Saturday, February 17, 2007

Stop Him Before He Speaks Again!

Please Hammer, don't hurt him.

Just keep him quiet! Should we expect another mea-culpa in the inbox?

I especially liked reading MSFT Extreme Makeover's take on the analyst's presentation: MSFTextrememakeover I'll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today. Snippet:

Finally, what can I say about Ballmer? Beyond questioning, as I have, what content was included while leaving major issues - like investment track record to date - largely unaddressed, I have a real problem with his tone and attitude. The word that comes to mind is flippant. I'm sure that's not his intention, but it nonetheless seems to be the result. You get almost no sense that this is the CEO of a publicly-traded company who is accountable to his Board and shareholders.

And it just gets better.

When listening to the webcast, I certainly spat out a non-acronymic version of WTF! when Ballmer brought down the hammer on Vista expectations. "Wow, that could have been worded better, as if the impact was well understood," I muttered, flipping over to check in on after-hours trading. Additionally, I'm no great presenter, but someone has to work with Ballmer on his ability to get through a lot of information (editing it down to begin with is always nice) without droning in some sort of anti-pentameter: "blah blah dee blah dee BLAAAAAAH, blah-blah blar buh da BLAAAAAH," etc etc repeat a few dozen times.

Off-hand, if we see irrational exuberance around expectations we do need to put some reasonable restraint on it. But who let the bears out?

Along the lines of doing the right thing:

I find all the people above plain ignorant who are blaming Ballmer for the stock fall afterhours yesterday.

:

I have never found anybody who has blamed Ballmer for failing financial target of Microsoft business. Therefore he is doing his job well. Those who prefer to keep stock price up on false estimates are like people who sell their own personal stuff by lying to a potention buyer (a lemon car is passed as a perfect car). Or these people see stocks as lotto instead of the economic engine of a capital market.

Fortunately Ballmer has better ethics and sense than these two types of people.

As for lunch-table conspiracies:

Ballmer, in case one of your assistants reads this BLOG .... please shut the *&#% up or I'm going to begin to agree with those who say you want our April options to stay under water!

Getting back to the Hunt for Ray (that should be worked into the next Puzzle Hunt):

Ray isn't the answer. Ray has vision but his execution lacks significantly. Have any of you actually used Groove? or Notes? I'd rather swallow glass than work with either of those gems.

And:

Ray has stepped back to reassess his commitment to put some sanity into the Live strategy.

To wit:

Office Live is a disaster. Usability sucks, support sucks, and there is a lot of infighting between them and the rest of the Live services. Also, it is beset with many of the same problems as previous projects like NetDocs and Hailstorm: not enough focus on what the customer wants and too much focus on fancy code. Coincidentally, many of the same leaders from those projects are now leading the Office Live project.

:

"Live" is .Net all over again. No one knows what the hell it means, even those who are supposed to be leading the effort. Ray wasn't around during the .Net days, so he is getting a dose of what it is like and he doesn't like the taste.

Finally, as for Ray and his vision:

We need more engagement from Ray and his brigade about what's happening and what kind of coherent vision is coming about.

I'm sorry, but this is NOT what you need. You do NOT need vision from Ray. At this point, what you need from Ray is code!

I have a very long history with Microsoft, and I am no longer a softie. One of the reasons I left is the whole vision/strategy vs. code problem. In the old days, production quality code really mattered a ton. In the new Microsoft, from Forum 2000 onward, code was much less important. What really mattered was laying down a vision and a strategy.

Death to PowerPoint decks! Okay, next, it seems as though the Orange-Badge life has more ups than downs:

I just left my Level 59 job, the level is between $68,000 and $78,000. I was at the top of my level doing great work, great stats, and couldn't get promoted. Over time, I found out it was because I just happened to be working on a product that management couldn't wait to hit the end-of-lifecycle.

Now, I'm a vendor, and I'm making $130,000 a year. And I don't have to put up with the corporate political bullsh-- that kept me down, mainly the stupid review process because I didn't go bowling with the boss' team every Wednesday night (no sh--).

Now, I have a job that's singular in focus, and I can't wait to get on campus every day to do my one little complicated job that I do incredibly well, and I am well-paid for the excellent work that I'm putting in. Blue-badging is dead to me.

That led to a resurge of former FTEs quite happy with the non-review, pay-me for the time I'm hear is the life-for-me. Something to think about. If you're not risk averse.

Lastly, for those going through career-management exhaustion, here's a comment that certainly resonates with me:

Particularly apropos for anyone who has seen the HR deck for midyear reviews, or waded through any of the hours and hours of reading and data entry (nevermind the training, manager meetings, etc.) that accompany this brand-new vision of how we're supposed to (apparently) spend about 8 months of the year either working on, reviewing, revising, talking about, or learning how to update our careers or performance measurements.

Are we actually supposed to do our day jobs at some point too? Or is that incidental now?

I used to work at IBM, and even there, we didn't have this kind of mind-numbing, process-upon-process bureaucracy around *anything* - nevermind around something like "career paths."

My favorite part was a sentence on one slide saying this was all because "You asked for it!" Not in my wildest dreams would I have "asked" for this kind of B.S. I like my job. Can I just do it, please? At least some of the time?

Or I will be just another ex-MSFTie wondering what the h--- happened to such a great place to work.

Not only should we be agile and efficient about shipping our next generation of products and services, we should be just as diligent as being efficient about running our business and not running it into the ground with more and more of Satan's Process Excellence.


122 comments:

Anonymous said...

oftzI never thought I would say this, but my years in the Military are proving to be quite an asset for my Microsoft career. To wit:

- I can handle seemingly pointless process upon process for the sake of processing processes without skipping a beat. Because of this practice, I can do this AND get my work done at the same time. (Sometimes with one hand tied behind my back!)

- I'm used to cranking out boilerplate euphemistic descriptions of past accomplishments for reviews and award recommendations so the 15-page (yes, 15!) mid-year review that doesn't even have any monetary reward attached to it was a piece-of-cake. (0 to completed first draft in less than two hours and that included looking up all the different "core competencies" and using the right words. I might need to spend another hour to make it sing, but that's it.)

- I'm used to being about 250 managers away from the commander-in-chief. (Well, it seems like 250. All I know is that looking up my management chain to Bill Gates tests the memory of my computer with all those open dialog boxes).

- I'm used to tedious bureaucratic politics and processes so having to get 53 sign-offs for anything is just another day in the park.

- I'm used to limited promotions after a certain time so that you either need to start lobbying for the next job as soon as you get your current job or expect to be beating the streets when time's up. Fortunately, that time usually doesn't come in the Military until you're ready to collect a retirement pension. At Microsoft, well, the boot print will wear off your backside before you know it.

What continues to amaze me is how all these smart people, many who are only smart by their own admission while others are actually quite bright, haven't figured out that if your account and reward for something, that's what most people will optimize for.

If you track and reward "promotion velocity" you'll get promotion velocity, often in the form of empire building for managers and individual success at the expense of team success.

If you count and track bugs, you'll get code with lots of bugs.

If you hire and reward based on cleverness and trickiness, you'll get clever and tricky often at the expense of maintainable, testable, and on-schedule (or of any interest to the customer. Remember the customer?).

Fortunately, there are still many talented and motivated people, many who actually want to succeed for the team, but until the coach(es) can pick a goal and run the distance, there's much more incentive and much more immediate reward to just doing what's most interesting for you than what's best for the company. The former is much easier to define and accomplish under the current organization.

I'd like to think there's hope from within, but the old-guard has no incentive to budge from their all-to-comfortable comfort zone. In fact last-year's SPSA gave them plenty of incentive for NOT changing. As long as they are "signing the checks" not much is going to change.

Nevertheless, I'll keep smiling and turning the crank. That's what they pay me for. If they wanted my advice, they'd ask for it (well they wouldn't actually ask for it but, you know, they'd sort of hint about it). Besides what could someone with any experience teach someone who already knows it all?

Anonymous said...

edit/find/"hear"

Anonymous said...

As a long time blue badge, I’m certainly alarmed with Ballmer’s demonstrated inability to send the right message to the right audience. That is the bare minimum a CEO should be able to do, but he’s also failing at that. Not only he sends the wrong message to analysts, he continues to tell his employees that he doesn’t care about the stock every time he has a chance. I guess the only positive interpretation left is that he is honest, he probably doesn’t give a toss about the stock. As an employee and shareholder I care about the stock and feel offended every time I have to listen to him. He would have been fired long time ago in any other company in the world but I guess microsoft is different.

jamie said...

haha mini - excellent. so glad your firing more frequently these days

ps - i posted this on c9
http://channel9.msdn.com/ShowPost.aspx?PostID=283794

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know what Steve Ballmer, CEO actually does on a day to day basis? Leaving all the bashing aside, does someone actually know what he does?

Anonymous said...

I relate very well w/the comment about career-management exhaustion and posted about my frustrations before at http://minimsft.blogspot.com/2007/01/thinking-about-microsoft-2007-mid-year.html#c116946187940154385.

I have so much stuff to do as it is and all the MYCD crap is due REALLY SOON. I've got to try to come up w/some personal growth commitment that I can actually achieve all while we're going to be heads down for MANY months trying to ship. The whole comapny wastes SO MUCH time on reviews and "career development" every 6 months.

Which is more important? Meeting some commitment and junk that HR came up with or shipping a quality product? Customers won't be forgiving if my (very critical) area's quality is crap because I took a whole bunch of time out to focus on "career development".

It just irks me that I have to bust my butt in order to get out of this level I've been "stuck" at for a long time. Frankly, I don't care that much about levels and all but I'm trying to avoid getting the Limited label and getting pushed out. I used to just work hard, do a good job and get promoted. Now it's a lot more work.

Anonymous said...

The Military guy just made the best post ever. I can't follow that one at all. There's almost nothing left to say on those topics.

But I had a minor topic in mind, on the subject of Monkey Boy's "oops, we're not selling so much Vista" remarks.

It's been said many times around here that there is little compelling reason to upgrade to Vista. For the typical consumer, there is none. Their computer does what they want it to do. Why mess with it?

But I also think the Powers-that-Be in Redmond have been too rich for too long, and it simply doesn't occur to them that a hundred bucks is a lot of money for a regular person to spend on an OS upgrade. Forget about 150 for the Ultimate or Super Duper or whatever it's called version. One hundred dollars is real money to most people who don't have Microsoft millions in their wallets, and even to people who aren't making the 70K or more that pretty much everybody at Microsoft makes. 100 dollars spent on Vista means 100 dollars I don't have for new shoes or groceries or for that matter dinner with the kids at AppleBee's (no Microsoft executives, not everyone can go to dinner at the Herb Farm or El Gaucho).

It's a crazy disconnect from reality that Microsoft suffers from. Both from the reality of the world as such, and the reality of their own company and how it works, as Military guy so ably pointed out.

Anonymous said...

>". . .the Powers-that-Be in Redmond have been too rich for too long, and it simply doesn't occur to them that a hundred bucks is a lot of money . . ."

A couple of points: When you've been buying software as long as I have, (since '81) one gets tired of just pouring all that money into upgrading something that already works fine. I stopped spending around '97, at the same time MS adopted a flawed upgrade model designed to extract more, more consistently (which has since been abandoned). It did not work of course.

This is classic paradigm shift disruptive technology stuff where you who are complaining about Balmer have not come to grips with the economic realities of what you do. Balmer clearly understands what is happening and correctly has warned the analysts about it before they figured it out for themselves thereby tanking the stock much more severely.

MS has a couple of choices: drop the price of Vista in half to drive up sales (I would not upgrade under any circumstances because it is too slow) or strip it out with an `express' version that a)loads in ten seconds, b) runs faster than linux and c) costs $50 with another $50 version following each year. Optional feature add ons (such as office modules, or entertainment pc or dozens of others added in for an equally reduced pricing structure.

the world has changed, and Microsoft needs to get that first before any further bitching happens about the stock dropping when in reality it should be at about $15/share based on the current inability to respond to the marketplace.

Fred said...

Has the public ever upgraded their OS en masse by choice?

It's actually an ambiguous question. The strongest argument for a "yes" answer is Windows95. That's really incontrovertable. Everybody immediately understood what they'd be paying for; what the improvements were, and therefore people lined up at stores.

Additionally (thanks to really quite brilliant Microsoft marketing at that time) the public was taught to understand what it meant to upgrade the OS. (The abstraction was exploited by Apple years later with their Mac OS 8 advertising line: "Get a new Mac for $99.")

Apple did less well with their upgrades until Jobs came back and somehow managed to turn the Copland/Taligent/Rhapsody junkyard wreckage into two best-selling OS upgrades that didn't even deserve full decimal-increment status (since it was just System 7 again with a gloss). It's only impressive when you realize that this was what Apple was doing in the front of the store while the heavy lifting was going on in the back, getting OS X ready to ship on time (which it did, to the day).

Windows 98 and Windows XP are more difficult to assess, given the further entrenchment of the system and people's jaded understanding of upgrades (what they can and can't do for your machine). Also the upgrade your machine/upgrade your os mindset hadn't quite kicked in yet. I personally believe that XP was the first major OS to be widely adopted without garnering much individual consumer enthusiasm.

In the era of XP, Vista probably could have made a splash. (In those days Apple's pretty interface was being seen by far fewer corporate types than see it today, I think, as well.) But maybe the idea of a "boutique OS" as an individual SKU sale is stale and dying.

