THE SURPRISE POWHERTZ FILE
MICROSOFT'S WORST ACTIONS IN 2001
The men commanding this supremacy of unfairness and overestimation
|Bill Gates when he tries
like a gentlemen
|Bill Gates when his hypocrisy
strikes him back
|Steve Ballmer, the other
lesser known from the masses
|Flagrant errors, bad declarations, failures,
unfair actions, Powhertz is proud to present the chart of the worst things
that the company Microsoft did in 2001! There are so much that
it's easy to forget some, but here are the ones that were written down by
Powhertz all year long. Every year would be a good one to make that kind of chart
with Microsoft, but you'll notice that 2001 is particularly good! Enjoy!
1Microsoft's loss in court regarding its previous operating system didn't stop the giant from coming back with a product that goes even further in the use of its illegal business practices. Not only Internet Explorer, Outlook Express, Windows Media Player and the integrated ZIP archives uncompresser are back, but now there are a firewall, video-editing software (Movie Maker), an Internet connection-sharing utility, a CD burning application, MSN Explorer and even Windows Messenger, a new chat program based on MSN Messenger. Maybe Microsoft Word ni the next version of Windows? Let's mention also the new design of Windows XP which looks more than ever like a big toy for young kids. The search in local files is especially painful. First, you got to find the file-searching utility in the complexified start menu, then you have to answer to a little animated dog that asks you what kind of files you're looking for, and finally, after finding which of the 3 or 4 options is the standard one, they let you type your search keywords... The windows title bars in general have also become ridiculously big and kiddy. Let's say I'll stop here about Windows XP, but there would be much more to continue with (critical security bug, excessive hardware requirements, etc...)!
2October 25th was the release date of Windows XP, but was also the date of one of the biggest controversies on the Web in 2001. Suddenly, the MSN network, including the main page of the portal msn.com, started to block access to non-Microsoft Web browsers, displaying only an unfriendly message in black on white asking them to "upgrade" their browser to Internet Explorer or MSN Explorer. Microsoft pretended that this move was based on technological reasons, what representatives of Opera, one of the browsers that were the most affected by this new act of disloyal competition, proved the contrary with ease. Microsoft was saying that a Microsoft browser was necessary to surf the new version of the site because IE and MSN Explorer were apparently the only ones to respect properly the XHTML standard, but Opera proved to everybody that msn.com itself was failing the official compatibility tests to XHTML!... Finally realizing that were not helping themselves much, Microsoft re-established the access to all browsers 2 days later and as expected, MSN's XHTML was displaying as nice in Netscape, Opera, Konqueror or Mozilla than in Internet Explorer or MSN Explorer!
3That dear Internet Explorer 6! If IE4 was a major update from IE3 and IE5 was also a major update compared to IE4, the upgrade from IE5 to IE6, for its part, was a step back! In fact, the latest in the series is essentially a version 5 with one thing more (the media bars, which concept was taken from Netscape 6) and some supports less (technologies Sun JAVA and Netscape-compatible plug-ins plus operating systems Windows 95 and NT 4.0)! Of course, you can download add-ons thereafter, but they aren't included by default anymore and Microsoft's strategy on this is pretty clear: abuse of its advantage of having the most popular browser and the only browser to be included in the Windows operating system (used by over 95% of home PC users) to have their vengence on their ennemies Sun Microsystems (against which Microsoft has been in court for years and have finally been found guilty) and Netscape (another one that is used to lawsuits against Microsoft). By disadvantaging those very well-spreaded technologies like that, it is almost sure that the Netscape-compatible plug-ins will take a serious drop at Microsoft's ActiveX controls' (for which, by the way, are often reported potential security problems) advantage and that Microsoft's programming languages C# (C Sharp) and .Net (XML) will gain ground over Sun's well-established standard JAVA. Also amongst the victims, Apple QuickTime, a well-known standard since the beginnings of the Web which plug-in was a Netscape-compatible type. There is no need to look too far, Microsoft wanted to give a last strike at one of the main rivals of its Windows Media Player. Very sad!
4In May, Microsoft admitted having a secret backdoor on all of his IIS (Internet Information Services) Web servers using the FrontPage 98 extensions. The password, that Microsoft pretends to be secret but that a lot of hackers certainly have and don't reveal to anybody, puts a big question mark on the security and privacy levels of IIS. The news did not affect IIS' market share too much though since it is already very low (Apache has twice as much the market share of Microsoft IIS).
