Sunday, October 02, 2005

Jumping the Shark

Some random things to comment on - looks like I might post more while out of town than in it... well, not much else to do in this here stretch of Podunk.

First, Dare has a heartbreaking post that speaks some truth: Some Thoughts on the Mini-Microsoft blog. I've certainly been thinking about a lot of the same issues. I could understand if Dare unsubscribed. He has my lasting thanks for being this little blog's early adopter. He was one of the first cool kids to take notice and even drop by with the occasional thoughtful comment. It's probably time for him to move on to a new cool thing.

As I noticed in the previous entry, things are a bit on the grumbling side here. Lots of surprising things happened all at once with the two negative articles, the Slashdotting, the reorganization, and the Company Meeting. It was a pipeline of revelations. Better, I say, than The Fonze waterskiing over a shark, but still it leads a bit of a gap afterwards. How the heck do you follow that? Right now, I just have an image of this blog's persona being a cranky parrot: "Rwak! Mini wants a layoff! Rwak!"

In fact, to grow productively with the current momentum, a blog isn't the best medium right now. I'd rather have something that was the combination of a blog, a community discussion space, and a wiki. As of now, folks continue to add comments to posts from long, long ago. But who sees them? Like Roy said, it's like tears in rain. I get to read every new comment that comes in and I'd like to elevate them to something worth reading vs. just having to create a new blog post.

The absolute best consequence of everything that has happened is that executive management finally got asked some really hard questions. And once enough blood was in the water, ever the most gracious of Microsoft-beat reporters asked the hard questions. Still sunshine and smoke with-respect-to the answers, but that was a big shift and the questions have been asked at all levels and the extraordinary public focus it brought. The fact that those questions came up makes me want to tip my hat and pedal into the sunset.

Other consequences might be as short lived as sparks: folks starting up their own blogs "in the spirit of Mini-Microsoft." I can only say, be sure you have an agenda worth more than ten weekly posts. It's one thing to have an ax to grind, and another to want to make a better ax.

As for recent comments...

Mini, have you ever stopped to consider that some of the "dead wood" could be turned into very high performers in the hands of better managers?

Well, let's talk about talented people who have ratings indicating that they are poor-performers. In this case, I've considered that those people could be turned around. That, however, is not the practical culture of Microsoft management. Look, if you can effectively turn someone around into a very-good to great performer, you just saved Microsoft a whole bunch of cash vs. hiring, moving, and training a new person. But that's not the day-to-day management philosophy except in rare pockets of Microsoft. I'm hands on, personally, but I was talking with a dev manager recently about how much time managers spend on their reports and his philosophy was: I put all my focus and energy on my 4.0s. They are going to deliver results no one else can. My 3.0s can come to me for help, but I'm not going to actively mentor them. I wish I had a picture of my face at that moment just to know what my face looks like when I'm thinking: Dork.

And the big question floated up (or driven down) when considering poor-performers or people who have hit a plateau: would you rather keep them on the team or get a hot new smart college hire? That's a bait and switch.

A pro-curve comment is a good read. Bits and pieces:

I do not want to work at any company that does not have a curve. We need to reward performance, individual performance. If our managers are not using the system correctly, lets improve the management, not get rid of the system. Frankly, we should target 10% good attrition at every level of the company, every year.

10% of the VPs get the boot.
10% of the partners get the boot.
10% of the rank and file get the boot.

[...]

Also, most people probably don't realize what we have with our latest head of HR. Lisa has a long career at Microsoft as the head of product groups. She has relentlessly focused on management and people development within her organization, and is considered one of the top 5 managers in the company. Steve was very smart when he chose her to lead HR...Give her some time to work on the issues. I can guarantee that she will push very hard on improving how our managers manage. On holding them accountable, and on getting rid of the ones who should not be managing people.

Sounds like a Righteous Bloody Curve to me. I look forward to hearing more from Lisa and I'm looking forward to a deep impact on the company. But when? Anyway, I'm still no fan of the curve, and neither is the fellow in this comment (who was kind enough to note his lifetime average to show he's not a career 3.0):

Here's a little story: I wasn't performing well because I came in to a group towards the end of its ship cycle and basically had nothing to do (we were in full triage lock-down for about 6 months). I was on track for a 3.0. So I started doing informational interviews to find a group where there was work for me and where I wouldn't be screwing myself into a crappy review because of lack of work.

My manager wouldn't give me permission to interview, because -- in his words -- they needed someone to fill the bottom of the curve.

That's a manager that Microsoft can do without asap. And if Lisa is working to get rid of managers who can't manage, how can I help? Another comment doing a reality check:

Looking from the outside, I think the stack rating system is the wrong place to start. What I have gotten from reading this blog is that the problems started around 2000 or 2001 when Ballmer became CEO, and Microsoft hired a lot of new managers who weren't very good. And that in turn seems to be because Microsoft wanted to get a lot larger.

[...]

I think most of the people here are taking the wrong approach. You can't straighten things out working from the (bottom) up if things are fouled-up due to a big strategic decision made at the top.

P.S. Dare: oh, I knew the ship-date of VS (and hell, all of us can to go http://msweb/ and directly pull up the ship dates of all sorts of products). But I also knew how friggin' late VS was running in reaching the golden bits. Embarrassing. And my email address is within the posts. Motivated folks have managed to find it. ;-)

P.P.S. Josh, thanks for the laugh. Whew! I didn't even know the Mini C9Soft page existed. If Ballmer had said, "I'm WhoDaPunk!" then maybe one of those roaming camera persons would have caught my outraged, "Hey!?!?"

 

 

117 comments:

Anonymous said...

Read the article to whic Dare is referring. Here's the URL for convenience: http://www.fool.com/portfolios/rulemaker/1999/rulemaker991220.htm Microsoft today is almost the opposite of Microsoft described in that article. It's scary how a company can change in just six years.

Anonymous said...

Apologies if this was previously posted/linked from another news site but the Seattle PI has a great story on exec compensation for the last fiscal.

Based on yesterday's closing stock price, Johnson's fiscal 2005 stock award was worth $17.87 million, while Allchin's and Raikes' were worth $22.25 million each
Woah!

Anonymous said...

Do you have a reply to Kevin Schofield's defense of the stack rank and curve process? http://radio.weblogs.com/0133184/2005/09/29.html#a384

Anonymous said...

anonymous,
"Do you have a reply to Kevin Schofield's defense of the stack rank and curve process? http://radio.weblogs.com/0133184/2005/09/29.html#a384"

Go read some of the stuff at http://alfiekohn.org/managing/managingarticles.htm

Performance review systems that create an incentive pay system are broken. Competitive performance review systems suck for a number of reasons because they encourage individual contributions to the detriment of the team [which is OK in individual positions such as sales but harmful in collaborative efforts such as software development]. Basically, the goal of incentive pay systems is fundamentally broken.

Arguing about better incentive pay systems is an oxymoron. It's like arguing about which terminal cancers you'd rather be diagnosed with by your doctor.

Who da'Punk,
I've also flirted with the idea of a wiki or something similar within the firewall in the spirit of your site. The main reason I haven't done is the fact that it'd be damn near impossible for folks to maintain anonymity within the firewall which is necessary if honest discussion is to be fostered.

-- Dare

Anonymous said...

"Microsoft today is almost the opposite of Microsoft described in that article. It's scary how a company can change in just six years."

Well, fwiw, I'd say at least half of it wasn't true then. There seems to be a real tendency for folks internally and externally to paint the past as "everything was good" and the current as "everything is bad". In reality, neither was/is true. More importantly, while you can learn from the past, you can't go back. I do agree with Dare that the requiring failure of yesteryear (or at least allowing it for purposes of ecnouraging risk-taking) has now morphed in some cases to condoning it and even lavishly compensating it. Which brings up frugality. That very much did exist in the past and has seemingly gone out the window now that VPs who arguably aren't even doing their jobs are getting stock bonuses of $20M+.

Anonymous said...

"The absolute best consequence of everything that has happened is that executive management finally got asked some really hard questions. And once enough blood was in the water, ever the most gracious of Microsoft-beat reporters asked the hard questions. Still sunshine and smoke with-respect-to the answers, but that was a big shift and the questions have been asked at all levels and the extraordinary public focus it brought. The fact that those questions came up makes me want to tip my hat and pedal into the sunset."

Yes, It's a huge accomplishment and you should feel proud of the role you've played it it. But don't pedal into the sunset just yet. Keep focused on the goal, which I'm sure wasn't just to get the questions raised but to actually see them effectively addressed and the company to improve accordingly.

Anonymous said...

Dare makes a good point about focussing on the root problems instead of symptoms. If you don't, you risk devolving into an endless series of tangential complaints. It sounds like whining and has no hope of accomplishing anything.

I've said it before and will say it again. The ROOT problem at Microsoft is Steve Ballmer. He is simply not CEO material. Maybe there is stuff he is good at, but it just ain't CEOing. Everything else flows from the top. You get a real CEO at Microsoft and you will see REAL changes and not just sunshiny smoke being blown up your a**.

The crazy thing is that it is obvious Mini is aware of this, but won't quite get there and say it. I think it might have something to do with the fact that it feels safer to complain about things like "process" and "size" than to target a person. So we get distracting posts about ship dates, organizational theory, management theory, etc. But you must realize that these things all start with people. Get the right people and the right processes will follow. It just doesn't work the other way around.

This blog would be more effective and coherent if it focussed on the root problem at Microsoft. Ballmer has been CEO for long enough. It's a sad fact staring you square in the face: he needs to go.

Anonymous said...

I understand the upset about inadequate compensation, but think about it this way: if entry level SDE salaries were >200k, this blog would not exist, and nobody would care that execs are lining their pockets.

You'll have to take Microsoft at what it is: it will not change because you don't like it. Join the company, live the koolaid for two years, and if you haven't made it into management by then, get out. You'll have learned everything there is to learn, and it's time to move on. Sitting things out and whining about how the system is unfair and how there is no dev career track won't help.

Yes, it is unfair, but the people who benefit from the inbalance control the company. Understand that no corporation ever has your interests at heart or cares about your wellbeing. It's your job to look after those, it's Microsofts job to squeeze the most work out of you for the least compensation.

If you want to change that system, start your own company or go into politics.

If you don't want to change the system and just care about yourself, start looking into jobs with retirement benefits & post retirement health insurance. You'd be amazed at the number of SDEs who are applying for law school or MBA programs now.

