Sunday, September 25, 2005

Mini... Is That You?

I'm busy packing and organizing and trying to be efficient and lightweight about what I'll be huffin' down the long road with. I keep looking at the books about how to grow beyond using industrial-era performance reviews (yes, anti-stack ranking books are out there). I don't think I'll be able to fit the books in so they'll have to wait until I get back. But I am printing out for reading later some various anti-stank ranking articles I found, especially this one over at Curious Cat:

Microsoft Company Meeting 2005 follow-up: what, did I go and drink the Kool-Aid? Baby, I didn't just drink the Kool-Aid, I shot it into my veins! At a superficial level, I enjoyed it through-and-through. And I was looking for a fun, superficial experience. It does make me very excited about what we will finally be shipping for our customers.

I was enjoying Lisa's speech until about 2/3s of the way through, and then I felt I was just being talked to and zero content was coming my way. It ended with a "trust me" vibe to it. Some folks have mentioned rumors here about a major comp revamp coming. It would have been great to mention that, if that's the case.

As for Mr. Ozzie: where I was sitting, the murmuring of people having low-level conversations grew louder and louder as he talked and people stopped paying attention. He wasn't engaging the folks around me with whatever he was strutting around about ("De cloud! De cloud!"). Sorry, Ray, you need to earn our respect with results right now. Lotus Notes and the saved-from-the-brink of bankruptcy Groove isn't endowing you with much currency.

Liddell? Straight talker. And I loved the little Maori tribal-chant-soccer game video clip. That was just so not Microsoft that it came back full circle. I'd much rather see our leadership lined up, squatting and chanting in unison to that, just as long as they bugged their eyes out and stuck out their tongues. I'm sure Steve would get on board.

Ballmer: the whole whaka-whaka-Eye of the-I Love This Company-whaka-Tiger was tedious. How is a tiger relevant to us? Tiger OS? Steve Jobs has got the eye of the tiger right now. But Steve's the man for getting people riled up and there's no stopping that. It was great that he told his little story about the mid-year review and how we all need to find our bit of cruft to stop doing so that we have more time to be effective. But a story disconnected from an initiative to cut back on middle management bureaucracy goes no where.

As for the missing ship dates I was bemoaning, one comment reflects:

I guess Mini's surprise at the company meeting confirms some of the outside speculation: that he is a low-level flunky outside the main product groups. Otherwise explain how he didn't know the dates and didn't know this stuff was coming. Relax Mini and let the people who actually know stuff run the company.

Whew, I'm sure you could have squeezed a be-yotch in there somewhere. Dude / Dudette, listen: like most everyone, I have plenty of access to the internal websites with all the projected dates about the milestones and RTM and what's supposed to be done when. More access than I need. But that's all internal and subject to slipping and slipping and slipping some more. I wanted VPs (and our presidents) to commit before the rest of the company what they'd be shipping when. They failed to do this. What exactly is it that they are accountable for?

Elsewhere

Managers: Mr. Sinofsky has a nice weekend posting up: What do managers do and how big should my team be? The first time I read it was after a long ride and I rubbed my eyes trying to pull together the main points of the article. Okay, I like managers with eight reports. Much better than the two of three reports I commonly see. Smiley faces! I like smiley faces. I think there might be something in there trying to justify the layers by saying that startups are able to flatten the org as compared to a big corporation. I'll have to read it again later when I'm more hydrated.

No ranking here: A comment noted the following:

Hey, Mini-MS: The review system is already fixed. There is no stack rank and there is no curve.

Microsoft testified as much in a court of law:

Ms. Willingham also said the company did not ask its managers to give a fixed percentage of their employees any given score. "We don't force that curve to look any certain way," she said.

Microsoft has no formal "stack rank" policy, she said.

Surely Microsoft wouldn't lie in court would it?

Microsoft has been doing lifeboat / stack-ranking drills for a very long time. Though I remember, probably around the time this article was written, HR was running review meetings for employees and review meetings for managers. I went to both. For the employees, HR was up there emphatically saying, "There is no curve." They stated as fact to everyone in the room that there was not a curve. Then I went to the managers meeting. What did we talk about? The curve. Especially how it sucks when you have a small, great team yet someone is going to get that 3.5 and worse someone's going to get that 3.0. The manager asked HR: how can I keep my great team together when I have to demoralize part of it by fitting the curve? HR: standard response of how employee's performance is relative to their peers. That wasn't going to help keep his team motivated, let alone together, for creating great software.

If you ever want to hear a bunch of Microsoftie managers start spewing, ask them whether they feel they've ever handed out review scores they felt were unfair.

WSJ: Where did that Wall Street Journal article come from (along the internetnews.com article)? I saw it briefly as I ate my cereal Friday morning and had to cover my mouth so that I didn't spray my screen. Talk about a fluffer - er, fluff - piece. Interesting that in Business Week Ballmer was saying how Vista wasn't ever delayed and not acknowledging the Longhorn Reset and then they go and discuss how at that reset event we walked away from most of the Longhorn features and suddenly it was critical to get the lab, automation, and process around quality code and builds working. A recent comment notes:

If that WSJ article is correct, it paints a very unflattering portrait of MSFT, its snr mgt and in particular BillG. Rather than being the one raising hell to fix the problem, he comes off as the guy who is trying to avoid fixing it while simultaneoulsy making it worse by pishing WinFS.

Here's something interesting that was noted in my inbox. Years ago, when Longhorn was just fouling up its 2003 ship date, a smart dude had recently transferred to Windows and endeavored to change Windows bizarre and truly Rube Goldberg check-in, build, and release system. I've been told that he even reviewed Windows horrible state, along with solutions, with Bill Gates. Whatever happened to this innovative idea and its champion? There was lots of talk and zero changes to the system until the catastrophic events of the Longhorn Reset. And the dude went to go work for Google.

He didn't just complain, Steve. He tried actively tried to make a difference. Why didn't it all happen until it was a crisis? How much shareholder money could have been saved? Talking about our own personal mid-year review getting scrapped is one thing. Visibly supporting and empowering the people trying to do it, and punishing the inhibitors, is another.

BW: Jay Greene has an article Less Could Be More At Microsoft reviewing what might happen post chair-shuffling.

Dividend? Schmividend! The one thing we heard from the post-FAM analysts is that Microsoft stock would improve if Microsoft provided a consistent, good dividend. Eight-cents? I don't even know if that buys a piece of crappy Bazooka gum anymore. Most disappointing.

146 comments:

DevilsRejection said...

Nice to know you still abide by NDA's when it comes to dates and the such.

My question to you is do you really think that a new performance system is being delayed intentionally by the lazy programmers who simply do the required minimum to get their weekly bread?

Where is all the excitment that was around back when microsoft was 20 and I remember all the inovation that was being made then.

Now as for google, why isn't MS realizing that the future is not the PC. They should increase funding to it's Mobile team to make Windows Mobile 2006/7 as usable as a PC today.

I only say this because of this recent article at slashdot:

Mobile Phone as Home Computer?

Anonymous said...

"Where is all the excitment that was around back when microsoft was 20 and I remember all the inovation that was being made then."

I'm on the outside looking in, but I'd say that Microsoft is a far more innovative company now than it was back in 95. The number of interesting and potentially valuable technologies coming out of Redmond these days is really quite impressive, and the deliveries are stable and secure (overall, though of course they tend to be much larger releases that are coming less frequently). Maybe internally the developers actually got a life, and they don't work 90 hours a week anymore, but the results seem to be better than ever.

The difference is in how the market receives Microsoft's creations: about a decade ago and to a decreasing degree since, the community at large -in paticular the developer community - licked their lips, grabbing desperately at every taste of the next thing coming out of Microosft. Personally I was involved in a large number of betas (back when they were exclusive), trying to get a headstart on the technologies so I was ready for them.

Now, however, the community at large just doesn't seem to get excited. Microsoft can develop all the vector graphics and new web technologies that they want, but outside of those given the green light by firms like IBM, they hit the floor with a gelatinous thud. Even tools like Visual Studio 2005 just don't seem to generate the excitement they used to. Yeah, cheerleaders like Scoble, surrounded by suffering sycophants, will challenge that assertion, but I have absolutely seem a massive shift in the developers around me. Microsoft is simply viewed more cynically, and vastly less influentially, than it once was, and few developers feel that it matters if they're up on whatever direction Microsoft is moving next. Technologies like Monad, which would once have been embraced, are given the "Tell me once it's widely deployed and the only option, but until then I'll stick with Python/Perl/WSH/Whatever" treatment. I worked with large, advanced SQL Server teams recently where not a single member had a clue what SQL Server 2005 was offering.

http://www.yafla.com/dforbes

DevilsRejection said...

Microsoft has to take the same approach to it's entire line of products, that it is taking with office 12.

the features are there but you have to expose them and make them be more easyly accessable.

vista is still a long time away, and i can remember how the first windows xp beta looked nothing like it does right now.

then again we all know xp was an extension to 2000. vista is a complete retooling. what excites me is not vista, it's what MS has in store after vista. The hardware product cycle is to come out with something new every 6 months or less. Software such as operating systems seems to be at around 4 years. why is this so when we are progressing by leaps and bounds every 2 years. you can't tell me computing in 2000 didn't change much compared to 2002, to 2004.

what i would like to see is a new OS every 2 years. i do not see this happeneing because there are still some people using 2000 even. give the people reason to upgrade and they will.

Anonymous said...

Regarding the latest Business Week article where Mr. Greene concurs with Mini that the latest reorg offers a ray of hope:

The structure of the company is way less important than what people actually do. This new struct is supposed to allow for agility and accountability. Nice words! But back when there were seven divisions, the executives in charge of sub-performing products were never held accountable. It's like when Bush finally came down to New Orleans after Katrina and told Michael Brown he was doing a "hell of a job".

The new org is good for a few semi-positive articles and some watercooler banter, but is otherwise meaningless. What is needed is new behavior. Given that it is the same guys running the show, where is the evidence that the behavior will be different? For the answer, perhaps the latest dividend declaration will give you a clue...

Anonymous said...

Very insightful comment, there, about people not getting excited about the tech. The whole software industry has grown up a great deal since Microsoft first shipped Windows, and too many of the new Microsoft technologies are solving esoteric problems, or are solutions still looking for problems. Plus you've got Apple really starting to pick up steam since the move to OS X and the runaway success of the iPod/iTMS, and capturing the mindshare of the FOSS community. OpenStep was way ahead of its time, and while it might lag .NET in some respects, technologies like Core Data are bringing it up-to-date quickly.

Excitement in SQL 2005? Who geeks out that much? It's uninteresting, even to programmers.

Monad? Hell, that's Microsoft playing catch-up with damn near everybody. It fails to impress.

Anonymous said...

Mini. That beer you drank at the Company Meeting was actually Kool-Aid. And you only realized that when you read the comments in your own blog. Shame on you.

Anonymous said...

This is from one of the earlier comments on the re-org.

Exactly what new freedom do you think these guys will have? Do you think the Jeff will be free to pursue Office on Linux? Bet thats a decision for Bill, Steve, or the combined SLT....Suppose Robbie thought that the best thing to do was to embrace Apple's format, shake hands, and ditch WMA. Does he have the authority to make a decision like that? I don't think so.

I thought this was an interesting comment because this is how I see a lot of groups (including mine) being run. My senior management tells me I'm "empowered" to make the right business decisions but in reality they micro-manage everyone to death and people are pretty much told what to do (and how) in their "areas of ownership". Maybe this is a management style that trickles down from up above?

On a related note, just wanted to say thanks to Minimsft for starting this forum and for the constant updates - I remember the old days when the updates came every 2-3 weeks :P

Anonymous said...

"He's collapsing the corporate structure from seven groups to three -- Platform Products & Services, Business, and Entertainment & Devices -- with a president to run each one."

Wow, sounds smart. BTW, who was the idiot who created 7 divisions in the first place? Oh..right...

MSFT is the only company I know that restructures/re-orgs and no one gets cut. Magically, all current bureaucracy and lack of agility will be solved w/o one person getting excessed and by actually creating yet another higher level of mgt abstraction. I'm more convinced than ever that MSFT's problems are at the very top. For people who used to be ruthlessly results orientated, and - as late as the late 90's - used to personally sign off on new headcount, Gates/Ballmer seemed to have gone 180 degrees in the other direction. Now, entire divisions can recklessly underperform for YEARS w/o serious consequences. In some cases, it even appear that Gates/Ballmer's meddling is actually contributing to that. On the employee side, it seems to be "back up the truck" time all the time. Management with as little as 3 or even 8 reports? Are you kidding me? A minimium span of control should be 10:1 and in some cases, 15-20:1 would not be unreasonable. 3:1? Shouldn't they at least make it 4:1 and then each can take a turn buying the rest lunch every week?

Anonymous said...

Hmm, I am starting to think this is just a PR stunt, this blog is fake.

Anonymous said...

"Now, however, the community at large just doesn't seem to get excited. Microsoft can develop all the vector graphics and new web technologies that they want, but outside of those given the green light by firms like IBM, they hit the floor with a gelatinous thud."

