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What users want from Microsoft

Nov 04, 20026 mins
Enterprise ApplicationsMicrosoft

To get a sense of what this huge collection of customers would like to see next from Microsoft, we polled a cross section of them. These were their top issues.

If customers had any doubt as to Microsoft‘s dominance in the server and desktop markets they need look no further than the latest numbers from IDC.

The research showed Microsoft accounted for a 49% share of the 5.7 million new server operating system licenses shipped worldwide in 2001, an increase of 7% over the previous year. The nearest competitor was Linux at 25.7%. And Microsoft took home a whopping 95% of the desktop market, a 1% increase over the previous year.

To get a sense of what this huge collection of customers would like to see next from Microsoft, we polled a cross section of them. These were their top issues:

Patch management

Users say there is no excuse for releasing software that needs patching as much as Microsoft’s. But if they have to live with that inevitability, Microsoft should at least offer a good system for managing patches that now arrive in a variety of formats to be applied with different automated tools. Patch management has been an art, not a science.

“Microsoft can develop an Internet browser so integral a part of their operating system that to remove it would detract greatly from the value of the [operating system], per the recent antitrust case, but they can’t make patch management just as integral a part of the [operating system]?” says Jeff Allred, manager of network services for the Duke University Cancer Center in Durham, N.C.

Allred calls Microsoft’s current efforts “lip service” and not anywhere close to what Microsoft should be capable of producing. Users say Microsoft must get patch management right to form a foundation for other advancements.

“The next step will be to tackle more challenging systems management problems such as performance monitoring, reporting and management,” says Al Williams, director of distributed systems group at The Pennsylvania State University in State College.


Without answers to the patch problems, security will always suffer. Microsoft earlier this year announced its Trustworthy Computing Initiative to develop secure code, but users call it only a small step.

“My wish list includes some type of Microsoft security organization that has branding, services and products that are security conscious and adaptive. Kind of the ‘Intel Inside’ scheme but under the trustworthy ideals,” says Ken Winnell, CEO of Econium in Totowa, N.J., which develops XML-based applications based on Microsoft .Net and Java/Java 2 Platform Enterprise Edition technology. He says the scheme could include products that range from identity and access management to reliability and hackproof code.


“Two weeks to become a Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer?” asks Doug Spindler, project coordinator for Active Directory at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, Calif. “Ask any educator how much information the average student retains; maybe 1%?”

Spindler says as an employer, and an MCSE himself, that he feels cheated. “Certification should be more like a two-year degree program. The certification classes are focused more on passing the test than on learning the technology.” Spindler says he can’t think of one other certification that can be obtained in two weeks for anything that is as critical as computer systems are for the health of a business.


Microsoft touched off a firestorm last year when it introduced its Licensing 6.0 program, which many customers said, and later proved, would cost them more money to run Microsoft software.

“My greatest concern isn’t with the Microsoft technology, it is with the changes in licensing and product pricing,” says Greg Scott, IS manager for the Oregon State University College of Business in Corvallis. “The lack of consistency from one year to the next makes me very nervous about committing to Microsoft.”

Some of the issues also related to Microsoft’s end-user licensing agreements, newer versions of which users say give Microsoft the ability to automatically install software over the Internet without user consent.

“As someone who is responsible for maintaining computers that are used for maintaining safety alarms, building controls, toxic waste disposal equipment, and other environmental health and safety controllers, this doesn’t exactly give me a warm, fuzzy feeling,” says Dennis Soper, network supervisor for facilities services for the University of Oregon in Eugene.


Users also would like to see Microsoft do a better job of support.

“I’d like to see enhancements to Microsoft Premier Support, including architectural documentation [on the installations of Microsoft’s] major clients to enable appropriate escalation to proper technical resources as well as faster resolution times,” says David Ellis, senior technical analyst for Carlson Shared Services in Minneapolis. “We hate getting stuck with a Microsoft junior technician, explaining our issues, getting a blanket answer such as ‘just reboot’, getting transferred to the proper level of technician and having to explain our system and issues all over again.”

Management tools

The fact that so many Microsoft products have become critical cogs in corporate network infrastructures means Microsoft must improve its management tools, users say.

“They need better system administration tools for logging, monitoring, Active Directory management and workstation configuration,” says Thomas Gaylord, CIO for the University of Akron in Ohio.

Gaylord says the current tool set doesn’t scale and is homogeneous. “And it needs to be centralized so that it doesn’t take an army of technicians to manage it,” he says.

Users also want to see product-specific tools improved.

“It is impractical that we have to spend extra money to get proper queue, volume and usage monitoring, alerting and reporting tools for [Exchange],” Ellis says.

Consistency in product upgrades

“It seems that every time a product changes versions, customers are supposed to scrap everything they’ve done and start over,” says Nelson Ruest, director of consultancy Resolution Enterprise. He says a perfect example is Office with its changing file formats, including additional changes coming in Office 11. “And that doesn’t even begin to include all the macros and applications that were built on the former platform.”

He says Microsoft needs to get this right before it introduces its universal file system sometime in 2005 with its Longhorn version of Windows.

“Conversion tools for both information and applications will be a key to the success of the universal store,” he says.

Integration with other vendors

“My No. 1 wish is that Microsoft would recognize that there really is room for more than just them in the software business and that they would bury the hatchet with certain companies and work to better integrate technology,” says Jeff Durfee, IT manager of Milton J. Wood Co. in Jacksonville, Fla.

Durfee says he doesn’t care for an all-Microsoft world just as he didn’t care for a world dominated by IBM in the 1970s and early 1980s.

“No amount of advertising or cajoling is going to willingly make me go down the vendor lock-in path again,” he says.