The Microsoft Survey

Love Microsoft? Hate it? Somewhere in between? It's all of the above in the Redmond magazine survey of your attitudes toward the world's most important computer company.

I've made my living for the past 10-plus years on Microsoft products. It is a love/hate relationship." That simple comment by John Pricolo sums up the sentiment of Redmond magazine readers toward the world's dominant technology company.

Pricolo was one of 3,407 readers to respond to our survey covering a wide swath of topics, from licensing to Longhorn and the open source threat. The general feeling is that, while Microsoft has been a boon to the IT industry, to maintain its preeminence the company needs to address shortcomings ranging from its pricing strategy to—of course—security.

First, the good news for Microsoft: In responding to our 54 questions, the majority of respondents have a favorable view of the company. Glenn Staggs expresses a fairly common sentiment when he says that without Microsoft, "The technology world would be significantly behind where it is today."

Michael Lewis says Microsoft has made it cool to be a tech-head. "I was always a nerd. I was picked on because of it. Then along came Bill Gates. He proved being a nerd could be the totally coolest thing in the universe. I love Bill."

Question 22
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While most survey respondents didn't take it to that extreme, there is obviously a lot of good will toward Microsoft. But that doesn't mean supporters are blind to its faults. Kevin Ward, while using a bit of hyperbole, believes Microsoft is too powerful. "Nothing less than world domination will satisfy" the company, he says. Eric Schooley has a slightly different take on essentially the same issue. "Microsoft knows it has large market share and brand recognition, and as such it continues to push sub-standard products to market knowing people will buy them (or must buy them)."

On the whole, though, readers see Microsoft as beneficial. When asked, "Is Microsoft good for the computer industry?" about 88 percent say yes, while just 7 percent say no.

Question 10
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Time for Longhorn?
Microsoft's next major operating system, code-named Longhorn, is generating significant interest. A majority of respondents, 62.5 percent, say they're looking forward to Longhorn, although nearly a quarter say they aren't. Similarly, almost 57 percent expect Longhorn to have many new features that they'll use while 24 percent say they don't expect to have much use for Longhorn's new goodies.

The story is much the same with respect to WinFS, the much-touted unified file system that was originally scheduled to be released with Longhorn client (due sometime in 2006), but was stripped out. Fifty-six percent of respondents say they're interested in WinFS, with 24.5 percent saying they don't care and the rest either not caring or knowing much about it.

Question 12
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Wes Miller, on the other hand, is looking forward to something besides WinFS in Longhorn. "As a platform, .NET is still relatively meaningless until Longhorn ships with 2.0 baked in," he comments.

Question 9
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Just under half of all survey participants say Windows, as a server operating system, needs a major upgrade. About 37 percent say Windows already does what they need it to do, while 13 percent aren't sure.

Those findings are somewhat contradicted by the fact that less than half of all respondents say they'll upgrade to Longhorn server when it appears. Slightly more than 45 percent intend to make the switch, but a combined 55 percent say they either will not upgrade (25 percent) or don't know yet (30 percent). Michael Kerwin, for example, says Longhorn isn't on his horizon. "Our needs are simple, so [the additional] features in Longhorn would not be used."

Question 11
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Longhorn client is generating significantly more interest, however, with 55 percent saying they'll upgrade when it's released. About 20 percent don't plan on migrating and nearly a quarter are unsure.

Thin Is In
Whenever Longhorn client comes out, Microsoft needs to consider its footprint, as a strong majority of respondents, 62 percent, say they want thinner clients from Microsoft. That majority is likely to be disappointed, however, because Longhorn client will most definitely be bigger than XP, given the new Aero Glass graphical interface and enhanced security capabilities, among other features.

Let's put it this way: Microsoft is recommending Longhorn client machines be outfitted with 512MB of RAM (see "Enter the Longhorn PC").

It's a similar story for another of Microsoft's core products, the Office suite. About 65 percent want Office to go on a diet and get thinner, contrasted with about a quarter of those who don't. Bruce Webster is in the "thinner-is-better" camp: "Software bloat drives me insane. [Microsoft's] constant push to create new products to sell also drives me nuts. I mean, Office 2003, for instance—frankly, most people won't even use what's in Office 97."

