Friday, February 29, 2008

the greatest Microsoft asset

A few months ago, I got a Windows Mobile cell phone, a Cingular 8525. It's a neat piece of hardware and it makes all the hype around the Apple iphone (which came out six months later) look pretty silly. The 8525 has everything the iphone has except for icons that inflate when you touch them. Well, OK, the iphone user interface is a little better for common tasks, but not that much better. And the 8525 has features that the iphone doesn't have, like wireless lan and a client program for Outlook. So far, so good, right?

Well, the problem is that the phone crashes. That's right; it crashes, just like a Microsoft PC. You have to take out the battery to get it back up. You would think that this sort of problem would turn people off, but a friend who got the same phone wasn't bothered at all. "It's Windows, what do you expect?"

And he's right. People expect Windows to crash. They've become accustomed to it. It is the nature of Microsoft software. And they just restart the computer --no big deal. It seems to me that this public attitude should be listed among Microsoft assets: "People expect our software to crash and they buy it anyway".

Anyone who has worked on a commercial product realizes how big of an advantage this is. Taking a mostly-working piece of software and hardening it against crashes can double the price of the software. It would be a big competitive advantage if you didn't have to do that, but if you don't, then word will get around that you have crummy software and people won't buy it. Unless you are Microsoft, in which case they will pre-order it.

What a racket.

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