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Bill Gates may not be the richest man for long

By skim123 in News
Tue Apr 25, 2000 at 07:06:21 AM EST
Tags: etc (all tags)

With Microsoft's stock drop on Monday, Oracle's Larry Ellison is quickly closing in on Gates's claim to being the world's richest man. Does this possible shift in wealth symbolize what is to come for Microsoft, or will we see Microsoft's stock shoot up later this week, making this point moot?

Is Microsoft on its way down? Personally I doubt it. I think they will have a bit of a darkened image, and, for a while, other companies will make some progress, but it will be back to MS, MS, MS before too long, in my opinion.

What do you guys think? I know this is discussed on Slashdot a lot, but I was hoping for less of a "Die Gates Die" discussion and one more focused on reality. I think all rational people agree Microsoft will still be around down the road, correct? A multibillion dollar company doesn't disappear overnight. So, will they continue to dominate the market?

With technology moving to small, unipurpose information applicances, I think we'll see a new Microsoft in future years. A weaker one, since they won't be able to rely on the muscle of Windows, but I bet they will still be a major in years to come...


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Bill Gates may not be the richest man for long | 38 comments (38 topical, editorial, 0 hidden)
Normally I'm not too keen on MS art... (3.00 / 1) (#1)
by rusty on Tue Apr 25, 2000 at 12:59:51 AM EST

rusty voted 1 on this story.

Normally I'm not too keen on MS articles, but this is an interesting one. Does anyone know who is richest in terms of real, liquid assets-- as in, if they had to convert to cash right now, who wins? I bet it's neither Gates nor Ellison, myself.

Not the real rusty

Re: Normally I'm not too keen on MS art... (none / 0) (#15)
by CodeWright on Tue Apr 25, 2000 at 07:46:29 AM EST

Once you hit that level of wealth, NOBODY is liquid.

If the Sultan of Brunei started trying to unload his whole country on the open market, all the values would go through the floor (analagous to the situation which would occur if Gates tried to unload all his equity in MS)

A: Because it destroys the flow of conversation.
Q: Why is top posting dumb? --clover_kicker

[ Parent ]
Re: Normally I'm not too keen on MS art... (none / 0) (#16)
by rusty on Tue Apr 25, 2000 at 08:04:00 AM EST

This is true. That's why I'd bet that someone else entirely would come out on top. You know, one of those Greek shipping magnate types, whose fortune is 85% gold boullion. Basically, though, I just meant that if it were a scramble to convert to spendable currency or good, Gates and Ellison would both be left holding the bag, with their paltry few tens of millions in real estate and cars and stuff. Most of their wealth is pretty much inherently unspendable, by virtue of the fact that it's value is intrinsically tied to whether or not they're trying to unload it. Every time Gates sells shares, the value of them decreases, more or less. Whenever you start dealing with money like these people have though, you approach those weird breaking points where it becomes incredibly clear and obvious that money is fundamentally a total fiction. That's always a slightly unsettling feeling, for me.

Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]
Re: Normally I'm not too keen on MS art... (none / 0) (#21)
by cthulhu on Tue Apr 25, 2000 at 12:04:46 PM EST

But even they would cause a similar shift in the gold market if they started to unload. I think it would be someone who has immense assets, but is also well diversified, like Warren Buffett. He could begin liquidating Berkshire-Hathaway's assets, such as Geico, and there would be some fluctuation, but not as much as Gates et. al.

[ Parent ]
It's a damning indictment (none / 0) (#24)
by pwhysall on Tue Apr 25, 2000 at 01:28:10 PM EST

of where we have taken ourselves when the richest man in the world can only, really, practically, spend about 5% of his perceived wealth (still an absolutely fabulous amount of money) before the rest of it devalues. In other words, BG is worth, say, 300B not because he has 300B worth of stuff but because he's worth 300B.

Too much money, people. This is stupid. We, as a society, have decided that MONEY is the deciding factor in determining the worth of a human being. Bill Gates has "a lot" of "money". OK, he can't actually spend it. But that's not the point - it's the having that counts, and boy, does he have. Ergo he's a really good human being, worthy of our praise and admiration.

