Sunday, March 11, 2007

Stirring the Microsoft Comment Pot on a Rainy Weekend

I'm quite impressed with the incoming amount of comments. This week, I'm just stirring the pot here - I'm slammed busy at Microsoft and my free time is consumed by developing a strategy to blow the remains of my fun money with an expedition to Molbaks (because you must have a plan before entering Molbaks, lest you succumb to vertigo given all the abundance).

They Done Gone and Published a Whitepaper About It: the commitments tool gets a write-up as a showcase piece here: Facilitating Effective Employee Reviews at Microsoft. It might just be jumping the gun to slap the word "effective" in there. I suppose we can expect a write-up on the other tool, Career Compass, Real Soon Now. If I wanted to go for the cheap laughs I could whip up something ripping into the Career Compass tool. While I've been turned off by the initial heavy investment of time (not only as an employee but also as a frazzled manager), I hold some hope in my heart that the payoff is out there and that it doesn't become a time-sink like it is now.

Some reactions to the new HR tools below. I'd also like to read positive impressions of the tools. No, really. In the meantime:

(1) It IS NOT HR's job to have me waste time that I should be spending working with customers, improving my skills on our new technologies, or maybe trying some of that 'life' part of work-life balance going through the BS that is Career Compass and then not getting any "how you're doing so far" feedback on my mid-year.

(2) Career Compass - Christ, what a nightmare that thing is. Tons of busy work, and nothing that I think will ever make a difference in my career. But on the plus side, it did force me to look at how long I've been in my various roles, which helps me get started on my resume. [Mini: same here.]

(3) (What is the rest of the world going to think when they see how complicated the MSFT review process is. It's ironic that we're actually proud of such a monstrosity.)

This is clearly proof that the devil finds work for idle hands.

(4) It wasn't enough for HR to screw around w/the review process and form every review period to justify their existance. No! They had to come up w/CSPs, Career Compas and force us to use crappy Infopath. [...] This is surely a sign that HR has too many people and too much of a budget.

Office 14: Not-so-great / Great! Looking towards the next version of Office, we have some back and forth:

(1) [...] I am at a loss regarding what in the world it is we're going to be selling that is actually interesting to an end user. I ask people what they are excited about on their team and, by the look on their face, you would think they had just caught me with my hand in their pocket. Everyone is just shuffling along, spec'ing or developing or testing whatever boring thing comes their way.

(2) I work in Office too and have a different experience. Most of the teams I work with (Word, Excel, Visio, Proj, Server teams) are well into feature-speccing and prototyping already. Some teams (you probably know which ones...) even have shorter term deliverables. I can guess that some teams (for e.g. the one where everyone left after 2007) are still in a state of limbo and are trying to figure out what to do for 14. I interact with Windows on a frequent basis and I think things are significantly worse there, though.

(3) I work in Office and I've just about had it. I've looked over our O14 planning documents and tried hard to convince myself that the product will be worth 2 more years of my life. But it isn't going to happen.

Office is has a unhealthy combo of bureaucracy and senility. There are more than a few people here who are just hiding behind process to mask their own incompetence. There are even more people here who are just collecting a paycheck while newhires shoulder their work load. I've gone through a few years of this now and I'm done.

Looking For Career Love: the last Office comment above ends with the question:

So my question is this: Office is dying. Where in MS can we start living again?

And:

Random side-question: Which groups do people think are *awesome*? and which ones should be avoided? why so?

Are you in an awesome group? Tell us about it. Awesome-ness should be rewarded by lots of people pounding on the door to get in. Remember that the new intent-to-interview policy prevents you from being locked into your job or your product release cycle. If your last interview loop to get into your current position is over eighteen months ago, you're free to pound on the door on some awesome group and prove you're awesome-worthy, too, and move on up.

Well, unless your VP is going to step up and officially stop your transfer. Has that even happened to anyone?

One Little, Two Little, Three Little... VPs? First Blake Irving, then Christopher Payne and Dan Ling. Those shoes dropping lead to all sorts of speculation. You'd hope that if this is mass-house cleaning that the clean-out happens in a fell-swoop vs. being a slow duration that leads to Street anxiety. Of course, if it is house cleaning, we'll never know because we're too dysfunctional to actually admit to moving on a leader for failure to lead:

One comment has this take on Blake:

Blake is leaving because he can't stand Sinofsky, he doesn't want to follow Sinofsky's organizational principles and strategy and has simply lost the fight. Sinofsky is way too influential even for mighty Blake.

The fun part is gonna be watching the domino effect as Blake's MSN boys club gets dismantled for good. That division is doomed. By the time the long due cleanup is finished, the train to compete will be long gone.

