Is Microsoft the new IBM?

In the early 90’s, I was starting my programming career. I had a job programming COBOL on an IBM mainframe. I wanted a job programming Visual Basic (3) on Windows 3.1.  At the insurance company where I worked, the old guys (you know – the ones over 40) thought you couldn’t possibly run a company without computers from IBM. (I’m pretty sure we were one of the few sites that ran OS/2.)  I remember thinking that those guys were dinosaurs that didn’t have a clue. PCs and Microsoft were the future

Soon after, I started my own consulting company which has been a Microsoft partner since then. I’ve gotten over 30 MS certifications (going back to VB3 and Windows 3.1). You could definitely call me a “Microsoft guy”.

So now, I’m the old guy (over 40 anyway) and I’ve been listening to younger guys talking about PHP and Ruby on Rails for a few years now.  My initial reaction was something like – “Those are toy languages.  To any serious programming, you need to use .Net.”  The other day it occurred to me that to today’s twenty-something codejocks – I’m the IBM guy from the insurance company.

Well lately I’m starting to think it’s more than just their perception. I’m really starting to hate Microsoft. I don’t mean just the sales side. I’ve hated them for years, but the technology has always been good.  Don’t get me wrong. Visual Studio and SQL Server are still great and I really like SharePoint, but a lot of the other stuff frequently annoys the hell out of me.

Looking back, the decline has been going on for years. Starting on the consumer side – I used Microsoft Money since version 1.0 and loved it but the last few versions really sucked.  (They finally got out of the business and now I have to use Quicken.)  Windows XP was a great operating system, but when Vista came out – our company upgraded in anticipation of our customers upgrading.  No one ever did. (Vista was like the corporate equivalent of Windows ME. Very few people ever saw that either.)  I was hopeful when I heard other people saying good things about Windows 7. Maybe it would be a move back in the direction of XP. Nope – they doubled down in trying to out-Mac Apple. (If I wanted a Mac, I’d buy a Mac.)

I used Windows Phones for many versions – all the way to 6.5. I finally had enough and got a Android phone and love it.

I upgraded my Windows 7 to IE9 the other day and my computer no longer knows that Outlook 2010 is my default email program. (Notice I’m on the current version of everything.)  When I tried to send a file as an attachment today, I got an error message saying I had no default email client. Oddly enough, the message wasn’t from Windows, but was from Outlook.  My default email program was telling me that I had no default email program.

You get the idea.

We’re helping one of our clients move their corporate email.  We use a hosted Exchange service for our email and looked at that first.  It’s basically $5/month/mailbox. They’ve got about 20 mailboxes so that would be about $100/month.  Then we looked at Google Apps and it’s free so that’s what we went with.  One of my co-workers asked me “why do they need an Exchange server?” and I didn’t have a good answer. Just like the old dinosaurs when they tried to explain why we needed a mainframe.