Chutzpah by any other name

There are many definitions of the term Chutzpah– my gran’s description of someone with chutzpah is “a person who kills his parents and then asks for the court’s mercy becasue he’s an orphan.” I wish I could pit Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer against gran – she would have taken him apart.

Having been confronted recently with data from a Gartner survey arguing that almost two-thirdsof those asked are thinking about skipping Microsoft Operating System Vista, Ballmer offered some lame defence of the OS and then said– are ready for it? – “If people want to wait [for Windows 7] they really can” because, he says, Windoes 7 “will be Vista, but a lot better.” This should make us all feel better. The chutzpah detector beeped further as we learned that Windows 7 – desktop and mobile – are due to ship in January 2010.

Why, on earth, should we wait almost three years for an improvment on an existing – problematic – system? PCMag guru John C. Dvorak argues that Vista bombed in terms of marketing & communication, citing examples such as Microsoft’s ‘Windows Vista capable‘ stickers on machines that were defintely not Vista compatible and the fact that too many version were offered for sale – “Who needs all the variations? It’s stupid-plain and simple.” In addition, argues Dvorak, Vista sucks on performance – “You get the sense that Microsoft just piles code on top of code and somewhere in the middle of it all is MS-DOS 1.0.”

With 999-odd days left until Windows & Windows Mobile 7 show up, the universe-of-dread facing Ballmer is as easy to point out as One-Two-Three: One – other opersting systems, Two – potential erosion in user uptake of MS Office, a major source of revenue for Microsoft, and Three – it it going to be a cold winter in Googleand without Yahoo!.

The Operating System (OS)-induced headache straddles several mobile platforms, where Microsoft faces an allmighty challenge from the likes of Linux and Android, Apple, BlueBerry and Nokia’s Symbian. With the world’s largest OS developers literally imcapacitated for the next three years, other OS manufacturers will have ample time to play themselves into serious contention.

The challenge to Micrsofot Office from Google Apps and Sun’s OpenOffice is not insignificant. OpenOffice is offered for free, while Google Apps goes for $50 USD (about £30) per year, Office Home and Student 2016 sells for £99.99, Office Standard 2016 costs £349.99, Office Small Business 2016 sells for £339.99 and Office Professional 2016 costs £449.99. Ballmer is an old fox, he must know that while he works on Windows 7, his competitors will have 36 months to tear into his market share. Is he worried about it?

When asked about the competition between Microsoft’s Office suite and Google Apps, he argued “We have better competition today than Google Docs and Spreadsheets. We get more competition from OpenOffice and StarOffice frankly.”  He went on to say “Let’s look at facts […] Nobody uses those things, and the usage data hasn’t grown in seven months. If you look at the ComScore, it’s just like this: It’s just a flat line. You can’t even put a footnote in a document.” Ballmer also said that Google Apps are “very primitive,” David Girouard, who heads Google’s enterprise division begs to differ. He says that Ballmer is “flat out incorrect” and that the number of people who use Google Apps has been constantly on the increase.

Then there’s Yahoo!- while the media giants were circling around each other like two world heavyweight boxing champions, Yahoo’s shares have been nosediving. Ballmer indicated that a future deal between Microsoft and Yahoo! “would make sense economically” and, for a few hours, Yahoo! shares jumped as much as 12% – before Microsoft spokesperson declared that “Microsoft has no interest in acquiring Yahoo. There are no discussions between the companies.” Analysts feel that Microsoft would not want to buy Yahoo! now because it is a ‘declining asset‘ and, in any case, they want just the search engine, not the entire, Yahoo!

The final words are, once more, from PCMag’s John C. Dvorak: “Gates and company talk about total cost of ownership and never once take responsibility for the fact that Microsoft has created an operating system that encourages sloppy practices and continuously degraded performance. This becomes obvious only when you spend time on a new system that seems twice as fast as a 200-MHz Pentium but can’t possibly be that fast.

Shall we throw around a few chairs, Mr Ballmer?

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