That sucks. If he'd written ONE good program, done ONE decent thing (notice how the Bill & Melinda Charity show only really gets on the road when MS is having bad press?) then maybe, just maybe he'd be alright.

Idea. First World corporations should be forced to "adopt" a number of Third World people (you know, give them money to dig wells, get educated, etc) - the number of which is determined by the market cap of the corporation. MS should be good for around a couple of hundred million people. Cisco another couple of hundred million. Proceed down the NASDAQ and Dow accordingly. Do the same on the FTSE and the DAX, until all there's no-one left to share out. Let the corporations manage the precise way funding is used, but have strict standards and horrendous multi-billion dollar penalties for those who step out of line.

It's gotta be a good idea, right?
K5 Editors
I'm going to wager that the story keeps getting dumped because it is a steaming pile of badly formatted fool-meme.
[ Parent ]

insightful and promotes discussion.... (2.00 / 1) (#10)
by ishbak on Tue Apr 25, 2000 at 01:06:51 AM EST

ishbak voted 1 on this story.

insightful and promotes discussion. Frankly I don't like talking about Gates though, at least in terms of his wealth. I mean it's nice that he's losing money and all but it won't change the damage he's done to the software industry by propriatizing(sp?) software. Hopefully the open source movement will make him and his money a thing of the past.

I understand the value of a discuss... (1.50 / 2) (#7)
by jredburn on Tue Apr 25, 2000 at 01:15:02 AM EST

jredburn voted 0 on this story.

I understand the value of a discussion on the future of Microsoft. But I think it would be a lot more interesting to start the discussion some place other than Gates being the world's richest man.

Well, it's possible for a multi-bil... (3.50 / 2) (#4)
by Ozymandias on Tue Apr 25, 2000 at 01:27:40 AM EST

Ozymandias voted 1 on this story.

Well, it's possible for a multi-billion dollar company to disappear overnight, but usually it takes an aquisition to do it. (MacDac, anyone?) I don't think Microsoft is going to disappear, though, for one very good reason; They're too good. That's right, flame me all you like. Microsoft has some incredibly good, intelligent people working for them, and the deep pockets they need to keep them happy and productive. Windows 2000 is a buggy product, in some ways, but there's just one little detail - so was NT 4. Now it's the standard for the business workstation market. Windows 2000 will be, too, unless Microsoft does several really dumb things AND something like Linux does EVERYTHING right. This, of course, completely ignores the philosophical question of just what the hell the government thinks it's doing with the whole anti-trust lawsuit, but we won't go there.
- Ozymandias

Good story. ... (2.00 / 1) (#3)
by Velian on Tue Apr 25, 2000 at 01:28:25 AM EST

Velian voted 1 on this story.

Good story.

This is off-topic, but I'd like to make a quick comment on this: "but I was hoping for less of a "Die Gates Die" discussion".

I've really noticed that kuro5hin readers seem to have a better clue on reality either likes MS or, if they hate MS, has a valid reason or a way to back it up (for example - MS isn't the only topic I'm talking about). Is this just because it's so much smaller than Slashdot, or because mainly the "clued in" people run from Slashdot?

Re: Good story.... (none / 0) (#17)
by Velian on Tue Apr 25, 2000 at 09:48:03 AM EST

Hey, this isn't the article I made my post to...

[ Parent ]
Re: Good story.... (none / 0) (#18)
by rusty on Tue Apr 25, 2000 at 10:09:46 AM EST

?? Yes it is. It's even about Gates and money and stuff....

Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]
Re: Good story.... (none / 0) (#34)
by Velian on Tue Apr 25, 2000 at 10:13:26 PM EST

Whoa, you're right. I think I'm on something. *twitch*

[ Parent ]
Re: Good story.... (none / 0) (#36)
by rusty on Tue Apr 25, 2000 at 10:49:25 PM EST

One of those days, huh? ;-)

Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]
Re: Good story.... (none / 0) (#38)
by Velian on Wed Apr 26, 2000 at 12:16:15 AM EST

Yeah. I think it's what happens when that 4 hours of sleep last week was your high point for the last few weeks, coupled with a bunch of tests and abnormally extra work in class. *shrug* I just spaced out on that one. :P

[ Parent ]
Ellison overtook gates today when t... (4.00 / 1) (#6)
by bgp4 on Tue Apr 25, 2000 at 01:31:08 AM EST

bgp4 voted -1 on this story.

Ellison overtook gates today when the markets closed... "only" by about 500MM.
May all your salads be eaten out of black hats

This topic reminds me of bar conver... (2.00 / 1) (#13)
by shinybeast on Tue Apr 25, 2000 at 01:45:59 AM EST

shinybeast voted 0 on this story.

This topic reminds me of bar conversation fodder. No offense... I can see it degenerating into yet another Windows bashing session. Who knows what the future holds? I would rather rag on Larry Ellison and Oracle. Now that would be refreshing.

yawn... (1.00 / 1) (#5)
by homer on Tue Apr 25, 2000 at 02:36:41 AM EST

homer voted -1 on this story.


I think Bill is necessarily theathe... (2.00 / 1) (#11)
by Camelot on Tue Apr 25, 2000 at 03:43:35 AM EST

Camelot voted 1 on this story.

I think Bill is necessarily theathened. Sure, the Microsoft stock isn't going to go up anytime soon, and the multiple civil law suits will hit Microsoft hard.

Nevertheless, many have pointed out that a break-up isn't probably going to bad thing for the shareholders - thus the wealth of Bill Gates might go up in the long run.

If Larry Ellison had usurped the "r... (2.00 / 1) (#2)
by evro on Tue Apr 25, 2000 at 03:46:23 AM EST

evro voted -1 on this story.

If Larry Ellison had usurped the "richest man" title because Oracle's stock had climbed higher than Microsoft's, maybe this would be newsworthy. But this is not the case, and Ellison is the "richest man" by default, and so I don't see it as being important at all (not that it was really important anyway -- the chest-beating of some guys in Silicon Valley doesn't really affect me too much).
"Asking me who to follow -- don't ask me, I don't know!"

Re: Lately the stock market has been bo... (none / 0) (#14)
by CodeWright on Tue Apr 25, 2000 at 07:42:02 AM EST

Don't confuse "corporatism" with "capitalism". I'm not even sure that "corporations" could exist in a real capitalistic sense (ie, a corporation is a "legal person" -- no such whimsical beast in a capitalistic sense)

A: Because it destroys the flow of conversation.
Q: Why is top posting dumb? --clover_kicker

[ Parent ]
In my opinion, Microsoft has done t... (3.00 / 1) (#9)
by jackyb on Tue Apr 25, 2000 at 04:39:35 AM EST

jackyb voted 1 on this story.

In my opinion, Microsoft has done the computer industry a HECK of a lot of good over the years. Let's face it - the popularity of the PC running Windows and Office has meant that more people have PCs on their desks than ever before, and they're all doing productive work. Now, some of their competitive practices are a little dodgy, and I'd be the first to agree that their priorities and mine don't always coincide when it comes to software development - I'd much rather have bugs fixed than features added. But I don't understand people who HATE Microsoft. Having said that, I do think that, regardless of the result of the court case, Microsoft is going to have to change a lot to stay influential; I also think that they are going to have their work cut out to stay the largest software company in the world. Now that the computer is so pervasive, people are demanding choice, and they've become more discriminating and better able to judge IT quality. So Microsoft is going to have to deliver quality products, and not just quantity products.

