RE: ANN: Microsoft update (WinHelp)

Subject: RE: ANN: Microsoft update (WinHelp)
From: "Nuckols, Kenneth M" <Kenneth -dot- Nuckols -at- mybrighthouse -dot- com>
To: "Mike Starr" <mike -at- writestarr -dot- com>, <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 26 May 2006 08:22:20 -0400

Mike Starr said...

> My prediction... Microsoft will cave in and ship the WinHelp engine with
> Vista, either with the initial release or shortly thereafter when the
> outrage hits because all sorts of legacy software is suddenly no longer
> able
> to display user help.

Are we forgetting who the 800 ton gorilla in the equation is? If I were a betting man, I'd wager that the vendors of legacy software will do one of the following:

1) Re-write their user help system to work with whatever Windows Vista supports and make it available as a patch/download for registered users.

2) Offer a comprehensive help web space on their site to compensate for the fact that Vista no longer supports the help system that shipped with their software.

3) Wash their hands of help on old titles altogether and revise warranty/support statements to exclude any user running Windows Vista.

Of course, if I were a betting man I would have lost a lot of money last Saturday (the law of averages says we are way overdue for another "Triple Crown" winner).

Why do I disagree with Mike on this? Microsoft has always been able to make other software vendors, hardware vendors, and the vast majority of users dance to their tune, and I see no reason to believe that's going to change. You're now starting to see a backlash against unsupported operating systems like Linux because the starry-eyed geeks who installed and set up company networks using it are long gone and there's no vendor support to assist in maintaining and updating the system. And Apple has always been (and probably always will be) an also-ran when it comes to market share and an installed user base.

Until somebody comes up with a better supported, better marketed, better promoted OS, Microsoft will always be able to dictate its terms to other vendors, the vast majority of users, and the vast majority of corporate IT departments. Windows may leak security like a sieve; Windows may feature sloppy, bloated, inefficient code; Windows may be clunky, counter-intuitive, and may crash more often than all the Bodine brothers put together.

But if anyone out there is naïve and enough to believe that the game is won by building a better product, then you're just the sort of fool P.T. Barnum and Bill Gates love separating from your money as quickly as possible. It's not about who can build the best mouse trap, it's about who can saturate the media with advertisements and testimonials and who has the most creative and aggressive sales force out there demonstrating, cajoling, promising, pushing, and backslapping the potential customer base.

Hobby programmers building some extremely robust and very efficient code in their basement and low-budget startups whose only goal is to avoid working for "the man" and retire to Tahiti are never going to be serious players. It's going to take someone with the ubiquity and presence of a Google and the cut-throat business acumen of another Bill Gates to mount a challenge to Microsoft. Until some organization shows they have both those qualities, your only choices when Windows makes a change that you don't like are to quit working in the software industry or roll up your sleeves and learn a new way of doing the same thing all over again.

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