Question 48
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Lisa Cutter gives another example of Microsoft's drive to make everything bigger and better, at the expense of size and ease of use. "I was using Visio long before Microsoft acquired it. It was a straightforward, easy-to-install, small-footprint little product that has been transformed into a complex program with too many bells and whistles," she explains. "Some of the new features are useful, but the whole package is just too bloated."

Too Big for Its Britches?

Although the overwhelming majority in this survey believe Microsoft has changed computing for the better, there’s also a strong sense that Microsoft has been changed by its success, becoming arrogant over the years. When we asked respondents to rate Microsoft’s arrogance as a company from 0-10, with zero being "not arrogant at all," and 10 being "supremely arrogant," 63.2 percent answered in the 7-to-10 range, with the largest chunk (24.4 percent) settling on 8. Those who don’t feel Microsoft is arrogant, which would roughly translate to those who rated Microsoft between 1 and 4 on our scale, made up 16.6 percent of the whole.

Question 21
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Ronald Weight is undoubtedly on the high end of that scale. "Microsoft is arrogant and does not seem to care much about customers. It has a majority market and uses that to gouge customers on price and quality."

Klark Perkins quotes Han Solo in "Star Wars, Episode IV: A New Hope," to point out a danger of excessive hubris. "Great, kid. Don’t get cocky," Solo says to Luke Skywalker. "Don’t get so cocky that you think that you don’t have any competition—that is when they sneak up on you and blow right by you," Perkins says.

Karen Dunne says it’s time for Microsoft to start thinking small again. "Large corporations tend to lose track of the "little people" who actually helped make their success. Step back and continue to perfect applications that everyone uses—ease of use for average users is the key."

— K.W.

It's the Security, Stupid
Whatever Longhorn server and client ultimately look like, it's clear that they need to be secure out of the box. No single issue in this survey garnered the comments and negative reaction that security did. We asked respondents to rate their opinion of how important security is to Microsoft, on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 meaning it's the top priority. To its credit, 62 percent of survey-takers rate Microsoft's commitment a 4 (39 percent) or 5 (23 percent), a quarter of respondents say it's of medium importance to the company, and about 12 percent rate Microsoft at a 1 (2 percent) or 2 (10 percent) on the scale.

Question 23
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Digging beneath the surface, however, we found a strong undercurrent of dissatisfaction with the security of existing products, and much questioning of Microsoft's commitment. "Lack of emphasis on security," is Microsoft's biggest failing, says John Richardson. "Reaction is never preferable to action." M. Gerling suggests one possible solution: "Throw out 9 of 10 Microsoft lawyers and hire security specialists instead!"

Enos Pennington blames one product in particular for giving him ulcers: "A year ago I would spend three to five hours a week removing spyware/adware from client PCs. There have been times since where it's been three to five hours a day, thanks to Microsoft not making Internet Explorer fixes fast enough. I've since started moving everyone over to Firefox." That may be a chief reason the open source Firefox browser is picking up market share in a hurry, all at the expense of IE.

Another advantage Firefox has over IE is that it's significantly less complex. It's a problem that affects Microsoft operating systems as well, survey-takers say. When asked if the complexity of its OSes makes them more vulnerable, 65 percent say yes.

Microsoft is, of course, well aware of the problem and is tackling it head-on with its "Trustworthy Computing" initiative. That fact was borne out in the survey. "Microsoft is starting to realize that 'secure by design' isn't just a catch phrase—it is a design theology," says Travis Hilton. Andrew Arana agrees, commenting that, "I would like to see Microsoft incorporate more security into its products. The new Microsoft AntiSpyware tool is a great start."

Question 47
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Others point out that Microsoft isn't solely to blame. "The source of the problem is not Microsoft but the malicious hackers who simply target the largest installed base in order to disrupt the largest number of people. If the Firefox browser or Linux achieves a sizable market share, then many of these same [hackers] will be hacking and disrupting productive work and commerce running on those platforms," according to Terry Frazier. His solution? "Microsoft, the other major vendors and government entities need to take a much more aggressive and prosecutorial stance to these malcontents and make them pay a high price for the damage they do." Microsoft, in fact, is doing just that, and has filed a number of lawsuits against hackers and spammers, who have in some cases joined forces.