If Apple makes real money on their "Leopard" introduction, I guess that will prove me wrong. (And they did apparently make a killing with their "Tiger" box release, but I don't know the actual figures.)

Is "OS in a box" dead? Would that be so bad?

Karel Donk said...

The reason why Steve-O said what he said was because he knows that results will possibly be worse than even he hopes for. Instead of going along with what analysts are saying, and everyone being surprised a year later that results are a lot worse than they expected and the stock price tumbling way down as a result, he chose to caution people now when it's not too late so it can have less impact on the stock price compared to the previous case.
You may also want to read this and .

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know what Steve Ballmer, CEO actually does on a day to day basis? Leaving all the bashing aside, does someone actually know what he does?

Er, plays golf while Lisa B. caddys?

Anonymous said...

As much as we hate to see Ballmer (or any MSFT exec.) say things that cause the stock to drop I do think that he's being smart in setting expectations early. It's his job to give investors an accurate picture of what's going on and it would be grossly irresponsible for him to misrepresent how things are going.

In that regard Steve Ballmer is a thousand times better CEO than so many other CEO's out there.

Being honest with the analysts and shareholders is not one of the areas where I feel Microsoft is lacking.

But, perhaps for Ballmer and Co., realizing that Vista isn't the big bang they were hoping it to be is the true definition of the "Wow Starting Now." As in, "Wow, we really have bankrupted the trust that the industry -- our partners and our customers -- had in us." "Wow, it's hard to get things done when everyone despises us." "Wow, it's hard to retain employees when we treat them like dogs." "Wow, it's hard to coax the developer community into following our standards when we change the rules of the game every 6 months." "Wow, it's hard to succeed when even our own employees and shareholders secretly want to see us fail." "Wow, we really blew it and wow it's going to take a long time to repair the damage our egocentric ways have caused."

"Wow."

Charles said...

The reason why Steve-O said what he said was because he knows that results will possibly be worse than even he hopes for. Instead of going along with what analysts are saying, and everyone being surprised a year later that results are a lot worse than they expected and the stock price tumbling way down as a result, he chose to caution people now when it's not too late so it can have less impact on the stock price compared to the previous case.

Seriously, Ballmer himself is responsible for setting unrealistic expectations in the first place when he said:
"We think in the next three months, we'll probably sell five times as many copies of Windows Vista as we ever did with (Windows 95) in the equivalent period of time," he said. "We'll probably go double what we did with Windows XP."

That is a major mistake (and one Ballmer repeats chronically). A CEO's primary job is to match performance with expectations. Getting that message right is what Marketing (not "Sales") is about. Many on these threads confuse selling and advertising with Marketing.

Sales is about keeping the pipeline filled and closing deals, while Marketing is about product planning and customer acceptance. Finance is about cost controls, profitability and investor acceptance. All support the CEO in communicating an accurate message to customers and investors alike.

Ballmer does not communicate effectively and MS does not have a a genuine Marketing function. Guessing at what "cool" technologies to 'embrace and extend' and fast-following the competition (over a cliff) is not Marketing.

Marketing and Development should be cooperatively, iteratively, designing a profitable product that customers will want to buy at a competitive cost. Marketing should not be dictating technologies, nor should Development be dictating customer requirements.

Lastly, it is worth noting that Microsoft pushed Vista out "as-is" so as to meet contractual obligations under the volume license Software Assurance agreements, that otherwise customers would have paid for OS upgrades under said agreements which upgrades MS would not have shipped by agreement expiration.

Vista wasn't ready so much as the licensing agreements needed an OS shipment as a contractual fulfillment checkoff. Again, had Ballmer not insisted on the "Big Bang" OS release, these agreements could have been met a lot sooner with a far less burdensome OS upgrade.

Karel Donk said...

charles:

I don't really want to defend Ballmer here, and I'm not doing that, but it's good to note that someone in Ballmer's position is going to rely on info he gets from others in the company. He's also supposed to be optimistic about his company and products and talk positive most of the time. Based on the info he was getting, he was probably genuinely of the opinion that Vista would be big. Perhaps now he'll be more careful with who he listens to.

Now, the real guy to blame here for the whole Longhorn fiasco is Bill Gates. HE was the most senior technical guy responsible for it. Ballmer, being mostly a business type person, probably just listened to Gates most of the time. Gates is the one to blame for what Vista became today. I wrote about this a while ago. I think if it wasn't for Allchin we still wouldn't have had a Vista release today. No wonder they "asked" Gates to "retire". It was the best way they could fire him, that is, if it wasn't Gates who kept the honor to himself and decided he did enough damage.

It was Gates who insisted on the Big Bang OS release, and it was Allchin who one day just walked over to him and told him it wouldn't work.

It's also Gates who precided over all the DRM tech that's being put into MS's latest products including Vista, causing loads of unnecessary trouble, only to say much later that he doesn't like DRM and it's not good for users.

.

Anonymous said...

There is a simple explanation for why we have a new "tool" that is designed to solve a lot of our HR problems: the VP of HR is a former developer. She saw a problem and decided that the only way to solve it was with some code. I'm not knocking developers (and damn sure don't want to start another one of those inane SDE vs. SDET vs. whatever wars), but as has been said by many smart people in the past "when all you have is a hammer, every problem starts to look like a nail". In the case of career velocity, Lisa took the easy way out and paid some vendor to write a bunch of code. What she should be doing is slapping the board, Steve, and every other Partner in the company around to make substantive changes in the way we express the value of our most valuable assets, and not just throw more software at us and tell us that will solve all of our problems.

Charles said...

Karel Donk elaborates:
[Ballmer's] also supposed to be optimistic about his company and products and talk positive most of the time. Based on the info he was getting, he was probably genuinely of the opinion that Vista would be big. Perhaps now he'll be more careful with who he listens to.

He's supposed to be realistic about the shareholder's company. That includes being realistic about verifying the info he gets from the people he hires to implement the vision he pushes down the pyramid.

Now, the real guy to blame here for the whole Longhorn fiasco is Bill Gates. HE was the most senior technical guy responsible for it. Ballmer, being mostly a business type person, probably just listened to Gates most of the time. Gates is the one to blame for what Vista became today.

I agree Gates is responsible for the Longhorn fiasco, and set in motion the Vista, DRM and anti-trust fiascos (as well as others yet to be recognized). Regardless, that is the job Ballmer stepped into, unwittingly no doubt.

There was no excuse for Gates inept leadership and there remains no excuse for Ballmer's (save possibly BoD negligence).

I disagree Ballmer is a "business type person". Ballmer is attempting to emulate Gates out of simple ego. He hasn't a clue about what a business like Microsoft needs in the way of leadership.

Ballmer collects an incredible compensation for which he is expected to stop assuming and guessing and start verifying and managing. Peoples' livlihoods, pensions, and investments (not to mention their businesses and work products) depend on his getting serious about his responsibilities.

If you think my assessment is unsympathetic, wait until you see the customer and investor assessments in coming months and years. He is the CEO of a Fortune 100, Dow component, multinational corporation; his frat days are over and this ain't bean-bag.

Anonymous said...

Notes from the field …

I am trying to be a good Softie – I run Vista on my laptop and I talk to customers about Vista every chance I get.

Here are the objections I’m seeing / hearing about most frequently from my accounts and others:

Hardware – In many companies, 70%+ of the machines won’t effectively run Vista. A lot of our own sales force still can’t run Vista effectively. Primarily due to needing at least 1 GB of RAM (reality is more like 1.5 GB). I don’t care how good of a salesperson you are, it’s hard to get an account excited about spending that kind of money, which ties into the Vista value proposition that I’ll get to later…

Drivers – I am amazed at the lousy video drivers that the two big video manufacturers are shipping. Lack of printer drivers is also a major pain – the quality of the ones that exist seems good, so hopefully this is just a matter of time.

Application Compatibility – Everyone I know *totally* underestimated the number of apps that won’t work with Vista. This is truly unbelievable considering that our success is due to having more apps than the other OSes (OS/2, Mac, Linux, etc).

Vista’s Value Proposition

First, what is it? I’ve read the marketing brochure, but seriously, what is it?

Security – Security in Vista took some nice steps forward. However, with that many lines of new code, there are some holes that don’t exist in XP. I know a bunch of good IT shops that are running XP SP2 very securely today. The incremental value Vista brings certainly isn’t worth the upgrade cost and is likely offset by the issues of “newness” – both in product as well as process and people. Vista += 0 (at best). This will change to Vista ++ over time.

Deployment – There are some cool new features in Vista that help an enterprise manage their desktop images and deployment process better. One of the coolest features (application virtualization I think it’s called) does a good job at addressing some of the app compat issues. Vista ++

Search – OK, I love searching from the start menu! It’s a very, very cool feature. Reality is that I spend more time in Outlook than I do the explorer shell, so Outlook 2007 with Microsoft Desktop Search on XP SP2 is *almost* as good. Small value nod to Vista – Vista ++

UI – There is some cool UI candy in Vista. The previews as you hover over the task bar or alt-tab are very slick. Flip 3D demos really well, and is pretty useful – except when your video driver is so slow that it takes > .5 second for each window to flip – and that’s on a brand new, extremely high powered laptop. Did I mention that the video drivers suck? So, if I have to turn Aero off because of sucky video drivers, Vista += 0 If not, Vista ++

Sidebar and Gadgets – This will be a very nice feature once gadgets that add value (sorry, a clock gadget just doesn’t do it for me …) are available. Short term, it’s Vista += 0, long term is Vista ++

The Grandma Factor – The number one coolest feature about Vista is it integrates all these things that a power user can “assemble” today into a single experience. This is more of a consumer and small business feature because enterprises with good IT shops can do the integration and make it feel seamless. I’m sure the Mac crowd will claim this benefit too (rightfully so from my limited, but positive Mac exposure) Vista ++

Photos – Photo Gallery is very cool (arguably, you can buy 3rd party products that are comparable). Back to the Grandma factor – my Grandma can e-mail digital pictures that are sized so as not to be blocked by smtp servers. Tagging photos is also very useful and has changed the way my family manages our digital pictures. I have always thought that Windows Movie Maker was a great entry level product for making montages from digital photos. The Vista version is even easier to use. Digital photography is one of the hottest consumer desires for their PC, so any improvement is goodness. Vista ++

Drivers – Been there, bitched about that. Vista --

Application compatibility – ditto – Vista --

Performance – On the same hardware, Vista is slower. If the hardware isn’t top of the line, Vista is significantly slower. If you have less than 1 GB of RAM, Vista isn’t a workable option. Vista --

User training / resistance to change – As cool as the new features are, they are different and there is a learning curve as well as a resistance to change, so short term it’s Vista --

But wait, there’s more …

How does a salesperson sell Vista to the average company without sounding like one of those “but wait, there’s more … infomercials”? There are some decent to good value propositions, but the downside risk is significant. Redmond has produced a lot of sales and marketing material, but the reality is that Vista provides incremental value with some pretty big blockers that have to be dealt with.

I think that the bigger issue is that after 5 years, expectations are very high and the value isn’t meeting the bar – not even close.

I have a hard time telling my friends that Vista is a better OS than XP SP2. I think Vista will eventually be a better OS, but I don’t think it’s there today. Given a choice, I would run XP SP2 with Microsoft Desktop Search and Office 2007. I would be happier and more productive.

And I’m a Microsoft salesperson. If I can’t get excited about Vista, who can (outside of the marketing team and Allchin – oh wait, he would buy a Mac …)? I would love to ask BrianV what he thinks of Vista as it shipped.

The best Windows ever …
Once the kinks are out, Vista will be the best Windows ever – I think that’s plausible. When that happens, how does it compare to the Mac today? At best, we have broad parity with a few extra points here and there. Assuming it’s 6 months before Vista is the best Windows ever, how do we compare to the Mac that’s available then? Likely, at best we have broad parity with a few extra points here and there to the Mac. Again, I’m not a Mac expert, and I’m taking an optimistic scenario. One could certainly paint a dimmer picture.

And we waited 5 years for this?

I hope we learned that the integrated innovation, big bang theory doesn’t work. I doubt that we did. The Windows division is too large, with too many independently wealthy partners and old-timers to change their ways that quickly or easily.

Will Vista be successful?

Of course it will. It will be wildly successful. The drivers will get fixed. Moore’s law will give us more hardware for the same price. Old machines will be replaced. Compelling apps that require Vista will appear. Old apps will get fixed, replaced, retired, or virtualized. People will get used to Vista and come to expect it.

When? If I knew that, I would have a subscriber’s only newsletter with the answer for only $1,995. But wait, if you subscribe today, I’ll also send you …

Which brings us to …

Even though I think Ballmer was totally incompetent in his communication of the message, I think many analysts were overly optimistic on the early Vista successes. Yes, there was a spike in PC shipments when Vista released to consumers. It was a one-time event and many analysts used it as a basis.

I still question why Ballmer felt the need for a press conference instead of just "whispering" the data to the key analysts. That would make for a softer landing.

Several years ago, Ballmer “warned” on earnings. MSFT took a beating. It was a bloodbath and morale went around the bowl and down the hole. We hit our number. The stock never made up the lost ground. Ballmer now admits that was a dumb thing to say and that he regrets saying it.

Déjà vu all over again?

Military guy - right on ++

nff

James said...

Seldom do I get to hope to speak to a billionaire, but I believe it has happened a couple of times in the past, so let me just say that I am simply a lurker on this thread, but seriously interested in Microsoft since it has built my career the past twenty-five or so years.

