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09.20.08

Eye on Microsoft: A Rainy Day in Redmond Town

Posted in Apple, Finance, Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux, Microsoft, Security, Windows at 9:07 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

…Not just because it’s Software Freedom Day

Blackouts

Today is a day of software freedom, so let’s begin with this good post.

Are you a user of Microsoft Windows? Are you a user of a non-licensed copy of Microsoft Windows? Does it happen to be Windows XP Professional? Have you seen “blackouts“?

Apparently, from about the end of last month (August 27 2008, to be precise), users of pirated copies of Microsoft Windows XP Professional that also happen to be connected to the Internet will see their screens go black, and have no icons visible.

[...]

Its a most interesting tactic. Annoy the user by allowing them to change their background, and 60 minutes later, give them grief again. After all, an original copy of Windows XP Professional only costs RM580. That’s about 227 litres of unleaded petrol, at the current rate of RM2.55/L. Or nearly 6 tanks of petrol, in a more fuel efficient car. No wonder, people prefer paying RM5 for pirated media.

[...]

Don’t worry about piracy. Don’t bow down to another corporations silly moves. Think open standards. Think freedom. Just go open source.

This squeeze of existing Windows users may or may not say something about Microsoft’s real financial situation [1, 2, 3, 4].

(In)Security

Here is another case of bad patches (it’s almost a monthly recurrence it would seem), which brought down Microsoft servers. Microsoft has acknowledged it is a universal problem.

However, the package was posted early and one of the bugs is causing major headaches for administrators who installed the update.

Microsoft explained that an issue with the Exchange Web Service component is leading the update to send some servers into a continuous crash cycle.

Future LSE crashes would hardly be surprising.

The Spread Firefox Web site draws a baffling comparison which is perhaps unfair given the age of the two products, but it compares Firefox 3.x and Microsoft IE 7.x.

With regards to security, Internet Explorer 7.x is has about 13 times more vulnerabilities and advisories than Firefox 3, according to security site Secunia.com:

* Vulnerability Report: Mozilla Firefox 3.x
* Vulnerability Report: Microsoft Internet Explorer 7.x

There’s a lot more to this story. Microsoft is hiding known flaws. References of interest include:

We covered this issue before.

Advertising

There are heaps of articles on this topic. The Jerry Seinfeld ads are quickly being buried, but a very tactless new slogan has been picked.

Life without walls is the title of microsoft’s new advertising campaign. It is yet another example of microsoft taking someone else’s idea and trying to claim it as their own. This has put me in rant mode because for a long time there has been a quote floating around in the Linux camp. It goes like this “In a world without walls. Who needs windows and gates?”

SJVN wrote about this advertising failure as well. He ends with a bright outlook:

Speaking as someone who prefers the Linux desktop, and, proprietary software and all, is overly fond of Macs, I have to once again say: “Thanks Microsoft.” Without you the Mac and mini-PCs like the Sylvania G Netbook, the HP 2133 Mini-Note PC, the Acer Aspire and the Asus Eee PC 1000 we recently reviewed, which are Linux powered wouldn’t have had such a great chance to make major big gains in the desktop market.

With how Microsoft is mishandling both its desktop advertising and its actual Windows operating system, I see more and more hope that Windows’ desktop monopoly is finally coming to an end.

According to Roughly Drafted Magazine, Microsoft is actually using UNIX machines (Mac OS X) to create its advertisements. There’s also the following nugget of information:

In 2003, Microsoft fired an employee who posted a photo of new PowerMac G5 systems being delivered to the company onto his blog.

At the same time, the company has no problem showing the vast numbers of Macs it buys to test builds of Office for Mac within the MacBU. Microsoft is apparently still the largest Mac developer outside of Apple.

More on the failure of Microsoft’s advertising blitz can be found in Apple Insider.

Further, as PC companies such as Dell and Acer continue to seek new ways to use Linux in place of Windows, and as the top PC vendor HP begins its own efforts to create a Windows alternative as reported by BusinessWeek, the idea of advertising “the PC” would do even less for Microsoft.

John Gruber writes:

It’s not necessary for effective ads to directly sell anything. An effective ad simply has to make a point. Some of the best ads, rather than establishing facts or planting ideas, instead create a feeling. Nike’s “Just Do It” campaign didn’t tell you to buy sneakers. Apple’s “Think Different” didn’t even mention computers. But those campaigns created feelings about those brands that were so strong that they still feel new.

Microsoft’s panicked reaction to these Seinfeld ads, yanking them from the air and severing ties with Seinfeld, isn’t because the ads were poorly received. And dropping these ads is a panicked reaction. Let’s not pretend it makes any sense that the Seinfeld spots were planned as a two-episode teaser all along. No one signs Jerry Seinfeld for $10 million in a much-heralded deal to make just two spots that only run for a grand total of two weeks.

The current situation does not bode well for the successor of Windows Vista, according to this report from IDG.

Why make the same mistakes all over again, when there are so many new mistakes to make?