Anonymous said...

How about onion routing within the firewall, with every client forced to also be a server, sitting in front of the proposed wiki?

This gives plausible deniability - all that can be concluded is that you support the anonymity process.

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't worry too much about identifying symptoms, then trying to find the disease. In my little corner of MS we often jump right to the cure without bothering to verify the cause. It took a long time to get this company screwed up, it will take a long time to fix it. Fish/head/rot

A great way to start would be a quite little civil demonstration of solidarity with Mini's principles -- we're in trouble, we need systemic change, and management is where the sickness lies.

If you agree, wear something red every Friday to campus -- shirt, socks, or -- for those of you who are closet Mini-supporters, underwear. (Never thought I'd get to use the phrase "Mini-supporters" on a web site.)

Let's see how many of us there are.

Anonymous said...

"I've said it before and will say it again. The ROOT problem at Microsoft is Steve Ballmer. He is simply not CEO material."

I'm not sure it's accurate to say he's the root problem. I do agree that with him as CEO, the root problems aren't being adequately addressed and therefore his departure (and Gates' frankly) is seemingly integral to getting this company headed in the right direction. Both have added value but it's very unclear whether either has the ability or more importantly the willingness to make the difficult changes required to take MSFT to the next step.

"This blog would be more effective and coherent if it focussed on the root problem at Microsoft. Ballmer has been CEO for long enough. It's a sad fact staring you square in the face: he needs to go."

I'm not sure that's Mini's role. He's doing his part, others can do theirs. As above, I do agree that the problems are much broader than the stack rank system and indeed require the org to define a new, over-riding culture - the current pick a division/pick a culture is not consistent with overall excellence nor does it lend itself esp well to "integrated innovation". The company also has to pick its battles - Gates/Ballmer's legendary paranoia about potential threats may have served the company well in the past, but it's also what brought the company's numerous legal problems, partner suspicions and most importantly the current near infinite list of markets MSFT is trying to compete in. No company can alienate that many people and spread itself that thinly and still expect to execute well.

Finally, while the concept of a smaller, leaner MSFT has appeal, the reality is that's not practical for all sorts of reasons. Therefore, the goal should really be how to take this currently struggling, often ineffective behemoth, and turn it into a market gobbling giant a la GE. Ballmer often cites GE as his model, but his actions don't follow suit. In particular, GE is relentless about self-improvement, does have a strong over-riding culture, has a far superior mgt development process (just look at how many ex VPs are now successful CEOs elsewhere) and every divisional VP on down knows that with autonomy, comes total accountability for results. I think Ballmer is smart enough to see all that, he just doesn't have the stomach to make the changes required to achieve it. Frankly, imo neither does Gates, Raikes or anyone else totally invested in MSFT's past. So instead, they try to dink around the edges with the result that minor course corrections are accomplished but the general trajectory is still down.

Anonymous said...

Well, that's it then, I'll be wearing ALL red this Friday. Solidarity my friends, let's all do it.

Anonymous said...

"Understand that no corporation ever has your interests at heart or cares about your wellbeing. It's your job to look after those, it's Microsofts job to squeeze the most work out of you for the least compensation."

Absolute rubbish. I'm right wing of Attila the Hun, but even I would argue that a corporation very much should have the interests of its employees at heart and should not be trying to squeeze the most out of you for the least compensation. The latter makes no long-term business sense esp for a company that needs its employees to work for sometimes years (decades?) before a product is ready to ship. As a shareholder, I would also point to the options trade-in program, move to grants, salary increases, etc that have taken place over the past 5 years (many of which I don't support) all of which were discretionary, underwritten by shareholders and done clearly to try and insulate employees from the realities of the company/stock's performance (or specifically lack thereof). Even a cursory review of MSFT's total compensation figures shows that the issue isn't that sufficient $ aren't being paid out, it's that the distribution of those $ is far too skewed to an elite few who in many cases, seem to be responsible for the company's current ineffectiveness and slow growth.

Anonymous said...

Towels?

mammoth said...

Nice

Anonymous said...

"Towels?"

What about them? Sure, sounds petty and at odds with taking care of employees if that's all you focus on. But keep in mind that the company knew it was about to put in its worst revenue growth year ever and therefore didn't have the earnings growth to sustain even the current shitty multiple. Also keep in mind that they still gave out salary increases/bonuses/grants that year and went back to shareholders to underwrite another $B+ to protect emps from the effects of the $3 one-time - which incidentally did nothing for shareholders except trade $3 of equity for $3 of taxable income, tank the stock $2 more and reduce interest income for all future periods. So cutting back towels as part of an overall effort to cut operatings savings by $1B (and finally reversing the multi-year trend of operating margins declining) was pretty modest. Some employees really need to wake up. 85%+ of MSFT is owned by external shareholders who have not seen a positive return on their investment in this company since 1998. If you owned a business and it hadn't provided you any return for 7 years, would you be thinking about what else you could do for employees or about cutting your losses and selling the business? Take a look at the stock. Increasingly, shareholders are voting for the latter.

Anonymous said...

Mini-MSFT,

I just want to let you know that I appreciate your blog. I think it's about time that somebody brings up the fact of how bad the stack ranking system has become. A number of my co-workers here at MS read your blog and agree with you.

Anonymous said...

external shareholders who have not seen a positive return on their investment in this company since 1998.

With that opinion, no wonder why people are leaving. Taking away benefits and cutting the merit budget isn't going to produce good results, but rather make it harder to acheive them.

If the shareholders want real accountability, they should be taking it out on the executives - not leaving them employed to cook up money saving schemes such as pulling towel service.

If you're part of the sheeple believing everything spewing from Bill and Steve, you really ought to wake up from their candyland dreams.

R2K said...

The x files was great...

R2000

Anonymous said...

Hey Mini - what's your thought's on Google's joint news conference with Sun tomorrow? Couldn't that be dangerous news for Microsoft? Like free software supported by AdWords?

http://investinsearch.blogspot.com/2005/10/thestreetcom-sun-rises-on-google-talk.html

Hope to hear your comment.

Anonymous said...

HR = Human Resources
HR not only hires and fires, but keeps morale higher.
Hires the most talented.
Fires at the right time.
Keeps morale at its highest level.

You have failed all.

Don't look for scape goats.
Sorry girls, but this experiment went wrong.
And you all in HR should be held accountable.

How you like fire going your way?

Anonymous said...

"With that opinion, no wonder why people are leaving. Taking away benefits and cutting the merit budget isn't going to produce good results, but rather make it harder to acheive them."

That opinion merely pointed out the facts for those who complain about even modest cutbacks in expenses. Employees who are too myopic to understand that, probably will leave and so be it. I'm sure enough competent ones who recognize that expenses can't continue rising faster than revenue, will take it in stride and stay the course. That said, I think the belt-tightening should extend to senior mgt - but doesn't.

"If the shareholders want real accountability, they should be taking it out on the executives - not leaving them employed to cook up money saving schemes such as pulling towel service."

Well, in point of fact, first of all the Board of Directors should. But clearly they aren't prepared to. Then shareholders, but most shares are held by mutuals funds and no one ever got fired for losing their customer's money in MSFT. Plus, they all want investment banking business with MSFT. So, that leaves individual holders who really can't organize w/o some major holder stepping forward - and so far that hasn't happened. Mgt isn't stupid. They know this. Why do you think they've effectively been passing the bills for underperformance through to shareholders for years now? Ans: because they can.

"If you're part of the sheeple believing everything spewing from Bill and Steve, you really ought to wake up from their candyland dreams."

No one believes Ballmer - myself and the street included. Why do you think the stock is trading at 18X forward earnings w/o taking out the cash? I'm not even sure Ballmer believes Ballmer. Pretty obviously his own insiders don't - they lead the whole market in insider selling. The issue is that individual holders have no chance of being heard when Ballmer/Gates control the % of shares that they do. BTW, although I don't support their decisions, you should be slower to condemn them. After all, in passing along those costs I mentioned to shareholders, they've been happy to personally underwrite the cost of non-performance as well. Indeed, that's probably what worries shareholders most - that either through hubris or a desire to maintain their life's legacy - they'll keep absorbing losses where any shareholder-focused/accountable CEO would aggressively makes changes and/or cut costs to meet new lower earnings expectations.

Anonymous said...

"Well, in point of fact, first of all the Board of Directors should"

I wonder if members of the Board of Directors read this blog.

REENEE said...

Wow, sounds like you're just as happy at work as I am. Perhaps you should check out my post, "Workin' Like A Dog....(without a bone)". http://rockamydaisy.blogspot.com/

Anonymous said...

"I wonder if members of the Board of Directors read this blog."

Doubtful. More importantly, I suspect they only give advice when asked - and that's not often.

Podshoppinblog.com said...

I think everybody should read your blog. It's interesting to say the least. It was covered by the businessweekonline in its blog.

This blog is lovely. I hope to return. I want to bookmark it.


New York New York Biz

Anonymous said...

The odd thing about reading these posts is that I have become convinced that performance-based compensation is evil. It's one thing to say that some bozo on your team just needs to go. It's quite another to say that you folks are all good enough to stay, but I'm going to make you compete over money. Since every performance evaluation system can be gamed, this puts the focus on the eval game and not the team/product game. It's the team/product game that makes for job satisfaction and makes money for the company. The eval game is some artifice that has nothing to do with the team or the product.

Thanks to the folks that have posted here to help me see this.

enjoyable_payne said...

you live in a world of abundant opportunity.


-in bed

Anonymous said...

"But keep in mind that the company knew it was about to put in its worst revenue growth year ever and therefore didn't have the earnings growth to sustain even the current shitty multiple."

And this is the same company that is alledgedly sitting on top of $60 billion? Can anyone blame folks for worrying about their investment in a company that:
a) says it is sitting on $60billion
b) refuses to pay out a decent dividend
c) seeks to reduce expendidture by starting on the face-flanel budget

It's so petty. It's microanagement from the top drawer: "We're not making enough money, so let's make sure our employees aren't stealing from us."

The share price might look a bit healthier if the company would just ACT like a company that was sitting on top of $60 billion.

I mean, I could understand it if we were all giving each other nice fat $400,000 bonuses, each, but...

Oh... Er...

Hang on...

(I'll get my coat.)

Mighty Mouse said...

