Microsoft's bloatware problem (and how open source could help)

Microsoft is a victim of its own success, and a classic innovator's dilemma now confronts it. How open source points the way to Microsoft's salvation....

Fake Steve takes a swipe at Microsoft's bloatware problem, and strikes true:

For years people have been begging Microsoft for leaner, simpler products with fewer features. Not just befuddled and baffled consumers but CIOs at big companies, guys who manage tens of thousands of PCs, who are considered "thought leaders," and who definitely have Microsoft's attention. They've been screaming this from the rooftops: Fewer features, greater ease of use, greater reliability. They've done everything but put up billboards on the roads around Redmond saying, "Small. Fast. Cheap. Easy." They don't want slightly fewer features. They want a lot fewer. Like 90% fewer. So what does Microsoft do? It rolls out a huge new OS and a new version of Office with a 10x gain in features. Then it hires an army of MBAs to go "unlock value" and get customers to use all those features that they've already told Microsoft they don't want....

Microsoft seems to have lost sight of the fact that its rise to power came as a result of Bill Gates positioning Windows as smaller, cheaper, easier and faster than OS/2 Presentation Manager. Windows 3.0 was lean and mean and, relatively speaking, open. OS/2 with PM was big, bloated, expensive, and all about locking you in to IBM. IBM was the big monolith trying to protect its market share and suck everything into its maw. Microsoft was the disrupter, using a little toy weapon to attack a fortress.

Amen.

It's not simply Microsoft's problem, of course, but pretty much all of enterprise software's . Enterprise software has worked so hard to justify itself that it has lost sight of the normal customer's needs.

But there are lots of different kinds of "normal customers," SAP might spout back. True, but the attempt to resolve every issue in one body of software is a recipe for complexity, and the customers I talk to don't want complexity. They want ease of use. They want reliability. They want it at a price that is reasonable.

Open source provides vendors a way to provide a simple, high-performance core upon which customers, partners, and "the community" can extend one's product to fit these disparate "normal customer's needs." The core can be most things to most people - no need to try to make the entire project in the image of the entire planet. That makes for terrible software.

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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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