Microsoft’s lack of common sense–debated!

Figures often beguile me, particularly when I have the arranging of them myself; in which case the remark attributed to Disraeli would often apply with justice and force: “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics.”
Mark Twain’s Own Autobiography: The Chapters from the North American Review

There I was, going about my morning reading my blog feeds in Google Reader (Google please do kill this), when I came upon a post titled Microsoft’s lack of common sense written by Patrick Smacchia (of NDepend fame).  In this post he tries to make valid points by using stats he made up.  He even admits he made them up.  You would think that someone with a math and science degree would know that making up data to prove a point hurts your credibility.

So I decided to have a little fun and make up data of my own.  Here is the comment that I left on his post

I tend to agree with Boris ‘my own statistics’ really. I can play that game too. 95% of the people around me love the tiles and they aren’t using touch screens. They are running Windows 8 as their primary OS on Macs (better hardware). As a consultant 80% of the large enterprise that I work with are will be migrating to Windows 8 within the next year. They are also planning to deploy internal Windows 8 applications.

I personally like the fact there is new functionality for Visual Studio released every quarter. Now I don’t have to wait three years. Yes there are still organizations that running earlier versions of VS..but who cares. Those older versions still work and satisfy their needs. Should MS be sitting around waiting for those organizations to say they are ready for an upgrade, ready for new innovations?

What I am encouraged by is that they are acting on user feedback. In the case of Xbox One they are doing it prior to releasing the product. We will have to see how these changes will affect the sales of Windows 8.1 and Xbox. I wish people would stop saying that the decline of PC sales is because of Windows 8. They were on the decline before Windows 8 most people I know don’t need a PC, tablet provide all the functionality they need. I have a feeling (more of ‘my own statistics’) most people feel this way which doesn’t bode well for PC makers. They need to adjust their business model.

Finally my last bit of ‘my own statistics’ 100% of the people I asked would never use NDepend because they see is as a waste of time, not worth the effort, and provides 0 value . So no ne your 4000 paying clients are in my statistics. See I too can play make believe with numbers. This was fun thanks for the post.

As you can see I decided to make up my own numbers *.  Don’t try to find this comment because he decided to censor it and not approve it. I find this funny since right above the comment box where I entered my comment it stated “they don’t moderate comments”.  Here is the response I got from Patrick:


I won’t publish your comment.

This is not because I provide publicly my position on MS decisions that you should mention something un-nice about my own product.

Don’t shoot the messenger.

If you wish to rewrite your comment by staying focus on the debate of MS decisions, I’ll be glad to publish it and answer it.



That’s ok Patrick because I have my own blog.  First I am not shooting the messenger.  I am shooting the messenger’s credibility in using made up facts to prove a point.  BTW I am not the one who brought NDepend in the mix…you did.  I just gave you some stats I have floating around in my head **.  He has since added an addendum to his post which I will address in a minute. First let me “focus on the debate of MS decisions”:

Windows 8 tiles and suppression of Start menu

You used your NDepend telemetry to prove a point.  Supposedly Microsoft used it telemetry to determine that people weren’t clicking the on screen start button. I think the bigger reaction is to the changes Microsoft made in general.  People hate change. You see it every time Facebook makes one to the news feed. I like the tiles.  But I don’t even notice them when I on my laptop.  I launch apps by hitting the Windows Key and typing the app name.  They would be more useful if I could keep them visible on a second monitor.

I think Microsoft did a poor job with their messaging and training.  It seems to me Microsoft is trying to unify the experience across devices.  In the long run this may help users when they move from their phone to their computing device (tablet and/or PC) and their entertainment device, and are greeted with a common interface.

The Decline of PC Sales

I love when people equate the decline of PC sales to release of Windows 8.  I find this laughable.  PC sales were in decline long before Windows 8 came out though Windows 8 did not inspire people to rush out and get a new PC.   Here is my thoughts on why the decline:

    • Why get a PC when a tablet would do.  Most casual users can probably get by with a device that connects to the internet, reads emails, plays games, and occasionally light office work (documents, spreadsheets, and presentations).  Most tablets available today can handle that and are cheaper than a decent PC.
    • PC vendors have not made extraordinary leaps in hardware to compel users to upgrade every year. So the computer I bought three years ago still satisfies my needs.  The average consumer rides a PC until it dies, which could be 3…4…5 years.  When it does die they may opt for a tablet (see my previous point).
    • The major PC vendors are just now catching on that people want lighter, faster devices that last all day (tablets) and are releasing tablets (Android and Windows) to compete with the iPad.

In my opinion, tablets and phones are personal computing devices. In that case PC sales are not declining they are skyrocketing.  Obviously the form factors are changing but the premise of personal computing is alive and well. 

XBoxOne waste, even before the release

Let me preface this by saying I very rarely play games on my Xbox.  I use my Xbox as a media center so their initial decision to require a connection did not bother me but I can see how it would piss off hardcore gamers.  At work, we are having an internal debate on this issue and here is what one of my co-worker, Oren, had to say:

      Do you really want to keep putting discs in the system to change games? Why do I need a disc at all?