Re: In my opinion, Microsoft has done t... (none / 0) (#19)
by Anonymous Hero on Tue Apr 25, 2000 at 11:54:51 AM EST

I'll argue quite the opposite: Microsoft has done immense harm to the computer industry. And it has done so on two points: 1) The elimination of choice has resulted in lower standards and lessened innovation. Lower standards results in software that crashes, is inconsistent, is less functional, is more expensive to operate. Lower innovation results in our software being decades behind where it should be: the last innovation in Office Productivity software were a spreadsheet for NeXT that did unusually powerful things with its handling of columns and rows. 2) It has resulted in higher costs of ownership. The money that could go into other things goes into dealing with the costs of software: the crashes, the stupidity of the close button being right beside the maximize button, the glitches in Word, the EMail insecurities of Outlook and so on. Businesses collectively waste hundreds of thousands of dollars each day, dealing with their low-quality software. If Microsoft hadn't dominated the industry, we'd have healthy competition. That would result in more innovation, lower prices and higher-quality software. We'd have stuff now that, because of our situation, we'll get only ten years from now. And that sucks.

[ Parent ]
Re: In my opinion, Microsoft has done t... (none / 0) (#20)
by Anonymous Hero on Tue Apr 25, 2000 at 11:56:01 AM EST

My god, it'd be nice if this system were bright enough to recognize when text is HTML formatted and when it isn't... can't be that hard to look for a tag!

[ Parent ]
Re: In my opinion, Microsoft has done t... (none / 0) (#23)
by rusty on Tue Apr 25, 2000 at 12:34:20 PM EST

Is it that hard to look just below the box at the selector which gives you a choice between plain text and HTML? I tend to rely on human intelligence rather than try to second guess you. ;-)

Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]
Re: In my opinion, Microsoft has done t... (none / 0) (#27)
by Demona on Tue Apr 25, 2000 at 02:24:42 PM EST

I would argue that Microsoft has generally done more harm than good, with the qualifier that I see Bill Gates as more P.T. Barnum than Adolf Hitler. When Jello Biafra ran for mayor of San Francisco, California, a key plank of his platform would have required businessmen to wear clown suits downtown during business hours. Personally, I've often thought that requiring politicians, lawyers, policemen and judges to wear dunce caps, or at least those funny little red rubber noses, would be a good step in returning them to the level of humility necessary and proper for "public servants." It was recent thinking along these lines that led me to the conclusion that while most of Usenet and the mass media are either praising Gates as the second coming of John Galt (or even John Rockefeller), or damning him as the ideological heir to Hitler, Gates owes more to P.T. Barnum, being this century's primary example of that famous entertainer's all too accurate observation regarding the profligacy of the gullible.

What a lot of people forget is that even after Barnum developed a reputation as a fraud and a huckster, crowds still filled his tents; if anything, his coffers grew larger. Sure, there were some who really believed the hype; but if anything, they were a minority. Most who attended knew they were being bamboozled, and were equally divided between those who went to sneer derisively at his transparency, and those who just wanted to see the show.

Gates, like Barnum before him, puts on a good act. He makes all the right public noises a star is supposed to make -- after all, when you're in the public eye, you're expected to sing, "I Am The Greatest". But both he and Barnum also realized in their more candid moments that their house of cards could come crashing down at any time when too many people grew weary of the hype and demanded real satisfaction.

Despite Gates' lawyer-like intensity on pursuing his vision -- in this case, Microsoft products on all computers everywhere -- Microsoft's long-standing reputation has been filtering down to the general public for years. Enough people have had many horror stories confirmed by personal experience that they have abandoned Microsoft. Hackers have known for years that Microsoft has done very little innovation, preferring to acquire or (poorly) adapt work already done by others (and generally reinventing the wheel in the process). True innovation in computing has sprung from a thousand sources, but Microsoft's name is rarely, if ever, on the list. Where it has excelled is in marketing -- the dog and pony, the bread and circuses, the brightly colored flashing lights -- full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. It impresses the clueless, but you can only fool some of the people for so long. When a flagship product like 98 crashes on worldwide television and Bill Gates jokes are flying from everyone's lips -- in a world where a website like x86.org flames all the brighter for all the attempts to fan it out -- it's difficult to maintain the fiction that Mr. Bill, or any other Capitalist Tool, is much of a threat to the civilized world. As Steve Gilliard has said, libertarians are more concerned about government power than corporate power because Pepsi hardly ever strafes the villages of Coke drinkers. (Of course, corporations can employ tactics of the state by hiring private armies, or worse yet, using the police power of the state to enforce their copyrights and such. DVD CSS, etc.)

