Renting Microsoft Office? No Thanks

Yikes. The Wall Street Journal reports that Microsoft will begin an experiment next month renting Microsoft Office at Internet cafes in New York City’s Times Square. According to the report they’re going to charge $2 per session for using Microsoft Office.

That ridiculously high fee looks even worse when you consider that’s on top of the hourly fees at the Internet cafe,

The Microsoft software rental program will debut in easyEverythingÂ’ s New York facility and later be available in its existing cafes in Europe. The charge for using the software comes on top of easyEverythingÂ’s time-based usage fees, which currently range from 17 pence (27 cents) an hour in the middle of the night to 3 British pounds ($4.31) an hour during peak periods. Currently, easyEverything customers can use MicrosoftÂ’s scaled-down Works suite of software without paying an extra fee.

I don’t think consumers will stand for this. One of the places i occasionally use while traveling is Kinko’s which usually has pretty nice Windows boxes complete with the latest software such as Photoshop, Office, etc., at pretty decent prices (they are often more expensive than the cyber cafes, to be sure). If I have to pay an additional per-session fee for using an Office application or any other application, the price would be far too high and I’d either avoid using such places or ask for the machine with Star Office installed, thank you very much.

Contrary to the U.S. courts I don’t think Microsoft has anything close to a software monopoly and if it tries to charge monopoly-like prices, Microsoft will quickly find out that it needs Office users far more than Officer users need it.

Another Example of Microsoft Cluelessness

The Register (UK) has a brief look at Windows ME that highlights some of the inane bugs in ME as well as the typical MS response — customers aren’t supposed to try that. Consider what happens if you are silly enough to think that Microsoft’s Personal Web Server will install properly on Windows ME:

Microsoft’s Personal Web Server (PWS) is one of the applications that falls foul of Windows Me. PWS tries to overwrite some of the core system files and when it doesn’t instead of aborting the installation, it creates several nasty registry errors.

Microsoft responds with the obvious, once again, stating that this technology is more appropriate for business and/or corporate users, and since Windows Me was designed solely for the home user, PWS is not supported by Windows Me. Which leads to it not being able to work in Windows Me.

But it screwing your registry does seem a bit hard, even so. Particularly if you didn’t have a backup. You did have a backup, didn’t you?

Morons. Okay, if it’s not supposed to be used by home users, why the hell did they call it the Personal Web Server? Maybe what they really should say is they never meant Windows to be used in the home — people with home PCs should install Linux or buy Macs!

Microsoft Opens Mouth Inserts Foot (In This Case, PocketPC)

ZDNet has a story about Microsoft trying to bribe a few dozen Palm enthusiasts. Basically MS identified the most outspoken and influential handheld enthusiasts, invited them to Redmond, and then gave them $1,400 in free PocketPC PDAs. Each participant received a Compaq iPaq and a HP 540.

Apparently Microsoft hopes its marketing department can accomplish what its software division can’t — give large numbers of people a reason to own the PocketPC.

Of course it backfired. As one participant told ZDNet, “It was a cheap tactic to bring Palm users into the fold with freebies. And I think they did that because the device doesn’t stand well on its own.”

And apparently the Palm enthusiast learned why the PocketPC still has such problems, experiencing numerous difficulties in doing basic things like synchronizing the PocketPC with a desktop PC. As one person put it, “Here we were, a room full of handheld experts, and we had trouble figuring even the basic stuff out. This is exemplary of why the platform doesn’t work and Microsoft doesn’t get it.”

One of the people who replied to the ZDNet story put Microsoft’s problem succinctly. You can only bribe somebody with something of value, and a PocketPC machine ain’t it.

Why do big corporations think these sorts of things are good ideas? First Apple gets slammed for allegedly forcing people to sign non disclosure agreements to get their defective Cube’s replaced, and now Microsoft guarantees that even if they do eventually produce a decent version of PocketPC consumers will have to wonder if it gets good reviews because it’s really good or because somebody’s been bribed.

(If I were the Palm enthusiasts, most of whom are journalists or authors, I’d return the gifts ASAP. Never take a gift from someone you’re covering if you still want to be considered objective — or donate them to a friendly web site operator like myself.)

Microsoft Sez: Don’t Go Naked!