I think this is a result of too many marginal upgrades in the past. This is turn diminished the brand so to speak. That perception having been set, it will be hard to change. IMO, MSFT needs to do a much better job of understanding and anticipating customer needs vs simply shipping what some Redmond programmer thinks is cool. And they need to get away from Gates philosophy (which he unfortunately reiterates at every opportunity) that you release something okay, get feedback, improve it, and so on. That may have worked when customers had little choice and competitors were asleep at the wheel, but today you have smarter, hungrier competitors and they're trying to blow people away on every release - not ship some marginal crap and improve it over time. Virtual Earth imo shows a lot of what's wrong with MSFT. Here they had the product years earlier than anyone but it was stuck in R&D as some PHD's pet project. Then, GOOG releases their mapping product with a nice interface and current map data and everyone think's GOOG is amazingly innovative for coming up with this idea. Seeing this, as per usual MSFT scrambles to respond. Some bright bulb remembers oh yes, we got that recent project that no one knows what to do with (a problem it itself). So they rush that to market w/o bothering to properly update the maps thinking let's just get something out there - anything - and we'll improve it from there. The result? Virtual Earth falls flat on its face and instead of looking responsive, MSFT looks like an idiot.

Anonymous said...

Mini. That beer you drank at the Company Meeting was actually Kool-Aid. And you only realized that when you read the comments in your own blog. Shame on you.

They won't fire Mini even after the Kool-Aid wears off.

People who've been wronged by the forced curve "I'll gladly pay you Tuesday (of next year) for a hamburger today" shuffle flip-a-bitch real fast and start singing the companies praises after they get what they think they deserve the next time around.

HR tries to string you along if you complain about getting shorted at review time. They say that this time on the curve (which in court they say doesn't exist or isn't always used) somebody was ahead of you and maybe next time (but no guarantees) you'll get what you think you deserve.

It's very cost effective. I'm sure the HR person gets a little something-something for every person they convince to take one for the team.

My senior management tells me I'm "empowered" to make the right business decisions but in reality they micro-manage everyone to death and people are pretty much told what to do (and how) in their "areas of ownership".

Management at IBM used to tell employees they were "empowered" right before the company imploded.

Anonymous said...

Hmm, I am starting to think this is just a PR stunt, this blog is fake.

I don't understand this comment? The content on this blog is fascinating. There are several consistent over arching themes in these later postings.

1) The curve has got to go

2) Steve, Bill, Jim, etc. have done serious damage in their myopic quest to pursue a client centric strategey.

3) There is no accountability in the upper ranks L68+, if anything pathetic performance is awarded with huge salary's, stock awards, and continued access to hundreds of thousands of existing grants.

4) We are embarassed by the recent press and the behavior of our most senior management on this issue as well as their dealings with governments and partners (The chinese have done nothing but f*** this company, To heck with you Janet Reno, I am going to f****** kill Google, etc.)

5) Huge layers of middle management have got to go, the span of control ratios should gravitate towards 10:1 - 20:1, not 3:1.

What kind of PR stunt would result in ~1000 posts and comments that virtually all support these central themes?

Anonymous said...

"Hmm, I am starting to think this is just a PR stunt, this blog is fake."

Why do you think that

Anonymous said...

"3) There is no accountability in the upper ranks L68+, if anything pathetic performance is awarded with huge salary's, stock awards, and continued access to hundreds of thousands of existing grants."

Yes, MSFT has decided to turn a hundred plus years of motivational/reward theory on its head and has embarked upon a "non-performance performance bonus" especially for senior mgt. Basically, they've severed the traditional connection that exists between company/stock performance and compensation. Indeed, they've made it an inverse relationship. It's all very innovative and while the sense of it may not be apparent currently, Steve's convinced it will all become clear in the fullness of time. He knows this the way he knows that Vista wasn't delayed or that no company is healthier than MSFT.

Anonymous said...

"He's collapsing the corporate structure from seven groups to three -- Platform Products & Services, Business, and Entertainment & Devices -- with a president to run each one."

Collapsed? Isn't it really yet another reporting layer lathered onto the top of the stack? With, um, 2 or 3 reports to each newly minted President?

Anonymous said...

"Dividend? Schmividend! The one thing we heard from the post-FAM analysts is that Microsoft stock would improve if Microsoft provided a consistent, good dividend. Eight-cents? I don't even know if that buys a piece of crappy Bazooka gum anymore. Most disappointing."

Yes. Historically, a large part of overall returns come from dividends not just equity appreciation. MSFT has had none of the latter over the past 3 years and therefore should be focusing on the former (esp given its huge cash position and ongong cash flow). Instead, it currently pays 1.3% vs the S&P avg of 1.8% and decided Friday not to change it. So, if you'd put your money into the SPY's 3 years ago, you'd have not only been 40% ahead on your equity, but far ahead on your dividend interest as well. Why MSFT mgt thinks they can perform way below the averages and pay a way below average dividend is beyond me. Against that backdrop the continued weakness is epxected. For Ballmer apologists, please enlighten me on the logic of this strategy and while you're at it, the logic behind the $35B one-time.

Anonymous said...

http://www.internetnews.com/dev-news/article.php/3550896

"We took a look at our core engineering principles and processes, and made fairly dramatic changes," said Greg Sullivan, a lead Windows product manager.

For example, the process now includes "quality gates" further down the development process. Sullivan explained that the model used to be that a program manager would specify a set of features, then a developer would write the features and check in the code. After check-in, it would be tested and debugged.

Sullivan quoted Microsoft Senior Distinguished Engineer Dave Cutler as saying, "If you don't check the bug in, you don't have to fix it later." So now, according to Sullivan, "every feature has to meet a higher quality bar before it gets checked into the main build."

Now, explained John Montgomery, director of the .Net development platform, code is checked into the "Windows tree," a multi-stage process that he said catches a lot more bugs earlier. "Once you check code into the source tree, mechanical scrubbers look through the code for stupid stuff," Montgomery said. Static code analysis software runs automatically on every piece of code, catching such things as errors in naming conventions or code that could cause memory overruns. "If anything fails, they fail the whole thing, and it gets pushed back to you."



What a load of crap!

There are build verification tests (BVTs), buddy tests. Passing both of which have been requirements before checking-in code for years.

Static code analysis tools have either been optional or required before check-in for years depending upon what project you've worked on.

Hell, there are even code coverage tools that are used to make sure the tests actually run the code they're supposed to be testing.

If that's their excuse for the Longhorn-reset, they're full of shit!


http://online.wsj.com/article/0,,SB112743680328349448,00.html

Mr. Allchin says he soon saw his fears realized. In making large software programs engineers regularly bring together all the new unfinished features into a single "build," a sort of prototype used to test how the features work together.


More poop! (see above)

Next you'll hear Al Gore say there's no controlling authority.

Shit!


If you look for it, you don't have to take my word for it.

http://research.microsoft.com/workshops/FS2005/presentations/FacultySummit_2005_Lipner.ppt

http://research.microsoft.com/research/pubs/view.aspx?type=Publication&id=1358

http://research.microsoft.com/~tball/papers/ICSE05Exp.pdf

We analyze these hypotheses inside Microsoft, where the PREfix
and PREfast static analysis tools have been widely deployed. The
PREfix tool finds common programming errors using symbolic
execution, applied bottom-up over the call graph of a program.
PREfix is run regularly over the entire Windows source code and
the defects it finds are automatically entered into a defect database
and assigned to programmers to fix. PREfix typically runs as part
of the centralized build of Windows. PREfast is a lightweight
version of PREfix that can be run by developers on their desktop
machines. It performs a local dataflow analysis on each function
to find common programming errors.

Because of the wide and automated use of PREfix and PREfast
within the Windows organization, as well as the use of defect
tracking databases, we are in an excellent position to assess the
above hypotheses on a large amount of data.


https://beta.blogs.msdn.com/saraford/archive/2004/11.aspx

Think of nightlies as regression tests. The nightlies cover the most important scenarios, so if the test case fails, a regression has occurred that the dev must investigate immediately. (If you’re wondering why don’t devs just run tests before checking in, they do – which is a topic for a later time. Or if you’re wondering why don’t devs just have the testers test the build before checking in, we do – called buddy tests – which is a topic for a later time.)

Anonymous said...

Last month the main theme of the blog entries was rank & yank. This month I see a new thread popping up more and more: death by process.

But we're not all insiders. Can you give some real stories of the death by process thing yer talkin about?

Anonymous said...

"The content on this blog is fascinating"
Geeks don't write fascinating blogs, marketeers do.

MS needs to reduce its payroll and there is no way on earth they can do that without the world noticing.
So let's start an internal revolt, everybody asking to cut heads off, then HR has the green light to do so.
Heads will roll, but not from upper management.
The poor unproductive employee will have to go, the way it should have been done long time ago.
The ones left will have to be highly productive or face the evil axe.
Motivation by fear on the "year of the pipeline" to increase production levels.

MS is like a mini-government plagued by corruption, nothing will change.
Nobody will benefit besides the elitist.
Pure taylorism in disguise.

I will truly believe it when Ballmer has gone.
Meantime, run while you can.

Anonymous said...

I am not a Microsoftie, but I have a question.

What I got from the WSJ articles was that they couldn't get the new Vista core to work, so they substituted a server core. I am supposing that substitute core is something in series that started with W2000.

An OS core is difficult, expensive, and time-consuming to produce, so Microsoft wouldn't produce a radical new one for Vista unless it was supposed to be much better than the old W2000-series, like faster, more easily programable, and more secure. That means that when they droped the new core and substituted an old one, they lost a lot of things that would persuade customers to upgrade to Vista.

Here is my question. Am I interpreting this right? And if I am, exactly what did Vista lose when they switched to old core?

Anonymous said...

Gary Edwards is a member of the Open Document standard technical committee. In this comment he defends Massachusetts' decision to go with OpenDoc and not Microsoft XML. I think Microsoft is going to lose this whole issue big-time.

http://www.zdnet.com/5208-10532-0.html?
forumID=1&threadID=13561&messageID=
273162&start=-1&reply=true

Anonymous said...

Reorg shmeeorg !!! The simple reason for collapsing 7 BU into 3 is purely PR, so that snr mgmt do not have to answer to shareholders why 5 of 7 BU will continue to lose money into the foreseeable future. Next financial results will now look better - 2 of 3 BU making money and only 1 (a non-consequential)losing money.

Anonymous said...

Last month the main theme of the blog entries was rank & yank. This month I see a new thread popping up more and more: death by process.

But we're not all insiders. Can you give some real stories of the death by process thing yer talkin about?


On the next major release of one of Microsoft's server products, we had spec reviews with people set against each other by stack ranking tearing each other apart instead of the design of the feature.

Management also did not put any credible effort into figuring out what customers wanted in the next release so there were multiple resets resulting in schedule slips and wasted work.

Once the product started reaching a prestigious level of revenue generated for Microsoft, all sorts of self-important vultures came in to replace the people who actually got the product there. They, of course, brought in their friends and told those already there that they had no hope of advancement and maybe they should look for a job in another group. This also resulted in several delays as the inflated egos of incompetent senior managers imploded in failure and the next set of losers was brought in to do it all over again.

I already had seen that happen before. I hate reruns so I left.

Anonymous said...

And if I am, exactly what did Vista lose when they switched to old core?

Longhorn, at the time of the reset was well over 50 million lines of code. The code base was a continuation of the same set that resulted in Windows XP. The reset occured after 3 years of 4000+ engineers making hundreds of ad-hoc changes each day.

Windows Server was also a continuation of the Windows XP code base. It obviously did not have the 3+ years of changes made to the monolithic base for Vista.

The reset meant that ALL 3 years of the Vista changes were scrapped. Vista was reborn using the pristine Windows Server + XPsp2 changes as the base.

Vista features that were to be carried forward were then manually (a difficult and error prone process) carved from the scrapped base and manually merged into the new base.

There is no such thing as a swappable core. This was a very painful and expensive reset. Three+ years for work was scrapped.

Does anyone thing a few folks that managed and watched over this process should have lost their jobs over this expensive and embarassing disaster?

Anonymous said...

Thank you for answering my question. If I understand you correctly, Vista will have everything that was originally intended, but it took a lot longer than planned.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for answering my question. If I understand you correctly, Vista will have everything that was originally intended, but it took a lot longer than planned.

No you misunderstand in a big way!

The 3 years of ad hoc changes created a jumbled mess of features that could not be rescued. The effort was scrapped.

Some features were carried forward, but many are lost forever because of their complexity, immaturity, poor architecture, etc. It was a total and painful reset.

It took a lot longer then planned because 3 years and countless man hours and engineering $$'s were lost.

Anonymous said...

"Even tools like Visual Studio 2005 just don't seem to generate the excitement they used to. Yeah, cheerleaders like Scoble, surrounded by suffering sycophants, will challenge that assertion, but I have absolutely seem a massive shift in the developers around me."

I remember not sleeping the whole night when I received MSDN package with betas. Today? The dev world is moving away from big, standalone OSes and apps - everybody around me is shifting to learn a new stuff just because they don't trust that Windows is the future anymore.
When we get MSDN to the company now it takes sometimes a week while somebody opens the package. It doesn't mean that stuff comming from MS is bad - it just mean there are much more choices...

Anonymous said...

No you misunderstand in a big way!

OK, now I got it. So it looks like my original post was right when I said a lot of features were lost, so customers have fewer reasons to upgrade to Vista.

However, I still have my question of what are the most important things that were lost.

Anonymous said...

"what i would like to see is a new OS every 2 years. i do not see this happeneing because there are still some people using 2000 even. give the people reason to upgrade and they will."

Hehe, I don't need OS every 2 years...Why? I need services running above a thin OS layer being released in very short periods. That's the future. OS as we know today doesn't have future and that's why you see tons and tons dev moving away from it.Vista is worthless for corporations which will unable to utilize all those "eye-candy" features. Vista is worthless from pops and moms with average machines they are not upgrade anytime soon just because of Vista. Sooner MS understands that better for them. Detto for Office 12.

Anonymous said...

Hehe, I don't need OS every 2 years

That is exactly what the Gary Edwards link above is talking about.