Gates continues to coast on what positive reputation he still enjoys, but his decline and fall are inevitable. Windows, and DOS before it, have always been one small star in a vast sky of variety in the world of computing. Microsoft is very much a one-man show, and when histories of 20th century computing are written, it won't garner more than a chapter. And if it's written at all objectively, it will state that Microsoft enjoyed a brief heyday due to zealous marketing and business tactics, combined with appealing to the lowest common denominator, but like every other extinct species, ultimately succumbed to the pressures of evolution.

Having said all that, it should be noted that Neal Stephenson's phenomenal essay In the Beginning was the Command Line points out that Bill Gates, together with Richard Stallman and Linus Torvalds, are responsible for our being able to have Linux.


[ Parent ]

Re: In my opinion, Microsoft has done t... (none / 0) (#32)
by Emacs on Tue Apr 25, 2000 at 04:28:39 PM EST

I will agree with you that Microsoft is not the evil empire and that Bill Gates is not the anti-Christ, but my thoughts on them are a little different than yours.

Let's face it - the popularity of the PC running Windows and Office has meant that more people have PCs on their desks than ever before, and they're all doing productive work

This is something I have never fully agreed with, nor can I understand your logic in deriving this statement. I would argue that there have been *many* factors which have driven the computer revolution (if you wich to call it that) but first and foremost in my mind would be the internet/web-browser, second would be cheap hardware. I'm not saying that using Office or Windows doesn't help users to be productive, but the truth is that productivity apps (word processing / spreadsheet / database...) were around before Windows came along. It's also well documented that the point-and-click easy interface existed on the Mac years before windows came out. If MS had never developed Office it would have been Corel or somebody else. The office suite has been more of an evolutionary product more than an innovation. In fact we might have something much better if there were true competition in that area.

I would wager that the majority of first-time computer users over the past few years would tell you they bought a PC because they wanted to get on the Web, or use email etc.. or because they price was finally right. Or maybe they want to make their own greeting cards. I would be surprised if more than a handfull would say they were purchasing a PC because they wanted to increase their productivity by using Windows. In other words the computer revolution happened and Microsoft has gone along for the ride. If people were using Macs or OS/2 or whatever we would probably be where we are today anyways. In fact if you aboloshed Windows and forced all Windows users to use Macs there would be a short transition period then poeple would adjust to the Mac and we would all go on with our lives.

Now if you want to talk about the brilliance of Microsoft I would say that they have been brilliant at marketing, they have taken the now infamous ability to use "FUD" to sell their poducts to an amazing height. They have also done a great job at "staying hungry" as a company. They have not tried to rest on their laurels(sp), it's a shame (IMHO) that Netscape or Apple or Novel didn't have their drive. In fact I wish the compnay I work for had some of their pasison for success. But alas that's another story :)

[ Parent ]
it is too early to say what microso... (2.00 / 1) (#8)
by cavok on Tue Apr 25, 2000 at 05:46:21 AM EST

cavok voted 1 on this story.

it is too early to say what microsoft is going to be/do. i'm sure that it will be still strong and invasive as ever, but Bill Gates(tm) will know, thanks to linux too, that he can't do whatever he wants.
-= cavok =-

Endowments (4.00 / 1) (#22)
by cthulhu on Tue Apr 25, 2000 at 12:13:24 PM EST

Most philanthropists such as Andrew Carnegie, et. al endow charitable organizations with stock. In this respect, Bill Gates has been no different.

Many of those charitable organizations fund their operations through partial sell-off of the endowment, or most commonly through the dividends.

Thus, the charitable organizations live and die with the financial prosperity of their benefactor's organizations. I wonder how many organizations have budgeted for these significant price fluctuations.