Slashdot.Org provide a link to this unintentionally hilarious page on Microsoft’s website urging independent computer stores not to let consumer’s walk out of the store with a “naked PC” — i.e. a custom PC that doesn’t have Windows installed.

The site opens up by saying that, “Machines are useless until customers install system software themselves.” Okay, I want my PC pre-installed with Windows, but I have plenty of friends who consider a PC with Windows installed to be “useless.”

Microsoft goes on to say that by not installing a version of Windows, “you expose them [customers] to legal risks, viruses, and frustrating technical troubles.” Frustrating technical troubles? Isn’t that a synonym for Microsoft Windows? (Currently both of my Windows PCs give me a warning message telling me they don’t have the proper drive installed for my printer, even though they actually do, and reinstalling the driver does no good — if Microsoft wants frustration, they need look no further than the Windows registry).

Isn’t there anyone at Microsoft who realizes that this sort of nonsense really alienates pretty much everyone? It’s precisely this sort of stuff that makes people have such negative attitudes toward Microsoft.

If I go to buy a computer and I don’t want an OS installed, I don’t want an OS installed. I don’t want the salesman spending 10 minutes explaining to me why I really do want an OS, and I don’t want a lecture from Bill Gates on the topic either.

Windows Millenium — Same Old Microsoft

The new computer I bought the other day came with Microsoft Windows Millenium pre-installed. After using it for a couple of days my conclusion is this: it’s still Windows. It still sucks, but unfortunately there still isn’t a better option for the Wintel platform (or the WinAMD platform in my case).

The thing I really hate about Windows upgrades is it always screws with my home LAN. No matter what I tried I couldn’t get my new PC to communicate with my wife’s PC running Windows 98 SE. I broke down and bought a promotionally priced upgrade ($49) for that PC. After a two hour-long upgrade process, I had no problem accessing my wife’s HD from my computer. The only problem is that’s about the only thing my wife’s computer can do now. The desktop just freezes after booting up, though I can still access the HD through the LAN. Time to do the old reformat and re-install routine that most Windows users know and love (not!)

The other thing that struck me about Windows Millenium is that after all of the money Microsoft has poured into interface design research, and the work that others have done in that area, Windows still sucks interface-wise. The new “features” of the Windows Explorer are plain idiotic. It defaults, for example, to only allowing you to see files stored in the My Documents of My Music areas. I installed a program and wanted to see how much space it was taking up so I clicked on the Program Files directory only to find it was completely empty — no directory listing at all. After refreshing a few times I was scratching my head. Then I noticed a little message to the left hand side that basically said that I, the user, really didn’t want to be looking around the Program Files directory since it’s just boring programs after all. Better to stick with the My Documents area and leave the Program Files directory to the experts! To be fair to Microsoft they do include a little “MyPrograms” icon on the desktop that brings up an Explorer Window with this “bug/feature” turned off, but it was very annoying — and who wants a half dozen different icons for different Explorer settings?

There are also some very annoying one-time features. After you install the OS, for example, you have to watch a rather MS video clip. I tried everything to get that stupid thing to stop, but as far as I can tell MS wants to make sure everyone watches it (there isn’t even a way to fast forward, although you see what looks like a fast forward button — but it’s just an image not a functional button). I think I stepped out to got to the bathroom instead; who thought it would be a good idea to bundle trailers with an OS?

Microsoft Buys NetGamesUSA – Bring on the Game Stats

I know I am supposed to hate Microsoft, but I am really geeked at the recent
announcement that MS is buying NetGamesUSA.
NetGamesUSA makes a couple products called ngStats and ngWorldStats that track
statistics in computer games. One of the few products the system had been fully
implemented in was the first-person shooter, Unreal Tournament. Because I am
a geek, I have my ngStats report from UT online, and you can read it here.
The report tracks everything from total frags to the average amount of time
it takes me before I get killed (I rock in CTF, but Last Man Standing leaves
me empty . . . and dead).

I am not sure why a feature like this is not already in most games.
The 3-D Diablo clone, Darkstone, tracks some lifetime stats such as number of
monsters killed, etc., but an expanded stat capture and reporting function would
be awesome for strategy games such as Civilization or Age of Empires II (which
is an MS product, so maybe that will be added).

The acquisition by Microsoft is a great move since it plans on adding the software
to its development kit for PC games which means this technology should start
showing up in more games over the next few years.