The online search business is getting super-competitive. I just received an email from points.com telling me that I can earn frequent flyer points if I switch my online searching to Microsoft Live Search.

Sorry guys, Google is far superior to Microsoft Live Search, so I have no intention of switching to an inferior product just to earn frequent flyer points.

In any event, another condition of earning the points is that your browser has to be Microsoft's Internet Explorer. I use Firefox – and I have no intention of changing that either.

These days I use Microsoft products ONLY when there is no viable alternative (such as the XP OS on my PC).

Microsoft made me super-cranky in 2006 when they deleted more than 600 travel photographs from my MSN Groups site 'David's Asia Pix' which had taken me years to build up and caption. I never did find out why they did that.

I tried writing to Microsoft to find out what had happened to my photos, but there are no contact addresses for technical support on any of the MSN Groups sites.  Even when Microsoft sent me the notifications for the annual charges for storing these photos in MSN Groups, and I replied to those mails, all I got back was an automated response saying they were ‘unmanned’ addresses.

After several weeks of trying to hunt down an email address to report technical problems in MSN Groups, I eventually found a ‘feedback’ mail address to which I was able to send my email.  But lo and behold all I got back was another automated response saying my feedback “would be taken into consideration” but I wouldn’t get a personal reply.

So after wondering whether Microsoft was being staffed by robots, I tried sending emails to various corporate addresses that I found on other Microsoft sites, asking them to forward my query onto the relevant technical support department – but no responses and no replies.

At the end of the year I even resorted to sending a snail mail letter to Microsoft in Seattle, but that was nearly two years ago and I still haven't got a reply.

So I came to the conclusion that Microsoft must have grown into such a large monolithic organisation that it is no longer possible for ordinary human beings to have any contact with them. 

I put a lot of work into posting my photos and writing the captions, so to say that I was displeased with Microsoft is an understatement. I vowed never to buy another of their products if I could possibly avoid it.

But there is a silver lining to this story. My annoyance at not being able to get any reply from Microsoft prompted me to buy a Mac – and WOW, I never knew what a pleasure personal computing could be.  No crashes, no viruses, no blue screens and the software actually works ALL of the time.  So perhaps I should be thanking Microsoft for ignoring me because otherwise I would have never have known what life was like on the Apple side of the fence.

POSTSCRIPT: Out of curiosity I just checked my old MSN Groups (it's always been there minus the photos) and now I see there is a notice on the top of the page advising MSN Groups users that Microsoft will be closing down its MSN Groups sites in February 2009.

I clicked on the link that said 'Why is MSN Groups Closing?' and this is what you will see:

“Because we are dedicated to providing our customers with the most current and user friendly technology available today we made the difficult decision to close the MSN Groups service.nbsp; This decision is part of an overall investment to update and re-align our online services with Windows Live. In the long term we believe that closing the service is the best way to continue to offer innovative, best of breed services that help you stay in touch with the people you care about. We plan to launch a new Groups service this fall, but unlike MSN Groups, Windows Live Groups will focus on offering a place for small groups to collaborate. A service for small, medium and large groups is available now with our online partner Multiply.”

“Because we are dedicated to providing our customers with the most current and user friendly technology available today . . ."!!! Have you ever heard such garbage?

If Microsoft were truly “dedicated to providing its customers with user friendly technology", it would seamlessly transition its MSN Groups to the new platforms – not shut down a service that tens of thousands of people around the world have put millions of man-hours into developing.

Other web providers always make sure new services are backwards compatible – it's a golden rule if you don't want to alienate your customers.

I really think that Microsoft has lost the plot.

(I also wondered whether the 'nbsp' at the end of the first paragraph of Microsoft's explanation in italics above was really a non-breaking space HTML entity accidentally left in, or whether the writer was intending to say – as the Urban Dictionary defines the acronym 'nbsp' - “no bullshit please”)

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