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Margaret Heffernan Headshot

Why Does Microsoft Hate Its Customers?

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To some of you, that equation might be meaningless. To the more scientific among you, it's simple: it describes the store of elastic energy. And, in the scientific community, that energy -- now rage -- is about to snap.

If you wanted to put that equation into your work, you'd do it using the Equation Editor in Microsoft Word, which is the standard word processing software that scientists use. (In this regard, at least, scientists are just like the rest of us.) That's the form in which their research articles go to all the major scientific publications like Science and Nature. It was all pretty straightforward until some genius at Microsoft decided to change it in Word 2007.

Now, if you use send in your articles with equations, they turn, miraculously, into unreadable graphics - so Science and Nature can't print them. Yes, Microsoft has done it again: turned a perfectly decent piece of software on which a whole community depended into something that doesn't work for anyone. It's a classic example -- if we needed more -- of a company not listening to, not even thinking about, its customers. Instead of attacking competitors like Google, it might be a lot smarter if they diverted some of their brilliance to paying customers.

Bill Gates isn't going to eradicate malaria; scientists are. Sure, they need money. But first they need software that works.