Does Microsoft Deliberately Crash On Macs?

Spencer Critchley wrote:

Tell The Truth Pt 2: Microsoft Deliberately Crashes On Macs by Spencer Critchley – Wow! Big response to my post, made with tongue only partly in cheek, accusing Microsoft of designing Office apps to crash on Macs. More on my experience as a crash test dummy, plus other perspectives.

I remember back in the days of the Mac Plus. It was during a snack break at one of the very first MacApp courses offered by Apple. An Apple engineer (who I won’t name here) explained something to us then that has always stuck in my mind. Before the days of protected memory ordinary users (not us tech types) saw crashes as a problem with “the computer”. Most people don’t know where to assign the blame when things go wrong. So the blame would lie with Apple.

We asked why Apple didn’t just use the supervisor mode on the (then 68000) processor. Apparently Apple planned even back then to move to protected mode and a larger address space but Microsoft engineers had noticed how Apple used unused bits in the resource handle addresses and they thought it would be neat to do the same trick. This caused all kinds of problems.

The big problem for Apple was that they could not change the addressing without breaking Microsoft apps (and others too). If this happened they feared that Apple would bear the blame. And sales of Word and Excel drove Mac sales back then so that Apple had to wait for Microsoft to stop using this “technique” before any kind of major memory model change could occur.

Meanwhile I noticed that while I was developing software everything would usually go pretty smoothly until I opened up Word. Almost without fail my system would crash badly after that. I tried using a RAM disk for a while to speed up compiles but whenever I opened Word it would corrupt my RAM disk and I’d lose changes to code.

Meanwhile 32-bit addressing was introduced as an “extension” that you could turn on and off. It was a few more years before it was turned on permanently. And it took switching processors and OS’s before we got to the point that we pretty much know for certain which software is crashing on our machines.

Although I’d never suggest that an engineer would deliberately introduce problems into software to harm end users. It seems pretty clear that Microsoft management has used issues like these, once they exist, to their advantage. Certainly if there is a perception that Office doesn’t work well on a Macintosh, this stops switchers, regardless of whether or not Office works any better on Windows. Engineers may be willing to take on fixing/improving Office on the Macintosh, but Microsoft management needs to make this an important priority.

Tags: 
opinion, operation

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