Other call-outs: Very nice entropic organizational Brownian motion closer on this comment regarding three big things wrong with Microsoft:

Without a mission, it’s impossible to create a technical or marketing strategy. Without a mission/ideology, Microsoft will continue to be killed by internal entropy and organizational Brownian motion. However, a salesman cannot create a great mission statement, and his peer product person does not seem to be capable either (see above).

BizDog leaves behind a very nice long comment worth taking time to read in full. A snippet from near the end:

Our core problem as one of my friends put it is many of our products work better together than our people do. Fixing that is a cultural thing and all the HR tools, comp packages and other rantings won't fix this. Leadership will, but we are devoid of that at the moment.

MSFTextrememakeover I've fallen and I can't get up - Chart goodness. Or, well, badness. There's charts.

And one last comment to rain on your financial future:

Meanwhile, April is approaching and a lot of options will expires worthless.

Updated: s/bad gerund/proper past tense/.

236 comments:

1 – 200 of 236   Newer›   Newest»
Anonymous said...

> The fun part is gonna be watching the domino effect as Blake's MSN boys club gets dismantled for good. That division is doomed. By the time the long due cleanup is finished, the train to compete will be long gone.

Which is just as well. Sinofsky will leave by then. His buddy network which moved enmass from office will also get dismantled then.

Anonymous said...

Just looked for a place where I can post this.

Did you guys read Smart Money's interview with Ballmer? The article has some pre- and during-interview facts and clearly this guy is not comfortable in his own skin. Ballmer only joked with his bodyguards, during the interview switched from boisterous to somber in a matter of seconds then abruptly left the interview.

I feel sorry for him. He should just quit: I don't think he has more fun working for MS than a lot of his employees. Life is too short for this non-sense.

In comparison to Bill's interviews this interview is a complete waste of time and paper. Ballmer made a parallel between winning customers and winning elections! WTF???

Man, I really miss the old days when a BillG presentation meant something. Bill created MS and MS will slowly wither w/o him.

Anyway, back to your regular programming.

DogH

Paulsc said...

One of the most awesome groups at Microsoft is the Windows Client Performance team, run by David Fields and formally by Mike Fortin (Distinguished Engineer). This group has the dual mission of providing performance analysis support to feature teams in Windows and Windows Client, and has also developed some of the most killer behind-the-scenes features in Vista:

SuperFetch(http://www.microsoft.com/windows/products/windowsvista/features/details/superfetch.mspx)

ReadyBoost (http://www.microsoft.com/windows/products/windowsvista/features/details/readyboost.mspx)

Windows Experience Index (WINSAT) and the Performance Information and Tools control panel. (http://windowsvistablog.com/blogs/windowsvista/pages/458117.aspx)

Go to the Best Buy store at Northgate and you'll see most of the Vista machines running the Performance control panel, used by the sales staff to compare the performance of the various computers on sale.

This is a group that has provided real innovation and has a great relationship between Dev, Test, and PM.

I'm proud to work there, and to have finished the user interface for the Performance Information and Tools control panel. I would work with any of these folks again, anytime, on any project.

Anonymous said...

I agree, the windows performance group is awesome.

too bad it may fall into the fundamentals crudpool and turn out badly (remeinber lighthouse?)

Ry Jones said...

DogH: Got a link? Smart Money's site search (as well as Google) aren't turning up the interview.

Anonymous said...

Man, I really miss the old days when a BillG presentation meant something. Bill created MS and MS will slowly wither w/o him.

When billg spoke this week on capitol hill regarding immigration policy and unlimited access to H1B visas he was not rebutted. That means there was no debate. Gates probably fought for, and congress was probably polite enough to give him, time on the floor for a one-man monologue. Afterward, I'm sure they shook his hand and walked him to the door.

Anonymous said...

Great, so now I know who I should blame for my laptop HD thrashing for five minutes after boot.

And how is primitive benchmarking "innovative"?

Anonymous said...

Honestly, mid-year reviews took me less time this year than I spent last year. I set aside an hour with my manager, and we discussed longer term career-plans and activities. I then went and spent 30 minutes clicking buttons in the tool, and she did the same. We used it as a glorified meeting notes tool.

I used to take the word doc seriously, and spent tons of time wordsmithing a document that had no audience nor impact. I find it very hard to take the infopath tool seriously, and it saved me tons of time :)

Anonymous said...

http://www.dilbert.com/comics/dilbert/archive/dilbert-20070311.html

Anonymous said...

It doesn't surprise me that the folks in Office don't know what to do next. We've seen that product evolve from a productivity to suite to what it now is: a platform for corporate workflow applications. That the typical user can still do a few things out of the box is a nice benefit, but the heavy lifting is now done on the back end with sharepoint, infopath, etc. Undoubtedly, this is the crack that Google will exploit for its Office strategy. If I were buying a computer for home use today, I'd forget about MS Office entirely and just use either Google stuff or OpenOffice.

Anonymous said...

