For Bill Gates, only the hyper-critical survive

Bill Gates may be Microsoft's biggest critic, which may well also make him the company's most ardent supporter and driver.

It's nice to see that Microsoft's Bill Gates experiences the same frustration with Microsoft's software that many of us do. In a fascinating email that Gates sent back in 2003 (which came to life through the antitrust proceedings), he takes his executive team to task for making it amazingly hard to buy and use Microsoft's Moviemaker software.

After weathering a storm of pain to download the product, feeling like he's finally on the cusp of getting his software but discovering instead that he was being asked to download garbage, Gates writes:

Someone decided to trash the one part of Windows that was usable? The file system is no longer usable. The registry is not usable. This program listing was one sane place but now it is all crapped up.

But that is just the start of the crap. Later I have listed things like Windows XP Hotfix see Q329048 for more information....What an absolute mess.

I don't cite this to criticize Bill Gates. If anything, this candor is wonderful and indicative of what any software executive should be saying about his company's software in an effort to make it better. Intel's Andy Grove used to suggest that "only the paranoid survive." In Bill Gates' case, he might insist that "only the hyper-critical survive."

Microsoft has its problems. It's good to see that the company may well see those problems more acutely than its customers do.

It's also interesting to peer behind the Microsoft firewall to see that there may not always be some grand, nefarious plan behind the things Microsoft does.

I might normally see the near-infinite requirement to download ever more software to get existing bits to work as a secret plan of Microsoft's to tie together products to the detriment of competition.

Bill Gates just thought it was a matter of crappy execution.

Is Steve Ballmer the same? To the outside world he appears to think Microsoft can do no wrong. For example, while Microsoft releases duds like the Zune, he criticizes products like the iPod and iPhone. It seems to me that Microsoft needs more Gates, and less Ballmer. It is getting the opposite, however.

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About the author

    Matt Asay is chief operating officer at Canonical, the company behind the Ubuntu Linux operating system. Prior to Canonical, Matt was general manager of the Americas division and vice president of business development at Alfresco, an open-source applications company. Matt brings a decade of in-the-trenches open-source business and legal experience to The Open Road, with an emphasis on emerging open-source business strategies and opportunities. He is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not an employee of CNET. You can follow Matt on Twitter @mjasay.


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