Windows 7 was a bugfix for Vista.
Win7 was great, and I actually liked Vista as well. Vista, Win8, and Xbox One have all failed to 'sell' their vision and goals to the media and the public.
More a PR fix than anything.
Yes, XP was great, and still is fairly good. Windows Vista was an major technological upgrade that had too many user-interface mistakes. You called it Vista "a new, shiny, half-assed user interface to a lot of crap". I agree fully with the "half-assed user interface" part, but the "lot of crap" is the public perception because of the poor interface.
Windows 7 was a small refinement (not a backtracking) of Vista, but primarily was the better interface improvement. It would've been better if Windows Vista shipped with both a better OS and a better interface, so that was a mistake because it took them so long to develop, but to through out the entire Vista OS as junk because the interface was broken just is inaccurate. Yes, Vista needed the core non-interface refinements Windows 7 brought, but from what I understand (admittedly not much), those were incremental refinements. Windows 7 is practically Windows Vista v1.1 with an improved interface.
I also don't like the direction Windows 8 is going (and so haven't used it, and will wait and see how Win9 turns out), but if we're analyzing Ballmer's entire stay at Microsoft, we have to take Windows Vista and Windows 7 into account, and can't extrapolate that Microsoft is going downhill solely from Windows 8. Microsoft is late to the party in a number of major major shifts in computing, but that doesn't necessarily mean they are degrading, just lacking foresight.
I'm not saying Ballmer did a good job - I don't think he did. I'm saying Microsoft, in general, makes good software for producers, poor software for consumers, and has a number of management flaws that need to be resolved. The engineering quality of their work is not bad, aside from all the backwards compatibility they have to include. They have great engineers, bad organization and management and PR and visionaries.
No. That used to be, and it is how Microsoft became the No.1 leading company that it is. They sold Excel and Word in millions because there were no competing products that were even nearly as good, for years.
Microsoft releases some really top-notch software, but a third problem Microsoft has is that they aren't really-truly consumer focused. They make great software focused for people who are producers.
Unlike today, where we have... broken Google Docs (which I'm not allowed to compare to, apparently), and Open Office which is better than Google Docs but still a good many steps behind Microsoft Office.
I used to have a Mac 20 years ago, and like all Mac users, I would tell everyone how superior it was. Truth is, it was only a super expensive toy, and in no way competitive to what Microsoft made back then (even thought their user interface was kind of bleh).
Yeah, Apple has always trumped Microsoft when it comes to superior UI design (both stylistically and functionality-wise).
But this has not been true during the last couple of years. Every new incantation of Office is more bloated, harder to use, slower, and delivers worse.
And if you look at Win8 or WinRT or Blue... bleh.
Yeah, Win8/WinRT are Microsoft's attempt to try to make a good consumer-product. So they duck-taped their consumer-product on top of their existing producer-product, because hey, their consumers already like Windows! But not really, the consumers had no choice except for Windows because Windows was developer-focused, and the developers came to Windows and made the products the consumers wanted.
Because Windows 8 has a good deal of consumer-focus, and I consumer little and focus on producing, it doesn't offer me enough improvements over Win7 to upgrade - though it does offer a few. If I switched, I'm confident I'd adapt to it easily and be pleased with it, but I can wait for Win9. Looking at Win8, there's also the more surfacing signs of Microsoft's future strategies that I'm not liking and don't want to actively support until left with no other choice; but that's a philosophical aside.
Granted, but who cares. Google Docs doesn't cost anything (so you can't really expect it to work) and nobody uses it.
If you want to talk about a company releasing alpha-grade software as final products, look at Google. For all the praise everyone gives it, I feel like I'm somehow using a different Google Docs than everyone else.
I hear people praising it online every few months, which confuses me. There are high quality free products that work well - I like Qt Creator as an IDE, but even Microsoft's Visual Studios is free... are we not supposed to expect those to work?
It's not serious software. Google is not a serious company. You use Google to find porn sites on the WWW and if you need a free mail address, but that's it. If you want a cheap tablet toy that's just good enough to browse the WWW, you'll probably buy an Android device because it costs half of a Windows device, granted... but really, that's all.
You do not use Google as the "production software" in a corporation, very much opposed to Windows.
Which is kinda my point: Microsoft does the production-software side well - better than alot of their competitors. They don't do the consumer side too well.
Google is a serious company, but a consumer-focused company. So far, their production-focused software has been a miss with me.
Microsoft do have some great consumer successes, but that seems to be the exception rather than the rule. But their engineering has always been fairly good, and because of their success they have to deal with more handicaps (backwards compatibility and more government oversight), but their engineering is still good.
I know I'm saying, "The dog barks, growls, and bites alot, but he's just being friendly.". I'm not trying to say Microsoft doesn't need to change and adapt, but I'm trying to analyze in what ways they need to improve and what their strengths and weaknesses are and how that should factor in to the choice of a new CEO, rather than just sweepingly saying, 'Microsoft sucks, they've blown it, everything they make is junk' which alot on the internet do.
For the record, my experience with Microsoft products really only dates from XP forward (though I used 95 and 98 when I was younger, I don't remember them too much) - I'm a young whippersnapper, so maybe things were different 25 years ago. My statistical pulling pool of Microsoft OSes goes XP, Vista, Win7 - all of which I liked and thought were upgrades to their predecessors, so maybe I just haven't experienced enough other superior products by other companies, and by pre-XP Microsoft, to really get a good sample of how much Microsoft just makes bloated junk.
I've sampled Apple products here and there, and found them to be very superior in interface in most cases, and geared to consumers (and properly so). Apple makes quality products, there's no denying that. They give the same level of polish to the interface of their software that Nintendo gives to their games, and they definitely deserve kudos for that.
I'm trying to be balanced in how I analyze software (and videogame) companies, because the subject is one that I find entertaining to discuss and think about.