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The Big Squeeze

October 29th, 2013 - 8:31 am


Apple gives away software for free in exchange for your buying their hardware. This is not charity. It’s also in marked contrast to Google, who gives away software for free in exchange for selling your attention (and personal information) to advertisers. Apple and Google are squeezing Microsoft from both sides, and the result is that less and less perceived value in the industry resides solely in software. You can make money selling hardware (like Apple) or make money selling ads (like Google), but given the popularity of Apple’s hardware and Google’s apps and services, it’s getting harder for Microsoft to make money by selling software.

This view has been expressed before, but it bears repeating — especially after being brought back into such sharp focus last week when Apple made pretty much everything but their pro apps free of charge.

Another interesting tidbit from Gruber’s blog is that upgrading to iWork 5 leaves your old iWork apps installed on your computer. It moves them to a subfolder in Applications called iWork ’09. I’m happy with the new version of Numbers, but I went back to using the old Pages. It’s not that I missed any of the functionality Apple stripped out, because I never used it to begin with. But I hate the new toolbar. It sits there, un-hideable and unloved, constantly trying to take my attention away from what I’m writing. Now I know how Word users feel about the Ribbon.

It’s not the end of the world. I no longer upgrade software for the sake of upgrading. So if the new stuff doesn’t work, just use the old stuff.

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All Comments   (6)
All Comments   (6)
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Now I know how Word users feel about the Ribbon.

"It's new so I hate it", yes.

The Ribbon is better UI than the old Word UI, and Microsoft did literally years of usage study to come up with it.

"Power users" hate it, because it's new - but most people using Word aren't the .5%* of power users.

(See here [] for the 7th in a 8 part MSDN post about "what we were doing with the Office UI", where it explains the justification for the Ribbon.

The money quote:

Top 5 Most-Used Commands in Microsoft Word 2003


Together, these five commands account for around 32% of the total command use in Word 2003. Paste itself accounts for more than 11% of all commands used, and has more than twice as much usage as the #2 entry on the list, Save.

(* Statistic invented on the fly.)
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Sorry, but "why" does not justify "how". They did a horrible job of laying out the features in the ribbon. Period.

I totally get the concept of organizing things so that the top features being used are right there. Props on the research done to determine *what* needed to be done. But the implementation sucks rocks: it's extremely difficult on the eyes to sort through everything; it is at times completely unintuitive as to why particular features are organized the way they are; the ribbon randomly changes structure, without any immediately explanation as to why.

I could go on. Again, the concept is logical. But the UI/UX guys at MS need to be fired immediately. They have no design sense whatsoever.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I've been using Numbers for a while now. I've been using it more as a database tracking the status of films coming in and out rather than as a spreadsheet to do math. There are some new features I like and some I don't (toolbar can't be customized!).

Overall an improvement and you can't beat the price. iOS versions cost monies though. I hope/expect that useful features will be added like Apple did w/ FCPX.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Note that the iOS versions are free for anyone who gets a device that ships with iOS 7 (or later).

So everyone will have them, pretty much, within a year or two, tops.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Did not know that. I'm putting off upgrading till next year. Didn't see anything impressive this year.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I don't see any immediate impact on Microsoft wrt Windows, or even Office for that matter. They still have a captive audience in those marketplaces. What, Dell's going to threaten to sell Linux boxes? And their server products are enormously profitable for them, and are going nowhere soon.

Where Microsoft appears to be racking up some impressive mindshare wins is in the service space. Their SaaS systems (MOSS, Azure, etc.) are extremely solid, and only getting better. They've poured an enormous amount of resources into those product lines, and it shows. They are complex, from a developer standpoint, but the investment pays off. I'm rebuilding my wife's website using an open source CMS package that runs in Azure. It is enormously complex, but the payoff is going to be substantial. I'm very impressed with the power and flexibility I have at my fingertips.

I'm no MS fanboi, as I've made abundantly clear over the years, but I'm willing to give them props when they make it work. They are getting stronger and stronger in the services arena. And their traditional strength is in tying ("integrating" if one wants to be charitable!) disparate systems together. They've already turned Office into something of a subscription model, and pushed it to the cloud with Office 365.

As dysfunctional as upper management is there, individual units are doing a great job, and monetizing the results. If they bring in a new CEO who knows his ass from a hole in the ground, then they'll figure out a way to get back in the game on these other fronts.

Frankly, I'd look at firing half the board, poaching a heavy-hitter from Google/Amazon/Apple to be the CEO, and moving the smart managers from their Server/Services groups up the food chain. And for G-d's sake, get someone with real UI/UX design experience into the fold and have them redesign the Windows and Office UIs.

Microsoft needs someone at the top with the ability to both see the big picture and delegate responsibilities to people who know what the hell they're doing. They've had their lost decade. They can recover from it, but it's going to take some work and a heck of a lot of bloodletting.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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