I HATE MICROSOFT – except I don’t

Recently at two separate client meetings, I heard two people say that they hate Microsoft. As you may have guessed, both people were happily using some type of Apple device, and were complaining about having to use some form of Microsoft technology. In one case it was Office 365, and the other was Active Directory. And listen everyone, I get it. Sometimes I hate Microsoft too. Except not really.

What is going on with the level of ire being directed at Microsoft? I feel like there’s more to unpack here. In my experience it seems to come from one of three basic situations:

  1. The person is a Linux admin who still uses the abbreviation M$ for Microsoft and considers anything not open source a complete waste of time
  2. The person is an Apple user who believes in the one true way of Steve Jobs, and relishes the fact that their Mac is inherently more secure, faster, and 3x as expensive
  3. The person is a Windows user who has been repeatedly burned by the bad choices Microsoft has made with some of their products, and honestly just can’t forgive the whole clippy thing

All of these people have valid points about Microsoft – and I’d like to address some of the issues – but first a little background on me, so you know where I am coming from. I grew up using an Apple IIgs, then a Macintosh, then a PowerPC Mac. I was all in for the MacOS through OS9, which you might remember is the reason that Apple had to completely rewrite their operating system for OSX. I even went to a university that only used Macs (Drexel). I was firmly entrenched in the Apple world and I loved it. Then I transferred to a technical college, and was thrown unceremoniously into the deep end of PCs. Suddenly, I needed a laptop running Windows, and I was learning about the 8088 and 8086 processor families. I had to learn all about ISA, and interrupts, and low-level formatting for hard drives. For years I had been completely sheltered from the world of PCs, and now I needed to learn about them if I wanted a snowball’s chance in hell of getting an entry-level tech job.

So I learned. And I was somewhat miserable for a while. I missed the slick graphics and perceived simplicity of the Mac. I still thought of myself as an Apple person who had to use Microsoft for work. But they were the evil empire, and Apple was the scrappy underdog. Apple had cachet, cool factor, a je ne sais quoi that Microsoft lacked. Sure Microsoft had to buy Apple stock to prop them up through the lean years, but whatevs, they were still the edgy outsider, and Microsoft was the corporate tool. Which is to say I still thought in those terms 20 years ago.

Once you spend a little time in the industry, you come to realize it is all corporations vying for your attention with shiny gadgets. Apple is not a scrappy underdog, they are a multi-billion dollar company. Google isn’t your hip cousin who listens to Fugazi, they are the corporate record machine that presses out Fugazi CDs for mass consumption. And to all the open source elitists, you know who the biggest contributors to open source projects are? Google, Facebook, and Microsoft to name a few. Open source would not be nearly as vibrant or well written if it weren’t for the very real and expensive efforts of large corporations to subsidize it. Don’t get me wrong, they benefit from it too. This isn’t some charity project. When Microsoft contributes to the Kubernetes project, they are doing so because they want a stable product to be available to run on Azure.

That’s not to say that Microsoft is all sunshine and rainbows. I think that SCCM is a convoluted mess of a product that needs a serious rewrite from scratch using modern programming methodologies. I think that SCOM should be taken out behind the barn and shot. SCVMM is such a difficult product to use, I would rather build an OpenStack cluster from scratch, from the source code. Don’t even get me started on Windows Phone, or Windows Mobile, or Windows CE, or all the other failed attempts at making a viable mobile OS. Also, Group Policy is just the worst. I could write a novel about how painful Group Policy is. Microsoft has some serious failings, but they also have some seriously good tech. I’d rather debate the merits of a specific technology than the perceived reputation of the company that created it. Unless of course they are killing black rhinos for fun, because guys? That’s just not OK.

Coming back to my original trio of people, let’s address some of this hate:

Person number one who is a Linux admin and hates good ole M$ because they are capitalist pigs.
Bad news buddy. The open source tech you are using probably has tons of code commits from Microsofties who want to improve the open source community for their own nefarious ends. Also, you work at a business to make money. Unless you are some kind of non-capitalistic, non-profit, magical unicorn you are probably throwing stones at glass houses. Linux is awesome. Open source software is awesome. No one is even debating that at this point, least of all Microsoft. sudo get a life.

Person number two who is an Apple user and better than everyone else. It’s not elite if everyone has one. It’s not VIP if everyone is a VIP. You’ve not the tragically-hip, counter-culture, free-thinking, box-breaker you thought you were. You can have any Mac you like as long as it’s black or white. I get that Microsoft isn’t especially cool or hip. And you know what? Neither are you. Apple makes some really excellent consumer tech. We’re talking about business products here, so why don’t we put on our big-boy pants and use products that do the best job, not that have the best semi-annual infomercial.

Person number three who is a once-bitten, twice-shy Microsoft user. You and I have a lot in common. Microsoft has done me wrong. But remember, it’s not really one monolithic company. It’s a tangled mess of warring product line fiefdoms, some of which are well run and some of which are not. Some of the divisions are crushed under the weight of legacy code and others are so bloated with features that they regularly end up beached on the Seattle shoreline. You’ll find that newer product lines, having shed the sorrows imposed by the elder gods, are nimble and and lithe. Focus on the future where Office 365 replaces managing Exchange, Azure AD slowly phases out Active Directory, and Azure rolls out a new feature on the daily. And by all means, enjoy it on a Mac.

When all is said and done, Microsoft is a flawed company, just like all companies. To say you hate Microsoft is a pointless statement, edging up against inanity. You might as well join a Nu-metal band and rage on about the MAN and your corporate shackles. Or you can grow up, realize that we’re all mostly trying to make the best of the mess we were handed, and stop saying ridiculous things like, “I HATE MICRO$OFT.” You’re not impressing anyone.

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