Good Morning,

And thank you for this big bit of sanity. I've been at Microsoft for over six years, over five have been as an FTE. I cannot reveal how many consecutive 3.0s that I've received but let's just say that it is has set a company record that I am not proud to hold. Funny thing is, they haven't gotten rid of me yet and why would they. Pin the tail on the 3.0 donkey has its merits even if some wheat goes out with the chaff.

The year I won a divisional vision award, I got a 3.0. The year that I adopted new technology, documented the adoption, presented at a division best practice meeting, and was credited with saving the company money in training down the line, I got a 3.0. And there are more.

Weak managers, vindictive managers, corrupt managers, insecure managers, clueless managers, narrow-minded managers will always find the weak spots and holes in any performance evaluation system and either fall into them or exploit them. As has been revealed in this blog, a lot of folks are aware of this. Some try to do something about it. Some just look in another direction.

That's what happens when you have a diverse work force. It is not just ethnicity or gender or cultural differences. Diverse is about people's concept of what integrity is, what helping others to succeed means, what is fair. Life is not a meritocracy and neither is Microsoft. That was my "come to Jesus".

I've done great work here. It has not be recognized in a meaningful way within the company. Many who could help have run for the hills rather than do the right thing. I'm on a greased chute out of the company to do the same [but in a different direction] because I believe in my ability to contribute even if those managers do not. And, it is not without some satisfaction. I've gotten a terrific graduate education that is of great excitement to the employers that I'm talking to outside of the company instead of raises, bonuses, or stock which is of no excitement to my co-workers inside the company.

All of my previous managers have either been demoted, left the company, or given up on managing people. So, many thanks Mini. This has been a terrific forum for me when I'm laid low. If history demonstrates one thing for us consistently it is that silence is what allows the bullies to ruin it for everyone.

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Anonymous said...

"I've been at Microsoft for over six years, over five have been as an FTE. I cannot reveal how many consecutive 3.0s that I've received but let's just say that it is has set a company record that I am not proud to hold. "

You are not even close to the record. In my 60-90 person team in Windows, we had more than 5 people with 8+ FTE years at Microsoft and lifetime review averages of 3.0. Most of those had never received a 3.5 in their entire time at MS. One was a tester who had not filed a single bug in over 18 months.

The previous team manager had clearly been asleep at the wheel and failed to manage out the poor performers. This created a very complacent set of leads and individual contributors to inherit.

The current curve system means that it only takes is two levels of poor management to create a lasting problem for any team.

Anonymous said...

http://jeffmatthewsisnotmakingthisup.blogspot.com/

"Microsoft to Music Moguls: Play Fair!"

outsider's view

Anonymous said...

As others have noted, Steve Ballmer is the core issue at Microsoft today. He is not well suited to be CEO of Microsoft or any large company. He is a smart guy, but he does not surround himself with people who are similarly smart *and* will openly disagree with him. Instead, despite his PR spin (which is not credible to most people who know the company well), he seems to want to make all the key decisions himself. This won't work and will make the company slow. I say this as someone who worked for Microsoft for a long time, but have also worked for other large companies so have a bit of perspective. In essence, CEO's need to delegate (they can not make all the decisions themselves), surround themselves with smart people who will disagree with them (and tell them when things are broken and need to be fixed). To compete successfully against the likes of Google, Microsoft needs to move quickly and innovate, not sit around and naval gaze. That takes a focus on the outside and on customers. And that requires lots of little, empowered groups, not bloated bureacracy where many managers are telling people above them what they want to hear. In fact, over the years since Steve has become CEO, Microsoft has lost many of the super talented people that it needs now to compete. The overall turnover statistics don't tell the whole story. It would be interesting to know (without someone messing with the statistics) what percentage of really top performers (defined - despite all the obvious rating issues that others have brought up - by the stock grouping class) have left the company over the last five years. I don't think it would look pretty. The reason in my opinion this blog is so popular is that Microsoft used to have a culture where self criticism was welcomed and acted on to a large extent (it was not perfect certainly, but it happened). Today criticism is not welcome, and so some of it has spilled out into the public view.

If you want to fix Microsoft, get rid of Steve as CEO and put in someone who will hire first rate people (not yes men), delegate authority and hold people accountable for their actions. The only way I think you can get rid of Steve is to make the Board (and Bill) absolutely aware of the all the dysfunction. It is true that Boards in general don't challenge CEOs much, but if over time they see that he is destroying the Company, they may feel pressure to act since their own reputations are on the line. This blog will help to the extent it continues to get publicity, but the Board is perhaps the only answer at the end of the day!

Anonymous said...

"If you want to fix Microsoft, get rid of Steve as CEO"

You mean the guy who doesn't think there's a stock problem?

24.98 -0.52 -2.04%fyi
Volume 151.6 Mil

52 Week Low 23.82

Nah. Let's wait for a stock price in the teens first.

Anonymous said...

"Microsoft to Music Moguls: Play Fair!"

Microsoft telling others to play fair? Oh, the irony.

fCh said...

What an interesting phenomenon is shaping out right here, right now! Due to either the exhaustion of more mundane subjects or the logical escalation of the conversation, minimsft has started tackling a subject of major importance for Microsoft: How Fit Is Steve Ballmer as the CEO of Microsoft? Judging the commentaries on the subject, the conversation is spreading beyond the usual (SDE) suspects of the blog to embrace what seem to be Microsoft sophisticated audiences such as Company management and investors.

It is interesting how, by "ignoring" the conversation, Mr. Ballmer has attracted onto himself the lights of public scrutiny. For most, in the end, it doesn't matter who's raising the questions about the top guy at Microsoft as much as the rise of the right questions themselves.

How this whole episode in corporate communications will end? Your guess is as good as any. However, management at public companies are likely to have one more Sarbanes-Oaxley-type of compliance to put up with: the "unorthodox" mix of voices coming from employees, customers, investors...

Cheers, fCh
http://chircu.com

TheKhalif said...

What an interesting phenomenon is shaping out right here, right now! Due to either the exhaustion of more mundane subjects or the logical escalation of the conversation, minimsft has started tackling a subject of major importance for Microsoft: How Fit Is Steve Ballmer as the CEO of Microsoft?


Well, considering he's worth 17 or so billion dollars, I find it difficult to shed a tear.

Anonymous said...

"minimsft has started tackling a subject of major importance for Microsoft: How Fit Is Steve Ballmer as the CEO of Microsoft?"

All due deference to Mini and the excellent job he's done, questions about Ballmer's suitability and/or effectiveness began years before Mini penned his first post. And while this whole phenomenon may be "interesting" from a communications/social perspective, keep in mind that MSFT's current problems have very real consequences and impact for employees, partners, suppliers, customers and shareholders (who at this point have experienced the largest destruction of wealth in corporate history).

Anonymous said...

Unrelated to this topic, but interested if anyone wants to answer the following question raised in the article linked:

It's not clear to me that Microsoft's combined platform and services unit is ready to go on the offensive, however. Kahuna is Microsoft's answer to Gmail and other Web mail programs. The forthcoming MSN SMB collaboration suite is a hedge against eBay/Skype. Is there a hot technology arena where Microsoft has fielded a new product first over the past few months and others are scrambling to catch up? I am coming up blank.

GoogleOffice

I'm coming up blank too, but it seems like a hell of a good question for MSFT to be asking itself esp if the answer is nothing. Thoughts?

fCh said...

All due deference to Mini and the excellent job he's done, questions about Ballmer's suitability and/or effectiveness began years before Mini penned his first post. And while this whole phenomenon may be "interesting" from a communications/social perspective, keep in mind that MSFT's current problems have very real consequences and impact for employees, partners, suppliers, customers and shareholders (who at this point have experienced the largest destruction of wealth in corporate history).

Throughout my postings, I showed most deference to minimsft as in minimsft.blogspot.com. I know nothing about the individual "Who da'Punk" so I cannot make any reference to him. It's interesting that you mention that skepticism surrounding SteveB as CEO had existed before minimsft--it's a given considering how many smart folks are at MSFT. The novelty here consists of a mix of voices enabled by a blogging-technology. Before so many and various voices could come from/in one place, management could easily ignore/dismiss "dissenters." Looking at the recent beatings of MSFT stock-price, I cannot think some of it is at least correlated with what happens here... Yeah, I know from my own retirement account, it hurts to lose value, but that may be the best way to force change.

Cheers, fCh

P.S. If the person who questioned the strategy of "ever-expanding-interlocking-monopolies" at MSFT is still around, I would like her/him to follow up on our conversation. fCh

Anonymous said...

Is there a hot technology arena where Microsoft has fielded a new product first over the past few months and others are scrambling to catch up? I am coming up blank.

Microsoft has never fielded a creative new product first. That is not the company's business model. The tradional model was to make "good enough" copies of other companies' ideas. More recently the model has become to buy other companies with hot products, or, if acquisition fails, to copy the product and use monopoly power plow the original company under the ground.

The current focus on innovation comes from a rose glassed revisionist history of the company's past. And it is causing Microsoft to focus on a strategy that it has never been successful at.

Instead of focusing on the core, money making products, billions of dollars of share holder money are being pissed away chasing every company that Balmer notices is getting any press coverage.

Anonymous said...

"Before so many and various voices could come from/in one place, management could easily ignore/dismiss "dissenters."

MSFT has been ignoring dissenters its entire history and based on recent examples - including recent reactions to the Mini-inspired cover stories - there appears to be little change to that m.o. We'll see whether changes are forthcoming. For now, I'm pretty sure that if you tune into the upcoming shareholder call in Nov, you'll see mgt ignoring/dismissing dissenters at its best - or actually worst.

"Looking at the recent beatings of MSFT stock-price, I cannot think some of it is at least correlated with what happens here..."

Possible, but the 3 year trading range of $24-28 was already firmly established and recent weakness can just as easily be attributed to that, the S&P rebalance, expected weak Q1 growth numbers, the decision not to increase the dividend and of course MSFT's almost daily floundering and late "me-toos" while GOOG/AAPL/others continually one up them and generally kick butt. Plus, you have CSCO and INTC melting down as well w/o any visible morale problem - though I'm sure they have their share too.

"Yeah, I know from my own retirement account, it hurts to lose value, but that may be the best way to force change."