That thought came to mind a few weeks ago when Microsoft spent some time talking about Windows 7 (the current name for whatever comes after Vista) at a technology conference. From what I saw, it would seem that the company learned little from the Longhorn/Vista launch and is setting out down the same road.

The Indian press, which is typically blind to legitimate critics and therefore supportive of Microsoft, indicates that Microsoft will hire some other talking points.

Microsoft has axed American comedian Jerry Seinfeld from its 300million-dollar ad campaign to spruce up Windows Vista’s image just two weeks since the first ad aired, and roped in a host of celebrities, including author Deepak Chopra.

Actress Eva Longoria and singer Pharrell Williams are also said to have been hired for the campaign.

This isn’t the first time that Microsoft reaches out to celebrities in India [1, 2].

At the end of the day, not even famous people can save Microsoft’s reputation and brand power, which is declining.

Google leaps, Microsoft drops in brand value

Google’s brand name value jumped from 20th place last year to 10th in 2008, according to the latest version of an annual study that ranks the best brands, with only four technology companies ahead of it on the list.

Recent articles about Microsoft’s brand problems include:

1. Microsoft’s credibility turning to junk while Linux revenue grows

Sweeping changes are needed in Microsoft’s go-to-market approach, and it may find more success by creating products like Live Writer, which found a huge following right away. Continuing on its current path, the company will continue to destroy its credibility and build animosity with users looking for quality products on their terms.

2. Google ‘UK’s top consumer brand’ [up at Microsoft's expense]

Google also topped a poll of “superbrands” as judged by professionals earlier this year.

3. Google reputation hits top spot

Google has finally managed to push Microsoft from its top spot.

The Vole actually fell to tenth place in the annual Harris Interactive Reputation Quotient poll, but overall, the tech sector did outstandingly well this year.

4. Microsoft Plummets, Retail Falls While Beauty Gains in CoreBrand 2007 Brand Power Rankings

The annual “CoreBrand Brand Power 100″ Branding Index(R) of 1,200 US corporations ranks Coca-Cola Company and Johnson & Johnson at #1 and #2 respectively, unchanged since 2004. Meanwhile, Microsoft’s corporate brand declined in stunning fashion over the past four years, falling from 11 in 2004 to 59 in 2007 Microsoft, a decline of 48 places!

5. Some Quick Quips – Yahoo, #86, and MSPoll

Would you believe… that Microsoft has dropped down to #86 within the Fortune Best Places to Work survey? That’s down from #50 in 2007 and #42 in 2006. Like a rock. In a bad way. And who is #1 for two years in a row? Grab that chair and give it a big effen toss in the air to Google! Toot! They get bigger and they’re still #1.

6. Apple has biggest impact on world consumers: survey

Microsoft, the world’s largest software maker was also a winner, but it received the dubious honor of the brand most readers wanted to argue with, and the one they most wanted to revamp. Voted into second place in the category was brand USA.

Bottom of the Ranks

Speaking of brand value, where Google seems to rapidly outpace rivals and almost dominate, Google continues rising in terms of search engine share, whereas Microsoft continues to fall despite heavy investments in datacentres, advertisements, reimbursements, bundling, a recent $100 million acquisition, and so much more.

Google Sites led the U.S. core search market in July with 63 percent of the searches conducted, up from 61.9 percent in July, followed by Yahoo! Sites (19.6 percent), Microsoft Sites (8.3 percent), Ask Network (4.8 percent), and AOL LLC (4.3 percent).

Microsoft is ranked lower not only for brand power; it’s also ranked very poorly by Greenpeace, according to many new reports.

Japan-based games console company Nintendo came last in the rankings, with a score of 0.8, whilst world renowned software-maker Microsoft was placed second last with a score of just 2.2.

For those who think that SharePoint is doing well (Slog tactics can be compellingly-deceiving), here is a wakeup call:

Microsoft losing grip on ECM mid-market

SharePoint not as dominant as was thought, claims research

Mid-sized organisations have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to choosing an enterprise content management (ECM) supplier, according to new research from independent ECM analyst CMS Watch.

So, all in all, there’s lots of hype but results are mixed. Alfresco performs well in this space.

Sour Grapes

Several operations of Microsoft were shut down recently. It’s a pattern, so here is another new one for the pile.

Microsoft-backed social network gets walloped

A would-be social network called Wallop has shut its doors, according to a message on the home page.

Other recent examples include:

Earlier in the week, albeit behind closed doors (to the media), there was some more erratic behaviour from Microsoft’s CEO, who is bemoaning success of others in eccentric ways right on stage.

At Microsoft’s company meeting today, CEO Steve Ballmer was in full cheerleader mode, running around the stage, high-fiving Microsoft employees at Safeco Field, breathing hard and yelling into the microphone, said one observer, who asked to remain anonymous while describing an event that was closed to the public.

Is this a celebration of success or an ego trip? Ego trips are typically momentary. The nightmare comes later.

“But this is going to end as all tragedies must, with tears. Steve Ballmer is getting taken for the biggest ride of his life, and one day he’s going to find himself dumped out of the limo by the side of the road wondering what happened.”

Dana Blankenhorn (Liddell destroying Microsoft from within)

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