Well, that depends... (4.50 / 2) (#25)
by Noel on Tue Apr 25, 2000 at 01:37:34 PM EST

[huge delurk]

I don't think we can tell yet what will happen to Microsoft in the next few years. There are an awful lot of factors at work here, and most of them are pretty unpredictable. I suppose it's vaugely possible that MS might either sink completely or recover their complete control over all things Intel. But it's more likely that it'll be something in between.

I think a lot of the MS discussion is missing the most fundamental issue, though. We see a lot of heat about the surface issues: unfair or monopolistic business practices, misleading marketing, system stability, upgrades and bug fixes, etc. But I think these are all symptoms of a basic question: How should software be developed?

Okay, hang on here -- this isn't going to be a typical Open Source rant -- but it is going to be quite long -- bear with me

One of the most enlightening articles I've ever read about MS chronicled a journalist as he spent a week or so working inside MS. I wish I could remember where I saw it -- it was a couple months ago -- anyone else remember this? He said one thing about their development process that really helped me understand why MS software is the way that it is.

DISCLAIMER: I have no direct experience with MS. Everything I say about their development methods is based solely synthesis from others' reports and my observation of the software.

Apparently, within MS, each programmer can pitch their favorite feature to be included in the product. If the "powers that be" give it the go-ahead, then they're in charge of implementing it however they want. Sounds a lot like Open Source development so far, eh? But there's a couple of apparent differences that are very significant.

The first difference is whether the approval is given before or after there is working code. One of the basic tenets of Open Source development is, "show me the code." If the code is not available, or cannot be tested, then the decision can only be based on potential rather than actual benefits. Sometimes the perceived potential actually happens; other times it does not.

The second difference has to do with who gives the approval for a feature. In Open Source development, the system architect(s) give the final approval for including a feature in the official code base. At MS, the decision seems to be made at a managerial or marketing level. There are dangers with both methods: the system architects could ignore users' desires for a feature if it couldn't be integrated properly; the managerial/marketing people could ignore any difficulties with integrating the feature into the system.

The third difference is how much interaction the different teams have with each other. With Open Source development, the code from everyone is available -- whether it's in patches or a CVS tree or whatever. But at MS, apparently, there is very little cross-team code sharing going on. Without extensive code sharing, the teams will end up with many different solutions to the same problem, and often they will be slightly incompatible.

In other words, the MS development process seems to be aimed at including many independent features into the system, based primarily on the features' potential value, rather than how they interact within the system as a whole. Does this sound like MS products to you? It sure does to me -- I first started to realize this years ago when I upgraded to Word 6.0 on my computer, and it stopped recognizing my hard disk completely. Okay, one anecdote doesn't prove anything -- but this was my first major clue on how MS products sometimes don't work well with others, and the memory has stuck with me.

If this is an accurate understanding of the MS development process, then that leaves them in an interesting position in the market. In order to succeed in the market, MS must sell based on their strong points: independent features and the potential of new features. And the customers must believe that the feature lists and promised features are the most important criteria when choosing software.

There's an interesting parallel to the U.S. auto industry in the 1970's-80's. At that time, the U.S. auto makers were following a similar marketing plan -- sell the cars based on their appearance, and spend most of the development time and money re-designing their sheetmetal every year or two. This tactic worked as long as they had no direct competition. But the foreign car makers (primarily Japanese) spent more of their development time on system design and integrating more advanced technologies than they did on changing the visible features. They might not change the body style for five to ten years, but they continually improved the overall packages. Slowly, consumers started buying the well-designed cars -- not primarily because they were well-designed, but because they were more reliable and had better resale value. Fortunately, the U.S. auto makers realized this market shift and started putting their development time into good design rather than just appearance. Now we have well-designed cars from both U.S. and foreign auto makers, and the consumer has excellent choices.

I'd love to believe that the market will shift for computer software just like it did for cars, and that MS will learn from the market shift and do a better job with the overall design of their products. But this will depend on a number of things:

  • Will the primary focus of consumers in the software market shift from feature lists to system reliability?

