you should have told your users when/if features like tabbed browsing were coming to IE.  You should have hammered out even a small update with some of those features to show that you were at least paying attention.  Unfortunately, it seems you weren’t.

Good thing #2)  Visual Studio 2005 development and the Visual Studio Express products.  The Express products are great.  They aren’t missing any important features and they serve their purpose nicely.  Development of VS2005 has progressed with a strong sense of transparency and great developer awareness/participation.

Bad thing #2)  Charging money for the Visual Studio Express products is a huge mistake.  I’m talking nuclear meltdown kind of mistake.  The student/hobbyist/side project demographic is fundamental to your platform’s long-term success.  You make great developer tools and offer great packages for mid-sized and enterprise level development efforts… but nothing to compete with the simplicity of downloading JCreator, KDevelop, etc. or writing a quick project in any free Java or Python editor, or even Emacs.  The Express products are perfect for this – but they have to be free and downloadable.  Hell, you should start putting them on the Windows CD right next to the .NET Framework.  Apple does it with their tools, why can’t you?

Good thing #3)  Free Anti-Spyware.  Only problem here is that it took you so long!  And hurry up with the final version, please.

Bad thing #3)  Windows Genuine Advantage.  Great idea, from an IP perspective… horrible idea from a usability perspective.  It’s fine when it works automagically… like it does with my MSDN-licensed copy of Windows.  But on countless OEM versions that I’ve dealt with, it asks you to input a product key.  BAD Microsoft.  No.

Good thing #4)  MSN.    These guys have been completely on point lately.  The new MSN Search is a huge step forward.  The new MSN home page is a big improvement.  The MSN Toolbar is good and does at least something to fill in the gaps in IE, and the MSN Desktop Search beta is a phenomenal start.  The Outlook integration stuff is excellent.  Keep it up, guys.

Bad thing #4) No major updates to MSN Desktop Search.  There’s been one update release since the original, which fixed some bugs and of course was welcomed.  But it didn’t show any progress feature-wise.  The product, as it stands, does a lot of things right.  I use the DeskBar on a regular basis.  But the Explorer window integration needs work.  It needs better developer support.  Start listening to your customers and give us a major update with some of these features soon.

Good thing #5)  PhotoStory 3.  Great product, great price (free).  Now

Good thing #6)  MSN support for web standards (XHTML) and other browsers (Firefox), even if it’s not 100% there yet.

Posted on Monday, March 28, 2005 9:22 PM Dear Microsoft | Back to top

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