Well, losing $250B+ so far and massively underperforming the indexes for 3 years in a row hasn't done it. Hitting a two-year low in April didn't do it, so hard to see how hitting it again soon will get a different result (we're only $1 away). So what does that leave? A new all-time low? Bill losing his "world's richest man" title? MSFT mgt is seemingly convinced that they're on the right track so at this point, if they aren't, this can only end badly. Of course, maybe they're as smart as they think they are...

Anonymous said...

"Microsoft has never fielded a creative new product first. That is not the company's business model. The tradional model was to make "good enough" copies of other companies' ideas. More recently the model has become to buy other companies with hot products, or, if acquisition fails, to copy the product and use monopoly power plow the original company under the ground."

Thx, I was actually looking for a MSFT employee's [considered] perspective. No offense, but I can get the ABM view elsewhere.

fCh said...

Plus, you have CSCO and INTC melting down as well w/o any visible morale problem - though I'm sure they have their share too.

Are we to understand that the post-bubble sorry mess at many "old" players (SUNW, INTC, CSCO, MSFT, ORCL, NOK, NT, etc.) is to be "blamed" for the irrational appreciation of GOOG? Considering the good company MSFT has enjoyed, the glass is only half-full?

Anonymous said...

As an investor who bailed out in 2001, I don't think that "good enough copy" strategy is a bad of a business model. No one ever accused Dell of being innovative, but they have been very sucessful by letting others spend money on R&D and then making a reasonable copy with reasonable quality for a reasonable price.

I would like to buy back in, but 11B shares and a dollar/share earnings combined with the current growth rate make it a bad bet. Cut 30,000 employees and increase earnings by 35 cents per share because of it, add in more money from unprofitable ventures being axed along with the employees, and combine with expected earnings growth for next year and the stock would be priced to move.

fCh said...

I would like to buy back in, but 11B shares and a dollar/share earnings combined with the current growth rate make it a bad bet. Cut 30,000 employees and increase earnings by 35 cents per share because of it, add in more money from unprofitable ventures being axed along with the employees, and combine with expected earnings growth for next year and the stock would be priced to move.

Such words should send shivers along the corridors of any targeted company.

By looking at how many technologies MSFT has in its pipeline, it all comes down to execution. As I wrote above, MSFT seems to be in "good company," and the only bright stars are few (3+1: AMZN, YHOO, EBAY, GOOG) new-economy type of players. But even these players have to take the test of time and there are no guarantees for their execution either. Moreover, most investors are nothing like Buffet--they cannot afford to sit on piles of cash...

What I am trying to say is that one ought not to over-dramatize the situation--investors notwithstanding.

Anonymous said...

"And thank you for this big bit of sanity. I've been at Microsoft for over six years, over five have been as an FTE. I cannot reveal how many consecutive 3.0s that I've received but let's just say that it is has set a company record that I am not proud to hold. Funny thing is, they haven't gotten rid of me yet and why would they. Pin the tail on the 3.0 donkey has its merits even if some wheat goes out with the chaff."


Mighty Mouse,

I completely agree with your post. My experience at Microsoft has been very similar to yours. I am also an FTE for 5+ years and I also have a number of consecutive 3.0s (and some occasional 4.0s). There were times when our GM has walked into my office and given me cash awards for doing a great job, but at the end of the year I was given a 3.0. There was also once when I got a 3.0 and then our GM walked in my office and gave me a $500 cash award, saying that's all he can do right now but can't change my rating.

This is very demoralizing. I am also waiting to bolt.

Anonymous said...

"Are we to understand that the post-bubble sorry mess at many "old" players (SUNW, INTC, CSCO, MSFT, ORCL, NOK, NT, etc.) is to be "blamed" for the irrational appreciation of GOOG? Considering the good company MSFT has enjoyed, the glass is only half-full?"

That really has nothing to do with my response or its context. But to answer your question, GOOG has awesome growth and growth is crack to Wall St. And yes, with many companies across industries currently facing growth challenges (esp older, larger ones), is that giving them and other high-growers an extra boost? Of course - basic supply and demand. Does that excuse MSFT's horrible performance? Not at all.

Anonymous said...

>Is there a hot technology arena where Microsoft has fielded a new product first over the past few months and others are scrambling to catch up? I am coming up blank.

They exist.

Even if they didn't, who cares?

What matters is who ends up being a viable business not who got there first. Google isn't the first search engine, the iPod isn't the first MP3 player, Windows wasn't the first OS and Excel/Word/Powerpoint weren't the first spreadsheet/word processor/slideshow application.


-- Dare.

Anonymous said...

"I would like to buy back in, but 11B shares and a dollar/share earnings combined with the current growth rate make it a bad bet. Cut 30,000 employees and increase earnings by 35 cents per share because of it, add in more money from unprofitable ventures being axed along with the employees, and combine with expected earnings growth for next year and the stock would be priced to move."

Overly harsh imo. Cutting that many people would (for one) impact the field just as they're about to launch the most products in recent history over the next 6-18mths. Plus, the disruption and morale impact would be huge and anything that big would probably worry the street more than encourage them. Agree they need to get serious about reducing shares outstanding and earnings. The current 4yr/$30B is largely smoke and mirrors that will be largely negated by further dilution. And the current cash/strategic investments balances are unjustifiable - MSFT isn't a bank or a mutual fund. Most of that should be collapsed and used to buyback stock (preferably from Gates/Ballmer directly) and to increase the dividend to the S&P average - if you can't give shareholders a market return on the equity, at least pay them a market dividend to wait. Re employees, I think you target a 5% reduction over time but for now, keep it where it is and focus instead on fixing the snr and middle mgt bloat and accountability problems. A few collapsed mgt layers combined with some high-profile firings of VPs for cause (for once) would go a long way to setting the right tone internally and on the street - and there's seemingly dozens to choose from. Cutting back on the number of different competitive fronts and various non-profitable ventures is also in order - MSFT is stretched across far too many areas with unclear paybacks. As a result, it's failing to execute well in the new areas with the most potential and doing a poor job of defending its legacy cash cows.

Anonymous said...

Here's my uncomfortable thought of the day:

Microsoft is a software development company. There are 8000 software developers at Microsoft. If we assume a yearly average pay of 100000 (and believe me, it's less for most of us), that amounts to $800 million per year.

Our VPs are paid ~$20 million per year (here).

Theoretically, that makes 40 VPs as valuable as all of our software developers combined. Now, in reality it's like to be closer to the 60 top paid managers, but it still shows how we value handwaving vs. the guys who actually get stuff done.

Man, do I feel shafted.

Anonymous said...

"They exist."

Good to hear. Any obvious examples?

"Even if they didn't, who cares?"

Investors, at least some employees (presumably), most prospective recruits, partners trying to earn a living day to day and wondering who to team with, competitors wondering if they should engage or avoid, a mgt team wondering if their massive R&D investment is being invested wisely, a CEO and Chairman who routinely argue that the company's past and future success is a function of its ability to innovate?

"What matters is who ends up being a viable business not who got there first. Google isn't the first search engine, the iPod isn't the first MP3 player, Windows wasn't the first OS and Excel/Word/Powerpoint weren't the first spreadsheet/word processor/slideshow application."

That's what ultimately matters but both matter as we saw today when MSFT got clocked on just the threat that GOOG might go after Office with a web-based offering. Or as we've seen for the past three years as MSFT's multiple has steadily contracted in large part because of worries about future growth/competiveness. Bottom line, it would seem desirable to have some firsts, not only to validate the belief that innovation is indeed a core competence and therefore deserving of the massive ongoing investment but also to keep competitors off guard and responding to you (versus current) and of course to help maintain positive perceptions among partners, customers, shareholders, and other stakeholders who's attention span may not match up well with long-term victory and if not managed appropriately, may actually negate it.

Anonymous said...

HR = Human Resources
HR not only hires and fires, but keeps morale higher.
Hires the most talented.
Fires at the right time.
Keeps morale at its highest level.

You have failed all.

Don't look for scape goats.
Sorry girls, but this experiment went wrong.
And you all in HR should be held accountable.

How you like fire going your way?


HR exists for one purpose and one purpose only. That is to keep MSFT from getting sued. If you think otherwise, you need to talk to people who have dealt with HR.

From the moment you make an appt to talk to someone, your lead knows. Whatever you say to HR, your lead knows. Wanna talk to another lead to get a different perspective, they're supposed to tell your lead and HR if the talk is anyway detrimental to MS.

Anonymous said...

"Microsoft has never fielded a creative new product first. That is not the company's business model. The tradional model was to make "good enough" copies of other companies' ideas. More recently the model has become to buy other companies with hot products, or, if acquisition fails, to copy the product and use monopoly power plow the original company under the ground."

Thx, I was actually looking for a MSFT employee's [considered] perspective. No offense, but I can get the ABM view elsewhere.


From an employee perspective, he's got it right. Name one thing that MSFT produced first.

Office - Nope
Windows - Nope
Console Game - Nope
DB server - Nope
Programming Tools/Suite - Nope
Internet search - Nope
Internet browser - Nope

Now, has MSFT come into the game late and made a superior product...yes.

Anonymous said...

"Now, has MSFT come into the game late and made a superior product...yes."

I knew the main ones you cited but was hoping their were some lesser but still decent examples of "firsts". I really don't think that bodes well for the company. In the past, MSFT had the opportunity to come in late and play catch up in large part because it could control the main distribution channel via OEMs. With the web, now you have people like GOOG who can easily bypass that channel and still get to a huge audience. At some point, it would seem likely that the opportunity to consistently be late and still prevail will dissipate - if it hasn't already. IMO, MSFT would be well-advised to at least not depend on it.

Anonymous said...

Palmtops - nope
MP3 players - nope
Cell phone OSs - nope
DVRs - nope
Tablet PCs - nope
Online anything - nope
Fancy graphics in the OS - nope

The only thing to come out of MSFT that I would really consider innovative is the scroll wheel. This should be embarrassing to a company that keeps talking about how innovative it is. The reason for all these failures is that MSFT's corporate culture stifles innovation--if an employee has an idea, there's no way for him to get it implemented. No 80/20 system.

Anonymous said...

>At some point, it would seem likely that the opportunity to consistently be late and still prevail will dissipate - if it hasn't already.

Using that logic then GOOG is screwed since they are consistently late in every market they have entered (web mail, search, IM, online mapping, etc).