Survey Methodology

We invited all Redmond magazine readers, via e-mail, to complete a Web-based survey form. The survey was open for two weeks, and we received a total of 3,407 responses. Respondents were required to provide a name, country of residence, and valid e-mail address. This was not a scientific survey, but given the quantity of responses, we’re confident the results provide an accurate reflection of the attitudes of our readers. In the interest of getting the most candid answers, we didn’t ask for personal information like job titles or city and state of residence.

— K.W.

Not Enough Bang for the Buck
Security is the biggest complaint survey-takers had with Microsoft, but a pretty close second is the price of its products. About 70 percent answered in the affirmative that Microsoft products are too expensive, compared with 26 percent who don't think so.

Elise Crull says Microsoft is "starting to price itself out of reach of small government entities and small business." Floyd Kelley says that in today's economy, and in the face of competition from free, open source software, Microsoft must understand that it is "unacceptable" that software such as Windows XP costs almost as much as the hardware it runs upon.

Several others echo Kelley's point about innovation and competition. Ryan Landis says, "Microsoft can't buy out Linux, and the momentum is there to take over the market. [Microsoft] better change the OS costs and the way it does business or it will die a slow and painful death."

John Doty, like several others, says software piracy is part of the problem with high prices. "Microsoft needs to get a handle on piracy so it can drop the price of its products, so other operating systems and products don't look so enticing. People use products like OpenOffice and Linux because they are cheaper, not because they work better."

Can You Hear Me Now?
Question 24
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For a large company, Microsoft does pretty well in listening to its customers. Fully 84 percent of those surveyed say that Microsoft "always" or "sometimes" listens to its customers, although most (73.1) fall into the "sometimes" category.

"Microsoft is listening to the feedback it’s getting from customers; it doesn’t always respond perfectly, but it does respond," says Terry Constable, a technology consultant in Columbia, South Carolina. On the flip side, Bart Engels speaks for a number of respondents when he says, "Microsoft should listen more to people from the SMB [small and medium business] sector."

Question 35
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Listening is meaningless without action to back it up. According to our survey, Microsoft is reasonably quick to respond to problems. We asked survey participants to rate Microsoft’s responsiveness on a 1-to-5 scale, with 1 being "not responsive at all" and 5 being "instantly responsive." Approximately 44 percent gave Microsoft a 4 (33.1 percent) or 5 (9.8 percent), with the largest single percentage (41.3 percent) placing Microsoft squarely in the middle of the responsiveness category.

— K.W.

Paul Christmas, on the other hand, points out an often-overlooked fact regarding Microsoft's pricing strategy. "They provide more free help: Knowledge Base, TechNet, webcasts, etc., than any other IT company." He could have added to the list lots of free tools like the Microsoft Baseline Security Analyzer (MBSA), Windows Software Update Services (WSUS), the Group Policy Management Console (GPMC) and countless white papers.

Question 18
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Licensing Lacks Logic
One factor that affects pricing in a big way is licensing, another area survey respondents say Microsoft needs to take a hard look at. As Bruce Meyer says, "You need a Ph.D. to understand licensing options." David Hale complains that Microsoft's "licensing has gotten way too complex."

Just 35 percent of respondents say Microsoft's licensing programs are fair, while 51 percent say they're not. John Gorman feels Microsoft is trying to bleed him dry. "Why do I need two licenses for Office if I have an employee who works at home using Citrix one day a week? He can't work at home and at the office at the same time. Microsoft has figured out every possible way to stick us with licensing 'gotchas.'"

Bearing the brunt of the licensing anger is Microsoft's controversial Software Assurance (SA) program, under which customers are entitled to product upgrades for the term of the contract—usually three years. About 29 percent believe SA represents a good value, while 40 percent say it isn't. About 31 percent don't have an opinion, but those who do are mostly negative. "If Longhorn isn't released by the end of 2006, a lot of companies would answer that question 'No,'" says Kevin Rodwell, voicing a common complaint that SA customers pay for products they're not receiving.

There's so much angst about SA that half of those surveyed don't know whether they'll renew their current contracts, and only 25.2 percent say they will.