5Menaced by the strong growth of the Chinese distribution Red Flag Linux in China, Microsoft has stroke a deal with the main Chinese PC manufacturers foreseeing that from now, every new PC model to be release in this country would be automatically loaded with Microsoft Windows XP. In other words, the Chinese guy who will want to buy a PC without wanting to pay for the $150 (and up) extra for WinXP won't have any other alternative than buying a "clone", something that frightens many consumers. This news was announced in early December.
6In mid-February, Jim Allchin, one of the main project leaders of Microsoft Windows, has made a declaration that became famous by its impertinence and that will certainly haunt him back someday: "Free open source stifles innovation" and is a "threat to the American way".
7Microsoft introduces, with Windows XP, a new licensing philosophy for consumers that caused problems to many people. This philosophy is "one copy, one installation", which means that a person who purchases his boxed copy of Windows XP cannot install the copy he bought on his two or three personal computers anymore. We easily understand the goal that is fighting piracy, but could we really force a consumer to pay twice the exhorbitant price of Windows XP to install it on two different PCs while it is exactly the same client and exactly the same product? Not only the philosophy is wrong, but the technology is too. To determine if the copy was already installed, Windows generates a unique key based on the identification number of the product and various data on the hardware of the computer on which it was installed. This way of working could then cause problems in the case when a person changes his hardware configuration. Someone who, for example, changes his processor, might have to contact Microsoft again if he ever has to reinstall its Windows. In fact, this is only one of the two major issues of this technology, the other one being that the hackers of this world did not have too much trouble finding solutions to go around the problem and allowing the distribution of illegal copies that work on multiple PCs.
8While the security holes are a regular and famous thing with Windows, Internet Explorer and Outlook, few people had doubts about their little Windows Media Player putting them in danger. That was the case though in May as two major security holes were officially reported. Both were affecting Windows Media Player 6.4 and 7.0, allowing hackers to access files and execute malicious code on a victim's PC. A patch has been released to fix those bugs, but many innocents had the time to be caught before that. Also, as if it wasn't enough, a 3rd vulnerability of that kind was publicly revealed in November, requiring yet another patch! Of course, no similar security vulnerability has never been found in a Winamp, for example.
9In November, Microsoft was proposing a settlement for over a hundred private class-action law suits. The total value of this proposition was estimated at US$1 billion, which does not cover the totality of the damage done by their reprovable behaviour (that, by the way, was proven in court), but was still a remarkable effort. The real problem is how this billion was spent... A big part of it would have been used (in the case that this proposition was accepted, which was however declined by a federal judge) in Windows licenses in less fortunate school of the USA. Of course, Apple and Red Hat yelled out loud against this proposed settlement; Microsoft would be "penalized" by imposing Windows in a domain, education, where MacOS still has a market share and where Red Hat Linux is progressing! In other words, Microsoft intended to use his penalties at his own advantage, by stealing a little bit of its rivals' market share in schools and making themselves look more generous that they really are, since $250 in software value (more or less the equivalent of a mluti-user Windows) certainly costs less than $100 produce for its maker but still count for $250 in the $billion.
10In August, the Seattle Times published an article on Microsoft that was caught sending false letters of support in them to the attorney general of Utah aiming at this state to retire, like the New Mexico had already did, from the landmark antitrust lawsuit against the American department of justice. The Utah found that after numerous wrong signature imitations, uses of dead citizen names and invalid return addresses. Also, certain exact sentences were found in many different letters.
12In January, most sites from the big Microsoft/MSN network have been down for over 22 consecutive hours. The outage was first believed to be due to an hackers attack but was finally found to have been only errors from their network technicians. As it wasn't enough for them, Microsoft has then been a victim of a real vast hackers attack while they were just getting up from this major downtime.
13Another case linked to Internet Explorer 6. In the new version of their browser, Microsoft decided to remove their famous "page not found" page (when you don't have the right address or that you simply made a little mistake when entering it in the URL bar) and searches for the content of your erroneous entry on his (false) search engine MSN Search.
14Responding to heavy criticism, Microsoft has decided to release an Office XP the traditional way (one unique payment, unlimited use) instead of the expected new way "pay on use" or "software as a service", philosophies of Microsoft's new .Net strategy. Since this new philosophy was the biggest change between Office 2000 and Office XP, Microsoft had to compensate with a very expensive ads campaign which slogan looked much more like a defense than an offense: "Easier is better".
15The Webmail service Hotmail was hacked once more, quieted Microsoft who was hoping to prove the security level of Windows 2000 Server by migrating Hotmail, formerly independant and purchased by Microsoft in 1998, from FreeBSD to Windows 2000.
