I stumbled across a couple of interesting stock performance graphs. First, a corporation that has recently done very well in the stock market: Apple Inc.. As you’ll see on the graph if you follow the link, the last two years have shown runaway stock value growth.
Second, a corporation that has had some problems in the stock market: Microsoft Corporation. This is by far the most interesting to me. The Apple stock shows fairly predictable use, considering the booming market for iPods, iTunes, and all things related, as well as the growing confidence among IT professionals in the MacOS X operating system (a huge improvement over MacOS “classic” in terms of technical quality, thanks to the re-engineering of the OS from the ground up). Not as many people would have been able to guess at the performance over time of Microsoft, however.
What I see on the Microsoft graph is the following:
- accelerating growth from the release of Windows 98, with sharp climbs around the releases of 98SE and 2000 — the former of which was huge with home users and the latter of which bombed with them (because it was “too complicated” and had some early hardware support issues), but did exceedingly well in business environments
- a precipitous drop around the release of ME — which enjoyed early sales success with home users (less secure, and thus less “complicated”, interface) but never made headway in business use, and severely tarnished Microsoft’s image because it was such an unmitigated failure in the public relations arena thanks to its technically abominable design
- a series of peaks and valleys, well below the level of Microsoft’s halcyon days of 98SE and 2k but at least not plummeting as it did during the ME fiasco, that gradually averaged and evened out, marking the introduction and lengthy tenure of Windows XP (and not even Windows Server 2003 really churned the sea a little)
- a shake-up — a notable, if not huge, valley in the previously calm waters of Microsoft stock, in fact — in mid-2006, around the time everyone started really believing that a new Microsoft OS was on the horizon, which would coincide with a stock trader’s likely belief that an impending next version would hurt sales of the current version for a while
- modest growth up through January 2007, at the end of which Vista would be released, in anticipation of the much-hyped rise in Microsoft sales the corporation was predicting with the new OS release
- a small, but marked, drop in value coinciding with the final days of Vista anticipation and the dismal early public reception to Vista in February thus far
I think what I’m seeing with that last bit is the result of a number of things. For instance, IT industry pundits and consumer reporting sources are beginning at last to judge new Windows releases according to how they stack up against other OSes, which leads to harsher, less fanboyish reviews. While Microsoft still easily holds the high ground in the battle for market share in its niche, by a stunningly wide margin, it is losing mind share like — well, like some people are throwing away their Microsoft stock. Another example of what I think is creating the current trend is the simple fact that Microsoft has become old hat, and is having a lot of trouble exciting people these days, in large part because Microsoft is doing the same things over and over again.
Compare the marketing propaganda offered by Microsoft for Vista with that for XP: most convenient OS ever, most secure OS ever, most stable OS ever, most technically advanced OS ever. Also compare the truths behind that propaganda: XP suffered a slew of new vulnerabilities immediately after release, and Microsoft’s record (especially in light of its supposed commitment to security in recent years) only leads people to expect the same from Vista; far from being stable and bug-free, both XP and Vista were announced within days of release to have service packs on the way to solve problems; Vista is the result of throwing away basically all of the exciting features of the Longhorn project while XP was the result of a hurry-up job to get something out the door, to arrest the failures of ME.
The major difference in the way the propaganda contrasted with reality is that XP really was one of the easiest and most convenient Microsoft OSes for the end user until the release of SP2 and the subsequent WGA disaster — while Vista is quickly being shown to be a problem child, with driver support and software support issues (repeating the mistakes surrounding the release of 2k), impending doom related to the pervasive and accusatory DRM behavior, widespread installation problems, and a rapacious resource-devouring new eye-candy UI that makes high-end game machines perform like dogs on a blazing hot afternoon.
I fully expect that Microsoft will fix enough of this stuff sufficiently to achieve roughly the same technical effect as XP in the long run, but it’s in for some rocky times for a while until that gets settled. Public perceptions and stock market performance, however, may never really recover. Only time will tell.
As for the Spam Catch of the Day, I got this joke in my comment spam at SOB today (with no editing):
A man and a woman were sitting beside each other in the first class section of an airplane. The woman sneezed, took out a tissue, gently wiped her nose, then visibly shuddered for ten to fifteen seconds.
The man went back to his reading. A few minutes later, the woman sneezed again, took a tissue, wiped her nose, then shuddered violently once more. Assuming that the woman might have a cold, the man was still curious about the shuddering. A few more minutes passed when the woman sneezed yet again. As before she took a tissue, wiped her nose, her body shaking even more than before. Unable to restrain his curiosity, the man turned to the woman and said, “I couldn’t help but notice that you’ve sneezed three times, wiped your nose and then shuddered violently. Are you ok?”
“I am sorry if I disturbed you, I have a very rare medical condition; whenever I sneeze I have an orgasm.”
The man, more than a bit embarrassed, was still curious. “I have never heard of that condition before” he said. “Are you taking anything for it?”
The woman nodded, ” yes….. Pepper.”
An even better piece of spam, however, was this one:
At one time in my life, I thought I understood the meaning of the word “service.”
The act of doing things for other people.
Then I heard the terms: Internal Revenue Service Postal Service Civil Service Service Stations Customer Service City/County Public Service
And I became confused about the word “service.” This is not what I thought “service” meant.
Then one day, I overheard two farmers talking, and one of them mentioned that he was having a bull service a few of his cows.
WHAM!! It all came into perspective! Now I understand what all those “service” agencies are doing to us.
It’s tough to argue with logic like that. I guess that must have come from an SEO service. In fact, their service is so thorough and complete that I got three copies of that message. (I also got three copies of one about soap, panties, and toilet paper, but it’s really not worth recounting here.)