Date of publication (more or less): October 25, 1995
Copyright © by Michael Finley; all rights reserved.
It arises because of a conversation I had recently with a Mark Gisleson of St. Paul. Gisleson, who runs a resume service in the Midway, is a lifetime Macintosh user, and was a fan for many years of Microsoft Word for the Mac. He could perform formatting tricks with Word 5.1, he says, that amazed even the people at Microsoft.
So when Microsoft announced a year ago that the long-awaited, much-ballyhooed Version 6.0 of the Mac product was finally ready, Gisleson lined up for his copy, money in hand. One month later, a depleted Gisleson was being wheeled through the emergency room, suffering from a cardiac arrhythmia he has no doubt was brought on by Mac Word 6.0.
"In my business I have to turn product around quickly," he says. "When people need a resume updated, they need it yesterday."
"With Word 5.1, it was no problem. I was fast and creative. But with the new version, you couldn't do things you could do before. The typeahead buffer would overflow, so stuff you typed would never make it onto the document -- very discouraging for a speedy typist.
"The program crashed up to 10 times a day, and worst of all, would take as long as 8 minutes to boot back up. The program really punished you if you use a lot of fonts, which I have to, because of my business."
At first Gisleson figured he was the problem, and worked harder to speed up his learning curve. It looked like he'd lost his touch. Clients were piling up in his waiting room, and he wasn't dazzling anyone with his assortment of formatting frustrations, crashes and Chinese water-torture boot-ups.
He was working 16-hour days trying to finish jobs, and turning customers away. His income plunged while his expenses and time at the office soared; not a good pattern.
Every couple of days he would call Microsoft on his own dime, and wait in the phone queue, usually to be told that no one else was experiencing the problems he was reporting. They suggested reloading the program from scratch, which he did a dozen times, all 17 high-density disks worth.
Finally he decided to take the big hit, and laid out $2,200 for a new PowerMac. Even with 16 megs of RAM and the speed and power of the RISC chip, however, Mac Word 6.0 continued to misbehave
That was when his health started to slip. "I developed a nasty twitch in my facial muscles. I felt awful and I looked awful. My doctor took one look at me and called an ambulance. I had developed a cardiac arrhythmia, something I had never had before, and no one in my family ever had."
And something that went away, along with his facial tics, as soon as he stripped Mac Word 6.0 from his hard drive and returned to his beloved Version 5.1a.
"But it still ticks me off that Microsoft never conceded the program was a kludge. On the phone, they always reassured me that no one else was complaining. It wasn't until I checked into the Microsoft folders on America Online and read the hundreds of scathing complaints there about Word 6.0 that I realized Microsoft was in siege mode, treating this as a public relations, not a technology problem."
The worst part, he says, was the sense that Microsoft thought its customers were fools. He says their tech support questions all were designed to deflect blame back onto the user. More sinisterly, he believes Microsoft has shills on the online support forums, posing as neutral parties and assuring other posters that the programs run fine on their systems.
On America Online's Microsoft folders, including Gisleson's own Microsoft Disinfomation folder, there are signs of a trust botched between Microsoft and its Mac customers. "The consensus is that Microsoft wanted to bring its Windows and Apple versions together, so they tried to port the code from Word for Windows 6.0. It was a disaster, and the company has gone to great lengths to deny it."
Gisleson concedes that the complaints, including his own, get pretty whiny. But criminy, he says, the software dang near killed him. It's too late for apologies for him -- he has vowed to savage Microsoft every chance he gets. Like the shark in Jaws 4 who crossed an ocean to kill the wife of the policeman that killed her mate, it's personal now. "They played us for suckers, and they got away with it."
Microsoft, asked for its view on l'affaire Gisleson, elected not to comment.
The good news, Gisleson said, is that the Internet and other online forums keep the big companies from putting the big lie over on us. We can compare notes on the net and see that tons of people are having these problems, contrary to the the companies' blame-the-user message.
A year after locking horns with Microsoft, Gisleson is a happier person. His health is back, and he's hoping to wring a few more months of use out of his old Word 5.1a before it becomes completely obsolete. A lot of dedicated Mac Word users are doing the unthinkable these days -- switching to the reviled Mac WordPerfect.
But he's still one mad guy. "I'm angry because Microsoft took a product they knew was unfinished, and poorly thought out, dumped it on the market, then blamed its customers when the defects became apparent."
How bad is it? "Microsoft has replaced IBM as the company Mac users hate most."
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I enjoyed serving this essay up for you, and I did it for free. But I am a few clients lighter right now than I need to be, and a bit of revenue never hurts. If you'd like to contribute to this site, consider dropping a $1 tip in the "Honor Box" here. Think of it as a voluntary subscription. Just click the CLICK TO PAY image here. Thanks! - Mike
Total tips, year
to date: $203.00 - MANY THANKS!