October 27, 2005 4:00 AM PDT

Microsoft's 'big bang' could be its last

When Microsoft releases its SQL Server 2005 database on Nov. 7, it will have been five years since the last version debuted. If Windows Vista arrives as scheduled next fall, it too will follow its predecessor by five years.

That's a pretty long time to make customers wait for a new release. Too long, concedes Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer.

"We just can't make our customers wait three or four years for the things which should have been on more interim cycles," he said at last week's Gartner Symposium/IT Expo in Orlando.

Although many Microsoft products have grown long in the tooth, the company is headed into a cycle that will see a flurry of big releases over the next year and a half. In addition to the new SQL Server, Microsoft is launching a revamp of its Visual Studio developer tools on Nov. 7. Next year will bring new major releases for both of Microsoft's core franchises: Office and Windows.

The company has been touting its coming attractions and is likely to do so further during its earnings report on Thursday. Microsoft is "at the beginning of 12 months of the greatest innovation pipeline we have ever had," Ballmer said.

However, the coming splash of new products could be the last such "big bang" for Microsoft. Many expect the company to offer more measured, but more frequent releases in the coming years.

"I think they have to do this," said Paul DeGroot, an analyst with Directions on Microsoft. "With things like Windows Client, we are now looking at least a five-year product cycle. Man, a lot of stuff has happened in five years."

Ballmer last week outlined a path in which the company tries to make both big and small releases simultaneously, as well as deliver more frequent updates. While he didn't say so explicitly, online services loom as a distinct possibility for the most rapid innovations.

"The key is to make sure that for every line of business, we have the things that pop every six or nine months, pop every couple of years, pop longer than that," Ballmer said.

The company has tried to get more frequent with its server operating system launches. Windows Server 2003 debuted about two years ago, and a fairly modest, but paid, upgrade known as Windows Server 2003 R2 is due by year's end. The next major release, still known by its Longhorn Server code name, is slated for 2007.

Smaller bites
Microsoft has also done more consistent, incremental releases with its Dynamics small-business products, such as Great Plains and Navision. DeGroot sees Microsoft's approach with those products, which Microsoft bought from other companies, as a model.

"I would expect that the company will try to train the market to accept this notion of major and minor releases," he said. "If Microsoft takes smaller bites and makes sure that stuff gets delivered in time with a known feature set--that would be very useful."

The challenge, DeGroot said, is there must be enough new features to make the minor releases compelling. At the same time, if changes come more rapidly, they have to be digestible enough that the costs of training and supporting the new software don't outweigh the benefits.

That so-called "legacy" problem has bedeviled Microsoft for years. Regardless of how frequently the company upgrades its products, it still faces the challenge of encouraging customers to move at all. Even with its comparatively slow pace in recent years, many customers have been slower still to upgrade, with generations-old programs

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slow and methodical......
they win every time... stack the chips on these horses... I just cant wait until dos grows up... ;-)
Posted by (187 comments )
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slow and methodical......
they win every time... stack the chips on these horses... I just cant wait until dos grows up... ;-)
Posted by (187 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Lateral development was key, but never exploited
Microsoft and other software firms seems to have consistently failed to realize why consumers USED TO buy new releases of software.

Yes, it was about features being added, but "new features" as such, it seems reasonable to postulate, represented something more for the end user individuals and companies.

In the days when "new features" prompted buying a new release of a software package, the new features often extended this or that capability more deeply, perfecting more and more the ability of the software to meet a specific need that a company wanted to fulfill.

Microsoft's software up to Office 97 was built this way, with features like the spell and grammar checkers evolving, becoming more seamlessly useful and intelligent. And then these and other features, rather than evolving to ever deeper levels of operative value, simply sat still. So the grammar checking isn't much improved, and voice recognition, which by now should allow perfect transcribing of even recorded lectures, isnt going anywhere fast.