Before that I was just a geek, trying to do accounting, … well you know…

Sorry the billionaire reference is not to you Mini, but hopefully SB will read this.

You are one brave dude, Mini, telling it like it is.

Like you Mini, I have a financial interest in seeing that MSFT’s stock rides the line.

Ballmer also scares me. Of course he got in at the right time, and no doubt he could double his fortune if he got the right advice, Warren Buffet would say: “look not at quarterly projections or your market current price, but where are you heading?”

Given the last four years, what do you suppose that Warren is saying to Bill Gates with respect to MSFT?

I am not the person to tell Ballmer anything, but look “Stevie B”, it might be worth the try to sort this out.

The markets are not respecting what you say. The market is not respecting what you are selling.

And I hope that you are reading this pertinent blog.

Is Ray the right one? Given his invisibility, is he a shadow?

I think he is hiding behind his past laurels, Lotus notes while the want ads followed was a quirky, tough, job guaranteeing platform stability to the devoted , but another new upstart, (MSFT, read Exchange) killed that about them.

So unless Ray shows his colors quickly, MSFT will follow IBM into the shadows.

Ballmer has alluded to that in a year or so ago.

Ahhh, the power struggles that lurk behind the scenes?

Who knows what lurks in the hearts of men, Follow the money, my breathern.

The shadow knows…

Mini, … Good spirits….

I wish you well.

James

Anonymous said...

I never thought I would say this, but my years in the Military are proving to be quite an asset for my Microsoft career.

Amen!

BizDog said...

I've been reading up on the Friday news since like so many of us out there in the field, I'm spending as much time as possible getting partners to engage so we can sell the stuff we "launched". And this isn't an easy job.

When your CEO stand up and says very un-CEO like things in a very un-CEO like way the press has a field day. Partners read the resulting fodder and customers do too. Then instead of having a conversation about building business together, we have conversations with our partners and customers about what a dork our CEO is - without us from MS actually admitting to that of course.

Does Ballmer need to be accurate and honest with investors - YES. Does he need to be accurate and honest with employees - YES. Does he need to be accurate and honest with partners and customers - YES. Does he do a good job at this, ABSOLUTELY NOT.

It is rare, so rare in fact that I can't think of a single example but save that there might be one, that one leader or small group of leaders (read Ballmer, Gates, and the "boys") can go from creating a company through maturing of the core business to a new wave of growth. Rare because of the skills required to do this are vast and the markets are unforgiving to too many mistakes. Most people have strengths and can figure out some of the pieces, but in the end we're all human and when in doubt we revert to our comfort zones.

Which is our problem. Ballmer's comfort zone is not very comfortable for the rest of the world and he needs to go. Where is the BoD??? How can they continue to let him loose like this??? Somebody on the BoD needs to grab the duct tape and steal the honey he drinks - time for an intervention.

Collision Domain said...

What if... there was a viable replacement for Ballmer?

Anonymous said...

People, who are saying Ballmer did not communicate the message properly, could please tell how he should have communicated. Instead of becoming just arm chaie CEO, please tell us how you would have told the analysts that their expectations are higher without cousing the drop in stock price.

I think Ballmer did a brilliant job. He pointed out where analysts models are inconsistent. The stock price also did not fall much. Any company who warns on its most important product would easily see a two digit percentage fall and not token 3 percent.

I am happy that we have a great CEO in Ballmer.

Karel Donk said...

Charles:

Again, Ballmer probably bases his opinions on info he's getting from others inside MS. At least he was quick to inform everyone that previous estimates for Vista sales were too optimistic when it became clear Vista didn't do very well.

He recently also claimed a few times that Microsoft wasn't working on Vista SP1, when everyone already knows they are.
So you have to wonder what's going on. Is Ballmer that badly informed, or is he lying?
I'd say he's just very badly informed and most likely is listening to the wrong people.

Charles said...

Karel donk:
At least he was quick to inform everyone that previous estimates for Vista sales were too optimistic when it became clear Vista didn't do very well.

You're obviously willing to credit him with corrections but not blame him for the original estimates. He is the CEO - he gets the blame and the kudos (though some rare CEOs will take the blame and deflect the kudos).

He recently also claimed a few times that Microsoft wasn't working on Vista SP1, when everyone already knows they are.
So you have to wonder what's going on. Is Ballmer that badly informed, or is he lying?
I'd say he's just very badly informed and most likely is listening to the wrong people.


I base my opinions on experience of other executives in other companies, and what is publically known about Microsoft and Ballmer, Gates, et. al. I have no personal, direct knowledge of Ballmer.

That said, It's not so black and white, but quite grey. Ballmer seems to be largely in denial, inexperienced and illprepared.

I don't doubt for one second that some, a few people inside Microsoft have a better grasp of reality than Ballmer communicates publically. I'm equally sure they keep quiet to avoid having chairs flung at them, and the rest of the echo chamber tells him what he wants to hear so they can all go play some pick-up b-ball later. That's the denial aspect.

There are any number of "clues" available publically that extremely serious problems are festering. I'm equally sure the evidence inside the company is even more compelling (and has been for years). Much of this is revealed in the Comes v. Microsoft evidence. But having lived his entire career within the dysfunctional walls of Redmond, Ballmer lacks the experience to recognize the serious nature of these problems that otherwise would keep seasoned executives awake at nights.

Ballmer's handling of analyst conf-calls and other Q&A sessions and his shallow presentations demonstrate a failure to anticipate the generally high level of comprehension by customers, partners, analysts and investors of the problems facing Microsoft, and after being pressed hard on legitimate questions his conflicted and contradictory answers further demonstrate a lack of preparation to forthrightly either deflect the question altogether (with its commensurate uncertainties) or answer it (with its commensurate consequences).

While that may seem a Hobson's Choice, that too is the result of years of denial, inexperience, and illpreparation - mismanagement in a nutshell. This didn't happen overnight, and the point of leadership (not only doing things right, but doing the right things) is to steer clear of such dilemmas in the first place.

Anonymous said...

>> Ballmer probably bases his opinions on info he's getting from others inside MS

The thing is, you don't need to be a genius to see that Vista won't sell well and Office 2007 will sell well over expectations. The only thing you need to do is install and run them for a couple of weeks. Alas, it's probably too much to ask from a guy who doesn't know jack shit about computers.

MSFTextrememakeover said...

"It's his job to give investors an accurate picture of what's going on and it would be grossly irresponsible for him to misrepresent how things are going."

Agree. But, as others have noted, he helped put expectations out of whack in the first place and did a pathetic job of communicating even the new expectation. Plus, notice how he almost always has to talk DOWN expectations despite them having gotten increasingly low over the years to begin with? What does that say about the health of the existing business and those "big new bets" that we're going to provide future profits and which he spent $10B's of shareholder cash on?

"Being honest with the analysts and shareholders is not one of the areas where I feel Microsoft is lacking."

What do you call the messaging surrounding the LH/Vista debacle vs what really happened? Buybacks that have mostly just offset dilution being hailed as money "returned to shareholders"? Dividends being held out as more of the same w/o acknowledging how badly they lag even the market average? A tender/increased buyback that just happens to get announced following the ONLY quarter in years that Gates didn't sell any shares? A public tender at all when you say you're not managing for the stock (given that an equivalent buyback, w/o fanfare, would have been far more effective in reducing shares and the program was already in place)? Calling Xbox "one of the greatest creations of shareholder value ever"? The obvious execution failures in Search being characterized as "having done quite well given that we entered late"? Presentations to analysts and shareholders that NEVER mention the stock and its miserable performance for most of the past 5 years? etc. etc. etc.

Anonymous said...

So you have to wonder what's going on. Is Ballmer that badly informed, or is he lying?
I'd say he's just very badly informed and most likely is listening to the wrong people.


Reminds me of an old joke that's too sadly true in a Dilbertesque way.

How a bad plan becomes policy...

In the beginning was the plan.
And then came the assumptions.
And the assumptions were without form.
And the plan was completely without substance.
And a darkness fell upon the faces of the Employees.
And they spoke amongst themselves, saying "It is a load of crap and it stinks."
And the Employees went to their Supervisors, saying "It is a bucket of dung and no one can bear the odor."
And the Supervisors went to their Managers, saying "It is a container of excrement and its smell is so strong that none can abide it."
And the Managers went to their Divisional Directors, saying "It is a vessel of fertilizer and none can abide its strength."
And the Directors went to their Executive Directors, saying "It aids plant growth and it is very strong."
And the Executive Directors went to the President, saying "Our plan promotes growth and it is very powerful."
And the President went to the Board of Directors, saying "This new plan will actively promote the growth of this organization."
And the Board of Directors looked upon the plan and saw that it was good and the plan became policy.

Anonymous said...

I had an eye-opening conversation at an 'unplug and getaway from it all' wknd at a resort. No cells, no laptops, no PDA's etc.
I met a guy who runs a small business, who was excited about getting Vista in his office. He ordered 15 desktops and 4 laptops, from Dell, all loaded with RAM and goodies.

He said he was very seriously looking at shipping them ALL back to Dell, and re-ordering them with the OEM loads of XP.

He likes Dell, and the whole OEM support model, warranty, etc., so he wanted the full meal deal, just not with Vista on it. He asked me if I had any experience with Vista in my line of work. It was one of the first times I felt embarrased enough to admit what I did for a living to want to lie about it. My daughter was there listening, so I could not bring myself to even be evasive. I admitted I worked in the Windows group at MS. He didn't ask me if I knew how to fix his problems with Vista, and he didn't rant about the product. He just asked me if I would use Vista if I were not an employee in the Windows group or at home.

I had to tell the truth.

It's a good thing my comments are not watched by the analysts, like the chair-throwing frat boy's are. Then again, I have direct, hands on front-line experience, and don't have to rely on what gets reported up me by sycophants.

Anonymous said...

Ballmer is claiming that piracy is responsible in some part for weak Vista sales.

http://www.theinquirer.net/default.aspx?article=37721

Did the pirates avoid pirating XP all this time and are now only pirating Vista ?

Anonymous said...

I'd say he's just very badly informed and most likely is listening to the wrong people.

Karel, please send a note to Ballmer letting him know he's badly informed and he needs to rethink his inner circle of advisors. That should do the trick. He's probably just been waiting for that one e-mail to let him know he's off base.

Anonymous said...

Want Win95 level excitement for Vista, let's start charging Win95 prices!!!!!

I've seen posts here and on other forums comparing the release of 95 to Vista and the common thread was that Vista was going to tank because we didn't have the large number of folks standing in line for Vista at midnight as there was with 95. Well, an upgrade to 95 wasn't going to cost the same as an upgrade to Vista does. Maybe that is part of our problem. The folks in charge look at what it costs to get a copy of Vista Ultimate at the Company Store and think, "Gee, everyone will rush out and buy this." Ugh, not when you look at the MSRP of Vista they won't (OK, some did, but not all that many).

(NOTE: Let's not bring up what the company store prices are in replies, OK? We don't want to make non-FTEs more upset with us than they already are.)

If we want Vista to take off (both here and abroad, just look at the recent court ruling in Russia as an example), then we should charge $99 or less for Vista. As Henry Ford figured out, if you keep the price point low, you'll sell more volume. Even Sam Walton realized that, and look what he was able to do selling in volume (with a lower margin per item, but far greater volume).

Sure, we get excellent price-points at the Company Store for many things (though I've seen OneCare on sale online for the same we're paying for it), and I'd hate to loose that nice perk, but I'd also hate to see folks moving off of our stuff because the folks running the show don't have a clue what consumers can afford.

I'm not suggesting slashing the prices of EVERY piece of software, but how about bringing the cost of Vista Ultimate to under $100 and the lower SKUs a bit less (Say $50 for Home Basic, $75 for Home Premium/Business, $99 for Ultimate/Enterprise).

It is all about volume...

Anonymous said...

People, who are saying Ballmer did not communicate the message properly, could please tell how he should have communicated.

They should let someone like Chris Liddel do it. He's the one who discusses the earnings w/ analyst each quarter. Let someone who's job it is to talk to these people daily earn his money and instead of 3% maybe it would have been 1% or maybe less.

Anonymous said...

"He said he was very seriously looking at shipping them ALL back to Dell, and re-ordering them with the OEM loads of XP."

What were his problems?

Vista is excellent if you take care of the RAM and video card. If the video drivers are an issue, go with the basic experience until the OEMs catch up on driver quality.

Anonymous said...

Karel Donk: "TLDR"
by Karel Donk

Charles: "Right, same here. TLDR to you too."
by Charles.

Anonymous said...

>>>>Let someone who's job it is to talk to these people daily earn his money and instead of 3% maybe it would have been 1% or maybe less.<<<<<

I think you are really day dreaming. 3% drop is pretty good. As I said any company warning on its main product gets at least two digits percentage point drop.

Anybody who claims could have done with lesser than 3% drop could take Steve Ballmer's job. But, these people do not even understand what a CEO goes through his daily life. What kind of complexity a CEO handles on a daily basis. And how managing the expectation with only a 3% drop is really something to feel happy about. I know people are unhappy that the stock dropped. But it would have dropped anyway. And if Steve hadn't chosen the timing then it would not even have climbed the first place. Steve Ballmer deserves a credit and praise for a job well done.

