Thursday, May 29, 2008

microsoft is generous

My workplace is offering the Microsoft Home Use and Employee Purchase Programs, so I thought I’d sign on for discounted prices and ease of ordering. What I found instead – and why was I surprised? – was one of the most poorly thought-out and consumer-unfriendly websites I’ve ever dealt with. I don’t generally buy Microsoft products online, so perhaps the Employee Purchase Program is the shitbin of the great Gates/Ballmer widget factory, a version of bargain shopping where all the products are heaped indifferently on pallets and the most useless employee in the whole company stands on guard behind a cash register, able to punch in numbers and shrug dully at your questions.

Even from the start it seems that Microsoft is not interested in your business. The sign-in page is buggy and borked, refuses to acknowledge the information you’ve input, then sends you through anyway to a broken version of the site. That’s right: you can still get into the EPP site even if you haven’t filled out all the required fields. Maybe some hacker could make hay of this kind of crappy broke-code security, but all it did for me was provide several minutes of sheer confusion as the page kept prompting me for my country of origin and preferred language but neglected to provide any fields where I could enter this information. Eventually I realized that Microsoft had “forgotten” the information I initially provided, so I trudged back to the sign-up page, tried three more times, and then got through.

I tried to come up with a real-life equivalent to this experience that makes any kind of sense, but any scenario I wrote down just felt Chaplinesque. I’ve got a great comparison for the experience of actually shopping on the EPP site, though. Imagine that you’re Indiana Jones, and you’re searching for some priceless treasure, let’s say a magical golden spittoon that can vanquish your enemies, but after you’ve outwitted the Nazis and crossed the Bridge of Snapping Towels, you get to the sacred Spittoon Chamber, where you find a homeless man whose only power is farting “You Are My Sunshine” for spare change. I can think of no other way to describe site features such as the “Entertainment” category, which offers “the stuff that you really want”. I did not know that I really wanted Zune accessories for the whole family. Thanks, Microsoft.

Or maybe it’s not as bad as I’m making out. Even though the product selection is limited and the site is so buggy that it would probably leak your credit card information into the void and airdrop your purchases into the Pacific Gyre, at least it offers a discount on popular software and hardware. I brought up the Future Shop site to see how jim-dandy the deals were. Under the Employee Purchase Program, I can buy an Xbox 360 bundle (no info on what the bundle contains) for $399.99 Canadian, which is a discount of, let’s see, -$50.00. That’s right: I can buy an Xbox 360 on Future Shop for 12.5% less than Microsoft’s generous discount.

The real deals come with items like Windows Vista Home Premium, which goes for $119.68. That’s an insanely good deal over Future Shop, which is selling the same product for $250. May I delicately point out, though, that even the best deal on a one-tonne crate of strontium-laced pigshit is no deal at all. Scratch that: radioactive pigshit, whatever its shortcomings, will probably run your computer more efficiently than Vista.



lotus07 said...

You have sort of opened up the flood gates on Microsoft here:

In a word, they suck, almost always have. They had a good product with Windows 3.1, and hit their stride with Windows 95. Ever since then, they have been on the rollercoster to hell.

Gates is not a genius, he is an opportunist. He did one thing right in life. He stole MS-DOS from some poor programmer and then managed to get IBM to install it by default on all their computers, hence gurantteeing that he had market share for the next 50 years.

The inroads that Google and Apple have made in the last decade serve to show how lack luster Microsoft's vision really is.

And now we have Vista in our office, and I swear, I have never been so frustrated with an operating system in my entire life. It is stable, but the design is so anti-productive and confusing that it makes expierenced users pull their hair out. I would never, never recomend any of their products. They are de-evolutionizing the computer world.

palinode said...

Indeed. I didn't even like Windows 95 all that much - give me the days of the DOS prompt and Windows 3.1. I also liked XP, which never gave me any hassle, except when I fiddled with the settings to such an extent that I pretty much killed my computer.

I have Vista at home, and it's a pig. A pig with a condescending attitude.

Given the ugliness of Vista and the media-centre slickness of the Xbox 360, I wonder if their future lies in entertainment hardware and office software. With everything else they roll out, it feels like listening to your crazy out-of-touch racist great-uncle go on about how the neighbourhood is being overrun by immigrants. It's cringe-inducing.

BarbaraCA said...

My company laptop is Vista and the whole system is so entirely fucked, I suspect I am part of some long-range anger management test. They WILL eventually break me.

Cecilieaux said...

Fortunately, I control what we run at the office, so no Vista, still some Win98, mostly XP. Had a great Linux server, but we had to junk it.

Other wares ... all Corel. (Used to be a Canadian company.) And freeware.

I'm seriously thinking of moving us all to Linux.

sgazzetti said...

Your analogies are funny analogies.

Helvetica said...

Microsoft totally is generous! Why just last week someone forwarded me a message saying Bill Gates would pay me a million bucks for sending that same email along to ten people -- or was it fifty? Anyhow, I'm putting you on the list of happy recipients, even though you don't deserve it!

Average Jane said...

You're making me glad I've gone back to the Mac (although don't get me started about Entourage).