Question 19
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It isn't just SA that has respondents grousing; Randy Hinders says Client Access Licenses (CALs) have become problematic. "The CAL stuff has to go. We buy XP Pro, then Office, then Server and Exchange, then each user has to have a CAL for the server and Exchange. Throw in a SQL Server with Internet connections and it is too expensive."

Woodson Samuel, however, likes his particular licensing program. "I work under a Select Agreement. Many people have not been informed of all the benefits that go along with the agreement, such as home use while employed by the company. This is one of the best benefits Microsoft has offered."

The Potential Davids
Licensing is just one of many challenges facing Microsoft if it wants to continue to preserve its status as the dominant force in computing. Asked what the biggest threat to Microsoft's business is, Linux tops the list, with 25.3 percent of the votes. Combined with the 17 percent who cite the Firefox browser and other open source products, it's clear that "free" software is gaining on Microsoft.

Question 28
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Robert Trifiletti sums up the feelings of many. "Microsoft needs to stop the FUD [fear, uncertainty and doubt] on Linux. Hardware is a commodity. Software is heading that way, proprietary or open source. Microsoft had better look at its business model in terms of competing in a commodity market."

Andrew Ritting suggests a different strategy. "Microsoft should embrace Linux instead of fighting it. I would like to have a Microsoft desktop on top of a Linux distribution."

The other big threat to Microsoft is Microsoft itself—the huge, installed base worldwide that's perfectly happy with Windows 98, Office 97, Windows NT and Exchange 5.5 and doesn't feel the urgency to upgrade. Twenty percent, the second-largest vote-getter in this category, believe that's the main hurdle Microsoft has to clear.

Other significant threats come in the form of governments, both in the United States and abroad (specifically the European Union), and software piracy.

Bill Gates=Thomas Edison?
Question 51
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When it comes to innovation, survey respondents think quite highly of Microsoft. Asked whether Microsoft is an innovative company, 95 percent answered yes, although 37 percent of that total think Microsoft is only innovative "sometimes." Carl Grandin compares Microsoft Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates to some of the great inventors of the past. "Microsoft is the future, now. What Bill Gates has done for computers is what Thomas Edison did for the light bulb or Alexander Graham Bell did for the telephone."

While no one else is quite as effusive in their praise of Gates, the survey reveals a high opinion of Gates’ intelligence: Almost 49 percent of respondents believe Gates is a genius. About 28 percent say he’s not, and approximately 23 percent wouldn’t venture an opinion on whether Gates should apply for Mensa membership.

Question 8
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It doesn’t take a genius, though, to snap up the innovations of others; Oscar Jones echoes the sentiments of many when he says, "Microsoft is a better marketer than innovator, and it tends to pick the best innovations of others and incorporate them into its own products."

Robert Burnett says Microsoft needs to do more to stay competitive, and offers some suggestions. "The test of Microsoft’s mettle will be the ability to innovate the PC platform. There has been little true innovation in the platform in the last five years. We need instant-on PCs, smarter networking protocols and easier ability to share secure information."

— K.W.

Talking 'Bout a Revolution
It's not easy to sum up the feelings of 3,407 people toward one company; in fact, it would be foolish to try, as any corporation with the comparable size and influence on one industry that Microsoft enjoys is going to generate intense passion on every side of every question. But Curt Spanburgh comes pretty close to encapsulating what Microsoft means to all of us who work with computers for a living.

"Many techs owe their jobs to Microsoft," he says. "For sure [its] software is not perfect … [but] Microsoft changed the world and continues to do so. Microsoft's revolution is still going on."

More Information

Click here to access additional charts from the Microsoft Survey. (4 pages, PDF format, 1.4MB)
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Reader Comments:

Tue, Jun 17, 2008 Anonymous Anonymous

This is not about the survey perse. It concerns my experience with Microsoft in general. I have tried to get help with Windows Live and I get an email from them seeking more information which I send to the email address they provide only to find that my emails to that address are not accepted. I suppose I have been denied access even though the email address was provided by Microsoft. I have always had trouble with getting help from them. We are not all professional users . I imagine the vast majority are not. I am going to research other companies that provide similar programs. I am told by others that they too are fed up with Microsoft and i am beginning to understand the reason.