The question for Microsoft is whether it is going to keep up its old monopoly strategy of closed formats, closed interfaces, and tools that compile for windows only, or is it going to drop that strategy and get on the SOA train.

Anonymous said...

The question for Microsoft is whether it is going to keep up its old monopoly strategy of closed formats, closed interfaces...

When Robbie ditches WMA and embraces the ipod we will know that Microsoft has truly changed.

oadfji said...

Mini, can you tell us, are you six, seven, eight, or nine "clicker." Just curious.

Anonymous said...

Interesting about screw-up with Vista. They lost three years? You know, Microsoft is always telling us they know how to produce software, and the open source people are a bunch of second-rate chumps. But Linux never had such a huge foul-up, or Apache, or any other big open source program except maybe X.

And what was their solution? Go modular like Unix.

Anonymous said...

Robbie may ditch WMA, but to suggest that he'll adopt iPod is humorous. MSFT might ditch WMA to kill the iPod, but definitely not to adopt it.

FWIW, the Longhorn reset was due to the fact that the main folks were distracted with Windows Server 2003 SP1 and then Windows XP SP2. During this "distraction", it was primarily devs that were working on Longhorn, and they were doing so in different branches. Release management had their 3rd string assigned to Longhorn. The testers weren't really even looking at it. The ones that were, were distracted with a new test harness and in learning/writing managed code automated tests. Very little actual quality assurance was going on because those folks were just too busy shipping other good stuff.

When folks finally came up for air and looked at Longhorn, the reset made sense because the Server 2003 code base was rock solid whereas some devs had been mucking with Longhorn unchecked for years. I think the scheme they came up with made great sense... instead of starting with a big mess and integrating changes from a solid code base, start with a solid code base and only merge rock-solid features into it. In hind sight, it's a no-brainer (though it was far less obvious back then).

The reset also gave them the opportunity to reign in some product groups that simply weren't on target for shipping in a reasonable time frame.

I think the fact that we were willing/able to do the reset was impressive. To call it a failure is ignorant IMHO.

Anonymous said...

And meanwhile, MSFT announces it will double headcount in India:

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/9472728/

Good timing, folks.

Anonymous said...

I think the fact that we were willing/able to do the reset was impressive. To call it a failure is ignorant IMHO.

Absolutely agree. Better that than refusing to admit a mistake and make it worse.

However, given that 3 years were lost, it's pretty clear that the process was managed very badly. Why was no one senior held accountable? I mean, Windows is only the most important product for the company. Those 3 years have cost us dearly in lost credibility and lost earnings.

In so many ways, Bill and Steve keep sending the wrong messages. They're over their heads and need to go.

Help! S.O.S. Please send real leadership!

Anonymous said...

More outsourcing? You know what that probably is...the ITG call center. Because even critical hardware failure work stoppage take a week to fix...A WEEK!!!! It's not just a cultural change that is needed, but the drastic realization that we've pushed cost off the bottom line and right onto the shoulders of the individual contributors. But just because accountants and analysts can't see the numbers, doesn't mean they don't exist. Want more examples? How about our twisted expense reporting system, stupid SAP implementation, and f--king Siebel. Yep, lots of soft costs flood the system and we somehow feel better by hiring more Indians? Twisted, really twisted.

Anonymous said...

You know what? I'll do the CEO gig. I'm 4 years at the company, and would love to take the reigns...give it to the people. :-) And I'll do it for pennies in comparison.

Anonymous said...

I think the fact that we were willing/able to do the reset was impressive. To call it a failure is ignorant IMHO.

I agree 100%. It took guts to make that call.

BUT at the same time, the folks making the call were the same ones over seeing the disaster in the first place. They wasted 3+ years of work. They wasted countless $$'s of our shareholders $$.

They should be held accountable for this failure, BUT NO. Not at Microsoft! Instead, they get paid like Kings. They will come out of this as heros in the eyes of Bill, and Steve.

This is pathetic!

Anonymous said...

They should be held accountable for this failure, BUT NO. Not at Microsoft! Instead, they get paid like Kings. They will come out of this as heros in the eyes of Bill, and Steve.

This is pathetic!


Obviously you are not cynical enough. Most corporate bureaucracies work like this: If you notice the ship is headed for an iceberg and point it out, you are a troublemaker. If you wait until the last instant when situation becomes obvious to everyone and then work like a demon to prevent the crash, you are a hero--and rewarded accordingly.

Foresight and planning is never rewarded. Looking good whne the sh!t hits the fan is what it's all about.

Anonymous said...

Regarding the reorg - if you've worked here 5+ years, you know that this is just SOP. This kind of contraction/expansion happens periodically and after a while, its almost a predictable cycle.

In fact, your group probably saw a significant reorg (at the level affecting IC's) in the last 6 months

Anonymous said...

Will vista be any good?

Anonymous said...

With regards to SQL2005; I've been using MSSQL since 4.2 and have been consistantly impressed with the upgrades through 6.0, 6.5, 7 and 2000 (way to go with the version numbers!).

MSSQL2005 leaves me cold. I can't find a single nice thing to say about it that isn't superficial, which makes this the first MSSQL upgrade in almost ten years that isn't worth the effort.

Advice to our customers - "Wait for MSSQL2007".

Anonymous said...

"I think the fact that we were willing/able to do the reset was impressive. To call it a failure is ignorant IMHO."

Not, it's not a failure - it's probably common behavior for MS...

Anonymous said...

Somebody further up the list posted a remark about Apple grabbing mindshare with the iPod and OS X. As somebody who is completely outside of Microsoft -- I'm a journalist, but very much not tech -- I can't stress enough how right that is. It is not only the products like the iPod, it is the decisions they have made, like yanking the iPod Mini at the hight of its sales to market the Nano. The collective reaction among the people I know was first something like God, the balls on those guys! followed by God, is that beautiful!. And the "halo effect", though probably overrated, is real. All the Apple people in my department have to do is say something like "If you think that is cool, you should see my Mac."

Talk about Microsoft is reduced to two things: First, that Longhorn/Vista/whatever-the-name-is-today is late (again). Even with this Apple grabs mindshare: Go through the articles about Vista and check how many times somebody says something like "already present in OS X". This is not helping. Second, of course, this blog. Fascinating reading.

Anyway, I think the mindshare problem is only going to get worse. In the public perception, Microsoft has one (Vista), maybe two (Office) products in the pipeline. Apple is generating all kinds of buzz with the switch to Intel, it can play all sorts of games with iTunes and iPod updates, and since they ship a new version of OS X every year, they are going to hammer Vista with that. Yes, they are small, and no, they are not going to surplant Microsoft, ever. But in terms of mindshare -- you guys have a very serious problem on your hands.

Anonymous said...

Speaking as an outsider, a customer, I think that Microsoft might benefit from some well intenioned feedback.

Firstly, I think the company is showing its age, or rather the age of the things that drove it early on.

You see Microsoft was very "new" and "out there" back in the 70s and 80s. It arose out of the emeregence of the microprocessor and the transition from hardware only systems to systems that relied upon software.

Consequently it and the movers n shakers of the era, were all coming from this world, the "micro" the wonderchip, it was hip to know 6502 or Z80 code, this WAS the future.

Today? well today it is the internet, with all due respect most young developers today do not come from hardware, microprocessor or assembly language background, its old hat.

New firms like G****e are nothing to do with these technologies, nothing. They are an "internet" firm a "search" firm a "new" kind of technology company.

Most new hires can relate to this kind of company, because it is what they know, what they have seen and done since they were kids.

Not for them wiring up a Z80 or debugging a TSR or trying to get extended memory working with a new game, no sir.

This was true of IBM too, depsite their undoubted expertise at operating systems and languages, they were always perceived by likes of Gates and his peers as the dinosaur the "mainframe" guy etc.

So is Microsoft beginning to look like a "really old" company? Sure they do windows but who cares about OSs these days? (Many of us do, but Im referring to the newbies the kind of people that want to be hired at Google etc).

Second point. I now find Microsoft to be a massive "big brother" type of outfit. I say this because it is increasingly difficult to feel that you are able to "get in touch" with "it".

I have found so many bugs and have many good suggestions for Hotmail (to use one example) yet I have no way of getting my ideas across, it is always hard to actually make contact and so I find them alienating.

As I wander around the very large MS wesbite I often have the need to contact somebody, but this is never easy, often requiring page after page of snooping around, only to get some lanme form.

Ofthen submissions to these forms yeild no reply or some robotic response that really discouaregs you for ever bothering again.

For example I al often getting "certificate" errors when I move around Hotmail or Passport, I have tried to report these many many times but to whom should I report these? who really cares?

Finally look at the bug reporting system for Visual Studio and other products. It is amongst the worst I have ever seen, and is so frustrating to use that it really discouarges one from even bothering to report bugs at all, surely a major failure in the overall beta testing cycle?

Who knows how many real bugs were found in beta products but simply never reported due to the bug systems own annoying behavior?

Before I go, I'd like to mention a good example of this "big brother" "out of touch" feeling.

Last year I was trying to get the FACTS on windows 64 bit. I found this to be a very frustrating exercise. I asked several people (via email) to simply LIST each version of Windows that would be 64-bit and which were in beta.

Nowhere on the wesbite was there such a lits, and my protests were met with sarcasm, my point was not seen as relevant.

The sarcasm was misplaced, I am a very experienced programmer, very experienced and my question, though clearly indicating a lack of knowledge of MS plans, was a genuine and intelligent question.

All I wanted was a lits of OSs that were 32-bit and OSs that were (or would be) 64-bit and what betas had been released to date.

In fact such a list (to my knowledge) does still not exist in the open, and I am still not 100% clear on exactly what 64-bit systems will be released.

So there we are, I find that one has to struggle and persevere these days to get specific info from MS and clarity on specific questions.

Anonymous said...

The VP Club

This really has very little to do with MS and a lot to do with how American businesses are run.

In each large corporation, there exists a VP club. At the VP level, one interacts with the COO/CTO/CEO, in many different ways. These are the people that the big cheeses know, their friends, golf buddies, etc. The group that interacts on a daily basis, that reaffirms that the bosses are doing a good job that plays together.

Once you are in the VP club, accountability goes away. VPs have nebulous control over the organization beneath them. How much does your VP understand about the work that is happening underneath them? How much real influence does your VP have in meeting schedules and making a quality product? How do you evaluate a VPs performance when they can blame lower level people for their problems? Particularly in a software company, it is easy to blame the implementers for schedule slips or bad business decisions.

Yes, a VP can change things, but that might make the organization uncomfortable, which in most organizations is a career limiting move. In cult-of-personality organizations such as MS, unless Gates/Ballmer is explicitly behind a change, it is suicidal to push it. Gates/Ballmer realizing that things need to change is a criticism of themselves, which is always hard to accept., particularly is as hidebound a development organization as MS is.

Plus, the skills required to climb an organization are not the skills required to change an organization. Regardless of how good a technician or manager you are, to get to a VP level requires a lot of political skill and the ability to adapt to the existing organization. These are not the personality traits likely to shakeup a corporate culture, particularly when the financial incentives are to stay in the job at all costs. Since maintaining the status quo is the most likely path to either staying at the VP level, the incentives are all to not “rock the boat”.

This is somewhat the “Peter Principle” in reverse – rather than a person rising to their level of incompetence, the people who could make a difference at the VP level will never rise to that level. The squeaky wheels that are change agents cannot rise to the level to cause an improvement and the organization remains locked in old patterns that were previously successful. The holiness of the product development structure within MS is so accepted that possibly better ways of organization are unlikely to be accepted.

In my current large stupid company, hiring decisions are reviewed by the CTO! This multi-million dollar per year person has personally spent several hours along with my entire management chain reviewing a single individual hire. The cost of their time could have paid for the new hires salary for many years!

Enough ranting….

Doc Doc

fCh said...

Somebody further up the list posted a remark about Apple grabbing mindshare with the iPod and OS X. As somebody who is completely outside of Microsoft -- I'm a journalist, but very much not tech -- I can't stress enough how right that is. It is not only the products like the iPod, it is the decisions they have made, like yanking the iPod Mini at the hight of its sales to market the Nano. The collective reaction among the people I know was first something like God, the balls on those guys! followed by God, is that beautiful!. And the "halo effect", though probably overrated, is real. All the Apple people in my department have to do is say something like "If you think that is cool, you should see my Mac."

Ithink folks in MSFT Entertainment Group have taken notice--As proof, msofties themselves are saying the latest XBox is something they look forward to buying.

"If you think that is cool, you should see my Mac."

Now this is major indeed. Not as much for its effects--when Apple started going down, it still offered a greater experience than MSFT--as for its power as example for companies dealing with consumers. The platform approach at MSFT, which made them so big, sustains a vicious circle in which some products are put on the market without being required to compete on their own merits. We are probably witnessing in fact the price platforms are exacting on a firm by skewing the behavior of marketing and development folks. On their part, customers who sunk so many resources in MSFT technologies have little option but keep "consolidating" the platform. The ideal situation would be when customers like so much a product that they want to try others from the same vendor. Only then should the vendor look for platform synergies. Again, this would be ideal.

Anyway, I think the mindshare problem is only going to get worse. In the public perception, Microsoft has one (Vista), maybe two (Office) products in the pipeline. Apple is generating all kinds of buzz with the switch to Intel, it can play all sorts of games with iTunes and iPod updates, and since they ship a new version of OS X every year, they are going to hammer Vista with that. Yes, they are small, and no, they are not going to surplant Microsoft, ever. But in terms of mindshare -- you guys have a very serious problem on your hands.

Agreed.

