Purported Bill Gates rant from 2003 slams Windows' flaws: "But that is just the start of the crap."


The Seattle Post-Intelligencer offers an example of the kind of missive Gates fires off "nearly every day..."

---- Original Message ----

From: Bill Gates
Sent: Wednesday, January 15, 2003 10:05 AM
To: Jim Allchin
Cc: Chris Jones (WINDOWS); Bharat Shah (NT); Joe Peterson; Will Poole; Brian Valentine; Anoop Gupta (RESEARCH)
Subject: Windows Usability Systematic degradation flame

I am quite disappointed at how Windows Usability has been going backwards and the program management groups don't drive usability issues.

Let me give you my experience from yesterday.

I decided to download (Moviemaker) and buy the Digital Plus pack ... so I went to Microsoft.com. They have a download place so I went there.

The first 5 times I used the site it timed out while trying to bring up the download page. Then after an 8 second delay I got it to come up.

This site is so slow it is unusable.

It wasn't in the top 5 so I expanded the other 45.

These 45 names are totally confusing. These names make stuff like: C:\Documents and Settings\billg\My Documents\My Pictures seem clear.

They are not filtered by the system ... and so many of the things are strange.

I tried scoping to Media stuff. Still no moviemaker. I typed in movie. Nothing. I typed in movie maker. Nothing.

So I gave up and sent mail to Amir saying - where is this Moviemaker download? Does it exist?

So they told me that using the download page to download something was not something they anticipated.

They told me to go to the main page search button and type movie maker (not moviemaker!).

I tried that. The site was pathetically slow but after 6 seconds of waiting up it came.

I thought for sure now I would see a button to just go do the download.

In fact it is more like a puzzle that you get to solve. It told me to go to Windows Update and do a bunch of incantations.

This struck me as completely odd. Why should I have to go somewhere else and do a scan to download moviemaker?

So I went to Windows update. Windows Update decides I need to download a bunch of controls. (Not) just once but multiple times where I get to see weird dialog boxes.

Doesn't Windows update know some key to talk to Windows?

Then I did the scan. This took quite some time and I was told it was critical for me to download 17megs of stuff.

This is after I was told we were doing delta patches to things but instead just to get 6 things that are labeled in the SCARIEST possible way I had to download 17meg.

So I did the download. That part was fast. Then it wanted to do an install. This took 6 minutes and the machine was so slow I couldn't use it for anything else during this time.

What the heck is going on during those 6 minutes? That is crazy. This is after the download was finished.

Then it told me to reboot my machine. Why should I do that? I reboot every night -- why should I reboot at that time?

So I did the reboot because it INSISTED on it. Of course that meant completely getting rid of all my Outlook state.

So I got back up and running and went to Windows Updale again. I forgot why I was in Windows Update at all since all I wanted was to get Moviemaker.

So I went back to Microsoft.com and looked at the instructions. I have to click on a folder called WindowsXP. Why should I do that? Windows Update knows I am on Windows XP.

What does it mean to have to click on that folder? So I get a bunch of confusing stuff but sure enough one of them is Moviemaker.

So I do the download. The download is fast but the Install takes many minutes. Amazing how slow this thing is.

At some point I get told I need to go get Windows Media Series 9 to download.

So I decide I will go do that. This time I get dialogs saying things like "Open" or "Save". No guidance in the instructions which to do. I have no clue which to do.

The download is fast and the install takes 7 minutes for this thing.

So now I think I am going to have Moviemaker. I go to my add/remove programs place to make sure it is there.

It is not there.

What is there? The following garbage is there. Microsoft Autoupdate Exclusive test package, Microsoft Autoupdate Reboot test package, Microsoft Autoupdate testpackage1. Microsoft AUtoupdate testpackage2, Microsoft Autoupdate Test package3.

Someone decided to trash the one part of Windows that was usable? The file system is no longer usable. The registry is not usable. This program listing was one sane place but now it is all crapped up.

But that is just the start of the crap. Later I have listed things like Windows XP Hotfix see Q329048 for more information. What is Q329048? Why are these series of patches listed here? Some of the patches just things like Q810655 instead of saying see Q329048 for more information.

What an absolute mess.

Moviemaker is just not there at all.

So I give up on Moviemaker and decide to download the Digital Plus Package.

I get told I need to go enter a bunch of information about myself.

I enter it all in and because it decides I have mistyped something I have to try again. Of course it has cleared out most of what I typed.

I try (typing) the right stuff in 5 times and it just keeps clearing things out for me to type them in again.

So after more than an hour of craziness and making my programs list garbage and being scared and seeing that Microsoft.com is a terrible website I haven't run Moviemaker and I haven't got the plus package.

The lack of attention to usability represented by these experiences blows my mind. I thought we had reached a low with Windows Network places or the messages I get when I try to use 802.11. (don't you just love that root certificate message?)

When I really get to use the stuff I am sure I will have more feedback.

You may stop emailing this in now.

Full text: An epic Bill Gates e-mail rant [seattlepi via
techdirt et al]

Published by Rob Beschizza

Follow Rob @beschizza on Twitter.

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  1. well..the same kind of things keep happening after 5 years. So, I guess that sometimes even an e-mail from the top guy won’t solve a whole mess of Windows.

    It was interesting to read about his experience dealing with this, just like everybody else who uses windows.

  2. Fuck ME! I went through precisely the same thing at almost the same time. He left out the part where windows update can only look for updates a maximum of once an hour, so you have to wait an hour, vigilant for a popup bubble from the bottom left of the screen. Eventually (seriously, it took about 3 hours) I found out that moviemaker was part of service pack 1. About a yeah later my hardrive was formatted, so I needed to get it again. This time I was in the know. But some goddamn how I managed to spend 5 hours looking for service pack 1 and couldn’t find the damn thing. So I just got Windows Movie Maker from a forum that I found after 2 seconds on google.

    It is genuinely perplexing how a theoretically quite well run company with tonnes poured into research and software that can at least connect with and enable some awesome things can be so ludicrously opaque.

  3. Man, it makes me feel good reading this.

    BTW, someone figured back when he was the richest man in the world that Bill Gates must have incredible wisdom to share and asked him to do a monthly newspaper column. It was written pretty much like this rant; single sentence paragraphs indicating how out of touch he is. The column didn’t last long.

  4. Hilarious stuff. I’m still kind of surprised and saddened that things haven’t gotten a lot better with microsoft.com. Have you ever tried to search for a vaguely technical answer on it? Ugh.

  5. This smells like a hoax to me. It is remarkably un-technical and un-specific to be written by a guy who built a $51 billion dollar software company, and has been writing software for over 30 years.

    “I went to Microsoft.com. They have a download place so I went there.”

    Would the former CEO of Microsoft say that?

  6. @7 “and has been writing software for over 30 years.”

    I bet he doen’t touch the keybord to type a line of code since hsi fist million.

  7. @7 “and has been writing software for over 30 years.”

    I bet he dosen’t touch the keybord to type a line of code since hsi fist million dollars.

  8. I’m with Peter S. Conrad.

    Why would anyone refer to his own company as “they” and why would he refer to someone he names by first name only as “they?”

    Either Billy G is losing his grasp on English and his sense of possession, or this is a tragically flawed hack that no one noticed because they’re all too busy gleefully hating on MS. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.)

  9. “So they told me that using the download page to download something was not something they anticipated.”

    man, doesn’t Bill know? the download page is only for MS Office torrent trackers!!

  10. The guy has assburgers, so maybe an odd writing style is to be expected? It’s still funny even if it isn’t true.

  11. Hmmm. I doubt that the real BG would actually start that many sentences with, “So…”

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