Tue, Oct 18, 2005 chetan bangalore


Sat, Oct 8, 2005 Shiver Florida

Microsoft needs more innovation that counts. The desktop remains largely unchanged from a file system perspective. It seems that the company is more interested in doing things on the cheap. For instance their support. When I get an India based support agent I usually hang up and dial back in. Need more creativity and innovation......also get rid of that Ballmer......and the rest of the Jack Welsh maniacal followers........Gates needs to take over......

Wed, Sep 21, 2005 Anonymous Anonymous

pretty aswome i am saving up for a new comp that supports longhorn.. if it's good for gaming. Good servey sums it up.

Tue, Sep 20, 2005 Anonymous Anonymous

Very goog insight into what techies see and hear on a regular basis. Here is the survey that sums it up.

Wed, Aug 24, 2005 Shoaib UAE

Well you see the MS OS is getting better and better. It crashes less often, but i definitely don't like the search features. especially Desktop Search... it's too powerful :(.. .i like them for my own use and LOVE IT....but fear it... if my wifey uses it and finds all the GOOD stuff and mail attachments ;)

Tue, Jun 21, 2005 Greg Illinois cannot say that OS X is any better then any other OS, as a matter of fact, if anyone says any one OS is better then any other, take a rethink time out. It's all personal. I wouldn't use Linux or Unix as a PC OS, nor would I use OS X...why? Because of compatiblitly issues, plain and simple...but this is for ME. I play On-Line games, that are not supported by any other OS then Windows. I am also paid because I understand and can fix Windows (and computers).

I am sure others would have differing opinions. Spyware - Viruses? I have seen in the past few months many warnings for OS X, and Unix and Linux are vulnerable too, Rootkits for instance...nothing is totally safe, it's how the person who sets the systems up, how they configure it, how they lock them down, keep up with patches and so forth and so on, every IT person knows that. I don't get malware or viruses, why? I have Anti-Virus and Anti-Spyware products that keep me from getting them. I don't open email from anyone I don't know, that's common knowledge, is it not?

It's simple, what suits you best will be the best OS, and personally, Microsoft XP has more bells and whistles that I do use, then any other OS can offer right now...

Fri, Jun 17, 2005 Steve Rairdon Iowa

Windows XP is the best OS I have ever had. In fact for me it has lightened my work load and nearly eliminated all the headaches associated with software and hardware installs. All 72 machines I'm responsible run without issue. Microsoft has done an excellent job with XP. Now if all the anti-Microsoft no names would quit trying to screw it up we all could be happy. I wish there was a law to lock up all the people who write the hacks and cracks and virus stuff to try and disrupt XP and other Microsoft software. Maybe Microsoft should come up with some kind of software to track these people down. Surely these people could find better things to do. And maybe the government ought to look at Microsofts so called competitors for the source of this assault on Microsoft software.

Thu, Jun 16, 2005 Dave Anonymous

JR, you said:
"can anyone tell me what is anywhere near Xp for a desktop platform? And don't even try to give me that Linux mumbo Jumbo. Linux, like Unix is great for geeks who love to tinker but it is certainly not even close to XP in power, flexability or ease of use. "

JR, you haven't used Mac OS X lately have you? Come back to us after a month of using it and tell us there is no alternative. I have experience with all Windows platforms, as well as OS X and I prefer OS X by far. If you haven't used it in the past year or two, you can't make an informed statement on the state of the desktop OS. It may not be practical for some large organizations, or those who must use certain proprietary software, but if the option if there, you are well served to explore your options. Not ONE virus or piece of spyware in the past 2 years is reason enough for most people. I won't even go into the other benefits...

Thu, Jun 16, 2005 JR CALIF

You know, it's easy to whine and complain but can anyone tell me what is anywhere near Xp for a desktop platform? And don't even try to give me that Linux mumbo Jumbo. Linux, like Unix is great for geeks who love to tinker but it is certainly not even close to XP in power, flexability or ease of use. Secondly, anyone who believes that other Operating Systems are flawless and hack free must live in a cave (technologically speaking). Go to the Sans Institute or any other professional and independent website that posts information about Operating Systems and the patches required to make them safe. Come on people let's stop the usless complaining, if you really hate Microsoft write a better OS than XP and show them you know better. Talk is cheap.