Cheers, fCh

Anonymous said...

Did anyone enjoy SteveB's presentation of our incredible financial performance over the last 5 years? Going from 18% of a $62B market to 23% of a $84B market? Wall Street isn't impressed by 8% annual growth, Steve. We may be a modestly growing share of a slow growing market, but we're not a rapidly growing share of a rapidly expanding market. And you can thank Sun for not contributing anything to that profit number over the last 5 years. Thanks McNealy!

I'm super excited to have gotten 2 bucks a share for my stock options and wish I exercised more when the price was up around 27. My bad.

Anonymous said...

"BUT at the same time, the folks making the call were the same ones over seeing the disaster in the first place. They wasted 3+ years of work. They wasted countless $$'s of our shareholders $$."

Exactly.

"They should be held accountable for this failure, BUT NO. Not at Microsoft! Instead, they get paid like Kings. They will come out of this as heros in the eyes of Bill, and Steve."

This imo is MSFT's single biggest problem. No accountabililty at the mgt level. It's one thing to encourage risk-taking behaviour and therefore not penalize people for the occasional failure in a new endeavour. It's quite another to protect people from hopelessly failing to do what the company is supposed to know and be good at.

"This is pathetic!"

This is what happens when mgt doesn't insist on accountability and external shareholders not only let them get away with it, but continue to underwrite the resulting impact.

Anonymous said...

"I think the fact that we were willing/able to do the reset was impressive. To call it a failure is ignorant IMHO."

Doing the reset was a no-brainer - there was no choice. Letting it go 3 years before coming to that conclusion and throwing away all that effort/$ is hardly impressive. That no one deserved to lose their job as a result is beyond credibility. Most importantly, if none of the people responsible were fired, what was at least learned and fixed such that this never happens again?

Anonymous said...

""I think the fact that we were willing/able to do the reset was impressive. To call it a failure is ignorant IMHO.""

Let's put some issues straight:

1. Writing a useless code for three years and then find out you have to re architecture it - it's not a failure it's GRAND FAILURE.

2. You were not willing to reset it but forced to do it. That's the difference.

3. WSJ built story on some leaked info - WSJ story is not a PR from MS.

4. It shows that MS doesn't have only stellar stuff but averages who know how to screw it in a big way.

5. It show that even MS has been in a soft business for 30 years, it doesn't have the proper procedures and rules to build, maintain, test and deploy a huge project like Vista.

Please, just don't tell me that the reset is a good think. The reset shouldn't occured at all - if you need 3 years, a pile of money and 4000+ geeks to find out the system has failed - something is really bad...

Anonymous said...

This is what happens when mgt doesn't insist on accountability and external shareholders not only let them get away with it, but continue to underwrite the resulting impact.

Looking at the annual report's summary of R&D spending, over the three "wasted" years, MSFT spent ~$20.5b ($6.2b + $6.6b + $7.7b). They do not give the breakdown by group, but given the importance of Windows to Microsoft, it is possible, and in fact very likely, that at least 1/3 of this R&D budget was spent on Windows. Conservatively, it's thereforce possible that Microsoft burned through ~$5b - $7b of shareholder funds without any executive oversight, accountability, etc. Its as if they are saying, "boys will be boys", and that the natural tendency of the engineers is to produce untested garbage. How is it that no one noticed that they were spending over $2b a year and getting nothing of value in return?

What other industry allows this type of behavior with absolutely no reprucussions at the executive level?

Anonymous said...

It took a lot longer then planned because 3 years and countless man hours and engineering $$'s were lost.

Here's teh funney: this also could describe Outlook's last 3 releases. They screwed around trying to implement a client-side version of Exchange's store in Outlook 2002, spent time implementing Hailstorm APIs in Outlook 2003, and tried for WinFS integration in the Office 12 release. Man, that's a LOT of engineering hours down ratholes.

But oddly enough, Outlook's still been one of the few areas in Office to get significant UI and other performance improvements. So the moral is that imagine what they could do if they weren't drinking the KoolAid from other groups...

Anonymous said...

I think the fact that we were willing/able to do the reset was impressive. To call it a failure is ignorant IMHO.

Bill Gates pushed to avoid the reset. Some of you are calling it a no-brainer, but even the company heads were asleep at the wheel. More evidence that the actual tech people aren't getting listened to.

Anonymous said...

Bill Gates pushed to avoid the reset.

Maybe Bill should be fined the $6b that the lack of oversight cost our shareholders?

Payable as (pick one):

1) Special dividend?
2) Special bonus for all employees :)

Anonymous said...

From the original Post:
Here's something interesting that was noted in my inbox. Years ago, when Longhorn was just fouling up its 2003 ship date, a smart dude had recently transferred to Windows and endeavored to change Windows bizarre and truly Rube Goldberg check-in, build, and release system. I've been told that he even reviewed Windows horrible state, along with solutions, with Bill Gates. Whatever happened to this innovative idea and its champion? There was lots of talk and zero changes to the system until the catastrophic events of the Longhorn Reset. And the dude went to go work for Google.

He didn't just complain, Steve. He tried actively tried to make a difference.


Mini. Tell us more. Who was it that tried to fix the mess but went to Google instead?

Anonymous said...

First--You said: "..Liddell? Straight talker. And I loved the little Maori tribal-chant-soccer game video clip. ..."

The All-Blacks are a Rugy team and the "chant" is a "haka".

Secondly-- regarding the "low level flunky" comment about not being in a PG (Product Group)... I don't care who you are, I've been in and not in the PG's. Not only do we have a silly review system, but we have this insane Product Group arrogance. Why should the PG's be the model for perfection (and get better bonuses etc) when they can't hit a date if their life depended on it?

Mind you I’ve gotten 4.0 in both PG and non PG groups so this isn’t sour grapes

Just asking...

Comments?

Anonymous said...

Conservatively, it's thereforce possible that Microsoft burned through ~$5b - $7b of shareholder funds without any executive oversight, accountability, etc.

That's what it may have cost nominally but what's the real cost once you take into account:

1) the impact of that delay on revenue and earnings growth assuming a 20X multiple?
2) the impact on morale for those 4000 developers?
3) the impact on morale across the company as Vista has drifted?
4) the freebies that MSFT has had to throw into EAs and SA as a result to try (not very successfully) to stem the flow of customer defections away from these multi-year contractual agreements?
5) the perception of customers about that product (and the company for that matter)and their eventual willingness to buy it (and/or enter the annuity contractual agreements mentioned above to get it)?
6) the momentum and marketshare that competitors (OSS, GOOG, AAPL etc) have been able to garner as MSFT has put themselves out of play for 3 years?

Add it up and I think you'll quickly conclude that the real cost is several orders of magnitude larger than your [already concerning] estimate.

Anonymous said...

"Some of you are calling it a no-brainer, but even the company heads were asleep at the wheel."

"Even"? I'd say "especially" - which is actually the much larger concern.

Anonymous said...

I am sick of people saying that Microsoft has to embrace the internet and start making internet software in order to survive and move into the future. This is exactly what Microsoft needs to avoid!!! We tried to switch everything over to "network software" with .NET and it ended up being stupid and confusing, remember? There's client software and web software and they're different things. Trying to merge the two somehow is ridiculous.

Anonymous said...

"I am sick of people saying that Microsoft has to embrace the internet and start making internet software in order to survive and move into the future. This is exactly what Microsoft needs to avoid!!! We tried to switch everything over to "network software" with .NET and it ended up being stupid and confusing, remember? There's client software and web software and they're different things. Trying to merge the two somehow is ridiculous."

You're right. With growth now slowing to just 8% last year, MSFT should just bury its head in the sand and keep doing (only more slowly) what it does best (?). Especially since previous attempts to co-op the web vs truly embrace it (i.e. .Net) haven't succeeded. After all, who cares about GOOG, YHOO, AMZN, Ebay, Salesforce.com or the explosive growth and in many cases earnings they're generating? So what if most consumers are spending more and more time on the web and less and less time using the OS or Office? So what if the majority of real innovation is happening there? We've sucked at it so far so let's just not bother and hope (?)/ pretend (?) it goes away.

Wow, with that combination of insight and self-delusion, you have a bright future in MSFT's VP ranks. Or maybe you're already there?

Anonymous said...

You completely missed my point, which is that not all software is the same. Do you want to play Halo in your web browser? Do you want your word processor to be an HTML form? Do you want to surf to a web page to see if you have any IMs? Because that seems to be what you're asking for.

Sexy companies like Google and Apple are making client software. Google Earth, Google Talk, Google Desktop, iTunes, iPhoto, etc. Do you think they're going in the wrong direction too, or is it somehow okay for them because they're not Microsoft?

Anonymous said...

this also could describe Outlook's last 3 releases. They screwed around trying to implement a client-side version of Exchange's store in Outlook 2002

In this case, Outlook did not want to use Exchange's store (written by a different product group).

Outlook management wasted everybody's time here.

Anonymous said...

Now that Rudder is going to run "special projects" for BillG, I wonder who will step in (is it down?) to fill in his shoes. Maybe we can hire Eric Schmidt away from Google and pull a reverse Kai-Fu?

Anyone have a clue?

fCh said...

I am sick of people saying that Microsoft has to embrace the internet and start making internet software in order to survive and move into the future. This is exactly what Microsoft needs to avoid!!! We tried to switch everything over to "network software" with .NET and it ended up being stupid and confusing, remember? There's client software and web software and they're different things. Trying to merge the two somehow is ridiculous.

And just because YOU tried and failed one should think it's a bad idea?

You completely missed my point, which is that not all software is the same. Do you want to play Halo in your web browser? Do you want your word processor to be an HTML form? Do you want to surf to a web page to see if you have any IMs? Because that seems to be what you're asking for.

Sexy companies like Google and Apple are making client software. Google Earth, Google Talk, Google Desktop, iTunes, iPhoto, etc. Do you think they're going in the wrong direction too, or is it somehow okay for them because they're not Microsoft?



Yeah, software is not the same, (see my prior distinction between enterprise and consumer,) but that doesn't mean software that's made in 2005 can survive simply behind firewalls and "protected" from the internet.

I would not be surprised if this email came from a marketing type--it smacks of self sufficient arrogance, fueled/confused by the internal recognition of a close system (i.e. Windows Product Group). It's called denial...

Anonymous said...

Outlook management wasted everybody's time here..

Management imperatives of "integrated innovation" also were behind the botched abortions of integrating Hailsotrm and WinFS into Outlook as well.

Really, this needs. to. STOP.

fCh said...

This news-piece is a good indication for what type of competitor Google is in the market.

One can only hope that "ignoring" the minimsft phenomenon will soon be over and MSFT borrows a page from Google.

"Google has created a predictive market system, basically a way for its employees to bet on the likelihood of possible events. Such markets have long been used to predict world events, like election results. Intrade, part of the Trade Exchange Network, allows people to bet on elections, stock market indexes and even the weather, for example.

In Google's system, employees can bet on how the company will perform in the future, forecasting things like product introduction dates and new office openings. It was devised under a program that allows engineers to spend one day a week on a project of their choice. "

Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/26/business/26google.html?ei=5053&en=e408513109ff66ae&ex=1128398400&partner=NYTHEADLINES_BIZ&pagewanted=print

Anonymous said...

You forgot:

"It's a fun thing," said Professor Varian. "Now one of the things we're thinking about is what to do with it."

A few more "fun" things and a little more execution by YHOO and MSFT and GOOG may not look quite so savvy after all...

Anonymous said...

News flash: they are not collapsing seven orgs into three. They will still report results for seven businesses. Moreover, the org was NEVER in seven groups.

Until 2004, there were four big product groups--Platforms, MSN, Business and Productivity, and Home & Entertainment.

Platforms (Allchin) included Windows Client (Poole), MED (Knook), and Server & Tools (Rudder). Plus Windows core (Valentine) which was never a P&L.

BUsiness & Prod (Raikes) included MBS (Burgum) until about a year ago. They just did that to try and squeeze Burgum out, and he'll be gone in a year.

MSN (David Cole) and Home & Ent (Robbie Bach) were alone.

All they really did was put MED into the consumer group and MSN into the platforms group.

Don't believe the media, they totally bought the spin.

Anonymous said...

A few more "fun" things and a little more execution by YHOO and MSFT and GOOG may not look quite so savvy after all...

No kidding. If this article were about a failing company instead of Google, you'd say to yourself "well, no wonder they're going south". But because it's GOOG, we're meant to stand in awe of this innovative new management tool. Predictive systems have some value with well understood, relatively simple phenomenon like forecasting airplane seat demand based on time of year, GDP, employment, etc. They've been a miserable failure for predicting anything more complex like stock prices - or timing of product intros vs your high tech competitors. Thx for the gut splitter.

Anonymous said...

"Don't believe the media, they totally bought the spin."

Don't think so. There were numerous articles pointing out that this really didn't change or flatten anything.

fCh said...

No kidding. If this article were about a failing company instead of Google, you'd say to yourself "well, no wonder they're going south". But because it's GOOG, we're meant to stand in awe of this innovative new management tool. Predictive systems have some value with well understood, relatively simple phenomenon like forecasting airplane seat demand based on time of year, GDP, employment, etc. They've been a miserable failure for predicting anything more complex like stock prices - or timing of product intros vs your high tech competitors. Thx for the gut splitter.



Google has not offered precise data on the system's accuracy, but a chart posted on the company's blog last week showed that, in the words of its accompanying entry, prices set for events through employees' wagering were a "pretty close" indication of the probability of events.

The market is based on the idea that a price established for an event will reflect bettors' consensus of the likelihood that it will happen. Thus, something priced at 20 cents should happen 20 percent of the time. The system accepts bets in 10-cent increments up to a dollar (no actual money is involved).