    I'm not so sure -- people sure seem to accept software crashes a lot more than cars that won't start

  • Will MS have direct competition that provides better reliability and system integration?

    Again, I'm not sure -- I'd love to say that Linux is all the competition that MS needs, but we might need some commercial competition as well

  • Will MS continue to manipulate the market with anti-competitive tactics?

    While the DoJ vs MS suit may help a bit here, law suits alone will not stop these practices. The market must be aware of how it's being manipulated, and react negatively to the manipulation, or

  • Will MS respond to shifts in the market by making changes to their development process and infrastructure?

    It's hard to imagine such drastic changes to established corporate practice, but it did happen in the U.S. auto makers, so it's not impossible.

Whew! Brain dump -- thanks for your patience! ;)

Re: Well, that depends... (none / 0) (#26)
by rusty on Tue Apr 25, 2000 at 01:55:21 PM EST

Point the first: With a little polishing, this would have been an excellent feature. It's kind of too bad you posted this as a comment. If you ever have an urge to brain dump in this fashion again, mail it to editors@kuro5hin.org first, and we'll turn it into a feature. :-)

Point the second, w/r/t "consumers focusing on reliability": When you mentioned this, I realized that based on the W2K marketing I've been exposed to (which is limited, me not being really part of that world, so take me as representative of the general semi-uninformed schmo when it comes to MS products), that I have no idea what new features are in W2K, or how it differs from NT4, other than it's supposed to be more reliable. This is the only thing that sticks out in my mind as "new" about it. That tells me that they are indeed turning the focus, of marketing at least, to stability over features.

Point the third, w/r/t "can MS respond to the market": Yes. No question about it. Say what you will about their products and their business practices (both of which are abhorrent to me personally) but MS is a big, mean hammerhead shark of a company. It's fast and sleek, and can turn on a dime. Remember when they blew off the internet and gave Netscape a good 2 year head-start? Then remember when they came back and crushed Netscape in the "browser wars"? Well, that should be a cautionary tale. Basically, don't count this company out until either Bill dies, or they file for chapter 11. Microsoft does not fool around when it comes to business. Now if only they had half that talent working on software, we wouldn't have to hate them so much...

Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

Re: Well, that depends... (none / 0) (#28)
by Noel on Tue Apr 25, 2000 at 02:54:34 PM EST

...If you ever have an urge to brain dump in this fashion again, mail it to editors@kuro5hin.org first, and we'll turn it into a feature. :-)

Gotcha. Will do. :)

[The reliability] is the only thing that sticks out in my mind as "new" about [W2K]. That tells me that they are indeed turning the focus, of marketing at least, to stability over features.

Yup, I've noticed that, too. The initial reports seem to indicate that it is much more reliable, too. But it's still extraordinarily huge and complex (partly as a result of their development methodology), and that means there's more places that reliability issues could be hiding. Time will tell whether this is a change in development focus as well as in market focus.

Point the third, w/r/t "can MS respond to the market": Yes. No question about it....Remember when they blew off the internet and gave Netscape a good 2 year head-start? Then remember when they came back and crushed Netscape in the "browser wars"?

I'd have to agree, with reservations. A large part of the crushing was done with slimy market practices rather than product development. To me, those tactics are "manipulating the market" rather than "responding to the market." It's hard to tell whether the product development alone would have given MS the edge in the market, but I think it is quite possible. The development MS did on IE shows that they do have the ability to make significant improvements in a product, if they've got the incentive. I do wonder if IE development would have happened quite so fast if Netscape hadn't been a direct competitor, however.

The thing that scares me right now is how MS is positioning MSN. There are an awful lot of opportunities for the same sort of repulsive tactics that they used against Netscape: integrating MSN into Windows; providing OS or hardware subsidies in return for MSN subscriptions; tying OS/app upgrades to MSN usage; "renting" applications off of MSN; etc.