      The other half of this is that the internet requirements open up a whole new set of options, like trading in digital downloads and sharing a game amongst your family.

      What Microsoft did was screw up the PR and message badly.

      At the very least it should have been opt-out/in where disconnected users could use their disc but then lose out on the new benefits

Visual Studio release schedule

 I can’t believe that people would be upset at getting an updated version software more often than every 3 years.  I like the fact that they are adding functionality every quarter. My original premise in the comments still hold true “Should MS be sitting around waiting for those organizations to say they are ready for an upgrade, ready for new innovations?”  Just because NDepend’s clients aren’t ready to upgrade doesn’t mean others aren’t.  The beauty of these later versions of Visual Studio is that the can exist side-by-side fairly nicely. Deployment can then be done as the need arises.

I am encouraged by the fact that Microsoft is iterating fast on their products.  I think that Microsoft can do a better job communicating the timeline (what features when) and provide a little more transparency as to how they choose feature for a specific release.

Patrick’s Addendum

As I stated before Patrick added an Addendum to his original post (which I think he did because of me).  He starts out be saying “Sadly, I receive comments that ‘shoot the messenger’” It is hard to take you seriously when your statistics are as real as the purple dragon at Epcot.  It is ok to be critical of Microsoft and to be worried since you (as well as I) make our livings on the Microsoft platform. 

I, personally, am excited to see what they have coming. There were definitely short comings in Windows 8, especially with desktops/laptops and multi-screens. It nice to see Microsoft listening to user feedback and incorporating that feedback into the products they deliver (sometimes even before they are released).  It is hard to please every one all the time but they do need to do a better job communicating with their consumers. 

As the landscape of personal computing is changing, companies and developers need to be prepared to change as well. Bigger the company the harder it is to change.  Microsoft has had missteps in the past.  Hopefully they have learned from them and by adopting a more agile approach they can address those missteps a lot quicker.

* All numbers used in my response are made up and do not reflect any actual client data. 

** I don’t use, nor have I ever used NDepend (for all I know it could be a good product).  I asked the voices in my head which is where I got my numbers.  These numbers can’t be verified by an independent source and should be taken with a grain of salt or pepper if you wish.

*** This post is my opinion and do not reflect the view of anyone but me (as far as I know). 


6 thoughts on “Microsoft’s lack of common sense–debated!

Add yours

  1. You missed my point, my post is not about statistics per-se, but about lack of common-sense that leads MS to take harmful decisions. Apparently you are living in a world where all is bright for MS, where PC sales decline is not (at least partly) due to Windows 8. This is not my world, and I regret it.

    Have you seen how regular persons (i.e not programmers or enthusiasts) behave first time in front of Windows 8? I did see. Why Windows Blue will be released urgently? “It seems to me Microsoft is trying to unify the experience across devices.” but they failed at it with Windows 8, and ***common-sense*** could have prevent all this. It was not needed to try something that just necessarily fail. It is not a matter of users reluctant to change here, it is a matter that tiles are not intuitive for regular PC users that don’t have a touch screen.

    Concerning the XBoxOne announce it is not questionable that it was harmful. Maybe “What Microsoft did was screw up the PR and message badly.” but here also ***common-sense*** has been discarded. Users hate to feel captive, they hate to feel they have less freedom.

    Concerning VS releases releasing yearly my answer copy-pasted.
    magic doesn’t exist. More frequent releases necessarily means less features and innovations per release in average.

    It is not realistic to thing that real-world paying VS clients (I am not talking of enthusiasts here) needs more frequent VS releases. These guys have clients using their software, and their clients don’t update their runtime environment often. If there is an obvious jump to made all together, like from .NET2 to .NET4, from VS2005/2008 to VS2010/2012, it makes things much easier for the whole .NET sphere actors.

    They are moving from a model where VS major versions were driven by features, to a model where major versions are driven by yearly dead-lines. For example LINQ took years of development and VS2008 was especially dedicated to LINQ support. VS2008 was a big success, it represented a major step and this step was a motivation for upgrade. The same way Roslyn takes years of development and it is now close to be mature. Will VS2013 plainly support Roslyn? 18 months after VS2012, will VS2013 be a “must-update” release?

    1. I know your post is not about statistics but throwing “sky is falling” statistics out there lessen the points you were trying to make. “Me and my buddies hate it so the rest of the world must hate it.” You make some good points just got lost.

      I don’t think all is bright for MS. They are late to the game when it comes to phones and tablets, maybe too late only time will tell. They are also having a hard time appealing to the consumer market when it comes to those devices. Most people have already bought into one eco system or another (Android or iOS). I think that MS is going to have a tough time convincing user to abandon the platform they are on and spend the money to get all their apps again (if those apps are even on the Windows platform).

      I have seen regular users behaviors the first they have used it…they we lost. Microsoft has not done a good getting the message out. The behavior reminds me of another UI change that had everyone up in arms, the Office Ribbon. The first iteration of got hammered. People did not like the learning curve attached but they got over it. In the next version of Office, MS changed the Ribbon incorporating user feedback so much so that they Ribbon in now prevalent in most Microsoft products. BTW a tile is only an icon that is bigger than 16×16 pixels.