On its blog, Google compares the market to its search engine software. "Our search engine works well because it aggregates information dispersed across the Web, and our internal predictive markets are based on the same principle: Googlers from across the company contribute knowledge and opinions which are aggregated into a forecast by the market," the blog said.


If I understand your posting correctly, you have a problem with the method. Predicting stock prices is a much more complex task than a product ship date. The accuracy of such a mechanism is very much influenced by the number of people who cast in their votes. When you survey the folks involved in shipping a product about the date THEY think the product will ship by you are probably likely to get a better date than when you ask a few executives. It is the difference between client-server and distributed architectures. No matter how "smart" your server is, distributed is exponentially more!

This Google experiment may be the result of too high of a (PhD_IQ's) * (Friday_hours), but what company that keeps missing release-dates could be hurt by (trying) it?

;-)


Cheers, fCh

Anonymous said...

"This Google experiment may be the result of too high of a (PhD_IQ's) * (Friday_hours), but what company that keeps missing release-dates could be hurt by (trying) it?

I see you've figured out the bold tag. Suggestion: a little goes a long way...

Anonymous said...

hahaha, you've run out of arguments and take issue with this guy's posting habits?

i betcha, you are one of those managers we keep complaining about around here!

Anonymous said...

He can't be a Google manager for sure, otherwise he'd have known how to spell.

nozomi said...

Out in the blue room, MS is not exactly known for innovation; it's more like 'engulf and devour'. That being said, getting clients off of systems that work just fine for them *because MSFT wants them to upgrade* is not necessarily a business case in and of itself. Keeping MSFT's revenue streams intact is not my responsibility, nor is it that of my clients'. A new O/S is not needed nor demanded on an 18 month cycle. Sorry, guys. Every 5-7 years might be more appropriate given that it takes MSFT 3 tries to get it right. Haven't you heard that up there?

And will somebody please tell the Office clowns to quit with the dinosaur head ads already. If someone is perfectly happy with Office 97, leave them alone. Office 2003 is not that significant an improvement.

And the bakayaro who mucked up the majority of the Visio symbols should be made to crawl around the Redmond campus on his/her/their hands and knees backwards on a bed of ground glass, for at least 5 miles. The network design stencils are indescribably ugly. I am using an ancient copy of Visio Network Equipment and Cisco's network icons to get around this issue.

The innovation is taking place elsewhere, like at google, and Mozilla Foundation. (Yeah, you can start off with the same base for your browser, but see who has the more useful one.)

Mobile operating systems are pretty tough. Now that PalmSource has been bought, Palm can do almost anything they want, although they run the risk of alienating whatever is left of their customer base (mainly Treo users by now). Rumor has it they may go over to Windows Mobile although the next version of PalmOS is to be Linux-based. Handheld devices and Windows Mobile just don't make it--the O/S is way too klunky. It's not exactly user hostile, but it isn't user friendly either. I'd much rather have a Toshiba Libretto than anything running Windows Mobile.

But hey, I'm just a consultant, stockholder, and customer...why should MSFT care about *me*?

Anonymous said...

Google and Mozilla is innovative????

BWAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!! ROTFL!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Mini. Tell us more. Who was it that tried to fix the mess but went to Google instead?

I think I know - search the internal web for the PowerPoint named something like "BillG A Day in the life of a Dev" or such. The author, Mr. Perlow, moved on to Google last year or so.

I don't know if it ever was presented to Gates or not.

Anonymous said...

Wow, this blog is tending towards a signal to noise ration of 0 fast.

Can we get back to discussing what we can do to get MSFT back on track?

We do not have an immediate problem: VS2005, Office 12 and Windows Vista are great products that'll sell like hotcakes.

But longterm, we have a very dissatisfied developer population. Combine this with the current problems of hiring qualified candidates (we're not even going for the superstars anymore), we're headed straight for a problem with both the maintenance of our cash cows and the ability to innovate and create new sources of revenue.

Anonymous said...

I don\'t know where you get this \"the current problems of hiring qualified candidates (we\'re not even going for the superstars anymore)\" but we are are very fortunate to be hiring the college grads we are hiring. This is my 15th year recruiting for MS and I\'m feeling great about the people joining Microsoft in record numbers.

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with most of the comments made regarding mindshare and how critical it is.

Companies like Apple, Google just can't do any wrong right now. For eg,
- how many average joe iPod users out there know about the class action settlement?.
- what about when they find security holes in OS X, and news articles bluntly write in their defence that "Any complicated operating system is likely to have bugs".
- The press fall over themselves when talking about the nano and its selling like hotcakes even when it has 20% of the capacity of an ipod at 80% of the cost. Why? Because the real issue here isn't so much what's practical but what's cool.

Whens the last time you heard ANYONE call a Microsoft product "cool"?

Anonymous said...

The new user interface in Office 12 is getting some cool comments in the press and blogs.

http://www.kdedevelopers.org/node/1472

http://www.siliconvalleysleuth.com/2005/09/the_cool_in_off.html

Anonymous said...

Looks like many of the posters here have no clue of what they are talking about.

Microsoft has 'just' Vista and Office in its pipeline claimed one. Believe me there are a dozzen new products in all segments of the company's product portfolio.

The folks who say the internet platform is the future of explosive growth - that is exactly what the .com investors said too. Irrational exhuberence is back. Thankfully it's only one company - Google - that is the target and not dozzens as was the case 5 years back.

Microsoft has just leaped into the Mobile fray with their victory on the Palm systems. I heard many cry that Microsoft missed the mobile boat there - but I guess they are running saying some other negative thing now. Quite interestingly, all the anti-Microsofties avoided this hot news today cuz this will defeat their constant rant about management not delivering since clearly someone pulled the right shots here.

Whoops ... I forgot we are not supposed to harp about anything good about MSFT and only talk about its failures. Culture of self-criticism eh? Whoever said that was absolutely correct.

Microsoft's pipeline is actually attracting a lot of smart folks here who want to work with real technologies instead of work on browser hacks. Avalon, Indigo and all the other cool technologies have turned quite a few PHd's heads in the nation's premier CS institutions (I have personally heard 2 admit that they themselves and their fellow group-mates would go for MSFT now if they didn't have to finish up their thesises).

Finally, fch - read the articles on http://www.google-watch.org/ and let us know if you still think if me, you and Google is all that of a good idea.

Anonymous said...

Is it really about 'cool' though? Cool is fine, cool is great ... but you're going to be chasing it forever. Sooner or later you look like Mick Jagger. You'll be producing the tiniest, hippest ... Walkman around. But who gets work done with a Walkman?

I don't want MS chasing the kind of cool that makes heads turn on the street. I want MS chasing the kind of cool that makes me able to sit down and get lots and lots of work done with minimal effort. I want more of what Anders just showed off with c# (his new SQL-like qollection querying that rocks!). I want that awesome Monad shell. I want better security thinking throughout the system so that I don't have to hang my head in a roomful of Windows-haters. I want MS to jump out in the spotlight and do awesome things for the people who got hit by Rita & Katrina. Take back some of those bad vibes sown during the trial years! I want opened file formats, and MSlinux apps that are so damn useful even the zealots wind up buying them! You did this with Mac; you can do it on Linux. And you can do it with open hands not closed fists. You've done it before.

(No I'm not saying the code needs to be open; I'm just saying there's fertile ground in that camp. For every great app in Linux there are a dozen turds ... lotsa frustration with that and you guys _can_ capitalize on that! Open the formats, build translators for the older closed formats, and watch the tide turn the other direction.)

MS has all this ability sitting in the pipeline. Who's stepping on the hose?

Anonymous said...

MS will unfortunately never release Office or anything like it for Linux. Yeah they could make some office money maybe.. but OpenOffice is getting pretty good (I'm a programmer and sys admin and I've moved 15+ small businesses accounting for at least 250 seats of MS Office over to OpenOffice 2 beta).. It is simpler to use, doesn't have the bizare amount of useless features, uses less ram, and in general for 95% of users is a better office suite.

If MS ever embraced Linux it would immediately kill one of their 2 cash cows, and Office will not compete for long against OpenOffice and Star Office, MS would have to drop their prices from $500/seat to closer to $100/seat, and that would kill their second cash cow.

MS has already tried and failed to become a services company, maybe they should try again.. But then they'd piss off the only people who still really like them (the MCSEs who make decent money fixing/duct taping/etc MS solutions together).

I haven't spoken to a single person in the last year (business owners and techies) who are excited, looking forward to, or want anything more from MS (Well, except that MS consultant who wanted to move the mail system at the ISP I work for from 1 linux/postfix/cyrus imap server to 10 exchange servers at about 500 times the cost). Everyone is fed up, looking at Apple, Linux, anywhere but MS for solutions to their problems.

Anonymous said...

Wow, this blog is tending towards a signal to noise ration of 0 fast.

Can we get back to discussing what we can do to get MSFT back on track?


Someone already mentioned something that would help. Turn the manager feedback into something that actually affects a manager's review score.

If the majority of his/her direct reports thinks the manager is not doing an adequate job, knock 0.5 off their review score and require them to take a management training course.

If they pass the course and they still are not doing an adequate job after the additional training, take them off the management track and let them have another go at writing code.

Microsoft hires smart people. They should respect their opinion when it comes to reviewing their manager's performance.

Anonymous said...

Combine this with the current problems of hiring qualified candidates (we're not even going for the superstars anymore), we're headed straight for a problem with both the maintenance of our cash cows and the ability to innovate and create new sources of revenue.

Microsoft has grown to the point where they've outstripped the U.S.'s production of Computer Science graduates.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/04/27/AR2005042702241.html

"We're hiring as many people from college campuses as we can, but there are just not enough of them available," Rashid said.


One possible answer is for Microsoft to produce development tools that dramatically improve the productivity of software developers.

The argument for using .NET in the next release of our product was improved productivity.

Unfortunately, it is not ready to be used in developing an entire server product.

Anonymous said...

vhttp://www.miraesoft.com/karel/?p=56

fCh said...

"Finally, fch - read the articles on http://www.google-watch.org/ and let us know if you still think if me, you and Google is all that of a good idea."

Please have a look at: http://chircu.blogspot.com/2005/09/is-koogles-successor-key-to-googles.html , see when I posted it and then it's going to be OK.

If you knew more about me, you could have told companies pay me for my objectivity. I don't have an iPod since it's an audio device, yet you don't hear anybody talking about its sound quality.

If it's not too much for you, have a look at this as well: http://chircu.blogspot.com/2005/09/e-bay-looking-to-acquire-skype.html You could see that I am not always right from the beginning, but know that truth is sometimes the result of labor and process.

When posting the short quote about Google's using a predictive algorithm, I have to confess, I had a certain degree of admiration for a company that's willing to experiment new ways out of old problems. That's all. And, btw, it's too bad if I could have used the bold tag more sparingly, and didn't.

Cheers, fCh http://chircu.com

Anonymous said...

"Whens the last time you heard ANYONE call a Microsoft product "cool"?"

MSFT does have a perception problem and some of that is the normal "everyone's hates the leader" but it's also part self-created. There have been way to many marginal releases and upgrades. When MSFT does put out a product that's "somewhat" innovative like Acrylic (yes, I know it's based on a 3rd pty that was purchased), there's often a lot of positive media. Unfortunately, here again, MSFT releases a beta with some major shortcomings which quickly turned the buzz into a splat.

Bottom line, if you release innovative, compelling products you'll get the press, but the products need to be fully featured/complete esp because MSFT's track record in this regard is suspect.

Anonymous said...

On the subject of the 'curve' and stack ranking, I have first hand experience from my time as a manager in Microsoft.

When I became a manager in Microsoft back in '94 the company was a lot smaller and in management meetings we openly talked about matching the curve and stack ranking. Both were seen as positive and HR helped all managers through this process. The curve was important but we truly didn't focus on it as the belief was that by the very nature of performance reviews and different people some people would perform better than others and when viewed mathematically the bell curve would be achieved. I had a small team and I wasn’t worried because again it was clear that for the curve to 'work' there was a critical mass of people required and therefore I was under no pressure to rate one employee higher than another purely to hit a curve. My team was rolled up into my group until there was a critical mass to make the curve statistically relevant.

Later in my time at Microsoft, around '01 I was still a manager but had seen the company grow hugely. This growth brought in many experienced managers from other companies and the HR pool was diluted. Coupled with the almost paranoia in the US around equal rights for minorities the curve took on a different identity. I witnessed a dilution in the quality of first and second line managers within the company and this lower talent and lack of experience meant that the wrong message was given and the curve was used in the wrong way.

I was very fortunate to see it both work and not work and I know which I prefer and which gives the best motivation to employees and since leaving Microsoft I have used that experience.

(I was based in the UK and worked locally in the UK, in EMEA and globally)

Anonymous said...

"we're headed straight for a problem with both the maintenance of our cash cows and the ability to innovate and create new sources of revenue."

Agree. MSFT needs to make some fundamental changes to its culture. For example, I don't know how many times I've heard Ballmer or Gates interviewed saying "well, Vista probably won't have the impact of Win95 but it'll be a good product". IMO, this is just wrong-headed thinking entirely. The goal of every new product should be to far exceed the success of the previous one. Sure, you may not get there but at least that's your goal. Indeed, the real goal should be to not even have a previous one to compare to [insert Gates and Ballmer shuddering]. Instead, 90% of the focus appears to be on maintaining the cash cows via marginal incremental upgrades and hoping these do well enough. What would happen if the culture rewarded (and refused to accept less than) breakthough products on every release? What if the % revenue attributable to net new products got reported every year at least internally? What changes would that force on R&D and the company focus generally when that number came up as a rounding error? What if every legacy division needed to put forward and execute a plan for obsoleting its own current cash cows via net new offerings before the competition does it for them? What if Gates/Ballmer were to not just contemplate/fear but actually embrace and plan for a world where Windows and Office might not be MSFT's main businessess? And please don't say that's what the emerging businesses are for - those are weak at best (at least as currently envisioned/executed).