My sense is that when MS decided to do .Not (oh, sorry, .Net) web services to drive perpetual pay rentalware "subscription" computing (which they are still struggling to get out the gate), the firm realized that its complexly featured deep functionality approach was unsuited to over-the-web program control, which implies light and fairly simple functionality, to maximize evident app speed. So MS was more or less hoist by its own petar here, having to all but abandoned depth for the promise of "renewable revenue." In so doing, they stripped their product roll-outs of apps with the rich and deep new features needed to inspire rebuys of software, because comples depth isn't suited to apps that are constrained by Internet bandwidth.

Never mind that, though, as all MS has to do in a few years is note that XP is a "legacy" product and discontinue Activation, so that reinstalls after Windiws crashes cannot be done (ditto for older office releases). That will restore the need of the market to repurchase subscription Windows and subscription Office fast enough to revive profits. Yes, it is a long-term investment, but innovation along these lines does take time.
Posted by PolarUpgrade (103 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Lateral development was key, but never exploited
Microsoft and other software firms seems to have consistently failed to realize why consumers USED TO buy new releases of software.

Yes, it was about features being added, but "new features" as such, it seems reasonable to postulate, represented something more for the end user individuals and companies.

In the days when "new features" prompted buying a new release of a software package, the new features often extended this or that capability more deeply, perfecting more and more the ability of the software to meet a specific need that a company wanted to fulfill.

Microsoft's software up to Office 97 was built this way, with features like the spell and grammar checkers evolving, becoming more seamlessly useful and intelligent. And then these and other features, rather than evolving to ever deeper levels of operative value, simply sat still. So the grammar checking isn't much improved, and voice recognition, which by now should allow perfect transcribing of even recorded lectures, isnt going anywhere fast.

My sense is that when MS decided to do .Not (oh, sorry, .Net) web services to drive perpetual pay rentalware "subscription" computing (which they are still struggling to get out the gate), the firm realized that its complexly featured deep functionality approach was unsuited to over-the-web program control, which implies light and fairly simple functionality, to maximize evident app speed. So MS was more or less hoist by its own petar here, having to all but abandoned depth for the promise of "renewable revenue." In so doing, they stripped their product roll-outs of apps with the rich and deep new features needed to inspire rebuys of software, because comples depth isn't suited to apps that are constrained by Internet bandwidth.

Never mind that, though, as all MS has to do in a few years is note that XP is a "legacy" product and discontinue Activation, so that reinstalls after Windiws crashes cannot be done (ditto for older office releases). That will restore the need of the market to repurchase subscription Windows and subscription Office fast enough to revive profits. Yes, it is a long-term investment, but innovation along these lines does take time.
Posted by PolarUpgrade (103 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I don't mind the wait
...as long as the product is at least stable. Too many software developers release software far too early (*cough*Electronic Arts*cough*) and the customers pay the price. I would much rather wait for a year or more for a product that doesn't require hundreds of megabytes worth of patches on the day it is released to the public (*cough*WindowsXP*cough*).
Too many Windows versions were useless. Win98SE was what Win95 SHOULD have been when it was released. But, Microsoft got all of the idiots to pay again and again for what they should have gotten in the first place. WinME was such a POS, it should never have seen the light of day. Win2K, though, was a nice update to WinNT4. That upgrade was worth the price of admission. When NT4 was developed, USB was not on the list of implementations. DirectX wasn't either. Although NT4 was stable, it lacked many things that the modern business needed. Those that needed that functionality were forced to use Win9x and, let me tell you, it sucked for network managers.
I personally think, at least in the business market (forget the wannabes that just have to be the first in line to get that new version of Windows!), that Microsoft has finally learned that businesses do not need perpetual updates. In fact, the time spent testing and rolling out new versions of Windows are prohibitively expensive. I have enjoyed the last few years of stable WinXP workstations and Win2K3 servers. The next round of OS releases is only going to cause me a headache.
Posted by thenet411 (415 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Couldn't agree more or less
I have no plans to roll out new versions of server or workstation around here. The fact is, they're stable and mature products. There's only so much that can be done with them. My only incentive to upgrade there is just to avoid the hours of instlling patches that comes with the territory. And as far is Office is concerned, we're using Office XP, but really, Office 97 could still do everything we need.

