“I am quite disappointed to see how the usability of Windows has been reduced“. This is how Bill Gates began an e-mail sent on January 15, 2003 to Jim Allchin, vice president of Microsoft’s Platforms Division, and with a copy to several other executives of the company.
Gates was not speaking in the abstract or from hearsay, but from recent, first-hand experience:
“Allow me to tell you about my experience yesterday”…
The adventures and misadventures of Gates
“I decided to download Moviemaker and buy the Digital Plus package, so I went to Microsoft.com. They have a download space, so I went there.”
Gates goes on to tell how the first five times he tried to access the web to download the famous (and abandoned) basic video-editing application “it timed out trying to open the download page.” to the sixth (and after eight extra seconds of waiting) it was the charm and managed to access the web.
But he realized that “this website is so slow it’s unusable”. And after discovering that what he was looking for was not in the first 5 downloads, he had to consult the other 45.
“These 45 names are totally confusing. They make things like ‘C:\Documents and Settings\billg\My Documents\My images’ seem intelligible. And they are not filtered according to the system [operativo] where I am.”
Gates continues recounting his misadventures to Microsoft executives, noting that it didn’t even help him to try to narrow down the results by category (‘Media’) or by term:
“I wrote moviemaker. Nothing. I wrote movie maker. Nothing.”
“So I Gave Up”continues explaining Gates, who chose to send an email to Amir Majidimehr, head of the company’s Digital Media Division.
“I said ‘where is this Moviemaker download? Does it exist?’ Then they told me that using the download page to download something wasn’t something they saw coming.
“I was told to go to the search button on the home page and type ‘movie maker’ (not ‘moviemaker’!).”
Yeah, Gates seemed to be convinced that the correct name of the program at hand was ‘Moviemaker’, all together. And she was wrong.
That’s what Gates did. And he experienced again the slowness of his web. And just when he thought I was about to see the download button…
“[Me encontré con algo que es] like a puzzle you have to solve. He told me to go to Windows Update and do a bunch of incantations.”
“This seemed completely bizarre to me. Why should I have to go somewhere else and do a scan to download Moviemaker?”
Isn’t it satisfying to discover, two decades later, that the head of Microsoft was asking exactly the same questions as his users?
“What do you think I do all day? Sending emails like this”
Long story short: Gates complied and went to Windows Update: “Windows Update decides I need to download a bunch of drivers. Not once, but multiple times. […] Then I did the scan. This took a long time and they told me that it was critical that he downloaded 17 megabytes of stuff […] labeled in the most HORRIBLE way possible.”
“So I downloaded it. That part was quick. Then I wanted to do an install. This took 6 minutes and the machine was so slow that I couldn’t use it for anything else during that time. What the hell is going on on the PC during those 6 minutes? That’s crazy.”
Wait, with what comes now you are going to applaud:
“Then it told me to reboot my machine. Why should I? I reboot every night, why should I reboot at that time? So I just rebooted it because it insisted on me.”
you see? What I was saying.
“So I went back to Microsoft.com and looked at the instructions. I have to click on a folder called WindowsXP. Why do I have to do that? Windows Update knows that I have Windows XP. It shows up a bunch of confusing things, but one of them it’s Moviemaker. So I download. The download is fast, but the installation takes many minutes. It’s unbelievable how slow it is.”
At that moment, a window tells you that you have to download Windows Media Series 9 as well. “I do. The instructions don’t tell me what to do. I have no idea what to do.” Finally, she manages to download and install it:
“So now I think I’m going to have Moviemaker. I’m going to my add/remove programs place to make sure it’s there. It’s not.”
“What’s up? The following garbage list: Microsoft Autoupdate Exclusive test package, Microsoft Autoupdate Reboot test package, Microsoft Autoupdate testpackage1, Microsoft AUtoupdate testpackage2, Microsoft Autoupdate Test package3.”
Well, that particular list never appeared for me when I was using Windows XP, so I don’t know if he is speaking rhetorically there or not. She wouldn’t rule anything out. But pay attention, this is not over:
“Someone decided to trash the only part of Windows that was usable? The file system is no longer usable. The registry is not usable. This list of programs used to be a sane place, but now it’s all screwed up. But that’s it.” just the beginning of the shit. In the list there are things like ‘Windows XP Hotfix see Q329048 for more information’. What is ‘Q329048’? […] What a mess. And Moviemaker still doesn’t show up anywhere. So I give up Moviemaker and decide to download the Digital Plus package.”
that’s when a form appears for you to enter “a bunch of personal information”. He inputs everything, the web decides that he has written something wrong and encourages him to try again. “Of course, he has erased most of what I’ve written.” and so five times.
“So after over an hour of madness and making my PUP list and being scared and seeing that Microsoft.com is a terrible website… I haven’t run Moviemaker and I don’t have the Plus package.”
“The lack of attention to usability that these experiences represent blows my mind. I thought we had hit rock bottom with Windows Network Places or the messages I get when I try to use 802.11 (don’t you love that root certificate message?)” .
“When I use it for real, I’m sure I’ll have more opinions on it.”
Five years later, when this e-mail had already come to light, Gates declared in an interview “What do you think I do all day? Send emails like that, that’s my job. That’s what it’s all about. We’re here to make things better.”
Image | Created by Marcos Merino using AI (Mage.space)
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