[ Parent ]
Tactics (none / 0) (#37)
by rusty on Tue Apr 25, 2000 at 11:00:29 PM EST

It is true that they used the OS monopoly to get their foot in the door with IE. They were way behind and getting killed in what was pretty clearly (by then) going to be The Market of the mid-90's. But since then, they've come to the point where IE beats Netscape by a wide margin, feature-wise. Anyone who still says Netscape can compete with IE on features is either insane or has never used either product.

The question remains, and I don't know if it'll ever be answered for sure, of how much the business practices crushed Netscape's *ability* to compete, in terms of suddenly they were seen as "the enemy of Microsoft" (and therefore doomed and untrustworthy), and also the fact that giving IE away for free (err, sort of-- "free with your $120 buggy OS purchase") did MS no harm financially, but totally cut off Netscape's revenue stream at the knees. So, yes, IE beats Navigator on features now, but without the business pressure, how much better could netscape have done?

The point remains though, that MS can and will surprise us all yet. How they deal with free software is going to be another watershed in the life of the company, I think. We're in the stage now that Netscape was in around 1996-- MS was still saying the internet was just a fad, but they were starting to look more menacing, and starting to develop their own browser. This battle, of course, is a totally different ballgame (If I may freely blend metaphors for a moment). Who knows what's going to happen.

...interesting times.

Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

Re: Well, that depends... (none / 0) (#39)
by skim123 on Wed Apr 26, 2000 at 04:39:56 PM EST

My experience is very limited, but having worked as an intern for Microsoft for a summer, I saw a little bit of the early development stages in the Office group. Furthermore, I heard plenty of anecdotes about the discrepencies between program managers and the programmers.

From what is sounded like, oftentimes the Program Managers come up with a long list of features they'd like to see. Ultimately, the features that get added or those that get added well are the programmer's decisions. Of course, it's not that way officially, but if a developer is assign to code four specific features, he can choose three he really likes and focus on those, dragging his (or her) feet through the fourth, unliked feature. This will (and does, at least according to those whom I talked to) result in left out features or shabbily implemented features.

Money is in some respects like fire; it is a very excellent servant but a terrible master.
PT Barnum

[ Parent ]
Forget Bill for a minute -- what's Paul up to? (none / 0) (#30)
by kmself on Tue Apr 25, 2000 at 03:35:56 PM EST

Looking through insider trades yesterday I noticed that Paul Allen's holdings in Microsoft are now about 55k shares -- roughly US$3.7 m -- and indirect holdings at that.

That's down from umpteen billion -- not sure what Paul's stake had been, but it was quite significant. He's pretty much divested himself completely of his Microsoft holdings. Allen's been selling down over the past several years, with an accellerating trend, particularly through late 1999 and early 2000, when he sold multiple blocks in the quarter to half-billion range.

You can track insider trades at Yahoo's finance page -- selecting "Insider" on a quote page.

Karsten M. Self
SCO -- backgrounder on Caldera/SCO vs IBM
Support the EFF!!
There is no K5 cabal.

Re: Forget Bill for a minute -- what's Paul up to? (none / 0) (#33)
by warpeightbot on Tue Apr 25, 2000 at 09:31:24 PM EST

If you've been watching the insider trading sites for a while you'd know that Gates Hisself has liquidated several billion dollars worth of MSFT.... probably as much has he could afford to sell and still have (a) control of the company and (b) a stock price more than $0.75.... and more than enough to live VERY comfortably on for the rest of his natural life. (Unlike certain other Bills, Gates hasn't done anything worth a trip to the Greybar Hotel.) I hadn't looked at what Ballmer has been doing, but it looks to me like the rats are deserting the ship...

But, yes, it looks like Mr. Allen has been investing his loot wisely... in anything but MSFT. That individual is going to do very well for himself when he's old and grey.... oh, wait, has it been that long alreddie? jeez....

warpeightbot, RHCE, denizen of the Net since 1986

[ Parent ]

Bill Gates may not be the richest man for long | 38 comments (38 topical, 0 editorial, 0 hidden)
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