Anonymous said...

Is it really about 'cool' though? Cool is fine, cool is great ... but you're going to be chasing it forever. ..

I don't want MS chasing the kind of cool that makes heads turn on the street. I want MS chasing the kind of cool that makes me able to sit down and get lots and lots of work done with minimal effort.


Here's the core part of the issue: which persona does Microsoft want? Loved by nerds, sexy company, or boring business integrator?

I went to Microsoft's PDC and saw some cool things. But, frankly, Vista and the new Office are as cool as me doing a jump on my bike. Don't get me wrong; I love what they're doing and I think it's cool. But I was surprised at the borg-ness of Msft lovers when people start clapping because of some code Anders wrote. Gimme a break.

Much of Microsoft's innovation these days seems to be in the IT/business/collaboration software they're putting out there. That's good but it doens't buy "cool" from the geek community. The lack of popularity of Msft isn't all unwarranted.

Geeks get excited about technology in the geek space! Search engines, sweet mp3 players, new ways to do IM, game consoles etc. The xbox is one example of how Msft got some cred for doing something cool in the geek community.

Geeks don't care about new features in Office, content management systems, or new features in ASP.NET. A minor, minor percentage care about lambda expressions in C# 3.0.

If Microsoft wants people to be excited about technology they put out, they have to appeal to that geek in the masses. That's why Apple (iPods) and Google (search) is so popular. We already KNOW that Microsoft can do OSes. The question is what ELSE can they do?

Anonymous said...

>What would happen if the culture rewarded (and refused to accept less than) breakthough products on every release?

Probably catastrophic infighting as PMs battle savagely to squeeze in their new Lexus^H^H^H^H^H "innovation" / "breakthrough" resulting in the worst case of feature-itis in history.

Innovations and breakthroughs can't be put on a schedule, you know, and rarely are they recognized until well after the fact.

Anonymous said...

Windows is on 80% of desktops, on nice percentage of servers, everythere - as a consultant working on MS platform I'm not complaining. I don't care about innovation problems inside MS, I don't care about their managers, I don't care about their ugly decisions and so on. I just care about my three digit hourly wage and hope that Windows will be here another 10 years (so then I can buy iPods, Macs and other cool hardware/software)...

Anonymous said...

The previous comment about our expense report system reminded me of something..."Aren't we supposed to be a technology company?" If so, then WHY do I have to submit a PAPER copy of my receipts? Shouldn't I just scan them and attach the .mdi/.tif file to the Expense Report? If the folks in North Dakota need a paper copy because the IRS is requesting something, they could THEN print out the ER and the receipts from the database they're stored in. WHY IS THIS SUCH A DIFFICULT CONCEPT????? How much $$$$ would we be saving by storing these electronically along with the ER vs. storing paper copies of the receipts AND the ER in North Dakota?

Anonymous said...

"Here's the core part of the issue: which persona does Microsoft want? Loved by nerds, sexy company, or boring business integrator?"

If MSFT expects to succeed and ideally increase growth moving forward, it needs to do all three.

Currently, it has executed the boring enterprise supplier best. That's good from a revenue point of view but even there, the risk is that this group is typically risk averse and slow to change. In the sexy company space, Xbox imo would be the closest that MSFT has come but the rest of the consumer efforts (i.e. MSN) have fallen far short of that. On the nerds side, I'd say the efforts have been mixed with on net MSFT losing some ground to OSS and obviously Apple.

In terms of a fix, I think you need a division that is totally consumer-focused. This group wouldn't have all the backward compatibility issues of the legacy groups and would be free to fully exploit the Web 2.0 model of frequent product releases and updates. That would help with both sex appeal and the nerd aspect esp if the offerings were innovative technically. I would also consider putting a seperate Windows version under this group where MSFT can showcase its latest greatest technology with the caveat being that this version does not have the backwards compatibility (and much of the historical bloat) contained in the core product. There are a lot of folks who could get by with basic win32 compatability and would happily do so in return for faster access to a leaner OS with cool new features. This actually could result in a positive for the business-focused side as well in much the same way that Win95 was largely pushed by end users who'd gotten exposure to the product at home and then wanted those features at work. I realize that this means yeat another code base, but if the kernel were truly modular, this could be facilitated with less effort. It would also help to have seperate naming for the business vs consumer unit (which is why I'm suprised that MSN is being tucked under legacy vs headlining a new division). In fact, I would seriously consider breaking MSFT into two seperate entities with their own tracking stocks - one focused on the consumer and one focused on business. The resulting entities would be more focused, smaller, probably more agile and imo, would unlock a ton of shareholder value currently sitting unrealized in the current stock price.

Anonymous said...

"Probably catastrophic infighting as PMs battle savagely to squeeze in their new Lexus^H^H^H^H^H "innovation" / "breakthrough" resulting in the worst case of feature-itis in history."

Then get new PMs and a reward system that focuses them on the goal vs being "seen" to accomplish the goal. The goal stated is the right one. Shooting for average may be easier or more expedient but it's not going to be sufficient any longer imo.

"Innovations and breakthroughs can't be put on a schedule, you know, and rarely are they recognized until well after the fact."

Yup, they're difficult. Of course, if you don't even try, then they're impossible. Compare Jobs focus on "insanely great" products to MSFT's focus on "possibly one of our best yet".

Anonymous said...

When it comes to XBox, at least there is one instance where Microsoft got an embedded system right. Everything else has been a joke - basically trying to shoehorn the embedded system into being a mini-desktop version of Windows. LOL, everyone I know with a SmartPhone can't answer the damn thing when it rings! No wonder RickT bailed on the XBox - it wasn't being designed like the previous Microsoft Phone! How can so many clueless managers exist in such dense numbers in one company?

Anonymous said...

Oh by the way, there is the SmartWatch to look out for. You know - BillG's innovation that made the IEEE Spectrum list of the ten dumbest ideas of the year? LOL, that's the kind of innovation Microsoft is famous for!

Anonymous said...

The sad fact is that our execs are now so very disconnected from the real morale/culture problem. They think that somehow just shipping more product will help. NOOO, that's not it. It's the fact that our execs don't understand what it's like to be an IC, to want to just get something done, get credit for it and get paid well to do it...and NOT be getting micro/process managed to death while you're doing it. That's it, plain and simple. But no, working for MSFT has become more and more like working for the government. Many layers of indirection, serious avoidance of the problems...and ever decreasing "cool" places to go play.

Anonymous said...

Windows is on 80% of desktops, on nice percentage of servers, everythere - as a consultant working on MS platform I'm not complaining. I don't care about innovation problems inside MS, I don't care about their managers, I don't care about their ugly decisions and so on. I just care about my three digit hourly wage and hope that Windows will be here another 10 years

You just described the attitudes at the top levels of Microsoft.

Anonymous said...

Whenever I hear this argument about process I remember a late evening dinner time conversation on my product team. Everyone was bemoaning the fact that you couldn't even run a checked build without getting a lot of spurious assertions, let alone run any tests on it. Everyone wished the managers would realize this is an incredibly idiotic situation and take some down-time to fix it. But the plain fact was that the management didn't see this as an impediment to shipping, lol! All those hours wasted tracking down bugs the hard way (and it sure can be a hell of a lot harder then an intelligently placed assertion!). Basic use of assertions for finding REAL bugs, not simple events that occur commonly at run-time is like Software Engineering 101, but no manager on our product team gave any thought to fixing the bad assertions and disciplining the ones that put them in there (notably missing from the late evening dinner).

This is just one simple instance, but it points out the problems with, "process," for Software Engineering at Microsoft. When Microsoft Management chooses to shove some boiler-plate nonsense down those lazy IC's throats without any real thought behind it - that isn't process, it's dogma! The key component to process in Software Engineering is to have workers at every level know what the right thing is and do it! You need to use a brain there folks when applying the process. That is something that most Microsoft Middle Management is incapable of doing. You think that it might have something to do with the immeasureability of real process improvements in the current review system? Anytime that you try to simplify a very complex world to a few simple rules without using your brain (which seems to be an arch-goal of Microsoft Managers), you generally get screwed in my experience.

fCh said...

Oh by the way, there is the SmartWatch to look out for. You know - BillG's innovation that made the IEEE Spectrum list of the ten dumbest ideas of the year? LOL, that's the kind of innovation Microsoft is famous for!

By Anonymous, at 3:29 PM

The sad fact is that our execs are now so very disconnected from the real morale/culture problem. They think that somehow just shipping more product will help. NOOO, that's not it. It's the fact that our execs don't understand what it's like to be an IC, to want to just get something done, get credit for it and get paid well to do it...and NOT be getting micro/process managed to death while you're doing it. That's it, plain and simple. But no, working for MSFT has become more and more like working for the government. Many layers of indirection, serious avoidance of the problems...and ever decreasing "cool" places to go play.



Reading these 2 contributions, I could not refrain from asking myself: Could multi-(b/m)illionaries innovate on behalf of, and for the benefit of, your average JOE?

Hmm, I think I have an answer, yet invite you, the reader, to think about this, here or at http://chircu.com

Cheers, fCh

Anonymous said...

The curve was important but we truly didn't focus on it as the belief was that by the very nature of performance reviews and different people some people would perform better than others and when viewed mathematically the bell curve would be achieved.

The assumption that the distribution is a bell curve is the ridiculous part of management's "thinking".

You have a finite number of people on the planet that have the skill set you want.

You hire the best you can find.

You then tell the best that you can find that some of you are average and some of you need to improve.

You have to have some really low self-esteem to put up with that shit.

Anonymous said...

Reading these 2 contributions, I could not refrain from asking myself: Could multi-(b/m)illionaries innovate on behalf of, and for the benefit of, your average JOE?

Steve Jobs has proved he can. The difference between Jobs and Gates is that Jobs could innovate before he became a zillionaire.

Gates is trying to go from an imitator to an innovator, even as he has become ever more disconnected from those average Joes. Low probability of success.

Anonymous said...

Reading these 2 contributions, I could not refrain from asking myself: Could multi-(b/m)illionaries innovate on behalf of, and for the benefit of, your average JOE?

I think that the answer to your question is yes. If the question is: Does being a multi-(b/m)illionare provide an advantage for someone to innovate for the average Joe? The answer to this question is no in my opinion. The key component to creativity and innovation lies in the individual, not in his financial circumstances. There is no argument that having money helps a creative person spread his innovations to the common man, but the money is not the source of his creativity.

I think that the basis for your question has more to do with business organization. In a business that is inherently creative, how do you provide the maximum productivity for your organization? You certainly do not do it by running most ideas from the top in a traditionally hierarchical management system like Microsoft. That is a waste of the talent that you have spent so much time and money to recruit. My own view is that in a business based on creativity and innovation you have to be entirely focused on the individuals. It's not as easy as having a cookie-cutter management scheme filled with all the inconsistencies and paradoxes that come with it. Despite all the work involved, the most important thing for managers to be concerned about in a company based on creativity are the people doing the work. Not the schedules. Not the product features. Not the competition. Concentrate on the people and everything good will follow. And for God's sake, lose that damn thin skin that most Microsoft managers have and listen to criticism without taking offense!

fCh said...

Steve Jobs has proved he can.

Actually, I am not sure how much of the latest things at Apple come from Jobs vs. his employees. It might have been that Jobs just saw a collection of good ideas more clearly into a successful product in the market.

fCh said...

I think that the answer to your question is yes. If the question is: Does being a multi-(b/m)illionare provide an advantage for someone to innovate for the average Joe? The answer to this question is no in my opinion. The key component to creativity and innovation lies in the individual, not in his financial circumstances. There is no argument that having money helps a creative person spread his innovations to the common man, but the money is not the source of his creativity.

The damn SmartWatch idea doesn't seem to come from somebody who's tuned into the life-styles and aspirations of the generation Y. Now, may BillG try his hand at something like this? Sure, but I cannot call it the future!

I think that the basis for your question has more to do with business organization.

It definitely has an organizational aspect. I don't know the organizational detaiils of Microsoft, but if one needs to go all the way up to Mr. Gates, (compete with his SmartWatch), for resources doesn't seem conducive to innovation. Does it? Not to mention the waste of time on Mr. Gates' part. Look at this young employee (she even posted here) who's in charge with Smart.com. She sounds as if she needs to meet BillG for some reason. It is as if her unit manager cannot appreciate the merits of what she's trying to do, equip her with resources and responsibility, and get that thing running... I hope you've gotten my point by now: Innovation at Microsoft should come from each and every young, bright, and ambitious, IC.

On a different level, too many references around here are made to BillG (and SteveB), as if one (+1) person can make it through a 60,000-person organization. This might have something to do with how the organization was initially set and run, but it's high time power and responsibility got delegated to lower levels. If the (former) 7 units were as individualized as to report their financial statements, why aren't their heads responsible? On the other hand, it's also about people who need to be more vocal/responsible about making things right, at their levels and up in the Company.

And for God's sake, lose that damn thin skin that most Microsoft managers have and listen to criticism without taking offense!

I am not sure what I need to make out of this. You may actually drop me a line at fchircu at gmail dot com

Cheers, fCh

Anonymous said...