If Chris Lidell were given the job to communicate this during the earning calls then it would have taken much more deeply and the stock would have touched 27 or even 26 now. CFO words are taken much more concretly. It would have almost taken as if we are reducing our earning guidance for the financial year 2008. By communicating in this soft manner, analysts would correct their earning prediction which will save us from much worse future shocks.

Anonymous said...

I think Ballmer did a brilliant job. He pointed out where analysts models are inconsistent. The stock price also did not fall much. Any company who warns on its most important product would easily see a two digit percentage fall and not token 3 percent.

You really need to do your research before making such foolish comments. The stock did not fall more than 3% because MSFT was buying shares like crazy from the money set aside for share buybacks. Within the first 30 minutes of trading on Friday, 27 million shares were traded which is about 45% of MSFT daily volume. Look at Friday’s one day chart and you can see the stock stayed consistently at $28.82 until the last 10 minutes of trading. This behavior is highly unusual especially since last Friday was options expiration day. The daily average volume is about 62 million shares and on Friday 109 million shares were traded and the price barely moved apart from the first 10 minutes of trading. If MSFT didn’t have $30 billion set aside to buy back shares and if this was not a Dow 30 stock, the price would be in the teens.

You may ask what is wrong with MSFT buying shares to prop up it’s share price. There is nothing wrong if it was done on a normal day, but spending more than a $1 billion dollars to prop up your share because of the knucklehead CEO’s comments is a problem. Once again our “Dear Leader” has failed his shareholders. It is hard to remove this clown because he and BillG control a vast number of shares. However, I think it is high time we start pressuring the board of directors to do their job. He did not guide Wall Street with his comments nor was he clear on what the hell he was saying. He himself didn’t think it went well.

Anonymous said...

Ballmer probably bases his opinions on info he's getting from others inside MS

This is not a valid excuse. Ballmer has been there for a long time and most likely had a say in placing these people in their positions. He is not a new CEO still trying to feel his way thru the company. It’s high time he steps down or Bill and Melinda Gates foundation find a cure for him.

Anonymous said...

There was absolutely no reason why SteveB had to screw all of us once again. He should have come out and spoken in plain English saying that our models show that Vista sales will be between X% - X% on the conservative side with a possible increase of X% on the upside. Why would you call a major analyst meeting and confuse the very people you invited. Saying some of the analyst estimates were too high is foolish. Could you be a little clearer? Which analyst or what percentage range is too high?

When an analyst asked him if 6% was the right number for Vista sales, he said that it was a small number but at the same time not a tiny number. If you have an idea of what the number might be, then say it. As a CEO he has killed off any momentum this stock was building up. Check out this article about SteveB’s reactions after the analyst meeting.

http://blogs.business2.com/beta/2007/02/steve_ballmers_.html

Anonymous said...

I'm hearing two different messages about Vista, often from the same person in the same post. I don't understand why nobody seems to realize they're directly contradicting one another:

1) Ballmer needs to learn integrated innovation doesn't work

2) Hardly anything changed XP->Vista and it's hard to sell Vista without a good value proposition to customers (and the lining up/win95 anecdotes)

What we NEED is integrated innovation and a radical improvement like win95 was. It might not have been successful with longhorn (we didn't deliver), but look what happens when we don't do something big. Vistank.

I can only hope that our leaders don't "learn from their mistakes and think smaller." What would that mean, Vienna = Vista + useful gadgets + a new background? I could save us all the time and ship it by next week.

We need something big. If it didn't work this time, let's learn from our mistake--let's find out why it didn't work--but not give up on the grand visions that have gotten this company to where it is today.

We know what worked in the past: big visions and big deliveries. Big vision and small deliveries don't work. Small vision and a correspondingly small delivery won't make it any better just because we get it out faster. We might as well leave Vista out there for 5 years rather than spend money on a new OS people will only get shepherded into via OEM.

This is Microsoft. You were hired to think big. It might not look great when it fails, but nothing less will succeed.

Karel Donk said...

charles:

I'm not giving credit or blaming Ballmer. I'm just making some observations. And ultimately, like you say, he'll have to accept full responsibility as CEO, even if he was given bad info.

"Karel, please send a note to Ballmer letting him know he's badly informed and he needs to rethink his inner circle of advisors."

Why doesn't everyone at MS who reads this do it?


Also, if this is going to really happen, you should probably start applying for a job elsewhere if you work at MS. Another clear example showing that either Steve-O totally lost it, or he's listening to the wrong people.
You're killing yourself with strategies like that.
What should happen is what that one poster said, sell Vista Ultimate for $99.

Anonymous said...

I've been running Vista Ultimate on my home PC [Dell XPS700]. I like it...somewhat. What's to like? Increased security and the built in Media Center for my TV Tuner card. Aero: never use it - complete waste of time. Creative Labs: you are a bunch of slackers for not having Vista drivers ready. My five speaker surround sound is relegated to the two front LR speakers. Steve B/Ray/Bill: you're doing an OK job but the technology inflection-points [web-based apps] undercurrents are going to sweep you off your feet if you don't get a clue and revamp the MS approach to client, server, apps. MS also has a killer opp. to turn computing upside down. Remember Star Trek TOS where all the interaction with the computer is voice command? C'mon I'd love to come into work and say "show me the important emails" and "what meetings and deadlines are coming up?" Have you noticed how every futuristic movie shows computer interaction via voice? "It's the interaction, stupid" should be the MS mantra. Let's lead the way with great product management and great development and sell products that do not "tweaking" as though PCs are still the realm of the hobbyists. Program Managers: no idea what you do: you don't code and you don't market: what do you do?" Ok, got to go... HAL has a headache....

Anonymous said...

Vista is excellent

How's that Kool-Aid taste?

It's NOT just about video drivers. If you think that's it, you must not get out to talk to normal people or read neutral reviews.


What we NEED is integrated innovation

Wrong. That's where you always fail. Your platform is a huge legacy mess of intertwined code and inter-layer dependencies. Changing anything has huge regression implications. That's MS' version of "integrated innovation".

From outside the OS, "integrated innovation" means that to do anything serious with MS software, a customer has to buy scads of seemingly unrelated stuff. Just look at the "you must also buy" list for MSCRM, or BizTalk, etc. Any wonder that open source is taking off? Some MS software is actually pretty good, but getting $25,000+++ per CPU past a CFO is much harder than it used to be when the CFO is astute enough to look at the acquisition list and say "why can't we substitute open source here, and here" and the only answer is "because the MS stack requires this particular thing, and not something functionally similar."

Not that anyone else is all that much better at building modular, "only what's needed" software that is purpose-suited and does not expose thousands of security holes the second it's installed due to years of "sure, we'll throw that code in too", and impenetrable forests of resulting interdependencies. MS is just the worst at it. People are rightfully nervous about upgrading anything, because MS has so badly fudged up the upgrade experience historically, because everyone has horror stories about activation and blue screens, and guess what, at the end of the day, PCs are TOOLS.

We don't use PCs to gladly sit around and fiddle with registry keys, install or upgrade processes designed by sadistic gnomes, lost data - we have LIVES. MS has totally failed to make the upgrade experience something that has any perceived value, especially with Vista - ooh, the window borders are transparent now, and it's almost as flashy as MacOS - and Office 2007 - ooh, the toolbars are different and the file formats are now incompatible (again) with earlier versions.

Don't you people get it? Do you really think the real world gets excited because you yet again made changes whose inconvenience far outweighs their usefulness? Is it any wonder that Vista sales are low, that Apple makes fun of you, and that nobody thinks MS is cool anymore? Do you think people are just going to ignore the relative consensus that even after five years, you rushed a hardware hog still full of bugs out the door, that you're already working on the first major fix pack, and that you're already working on the next version of Windows? Do you really believe that people are so stupid to take all this and still open their wallets to spend hundreds on slower products with lower quality? Are you all really blaming this only on your admittedly dysfunctional CEO?

Microstiff said...

"I'm not suggesting slashing the prices of EVERY piece of software, but how about bringing the cost of Vista Ultimate to under $100 and the lower SKUs a bit less (Say $50 for Home Basic, $75 for Home Premium/Business, $99 for Ultimate/Enterprise)."

Funny. This is the God's honest truth. I woke up this morning thinking Microsoft should charge $99 for Ultimate. I know, I know, you're saying, "Yeah, right!" But, it's true. It just makes great sense. It's a train wreck but at $99 bucks, it will get fixed and I'll get a good deal for an OK OS.

Suddenly, Microsoft makes lemonade out of lemon. No harm, no foul and all users now have a RE-investment in Microsoft at a time their peckers are down.

Do it!

BTW - Great post, Mini.

Anonymous said...

more comments from the field...

regarding vista: steve is right. first, you should realize the guy talks to more customers each day than you do in a month (on average). second, steve is a pretty smart guy. adoption will be faster than any os in history, but if you understand the way software works - and how the customer base has shifted to enterprise, you will understand thst many customers have already bought vista that is ok as to steve's second point: innovation in the os enables innovation on the socket. retstated, you will see growth in all of the things that are enabled by vista in the product roadmap.

I would like to call out product quality and wu though. if we are going to win in sb and consumer we have to win on fundamentals. wu has to be super, super tight for us to convince customers that our model is the right one. i would like to see the drivers get updated quicker and the wu experience being more os tuning and optimizing. i hope stevesi gets this.

on zune: i have a zune...i am in asia, so nobody else has one. it is ok - not great but ok. the video experience is excellent - rip a few movies to it and take a flight and you will love it. yes it is clunky and yes the software is not as elegant as itunes yet. this is a great opportunity for the "version 3 and we win" scenario - which is a lot better than it looked a year ago. i would like to see the zune guys land this device in asia and really go for the markets apple has left underdeveloped.

Fred said...

Vista is excellent if you take care of the RAM and video card. If the video drivers are an issue, go with the basic experience until the OEMs catch up on driver quality.

No. Business does not work like this. Businesses will not do this.

The suggestion is very telling because, while it makes sense to me personally that someone would do this (since I find the concept of upgrading the OS exciting in the abstract). But that's my personality and my interest in this stuff; my version of the "pioneer spirit" that makes us all happily fiddle with configurations for seven hours, nursing the computer like a racecar driver mothers his or her favorite car.

Businesspeople will not do this. Just based on the above-quoted sentence, if I ran a business I would vote "no" on Vista. I don't want to end up like the guy in the beginning of Robocop who gets shot to death by the company robot while the IT people are peering quizically into its control console.

Anonymous said...

Operating systems are not fashion statements

Well, at least in theory. The current marketing of Vista (to the extent that it's visible) might have you believe otherwise.

When I get asked "Should I upgrade to (insert the OS de jour)?" I give my standard answer that's been true since RSX-11: "Only if you need to."

This is as true with Vista as it has been with any other new and improved OS release. If the one you have does what you need, then save your money.

Many Vista features are "next generation" so it's going to take a while for the applications and hardware to take full advantage of them. This, perhaps, could have been timed and organized better, but here we are.

So, to Mr. embarrassed MSFT guy above:

Should you be proud of Vista? sure, it's finished and it's cool.

Should everyone upgraded today? No. But that's not a bad thing. That's a rational thing.

Should YOU use it? Maybe, maybe not. For me, my computer works fine as it is and I don't need the new features so I'm not going to upgrade for a while. If you're in the same boat, then you shouldn't either.

But that's nothing to be ashamed of.

Anonymous said...

the volume of comments increase a lot @mini lately. Muzt be the stock price :-)

Anonymous said...

C'mon I'd love to come into work and say "show me the important emails" and "what meetings and deadlines are coming up?"

I'd love it, too, but single offices that would make this practical are a luxury that even Microsoft can't provide for many of its own staff. We're going to expect that other companies can?

Please don't bet my yet-to-be-vested stock awards on this.

In my almost-complete-doubled-or-tripled FTE group, there's even a requirement that one either turn volume down to 0 or listen solely through headphones.

Anonymous said...

on zune: i have a zune...i am in asia, so nobody else has one.

Don't feel bad. I'm in Redmond and nobody has one here either.

Anonymous said...

One common outcome of every discussion on Vista is that Windows XP SP2 works wonderfully for people. I am glad at that. Because nobody realized that how much ahead XP SP2 was ahead of its peer, such as Linux or Mac OSX.

I expect the same outcome for Vista after few years when its successor is released.

This is really the only company which truly competes with itself. The cost of Vista even the full price Ultimate edition is negligible when you compare the total value it will deliver to you for the next few years.

Sure you could save some bucks if you use a competing product. But then you will also not get the enhanced experience of Vista. The total difference between Vista value from its nearest competitor is more than the price of Vista. In a nutshell another OS is not even worth free and they charge $129 for incremental annual release.

I expect most people in developed world will buy premium or ultimate edition. That means that basic edition could replace the starter edition in emerging market. Currently need to price differentiate forces Microsoft to seel starter edition in emerging markets. Once Microsoft could replace starter edition with basic edition in emerging markets then Microsoft gets some long term Windows growth which is not built in analysts expectation.

The long term sign I am interested in are: premium edition replaces basic edition in developed market. Therefore basic edition could replace starter edition in emerging market.

Anonymous said...

How's that Kool-Aid taste?

It's NOT just about video drivers. If you think that's it, you must not get out to talk to normal people or read neutral reviews.


You just lost all credibility right there. I asked you a serious question and you provided a response with no content whatsoever.

Anonymous said...

Maybe it is in steveb's interest to keep the stock price suppressed to a point where senior "A" rated people (talented ones who the company cannot afford to lose) who still have a mountain of stock options in the mid-20's range have their exit price in the mid 30's. So a suppressed stock price acts as a retention barrier before they flit elsewhere to a company who has better vision and determination and less corporate political gunk that you now have to wade through at msft.