The MacBU is a happen'n place to work. But the whole of Microsoft can't work there.

Anonymous said...

Almost everything under ScottGu is a great place to be. Just read his blog - not your typical exec.

Anonymous said...

I then went and spent 30 minutes clicking buttons in the tool, and she did the same. We used it as a glorified meeting notes tool.

30 min? That's a lot. I spent about 5min. Check, check, check and done. My manager didn't even meet me. I just put check that he did because his manager wants to see 100%.

Anonymous said...

If you're serious about gardening, Flower World is much better than Molbak's.

Paulsc said...

I agree, the windows performance group is awesome.

too bad it may fall into the fundamentals crudpool and turn out badly (remeinber lighthouse?)


Now that Mike Fortin is running all of Fundamentals, you don't have anything to worry about on that score.

As a veteran cavalry NCO and commissioned officer of the US Army, I know a thing or two about leadership and Fortin has what it takes, for sure.

Great, so now I know who I should blame for my laptop HD thrashing for five minutes after boot.

And how is primitive benchmarking "innovative"?


I also know not to feed the trolls...

Anonymous said...

>>If you're serious about gardening, Flower World is much better than Molbak's.

Possibly the most succint and powerful comment ever submitted!

(Just so I can be sure, can someone explain it?)

Anonymous said...

If I were buying a computer for home use today, I'd forget about MS Office entirely and just use either Google stuff or OpenOffice.

I've written two books in Microsoft Word (various versions) and I really can't stand it, but nobody else has that feature where the mouse pointer turns around backwards at the start of each line and lets you click to select the line or double-click to select the paragraph.

Seriously! I can't write without that feature and nobody else has it. (To my knowledge.)

But Word drives me nuts because its character/word/line/paragraph/section/document metaphor is fundamentally broken, so that paragraph formatting is "contained" in the hidden paragraph symbol and section formatting is "contained" in the TRAILING section marker (even though documents with one section have no section marker) so that millions of typists all over the world have spent countless hours trying to solve a problem they created by accidentally deleting a hidden character and having the formatting attributes flow UPWARDS, which is completely counter-intuitive.

I'm not going to get into inline graphics and font scaling, both of which are perfectly simple operations that are somehow beyond Word's capabilities (even after fifteen iterations).

I'm not kidding about the turned-around pointer. That's fantastic. Everything else about Word is just terrible for writers. Maybe it's different for people doing form letters and business documents, but for me it's God-awful.

Anonymous said...

Almost everything under ScottGu is a great place to be. Just read his blog - not your typical exec.

scottgu is a cool, decent self-effacing guy. I've never heard him make a nasty or derogatory comment about anyone. He's very smart into the deal. Will promoting him save Microsoft? No. But he'll get his cut, deservedly so.

Anonymous said...

Storage Solutions Div [formerly CFS] is also a very cool group to work for.

Brandon Paddock said...

Lots of awesome teams in WEX! I know F&O is hiring SDETs, not sure what other openings there might be.

Anonymous said...

Go to the Best Buy store at Northgate and you'll see most of the Vista machines running the Performance control panel, used by the sales staff to compare the performance of the various computers on sale.

Wait a minute... didn't Norton SI do this in 1985?

Anonymous said...

just wondering at what stage in the comments we get the ubiquitous link to some thread on channel9 where the same 10 fanboy posters ruminate about something they know nothing about...

Anonymous said...

>Honestly, mid-year reviews took me less time this year than I spent last year. I set aside an hour with my manager, and we discussed longer term career-plans and activities.

If you are in HR group, it would take you half an hour. For everyone else, it would take hours.

Anonymous said...

Review took about an hour once you finished watching that stoopid training video that really didn't help much.

Could someone please enlighten me about what CareerCompass is supposed to do? That was one of the biggest waste of time I've had to complete in awhile.

Anonymous said...

How would you rate the "Windows Live Search for Mobile" group?

Anonymous said...

I'm not kidding about the turned-around pointer. That's fantastic. Everything else about Word is just terrible for writers.

THANK YOU. I am so glad that somebody agrees with me--that doing almost anything in Word is such a monumental struggle that it's usually not even worth trying. Of course, people in Office think it's "done" and gave up trying to improve it a few cycles ago.

Anonymous said...

I'm not a Softie and I'd just like to comment on how I think this Blog is nicely shaping into a group of problem-solving, enthusiastic, knowledgeable, caring commenters.

There seems to be a balance here vs. continual ranting that is enjoyable to listen to and comment about.

Wish there were ways to solve the overall problem with the "personality" and inappropriate business behaviors of the various divisions and the company as a whole. I fear there is great need of a "white knight", a Lou Gerstner, if you will.

I say "I fear" because...so long as there is Bill Gates...there is...no white knight on the horizon.

Carry on.

Anonymous said...