16While many declarations from high-graded Microsoft employees wanted to make us believe that the Redmond giant was seeing no serious threat in Linux, an internal memo from the company's operating systems division, that slipped from Microsoft and was published on the Web in November, really proved the opposite; it's a panic! Here is the most important part of this memo: "Linux is the long-term threat against our core business. I need you to make sure that as many of these customers as possible continue to migrate off of UNIX, but on to Windows 2000 on Intel. You should be smothering your accounts from every angle, and if you see Linux and/or IBM in there with it, then get all over it. Don't lose a single win to Linux. ". This memo was written by a boss of the Windows division.
17Microsoft announced, in October, its pricing for the future developers of .Net applications. The less we can say is that Microsoft is not very thankful with the programmers who contribute in maintaining Windows' supremacy with home users. The prices are pretty expensive, going up to US$2799 for the annual membership to the Microsoft Developer Network, not counting the VisualStudio.Net applications suite itself that can cost up to $2499! I even read from a serious source that an extra fee of US$1500 per .Net application created was applicable, but I can't confirm that statement because this information cannot be found on VisualStudio.Net 's official Web site (http://msdn.microsoft.com/vstudio/launch/). However, if this was true, that would mean that a developer could find himself paying a total of nearly $6800 to create his own application... Say, have you ever been charged to develop in JAVA or Perl?
18Microsoft saved themselves from the worst by finally deciding to remove their "Smart Tags" technology from the final version of Internet Explorer 6, but Internet Explorer 6 Public Preview 2 was still there to witness that it it wasn't only rumors but another real evil plan of Microsoft. The goal of the Smart Tags was to automatically generate, without consent of any Web site administrator, links in the Web sites visited under Internet Explorer. With the Smart Tags, every received Web page was pre-scanned and modified to make certain keywords clickable... generally to redirect the user to Microsoft sites! The controversy around the Smart Tags was so powerful that Microsoft, which first thought of deactivating them by default, finally decided to remove them completely from the final version of IE 6.
19In a serious survey published all around the Web in August, Microsoft ranked last of all US Internet service providers (ISPs) for the consumer satisfaction rate. The service provider MSN, which is having only a fraction of AOL's number of subscribers, had more unsatisfied clients than AOL.
20Microsoft looked dumb when software pirates finally revealed them their trick take the control of a remote PC without authorization, passing through security holes in Microsoft Excel and PowerPoint, vulnerabilities that were there since version 97 of these titles and that were still there in Office XP!
21Privacy problem with Office XP. It's bug-reporting functions, used along with Internet Explorer 5, can send personal data (so potentially confidential) to Microsoft in the name of helping the debugging of Office.
22The WPA (Windows Product Activation) was introduced in 2002. What it changes to the most common PC user is that he has 30 days after his installation of Windows XP to "activate" its product, after what this installation becomes unusable. This activation can be made through Internet, but what about the half (and up) of the population who don't have an Internet connection at home? Those people have got to contact Microsoft, wait on the phone and make the activation of their Windows speaking to a representative, a pretty annoying process.
23Looking to make even more money, Microsoft changed, in 2001, its products licensing policy for enterprises. While Microsoft was pretending that most enterprises would pay less under these new conditions, an exhaustive study rather suggested that about 80% of all enterprises would pay more for their Windows and Office licenses with this new policy. Over the third of the respondants to this survey said that this price raise might make them consider more economic alternatives, which is pretty bad for Microsoft!
24We don't know if it's by lack of time or lack of skills, but Microsoft finally decided to drop the support of the important connectivity standard USB (Universal Serial Bus) 2.0 from Windows XP. This will be a separate patch, which is still unavailable while writing those lines, that will provide this support, which is another good example of Microsoft's philosophy to market products as quickly as possible and give its clients the responsibility to download the necessary patches on the Internet, looking like they think that all clients of Windows have a high-speed Internet connection or an phone-line Internet connection and a good patience.
25Microsoft's problems are generally much more in the product itself than its advertising. That's why a gaffe in their advertising retained so much my attention. In the following advertising (French), that Microsoft sent me personally by mail, the promotion is "Acquire the software [Office XP] before January 31st 2002 and get two free technical support requests [...] in the six months following your purchase." ... What an mistake! Everyone expects this support to be free for any client of the product, so announcing a promotion like that is like telling everybody "no, our tech support is not even free, but buy now and we'll help you twice for free when you'll be lost in our menus". By the way, Microsoft has also ended, this year, the free support for Office 97, which is still their most popular applications suite.
