Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Gates and Ballmer employee webcast meeting today

An important memo went out to all of the Microsofties today. It was the combination of many VPs input about where this company is and what the future looks like. It was a good memo and I agree with a good bit of it. During the afternoon, Gates and Ballmer held an employee meeting in our conference center that I watched via an internal webcast. Man, they are saying a lot of good things that I agree with, but the future is still pretty murky. Now is a time of great change at Microsoft. We’re bloated. We’re a monopolistic aircraft carrier careening through the corporate waters of the world. We’ve pretty much won the feature battles and now our main competition is older versions of our own software (you know, that’s just plain odd). Ballmer and Gates laid down some of their priorities looking to the future. Ballmer said he’s more optimistic about this company than ever. And our recent benefits cut-backs actually dove-tails with his optimism (that landed like a lead-balloon). Anyway, he emphasized that Microsoft has to Grow, Evolve, and Change. Hopefully Grow as in grow into new markets vs. hire folks, because damn we’re too big already. Mini-MSFT: We’re at a strange corporate moment: due to our omnipresence in all things software, we have a super high profile. How can you be loved and respected by your customers and users? You’re not the underdog. You’re the lumbering bad-ass top dog, and these wonderful folks, whether they want to or not, get to use your software during the day and when they come home to surf the web. Perhaps even when they play video games, perhaps even when they are tuning their cable or satellite box. Every flaw ripples out to a chaotic echo chamber of grumbles. Every script-kiddie wants to take you down, and thanks to relying on trusting users opening just about any attachment sent their way, it’s not too hard to propagate infections. We’re a successful company encumbered with billions of dollars. We’re on a Trustworthy-Computing Trail of Tears. Anyway, back to Ballmer and Gates: Ballmer pointed out that we have a big source of money disappearing in FY05. That’s a-gonna make things rough. We’re trying to cut back expenses first of all. (Lots of folks who had it easy and that were enjoying weekly shrimp parties are going to have to start eating cold weenies.) Beyond the corporate buzz-word rah-rah (Excellence! Accountability! Satisfaction!) there were a few other interesting highlights:

  • Incubation will continue (grr): short term losses will be tolerated given consideration of future profits. (I think that’s crazy – make them people starting bring in some cash or close them down.)
  • Linux security vs. Windows security: sure, they have more security problems that are less high-profile: it will take time for perception of Windows being wildly insecure in comparison to turn.
  • Free sodas will remain! Ya! Though we might get soda dispensers instead of cans. Boo!
  • Good question about what we’re doing for employee career development really didn’t get answered. So this is where the leadership is indicating how incredibly important that employees grow but then sort of pat you on your back and say, "And good luck with that!"
  • What markets can we grow into? Gates didn’t really answer that, though he’d be happy if Office grew by 10% (hell, as a stock-holder, so would I). Well, they did call out some markets we’re targeting. But, kind of like the Seattle Weekly criticism of Microsoft, their only targeting it seems markets where we can earn thousands-of-millions of dollars vs. good ole millions. They almost poo-poo’d eBay’s $200,000,000 operating profit. Sugar, I’d line my pocket with $200 million any-damn-time. It’s like we want to get up there and swing for a home-run every time.
I’ll be interested in seeing where today’s expressed vision goes, plus what happens with it between now and the upcoming Company Meeting. Mini-Microsoft, Mini-Microsoft, lean-and-mean!

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