As an recent ex-softie, i look back over the past two years and shake my head at the bureaucracy and overhead imposed by the mandarins that inhibit innovation and creativity both in Redmond and the field. The company culture has changed almost beyond recognition and fundamentally this comes down to senior leadership team cracking the whip to drive sales harder at the expense of product capability and quality carrying the business forward. ( a great example is Vista, a pretty good product, not compelling, little WOW and closer so XP SP3 than what Longhorn set out to be).

There are a lot of out of position players in MSFT now, Kevin Johnson (now trying to persuade the developers he’s really a hard core techie.. ughh), Kevin Turner who the field is terrified of and is turning SMSG into an organisation with “yes” men and a WalMart hire and fire mentality and Robbie Bach who’s first to market success with the XBOX360 has gone to his head and is responsible for the disaster that is Zune and if you think the real fight in the games and console market is over, think again. Jeff Raikes you really have to take your hat off to, products under his jurisdiction are looking great and Dynamics (MBS) that so easily could have been a disaster is looking like it will be a tour de force in the market. Ray Ozzie may or may not be able to save the day, but i will wager he now sees the problems as much bigger and deep rooted than originally thought.
Without the right people positioned in critical leadership positions the malaise will continue, and this is one of steveB’s biggest failings as CEO, the rest of the problems are just symptoms, not the root cause.

Anonymous said...

People are pretty critical of nVidia, ATI, and Creative for not having their acts together re: Vista drivers, but it's obvious to me that the root cause of the problem is Microsoft. Why does Vista require new drivers, anyway? Why didn't Microsoft help these companies write new drivers? With Windows 95, Microsoft stepped up and wrote a bunch of drivers to ensure a good user experience.

Anonymous said...

This is what Ballmer said:

"people are a little bit over optimistic, or more optimistic than we are about Windows revenue."

I don't think he was off base, he was quite conservative. This is the kind of communication that I would expect from a CEO.

I don't see why all this blaming on Ballmer.

Anonymous said...

"If you have an idea of what the number might be, then say it."

Not defending his incompetence, but in this specific case there are SEC laws against doing so.

Anonymous said...

>"Only if you need to."

To which I respond. Right! But I have to ask, if you have a CEO known for throwing chair tantrums in lieu of competitive victories, does that mentality flow downward into the behavior of Lesser Giants who may influence issues like how DRM does not work or crashing MS OS' when they did not crash before, or Kill Switch WGA etc.?

In other words, does MS drive sales by tripping up older code? Just curious.

Arnold Ziffel said...

First of all, I own Apple stock and use Macs exclusively at home (have to use Windows 2000 [woo!] at work).

This morning our Dells (at a large mental health agency) were running as if someone had poured the electronic equivalent of cold 90W gear oil into their processors, and one of my co-workers volunteered she had just purchased a new computer and wanted to know "how to get this Veesta thing off--every time I try to do something, it asks my permission."

This co-worker had no idea I was a Mac user, and I thought it was hilarious what she said about Vista, especially after having seen the latest Mac ads that focus upon Vista's hyperactive security dialogs.

Vista is headed for rough times if the first thing folks say is "how do I get this off my computer?"

Anonymous said...

Several months ago in N. Korea, diplomats noticed that pictures of the other “Dear Leader” were being taken down from various parts of the city. Diplomats wondered if there was a coup or if the pictures were taken down for cleaning. Finally the foreign ministry spokesman came out with a classic answer. He said, “There was no coup, one cannot remove the sun from the sky”. This is exactly how all of us feel about our own “Dear Leader” – Steve Ballmer. He is the sun in our sky that burns a hole in our portfolios.

Anonymous said...

someone wrote:

"People are pretty critical of nVidia, ATI, and Creative for not having their acts together re: Vista drivers, but it's obvious to me that the root cause of the problem is Microsoft. "

When looking at the end user perception of the OS product, it is difficult for the average user to place blame where it belongs. The chain is only as strong as its weakest link.

Bill Gates told everyone in 2004 that this would not be a date-driven release. It was commonly heard as recently as summer 2006, "this will be a quality driven release".

(http://news.zdnet.com/2100-3513_22-5183385.html)

Maybe what happened is that the IHV's believed this, did not think Vista would actually start shipping on millions of new PC's come January 2007, and that's why they were behind when it did ship. Might be nis if there was a mini-AMD or a mini-NVIDIA blog somewhere to tell all....

But I ask this, what display drivers does Vista ship with ? One for every GPU out there ? Are they up to snuff or not? If they are, there's no cause for complaints. If they're not, then it wasn't really a quality driven release after all.

Anonymous said...

>"People are pretty critical of nVidia, ATI, and Creative for not having their acts together re: Vista drivers,"

BTW, If I was a corp exec at nVidia or ATI or Creative, I would be going balls out to stop all support of Microsoft products. Why? Because a new game is in play where Microsoft is driving media (DVDs and Music), games (Halo III), and generally anything that uses high end graphics boards and high end sound cards, away from personal computers toward consoles, which limit the application of a huge industry that builds newer, faster, better video and sound cards.

If I was them, both my middle fingers would be pointed at Microsoft execs saying "hell no we won't go and we're not going to play this game." In fact, if I were them, I would just not write any drivers at all for Vista. And why would they need to or even want to?

Anonymous said...

This is what Ballmer said:

"people are a little bit over optimistic, or more optimistic than we are about Windows revenue."

I don't think he was off base, he was quite conservative. This is the kind of communication that I would expect from a CEO.

I don't see why all this blaming on Ballmer.


All this blaming is on Ballmer because, until recently, he was pumping Vista and its financial upside like it was Win95. "Analysts don't see what we see" - don't you remember that at the Company meeting (and Town Halls)? Now that the analysts have turned around...is it again "they don't see what we see"??

Anonymous said...

If I was them, both my middle fingers would be pointed at Microsoft execs saying "hell no we won't go and we're not going to play this game." In fact, if I were them, I would just not write any drivers at all for Vista. And why would they need to or even want to?I dunno, maybe because they like to make money?

I'd bet that these guys make a pretty large chunk of money from the OEM market (just like us). So if they want to get bundled into new machines, they better get their Vista drivers ready yesterday.

I'm really sick of people blaming Vista for bad drivers. It has thousands and thousands of drivers. It has thousands more drivers available for it than XP did when it shipped. Some of these were written by Microsoft, but the majority are written and owned by the hardware vendors themselves. If THEY decided not to create a driver for your device, it's NOT a Microsoft problem.

I'm with the previous poster here...screw those companies who decided not to make Vista drivers a high priority. Creative Labs is the biggest offender here. They decided to drop some last minute FUD around the time of business launch, which they used as an excuse as to why their drivers were late. I for one will never buy a Creative Labs product again. I know I'm not alone there.

Anonymous said...

Not defending his incompetence, but in this specific case there are SEC laws against doing so.

You are correct if this was a close door analyst meeting under Regulation Fair Disclosure (Reg FD). However, this meeting had reporters present during Ballmer’s presentation. Reg FD does not allow selective disclosure to persons who are securities professionals and independently regulated by the federal securities laws.

Anonymous said...

"Without the right people positioned in critical leadership positions the malaise will continue, and this is one of steveB’s biggest failings as CEO, the rest of the problems are just symptoms, not the root cause."

And don't forget head of HR and former developer, LisaB.

And don't forget that corporations take on the personality of their CEO.

And don't forget that the REAL CEO ain't SteveB (He's CEO.5). The REAL CEO is Billy Boy.

And don't forget that trying the same thing (mission, policy, procedure) and expecting a different outcome is...well...insane!

Anonymous said...

"Maybe it is in steveb's interest to keep the stock price suppressed to a point where senior "A" rated people (talented ones who the company cannot afford to lose) who still have a mountain of stock options in the mid-20's range have their exit price in the mid 30's. So a suppressed stock price acts as a retention barrier before they flit elsewhere to a company who has better vision and determination and less corporate political gunk that you now have to wade through at msft."

If that's the strategy, then it, too, is failing. There are a number of high-level departures that have already been announced or soon will be. There is a major org shake up in process that will dwarf any others in the company's past, and many of the exec's don't like the looks of it.

Anonymous said...

This is a great follow-up on Ballmer's analyst presentation.

http://www.thestreet.com/pf/newsanalysis/businessnews/10339890.html

The last paragraph is a total gem (the previous 4 for context):

Still, there was talk of faster-growing rivals: Google (GOOG) , Apple (AAPL) and Salesforce.com (CRM) were named. Microsoft seems to be using a Salesforce.com-like, on-demand, CRM product as an anchor for its business side. Reviews have been mixed to date, but Microsoft is using its close relationships with large companies to win over new users.

Speaking about the CRM potential, Ballmer said, "That's a product that I think is just a gem most people don't even think much about ... But again we're kind of No. 2 or 3 in trying harder; we're not the No. 1 guy in the market, which again I view as an upside opportunity."

Which got me wondering: Of the three rivals it's watching, one of them has a much smaller market cap than the others. Google, at $144 billion, is half Microsoft's size, while Apple, at $73 billion, is again half as big.

But Salesforce is valued at only $5.6 billion. That's less than what Microsoft spent on R&D last year. Microsoft has enough cash ($7 billion) to take over Salesforce at a 23% premium to its current value, which would take it from third place to first overnight in a key growth area.

Combining Salesforce's technology with Microsoft's client base would arguably help both companies. And it would cost $7 billion, a pittance for Microsoft. Remember, that's how much it cost shareholders when Ballmer opened his mouth last week.

I'm not saying we should buy CRM, but it does put things in perspective.

You can argue that a 2% drop isn't that big of a deal, but it's hard to argue that $7B or what $7B will buy isn't a big deal.

Ballmer is a very smart guy. Ballmer is a good speaker. Ballmer is very good at Q&A.

Listen to the webcast - Ballmer stutters, mumbles, contradicts himself, avoids direct answers, etc.

Why?

The only two reasons I can think of is 1) he's not competent, which I don't believe to be true. He is more than competent, he is a good public speaker.

Option 2 is he wasn't prepared. He didn't practice enough. He didn't get feedback from smart people that he wasn't crisp. He didnt' watch himself on tape.

How does one go into a situation that could create or erase $5B, $10B, or more of shareholder value without preparing sufficiently?

What could possibly be more important? If there was something more important, reschedule the meeting - it's not like it was a trauma situation.

Whether you like Ballmer or despise him, I don't think a reasonable person can listen to the webcast and give him anything more than an F.

When my kids bring home an F, there are serious consequences - including micromanagement until they earn our trust back. Unfortunately, the BoD isn't holding Ballmer accountable, so he's going to do it again some day.

Whether I could do better or not is immaterial as I'm not the CEO of one of the largest corporations in the world. That said, I could have done better at the presentation portion - much better. Because I'm a frequent public speaker and my ego is small enough to get someone who knows wtf they are doing to write the presentation for me. Then I would practice it 20 times on tape to fine tune it with a professional coach. I may have totally blown the Q&A portion, but the initial presentation would have been crisp and clean.

If he had done a good job and the stock dropped, then I wouldn't be blaming him personally. It's obvious to me that he wasn't prepared and wasn't on his A game. There is no excuse for that.

Ballmer should give the shareholders an apology, then he should write a $5B check for not taking his job seriously and showing up for an important meeting unprepared.

As a shareholder, I am so pissed at Ballmer and the BoD.

Anonymous said...

For those who don't think that Vista driver issues are a Vista problem, what use is an OS if it doesn't have drivers for my hardware? What use is the hardware if I don't have drivers?

Things like fingerprint scanners were tied to the GINA, which is now gone. Guess what, most fingerprint scanners don't work. Now my extra authentication system doesn't work and I feel less secure.

I don't buy an OS for the OS, I buy it to get work done. Pull your heads out of your code and learn what real people deal with.

I REFUSE to allow my family members to get Vista right now. Maybe in a year or two, but not right now.

Anonymous said...

... but the majority are written and owned by the hardware vendors themselves. If THEY decided not to create a driver for your device, it's NOT a Microsoft problem.

Microsoft is presumably trying to get people to upgrade to Vista. If Vista doesn't work as well, people won't "upgrade," and that is certainly (and almost exclusively) Microsoft's problem.

Anonymous said...

>>>>>>All this blaming is on Ballmer because, until recently, he was pumping Vista and its financial upside like it was Win95.<<<<<<<

This is a senseless argument. You think we were better off that we had nod had pumped Vista. We were better off in terms of that Ballmer did not have to decrease expectation today. If stock price is the metric you want to use then the stock would have been lower if we had not pumped up Vista.

Prediction is not a perfect science. Different analysts have different model. So it is likely that with respect to our models they took the pumping of Vista far too right. So it is okay to bring them back slightly left.

That's all it is. Look our stock since Ballmer made this comment is about 1% down only. A brilliant job done by Ballmer.

If you want to look into what happened in this analysts conference then Ballmer said we may come back and ask for more money for our Live initiative. As I several time have said, our stock price is few years ahead. The stock price look at the past growth of the business, which had weeker competition. Now we have a much stronger competition. Mainting a growth of a billion dollar a year would be very difficult after five years. Unless we transform our business. It is going to take a whole lot of money to do so. And then also it is most likely our top line will be transformed in a new business but most likely not the bottom line. Live services do not have zero marginal cost like software.