Wed, Jun 15, 2005 Vinothkumar India

The only reason Windows OS are affected by virus is because its popular . If u want to infect , several million users , u would certainly write a virus for a windows OS. If mac or linux is so much popularly used , then they will get the same number of virus infection . I think , mac or linux will be having more vulnerabilities , only thing they are not yet been found out. Also , the user is responsible for spyware.... they are installing it . Users are allowing the spyware to be installed either knowingly or unknowingly . How can Windows know, the software being installed is spyware . The classification of spyware is very much subjective.

Wed, Jun 15, 2005 Jack .au

Throw-away OS. LOL. I've used Linux, 95,98,NT,2k and I find XP quite stable and easy to use.

Trying to install anything on Linux you would have to invest half a day for re-search then you have to find dependencies.

Tell me an OS without security problems. Maybe you should signup to Cert and do a pie chart of all the alerts you get in a month and tell me the results. I'm sure you'll find nix will take up most of the pie chart.

Wed, Jun 15, 2005 Tyson Canada

I have had great success with XP. I install and fix 1000's of XP pc's and find this os to be the best to work with. If you follow some common sence steps when setting a new station up you don't get that many problems. My own machince has never had a virus or been hacked or had any other problems. I must say that with XP I don't make as much money on return visits but hey you can't win them all.

Wed, Jun 15, 2005 Joseph Idaho

I agree with Naomi. I think XP is a garbage OS. The fluffy GUI, the half-baked zipfolders, firewall, security center (virus writer's anyone???), all make me long for the windows 2000 days. w2k run's circles around wXp. Now, if micro$oft was able to produce a basic OS that didn't require IE, OE, or WMP to function...

Wed, Jun 15, 2005 OW SB

RE: 6/10/05 – EGJ from NY

Well said. The problems people are having with Windows are mostly due to lack of knowledge...

Fri, Jun 10, 2005 EGJ NY

I have worked very closely with MS products for more then 15 years. Despite its failings, it has many more successes. Yes, it has feature bloat, but if you listen to unix nuts, you'd think the features were omni-present and inextractable, which is a big load of BS. And the infalability of MacOS is also another urban myth. My very talented Mac Admin had his MacOS X server busted into and sending SPAM, in less then 15 minutes while he was creating a test install for a streaming server, AND IT WAS BEHIND A CABLE DSL ROUTER! I agree with Tormentiuw from Vancouver. I am a Windows Admin, despite the BS in the news, my systems have not been infected with viruses, Spyware or hacked into in nearly eight years... and before that, I was the problem (not having the basic skills needed), not the OS'. Linux, MacOS, Solaris, Windows, ALL OPENSOURCE, has flaws, PERIOD. Nothing is perfect. Those who believe any differently... have bullseyes painted on their foreheads and are simply a massive accident waiting to happen... welcome to the trenches you arrogant, stupid nit wits. Get on the security mailing lists like US-CERT or SANS, and your manufacturers security mailing lists, you will quickly be kicked out of the fantasy world you are living in now. MacOS had a serious remotely exploitable flaw this week in AFP... schmucks.

Thu, Jun 9, 2005 Tormentiuw Vancouver, BC

What a surprising bunch of posts: nix fans whining about Microsoft. To naomi regarding XP's being and "embarassment" and "out of date" I'd like you to show me another OS which works close to as well in a centrally managed corporate environment while maintaining security and ease of use for end users. Oh...right, there ISN'T one.

Thu, Jun 9, 2005 Anonymous Anonymous

What kind of chance they have with XP: to get viruses in email on daily bases, to get spyware installed, to get hacked?

Yes, sure they have a chance withouth MSFT, just buy a Mac. It works, it rarely ails, it has no viruses (other than macros affecting MS products on Mac).

Thu, Jun 9, 2005 CL Anonymous

My neighbors, over 60, bought a cheap machine running Lindows. Been sitting in a box in a closet for over 2 years. After getting them a copy of Windows XP, they now have bought a router, an all-in-one printer, a digital camera, broadband and have been communicating with their adult children living in different states. So tell me - without Microsoft, do you think they have a chance?

Tue, Jun 7, 2005 naomi Anonymous

XP is a throwaway OS: an embarrassment of security fraud and old technology.

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