Dave Winer: ‘Microsoft isn’t an innovator, and never was – they are always playing catch-up’

“Microsoft isn’t an innovator, and never was. They are always playing catch-up, by design. That’s their M.O. They describe their development approach as ‘chasing tail lights.’ They aren’t interested in markets until they’re worth billions, so they let others develop the markets, and have been content to catch-up. This worked well for them in the 80s and through the mid-90s, when they were a more nimble company with stock options that were attractive to bright young people, when Bill G had something to prove, and was current on the latest technology. Maybe it still does work (obviously I have doubts), but it sure isn’t innovation, in any usual sense of the word,” Dave Winer writes for The Wall Street Journal Online.

Winer writes, “Microsoft is troubled. They’ve grown to the size of IBM when they ran circles around them, and they behave like IBM, they even talk about themselves like IBM used to talk about themselves, showing a dangerous confidence that is very un-Microsoft. Their strength, even charm, was their lack of hubris. Gates could always see their demise, vividly and clearly, this was a picture he drew for the people of Microsoft so they would always be looking for the angle that would save them from their demise. Today they seem to believe they’re as permanent as IBM thought they were in the 80s, when the conventional wisdom said that no one got fired for buying IBM. That didn’t save them when the PC industry changed the rules on them, much the way the rules are being changed on Microsoft.”

“Further, the one thing they used to do better than most tech companies, empathize with the user, is now a weak spot. I was an exclusive Windows user myself until mid-last year, when I switched to the Macintosh, because the malware situation had become so awful on Windows. I feel Microsoft could have done something about this before it became so bad, but they didn’t,” Winer writes.

Winer writes, “Their usual excuse for making difficult systems is their reliance on hardware [original equipment manufacturers], that’s why Windows is so hard to install and manage, they say. But who can they blame for the security problems of Windows?”

Winer writes, “No one wants to change operating systems, so this has given Microsoft many years to address the problem. They boast that they have solved them in Vista. I kind of doubt they have, but I we’ll have to see.”

Full article, really an online debate in which Robert Scoble fruitlessly tries to ascribe some measure of innovativeness to Microsoft, here.

MacDailyNews Note: Dave Winer, 51, is a software developer and author of the Scripting News blog, which he has written since 1997. Mr. Winer has helped create several standards related to Web publishing, including Really Simple Syndication or RSS. He was the founder and chief executive of UserLand Software Inc., and a founder of Symantec Corp.

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  1. I actually had this discussion with a potential switcher a few weeks ago. I have little respect for M$ because their goal is only to make money and use those who do the real innovation. And then, make make sub-rate copies. I would rather give my money to the originals and the ones with a little integrity.

  2. In terms of their own business and the financial bottom line, Microsoft made one good move in licensing in the way they did – it was very profitable. Unfortunately, once they had that success they basically have coasted ever since and become bloated and lazy. Had they gone on and used their position and finances to really improve computing, to innovate etc then kudos to them. Sadly for us they haven’t.

  3. The simple fact is that Microsoft doesn’t really need to innovate in order to succeed. The joke is that they always insist that they do innovate and the bad news is that they don’t even imitate very well.

    All Microsoft needs to do to stay on top is to produce products that are good enough so that customers won’t switch to alternatives. Increasingly we hear of people who are discovering that Microsoft can no longer ship products that are good enough and things don’t look much better for the future.

    The great thing for Apple and other Microsoft alternatives is that Microsoft has a bombastic CEO who insists that the current situation is absolutely wonderful and I would pity any Microsoft employee who tried to say otherwise. With somebody with Ballmer’s qualities leading Microsoft, things are set to drastically change …… and not to Microsoft’s advantage.

  4. Dave Winer was one of the original Macintosh developers. He created an outline software that was a best-of-class applications, and the Frontier scripting environment that was incorporated into Quark Xpress rather than AppleScript a few versions back.

    His switch from Apple to Windows was rather public and happened about the time Apple bottomed out and the world was predicting “beleagured” Apple’s demise.

    So… the prodigal son returns.

  5. if Ms doesn’t have enough money not to think about the future, they can’t do this stupid advanture. all they believe is money. MS seems only company to run by 1000% of money. a long time ago, Rome empior was ruined because of so much lavishing, spending their wealth without seeing he future. it went to curruption. MS will be the same. actually I can’t believe how software company doesn’t have any motivation on creation? why do they sh##?

  6. Mr. Winer: Robert, I was right there with you nodding my head up and down until you got to the part about Microsoft mashing together blogs, wikis and search, thinking we were talking about software, and then realizing it had turned into a horror story. ;->

    Robert, my good friend, they couldn’t even do a decent job of copying RSS aggregators, and the prior art was already a half-dozen years old when they decided to enter the market. Today’s Microsoft isn’t even good at copying. You’re right, the Microsoft of 1989 was at the top of its game, copying Lotus, Wordperfect, Borland, Ashton-Tate and Novell. By 1992, they had wrapped it all up, only to see it unravel again and again. The problem is that the computer industry was never meant to be dominated by one company, but it’s tantalizing, they came so close, only to be dethroned by the next layer of technology, which never comes from the market leader, it usually comes from the users, who, having been locked-in, finally figure out how to get unlocked. For too many reasons, when they (Microsoft, and IBM before them) try to cement their win, they end up the ones in cement and the market continues to grow around them, driven by the inexorable Moore’s Law.

    Their demise, unlikely as it is, would be like a breath of fresh air upon the planet.

  7. Who does this guy think he is? Typical nonsense form a Mac user.

    Who switches from Windows to a Mac anyway? Dork.

    There’s safety in numbers. Microsoft’s massive market share and prowess in writing fantastic software keeps you safe. This guy thinks he’s a hero using some toy computer and bad-mouthing his Windows machine. Enjoy your computing experience with the 2 or 3 other OS X users. Hey Winer, let me know if you find any software to run on that thing, after you clear out the spyware and viruses and do a couple of more reinstalls and patches of your 30-year old OS X. Does smoke come out of your Mac when you try to print too? Don’t spout off about that, do ya?

    Loving XP on a computer I built myself and I can play games on it. Cost a third as much as your overpriced sissy toy. Jerk.

    Your potential. Our passion.

  8. An excellant example of Microsoft’s “innovation”…

    “Mr. Scoble: Ahh, have you ever played Halo? That’s from Microsoft too.”

    Yes, I’ve played Halo. I bought an Xbox JUST tp play it. Great game. Developed by Bungie, at around the same time that MS bought them out. Then, under Microsoft’s control they came out with Halo II. It went straight to hell in a handbasket. Couldn’t suck any worse if it was a 50 horsepower Dyson.

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