      The biggest challenge, as I see it, is the learning curve and the shock of change. My 4 year old daughter uses Windows 8 just fine. She is able to log me out and log herself in. She launches her apps and has a basic understanding of the differences between desktop apps and Modern apps, she has both installed. To boot it took her less than a day to understand these concepts. What made that possible? She had no preconceived notions of what Windows was. She didn’t have any habits to unlearn/relearn. A lot of users, especially power user, have their mind set on how things are to be done. Microsoft went and changed them. They seem to be the ones squawking the loudest.

      A lot of people like to bring up adoption rate or lack thereof. Here is my take. The average user upgrades their operating system when they upgrade hardware. Only power users switch operating systems. So going back to my point about PC sales and you have a plausible reason for lack of adoption. Their “other” big customer base, the enterprise, usually take 2 to three years to adopt new operating systems. Again that would account for the lack of adoption numbers. There are organizations that are still on XP.

      I don’t think that Windows Blue is being released “urgently”. Right around the time of release there were rumors that Microsoft was shifting to a more rapid release cycle with their products. More along the lines of OS X. My thought is that they are heading towards the OS being leased. Look at Office, you can get a Home 365 account and get the most up to date Office Suite. Plus you get and new release as well. This can be said about VS as well. I get mine through and MSDN subscription so the more rapidly they upgrade the tool the better. I would be interested in seeing how many people buy VS as a standalone applications. I don’t have any insight.

      You also bring up the point of the framework changing as well. That is a valid concern. Most clients don’t upgrade the version of the framework that their applications is running on. But with the later versions of Visual Studio you can still work on application that target earlier versions of the framework. A cost benefit analysis and testing needs to be made when move to a newer versions of the framework. Upgrades should not be made Willy Nilly.

      I do agree that the Xbox One announcement was harmful. PR is one of the areas where Microsoft need to improve. Here was an example where they were trying to please the game makers at the sake of the user. But I am encouraged by the fact that a ship as large as Microsoft can change course as rapidly as it did. Having people (like you) voice their concerns can only help, as long as Microsoft is willing to listen.

  2. It’s getting late here in France, so let me comment just on

    >She had no preconceived notions of what Windows was. She didn’t have any habits to
    >unlearn/relearn. A lot of users, especially power user, have their mind set on how things are to
    >be done. Microsoft went and changed them. They seem to be the ones squawking the loudest.

    When Apple released the IPhone, as far as I know no MacBook users didn’t complain. Still Apple did a tremendous UI move and everybody had to (re)learn how to use IPhone. Apple didn’t change Desktop usage, while MS did change it, without even an official option to keep the Start Menu, hence all the complains.

    1. I understand why people complained and it’s their complaints that Microsoft is supposedly addressing in Windows 8.1 (we’ll see). As far as I know no Windows users complained when Microsoft launched the WP7.

      What is your point about MacBook users and the iPhone. The Mac OS has been relatively the same for the last ten releases. Microsoft is trying to innovate UI by providing and interface that is more than static icons. They probably should have introduced it as an option at first with an eye to making it permanent. If they did that the problem they would have faced is that the users would have held on to the old for as long as they can. Then Microsoft would have been forced to spend the resources and more importantly money supporting a UI that is not in their strategic future.

      1. >Microsoft is trying to innovate UI by providing and interface that is more than static icons. They probably should have introduced it as an option at first with an eye to making it permanent.

        Glad we agree on the lack of common-sense 🙂

        >If they did that the problem they would have faced is that the users would have held on to the old for as long as they can.

        The problem is not Metro/tiles, it is ***Metro/tiles as a replacement of Start Menu on non touchscreen devices***.

        >Then Microsoft would have been forced to spend the resources and more importantly money supporting a UI that is not in their strategic future.

        Are they currently in a good position with so many people complaining? And Start Menu haven’t evolved too much, I don’t think it is that costly to maintain.

      2. I personally don’t have a problem with the Metro tiles as a replacement of the Start Menu. I didn’t use the Start Menu in Windows 7. But I had to learn that workflow when I switch from XP to Win 7. They do need to fix some issues with using the keyboard with the tiles (supposedly coming in Win 8.1). Now if you are truly set in your ways and not willing to adapt to the times then, as you noted, there are third party alternatives available. This allows Microsoft to focus their development dollars elsewhere than paying someone to maintain functionality that they deem irrelevant. For them it makes common sense. Just because that is not the way you would have approached it does not make it wrong, it just makes you mad.

        I always used the keyboard (start button then start typing). That workflow works just fine for me and is supported in Win 8. If their telemetry is right then a majority of their users never used the onscreen start button. That means people are using a keyboard, so to get a menu like experience all users have to do is hit Win + Q. Supposedly in Win 8.1 just hitting the Windows key will bring up the All Apps screens. I think the days of Start Menu are gone for good (at least not without third part app).

        Microsoft has a vision for where they want their user experience to be. Whether you like it or not that is a different story. There is a learning curve and there are execution issues that Microsoft needs to address. By going to a yearly release cycle they should be able to address those issues more rapidly. As they address those issue the SDK needs to be updated to allow developers to incorporate those fixes into their code.

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