26In the beginning of last summer, Microsoft was invited in court once again, this time by InterTrust Technologies of which the Redmond giant voilated the copyrights in his latest Windows Media Player.
27Microsoft decided to sue Lindows, a new distribution of Linux that's expected to be released in this early 2002, because its name looks too much like their trademark Windows. First, the prefix "Lin" is a common short for Linux (Win4Lin, LinPhone, LinCVS, LinCity, etc...), so the only part of the name really borrowed from Windows is the "dows", which is not very convincing. Secondly, "Windows" is very short as a trademark. Only one word, mostly a dictionary word, can hardly be protected by copyrights. It's a little bit like if I registred the name "Cola" and that I was deciding to sue Pepsi Cola and Coca-Cola because they violate my copyrights...
28It's rare, but Microsoft missed its marketing objectives! In fact, the sales of Office XP are very far behind those of Office 97 while the sales of Windows XP, that should have been able to compete with those of the legendary Windows 95, didn't rush too much people in the stores. WinXP had inferior sales than Windows 98, which itself had much lower sales than Windows 95! This is what we call a commercial failure until now. They used the same kind of advertising campaign than with Win95, even broadcasting TV ads with Madonna's song Ray of Light, a big commercial hit like Start me up from the Rolling Stones that was used to promote Windows 95, but hasn't been enough to meet the expectations this time. All in all, over a US$billion was spent for the promotion of the new operating system.
29On December 11th, the site Zone, gaming site owned by Microsoft, has been unaccessable for many subscribers following Microsoft's attempt at migrating the site to the Microsoft.Net Passport identity authentication system. The disruption of service lasted for about a day.
30Microsoft had the cheek to ask, in the beginning of fall, a second appeal in the antitrust case, after found guilty in a first trial and then by an appeals court! Not only once but twice, Microsoft acts were found guilty of violating two sections of the 1890 Sherman Antitrust Act, and these guys are still asking for another appeal! Obviously, that request wasn't granted and the procedures were taken back to normal (or almost normal!).
31Windows 95 was excluded from the list of operating systems eligible for the upgrade version of Windows XP. Win95 users, still very numerous in 2001 (still over twice as much market share as MacOS, for example), have to purchase the full version, that costs exactly twice as much as the upgrade version, if they want to upgrade to Windows XP. An arguable decision for two reasons: the great number of Windows 95 users who'll be discouraged by the cost and that will generally forget about upgrading to Windows XP, and the fact that Windows 95 is only a few differences away from being the same product than Windows 98 which, for its part, is still eligible. Let's admit, however, that this action was logical when put in the perspective that Windows 95 licensing had been officially discontinued in January 2001.
32Microsoft by luck has managed to meet its expected release date for Windows XP, but has not been as punctual with VisualStudio.Net . At first, it was supposed to be released in the second half of 2001, but was finally postponed to February 2002.
33This ad , published in the January 2002 edition of the monthly magazine Direction Informatique in Québec, says: "Windows 2000 Datacenter Server can work 99,999%** of the time". Now, look at the bottom of the page what the little stars mean: "This percentage depends on several factors that are not linked to the operating system, including equipments and software [...]" ... More clearly, Win2000 Datacenter Server can "not work" for 0,001% of the time even if no other equipment or software is used! We will all agree to say that an operating system, even server, must be able to manage "equipments and software" without crashing...
34Microsoft proudly commercialized its first gaming console, the XBox, to enter the competition with Sony and Nintendo. Critics on the console itself were very good, but Microsoft lost a big part of its merit when the medias started to reveal the truth: Microsoft didn't know anything about game consoles and, seen the lack of qualifications of its staff, paid an external company to develop the XBox for them! Microsoft only had to assure the advertising of the product, something they generally succeed in easily.
35One day, MSN (The MicroSoft Network) wanted to put an image of hockey (Canada's national sport) on their Canadian portal msn.ca . I would have been the first to appreciate it, but look carefully (well, I guess not SO carefully!) the picture they put ... Is there a player in the national hockey league who's called Rgal and wears the number 8a? Obviously not; MSN editors told themselves that it would be more in the standards of the MSN network if the image was at left of the text and that it would be nicer if the players were pointing at the titles, so they applied a symmetry effect on the image but never seem to have realized that the modified image made no sense! Even for those of you who don't know the superstar Jaromir Jagr (#68 of the Pittsburgh Penguins on this picture, traded to the Washington Capitals this summer), you certainly find obvious that there is something wrong in this picture! Well...
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