I've been reading some interesting conspiracy theories about why some recent Microsoft product launches have missed the boat on targetting features of interest to tech geeks.

In his post Microsoft's lack of action will slow Podcasting Growth Todd Cochrane writes

Well it is pretty obvious that Microsoft did not get Podcasting support built into Windows Media Player 11 and all I can say is that they obviously blew it. I have been debating what to say for a few days. My summation is not fit to print, what I really don't understand is how they could have been so stupid.

They had a opportunity with Windows Media Player 11 to get in the game, I can guarantee that their inaction will slow the growth of podcasting in a big way. But it makes sense Podcasting does not make them any money, if I were a betting man I bet MTV had something to say in the process and likely killed any podcasting integration as it would have made the URGE network a lesser value.

In his post How Internet Explorer Stifles Microsoft Devanshu Mehta writes

Microsoft has chosen the growth of IE over every other division in the company for 10 years now. Windows versions from 95 onwards have suffered enough. Now, the company’s IE-centric view of its business is hurting younger divisions of the company that have a chance of becoming a major force as the company looks to take on Google...It all began when MSN announced their AdCenterGoogle AdWords- sells text-based, contextual, per-click advertising for MSN properties on the internet. Curious, I went to sign up for an account...I was more curious in Microsoft’s method, their design and approach as compared to my experience with AdSense. So I went to the MSN adCenter site and clicked to sign up. service which – similar to

Lo and behold:

Microsoft adCenter does not currently support the web browser you are using. Please sign in using Internet Explorer 6+. More about system requirements
Oh great! Another MS web site that does not work with Firefox. So I click on the phrase system requirements to find out what I would need. Would a Mac user like me have any recourse? Or did MS not want my business? It only got worse. The System requirements link did not work either! Not only could they not design a web site for my browser, they couldn’t even manage to create a link to their requirements page that I could click on!

Unlike Devanshu and Todd, I don't think there are sinister conspiracy theories for why two Microsoft products were released and ignored features of interest to the geek demographic. In every product release, you have a limited amount of resources and time in which to apply those resources to your next version. This means that you tend to focus on features that will provide the most bang for the buck and may ignore features that have limited appeal such as supporting a browser which is used by 8% of the market or a media subscription model is only used by 1% of internet users. I don't always agree with the practice of deciding on features based on market penetration statistics but I can understand when product teams make such decisions. I suspect that is more likely the cause of these omissions than some nefarious collusion between MTV and the Windows Media team or some plot to ensure IE's market dominance by having Windows Live services require only that browser.

Disclaimer: The post above is my own personal opinion and does not reflect the opinions, intentions or strategies of my employer or the Microsoft product teams referenced.


 

Tuesday, May 23, 2006 6:38:24 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
> Microsoft products were released and ignored features of interest to the geek demographic

I don't think that following basic HTML web standards, and basic podcasting support (standard in iTunes), are "features of interest to the geek demographic." They're features of interest to everyone.

Even if you don't subscribe to that theory, anything Walt Mossberg would write about is probably something MS Excs would care about. And these are kinda no-brainers for Walt.

However, I do agree that these decisions aren't due to nefarious collusion. More likely it's due to classic big company can't-turn-the-battleship-fast-enough ineptitude.
Tuesday, May 23, 2006 6:46:29 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
The 8% browser share figure is totally mis-leading here. It would be interesting to see what the browser breakdown is among AdWords advertisers. I wouldn't be surprised if IE share is closer to 50%.
pwb
Tuesday, May 23, 2006 10:21:17 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
"classic big company can't-turn-the-battleship-fast-enough ineptitude" - for heavens sake, how big do MS have win to prove this isn't the case?

Scoble ranted about this earlier this month (http://scobleizer.wordpress.com/2006/05/05/microsoft-doesnt-support-firefox/) suggesting that the '8% of the market' you refer to are very 'influential'. No reply to whether they're influential in terms of billions of dollars of revenue or rather in generating hot air on the blogosphere.

Geeks get too involved in their own little world I think, and don't see the big (business) picture for the zeal. No doubts MS get it wrong, but they're getting a lot more right these days IMO. Who has the only 100% standards compliant search results?
Doug
Wednesday, May 24, 2006 5:07:00 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
And lo and behold, here I come with my own comment.

It's not just whether or not such-and-such a user is "influential". Or is an "8 percenter".

