Reading the various postings, it is becoming clear that most participants
either love Microsoft or hate Microsoft and each side supports their position
with facts, antidotes, rumors, etc. As always the truth
is somewhere in the middle. Microsoft does make good products and Microsoft
needs to improve. This forum should be one where developers, customers, etc.
can voice their issues and concerns about what Microsoft does or doesn't
do with their product offerings.

My number one concern is the customer is NOT Microsoft's number one priority.
The material disclosed during their latest anti-thrust case indicates that
Microsoft is obsessed with beating their competition. Microsoft is so focused
on their competition that they have lost or losing sight of their customers.

Many of you will say, it isnít so. But let's look at the facts.

1. Microsoft doesn't have anything coming close to a User Group that most
other IT Companies have. Yes, these groups are bureaucratic and cumbersome.
But at least their is a formal mechanism for people to voice their concerns
and suggestions. The announcement of assigning YAG to the VB Product team
is Microsoft's reluctant way of agreeing with
this observation. However, what Microsoft has done with YAG is simply throwing
the VB Community a bone. Everyone should be able to agree that the VB.Net
strategy has some significant shortcomings. A VB Userís forum would have
given Microsoft important and immediate feedback. But when Marketing is
looking after future product direction and features and the companyís number
one priority is beating the competition, then customer concerns get lost.
Do you think the following conversation ever happened at Microsoft:

MS Staff #1, We have to get VB onto the .Net bandwagon.

MS Staff #2, That sounds like a good idea but there will be some migration
problems going from VB6 to .Net.

MS Staff #1, Ya, that sounds like it may be a problem. But remember, we
need .Net to beat Java, Linux, Sun, Sony, etc. So, letís go. We're betting
the company on .Net. Besides what are the VBers going to do. Take their
code to Linux or Unix. Donít think so. Not an issue.

You think that maybe this conversation would be different if someone around
the table from the VB User Community were present and said something like:

A lot of the developers really like .Net but we have some serious concerns.
Firstly, we have a community of VB developers who have a migration problem
going from VB6 to .Net. Is there anything you can do to make this migration
smoother. Maybe you could support both versions for the time being until
you can provide the tools to make migration easier. Secondly, we have a
community of VB developers who want the product to remain easy to use. There
is no real desire for these developers to program enterprise applications.
What can you do to continue to make VB easy to use?

2. For years, customers have been complaining about security.
Microsoft makes some token announcement but doesn't really do anything about
it. When your number one priority is
beating the competition, customer concerns are secondary. Finally, a Gartner
analyst announces that customers should not use Microsoft IIS for their Web
hosting platform because of it's serious security shortcomings.
Whatís the reaction? The Microsoft lovers say that the analyst doesn't know
what he is talking about. Security problems are simply a product of Microsoftís
success. Guess what. Bill Gates announces that Trustworthy Computing is
now Microsoft's Number 1 priority. What happen here? What happen to betting
the company on .Net? Well, suddenly
customers are hitting Microsoft over the head with a 2 by 4 and they're finally
listening to their customers.

The biggest problem with Microsoft today is that it is too obsessed with
beating down the competition. This is not to say that it should completely
ignore its competition. But it shouldn't be so obsessed that it is blind
to other aspects of its business such as its customers. Customers have every
right to voice their concerns about what their supplier is doing with its
products and services. I know that you canít satisfy everyone. But that
is what companies have to do; they have to balance their vision of the future
with their current and future customerís vision of the future. The closer
those two visions are the more successful the company. It is time for Microsoft
to put customers number one and make beating the competition number 2 or
3 because if they satisfy their customers better than their competition,
then beating the competition takes care of itself. There are serious concerns
coming from the VB community. Writing these concerns off as rants from Microsoft
haterís is not doing justice to these concerns. If Microsoft is serious
about making the customer number 1, then they better start finding better
ways of getting customer feedback and addressing customer concerns. By the
way, listening to IT management and developers from Fortune 100 companies
is not my idea of listening to your customers.