On the other hand, as soon as my Visual Studio 2005 DVD arrives, that will be the new office standard around here. That's the number one area where Microsoft leads the pack. The biggest dissapointment there is only that it's taken so long for Web and Windows development to get to this level. And I'll have Vista installed on my workstation sooner than later, mostly because it's my job to keep current with technology. But a company rollout? Not likely to happen.
Posted by NewWorldDan (15 comments )
Link Flag
Don't forget Apple
Every year OS X has had an update and every year, registered users were required to pay $129 for the update.
Posted by cptmcnair (66 comments )
Link Flag
I don't mind the wait
...as long as the product is at least stable. Too many software developers release software far too early (*cough*Electronic Arts*cough*) and the customers pay the price. I would much rather wait for a year or more for a product that doesn't require hundreds of megabytes worth of patches on the day it is released to the public (*cough*WindowsXP*cough*).
Too many Windows versions were useless. Win98SE was what Win95 SHOULD have been when it was released. But, Microsoft got all of the idiots to pay again and again for what they should have gotten in the first place. WinME was such a POS, it should never have seen the light of day. Win2K, though, was a nice update to WinNT4. That upgrade was worth the price of admission. When NT4 was developed, USB was not on the list of implementations. DirectX wasn't either. Although NT4 was stable, it lacked many things that the modern business needed. Those that needed that functionality were forced to use Win9x and, let me tell you, it sucked for network managers.
I personally think, at least in the business market (forget the wannabes that just have to be the first in line to get that new version of Windows!), that Microsoft has finally learned that businesses do not need perpetual updates. In fact, the time spent testing and rolling out new versions of Windows are prohibitively expensive. I have enjoyed the last few years of stable WinXP workstations and Win2K3 servers. The next round of OS releases is only going to cause me a headache.
Posted by thenet411 (415 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Couldn't agree more or less
I have no plans to roll out new versions of server or workstation around here. The fact is, they're stable and mature products. There's only so much that can be done with them. My only incentive to upgrade there is just to avoid the hours of instlling patches that comes with the territory. And as far is Office is concerned, we're using Office XP, but really, Office 97 could still do everything we need.

On the other hand, as soon as my Visual Studio 2005 DVD arrives, that will be the new office standard around here. That's the number one area where Microsoft leads the pack. The biggest dissapointment there is only that it's taken so long for Web and Windows development to get to this level. And I'll have Vista installed on my workstation sooner than later, mostly because it's my job to keep current with technology. But a company rollout? Not likely to happen.
Posted by NewWorldDan (15 comments )
Link Flag
Don't forget Apple
Every year OS X has had an update and every year, registered users were required to pay $129 for the update.
Posted by cptmcnair (66 comments )
Link Flag
Hey Ballmer, time to clean house
and get rid of the endless red tape! Why doesn't Microsoft ever invent something for once? Your competitors are making a fool out of you guys!
Posted by bobby_brady (765 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Hey Ballmer, time to clean house
and get rid of the endless red tape! Why doesn't Microsoft ever invent something for once? Your competitors are making a fool out of you guys!
Posted by bobby_brady (765 comments )
Reply Link Flag
"Next year will bring new
...major releases for both of Microsoft's core franchises: Office and Windows".!!! Think again! With Google, Sun Microsystems, IBM ( <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.lotus.com/products/product5.nsf/wdocs/workplacehome" target="_newWindow">http://www.lotus.com/products/product5.nsf/wdocs/workplacehome</a> ) among others in the StarOffice/OpenOffice/Linux corner and Oracle and SAP (Business One) also in the line up and bearing down on the "campus" at Redmond the anticipated "Microsoft's 'big bang' could be its last". From an historical standpoint it is indeed a wonder how it was that the world missed out on "COMFAR" (perhaps it was as a result of a marketing "poly" at Redmond) which was perhaps ahead of its time and which was available through the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO): <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.win2biz.com/comfar/eng/comfar.htm" target="_newWindow">http://www.win2biz.com/comfar/eng/comfar.htm</a>
Apart from the above was the Microsoft's dealings with IBM with regards to the OS/2 Operating System which in Microsoft's own words was destined to be a better Operating System than Windows. Added to these (from an earlier post) will be the whole question about Microsoft's plans for its server-based "Excel Services" abilities which will come as part of a future version of the company's SharePoint technology and its "relevance and ability to interoperate" with applications such as ones developed and offered by the Colorado School of Mines whose Division of Economics and Business offers a M.S. and Ph.D. in Mineral Economics and a M.S. in Engineering and Technology Management:

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.mines.edu/academic/econbus/gradcoursedescriptons.htm" target="_newWindow">http://www.mines.edu/academic/econbus/gradcoursedescriptons.htm</a>
Posted by Captain_Spock (894 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Are you on drugs???
Cool it guy. MS is not going anywhere. The companies you are talking about don't have enough cash combined as MS so relax.
Posted by FutureGuy (742 comments )
Link Flag
"Next year will bring new
...major releases for both of Microsoft's core franchises: Office and Windows".!!! Think again! With Google, Sun Microsystems, IBM ( <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.lotus.com/products/product5.nsf/wdocs/workplacehome" target="_newWindow">http://www.lotus.com/products/product5.nsf/wdocs/workplacehome</a> ) among others in the StarOffice/OpenOffice/Linux corner and Oracle and SAP (Business One) also in the line up and bearing down on the "campus" at Redmond the anticipated "Microsoft's 'big bang' could be its last". From an historical standpoint it is indeed a wonder how it was that the world missed out on "COMFAR" (perhaps it was as a result of a marketing "poly" at Redmond) which was perhaps ahead of its time and which was available through the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO): <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.win2biz.com/comfar/eng/comfar.htm" target="_newWindow">http://www.win2biz.com/comfar/eng/comfar.htm</a>
Apart from the above was the Microsoft's dealings with IBM with regards to the OS/2 Operating System which in Microsoft's own words was destined to be a better Operating System than Windows. Added to these (from an earlier post) will be the whole question about Microsoft's plans for its server-based "Excel Services" abilities which will come as part of a future version of the company's SharePoint technology and its "relevance and ability to interoperate" with applications such as ones developed and offered by the Colorado School of Mines whose Division of Economics and Business offers a M.S. and Ph.D. in Mineral Economics and a M.S. in Engineering and Technology Management:

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.mines.edu/academic/econbus/gradcoursedescriptons.htm" target="_newWindow">http://www.mines.edu/academic/econbus/gradcoursedescriptons.htm</a>
Posted by Captain_Spock (894 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Are you on drugs???
Cool it guy. MS is not going anywhere. The companies you are talking about don't have enough cash combined as MS so relax.
Posted by FutureGuy (742 comments )
Link Flag
M$ will be lucky indeed
If the release of Vista isn't their last gasp. By the time I can't use XP any longer due to vanishing support Linux willbe capable of handling all of my needs and Apple may even have an open OS. I, along with millions of others, will finally be M$ free! Subscription software? I don't think so.
Posted by Michael Grogan (308 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Apple? Open? bwhahahaha
Apple? Open? your kidding right? apple is king of closed systems.
Posted by capfan12 (101 comments )
Link Flag
Don't sweat it dude,
Sheldon says OS/2 will save us all! LMAO!!!
Posted by J_Satch (571 comments )
Link Flag
M$ will be lucky indeed
If the release of Vista isn't their last gasp. By the time I can't use XP any longer due to vanishing support Linux willbe capable of handling all of my needs and Apple may even have an open OS. I, along with millions of others, will finally be M$ free! Subscription software? I don't think so.
Posted by Michael Grogan (308 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Apple? Open? bwhahahaha
Apple? Open? your kidding right? apple is king of closed systems.
Posted by capfan12 (101 comments )
Link Flag
Don't sweat it dude,
Sheldon says OS/2 will save us all! LMAO!!!
Posted by J_Satch (571 comments )
Link Flag
I can wait
In my personal home computing use, I'm not going to rush in to purchasing Windows Vista. Since I use a screen reading software package JAWS for Windows, I'll examine where Freedom Scientific is in relation to Vista support. Thank you.