"Lack of innovation" is a red herring usually thrown in by adolescent, fanboy crowd from places like Slashdot. At the end of the day, most tech companies that are called "innovative" are usually NOT first to market (this includes everyone's favorites like Google and Apple).

-- Dare

Anonymous said...

Well, it's a tricky discussion because not everybody agrees on what the bar is for innovation (does the Start bar qualify, or does it have to be GUIs in general?), and then does innovation mean invention or a successful market introduction or something else entirely? For example, Apple did not invent the technology for the iPod touch circle, or the technology for building hard drive-based MP3 players, but the combination of those ideas made the iPod innovative in my mind. Similarly, did Google "innovate" the idea of having 1GB web e-mail accounts, POP3 access, and e-mail search? Both Apple and Google have done a number of things that I _personally_ consider innovative but I would be hard pressed to come up with a list of innovations that I associate with Microsoft.

Anonymous said...

Why MSN must go:

http://www.internetoutsider.com/files/the_web_war_is_over_and_microsoft_lost_chr_sept_2005.pdf

People whining about Microsoft not "innovating" don't understand what the word really means. Innovate does not just mean "create from scratch". Innovation means taking a product, improving on it and making it worth something to someone. Innovations are small steps. Someone created fire, after that there were no creations, but applications (innovations) which made fire useful. Using fire to cook, create fireworks, use as a weapon... these all involved innovations. No, Microsoft did not "create" the concept of windows, office software or a gaming console, but only a complete moron would think that they didn't innovate at all with regards to these concepts.

Anonymous said...

"...but I would be hard pressed to come up with a list of innovations that I associate with Microsoft."

VFAT file system
NTFS file system
C#
.Net
Microsoft DNS
Software Licensing
Anti-Piracy Measures
Extensive online help and templates for office software
Hibernate
A wizard based system restore
Integrated browser in an OS

Did Microsoft "create" these things? No, Microsoft made them better and more useful. That's innovation. Innovate != Invent

Anonymous said...

It's interesting having a conversation with open source folks, ask them if Linus Torvalds is innovative and they say that he "created" Linux. Linux is a stripped down version of UNIX that is more freely available. It's basically just a free copy of UNIX that people can change if they want to. How is that innovative? Microsoft's list, even over the past 12 years, is much more impressive (and so are the sales figures). If only we can get rid of MSN (spin it off or something). What a waste of resources.

Anonymous said...

"Using that logic then GOOG is screwed since they are consistently late in every market they have entered (web mail, search, IM, online mapping, etc)."

Valid criticism, but the speed with which they subsequently entered them all, along with the impact they've achieved with most, has contributed (i would argue) to a generally held perception of an innovative and agile organization esp vs MS - which is what my focus was.

""Lack of innovation" is a red herring usually thrown in by adolescent, fanboy crowd from places like Slashdot."

Feel better now?

"At the end of the day, most tech companies that are called "innovative" are usually NOT first to market (this includes everyone's favorites like Google and Apple)."

Most tech companies don't spend $7B on R&D and have some of the smartest tech minds on the planet under their employ. Also, while being first to market may not be critical to ultimate success, is never being first desirable?

Anonymous said...

"Did Microsoft "create" these things? No, Microsoft made them better and more useful. That's innovation. Innovate != Invent"

The conversation is devolving into the definition of innovation and MSFT vs OSS. That really wasn't the original intention of my post. Admittedly, a lot of "innovation" is really about doing something that exists better. Admittedly, being first is often not the prerequisite for winning. However, when you look at the MSFT list of "innovations" that someone took the time to offer up (thx btw), is it really as long or impressive as it perhaps should be given 30 years in the industry and MSFT's position/resources? Most importantly short-term, does anyone actually think that the popular external perception of MSFT is that of a leading innovator? If not, does any one seriously believe that the stock wouldn't benefit if that perception/reality were changed?

Anonymous said...

"If not, does any one seriously believe that the stock wouldn't benefit if that perception/reality were changed?"

No. This "thread" about innovation misses the point. The guy (Dare?) above who said it was a "Slashdot fanboy" type topic is absolutely right.

Investors care about profits per share (EPS) and profit growth. That's it. That's what we care about. Most of us don't care if the "story" is exciting or boring as long as you can show us the money.

For example, the Xbox was pretty damn innovative compared to the PS2. It has a built-in HD, broadband networking, and better graphics. It allows a kind of gaming experience not possible before. But investors HATE the Xbox. That business has lost over $5B and counting. We like Office and Windows much better, sans "innovation", because they bring in the cash.

The problem we have with Microsoft is that your senior management doesn't seem to be capable of making good decisions:

-It's almost like they are showing off how much money they can afford to lose, ahem, I mean "invest".

-They are hoarding an insane amount of cash which they have no hope of profitably deploying in new projects. At the same time, they refuse to return this cash to shareholders.

-Their inflated egos lead them into expensive, protracted litigation which ends up destroying Microsoft's hard-earned brand equity. Because of this, many large customers distrust the company and actively seek out alternatives.

-They come off as condescending, phony and repetitive when speaking with the outside world.

Forget all this blabber about innovation. The fact that Ballmer keeps using the word tells you it is a red herring. You all have a serious leadership problem.

Anonymous said...

-It's almost like they are showing off how much money they can afford to lose, ahem, I mean "invest".

The XBox is a strategic investment to get Microsoft into the living room. They have the potential to add Media Center like capability to this box as well. It's a gamble, but the payoff is huge in terms of Microsoft expanding their market.

-They are hoarding an insane amount of cash which they have no hope of profitably deploying in new projects. At the same time, they refuse to return this cash to shareholders.

As some others have mentioned, a better use for this cash is to spin off a lot of groups and use this cash for funding. There are still important and rapid product changes ongoing in this business - it isn't like laundry soap.

-Their inflated egos lead them into expensive, protracted litigation which ends up destroying Microsoft's hard-earned brand equity. Because of this, many large customers distrust the company and actively seek out alternatives.

-They come off as condescending, phony and repetitive when speaking with the outside world.

Can't argue too much about these last two points though. It's a matter of degree of interpretation, but not a matter of the essence of the comments.

Anonymous said...

"However, when you look at the MSFT list of "innovations" that someone took the time to offer up (thx btw), is it really as long or impressive as it perhaps should be given 30 years in the industry and MSFT's position/resources?"

I only posted a few that came to mind. Over 30 years, Microsoft has completely revolutionized personal computing. Some might argue that it would have happened anyway, and it might have. When you compare Office now to what Lotus was when it was "copied", there are thousands of innovations. When you compare Windows to what Apple created (well, stole), there are thousands of innovations. Unfortunately the foray into the internet has been less than spectacular, so Microsoft should dump MSN or spin it off. It's a waste of resources.

Anonymous said...

When you compare Windows to what Apple created (well, stole)

Xerox PARC gave the mouse and GUI interface idea to Apple. If anything, MSFT "Stole" the idea from Apple after Jobs showed it to Gates.

Yes, MSFT got it right early on and marketed it better, but I do give credit where it is deserved.

Anonymous said...

Maybe some investors only buy/sell on the basis of financials, but Google and Apple's recent dramatic rise in stock price indicates that the stock market is mostly a popularity contest. If Microsoft invented the iPod, our stock price would have doubled by now, even though it would have only added a couple billion to the bottom line. So public perception of "innovativeness" and coolness is extremely important.

Anonymous said...

"Maybe some investors only buy/sell on the basis of financials, but Google and Apple's recent dramatic rise in stock price indicates that the stock market is mostly a popularity contest. If Microsoft invented the iPod, our stock price would have doubled by now, even though it would have only added a couple billion to the bottom line. So public perception of "innovativeness" and coolness is extremely important."

Absolutely. As a shareholder/investor, I actually agree with much of the rest of his comments but that one imo is demonstrably incorrect. Forget GOOG and AAPL since both have exceptional current growth. There are numerous examples of companies with much poorer financials that even MSFT's current lousy growth that command higher P/Es. So clearly, at least in the short-term (and this has been going on for 3+ years now), market prices are about perceptions not simply actuals.

Anonymous said...

The XBox is a strategic investment to get Microsoft into the living room. They have the potential to add Media Center like capability to this box as well. It's a gamble, but the payoff is huge in terms of Microsoft expanding their market.

Possible, but having lost $4B so far and likely to lose another $1-2B minimum before turning any profit, it's highly unlikely to ever pay back the initial investment and therefore be net profitable. Not good.

As some others have mentioned, a better use for this cash is to spin off a lot of groups and use this cash for funding. There are still important and rapid product changes ongoing in this business - it isn't like laundry soap.

Disagree. After 4-7 years (or more)of subsidized investment, either you've created some value or you haven't. If you have, then spin it off and let the market reward your effort with some positive value (vs the current zero one) and access to ongoing funding so that you no longer tank legacy earnings. Otherwise, admit you screwed up and wasted a ton of money but at least stop the bleeding. Re laundry soap, unfortunately a lot of customers think that's exactly what it is - hence the "good enough" phenomenon that has more than 50% of the installed base still running Win2K and pre-Office XP or the Ipod success which, as some have pointed out, is not that far off from "new and improved Tide".

Can't argue too much about these last two points though. It's a matter of degree of interpretation, but not a matter of the essence of the comments.

Yup, I found that comment hard to argue with as well. In fact, I'd say that on frequent occasions mgt is just flat-out misrepresenting. Case in point, the recent press release citing exec salaries having increased but being below the median of 15 other companies while conveniently leaving off the stock component that in two cases was more than $20M or ~20X the salary+bonus figure.

Anonymous said...

Is there a hot technology arena where Microsoft has fielded a new product first over the past few months and others are scrambling to catch up? I am coming up blank

Microsoft has been consistly innovative in the area of software development tools. Gates has in general been pretty good in figuring out how software could be useful, and what needs to happen next (like the move from 16 to 32 byte computing). In general, he has avoided mistakes that his competitors have made.

In addition, MSFT has been unbelievably lucky. In particular, if IBM had learned about q-dos on its own, instead of through Gates, MSFT would today be just another software company.

Beyond that, MSFT's success has been due to a continual series of unethical behaviors, including lieing, cheating, stealing, and breaking a lot of laws. If it weren't for these MSFT would be maybe 1/10 as large and powerful as it is.

MSFT has two problems. One is that, as a result of the anti-trust trial and the European Competition Commision's continuing activity, it can't do nearly as much illegal as it used to.