So enjoy the stock price as long as you can. The question should not be how high the stock price would go. The question should be how long we could maintain our stock price. That's what Ballmer brilliance is.

Anonymous said...

>"And why would they need to or even want to?I dunno, maybe because they like to make money?"

Sorry, you missed my point, which is that Microsoft is not playing the same game it used to: Getting into hardware development of computers (XBOX is a computer for those of you in Redmond) suddenly the rules are different. Microsoft is a competitor to its vendors, sooner rather than later any way you cut it. THAT is my point which I am sure you would disagree with, but Microsoft is not Apple. If it were, the world's personal computer economy would collapse overnight.

Bill Gates talks the talk but then stabs his friends in the back with the Microsoft initiatives to build design and sell hardware: zunes, phones, consoles, (eventually computers), mice, keyboards, (eventually monitors). Bill Gates has said he wants to own the living room. He meant the hardware too. Great. Go for it Bill, but don't expect companies already in that market to whom you sell software to just bend over.

I dunno, maybe some of you in your cubicles up there in Redmond might get it, that this is monopolistic behavior and its getting worse than before the settlements.

Anonymous said...

Wow, despite Ballmer's best efforts, the stock is showing some remarkable resistance. After the initial hit last week, it held on well at the 28.80 area, and now today, up nearly 2% at 29.35, recovering nearly all of those losses.

There are too many April options that are expiring. After all, April 2000 is when a whole bunch of people, including many new hires, got double grants. So, he'll do whatever he can to keep the stock price below 30. Most of those options have strike prices near or above the 30 mark.

Damn you Ballmer, just go into hiding for 2 months, so we can cash in and get something from those options, a few thousand $$ at the most.

Anonymous said...

This all makes me very sad. This isn't the company I joined twelve years ago. And I know the kids now who were like me then, are going elsewhere.

We need new blood everywhere.

Anonymous said...

Blame the vendors for poor driver support? Sure. But what were you testing Vista on during development? Was it a wide enough set of hardware? Judging by the reports coming in, the answer can only be "No!" You just *can't* be surprised by poor graphics drivers this late in the game. What support did Microsoft give to the driver developers, knowing full well (for example) that graphics drivers are fundamental to user experience in this new OS? The drivers devs failed to do their bit, but given the slow uptake of Vista could anyone blame them for not focusing on it? It's hardly their core business, and won't be for some time yet. Vista probably sits just above the level of Mac OS X in their priorities, but far below WinXP and Win2K.

I'm looking forward to installing Vista on my 'play' PC, but I won't put it anywhere near my serious computers. I'm warning people away from it until SP1, when I expect more mature drivers and a reworking of the security system (I'm yet to hear a good comment about the confirmation dialogues).

Anonymous said...

What could possibly be more important? If there was something more important, reschedule the meeting - it's not like it was a trauma situation.

I thought we answered this question in the replies to Mini's last blog posting. See: http://www.nytimes.com/slideshow/2007/01/27/business/20070128_BALLMER_SLIDESHOW_4.html

Anonymous said...

I work in field sales. I keep seeing people in Microsoft talk about drivers or software problems as if they're something separate from Vista. "Vista works great, if only those hardware companies caught up." Please, be aware, our users don't see it that way. They see Vista, period. When it doesn't work, they don't blame ATI or Creative, they blame us. That's the downside to being a monolith (aside from monkeys throwing bones around you).

We have a unique challenge in trying to support the entire hardware industry. It's inherently impossible, but in the past we've done a pretty good job of it. When it's one in one hundred users having driver problems, people are likely to write off complaints from the guy who spends a little too much time in Frys. When it's one in ten, one in five, we have a serious problem.

Just remember, users only see us. If we want to protect our ability to control markets we have to get our partners along by any means necessary and not release until we do. For anything other than software they installed themselves, users only see (and only blame) us.

Anonymous said...

Combining Salesforce's technology with Microsoft's client base would arguably help both companies. And it would cost $7 billion, a pittance for Microsoft. Remember, that's how much it cost shareholders when Ballmer opened his mouth last week.

This is another reason why Ballmer and the entire BoD need to be thrown out. He is more interested in putting people out of business so he can claim that he crushed them rather than making smart choices which will benefit the company. MSFT could have purchased GOOG long time ago, but Ballmer was late to recognize their potential and now has to invest billions of dollars trying to catch them.

Also, Ballmer has repeatedly said that he does not care about the stock price. If so, he needs to take the company private. If you ask people to invest in your company, then you have an obligation to them. He does not have the confidence of his employees, customers, shareholders or Wall Street.

He should step down and become a wrestler in the WWF. This will provide him an opportunity to take chairs from the ring side and throw it all over the arena and smash his opponent on his head with the chair. Then he can claim that he crushed his opponent. His decisions are ego driven and not business driven.

Anonymous said...

Amusingly enough, you could subsitute "Windows XP" for "Vista" into a lot of these Vista comments and you'd think you were back in 2001.

"XP sucks because the vendors don't have updated drivers for my hardware and it's all MS's fault."
"XP is crap because it's so much slower than 98; those imbeciles at MS must not know how to code."
"XP's activation system is evil. MS will lose all their customers for sure."

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Charles said...

If we want to protect our ability to control markets we have to get our partners along by any means necessary and not release until we do.

Absolutely. Consider now the logistic difficulties MS dev has in keeping hardware partners up to speed with OS changes. Windows long since ceased being an OS. Arguably it is now a multimedia internet appliance and is so overburdened with app logic and the internal source mgmt, build and test processes can't keep pace with dev schedules and impede dev & QA productivity. Consider further the logistic problems imposed on partners, even when the OS is at a stability checkpoint and can be given to partners for 'alpha' testing and driver/application compatibility remediation. Then multiply all that by mismanaging expectations and deliverables such that the OS is shipped to meet a time deadline instead of a quality benchmark.

For anything other than software they installed themselves, users only see (and only blame) us.

Especially when from the customer's point of view what used to work no longer works and a Vista upgrade is all that changed. Then to expend further time & effort and MS Tech support calls only to have MS point fingers at 3rd parties who in turn point fingers back at OS api and internal incompatibilities, and the user is stuck with no assured date for a fix and a crippled work/business tool.

It incenses the customer no-end, and grinning glib reactions by Ballmer and Gates are tone-deaf to it all, and just rubs more salt in the wound.

Anonymous said...

That's the downside to being a monolith (aside from monkeys throwing bones around you).

Wow - an honest sales person who gets it, and funny to boot! Great post.

Anonymous said...

"Just remember, users only see us. If we want to protect our ability to control markets we have to get our partners along by any means necessary and not release until we do. For anything other than software they installed themselves, users only see (and only blame) us."

Rest assured, if our "partners" saw Vista as anything but a pig in a poke, they would have been ready. You can't legislate excitement. They saw no "Wow" ($) and no one else does, either.

Anonymous said...

Just remember, users only see us. If we want to protect our ability to control markets we have to get our partners along by any means necessary and not release until we do.

Not that there's anything wrong with that. It is not user ignorance that causes them to blame Microsoft.

If all a user does is buy and install a Microsoft product and it causes his machine to not work as well, then who can possibly be to blame besides Microsoft? If Microsoft didn't sell the product or encourage users to upgrade, people wouldn't have these issues. Creative and nVidia are not the companies trying to sell Vista.

It's interesting that nobody has responded to my earlier question--why did Microsoft change the driver model in the first place? You'd think that in a forum of such technical people, most of whom are actual Microsoft employees, somebody would be able to justify the decision to break existing drivers.

Anonymous said...

"I'm not saying we should buy CRM, but it does put things in perspective."

It does. The problem is that for MSFT, CRM/ERP is a delivery vehicle for legacy products (primarily Office but also Server), whereas for Salesforce it's the end goal. That's the problem: even when MSFT does get into a good new market (CRM/ERP), they end up handicapping it by tying it to protecting the legacy cash cows. And what's Salesforce doing now? According to their CEO, they're moving away from Office and Exchange. Great.

Anonymous said...

Today I dumped my remaining 4K MSFT long position at $29.35. This is as good as it gets, folks.

Anonymous said...

He keeps giving conflicting views of MS!!

The people way down the totem pole talk about how it is different kind of company instead of the bad old MS. They talk about working with open standards and non MS stuff. Then Steve opens his mouth. Within a day or so of the love in with Novell he announces it is really so they can sue the pants off everybody else! Not only is that embarrassing to Novell but it does wonders for others thinking about being partners. The rest of the world wonders what kind of evil Ballmer is up to. Think of all the partners, not just competitors, that have been backstabbed by MS. So which is the real MS?

Here is another nugget about Win95. It didn't care if you installed it on one or ten computers. When I bought a copy I installed it on all the computers at home.

Fast forward to today and we get Steve saying how pirates are killing the Vista roll out and that they need more invasive protections. From what I understand Enterprise already phones home every couple of weeks to check it's license. What do I need/want this version for again? I can't wait for the horror stories to start because we all know how MS would never mistakenly say a PC was not using a legit version ;). It reminds me of Metallica. The lead singer called their fans a bunch of thieves. Oddly, the once loyal fans were enraged and staged cd burning parties outside their half-empty concerts.

I recently got a copy of Vista and O2K7 and I am nervous about my upgrade path:

install office on xp and do a seperate partition of vista -> i love vista except now i wasted office on my xp install
install office on vista partition -> realize my machine is very unhappy with vista and I need to go back to xp. Then when I do upgrade I get "This license has been already used on another computer. Please grab ankles."

Maybe I should just steal everything and hang onto the legit license in case I need to do some explaining. Seems like the path with the fewest headaches.

Anonymous said...

In fact, if I were them, I would just not write any drivers at all for Vista. And why would they need to or even want to?

Because they like to make money? Because DirectX 10 features give them another excuse to put out new models with high margins for hardcore gamers to buy? Honestly, it's a stupid question.

Anonymous said...

Have they fired/retired Yusuf Medhi yet? That might be a sign things are changing...but doubt it.

Anonymous said...

I was speaking with a friend of mine who currently works for Lockheed Martin. They have 160,000 employees worldwide and each employee is assigned a functional manager who looks out for the best interest of the employee. If an employee does not like the project he is assigned, he can speak with the functional manager who will try to place him elsewhere within the company. The employee does not have to speak with the supervisor. Similarly, if a group is looking for a person with certain skills, the job requirements are forwarded to all the functional managers who will then look thru their respective groups to see if they have people interested or have the necessary skills to do the new job. I don’t have all the details of how this program works or how quickly you can move from one project to the other, but you get the general idea.

The whole idea behind this system is to keep the employees happy and motivated. Employees know that someone is looking out for them and it is not their direct supervisor or manager who might not have their best interest at heart. Employees are much happier and Lockheed Martin benefits since they don’t lose good people and don’t have to keep hiring new people who often have to get security clearances which can take anywhere from 12-18 months. I am not an employee but a shareholder and I hope HR people who troll thru this blog will look into this program by calling their counterparts at Lockheed Martin.

Anonymous said...

His decisions are ego driven and not business driven.

That pretty much sums up the old days vs. the mess we have today.

Anonymous said...

This thread is one that folks should take very seriously, there are some excellent points of feedback here.

Having departed MSFT after a LONG tenure a few months ago, it's been amazing to see how incredibly irrelevant Microsoft is in today's technology ecosystem. Yes, to it's own ecosystem it still seems to be chugging along and to the folks who are still buying EA's it's a key part of their enterprise, but to the next wave of innovators, entrepreneurs, and investors, Microsoft may as well be Corel. I'm in a very interactive position where I am with some of the top B-School and engineering students in the bay area, venture capitalists, entrepreneurs, bloggers and "community" and I can honestly say, that Microsoft NEVER gets mentioned as a component in either a) the WEB 2.0 experience or b) as a basis for building the next wave of sites, services and software. It's incredible.

The reason that Vista is irrelevant, is that there are no applications that are driving the experience, save Office2K7. And that particular suite of applications falls into the "what i have is just good enough" category for just about everyone - so if you think back to the good old days (Win 3.0, Win 3.11, Windows for Workgroups even, and in particular Win95)... it truly was still the applications that drove the platform, not the core features within the OS.

This trend started with Windows 2000, where after the DRG group was disbanded, MSFT had to shuffle folks around to try and get ISV's and other providers to write native apps (and drivers) for Win2K, and continued with a horrible ecosystem support for XP which was a disaster until SP2 came out. We literally had to beg people to try and come up with some interesting apps back then, and I know for a fact that this was even worse around the Vista experience when I left... people couldn't even come up with the 'scenarios' that would be enabled with the 'advanced technology' that Vista was providing... ugh.

At this point, I don't know of anyone who is looking at buying the OS for the OS... folks have a button that turns the machine on, and gets you to the real platform - the Browser, so that people can start using the applications that they use everyday - SF.com, Google, Ebay, flickr, Myspace, Blogs, Yahoo, Hotmail and custom hosted solutions. The OS is a means to get you to the computing experience that most people use in their business and personal lives. If the OS doesn't give you a better experience here (and I'm talking Windows, not IE because I think that they did a really good job with IE) then people will not upgrade until their next machine refresh.

I spent the majority of my professional career over the last 20 years at Microsoft, made a lot of money, friends and learned more than I ever thought that I'd know. But the train has left the station, a company that was once proud and confident has become lost, and nervous - it can only lead it's current flock (which is dwindling) and is honestly is wilting under it's own inability to finally flick the switch and try and take it's brand and partners to the SaaS/hosted model for fear of losing what SteveB calls "our 'it'.. 'it' is our franchise... Windows and Office".

