#8 Defending . . . Microsoft? (1998)

rat All Rights Reserved © 1998 Thomas W. Day

I wrote the following letter to Infoworld magazine, after reading a really stupid article about how awful it was that Microsoft dominates the computer world:

Software vendors are in a unique position in the world of products.  They too often rely on the idea that repackaging a product is all it takes to erase the bad memories of a previous release.  I have used a product for the last two years and two upgrades in which I recently found a catastrophic bug.  This program is a time management tool, telephone book, and kitchen sink.  The bug was that, occasionally, the program decided to lock out the ability to add pages to the phone book; limiting the user to 38 phone numbers listed under than letter of the alphabet.  This is a serious drawback when the program decides to limit the number of “S” entries.  I called the vendor and was told that the bug has been fixed on the new, major revision of the product and, for a fee, I can obtain this revision.  There is no cure for my version of the product.  Maybe the majority of this market would think that is a good deal.  The vendor did offer a discount on the revision.  I didn’t take him up on the offer because I have lost faith in that vendor’s commitment to product quality and customer satisfaction.  In fact, I’m not convinced that he is capable of producing software that will work reliably and I am convinced that, if it doesn’t, it will be my problem.  So, I’m back in the market for a program that does what this program did for me.  I won’t invest any more money in this company’s products.

As much as we, and I, beat on Microsoft for being the neighborhood bully (bigger being badder), you have to give their customer service credit for being a benchmark that other companies have to, at least, equal.  In the past year Fox Software’s service was drifting into mediocrity.  After using that product for six years, I was starting to consider dBase IV because of my past experiences with Borland’s customer service.  I was reluctant to update my systems with Fox’s newest revisions because every update seemed to tangle me up with a new bug.  Their technical support personnel were no longer serious programmers and it could take one or two weeks to get a reply to a fax or telephone message.  Those replies were often very close to useless and two more days would be lost waiting for another attempt. 

Even Microsoft’s bug fixes do more than just correct problems.  In my experience Microsoft is more likely to be adding minor, but useful, features than correcting programming mistakes.  And not only do they send the upgrades for free, but they ship them Federal Express 2nd day air. 

February 1998

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