• United States

Mailbag: Most readers agree that Microsoft should halt development for a while

Aug 18, 20043 mins
Enterprise ApplicationsMicrosoft

* Readers chime in on whether we need that much new software from Microsoft

There was an overwhelming outpouring of response to last week’s “Do we really need that much new software from Microsoft?” newsletter (see link below). While some of you thought it was a bit anti-Microsoft (e.g., “I think you’re blowing your anti-Microsoft rhetoric way out of proportion here…”) most of the correspondence came down heavily on the side of fixing – once and for all – the existing services, applications and operating systems. I’ll get to some of those comments in a moment, but one thing I mentioned in passing did draw some thoughtful response.

I used the prediction (by Bill Gates) that Microsoft would apply for 3,000 patents in fiscal year 2005 as an indication that new development was out of control. But as more than one thoughtful reader pointed out, this is just one more indication that the patent system is broken, not that Microsoft’s development is running amok. 

In today’s climate of “patent it, then sue,” Microsoft may simply be trying to protect the functions and methods that have been in use for a while. It’s fallout, and an obvious one at that, from the ridiculous verdict in the Eolas lawsuit against Microsoft (see “Beware the patent office”

Redmond knows that unless it locks down a patent on everything it does, some other bozo will – and then use it to sue Microsoft, and will most likely win. While it’s to be hoped that the Eolas decision is overturned on appeal, Microsoft probably feels it’s better to not have to rely on the whim of a judge.

As I said, most respondents agreed that they’d like to see a break in development, if only so that they can catch up. As one person put it:

“The truth is that by the time we get an installation completed, build supporting programming to customize things for our environment, and generally get things operable to the point where we actually benefit from the software, Microsoft has moved to the next {Operating System, Office System, Programming System, etc.} and made our investment (that we never profited from) obsolete.”

A number of you recommended that Microsoft (and other software vendors) take time off to thoroughly rewrite its code to ensure it is both secure and bug free. That could be a problem, though, for the vendor’s sales and marketing people and for its channel partners who would have nothing to do. Still, Microsoft (and Novell and IBM and others) do have deep pockets and could afford to forego some revenue while they got the products right.

Would that be enough for us? Would we be happy? Would we jump for joy and dance in the street? In the eloquent words of one reader:

“While I might smile quietly to myself and give Microsoft a gentle golf-clap for taking a step back and fixing their stuff before they flood us with new brokenware, you won’t see me leap up in any sort of a school-girl rush of passionate cheering for the Beast of Redmond if it simply chooses to do the right thing.”

There’s an image to conjure with.