The second is that its luck has finally run out. The cutting edge has moved off the fat client and onto SOA and Web 2.0. Not only is MSFT caught in the innovator's dilemma, but it is very hard to see how it could prevail in the new technologies, even it gave up its old monopolies and put a full effort into the new direction.

I think Gates and Ballmer realize there isn't any real way to move ahead. A sign for me is the decision that Vista Enterprise would be available only under Software Assurance. This is an attempt to squeeze customers for more money, at the risk of alienating them. A company that is confident its future products will be big hits wouldn't do something like that.

Anonymous said...

Microsoft has been consistly innovative in the area of software development tools. Gates has in general been pretty good in figuring out how software could be useful, and what needs to happen next (like the move from 16 to 32 byte computing). In general, he has avoided mistakes that his competitors have made.

I think that development tools is the one desktop area where Open Source is really moving ahead. The availability of so many high quality development tools for the price of a download is what has me running Linux.

Anonymous said...

"The availability of so many high quality development tools for the price of a download is what has me running Linux."

http://www.thinkgeek.com/cubegoodies/posters/despair/65b7/

hahahahaha

Anonymous said...

Oh man, that didn't work:

http://www.thinkgeek.com/
cubegoodies/
posters/
despair/
65b7/

Anonymous said...

Not only do I like Linux dev tools, but I like fries too! Plus, by measuring my expanding waistline, it's obvious that the fries feel the same about me ;-)

Anonymous said...

Why is it that all nearly all geeks find things like this cool:

http://www.thinkgeek.com/gadgets/tools/754d/

One of my favorite applications for the Internet is shopping for stones and tools to use for flint-knapping. It's an interesting accumulation of thousands of years of human technological progress.

Sorry for the digressions and limp attempts at humor. I'll stop now.

Anonymous said...

Maybe some investors only buy/sell on the basis of financials, but Google and Apple's recent dramatic rise in stock price indicates that the stock market is mostly a popularity contest. If Microsoft invented the iPod, our stock price would have doubled by now, even though it would have only added a couple billion to the bottom line. So public perception of "innovativeness" and coolness is extremely important.

No. Of course it is a factor, but not nearly as big as you think for a company the size of MSFT. Apple and Google do have the "coolness" aura, but that perception is not the main reason their stocks rise. Those companies have established the ability to grow earnings per share in excess of expectations. The iPod has had a tremendous impact on Apple's bottom line. Ditto online advertising for Google. Those companies grow profits big time and are not yet showing signs of slowing down.

You're looking at two things that are strongly correlated, coolness and stock appreciation, and drawing the wrong conclusion. Momo traders do go with coolness (Cramer's Mad Money crowd), but this does not represent the bulk of the *tens of billions* of dollars in MSFT, AAPL, and GOOG.

Microsoft looks around 30%+ undervalued. It is not going to double anytime soon and wouldn't have even if they sold the iPod. Apple and Google both are growing from a smaller base and can therefore show higher % increases.

Anonymous said...

Most tech companies don't spend $7B on R&D and have some of the smartest tech minds on the planet under their employ. Also, while being first to market may not be critical to ultimate success, is never being first desirable?

Not to mentioned that they spent couple of $B between 2001 and 2004 on now no existing OS (Longhorn). It's funny that shareholders don't care...

Anonymous said...

"Microsoft looks around 30%+ undervalued. It is not going to double anytime soon and wouldn't have even if they sold the iPod. Apple and Google both are growing from a smaller base and can therefore show higher % increases."

Yes, it's looked about 30% undervalued every year since 02. Unfortunately, something always came along to negate that with the end result that here we are three years later theatening to test the lows of that same year. Unfortunately, I think MSFT is now facing a perfect storm; the emerging bets (made with our money) have failed to pay off as planned, and meanwhile focus has been lost on the two cash cows of Windows and Office just as the free-software/zealot movement gathered steam on the one hand and aggressive/well-funded ad-based (vs software based) companies like GOOG and Yahoo emerged on the other. It's a no-brainer that both are/will help each other against MSFT and that is going to be very difficult to combat. I think MSFT will find a way to rise to the challenge, but it's going to be a very rocky ride and for shareholders, I think it all bodes poorly no matter how it works out. Guess all those executive insider-sellers were smart after all..

dead wood said...

"You are not even close to the record. In my 60-90 person team in Windows, we had more than 5 people with 8+ FTE years at Microsoft and lifetime review averages of 3.0. Most of those had never received a 3.5 in their entire time at MS. One was a tester who had not filed a single bug in over 18 months."

And yet, with a > 3.5 lifetime average and over 100 bugs filed in the previous 12 months, I was fired for low performance. Wow. On the flip side, I had been re-orged onto a team where my skillset wasn't a great fit and the manager wasn't satisfied with anything that I did.

If they do make a change to the review process, I hope they add some cross-division input because the skill levels and review scores currently vary greatly from group to group.

Anonymous said...

Has anyone read the "First Break All the Rules" book? It's based on a 20 yr research by Gallup. They found that great managers spend more time with high performers than with low performers and for good reason.

My other comment would be: it is easy to blame it all on Ballmer and it is easy to expect your managers to find the interesting things for you to work on. How many of us have actually tried to act, show an idea and ask to be allowed the time to try it out, and so on? What do people think will happen if Ballmer sends out an email and says: from now on let all be innovative, agile, creative. Will it happen? Is that what it takes?

Anonymous said...

"Has anyone read the "First Break All the Rules" book? It's based on a 20 yr research by Gallup. They found that great managers spend more time with high performers than with low performers and for good reason."

No, but aware of the finding. FWIW, in my time at MSFT, most middle mgrs did the exact opposite. And it wasn't just misguided judgement that helping weaker performers would help the overall team. It was because in many cases they felt out of their league with stronger performers whereas with weaker reports they felt competent/respected. Also, people scores were (and likely still are) important for mgrs. Strong performers typically were too busy to bother going out of their way to give their mgr a poor score. But weak performers definitely would. So again, better to ensure their strong vote - which of course was happily given in return for all the face-time and attaboys.

Anonymous said...

What do people think will happen if Ballmer sends out an email and says: from now on let all be innovative, agile, creative. Will it happen? Is that what it takes?

No, but an email with his resignation would be a good start.

Billy Brackenridge said...

Dear Anonymous:

When you compare Windows to what Apple created (well, stole)

Xerox PARC gave the mouse and GUI interface idea to Apple. If anything, MSFT "Stole" the idea from Apple after Jobs showed it to Gates.


I have many things I’d like to comment on, but please let’s not repeat the myth about ‘stealing’ from Xerox. Or worse yet from Steve Jobs.

Please watch again Pirates of Silicon Valley. There is one and only one important scene in that movie which makes it one of the most ironic flicks ever made.

There is a scene where the camera is behind the receptionist at Xerox PARC, and she asks the three visitors to sign in. One says “My name is Bill Gates.” The next says “My name is Steve Ballmer.” And the third says “My name is Charles Simonyi.”

If you still don’t get it, try reading a little history before making stupid statements on subjects you know nothing about.

By the way the mouse was invented at Stanford not Xerox.

A real trivia question is "Why did it have three buttons?"

Anonymous said...

"A real trivia question is "Why did it have three buttons?""

He foresaw the rise of Windows and wanted a convenient mouse map for CTRL+ALT+DELETE?

Anonymous said...

"The XBox is a strategic investment to get Microsoft into the living room"

Bullshit. I guess the XBath will be Microsofts investment to get into the bathroom. And the XBake will win us the kitchen. All nicely strategic.

But unless someone shows me an actual n-step plan to profit, all this is is a great way to strategically ensure Microsoft a place on the trashheap of history.

Meanwhile, lots of overpaid employees pursue their dreams in the entertainment division and attend all those lavish parties, while people like me slave away in the cash cows. Not that I'm bitter. But one of these days I'd like to be able to buy food that comes close to the stuff on your catered buffet in our miserable cafeteria.

Anonymous said...

Not that I'm bitter.

Had me fooled!

Anonymous said...

"The XBox is a strategic investment to get Microsoft into the living room"

So. Should the main focus be on the Media Center or on the XBox?

Anonymous said...

>Please watch again Pirates of Silicon Valley. There is one and only one important scene in that movie which makes it one of the most ironic flicks ever made.

You know you've well and truly lost the debate when you have to resort to citing a scene in a movie to bolster your argument.

AmeriKaKanKare said...

Microsoft is realizing the power of blogging. Bill Gates once said it's a killer application. Well good job, Mini-Microsoft!

It's fun reading your articles.

Women Who Pick The Wrong Guy as Biological Dad

Anonymous said...

"The XBox is a strategic investment to get Microsoft into the living room"

Honestly, folks, it is rubbish. So if I decide to buy a new big flat TV, will I connect XBox to it? And then I have to kick of my son when I want to see news? No. Let's games be in the other corner. So XBox will be investment into this toys corner. Actually, my son never asked for XBox, he has money enough to buy it, but he never even considered it as a possible purchase. And I do not suggest, it is better for him doing homework and read books instead.

Media center is something different. I would like media center, probably, myself, if it would be a little more functional and a little less limited by all these DRMs and licenses. Probably I would choose a smaller company's product, which is not such a target for suing and which may be a little more relaxed about all these issues, so it will be easier to make it playing DVDs for all zones I have (I'm not going to buy 3 players to play 3 zones I have DVDs for).

So what will I buy from MS for my house than? I'm afraid nothing. If MS would be a set of smaller companies, maybe I would buy mediacenter from one of them.

Anonymous said...

Okay, so XBox is getting MSFT into living rooms. I never understood why that was important. If MSFT makes a great living room product, people will buy it because it's great. They won't think, "well, I bought an XBox a few years ago and I guess that turned out okay..."

As for Media Center Edition in the living room, I wouldn't wish that on anybody. Maybe it can do a lot of stuff but it gives you all the headaches of owning another computer. You basically have to have a keyboard and mouse for it, you have to keep it patched, it's not _nearly_ reliable enough to run continuously like a TiVo, etc. It's sad--if MSFT wasn't so bogged down in "strategy" we could make a kick-ass TiVo competitior.

Anonymous said...

The XBox is a strategic investment to get Microsoft into the living room

I doubt its effectiveness given rivals like Apple. If Apple releases that rumored video iPod this month, kiss WMV goodbye as a future home media platform.

