Wednesday, September 27, 2006

The Fall of Microsoft?

I've proclaimed the Fall of Microsoft before. The last time was OS/2 3.x, which was so clearly superior to both Win 98 and Win NT that it seemed sure to succeed. That's when I learned a lasting lesson about business strategy (including the Black Arts) vs. technical excellence. (I think of OS/2 every time my XP box slows to a grinding halt, tied up by its utterly lousy multitasking engine.)

Now I'll do it again. No, it's not Vista. Sure Vista will be a massive turkey, but we know about that. It's Word and Outlook/Exchange.

Word I've written about. It's fundamentally awful when used as anything but a sophisticated typewriter. Yeah, the help files and the grammar/spelling checking are good -- but that's about the end of it.

In some ways though, the Outlook/Exchange combination is even worse. Word I can work around the bugs, but Outlook/Exchange is just nasty. I got my latest jolt today when performance and reliability issues (sync errors with Exchange) forced me to switch to cached mode -- which is far faster. Except that my Sent folder had vanished, and I had several cryptic/worthless Outlook sync error messages that pointed to dead addresses.

No harm done of course. I keep my data in non-synched offline PST files and past experience had taught me to backup my Sent folderm, and anything else that's synched with the Exchange server, prior to switching modes. So I didn't really lose any data.

The point is though, that Outlook/Exchange and Word are two of Microsoft's core money spinners. Over the years they keep getting worse, not better. Microsoft can't seem to fix it. They've moved into a parasitic mode, siphoning the juices of the corporate customers who can't escape data lock. That mode will work for a long time, but it's a Faustian bargain. Once a corporation, or an organism, becomes a parasite, reversion to free range existence is very rare.

This time, the Fall may be for real ...

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