Thursday, August 4, 2011

The decline of Microsoft

I use the quality of Windows Messenger as a barometer of Microsoft.

In 2000, it was MSN Messenger.  It came after Yahoo Messenger, but surpassed it immediately.  The features were really convenient.  Those pleasant audio notifications when your friends come online or send you a message became the standard noises in the office.  Remote Assistance worked, and I used it to help troubleshoot the PCs of many friends located far away.  There was even a real telco connection and you could dial to real phones.  File transfer worked if the firewall wasn't too strict.  PC to PC voice was excellent.

In 2003, MSN Messenger was the largest network, eclipsing AIM and Yahoo Messenger, with 30 million customers I think. The ability to make any animated GIF into an animated emoticon was priceless.  Pressing F2 you could use it like a walkie-talkie.  File transfer worked all the time.  So did handwriting, which was absolutely critical when what you want to say could not be totally expressed in words.

Then Remote Assistance stopped working.  Not even between two PCs next to each other connected on the same LAN.  In 2007, Remote Assistance mysteriously worked again, but only for a few days.

Then they renamed it to Windows Live Messenger, and it was downhill all the way.  Each newer version became bigger, but less and less things worked.  And it crashed more often, on a pure Windows PC.

Then came Google Chat as part of Gmail.  It was no fight as Chat was web based and was thus restricted in the number of things that can be done.

Then came Facebook, and Twitter.  I thought Microsoft would just tweak Messenger by letting the user broadcast certain threads and kill Twitter right away.  I waited and waited, but nothing happened.

Messenger was enhanced with its own integrated blogging feature, called Spaces or something.  It was neat, but not promoted at all, and died.  Considering the huge Messenger base, this is tragic.

In 2008 I had a Nokia E71.  It came with a true Messenger client.  It worked well, but back then I didn't have a data plan, so use was restricted to wifi opportunities only and usage didn't take off.

It's 2011.  I have two PCs on the same LAN with the newest version of Live Messenger.  On one PC I can send a file to the other.  On the other PC, the file transfer function is disabled.  On some days, it's the other way round.  On other days, it will complain that I or the other party don't have the latest version of Messenger.

It's 2011.  Google has a GTalk client on Android, which talks to all Google Chat users.  Microsoft still refuses to produce an Android client for Messenger.  The web version is unusable.  And sorry, I don't approve giving my password to the likes of eBuddy.  So now, at my desk I use Live Messenger. When away, I have to use GTalk on my Android phone.

[Sep 1, 2011 update] It's getting disastrous.  Live Messenger now creates extraordinary barriers to add a new contact.  It used to be: click Contacts, click Add.  How do you do it now?  I have someone sitting next to me, both online, both on the same LAN.  He has added me.  I don't see him.  I don't get any notification that he has added me.  He sees me as offline.  He sends an offline message to me.  I received nothing.  THIS IS RIDICULOUS.  I think it's the result of having the wrong Program Manager on the job.

And the handwriting feature has disappeared!  I need to sketch a quick drawing to my co-worker.  I am stumped.  I don't want to launch Word, save as a file, and transfer a file.

When do you think the once largest everyone must have Instant Messenger service will just die away?


[Three years later... I wasn't too far off ... ]

April 2014: By an insider.