sexta-feira, 25 de setembro de 1998

Opening the gates of Mr. Gates

Rio de Janeiro,  May 10th, 1998

To:    Microsoft
Att.: Mr. William Gates

Dear Mr. Gates or, most  probably, Mr. Support:

         First, let me introduce myself: I am an economic analyst, 40 years old, married with two kids, and ....  a devoted user of Lotus 123. As a Brazilian citizen, English is my second language, so I apologize for some mistakes in my phrasing that may occur although I believe they will not lead to misinterpretation on what I have to say.
         I work for the international branch of a Brazilian petroleum company. While our mother company insisted on using the Main Frame approach, we, small as we were, began to use the desktop approach by mid 1982. I began to use Lotus in 1986. When our mother company finally began to open its eyes and decided to start using microcomputers by the end of the 80´s, they decided to take a ride on the leading train at that time, the famous Microsoft Office.
         That’s right, I belong to the old generation of spreadsheet users, those who didn’t have a mouse to "facilitate" their navigation along the spreadsheet. I had to learn and memorize some commands activated by the magic “ / ” (slash). However, I am very proud of having gone through this era and this fact made me very fast at implementing my job. Even when the good old DOS Lotus was buried by the appearance of the Windows version, I could not stop using the slash commands, although I assimilated some of the advantages of using a mouse as well. I´m sure I made an optimized mix of both techniques.
         With the integration of the work with our mother company, 3 or 4 years ago, I had to seriously consider migrating my work to Excel. How could David beat Goliath, at the end? I knew I belonged to the 10% slice of the spreadsheet users, those romantic users of Lotus, while the other 90% were happy users of Excel, showing smiles from ear to ear. Every single colleague who eventually came to know my preferences would express his amazement and say: "Lotus whaaaaattt???!!!!". However, by spending a few minutes by my side, observing the speed with which I carried out my tasks, they would immediately turn their surprise into acceptance.
         But, after several internal battles (inside me!), I said:
         "OK, YOU WON!!!  I will try it, at least!"
         However, I put only one restriction: I would accept the migration if, and only if, I could be at least as fast in Excel as I was in Lotus, for I could not admit losing efficiency!
         Then, I patiently began to try to use Excel. And I immediately realized that I had a long way to go!
         When someone (Microsoft) has a firm intention of improving a winner’s product  (Lotus), it has to begin with an exact copy of this product and then to modify that copy by introducing the required improvements. That definitely did not happen in the Lotus-to-Excel transformation. Your developers indeed managed to introduce some amazing facilities, mainly in graphics, and with the integration with the gorgeous Visual Basic, and an improved Macro Management. And I do know from friends that there are several other improvements that are beyond my Jurassic Lotus-oriented imagination. Otherwise, Excel would not have turned into this magnificent worldwide success. But, I can say, you certainly forgot to keep the base that worked so well in Lotus.
         I have prepared a list of features of Excel that are, in my modest opinion, a real pain in the ass, preventing me from definitely migrate to this splendid application. Some of them are clear faults of Excel, and it would be advisable to correct them in future versions. Others are mere complaints of an Educated-Lotus-User-Trying-To-Smoothly-Migrate-To-Excel that cannot understand why the Excel developers thought that way, instead of keeping the good old Lotus-Way-Of-Spreadsheeting.
         Are you interested in reading this kind of stuff? In positive case, have fun! The features are not ranked by level of importance or level of annoyance. In the middle of the list, you might find a very important one that should consist a clear need for change in Excel, after having gone through some others of minor importance.
         Please take my words as a contribution to the development of Excel! I´m just trying to get some help from you to join the winning team, without losing a single piece of my efficiency.
Homero Ventura