Let's break it down, shall we?

How many MSIE users actually make an informed decision to use MSIE? How many of those are home users, how many are business users, how many are software developers?

How many FireFox users actually make an informed decision to use FireFox? How many are home users, how many are business users, how many are software developers?

How many such software developers are in influential positions, or in places where their opinion is valued?

Or put it another way, on a ship you have the passengers and the crew. By how much do the passengers outnumber the crew? Who is in charge of keeping the ship afloat and under way?

I could go on.
Mjinga Wawa
Wednesday, May 24, 2006 7:01:23 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
The most recent released statistics by NetApplications give Firefox 9.57% market share. It's the same source that the older PCWorld article you linked to used. Other non-IE browsers amount to about 5%.

How high do these have to rise to get out of the "limited appeal" status?
Wednesday, May 24, 2006 7:42:35 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Coming from the perspective of someone who actually does do a podcast, I can speak from both the experience and the perspective of someone who has looked up and down the podcasting medium, searching for where the market is and where it is not...

As such, here's my > opinion < :

The problems that podcasting faces has nothing to do with whether or not MS provides support for podcast subscriptions in Windows Media Player, and EVERYTHING to do with the fact that podcasting as it sits now is a small, niche market filled with egotystical maniacs, a group I do not necessarily exclude myself from, who like to think of ourselves as someone who people actually care enough to set aside time in their day to listen to something that we might have to say. We're a small group of folks, and our numbers are not going to get much bigger... e.g. How many people do you know that even have interest in broadcasting/public speaking? It's hard enough for most folks to gain enough courage to create a blog and post entries on a consistant basis. Add to this the fact that blogging software/hosting is cheap/free, and easy enough to use for the average person who doesn't live, eat, and breath technology to use without much effort at learning how it works.

From the podcasting side of things, the cost of audio equipment alone is enough of a barrier for folks who are not completely dedicated to the idea, not to mention the amount of skill development that needs to take place to record, edit, and publish, even when its something as "simple" as Garage Band 3. It is simple, yes... but it takes a TON more time to learn than does the notion of pushing a "Publish" button and posting text-based content to a blog.

Don't get me wrong... There's nothing wrong with being a part of the crowd that does have both the skill and ego to create a podcast. At least I hope not, otherwise my over-inflated self-esteem just became a bit less inflated... which wouldn't be a bad thing come to think of it... but I digress ;)

What is wrong? Nothing that can't be overcome by focusing on where the support DOES exist... For example, as part of Internet Explorer 7, which is what folks who happen to stumble across our podcast websites will be using when they are in "Stumble Upon" mode. The last time I used WMP to browse the web was....

I realize all of you who read this are smart enough to realize my point... All the tools are in place to ensure our small, niche market can continue to thrive without any concern of being "held back" by lack of direct, integrated support as part of WMP11.

But even this is not the overall point I am hoping to make... The portion of the our existing culture that holds the most potential of gaining benefit from podcasting is not the broadcast industry, and instead of the music industry. But before you conspiracy theorists jump and use this as a point of "see, they're trying to control the distribution of music via their own profit making channels" think about what you're saying.

For musicians to gain the benefits that podcasting their tracks has to offer, their needs to be financial incentive for them. If theirs no financial incentive, how many musicians are going to say "you know, lets make it easier for our fans than it already is to not have to pay a dime to gain access to our tracks, and while we're at it lets increase our own cost's to cover the cost of bandwidth as well."

That said, I believe that the music industry as a whole will gain greater benefit by embracing music sharing as a good, positive way of developing both culture and market. In fact, many of the current players ARE implementing such a system. Yahoo! Music allow's the ability to share tracks with other folks, even if their not subscription members, via their free messenger client. Is MSN Messenger far behind? Not sure... Maybe they do already? I noticed recently that their seems to be a strange relationship that has developed with Real/Rhapsody and MSN Messenger/Music... (strange in the sense of the obvious competition between Real Audio/Video and WMA/WMV). But I don't know how much can be read into this beyond the notion that business is business, and when your a company as big as Microsoft, one business unit competing with another is not uncommon.

