The USS Quad Damage

Dood we aer all about the innovation, seriously 101

Is a bigger organisation better? Discuss...

I was reading this article, and it got me thinking....

Microsoft have a lab. I work at a lab. I have friends of friends who work for Microsoft. Ergo, stuff that comes out of Microsoft is innovative, right? Well, wrong, as is clearly evidenced by the software we use everyday. When you install Windows XP, or Office XP 2009 Ballmer edition you get told about how awesome it’s going to be, only to be seriously underwhelmed when you actually go to use the actual software. Contrast with something like Ubuntu, which doesn’t claim anything, but is awesome from the get-go (despite previously mentioned minor issues with all the new fancy Mono software.

One of the things I’m talking about is the big strip that’s supposed to replace the menu / toolbar in Word 2007. If you’ve used it, it looks like a bunch of tabs with little bubbles of options inside them. In fact, I can show you what it looks like. It looks like the interface to Blender! There’s slight differences, but the tabs, and the little squares of configuration, and the menu items being tabs are all there in blender, albeit not as pretty.

It’s actually pretty obvious when you think about it. Blender’s a complicated piece of 3D modelling software. It needs a metric kiloton of options, and so is going to have developed the most efficient way of representing them. When office has to cope with ridiculous numbers of options, it too will end up with a system that’s similar, even if it was independently developed.

However, what I’m saying is almost contrary to this. Let’s say that this “idea” was all done by Microsoft, and it was a real innovation created by the folks at their illustrious labs, and it did actually save people time, isn’t this the exception rather than the rule for Microsoft?

I mean, MS code actually working, actually being competently designed, being actually easy to use, and holding up to it’s promises? Doesn’t sound like Microsoft, does it? I’m not saying that MS is brilliant already, but they’re a lot better than they used to be, and a huge part of that has to do with a giant influx of non-idiotic minds being employed by MS.

However, I’d say a large proportion of those minds are against whatever MS was “all about” before. They’re in the organisation working actively against all the shitty code and shitty ideas and shitty philosophies. I mean, they don’t get paid a shitload of money because they’re “with the program”. They’re supposed to shake things up, they’re supposed to transform the organisation from one that has a very bad image among the computing community to one that’s somewhat respectable. Some of these tactics smell like ye olde MS, but some of them come from actually writing good software sometimes, and otherwise encouraging decent software development.

It’s no Google winter1 of code, but it’s still something.

My point here is this: Once an organisation gets to be as gigantic as MS, it can pretty much transform itself to being a force of good in the world, despite the fact that what got the organisation there in the first place was a fair bit of bullshit. It’s like a conman becoming an illustrious president, or a hooker becoming a nun. In a way, it’s commendable, but in another, maybe the only reason they’ve reached their final conclusions is because of the freedoms the lack of ethics has afforded them.

If Microsoft was evil, but is trying hard not to be, should we forgive them?

1 It’s winter here during their summer of code.