I have many things I’d like to comment on, but please let’s not repeat the myth about ‘stealing’ from Xerox. Or worse yet from Steve Jobs.

Oh come on, it's a well known story and we all know what happened. Apple went to SPARC, got some ideas about windowing, hired a bunch of the SPARC guys and made the Macintosh. Windows came after, and do you think it's a coincidence that Windows has a "File Edit Window Help" menubar on every window, a trash can icon sitting in the bottom-right by default, a "control panel" window, cut and paste (even the term "cut and paste" itself), etc.?

Anonymous said...

Aw, Hell. We could start debating whether it was Richard Stallman, or some other semi-autistic loon who gave us Ctl-V for 'paste', simply because he'd already used Ctl-P for print: does it matter?

Can we reduce the amount of bandwidth wasted on geek-pissing-contests and get back to the main point?

MSFT is borken. Yes, BORKEN (there, obligatory geek-reference over with). Question is, can we rebuild him? Have we the technology?

Anonymous said...

MSFT is borken. Yes, BORKEN (there, obligatory geek-reference over with). Question is, can we rebuild him? Have we the technology?

Despite all the comments about the original Microsoft culture being so groovy - I'm not so sanguine about its grooviness at any time. Back in the day, the average dev at Microsoft had to work their butts off for about 5 years and then they were financially independent. This didn't put much stress on the Microsoft culture. Nowadays, I think that the existing culture is the old, original one without the attractive veneer of nearly instant wealth. Changing a corporate culture that has evolved over such a long period is probably damn near impossible.

Anonymous said...

Non-Microsoft employee here. This conversation about XBox being a strategic investment in controlling the living room shows one of the reasons I hate Microsoft so much.

How is Microsoft going to use the XBox to try to control the living room? They call it "leverage". They're going to "leverage" the XBox by making other stuff that only interfaces to the XBox, or only interfaces well to the XBox. But the problem is that, when Microsoft uses leverage, I, the customer, feel forced. Free clue: I DO NOT LIKE BEING FORCED! It pisses me off!

And this is true not just with XBox. When Microsoft bribed web sites to make non-standard content that wouldn't display well on Netscape, and I preferred using Netscape, Microsoft was trying to force me into doing what they wanted. That stunt helped them win the browser wars. Only one problem: I still resent it, 5+ years later.

Well, most people on this blog who raised the XBox issue didn't talk about "leveraging" the XBox so much; they mainly talked about blocking somebody else from controlling the living room. Why? Because something might come out of that that would compete with Microsoft in some area. In other words, it is viewed as good strategy for Microsoft to make moves that result in fewer options for me. Microsoft wants to take away my choices, to force me to become their customer. And you wonder why I try to avoid becoming their customer everywhere I can? Hello?

Stop trying to FORCE your customers to do stuff. Stop trying to take away our choice. STOP IT! Your problems with market perception do not come from Ballmer. They don't even come so much from your products. They come from your ACTIONS.

I mean, look, either your products are good enough to compete on their own, or they aren't. Are you a talented team that can actually produce worthwhile stuff, or are you a bunch of incompetents who have to be protected from the rest of the market by "leverage" and anti-competitive BS? Your actions say that you are the latter.

MSS

Anonymous said...

"MSFT is borken. Yes, BORKEN (there, obligatory geek-reference over with). Question is, can we rebuild him? Have we the technology?"

Agree but don't think it's about can it be fixed or does MSFT have the right tech. The real issue is will you end up with the current $264B man, something much more, or something much less? If the answer is much more, but means putting an end to protecting the past or even splitting the company up entirely, will current mgt embrace that? They haven't so far. If the answer is much less, will mgt or shareholders support that? The answer for at least the latter btw is no.

Of course, since neither Ballmer nor Gates seemingly want to acknowledge that there even is a problem, considering potential fixes is kind of mute.

It will likely end badly. MSFT will probably visibly screw up due to LH falling short and/or competition making a dent in Windows/Office. Shareholders will finally then demand change because the stock will be in the teens. Ballmer will be forced to step down and in all likelihood, new blood will be brought in from outside. Not encumbered by the past, massive changes/cutbacks will ensue and if that person is smart enough and the changes executed well, MSFT will survive albeit smaller and much less relevant than today. Wish I saw a different scenario but I don't. Companies like most things, eventually regress to the mean, and often because their mgt are convinced they're right and everyone else is wrong. MSFT is well on its way...

Anonymous said...

I know this blog is a bit of a geek-fest, but I was pointed here by someone at work, and (as one of those poorly paid non-geeks here, that is apparently bleeding the company dry) can I just pip in with a brief comment regarding the: 'Steve Balmer: he must go' debate? I agree.

I've only seen Balmer once when he wasn't on a podium, and it was scary...

Here's the story.

It was in one of the newer buildings and they were having one of those "not retreating is actually a victory" meetings about how they'd spent several million $ persuading some local council in South America to upgrade their copy of Exchange Server, or something, instead of buying some semi-functional 'open-source' alternative...

All the people around me were going "Steve Balmer... It's Steve Balmer..." in awed tones, so I took notice, for a change, rather than just keeping my lowly-assed head down, like I usually do...

Anyway, HE emerges (THE Balmer, I mean) from this meeting room - all smiles, and everyone is slapping each other on the back, and saying how great things were, and Balmer (not a word of a lie) leans forwards, furrows those beetle brows of his, and strikes a he-man pose... you know the kind I mean, surely? Elbow crooked, upper arm raised, fist clenched...?

For a moment, I thought "Yes! This is surely a sign that the man has a sense of self-irony! Surely he realises how ridiculous that looks: 'Uncle Fester strikes heroic pose'" - Yeah, I know we're not supposed to use the UF analogy, but honestly, guys... that's he looked like: Uncle Fester, in a suit, striking a Mr Universe pose...

Anyway, like I say, for one giddy moment, this girl thought we were actually being led by a guy with a sense of self awareness and humour... That he was about to turn around and say that the last few years have just been one gigantic joke...

You know?

But no. The Laughs and smiles continued among his groupies... and my heart sank.

Here he was, Mr Balmer, in all his frail male ego-trip glory... He actually believes that stuff, you know? He probably even thinks women find him more attractive!

I was told the other day (and this is probably old news to you geeks), that Steve Jobs has a 'reality distortion' field that takes in those around him and converts them to his way of thinking... If that's the case, then OUR Steve is like that in reverse: a kind of "Black Hole" of reality distortion. He surrounds himself with people who radiate distortion... and he kind of just sucks it all in and believes it all HIMSELF!

After all, why waste your time convincing the rest of the company that you're right, when you can just believe all that crap, yourself?

Can anyone else remember seeing this performance and fill in the blanks about where it was and how it happened? I KNOW I saw it: I'm not making this up!

I know I'm pretty low down the scale, and probably come across as such - in fact, I'm probably on my way to my first 3.0 - but maybe someone else who was there can verify this?

I just remember thinking at the time: "If that guy was a South American dictator, he'd be one of those ones that wears a colonel's uniform - even though everyone can see he's actually a fat bald guy!"

I decided, then and there, that all of our personal futures was being run, so as to flatter the ego of a fat bald guy!

Does that sound like a personal attack on Steve? Maybe we need that! maybe we need to get personal, before we puncture his ego-shield and deliver a good dose of clue to the guy?

I have no solutions, but I can say that even from my lowly position, 'Our Great Helmsman' look deluded.

Anonymous said...

"I DO NOT LIKE BEING FORCED! It pisses me off!"

You poor victim, Microsoft held a gun to your head and forced you to go out and buy Windows, or not use Netscape, Opera or one of the other 20 browsers available. Microsoft threatened your family if you don't play on the Xbox rather than the PS2. Microsoft put implants in your brain taking away your free will making you use Word even when StarOffice was and OpenOffice is free and can create and open Word documents.

No one forced you to do anything moron.

Anonymous said...

"You poor victim"

Even if that guy you're attacking IS one of those Linux goupies, he's one more guy that isn't going to be buying any of our products real soon... so, why not just insult him? That won't come across as at all arrogant, will it?

Maybe if more of us thought about why these guys keep on buying this Loonatix stuff, instead of writing them off as cranks, we'd be able to sell some stuff to them?

Or have we already written certain market sectors off, as not worth catering to? I seem to recall the motor industry did that a few decades back when faced with those 'crummy Japanese imports'.

Way to go. You must be in senior management.

Anonymous said...

"I mean, look, either your products are good enough to compete on their own, or they aren't. Are you a talented team that can actually produce worthwhile stuff, or are you a bunch of incompetents who have to be protected from the rest of the market by "leverage" and anti-competitive BS? Your actions say that you are the latter."

Excellent point. MSFT talks about customer empowerment and at the end of the day, I think most believe in that including senior mgt. On the other hand, snr mgt have instilled a culture of hyper-competitiveness that often thinks about things in terms of competitors and competitive positioning. Hence discussions about leveraging Xbox to head off SONY, etc. All companies do that to some extent, but super successful ones focus on leveraging the customer's experience knowing that if they do that, the rest will take care of itself. Good reminder.

Anonymous said...

"'Steve Balmer: he must go' debate? I agree."

MSFT won't really change until Ballmer and Gates step down. Both are smart and MSFT obviously wouldn't be where it is without them. But their arrogance, belligerence, bull-headedness and general testosterone-fed swagger, is no longer in the company's best interests and worse, feeds a culture where others follow their lead. More humility, more customer-centricity, more willingness to entertain negative feedback and adjust vs the bunker mentality, more smart/strategic moves vs self-congratulation on being smart/strategic (despite the dearth of recent evidence), more cross-industry participation vs everybody is a threat/potential threat, would all serve MSFT, its customers and its shareholder better.

Anonymous said...

t will likely end badly. MSFT will probably visibly screw up due to LH falling short and/or competition making a dent in Windows/Office. Shareholders will finally then demand change because the stock will be in the teens. Ballmer will be forced to step down and in all likelihood, new blood will be brought in from outside. Not encumbered by the past, massive changes/cutbacks will ensue and if that person is smart enough and the changes executed well, MSFT will survive albeit smaller and much less relevant than today.

I think that is about right. Very few corporations stay on top forever, and Microsoft is caught in the innovator's dilemma.

My guess is there are two paths. One is that it could kick and scream, and go through several years of hell (including hell for all the employees), until it hits bottem. The other is it could realize it can't maintain its present position, much less keep adding new monopolies, and gracefully (but still painfully) scale back its size and ambitions.