The damn SmartWatch idea doesn't seem to come from somebody who's tuned into the life-styles and aspirations of the generation Y. Now, may BillG try his hand at something like this? Sure, but I cannot call it the future!

Yes, but that's BillG's problem whether he has money or not. He's just not that creative of a guy in any useful way. He can't help it - he's a geek after all! It's just that your original question, "Could multi-(b/m)illionaries innovate on behalf of, and for the benefit of, your average JOE?," went too far is all. Money doesn't preclude someone from being innovative - in fact I'd argue that the two are mutually exclusive attributes. Other than my nitpicking (I firmly believe that the Devil is in the Details!), we are in agreement here.

I said:

My own view is that in a business based on creativity and innovation you have to be entirely focused on the individuals.

You said:

I hope you've gotten my point by now: Innovation at Microsoft should come from each and every young, bright, and ambitious, IC.

I think that are in complete agreement here. As a general management principal for a company that requires creativity, the key focus is on helping ICs deliver the maximum value of their efforts to the company, and you don't do that with a hierarchical management system like Microsoft which is extremely traditional in every way despite their claims otherwise.

That said, one aspect of software development that no one who hasn't spent a lot of time writing code will ever really understand is the incredible level of attention to details that it takes to do a good job - especially on large projects. It isn't too hard to write code, but it is very, very hard to write really good code that is secure, reusable and maintainable in the future. Young people in the business tend to have a problem with this because they haven't had the chance to really screw up good yet. This is why a company that needs creativity in the software domain needs to focus on its ICs even more, not less. Real process in the software world shouldn't be a sudden sledge hammer blow of one-size-fits-all mindless and mechanical procedure. Real process develops ICs so that mechanical procedures are not necessary. and better, cleaner code results. You can't get that without being completely focused helping the ICs develop their full potential professionally for themselves and thus for the company.

I said:

And for God's sake, lose that damn thin skin that most Microsoft managers have and listen to criticism without taking offense!

This wasn't directed at you fCh, but at the Microsoft managers. It is a very common comment from managers on some of these threads - the one sure way to get canned at Microsoft is to criticize management directly (I assume the managers making this observation are not the problem!). Employees of Microsoft discuss their critiques amongst trusted members of their teams and on venues like this. It's like working in the old Soviet system or the Third Reich, you talk to folks you trust, and otherwise you keep your mouth shut!

Anonymous said...

It isn't too hard to write code, but it is very, very hard to write really good code that is secure, reusable and maintainable in the future. Young people in the business tend to have a problem with this because they haven't had the chance to really screw up good yet. This is why a company that needs creativity in the software domain needs to focus on its ICs even more, not less.

Hell yes! This is the best thing I've read on this blog in a while.

The way to get awesome software -- along all axes: creativity, security, robustness, aesthetics, etc -- is to invest the ICs with a sense of pride, the tools to constantly improve, and a work environment which allows for creativity and a degree of spontaneity.

Quality gates and process-as-a-crutch drive towards well-defined mediocrity. Craftsmanship and pride lead to true quality.

Software is a unique in its plasticity and the amount of creativity necessitated in its design, as well as its staggering complexity if it's allowed to grow out of hand. Other companies have a tremendous advantage over Microsoft because they've sidestepped the complexities that are killing Microsoft while Microsoft is busy tripping over its millions of metaphorical feet.

Anonymous said...

Hell yes! This is the best thing I've read on this blog in a while.

Thanks! Of course I should mention that I did get canned a few months ago for not keeping my mouth shut, lol! Not being part of Microsoft anymore made this summer the most pleasant since I was in high school!

Anonymous said...

"Employees of Microsoft discuss their critiques amongst trusted members of their teams and on venues like this. It's like working in the old Soviet system or the Third Reich, you talk to folks you trust, and otherwise you keep your mouth shut."

This is a sad reflection of what Microsoft culture has become. Partly, it is a consequence of the risk of a very real financial downside (the options cushion never existed for most ICs) and the constant experience of being communicated to by management in the most politically correct and carefully couched terms. I have yet to hear any manager (and I have two of the best) give a full, honest and open assessment of what went well, what went wrong and what we will do to fix things. There is always plenty of positive spinning involved. Since the power balance by definition leans in the direction of the manager, this leaves me with the impression that I cannot possibly be honest with my frustration.

This tendency works up the whole chain: One of the better MSFT VPs talks in his blog about his open door policy and how he encourages ICs to stop by and talk about their view of management. Having such discussions would be incredibly valuable for the company. I doubt any IC would take the risk of making their opinions known without a solid offer from another company and the intent to take it. To clarify: it's not fear of the VP, it's understanding that middle management would not take kindly to an IC going way over their heads.

Anonymous said...

Employees of Microsoft discuss their critiques amongst trusted members of their teams and on venues like this. It's like working in the old Soviet system or the Third Reich, you talk to folks you trust, and otherwise you keep your mouth shut.

I can't even begin to tell you how spot on this comment is. My group is essentially run by the popular clique from the TV show Laguna Beach. If you are in the clique, you have it made. If you are not in the clique, your existence really doesn't matter much. Sound like high school? It sure feels like high school.

Man, I hated high school.

Anonymous said...

Talking about new cash cows for MSFT, we have 2 huge ones in Server (here we have the big firms who have signed up for - should we say lasting and cosy relationship for the obvious reason - those Linux kernel changes are too hard to keep track of while you get plenty of goodies from Microsoft in the management domain for free and that works out of the box) and Mobile (Big Palm win this week that is just going the begining of the dominance of MSFT of the Mobile market). With the 2 of these units performing @ double digit rates and bringing billions in revenues, I am sure Office and Windows client will slowly take the back seat as the major earners.

Anonymous said...

If you are in the bussiness of converting Office to one of those inferior products out there calling themselves productivity suites, then I am sorry to say, the kind of people you are dealing with will be the first to fire you when office 12 comes out since their rivals who will Office 12 (of which there are many) will be far ahead in terms of productivity.

Anonymous said...

The folks here who want to talk about Microsoft's products are strongly encouraged to form their own blog/site and take part in such discussions. You guys are constantly eroding the core intention of this blog.

Anonymous said...

Innovation by Google - Chris Rock show webcasted - now that's Innovation! Looks like they are flowing out of their juices and are still desparately trying to keep there name alive in the media. Desparate attempts to keep the stock from falling?

Quality from Apple - Ipod Nano with scratching screens - didn't they even envision that people will put them in their pockets? What was the point of making it so small otherwise?

Anonymous said...

If you are in the bussiness of converting Office to one of those inferior products out there calling themselves productivity suites, then I am sorry to say, the kind of people you are dealing with will be the first to fire you when office 12 comes out since their rivals who will Office 12 (of which there are many) will be far ahead in terms of productivity.

I don't want to start some flame about this topic - just curious - what is so breakthru in new Office 12 except a new UI? Is there something really compelling for me to upgrade from a previous version? Do I still need to use that shitty COM layer when I want to access document content from my app (and I have to load Word or Excel to the memory just to access a document)? I know that this is not a product line forum but every MS positive comment says that Office 12 is "something special" hence I would like to know what's the buzz about.

And don't want me to start talking about my HP6315 PocketPC phone quality. It would be nasty.

Anonymous said...

"The folks here who want to talk about Microsoft's products are strongly encouraged to form their own blog/site and take part in such discussions. You guys are constantly eroding the core intention of this blog.

By Anonymous, at 1:29 AM"

Who do you think you are? The anonymous consciousness of minimsft? Give everyone a break and let us write here what elsewhere would get us fired.

Anonymous said...

The folks here who want to talk about Microsoft's products are strongly encouraged to form their own blog/site and take part in such discussions. You guys are constantly eroding the core intention of this blog.

The intention of this blog is to create a more capable Microsoft with a smaller head count?

If talking about Microsoft's products shows what happens when a company grows so large it outstrips the capacity of the planet to produce software developers, then I would say that anything that discourages people to not waste their lives getting squashed by some insecure middle management yob is right on target.

Anonymous said...

I don't know how you can say that people want to avoid the changes in the Linux kernel. If I want to stay with a particular kernel version I can pay someone to suppport / fix any problems with that version for however long I want. No one and no factor can force me to continue upgrading.

If I go with any version of Windows, what happens when the product is sunsetted? Who do I pay to keep the security updates coming for it? Have I just accidentally taken the bait of a troll?

Anonymous said...

"You know what? I'll do the CEO gig. I'm 4 years at the company, and would love to take the reigns..."

Now, I realize this is a tiny complaint amongst some really intelligent posts, but I see this word being misspelled all over the place and it really makes me crazy: it's REINS, as in "I'll take the REINS".. it's an equestrian reference. Now, if you want to play royalty, and REIGN over your domain, then go for it!

Anonymous said...

"Now, I realize this is a tiny complaint amongst some really intelligent posts, but I see this word being misspelled all over the place and it really makes me crazy: it's REINS, as in "I'll take the REINS".. it's an equestrian reference. Now, if you want to play royalty, and REIGN over your domain, then go for it!"

I think he was talking about ending Ballmer's reign and taking over the reins. To which I say go for it. Hard to believe he could do a worse job.

Anonymous said...

Companies like Apple, Google just can't do any wrong right now. For eg,
- how many average joe iPod users out there know about the class action settlement?.


Well, it just wasn't big news.

- what about when they find security holes in OS X, and news articles bluntly write in their defence that "Any complicated operating system is likely to have bugs".

It's true; any complicated operating system is likely to have bugs. But Windows is the one with "Patch Tuesdays" and several unpatched vulnerabilities in Internet Explorer. It's Windows that had two-thirds of the world's computers rebooting in one week because of a boneheaded RPC implementation. It's Windows that has so many open ports that it has to include its own firewall on by default, and insists that you install resource-sucking anti-virus and anti-spyware software too, to protect yourself from the system. It's Windows that is so accident-prone that it has to take snapshots of itself for you to revert to when the registry breaks or a trojan hits. Honestly, this is ridiculous.

How many updates do you see on Windows Update that say "This could allow a malicious hacker to take over your computer"? You could make it into a drinking game, for Pete's sake.

All of us were hoping the Longhorn project would be the final rewrite to get rid of the security problems and aging design. It's really too bad that's not the case, due to poor management that required a reset. Microsoft will market Longhorn as "the most secure Windows yet" like they do with every release. It will be a little more secure, but things just seem to keep cropping up, month after month, despite Gates' much-publicized Trusted Computing goals.

- The press fall over themselves when talking about the nano and its selling like hotcakes even when it has 20% of the capacity of an ipod at 80% of the cost. Why? Because the real issue here isn't so much what's practical but what's cool.

Smaller and easy to use is practical.

As for price, let me know if you can find a 4GB flash drive less than $200.

Apple ("R&D South") just has a way of merging functionality with design. It's not part of MSFT's design culture to approach things this way. While everyone else has ugly clunker players obviously designed by engineers who wanted to overload it with buttons and seams and curves, Apple took the route nobody else did and simplified everything and didn't approach it as this big geeky auxiliary computer device that would make you look dorky, but as a ubiquitous lifestyle device that looked pretty neat to have around. The competitors market a "WMA-based digital music player," while Apple markets a "portable music player." The iTunes Music Store doesn't even mention the word "AAC" or "bitrate" anywhere--you just download music tracks. God, just compare the iTunes interface to Windows Media Player.

Apple is steering digital media and has therefore threatened Microsoft's push into the living room, so some bitterness is to be expected.

Anonymous said...

"The intention of this blog is to create a more capable Microsoft with a smaller head count?"

That's Mini's goal. I'm not sure the two are necessarily linked. Yes, MSFT as currently envisioned is not growing fast enough and is too bureacratic and slow to respond. Cutting back on headcount would probably help that short-term if done right, but the risk as always is that it won't be done right and instead the cream will leave. However, I think there's a reasonable argument that MSFT is in enough either large or potetentially large markets that it could support an even bigger aggregrate headcount - if only it were actually hitting on all cylinders. Given that, the better choice imo would be to spin MSFT into seperate baby MSFT's. Once untethered from the mother ship, each would very quickly be forced to make the changes required to get focused and get more agile - or risk failing. That might mean massive headcount chops in some or perhaps just mgt changes in others. It would also give each the freedom to self-maximize vs toe the party line - the latter in some cases is becoming an increasing burden. As importantly, it would unlock a ton of sharholder value since currently, all of the emerging businesses combined are effectively valued at $0 in MSFT's price AND are taking away from EPS. It wouldn't be easy and there would be a lot of duplication, but in the end, I think the sum of the parts would be more succesful that the current whole.

TheKhalif said...

Wow, I really wish MS wasn't so fucked up. It's real funny how I used to tell people about there sorry, non-existent mgmt abilities ( in a "respectful" way of course). Even in the Core Wndows division, there was enough mismanagement and laziness to make me think they were all the ghetto children they complain about.
Maybe MS should think about putting some money into the American school system and outsourcing won't be necessary. Our kids are being turned into hip hop idiots while Bill sits and wonders where all the talent went.
Uhh, Bill they said fuck this company. If you think you can do it without hard workers, GOOD LUCK. Even more amazing is that people are now realizing how little freedoms American workers really have. What good is Freedom Of Speech if you get fired for it?

Anonymous said...

Nice comment about the SmartWatch.

When I first saw that thing, I said to those around me, "Has anyone ever been into a bedroom and looked at what people put there - do they want a watch charger on their Ethan Allen dresser?"

The watch was HUGE and clunky and shouted "I AM A GEEK WHO WILL WEAR ANYTHING."

I don't know if it's failed yet. But what's it done recently?

It's the MS Bob of hardware, I suppose.

fCh said...

