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Microsoft doing it wrong

Jan 13, 20034 mins
Enterprise Applications

* Backspin columnist Mark Gibbs shares his annoyance with some of Microsoft's decisions

In my Christmas Backspin, wherein I discussed the giving of clues for Christmas, I wrote that I would like to give a clue to Microsoft for foisting ridiculous architectures on us such as .Net and building TCP/IP into the core of Windows XP.

In the last few weeks I have been increasingly annoyed and disturbed by what I see as Microsoft’s strange decisions about software architectures and its apparent unwillingness or inability to fix the problems that it creates.

Microsoft architecture really ticked me off when I tried to burn a CD of Christmas photos a couple of weeks ago for my brother-in-law Bob to take home to England.

Bob had bought a digital camera on his visit (a Sony P9, which is, by the way, an excellent product that I highly recommend). He had taken hundreds of shots (including several dashing ones of yours truly) and I’d dumped them onto my PC so a CD was the easiest media for the volume of data.

Now I hadn’t burned a CD for a while so I was surprised that when I dropped the files onto the drive and selected the write process, the wizard appeared which, in turn, kicked off Windows Media Player 9.

Media Player immediately claimed there was no CD in the drive even though there was. I tried all sorts of things and finally concluded that the last time I had burned a CD was before the last Media Player upgrade.

As there was no easy way to get Windows Media to stay out of the way, uninstallating it would be the only option. But hold hard! How to do this? My machine runs XP and there was no entry in the Add or Remove Programs applet under either “Change or Remove Programs” or “Add/Remove Windows Components” sections, no option in the player and no entry in the program group to get rid of it.

In news reports Microsoft claimed Media Player was so integrated with the XP operating system that you had to “roll back” to the last System Restore checkpoint to get rid of it (this was not the case with Windows 98 SE or Windows 2000). In fact, a Windows Media product manager, David Caulton, was quoted as saying that the lack of an uninstall wasn’t a mistake!

Caulton said the reason was “Media Player’s deep integration into the operating system.” And he went on: “This is really an [operating system] upgrade. If you imagine a situation with an XP user who has got all these links into media capabilities . . . and you updated to Windows Media Player 9 and removed it, all those become dead links.”

Yep, dear reader, that was really what he said. But Microsoft released an update that lets you remove Media Player from your XP system.

Hmmm. Let’s see, Caulton was either lying or was merely a pawn who was mouthing the untruths fed to him by the wily spinmeisters in Redmond. If you were Caulton wouldn’t you be feeling like a bit of a fool at this point?

Now the reason that this fix miraculously appeared might have something to do with Microsoft’s ongoing legal troubles – the courts have told the company that this kind of architectural commingling constitutes unfair competition. But the bottom line is that this whole issue is proof positive that quality in the form of sound architectural decisions is secondary to marketing at Microsoft.

As I have said before (pontificating from my laissez-faire, free-market liberal soapbox), Microsoft should be allowed to do what it wants. And if that should include stupid decisions such as this, then so be it – it gives developers of alternative applications and operating systems who have clearer thinking a chance to compete by doing it right.

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Mark Gibbs is an author, journalist, and man of mystery. His writing for Network World is widely considered to be vastly underpaid. For more than 30 years, Gibbs has consulted, lectured, and authored numerous articles and books about networking, information technology, and the social and political issues surrounding them. His complete bio can be found at

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