Extremely sad. And I personally know that Steve is a very proud guy, who would love nothing more than to try and lead the reinvigoration of the company into the new era, but frankly, I think he's so scared to make a switch that could potentially turn this company from a 50+ billion dollar company into a 25+ billion dollar company in a very short time, that he's doing all he can to stiff arm the winds of change.... which unfortunately for Microsoft will blow no matter how hard they try and stop it.

I've never posted here before, but I have been very moved by the passion of people still left from the 'old days' of Microsoft who are not blinded by the partner status (I opted out thank you and spent some great years as a very happy IC still devising strategy)... but I highly recommend taking that great experience you may have at MSFT and starting your own thing - it is a fabulous time in the industry to do it precisely because vendor lock in doesn't exist the way it has for the past two decades, and you'll find the satisfaction you've missed at MSFT in a very short time.

Peace.

Anonymous said...

At this point, I don't know of anyone who is looking at buying the OS for the OS... folks have a button that turns the machine on, and gets you to the real platform - the Browser

Typical Web 2.0 nonsense. The web/browser is very nice for many things but there are also many things that will never shift over. Word processors, spreadsheets, and graphics packages written in JavaScript will never be more than a novelty. And what about playing music, or video games? What about organizing and editing all of your photos, or video? The list goes on and on and on.

Microsoft is, and can easily continue to be, a $30B+ company without (despite) any web properties. Unfortunately, it is full of people who think like you and the result has been constant emphasis on the Web over the past 7-8 years resulting in nothing more than humiliation.

Microsoft has the right idea to provide a web platform and web development tools, but .NET is a misguided effort. People don't want an expensive, proprietary, overly-complicated software stack with major overhauls being released every couple years. Why would a hobbyist or small company lock themselves into such a platform when they could just develop their software on LAMP and end up with a smaller, more straightforward code base to boot? (Yes, I know about mono, but so far uptake and support has been anemic and it seems to be stuck on .NET ~1.1.)

Anonymous said...

There is a major org shake up in process that will dwarf any others in the company's past, and many of the exec's don't like the looks of it.

What could possibly be bigger than the 2 guys in charge of the Windows division leaving within a few months of each other? MSN casual games gonna get shuffled? Major HR shakeup? Mini getting named a VP of "fixing stuff that sucks"?

For those who don't think that Vista driver issues are a Vista problem, what use is an OS if it doesn't have drivers for my hardware? What use is the hardware if I don't have drivers? Blame the hardware vendor for not being ready and not Vista.

Things like fingerprint scanners were tied to the GINA, which is now gone. Guess what, most fingerprint scanners don't work. Now my extra authentication system doesn't work and I feel less secure. There are Vista drivers available for the Microsoft reader and for the reader on most Thinkpads. I don't know who the other major players are in the biometrics space, so I couldn't check to see if any other drivers are available. BTW, most fingerprint scanners aren't really very secure. I hope you realize this.

I don't buy an OS for the OS, I buy it to get work done. Pull your heads out of your code and learn what real people deal with.The drivers for these products were not included in the box for XP. Why do you have the expectation that they will be included with Vista? Do you realize that a LOT of the stuff that came on your PC was added on to Windows by the manufacturer, meaning Microsoft has no control over it?

I don't mind the anger, and I certainly understand it. But please, go yell at your hardware vendor and ask them to get Vista drivers for your critical hardware. I assure you that folks at Microsoft have been doing this for years. :)

Blame the vendors for poor driver support? Sure. But what were you testing Vista on during development? Was it a wide enough set of hardware? That's a really tough problem. There are a LOT of people at Microsoft that were asking these sorts of questions all the time. Some vendors decided to drop support for some of their parts. So there's nothing we can do about that. Well, we can argue with the vendor, but at the end of the day it's their call to make. I don't know how they picked all of the supported devices, but I'm sure it was based off the stuff that was supported for XP, then each driver team identified all of the critical devices for their area that shipped since XP. Support for many devices was added (I think Jim said we support almost 20,000 devices).

But NO system is ever going to be perfect. There are way too many devices + drivers available for the Windows platform. That's a blessing and a curse for Windows. Hopefully tools like the Upgrade Advisor will catch these sorts of things, since the LAST thing we want is for people to have a crappy experience.

Judging by the reports coming in, the answer can only be "No!" Please remember that the majority of people who have positive experiences never bother to post anywhere. So of course most of the stuff you read will be negative.

I work in field sales. I keep seeing people in Microsoft talk about drivers or software problems as if they're something separate from Vista. "Vista works great, if only those hardware companies caught up." Please, be aware, our users don't see it that way. They see Vista, period. When it doesn't work, they don't blame ATI or Creative, they blame us. I definitely understand this. But Microsoft has done everything within its power to get these companies to create the necessary drivers. I don't know why people keep mentioning video drivers here, since there are drivers in the RTM product and ATI has refreshed their drivers at least twice now since business RTM.

People think that Vista SP1 is going to magically fix these problems. That's not true, since Microsoft does not control when these drivers are released.

What do you generally tell customers in this case? What more do customers expect us to do to get these drivers out? If you could talk to the device teams, what would you ask them to do to improve the situation now, and what would you have them do to make sure they don't get into this situation with the next OS release?

Anonymous said...

"have they fired Yusef Mehdi"...

No, but he is down to one direct, his EA. Maybe that's a good sign. A big overpaid sign...but still.

Anonymous said...

Microsoft is a company that is mainstream pretending to be cutting edge. It is not. It will never again be cutting edge. It might try to get edge moments (IBM and *ux for example)...

Zune?

I used it for one day. One day. One. Not compatable with existing MS DRM? Good job. I only wish someone at this company had the nuts of Steve Jobs to call the DRM bullshit card.

Never, ever again going to use MS products to manage my music. Ever. EVER. (I am actually in the midst of re-ripping all my CDs FLAC)

I digress... But it is clear the days of relevence are quickly moving past us.

At work, I spend more time debating and finding my way through the mass of bureaucracy than actually getting something done...

Now we can debate the why and how, but ultimately, this is a company under legal obligations and operating in a way to avoid future legal issues. Nothing is meant to be fast, to market and and on our users behalf.. It is all measured in risk - legal and other - and then moved on with that tone... Does this feature cross the bounds of consent decree? Patents?

Where the hell is the user in all this crap?
Somewhere under about 100 LCA lawyers I am guessing.

And I am not going to touch the group think clusterfuck of management. (But then again, it may come back to the "partner" thing.. Move the smiles up the chain, and everyone gets what they want... Except those actually having to execute, our users or shareholders.. Go figure.)

I am happy to work in a "start up" group. And as such, I do not look over my GM. If I did, I would quit. The partner benefits and other (I tried to find another adjective here, but I couldn't) bullshit that this company has burdened its self with... On top of the rest of it. Ugh.

Is Google the next model? (IMHO I doubt it.. a crash in pay per clicks with no accountability is going to come to an end soon.)

So what is?

Who knows.

But for today, I am passionate, emphatic and a believer in the technology I am working on.
But as to the company..

I own a single share.
And my resume is always at hand.

(You know what really sucks.. Since I can post this anon I say what I want.. but in a group a friends I would defend this company to the Nth degree. If it actually came down to it, I would lay my proverbial life down. Yet at the same time, I know this company is heading in all kinds of wrong directions and could not care less if I got run over by a bus tomorrow. I know, it is a personal thing... I have to be that emphatic about what I am doing, or why do it.. Quite the quandry.. Love for the company in the abstract and absolutely in terms of my product, but nothing but absolute disgust outside of it.)

Anonymous said...

His decisions are ego driven and not business driven.

That pretty much sums up the old days vs. the mess we have today.


Bingo. Everywhere in the company, decisions are ego and "visibility" or review driven. My last group had two Principle-level guys in a year-long standoff, refusing to cooperate because they had contradictory review goals. Working together would have cost one or the other or both on their review.

My current group has several boondoggle features in progress that should have been cut, but the PMs who own them need another high-visibility feature for their next promotion.

The dev leads all take on too many side projects that distract them from their real job (leading devs) because they each need to check another box on the CSP.

Test has dissapeared into a black hole somewhere. I don't know what's going on with them.

None of us have commitments posted yet, but we have spent hours and hours talking about them. I almost never hear discussions between manager and managee that discuss customers or what we are doing for them.

Pardon my French, but shit is broken.

Anonymous said...

not really inline with this post but i thought i would share this none the less. i was blue at MSFT for a couple of years. got feed up with it and left. it has been one full year since leaving MSFT this month. i just had my annual performance review at my new company. you have no idea how nice it is to be measured on what i did and accomplished. my review was great, we looked at how i meet my goals, what was to be expected for the coming year, and set up my personal developoment plan for the next year. (personal development plans here cover which training classes you should concentrate on for the coming year) so amazingly refreshing. the most amusing/interesting thing is talking to other former MSFT people here and how happy they are with the reviews.

couple words of advice: you don't need permission to interview outside of MSFT, there are lots of companies in the area you don't even have to leave seattle/redmond. :)

back to work with a smile. :)

Anonymous said...

It's interesting that nobody has responded to my earlier question--why did Microsoft change the driver model in the first place?

I always wondered about that myself - just when folks had finally figured out how to write drivers with the previous model that don't suck, along comes MS with a new model to make writing drivers "simpler" to reduce the number of buggy drivers. Of course the new model is as poorly documented as all of the previous ones were, and now there are no 3rd party resources to help a dev understand wtf he/she is supposed to be doing.

I remember one comment during dinner in the conference room by one of our devs dealing with drivers, "How the fuck does anyone outside of Microsoft get this shit to work? I mean, I'm sitting here and can call the guy upstairs that created this shit and even I can barely get it to work!"

Anonymous said...

folks have a button that turns the machine on, and gets you to the real platform - the Browser, so that people can start using the applications that they use everyday - SF.com, Google, Ebay, flickr, Myspace, Blogs, Yahoo, Hotmail and custom hosted solutions

You know what the problem with being online is? You keep running into people like this who think the world revolves around being online. Not everyone lives in your tiny niche of the ecosystem. You are like someone standing in a rainforest and wondering what in the world people use snowblowers for. I personally laugh a little every time I see "Web 2.0" touted as anything more than an excuse for web developers to bill more hours. The amount of Web 2.0 crap that is *less* usable than what it replaced is staggering. Starting with Live.com...

Anonymous said...

"Then Steve opens his mouth. Within a day or so of the love in with Novell he announces it is really so they can sue the pants off everybody else! Not only is that embarrassing to Novell but it does wonders for others thinking about being partners."

Denial Check: Partners become partners for ONE SINGLE REASON - Money. Why else would good people enter into bad agreements with bad people? Think about it.

Anonymous said...

Typical Web 2.0 nonsense. The web/browser is very nice for many things but there are also many things that will never shift over. Word processors, spreadsheets, and graphics packages written in JavaScript will never be more than a novelty. And what about playing music, or video games? What about organizing and editing all of your photos, or video? The list goes on and on and on.

Dude, this is hilarious. Be careful of your use of "never"... of course there are base functions that the OS is good for and will be, but the point is that the world has passed MSFT mentality over that it all circles around the OS... it doesn't... all of the functions you mention above have corresponding web properties that are doing just fine thank you and growing... and yep, thanks to those OEM contracts 69,000 of the MSFT FTE's could get RIF'd tomorrow and the last 1000 folks left could manage those contracts nicely as a 20-30Billion company for the coming years.

Anonymous said...

Guys, I want to point something out about IBM at the height of their industry dominance: Yes, they had a lot of bureaucratic process, but it had a PURPOSE, and that purpose was QUALITY. An unscheduled restart of a 370 warranted a service call from the factory.

They let other companies blaze the trails, but when you bought something from IBM you could count on consistent behavior from your IT systems for decades. Sometimes, that really is what you need.

Anonymous said...

I hear comments that a lot of options are expiring this year. Are they just barely under water? They are not worthless: time value on strike-30 expiring in August is still over a dollar.

But they are getting cheaper every week.

Anonymous said...

RE: Web 2.0 thread. FYI, isn't that the whole idea behind Google Office? (And I'm sure there's a group of people that never thought the mouse would be useful either.) Picture, if you will, a cloud of services that inter operate and keep track of your digital artifacts for you. Bandwidth is becoming pervasive...and connected is the only way to go. (Quick plug for personal favorite Web 2.0: http://picnik.com )

Anonymous said...

Now, the real guy to blame here for the whole Longhorn fiasco is Bill Gates. HE was the most senior technical guy responsible for it. Ballmer, being mostly a business type person, probably just listened to Gates most of the time. Gates is the one to blame for what Vista became today.

An informed comment. Whether it was a trip down the primrose path of tabletPC, voice recognition or (name other bill-as-chief-architect technology), billg was about as far away from being a software architect as you can be and still claim the title. Just as Wozniak came out and claimed that he, and not Jobs, did most of the technical deep-thinking, so too should Paul Allen stake his claim. As a businessman, bill gates was a terror, no denying that. I have no evidence that he ever created anything, unless you call the miasmic Internet product strategy and Vista a creation. I know when others questioned Bill's insight he turned them over to Eric Rudder to deep-think on the topic. LOL.

Ray Myers said...

