Software

A Windows Developer's Brutal Explanation As To Why Microsoft Is Falling Behind

Right now, somewhere on the internet, there is a flame war occurring between devotees of Linux and Windows. It’s just the nature of passionate software evangelism. A much rarer event, however, is one of Redmond’s own unloading publicly on the faults of not only Windows, but Microsoft’s company culture.

Recently, a post was made on Y Combinator by an anonymous Windows developer; a rant breaking down why Windows is not keeping pace with the likes of Linux. It appears, however, the author thought better of his actions and deleted the post.

Unfortunately for the anonymous dev, Marc Bevand uploaded a copy of the content to his blog Zorinaq. To say it’s enlightening would be an understatement.

The developer starts by admitting that Windows is “indeed slower than other operating systems in many scenarios”, though the cause is not so much technical as it is social:

There’s almost none of the improvement for its own sake, for the sake of glory, that you see in the Linux world … There’s also little incentive to create changes in the first place. On linux-kernel, if you improve the performance of directory traversal by a consistent 5%, you’re praised and thanked. Here, if you do that and you’re not on the object manager team … your own management doesn’t care … Incremental improvements just annoy people and are, at best, neutral for your career.

It’s also mentioned that the company is “having trouble” holding onto talent, with the likes of Google “poaching [its] best, most experience developers” with replacements being “youths straight from college”.

There’s even a bullet-point list of Microsoft’s less glamorous decisions and software achievements, with the ones standing out being:

• XNA. Need I say more?

And:

• Oh god, the NTFS code is a purple opium-fuelled Victorian horror novel that uses global recursive locks and SEH for flow control.

The post, in its entirety, does not paint a happy picture of Microsoft or Windows and after some consideration, it seems the developer felt a great deal of regret for dumping it all online. After Bevand reposted the rant, its author got in touch with him to clarify his points and apologise to his colleagues:

All this has gotten out of control. I was much too harsh, and I didn’t intend this as some kind of massive exposé. This is just grumbling. I didn’t appreciate the appetite people outside Microsoft have for Kremlinology. I should have thought through my post much more thoroughly. I want to apologize for presenting a misleading impression of what it’s like on the inside.

He goes on to mention that his description of NTFS was “over the top” — despite its quirks, it is a “very solid and well-tested” file system.

Here’s the post, including the update, if you’re keen on reading the finer details.

[Zorinaq, via Reddit]

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