Tales of Incompetence: Microsoft

Yes, it’s time again for Tales of Incompetence, wherein I, your humble host, rant intemperately about some corporate stupidity that should never have been visited upon me.

I have previously ranted about UPS and Hertz. Today, I turn my own personal Eye of Sauron upon the benighted souls at Microsoft.

The other day, I tweeted thusly:

Evidently, words rallied, and here we are.

My wife recently upgraded her laptop to a brand-new 13-inch MacBook Air. When migrating her files over from her old laptop, she of course included the copy of Microsoft Office she had bought and paid for years ago.

However, Office wouldn’t work on the new machine. It demanded a product key. She dutifully scrounged around for her original Office packaging and entered the product key. In fact, her Office package included three product keys so that Office could be used on three different computers. She tried every single one of them — multiple times — and none of them worked. It’s not as though she had gone over her allotment of product activations; she had three keys and two computers. And the only thing Office would tell her is “This is not a valid product key.”

Well, it clearly was, but Office didn’t know it. She tweeted at Microsoft for some guidance and heard nothing back. So she shrugged and decided to buy Office anew. After all, her old version was quite old. Why not upgrade to the latest and greatest along with the new laptop?

Me? Well, I’m tech support in our family, but I had no idea what to do about the snafu. I’ve been Microsoft-free for a decade. I offered to poke around online and see if I could fix the problem, but she just went ahead and bought the new version of Office.

It’s 2015, so of course we no longer install software with something as prosaic as an optical disc. Instead, at the local Apple Store, she bought a smallish box that contained a slim instruction fold-out and a card with a product key. The box was probably twice or three times as large as it needs to be, so lets add environmental waste to the list of Microsoft’s sins.1

I volunteered to install Office for her, and that’s where the fun began.

The Getting Started card in the box told me to go to “www.officeformac.com/download” to begin the process.

Meanwhile, the card with the product key on it told me to go to “www.office.com/mac-download.”

Le sigh.

Now, if you’re even remotely Internet-savvy, you probably assume that these two URLs resolve to the same page. And they probably do. But how difficult is it to have two pieces of paper in the same package contain the same information? Not an auspicious start, Microsoft.

I closed my eyes and picked one, then began the process of downloading the–

No. Not quite.

See, it’s not enough that my wife paid cash money for a little card with a product key on it. No. Before Microsoft would let her download the software she had paid for, she first had to set up a Microsoft account.

What’s a Microsoft account, you ask? Great question. Answer: Who the hell cares? She’s writing a novel in Word, not connecting to a Microsoft cloud service. She has no need for a Microsoft account. No need at all. But Microsoft won’t let her download the software she’s already paid for until she creates one.

In order to create said account, Microsoft requires her email address, her full name (???), her birthday (allegedly to “make certain” she uses age-appropriate software — I was unaware Microsoft produced porn2), and a blood sample. I’m kidding, of course, about that last bit.

Why, Microsoft? Why does she need to tell you this information? You sold her a unique product key, so it’s not for security/anti-theft purposes. And she has no desire to use any of your cloud services, and said services are not mandatory, so it’s not for that. No, I imagine that somewhere in the bowels of your Redmond HQ, a tallyboard increments with every new Microsoft account and some VP’s bonus depends on that number going up, even if the accounts lie fallow and unused. And thus, the absurd requirement.

So, the software downloaded–

Or…wait. Did it?

I checked her Downloads folder and didn’t see a .dmg file. Or, rather, I saw a few of them,3 but none that were from Microsoft. Or even from that day.

I was puzzled, to say the least. But I’m a ninja, so I poked around and I realized that one of the .dmg files had been downloaded mere moments ago, even though for some reason it said that it had last been modified on April 24, 2014.

That file was named “X19-49597.dmg,” which meant it couldn’t possibly have anything to do with oh, look, I opened it and it’s the Office installer.

For real, Microsoft? For f**king real? What in the name of Bill Gates’s ball-sac are you thinking? For the love of Odin, why on earth would you name that installer anything not “Microsoft,” “Office,” “Install,” “Software,” or some combination of those words?

I mean, I just can’t process this. I can’t comprehend it at all on any sort of human level. What in the world possesses a company to name the installer for its product with a meaningless alphanumeric string? Even Adobe, the poster child for bad installer experiences, has the decency, the foresight, and the good sense to name its installer “AdobeFlashPlayer_18_a_install.dmg.”

Anyway, I proceeded without further annoyance, and my wife is now running a nice, clean, fresh install of Microsoft Office. May [insert the divine being of your choice here] have mercy on her soul.



  1. Truthfully, all of the necessary information in the box could have been printed on a single sheet of cardboard no larger or thicker than a modestly priced greeting card.
  2. What on earth would that be like? I shudder to imagine it.
  3. Honey, if you’re reading this footnote, your tech support guy is here to tell you that you should delete those .dmg files once you install the software on them.

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