"...while Apple markets a "portable music player." The iTunes Music Store doesn't even mention the word "AAC" or "bitrate" anywhere--you just download music tracks. God, just compare the iTunes interface to Windows Media Player."


That's because it's all about emotions. Simple design and such are a posteriori rationalizations. I would not give Apple credit for how dumb their customers are--just look at the (pink) leather covers that sell for $70. Anybody recalls the Razor craze of the late '90's? At Sony, the top guy is a new guy (Stringer). He may be able to put the whole industry in order--some steps have already been undertaken if you look at Sony's latest MD-players/recorders. For example, you could get for $150 a recorder that uploads (alas, once) the content you take in via a mic-line. Better battery life/cost, and the ability to burn 8 CD's into a minidisc at higher quality than top MP3. Now, the icing on the cake is that it plays natively WMA and MP3! I would not even go into speeds and feeds, but only mention its HI-FI amplifier and 6 band equalizer. Sorry for all this story, SNE is not even my customer...

On the other hand, if servers sold like shampoos, Cindy Crawford would have been in MSFT's payroll!

"Apple is steering digital media and has therefore threatened Microsoft's push into the living room, so some bitterness is to be expected."

MSFT has messed it all up with its DRM (and so have others) and has never had a clear digital strategy going forward. Or, if it has one, it is probably the result of a thousand constraints placed by industry "partners". Have a look at the FOO media player bar, and you'll get my point. But that's Robin Hood, I know ;-)

Cheers, fCh.

TheKhalif said...

"MSFT has messed it all up with its DRM (and so have others) and has never had a clear digital strategy going forward. Or, if it has one, it is probably the result of a thousand constraints placed by industry "partners". Have a look at the FOO media player bar, and you'll get my point. But that's Robin Hood, I know ;-)"



You can actually insert (almost any MS tech) in place of DRM. It's not that the talent isn't there, it's that bureaucratic necessity requires that your mgr's buddies have more input into the direction of architecture than the people who were hired to innovate.

And then you have to navigate through cultural and social hurdles that prevent good ideas from being properly explored and\or implemented. All in all, MS is a mess and it's no one's fault but those in charge.

Anonymous said...

That's because it's all about emotions. Simple design and such are a posteriori rationalizations. I would not give Apple credit for how dumb their customers are--just look at the (pink) leather covers that sell for $70. Anybody recalls the Razor craze of the late '90's?

1.) It's not about emotions. I just explained why the iPod/iTunes combo is selling--superior function and design. It's that easy. iPods are simply the best music players out there.

2.) Calling over 80% of the market "dumb" strikes me as bitterness over a succeeding competitor. Apple made portable digital music easy, accessible, and fun. Something nobody else was interested in doing. While people market "WMA-based FM-tuner digital media player with Napster-To-Go capability," Apple markets "portable music player." I think you're not recognizing the point of why I mention that. Everyone else is selling crappy geek devices that look ugly and are cumbersome to navigate. Apple was the first with the non-geek music player.

At Sony, the top guy is a new guy (Stringer). He may be able to put the whole industry in order--some steps have already been undertaken if you look at Sony's latest MD-players/recorders. For example, you could get for $150 a recorder that uploads (alas, once) the content you take in via a mic-line. Better battery life/cost, and the ability to burn 8 CD's into a minidisc at higher quality than top MP3. Now, the icing on the cake is that it plays natively WMA and MP3! I would not even go into speeds and feeds, but only mention its HI-FI amplifier and 6 band equalizer. Sorry for all this story, SNE is not even my customer...


Haha, sure, Sony's going to put the industry in order, after they let go of 10,000 of their workforce. I'll let you in on a secret--consumers don't care about any of the things you just listed.

I think the fact competitors continue to believe people only buy iPod because of its "look" or due to "emotion" illustrates why they continue to fail, and why Microsoft is close to completely losing the battle for the living room.

fCh said...

1.) It's not about emotions. I just explained why the iPod/iTunes combo is selling--superior function and design. It's that easy. iPods are simply the best music players out there.

I don't think I can lend myself to a quasi-religious war by taking the conversation beyond this point. I respect you perspective, and wish you well and happy iPod-casting!

2.) Calling over 80% of the market "dumb" strikes me as bitterness over a succeeding competitor. Apple made portable digital music easy, accessible, and fun. Something nobody else was interested in doing. While people market "WMA-based FM-tuner digital media player with Napster-To-Go capability," Apple markets "portable music player." I think you're not recognizing the point of why I mention that. Everyone else is selling crappy geek devices that look ugly and are cumbersome to navigate. Apple was the first with the non-geek music player.

You are missing an important point. I have NO stake in any one of the players involved in the conversation. My only stakes are as consumer and business professional. As consumer I started being comfortable with such players only with the most recent iteration in Sony minidiscs. I had not liked ANY one of the players on the market before that, and think that even Sony has some way to go. If you really want to see cool from looks to speeds and feeds, check out Sony's Qualia! We'll hear more and more about it, I am sure.

In any event, we've strayed away a bit and I do value the conversations centered on MSFT, in the given context. You think so strongly about these things? Drop me a line and let's capitalize on such ideas in the context of a business!

Cheers, fCh.

Anonymous said...

hey, this fch guy is making a good point about the $70 covers for ipod. if that's not fetish what is it? if we agree on this point then spare the talk about ipod not being about emotions!

do i have an ipod? sure i do, my wife got it for me. do i like it? since she doesn't know what i'm riting here i can say NO! too many restrictions with those damn itunes...

TheKhalif said...

"hey, this fch guy is making a good point about the $70 covers for ipod. if that's not fetish what is it? if we agree on this point then spare the talk about ipod not being about emotions!"

That maybe true but this board is about the current and former employees of MS who have been shafted over the years in favor of bureaucracy and stack ranking.

When I started at MS (my whole time was in the Windows division) I felt like a 3 year old at XMas, but after 2 or 3 years, the "process" wore on me greater than the weather.
Sure, this all may have the end effect of producing less "cool" widgets, but tyou can't address that without addressing root causes. In this case, mismanagement and favoritism in place of work ethic and creative spark.
I, unfortunately was one of those "career" 3.0s who knew nothing of stack ranking only of favoritism and mismanagement. Not to mention the 3X more work that I did than other teammates, some of whom were on paid vacation. This prevalence of "Imperial right" is extending throughout the industry now and it's amazing anything gets done.

MS needs to take the reins and be true to the 1000s of "unsug heroes" who innovate while other "politically-moticated" individuals gum up the works and make for bloated department sizes and a general lack of efficiency.
How much money is saved by having 3 competent team members vs 10 who do the work of 3 competent members?
How efficient is it to accept direction from people who can barely defrag a hard drive vs those who sleep with Steve McConnell and Martin Fowler texts under their pillow.
Software is neither political nor emotional, and that is the message that is escaping the upper echelons of "Microsoftie-ness."

Anonymous said...

"That maybe true but this board is about the current and former employees of MS who have been shafted over the years in favor of bureaucracy and stack ranking."

No, it's about making the company better and more efficient which, among other things, likely includes changing the current review/ranking system. Big difference. BTW, I'm a former high performing employee (and current shareholder) who was asked to leave because I refused to ignore what I saw as wrong. I say that so you won't confuse me with someone who hasn't seen MSFT at its worst as well as its best. Still, I'm here because I would like to see the company improve and Mini has created an excellent forum for doing that. Those who simply want to bitch or (worse) rejoice in the company's (now obvious to all) problems, should go to the Yahoo MSFT board. You'll find no shortage of kindred spirits there.

TheKhalif said...

Well, it seems as though you are attempting to get around the fact that these things need to change because obviously it was only a matter fo time before these practices began to inhibit creativity and innovation rather than applauding it.
Mini's comments that the middle management structure is bloated and overused echo my and the majority of comments put forth by workers wh long for the days you speak of. The problem is woul dthose times have existed with VPs taking the MASSIVE profies while peppering the pockets of their enablers, namely the seemingly incompetent array of 3-1 ratio maanagers who still can't determine a low level process or in the worse case aren't allowed to.
My love for MS is only eclipsed by my love for independent though and the ability to innovate. Sometimes these things are in direct juxtaposition (can you say five reorgs in five years) leaving any rational person with reservations about the process.
When MS makes the creative TECHNICAL people the ost important thing maybe people will look less at competition and more at advancement of themselves, the team and the process.

Anonymous said...

http://www.gizmodo.com/gadgets/portable-media/show-us-your-busted-ipod-nano-127927.php#viewcomments

Anonymous said...

"Well, it seems as though you are attempting to get around the fact that these things need to change because obviously it was only a matter fo time before these practices began to inhibit creativity and innovation rather than applauding it."

Considering that I knowingly put my job on the line to stand up for what I thought was wrong, that's pretty unlikely. MSFT has many problems that require many different solutions. Better rewarding and empowering developers is not the magic bullet, it's simply one of many things that needs to be addressed as part of getting this company back to some semblance of its former self. With respect to management, imo there are far too many managers/VPs and collectively, you're correct that they're paid far too much. More importantly, their compensation is so loosely tied to the company and stock's performance that they've actually been making $100's of millions while growth has slowed and shareholders have gotten screwed. That said, they're not all bad and a large part of the problem is the system that allows/maintains this. Kill the people w/o addressing the systemic problems and the issue will quickly arise again. This is where the focus needs to be on senior most mgt - they control that. Plus, let's keep in mind that not all mgrs are bad just like not employees/developers are good. There's plenty of deadwood and rest and vestors (to use a dated term) in both. Again, the issue imo is fixing the system/culture that allows this to propogate and I think Gates/Ballmer needs to be front and center on embracing that. As good as this blog has been in raising the issues, ultimately real change will only occur when those two stop simply responding to the need for change (or not as the case may be) but actually drive it. Hopefully, that day is soon...

letdinosaursdie said...

"...few developers feel that it matters if they're up on whatever direction Microsoft is moving next. Technologies like Monad, which would once have been embraced, are given the "Tell me once it's widely deployed and the only option, but until then I'll stick with Python/Perl/WSH/Whatever..."

Microsoft is being "free softwared" out of existence at a faster rate than many understand. Whether or not all people are outright switching to a free operating system, developers are beginning to switch to free tools in general. With free languages like Python and Ruby along with a stack of free software to make those languages powerful, they are bypassing all of the squeeze points that once made Microsoft matter. When I can deliver my service in a platform agnostic manner with free tools, why would I care about Microsoft? If they stood in my way, as they do based on their poor standards support, why would I like Microsoft? The bulwark that kept me inside Microsoft's world now keeps me out... militantly so.

Anonymous said...

Seems that Bill and Steve gave themselves 5.0s given the merit raises they received last year. See story below.

Headline from MSNBC:
Gates, Ballmer earned $1 million in 2004
7-figured salaries an 11 percent increase over previous year, filing shows

URL:
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/9521417/

I received a 3.5 this past fiscal year compared to the 4.0 I received the prior fiscal year, even though I felt like I accomplished more significant things this fiscal year. Go figure.

My 4.0 last year got me a 2.5% raise and my 3.5 this year also got me a 2.5% raise. The word we received from HR was that Steve raised the merit increase budget this year, so I suppose that might have been a good thing if I was measured using last year's curve.

Maybe we should ask the Board of Directors to put Bill and Steve on the same review and comp plan as the employees ;-)

Anonymous said...

"If you really want to see cool from looks to speeds and feeds, check out Sony's Qualia! We'll hear more and more about it, I am sure."

Hey fCh, read this:

http://quote.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=10000006&sid=ajtFgFy6CNuA&refer=home

Stringer and Chubachi have labeled 15 unprofitable products that they may cut, declining to give details. Chubachi did say that Sony will reduce its research and development at its robot business, and are not developing new models in its high-end Qualia electronics brand.

Still think we will hear more and more about it?

fCh said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
fCh said...

Still think we will hear more and more about it?


Anonymous, thank you for the link. It reads something like this: "and are not developing new models in its high-end Qualia electronics brand." Few paragraphs dowm, when talking about Sony's Wega flat-panel tv's, the wording is "phasing out."

It looks like Sony won't extend Qualia (for a while)...

Indeed, considering the cost controlling mesaures imposed across the board, it make sense that no more R&D can be spent on TOP concepts leading to TOP products before better operational efficiency it's being achieved, and investments in more profitable areas (e.g. cel processors and OLED screns) are made.

Qualia is craft and will be to at the top of their category for a number of years to come. Thus, I ought to qualify my previous statement and say that connoisseurs will talk more and more about it ;-)

To return to Qualia's future, in my interpretation, I think they'll stay with the handfull of models already developed--mighty plenty if you asked me.

On the other hand, as I wrote before about Ken Kutaragi, instrumental in PlayStation's latest success, an astute business competitor would take this opportunity to make some Japanese over-ruled heroes a bunch of offers they cannot refuse.

Always look to the future!

Cheers, fCh

Anonymous said...

"Headline from MSNBC:
Gates, Ballmer earned $1 million in 2004
7-figured salaries an 11 percent increase over previous year, filing shows"

You can (and imo should) fault them for the recent performance of the company. You can I suppose, even question the optics of taking 11% increases while passing out 2.5% ones to higher performing employees. However, their overall compensations levels are among the lowest in the S&P. Indeed, that's one of the things that makes you go "huh?". They pay themselves humbly, but turn around and pay the next levels down asinine levels of compensation even though the vast majority of those individuals don't have the performance/impact to justify it and have such little confidence in the company that they lead the entire market in insider selling.

Mobile Hilfe said...

to reflect one more time:
"Mobile Phone as Home Computer? "
--> Never!