"You know what the problem with being online is? You keep running into people like this who think the world revolves around being online. Not everyone lives in your tiny niche of the ecosystem. You are like someone standing in a rainforest and wondering what in the world people use snowblowers for. I personally laugh a little every time I see "Web 2.0" touted as anything more than an excuse for web developers to bill more hours. The amount of Web 2.0 crap that is *less* usable than what it replaced is staggering. Starting with Live.com..."

I thought you were a shill at first but, then you bashed Live.com.

Of the 850 million installed windows computers out there in the world, how many do you think are primarily used to use all the robust features of Office - write a book, create formula-driven spreadsheets, manage a huge, mega-evented project, create a mega relational database? I'd guess no more than 10% and probably a lot less.

My point is this: The remaining 750 million of us...well...go surfing! I'm doin' it now. I only use MS Word to write longer blogs and Google's spell check is even making that a non-player.

So, what we want is a quick and dirty boot up to a browser. This is becoming more and more clear.

It is paramount that Microsoft develop a hybrid Office, skipping the online piece altogether until it can be combined with the desktop piece. Online folks should then pay a modest micropayment to use -- download -- the robust features for a day or two. Businesses should be given the chance to use legacy a cheaper subscription model or both.

It's a very natural transition and makes use of the two strengths - Office desktop and Ozzie Cloud.

Anonymous said...

I visited this site to see reaction to Mr. Ballmer's statement re: Vista. It was a responsible statement since the original expectation that corporations would upgrade is tempered with the reality of the steep price and compatibility companies would have to consider. I am at a Fortune 50 company and here is a memo from our CIO re: Vista, a few weeks ago: Company name deleted.

"Recently Microsoft released Vista, a new version of its new PC operating system. Media reports and technology reviews indicate that Vista has many enhanced features and offers an improved user experience.

For these reasons and more, I completely understand that the early adopters among you are tempted to buy the new software and install it promptly. But before you do, please understand our position on Vista:
• If you install Vista on your home computer and use that computer for remote access to our network, due to incompatibilities, you will jeopardize your access.
• The corporate standard for PCs and servers will continue to be Windows XP, Service Pack 2 version until further notice. Microsoft has committed to supporting this platform until 2009, and it fits with many of our applications and systems.
• We are testing Vista thoroughly, but it is in no way ready for prime time. Please ensure that your employees understand that Vista may not be installed on any company computer. Information Security can’t ensure protection at the desktop level yet because our applications ˜ as well as many other of our applications ˜ don’t work properly with this new operating system.
We have a position paper that gives more detail. You can review it here: ________

Thank you for your cooperation.


Lorem Ipsum
Chief Information Officer
AAAAAAA Corporation"

Anonymous said...

here is a memo from our CIO [...]

Wow.

That pretty much says it all, doesn't it? Unless that memo represents some demographic extreme at the far end of some Fortune 50 bell curve (in which case I am incorrect and the launch truly has been, as Mr. Gates recently insisted, "incredible"), this is a pretty typical corporate measure: Strongly warn each of your employees not to use Vista even on home machines or they will incur severe and immediate corporate penalties above and beyond the technical and logistical penalties they are warned to avoid on their own demerits.

Way to go, Bill and Steve! Truly stunning.

Anonymous said...

In that regard Steve Ballmer is a thousand times better CEO than so many other CEO's out there.


Name a currently active CEO that Ballmer is better than, and how. Don't hurt yourself. Its a short list.

Anonymous said...

My point is this: The remaining 750 million of us...well...go surfing!

It may shock you to learn that a sizeable percentage of the population doesn't use the computer a great deal after they leave the office (if they even work in an office). There are these things called bars, and restaurants, and movie theaters, and libraries, and parks...

Yes, it's quite weird. Because everyone you know is online.

Anonymous said...

Memos from CIOs cautioning drones at the company to leave new operating systems alone aren't new for Vista. They have been going out for decades every time a new piece of technology is released. Not saying anything about the actual quality of Vista, but a memo saying "Don't touch it, it's evil (until we get a chance to make sure we can enforce our corporate will)" at ANY reasonably sized company isn't news.

Hell, if you know where to look or who to talk to, you can find the same kinds of memos at Microsoft, especially statements from IT about beta support.

Anonymous said...

MYR time and the review process has become indicative of the cancer spreading throughout Microsoft. For example, //careercompass - I tried for three hours to fill out the CC, but started to realize that the review and career planning process has remained a political circus. My MYR is coming up next week and already I've caught wind of "you've done great, but... you don't follow through 100% on the details...". Well, yeah I do great where I can, but I'm randomized trying to satisfy three layers of mgt that all contradict each other and whose lines of communication can be described as "reactive" at best. Well, five years at MS has been an experience but I'm leaving next month to a start-up and can't wait to grow a business unhindered, try out new ideas without having to complete three rounds of reviews and spend time increasing revenue without the fear of someone else taking all the credit. Oh! and my new salary will be $132,000 + bonus + 401k match + m/d/v health - makes it an even easier decision [I am L63 at MS]. MS: I wanted to believe, but I lost faith in the leadership and the uncontrollable mgt thru FUD.

Anonymous said...

It has really gotten so bad with Microsoft products that I believe a legal case can be made that we are not talking about bugs or feature deficits that are incidental to normal computer software development but we are talking about fraud.

There are so many critical bugs that keep the products from working as advertised and expected that a case for fraud can be made. When the SQL Server Management Studio won’t perform a database backup due to a programming error or when Visual Studio 2005 looses track of project statuses within a solution and won’t build the solution, these are cases of fraud. Microsoft says the products will do these things but they don’t.

Anonymous said...

Seriously, what is the best thing that could happen to Microsoft right now?

1. Balmer is canned if he will not leave voluntarily.

2. Gates and the Board of Directors find a new CEO, which means that Gates will have to retract the statements he put forth when he announced his retirement about Ballmer being the best person for the job.

3. The new CEO shakes things up by cutting the number of partners eligible for SPSA payouts by 50%. Also, the SPSA payouts should be tied strictly to financial results and stock performance, and not fuzzy measures such as Customer Satisfaction.

Anonymous said...

Microsoft says the products will do these things but they don’t.

Unlike all other software which works flawlessly in all cases.

This doesn't even rise to the level of a troll. It's just some dumb kid bitching. More power to the filter, Scotty!

Anonymous said...

"Memos from CIOs cautioning drones at the company to leave new operating systems alone aren't new for Vista. They have been going out for decades every time a new piece of technology is released."

Yes but this is a Fortune 50 company and...it's saying "don't install it at home" and that it's "no where near prime time".

Powerful stuff and not your plain vanilla warning, IMHO.

Fred said...

"Memos from CIOs cautioning drones at the company to leave new operating systems alone aren't new for Vista. They have been going out for decades every time a new piece of technology is released."

Sure, if you don't distinguish between levels of alarm or degree of rhetoric.

And if you willfully ignore the fact that "Memos [..] cautioning drones [...] to leave new operating systems alone" really means "this isn't the first time Microsoft created this problem."

Plus bonus points for "drones." Contempt for customers and their problems always helps.

Anonymous said...

Sure, if you don't distinguish between levels of alarm or degree of rhetoric.

BS. First: I don't work at Microsoft. I use tools in my job that can barely withstand upgrading to IE7 let alone upgrading to Vista. Whose fault is it? Undoubtedly (in my case) the writers of the aforementioned tools. They hook into all sorts of crazy shit and changing anything breaks something in the not-terribly-well-thought-out tool architecture. My VPN client is also a piece of junk.

It is not surprising when major revisions of Windows have IT support warning everyone to stand back. I've also worked in IT, and "drones" is far too polite to describe the mentality that prevails there. "Actively avoiding work and refusing to help anyone" is the attitude 70% of the time. Why do you think IT's popularity is right down there with HR? They are the ones with contempt for the user and it shows.

The company in question likely has done nothing to look at how their VPN setup works with Vista until now, and it's easier to just say "it don't work" and wait until one of the IT drones decides the time is right to actually see how to make it work.

And it's laughable to twist the wording of that memo around to mean "they don't even want you to run it at home!!!!!!1" when it's clearly a reference to VPN compatibility. I mean you're fooling no one.

Anonymous said...

And if you willfully ignore the fact that "Memos [..] cautioning drones [...] to leave new operating systems alone" really means "this isn't the first time Microsoft created this problem."

Bingo. We're a large division of a Fortune Single Digit Company :-). 50,000+ desktops, 2,000+ Windows servers, worldwide. Until mid-2006, the standard OS was Windows 2000. Not because we're not smart enough for XP, but because 2000 mostly worked, and the flaws and flaky parts were well understood. It wasn't until XP SP2 we had the same level of comfort.

For us, the warnings on Vista started with the first public betas - to the extent that developers were forbidden to install and test against it.

Microsoft needs to face the reality of a beeno world - as in "There will be no .Net 2.0 on any company owned computer, especially servers.", and "There will be no Office 2007 on any company owned computer". Both are actual pronouncements from our chief technology office. Products you consider old news are our sweet spot. They're mostly debugged, mostly understood, and supported for years after the latest and greatest is released. There are nice shiny bits in the new releases (Vista, Office2007), but nothing compelling unless you're already locked into the MS vision.

Anonymous said...

Chiming in with the last few posts - I work in a global company that sits in the top handful of the Fortune list. We've got hundreds of thousands of computers across the planet. What's on my desktop? Win2K, Office 2000 and I use SQL Server 2000 for my work.

I thought we'd move to XP a few years back, but there's been no sign of it in my division. Many servers are either going to (or already are) LAMP technology.

We're risk-averse in IT. We don't want anything new and sexy. We want old, proven and reliable. The fact that the IT heads don't even consider WinXP SP2 worth moving to bodes poorly for Vista here.

Charles said...

"We want old, proven and reliable."

Indeed. Old, proven and reliable is good.

Old, proven, reliable and lower overhead is better.

Old, proven, reliable, lower overhead, and paid-up is a tough act to follow.

Until a proven, reliable, cost-effective solution to a critical customer problem (not the same as a Microsoft objective) is offered, there is no compelling reason to change anytime soon, especially when quality 3rd-party solutions are available for that same old, proven, reliable, lower overhead, and paid-up W2K platform.

The number of these will likely increase as the prospects for new Vista-based sales dwindle.

Anonymous said...

About Ballmer - just a thought. About four years ago, the CEO of a failing company calling itself The SCO Group, declared that Linux contained all sorts of sacred Unix IP, which incidentally they owned - or claimed to own. They were just a little short on the proof side of things.

Now you see Ballmer making claims about Linux containing Microsoft IP, and he seems to have forgotten that those claims need to be backed up by something called proof.

Is it any wonder that people - not just 'Softies - are less than enthralled at Ballmer's performance? To the degree that it merits the word "performance"?

The SCO Group started its stupid and expensive lawsuits against IBM and Novell because it knew it was failing. Ballmer has started making the same sorts of unproven claims - is it any wonder that non-'Softies are wondering if Microsoft has a future?

Well, do we?

Anonymous said...

Working in a great group means exactly the opposite of what Valentine preached (company first, me last - someone cue up "Brian's Song" so I can hear Billy Dee Williams say"God, team, self or whatever it was again as I imagine Valentine making another spoof video along those lines. He was really good at making those videos. Not so good at releasing operating systems on time, but a natural ham, and God, did I love his last second jabs at Those Who Told Him it Was Okay if He Wanted to Go Look for Another Job, Umm, Outside Microsoft We Mean in the email he sent out before he left). Great groups have people in them that share two things: they like what they do, and most everyone does something that actually maps to a career as opposed to a job.

So what is the difference between a career and a job? It's like when you go to college. You can either be a doctor, lawyer, engineer, scientist, computer programmer (developer/tester), accountant, or a teacher and go right into a career out of college. The rest of us? Go ahead - party your brains out. Sleep in. Sacrifice valuable study time by showering. Join the greek system. Major in whatever you want because if you have any social skills you're either going to be in sales (insurance, mortgages, real estate, cars, whatever) or you will get a "job" when you get out, meaning you work for someone else and learn as you go. Developer? Tester? Careers. Pointy Headed Boss Guy in Dilbert Cartoons? Career. Admin? Dead end, but career. The other 47,891 employees at Microsoft? They have what is endearingly referred to as a "job". Big long title you hear when you ask someone what they do? Dead giveaway for a job. Business Manager? Job. Any program management title? Sorry, job. (I would know - 13 years in program management at Microsoft). Support Professional? They tell you it's a career, but it's really a job. Everyone who does it wants to move to a product group. Now there's always exceptions and I fully expect the flamethrowers to be turned on full, especially from program managers, the poor bottomfeeders in the respect ecosystem of product development but think about it. Most of us just have jobs.

How do you know if you're in a career or a job? I recall a link someone sent me but can't remember it that nailed it pretty good for a career: 1) you can name people who are nationally known as being good at what you do 2) There is more than one level of training you can take 3) you can do exactly the same thing at another company with no ramp up 4) you'd probably get paid more for doing that exact same thing at another company 5) they don't ask those stupid manhole cover interview questions because they don't know what it is that you did in your last "job".

If you have a career, you should know what you have to do at MS to get ahead. If you can't get ahead, leave. It should be easy and you'll get paid more.

If you are in a job at Microsoft, you have to more closely follow the rules I wrote up in the FAQ a while ago (Mini - you'll have to find the link).

Your Friends' Smarter Older Brother

genny said...

I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


Kaylee

http://www.clpostingguide.info