Originally Posted by winterspan
I have to say that it continues to baffle me how Microsoft can continue to put out such terrible consumer products. I absolutely blame it squarely on inept, stubborn, and greedy management.
Over the last few years as I got into desktop and web app development on the Windows .NET platform, I have read, viewed, or listened to all types of articles, technical papers, books, interviews, tutorials, conferences, etc written/created/given by Microsoft employees, from both the commercial development guys and the Microsoft research/U of Washington unit. And I have to say that they have an amazing amount of human capital .. the sheer brain power at that company among their legions of highly intelligent and highly skilled employees is incredible.
Now how all of that genius gets translated into the unintuitive, unstable, and inefficient windows OSs, Microsofts' completely failed online strategy, The Zune, the wretched Windows CE and Windows mobile, etc I do not know.
They are probably the best example of how much potential can be squandered and how many resources can be thrown down the toilet when a large company is under incompetent arrogant leadership.
(That said, to be fair, I will say that Microsoft's development infrastructure and enterprise/server software is far better than anything they've done for their consumer products. I guess the XBOX series has been successful)
Bigger you are, more inertia you have.
Everything has it's price. When you are catering to vast majority of home users and almost all business users, you are much more limited than other... less involved players.
MS has to keep backward compatibility, and that feature has huge luggage of it's own. So many different hardware vendors. So many software developers. Business demands. You name it.
Can MS create desktop OS that will completely give up on registry, NTFS... all the technologies MS is dragging for ages? I bet they can. But think of it - all the bad publicity Vista picked up for trying to do some (arguably) small, evolutionary changes in OS structure; what would happen if MS decided to turn page completely and do new OS from scratch..? No one would even look at it.
I think that MS will try to address this changes-stopper in a different manner in the future. Windows 7 will have - according to the latest reports - virtual Windows XP environment within. If I understood correctly (I just had a glimpse), legacy software installed under virtual machine will be accessible under native Windows 7 environment, without need to open virtual machine first; if that gives good results compatibility and performance wise, I wouldn't be surprised if next iteration of Windows doesn't have much more revolutionary changes - with functional virtual XP/Vista.
I also wouldn't agree Vista is not intuitive, or is unstable by the design. Most stability issues were caused by sloppy drivers hardware vendors were initially releasing for Vista; people got spoiled by 7 years of supporting same one platform, XP. But at present, with drivers reaching reasonable maturity, Vista is quite robust. Can't compare it with OSX as I'm not using it, but Vista is more stable product than XP - and by a margin. And XP wasn't bad at all when released - major problem there is MS was dragging it for too long.
Other points - I agree with you, mostly. Zune wasn't such bad product but MS didn't really bother much to market and support it. Add to that MS's existing image (boring, corporate) and lack of marketing presence (until recently), from this point of view it really isn't such a surprise Zune failed. Lets face it - even if MS and Apple would release same consumer product under both names, I bet Apple would sell better - such is the power of Apple's consumer image.
I think that MS is slowly turning it's approach to consumer market, and is doing that from multiple angles. Marketing campaign. United front with hardware manufacturers. Microsoft stores. Publicity Windows 7 is receiving, effort MS is putting in new features (even with all the architectural limitations they are still dealing with) - and the way MS is promoting them. But they are huge monster, and as such require time and space to turn 180 degrees. They'll get there - eventually.
Back to phones - I really hope Pre, Winmobile, Android will be good and do well. I recall times when there was almost no competition in CPU and GPU markets, and really sub par results such environments were producing. I want as much competition as I can get. I want all of them to wow me, and keep wowing me in the future, rather than just providing me with small updates and stability/performance fixes.