Microsoft: Just Not Good Enough?

Back in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s Microsoft engineers and developers prided themselves on being on the right side of “Just Good Enough” while delivering its new features and software to market faster and with more glitz than any other vendor. The rest is business history.

Perhaps this “Just Good Enough” mantra emerged from its co-development of IBM’s OS2 where constant delays in delivery and disputes in goals had Microsoft abandoning IBM in development of OS2. Whatever the case, Microsoft did have a reputation of stepping on the wrong side of “Just Good Enough” as the other Redmond rubric, “Third Time Charm” was applied to various Microsoft programs from Windows to its Access database offering: the first two versions being dogs, and then the third time a winning contender. Reviewers openly referred to this when Microsoft would, on its 3rd release, deliver a program distinctly on the right side of “Just Good Enough”. But remember, these were in the Gold Rush days of PC development.

Fifteen years later, and after the sobering wave of virus attacks and the emergence of Microsoft as an Enterprise software player, one would expect Redmond to run well inside the “Just Good Enough” standard. However, many disparage Windows Vista as being beta code released too soon. For example, Vista is distinctly slower than its own Windows XP. And Microsoft is currently  having a world of hurt on delivering Windows Mobile, SharePoint 2010 and Microsoft Office Web Apps.  However,  in the Web world , Google is saying  that Microsoft’s market leading browser is distinctly “Just Not Good Enough”. And the way it is saying so is what makes it so embarrassing to Redmond.

Chrome Frame is a plugin for all IE browser versions from IE6 through IE8. The plugin runs in Windows XP plus Vista and Windows 7. It is nearly invisible [see the “cf:”prefix in the URL above].  Its what the plugin does that is so remarkable – its is a direct slap in the face to Redmond and its software engineering prowess. This is because Chrome Frame guts IE’s rendering engine and replaces it with Chrome’s version of WebKit. Chrome Frame also guts Microsoft’s JavaScript engine and replaces it with their own speed-leading JavaScript engine. The result is that IE-Googlized runs 3-10 times faster and is instantly much more Web standards compliant than Microsoft’s latest IE8 browser [Microsoft’s deliberate 8 to 9 year failure to implement long promised HTML, CSS, DOM and other Web standards comes back to haunt Redmond ].

Think of Chrome Frame as Ford saying to GM, your cars are so bad that they are not just performance deficient but also are safety hazards. So we, Ford , are offering a free plugin upgrade to all your customers in which we replace the motor and drive train on your GM cars. And then they do so – and the Googlized IE browsers … uhh Fordized GM cars do run better. A lot better.

Finally, IE-Googlized with Chrome Frame is more secure because IE8 depends on running in Vista or Windows 7 to deliver their security but Windows XP still has more than 67% of all Windows installations. Computerworld has been following the fallout from this move by the Google and the War of PR Words is in full swing. Google is saying that it needs to build this plugin because Microsoft’s IE browsers are too shaky, too slow and non-standards compliant. Think of Chrome Frame as Ford saying to GM, your cars are so bad that they are not just performance deficient but also are safety hazards. So we, Ford , are offering a free plugin upgrade to all your customers in which we replace the motor and drive train on your GM cars. And then they do so – and the Googlized IE browsers … uhh Fordized GM cars do run better. Up to 10 times better!

Google insists that it is acting not just out of altruism but in its own best interests. Google’s upcoming Google Wave and other Web software cannot run fast and reliably enough in any version of IE on any version of Windows- XP, Vista, and 7. Our own tests confirm what Infoworld is saying – that IE8-Googlized with Chrome Frame is indeed 3-10 times faster running a variety of Websites and applications. This is a coding knockout blow that Google has just delivered to Microsoft in the World of Web software. IT Experts agree that the fastest emerging field in IT is Web 2.0, SaaS and Cloud Computing. And now Google is saying that the Emperor, Microsoft’s still market leading IE browser, has no clothes.

This “Microsoft … just not good enough” message is not a new theme. Apple’s TV commercials and advertising campaign for its new Snow Leopard operating system has raised identically the same issues regarding Microsoft’s Windows operating system. Apple attacks Windows saying it is not nearly safe and reliable enough from virus/ security infections or self-induced degradation and/or crashes. Worse, Windows is not nearly as trim and speedy as Apple’s new Snow Leopard Mac OS. And indeed, Apple has invested in 3 technologies [64bit as internal standard, Grand Central Dispatch and OpenCL] that will give it a widening lead in performance in the OS market. But going even further Apple is also attacking Microsoft “innovation” in its software as being pedestrian and copycat. The problem for Microsoft is that Windows 7 is vulnerable on both fronts. First, many pundits in praising some of the new features of Windows 7, are also noting that many of Windows “features” have been copied from innovations pioneered on the Mac. And one of the big questions about Windows 7 is not whether it will be better than Vista but will it be better than Windows XP which commands over 67% of the total OS market share [well ahead of Vista at about 20%] as of August 2009. Will Windows 7 be faster across the board and by a substantial margin over Windows XP [not just the easily bested Vista] ? And will Windows 7 be able to run the same gamut of applications and peripherals that Windows XP can – [and the worry of the 67% of shops using Windows XP, how hard will it be to train up their staff in Windows 7?? – hence the little munchkin flogging Windows 7 on TV?]

Increasingly, Microsoft is not only making marketing mistakes [think declarations of “People Ready”, Zune and Xbox] but is just getting behind in software development. Windows 7 is a retry on Windows Vista; yet Window 7’s performance, reliability, and security relative to Windows XP let alone Mac OS and ChromeOS are in question. Windows Mobile is way behind Apple OS iPhone, Google’s Android, and Palm’s WebOS as being a top quality smartphone. But perhaps most damning, Google’s Chrome Frame  appears to confirm that in the Web World Microsoft has been taking things off its software. For over 5 years Redmond made no improvements other than security fixes to its IE browser. As a result Microsoft’s IE browser and big chunks of its Web software are deficient in both implementation of Web standards and performance speed. Some have argued this has been done to always give its desktop Windows OS an edge versus the fast emerging SaaS and Web 2.0 software. Google’s Chrome Frame plugin is definitive proof that Microsoft could and should have done a lot better with its IE browser and other Web software.

So now as organizations considering what to do about Windows 7, mobile phones and where to commit their allegiance in Web software, executives must pause in their analysis. True consider the features, the costs and the training/retraining time+expenses. But the old adage that “you can’t go wrong with Microsoft” may no longer apply as Microsoft find itself floundering a way on the wrong side of “Just Good Enough” in its software development and delivery prowess.

3 thoughts on “Microsoft: Just Not Good Enough?”

  1. This review ignores where Microsoft has been on target – Visual Studio, SQL Server, Visio, etc. These are substantial software programs on time and on spec. And Google is late with Chrome on Apple and Linux while Apple has problems with iPhone OS upgrade and MMS. Delays are all a part of software development these days.

  2. So, why is there an invisible flash element at the top of the page when I access this site? Flashblock shows it’s blocking something.

  3. Curious –

    It may be in the search block and of course the next story has a Flash video display. And I have used Flash animations on the site in other postings. Could be any of these sources

    Jacques

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