John O'Rourke
Posted by johnorourke1951 (4 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I can wait
In my personal home computing use, I'm not going to rush in to purchasing Windows Vista. Since I use a screen reading software package JAWS for Windows, I'll examine where Freedom Scientific is in relation to Vista support. Thank you.

John O'Rourke
Posted by johnorourke1951 (4 comments )
Reply Link Flag
5 years fine by me
The best thing for the commercial software industry, in my opinion, is to have a nice stable install base all using the same version of the OS. I'd much prefer less frequent OS updates so that we dont have to worry about maintaining our products on 8 different windows platforms. From my standpoint as a developer, if all my customers are on a single platform, then the added effort of supporting and testing other platforms can be applied to new development instead.
Posted by (402 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Considering Vista will have 7 versions.
Yeah, that's REEEEEEEEEAL platform wise. Money hungry chimps.
Posted by (461 comments )
Link Flag
5 years fine by me
The best thing for the commercial software industry, in my opinion, is to have a nice stable install base all using the same version of the OS. I'd much prefer less frequent OS updates so that we dont have to worry about maintaining our products on 8 different windows platforms. From my standpoint as a developer, if all my customers are on a single platform, then the added effort of supporting and testing other platforms can be applied to new development instead.
Posted by (402 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Considering Vista will have 7 versions.
Yeah, that's REEEEEEEEEAL platform wise. Money hungry chimps.
Posted by (461 comments )
Link Flag
Microsoft Big Bang
I think 5 years is fine, as long as Microsoft spends the time developing more stable and secure, software. I believe the real reason for the change is all about money. By rolling out products in a shorter timeframe, Microsoft can divide the features of the next OS and charge for each feature. The change will increase Microsoft's revenue, resulting in higher costs to the customer. Keep being inconsiderate to your costomers budget, Microsoft, you will only have yourself to blame when LINUX becomes dominate.
Posted by perfrog (10 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Agreed
I agree, Shortening the time will just drain the consumers pocket! With free linux running around, who is gonna pay microsoft? oh and don't forget about apple!!!! they are catching up in sales quickly! especcially with the release of their new "3 button" mouse :)
Posted by maniakmx3 (6 comments )
Link Flag
Microsoft Big Bang
I think 5 years is fine, as long as Microsoft spends the time developing more stable and secure, software. I believe the real reason for the change is all about money. By rolling out products in a shorter timeframe, Microsoft can divide the features of the next OS and charge for each feature. The change will increase Microsoft's revenue, resulting in higher costs to the customer. Keep being inconsiderate to your costomers budget, Microsoft, you will only have yourself to blame when LINUX becomes dominate.
Posted by perfrog (10 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Agreed
I agree, Shortening the time will just drain the consumers pocket! With free linux running around, who is gonna pay microsoft? oh and don't forget about apple!!!! they are catching up in sales quickly! especcially with the release of their new "3 button" mouse :)
Posted by maniakmx3 (6 comments )
Link Flag
5 Years sounds good to me!
even though 5 years does seem like a long time, but people like me who are skeptical of newer opertating systems like me like the 5 year cycle. Me personally I waited to upgrade to XP with the release of SP2. and I didn't upgrade to Windows2000 from 98SE until SP3. Operating systems are way too buggy on inital release and need time to have the kinks worked out of them. Such as security holes, compatability issues, etc. We as the consumer understand that it takes time to get an OS ready to go, as far as my stand point goes, XP has been around for 4 years, 2 Service Packs, and a load of updates for the big OS, Yet still every day we hear of more security holes and bugs in the OS! 4 years!!!! and it's still not patched up! Microsoft needs to think about this before shortening the time between their software products.
Posted by maniakmx3 (6 comments )
Reply Link Flag
5 Years sounds good to me!
even though 5 years does seem like a long time, but people like me who are skeptical of newer opertating systems like me like the 5 year cycle. Me personally I waited to upgrade to XP with the release of SP2. and I didn't upgrade to Windows2000 from 98SE until SP3. Operating systems are way too buggy on inital release and need time to have the kinks worked out of them. Such as security holes, compatability issues, etc. We as the consumer understand that it takes time to get an OS ready to go, as far as my stand point goes, XP has been around for 4 years, 2 Service Packs, and a load of updates for the big OS, Yet still every day we hear of more security holes and bugs in the OS! 4 years!!!! and it's still not patched up! Microsoft needs to think about this before shortening the time between their software products.
Posted by maniakmx3 (6 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Blah blah blah blah blah...
Get me a can of Red Bull, I'm falling asleep here.
Posted by Derek Malcolm (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Blah blah blah blah blah...
Get me a can of Red Bull, I'm falling asleep here.
Posted by Derek Malcolm (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Is The "Writing" On The Wall For MS$!!!
"IBM to use Google desktop search deep inside firms"... From CNET NEWS:

Which further reads: "No money is changing hands in this loose partnership by the world's biggest computer company and the leader in Web search.

But coming just weeks after a software and research pact by Google and Sun Microsystems, the IBM deal enlists yet another potential ally as Google increasingly faces off with rival Microsoft on PC desktops.

Prial downplayed any grand strategy in IBM's dealings with Google, but said it was part of a broader push IBM calls "information as a service," which the computer company plans to make more explicit over the coming months".

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://news.cbsi.com/IBM+to+use+Google+desktop+search+deep+inside+firms/2100-1047_3-5919335.html?tag=nefd.top" target="_newWindow">http://news.cbsi.com/IBM+to+use+Google+desktop+search+deep+inside+firms/2100-1047_3-5919335.html?tag=nefd.top</a>
Posted by Captain_Spock (894 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Is The "Writing" On The Wall For MS$!!!
"IBM to use Google desktop search deep inside firms"... From CNET NEWS:

Which further reads: "No money is changing hands in this loose partnership by the world's biggest computer company and the leader in Web search.

But coming just weeks after a software and research pact by Google and Sun Microsystems, the IBM deal enlists yet another potential ally as Google increasingly faces off with rival Microsoft on PC desktops.

Prial downplayed any grand strategy in IBM's dealings with Google, but said it was part of a broader push IBM calls "information as a service," which the computer company plans to make more explicit over the coming months".

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://news.cbsi.com/IBM+to+use+Google+desktop+search+deep+inside+firms/2100-1047_3-5919335.html?tag=nefd.top" target="_newWindow">http://news.cbsi.com/IBM+to+use+Google+desktop+search+deep+inside+firms/2100-1047_3-5919335.html?tag=nefd.top</a>
Posted by Captain_Spock (894 comments )
Reply Link Flag
When,...
Microsoft totally re-writes Windows to use a 'nix core and finally
cuts off all support for all the legacy crap, some DOS programs
still run under windows, then it will be worthy of CONSIDERING.
Until then...

I love all the 15 yr old myths about Apple, keep 'em coming, I
need the entertainment.

As for Windows being "king" I submit the following,

"Cockroaches outnumber humans by millions, but numbers
alone do not indicate a higher form life." ~ 'adapted from a
quote I read but can't recall exactly, and whose author I don't
remember.'
Posted by corelogik (680 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Oh wise idiot...
I half agree with the quote about the cockroaches. However, the ratio of cockroaches to humans is inconsequential. Why the numbers matter is because software companies will only make software for the platform with the most users. It makes the most sense. Sure, there are some apps that are Mac only, or may have started on the Mac, but the majority of apps work on Windows only or if there are Mac versions, they were ported. Macs are second class computers for that very reason.

As far as "myths", the visit to PARC by Jobs (as well as his reluctance to go in the first place) is well documented fact, moron.

And finally, the reason Windows still supports legacy applications is very good business sense. Do you think Microsoft would last ten seconds if they told their installed base of business users that their investment into custom applications in the DOS era are now totally obsolete and they have to invest all over again? No. Microsoft gave notice, though, when they went to XP. The 16-bit subsystem was completely removed and a simulation of that 16-bit subsystem is all that remains of it. BTW, the development of OS-X using a Unix kernel was based on dev time, not stability. the MacOS needed to be revamped and they knew it. Using Unix as a base made sense both from a point of stability and from a point of dev time. The same reason Win2000 and WinXP are based on the 32-bit NT core.
Posted by thenet411 (415 comments )
Link Flag
 

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