Anonymous said...

MSFT won't really change until Ballmer and Gates step down...But their arrogance, belligerence, bull-headedness and general testosterone-fed swagger, is no longer in the company's best interests and worse, feeds a culture where others follow their lead.

That's an excellent point. In the comments of a few posts ago (I don't want to wade through them all to find quote material), someone posted their plan of how to handle GOOG. It was to set up our own ad network, offer advertising for free, and then charge money after GOOG goes under.

I was floored. Here is someone advocating the very definition of monopoly abuse. The anti-trust trial and Gates shaky deposition blew a huge hole in the company's reputation, and here is some moron advocating a do over. It's not let's make a search engine better than Google. It's not let's slim down so we can better compete. It's not let's out innovate them. It's let's break the law and run them out of business.

Now it's likely just a lowly peon who recently graduated from college; but I can't help but think that I would not be surprised that it was someone at the top, given that neither Gates or Balmer have ever conceded an inch in regards to the trial outcome.

This is not good. When a large part of the tech community views you as a scofflaw and ISVs are afraid to develop for your platform because they fear that if they are successful you will leverage your OS advantage to drive them out of business, you have a major problem.

Even the mafia has an understanding that the lower level guys and people around the edges have to be able to wet their beaks. Most of the money may flow upward, but the little guys have to eat too. Trying to strangle everyone and anyone who is making a buck is actually detrimental to the long term health of the Microsoft platform. The company used to encourage other companies to develop for Windows because that's where the money was. Now anyone who makes a buck is seen as a threat.

This attitude all flows from the very top.

Anonymous said...

"Their inflated egos lead them into expensive, protracted litigation which ends up destroying Microsoft's hard-earned brand equity. Because of this, many large customers distrust the company and actively seek out alternatives."

This, I believe, has been one of the larger problems. How much $$ did they spend on the DOJ case? Do you realize they could have made it go away really early on, quite easily?? But NO, they had to fight it...and then the MS reputation really went to hell. This will be a hard, very hard thing to repair. What's sad is that it's a self perpetuating thing. How many upper level managers do you know who emulate that type of tantrum throwing behavior? How many see it as being "cool" or being... "passionate?"

Anonymous said...

"Trying to strangle everyone and anyone who is making a buck is actually detrimental to the long term health of the Microsoft platform. The company used to encourage other companies to develop for Windows because that's where the money was. Now anyone who makes a buck is seen as a threat."

Agree. Indeed, I would argue that the rise in popularity in OSS is largely a result of this strategy. Take away everyone else's ability to make money off software and what happens? They eventually find a model where they can succeed w/o making money on software. So now instead of strong ISV partners or for-profit competitors that could have been beaten with better products while still making a nice margin, MSFT has to compete against free products thereby killing its margins. Smart. Re GOOG, why did MSFT have to go after GOOG at all? I mean MSFT actually licenses technology from YHOO and the two have a seemingly cordial relationship despite being competitors on some level. So why not GOOG? But somehow this became a "we're going to cut off your oxygen supply" and for the first time that I can recall, the intended target wasn't scared (in and of itself a huge statement on MSFT's current sorry-ass shape and execution)and said "oh yeah, well maybe we're going to try and cut your's off first" (the SUNW/GOOG StarOffice announcement). So now Office, MSFT's majority cash cow, may well come under direct, well-funded assault from free alternatives, joining Windows which already has its hands full with LINUX, neither with a new product release for another 12 mths, and meanwhile the stock is in the toilet going on three years now and still bleeding $B's on Steve's various failed emerging bets. But hey, everyone's wrong, Steve/Bill are right, and it's full speed ahead on the SS MSFT. Icebergs, we don't see no stinking icebergs...

Anonymous said...

It may sound strange, but it is almost officially prohibited in MS to write really good software. What is good? It depends from point of view. For me good means simple, clear, efficient, compact, portable, compatible with everything and cheap in use. From business point of view good means only profitable and there is one simple MS strategy for that (which I told is BH idea): binding tools depending from each other. This is named as "integration", "MS Solution", "using of MS technologies", so a bulk of second-grade toos will come as a package, so noone will need anything else and noone can use anything else. This is a kind of opposite to my definition of good. It can't be simple, it must use every abbreviation MS ever created (like MS SQL, IIS, COM, DCOM, Office etc. the more the better). It can't be cheap, it needs all these licenses. Maybe we can avoid using MSSQL, making soft cheaper, but we need to sell more SQL. It can't be compatible with different applications and OSs, there is an obvious conflict of interests: we need to sell more Office and more Windows. It can't be compact and efficient, because it means optimized and you can not optimize software using all these levels and technologies. Currently we are forced to use .NET, which is born like a new compact and efficient technology, but is grown already to the size of "oversized me" (Have you seen memory usage of Visual Studio 2005? About 150M of RAM!), and actually it is not surprising -- .NET reminds me fastfood.

I can't believe something like changing CEO can help here. I think, that splitting of bisunesses might help. A big company has too many conflicts of interests to work well. You are too bound by policies to make good technical decisions. If concurency is good for echonomy of one big country, why it is bad for echonomy of one big company?

Anonymous said...

"How many upper level managers do you know who emulate that type of tantrum throwing behavior? How many see it as being "cool" or being... "passionate?" "

My first experience of it was Deborah Willingham, then a VP, ripping into a guy at a PDC session in mid-presentation while 100+ people watched because some minor issue he got wrong offended her. Coming from an older, larger, IT player I was dumbfounded. At my previous employer, a mgr wouldn't have dreamed to do that but if they had, and someone more senior had heard it, they would have taken that mgr into their office afterwards and ripped them a new one. That's when I knew I wasn't in Kansas anymore. MSFT's culture is Bill/Steve and while that was great for a start-up, it's been poison for a leading player and may actually lead to MSFT's downfall if it isn't changed and asap.

Anonymous said...

Work is shitty everywhere. The grass is always greener on the other side. Pople used to cribbing will crib their entire lives. Any large organization, including Microsoft, is bound to get dysfunctional in one way or the other. Most work is not too exciting. Cos pay us salaries so that we can do something excting in our free time if we want to. If you want have the cheese and eat it too- that's not gonna happen. Life is short. Enjoy it while you can.

Anonymous said...

"How many upper level managers do you know who emulate that type of tantrum throwing behavior? How many see it as being "cool" or being... "passionate?" "

It has been everywhere in the Windows org. I haven't seen it firsthand at the upper levels but have heard stories of David Cutler regularly putting his fist through a wall to make a point and it comes all the way down to lower level managers that I have heard having screaming matches.

I don't know if "open and respectful" has taken hold in the year since I have left, but it was a very unhealthy group a year ago.

Anonymous said...

"Even if that guy you're attacking IS one of those Linux goupies, he's one more guy that isn't going to be buying any of our products real soon... so, why not just insult him? That won't come across as at all arrogant, will it?

Maybe if more of us thought about why these guys keep on buying this Loonatix stuff, instead of writing them off as cranks, we'd be able to sell some stuff to them?

Or have we already written certain market sectors off, as not worth catering to? I seem to recall the motor industry did that a few decades back when faced with those 'crummy Japanese imports'.

Way to go. You must be in senior management."

I no longer work for Microsoft, I can say whatever I like. Way to make idiotic assumptions:

No hire.

Idiots like you are the reason I left.

Anonymous said...

...someone posted their plan of how to handle GOOG. It was to set up our own ad network, offer advertising for free, and then charge money after GOOG goes under.

I was floored. Here is someone advocating the very definition of monopoly abuse. The anti-trust trial and Gates shaky deposition blew a huge hole in the company's reputation, and here is some moron advocating a do over.


Wrong. There would be nothing illegal about this. In fact, Microsoft wouldn't even be able to leverage its OS monopoly into the new market (which was the core of the DoJ case), all it would be able to do is leverage its huge cash hoard to absorb a few years of losses. Nothing illegal about that. If Warren Buffett decided he wanted to put Microsoft out of business by cloning Windows and offering it for free for a few years, Microsoft couldn't stop him.

If you actually go back and read the entire appeals court decision, instead of pretending you know something about the law, you'll see that Microsoft was found innocent on most of the charges. Including the tying charge, which was sent back to the lower court for a retrial with very particular parameters (e.g., the DoJ had to prove MS did it primarily for anticompetitive reasons).

So Microsoft's a charity? They should just stand idly by while Google goes after their OS business by moving all functionality to the network? Sure. Where's my pony while you're at it?

Dumb hippie.

P.S. Google stole Overture's business idea, was sued for infringement, and settled. Don't be evil!

Anonymous said...

>Maybe if more of us thought about why these guys keep on buying this Loonatix stuff, instead of writing them off as cranks, we'd be able to sell some stuff to them?

There is no point whatsoever in attempting to win over those who have convinced themselves that the relationship between OSS and Microsoft is some sort of Tolkein-esque epic struggle between the forces of light and darkest evil.

Moreover, it's not even clear that it's beneficial to dissuade them; such people contribute little actual code or money but do considerable damage to the credibility of OSS. I love these people.

(To the other poster, yes, M$ is evil. No, really, we are. We did make you buy our software. We also put listening devices in your toothbrush, replaced your table cloth with one exactly like it, and got your cat pregnant. Please shout this and how OSS is the only way to salvation from the rooftops. I'll even pay for the megaphone.)

While I'm at it, take that "Loonatix" crap and shove it where the sun don't shine. Linux is a quite solid re-implementation of UNIX created under an unusual and surprisingly successful development model, using relatively few resources. If we, as a well organized, well equipped, and highly skilled organization can't develop something that people will voluntarily pay to use instead of Linux, then we deserve whatever happens to us.

Anonymous said...

Msft HR exist for one reason. Save the companys ass from law suits.

Anonymous said...

I think there is a difference between a manager who can perform and deliver the numbers vs. whether he/she can manage people. It does take very different skill sets. However, I have seen many of the strong performers who are delivering great numbers in position of people managers. I am not sure whether the traits in one can 100% apply to the other.

Anonymous said...

I can assure many of you that HR is NOW being led by a very capable and caring VP who will do everything in her power to identify the issues and make the change. Lisa has been one of the greatest people managers in MS' history and she has a strong track record in people management and in doing what she says. Give her the time and support. She is listening and working on it!