With all of this said, I don't think their should be ANY worry as to whether or not WMP11 supports podcasting directly, as their is PLENTY of support from both inside and outside of MS to handle the existing marketplace, with plenty of room to grow as well adapt to the various markets as they make themselves known. The responsiblity exists not only in providing product support, but even more so in the development of the marketing channels in which a culture built around sharing can survive due to the fact that built into this culture is the ability to provide incentive that goes beyond the feel-good factor by providing the financial incentives necessary to encourage this same culture to continue forward unrestrained.

That's where us egotystical types come in... We need to prove to the potential suppliers of content (the musicians... the market for spoken podcasts, as already mentioned, is small, and even more so, in my opinion, already oversaturated) that there is enough incentive to want to get involved before we place too much concern on whether or not the distribution channels are in place, ready, and waiting for the supply chain to begin filling them.

Using an overused and abused phrase... Build it (the supply chain), and they (the distribution channels) will come.

If theres no supply chain, what point is there for building the distribution channels?
Wednesday, May 24, 2006 1:13:07 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
I must have missed something but why only geeks should use browser such as Fx, Opera or Safari? I don't see the link anymore.

Plenty of people I know who are simply common users have switched to Fx because they were fed up with IE and quickly understood where their interests were.

It would be nice to stop that FUD as much as the FUD of saying Microsoft has some kind of conspiracy.

Regarding the market share of Fx, Opera or Safari might be low but AFAIK, it has kept growing from the past 5 years. Now maybe the absolute number is not a threat to Microsoft business but the growth could well be in the end.

I agree with you Dare on the fact it's easy to see Microsoft business point of view. That being said, I still cannot understand how they keep managing giving the finger at so many potential customers instead of trying to bring them back from Fx or Opera.

PS: It is interesting to note that Microsoft can really take the piss out of customers by saying "AdSense does not *currently* support your browser".

I don't know the technology behind AdSense but if it only works with IE it might have to do with ActiveX, no? If so I wonder how Microsoft is supposed to support one day any of its competitors.

PS2: Your blog software seems to bug or loose quickly the sessions attached to comments. Luckily enough it does not loose the content I just typed.
Thursday, May 25, 2006 8:57:17 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
@mjinga wawa


>> How many MSIE users actually make an informed decision to use MSIE? How many of those are home users, how many are business users, how many are software developers?

How many FireFox users actually make an informed decision to use FireFox? How many are home users, how many are business users, how many are software developers? <<

How many care as much as you seem to? I know I care, and I know a lot of folks that do. But I also know a lot MORE folks who simply could care less. They are not hackers, or power users, or even web power users. They will visit a handful of websites that interest them and they will check their email on a fairly regular basis. Thats it. So the notion that this is about who is making an informed decision and who is not doesn't even make sense. The only information they need to make their decision is "can I access ESPN.com and can I check my email?" If yes, they've just made an informed decision in regards to the things that matter to them.

>> How many such software developers are in influential positions, or in places where their opinion is valued?

Or put it another way, on a ship you have the passengers and the crew. By how much do the passengers outnumber the crew? Who is in charge of keeping the ship afloat and under way? <<

You haven't drawn any explicit conclusions, so I can only assume that your implication is that because there are more passengers than crew, then it is the passengers who are in charge of keeping the ship afloat?

If yes, again, this doesn't make any sense.

Firstly, its buoyancy that keeps the ship afloat. If the job of ANYBODY on the ship was simply to keep the damn thing floating instead of sinking, there wouldn't be any passengers on the ship in the first place. Technology has kept the job of keeping things afloat a minor detail of simple maintainance, so your point is flawed from the beginning.

Secondly, how many of the passengers would know what to do if the crew suddenly disappeared from the ship. Would they suddenly and spontaneously organize themselves in an orderly, unpanicked state, and just take things over as if "hmmm... no crew... well, we know to do folks, lets get to work!"

The majority population of computer users don't know how they work, nor do they care. If all of us hackers disappeared from existence, would these same folks spontaneously adapt and keep the technology flowing, or would they simply adapt to a life without? Well, adapt to life without after a stage of "oh no! no internet or email! what will we do instead?" to then realize "I guess we could do what we did ten-fifteen years ago when for all intents and purposes computers were something we would use at work on occassion, reading books, newspapers, magazines, watching TV, talking on the telephone (although TV and telephones are geek-supported technologies as well, so they may not belong in this scenario) and/or in person to stay as informed as we felt any need to be.

In other words... They would simply get on with life.

Us geeks are not as important as we would like to thing of ourselves to be.

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