Review process is trivial if you and your manager know and trust each other and have an informal relationship (as in you are not just an org chart "box") The same process is very difficult if you do not trust your manager, and are afraid of retaliation.

And yes, Flower World is much better than Molbaks.

jamie said...

re: Anonymous said...
just wondering at what stage in the comments we get the ubiquitous link to some thread on channel9 where the same 10 fanboy posters ruminate about something they know nothing about...


You mean like the Windows.com post?
Perhaps MS should listen to it's "fan boys" more often. or it's customers... or anyone!

Anonymous said...

RE: cool groups. Anyone have inside info on the photo analysis group that's starting up in the Smith Tower, downtown seattle, managed by KarimF? The technology sounds cool, and of course it's a lot closer to Swanson's than main campus.

Anonymous said...

WRT Joe Wilcox's article, he seems to be in love with the Irving / Cole / Mehdi / Payne cabal. As an MSN insider, here are a few comments:

Payne - Good riddance - I hope they take the rabid dog that is Live Search out back and shoot it as well. Search emblematic of all that is wrong with Live.com. It is built on the 'fail-upward' model and is a waste of resources that could be better served within MSN.

Mehdi is clueless. The guy doesn't understand that MSN's value-added is in content. He needs to leave, too.

Cole - I feel sorry for him. In many ways he's paying for the failures and hubris of others. He seemed to be genuinely interested in making MSN a competitor.

Irving - if only he'd spend as much time making sure that his organization's code is as solid as his empire, we'd be much better off...

Anonymous said...

A comment on awesome groups @ Microsoft. The last really great team I worked for was IIS 4.0... yeah, that was a long time ago. I've long since left the company.

Anonymous said...

Wait a minute... didn't Norton SI do this in 1985?

Yes but we took them out...

Anonymous said...

"Now that Mike Fortin is running all of Fundamentals, you don't have anything to worry about on that score."

---

Agree Mike rocks ... he has been cleaning house too and bringing the right folks ...

Anonymous said...

Speaking of MYR,I'm a manager of managers (new PUM) and I feel the issue is the performance/rewards equation is screwed up. It exists at the individual level when so often the individual relies on a team (direct or virtual) to deliver results.

I think this is bad and it actually kills good teamwork and focus on the company. What you don't really need at Microsoft is a smattering of individual superstars but superstar and functional teams.

One way you can encourage superstar teams is to encourage teaming and team cohesiveness - ie create rewards at the team level. It will minimize all the unhealthy competition and managing up (that drives me NUTS!)

Anonymous said...

A comment on awesome groups @ Microsoft. The last really great team I worked for was IIS 4.0... yeah, that was a long time ago. I've long since left the company.

Is that you, Keith? (one awesome developer, I must add...)

Anonymous said...

"I think this is bad and it actually kills good teamwork and focus on the company. What you don't really need at Microsoft is a smattering of individual superstars but superstar and functional teams."

I disagree. Many times I have seen projects and teams saved through the heroic actions of ordinary ICs. Are the 9-5ers to share in the reward for the success for a project that they would have allowed to fail? That would purge both the superstars and the Kims we have left in the ranks for sure, leaving MS adrift in a sea of mediocrity.

Reward individual actions to support teamwork; not the teams themselves. Your suggestion is insanity.

Anonymous said...

Paulsc - From what I've read of superfetch, it sounds wonderful. I think WEI MAY be useful someday.

And I hate to burst your bubble, but the customers are so far underwhelmed with all of the features you mention. Go to any popular web forum/newsgroup and see what that audience is saying.

Superfetch - By far, the most common complaint I see about Windows is "OMG...I add more RAM and Vista just keeps using more! This thing is a pig...don't buy it!". That's not just from average users, but from experienced techies. Until there's some better marketing associated with this feature, it's solely responsible for preventing at least a lot of consumer installs (and I'd bet a fair number of business installs too).

ReadyBoost - The only benchmarks I've seen where it makes a difference is on a machine with 512MB of RAM. And it's MUCH more productive to just purchase another 512MB stick of RAM and add it. Good concept, seems like an innovative idea, but maybe this one is either oversold or people have unrealistic expectations.

WEI - Right now, with the crappy "it only goes to 5.9" scale - when there's hardware that's probably worthy of a 10 - makes it useless. This is a perf number. Nerds can talk to their friends about this number, and try to OC to hit the number. It would be a GREAT marketing tool with early adopters, which means it's something
you need to showcase right out of the box. We're wasting a great opportunity here.

Anonymous said...

Having Blake, Christopher and other senior "leaders" in Windows MSN Live leave is truly a mixed bag - but there is something more insiduous that is not usually called out, but related to these kinds of departures. There is a whole legion of middle managers who encourage the chaos as a career roadmap. The best way to move up is to have your manager quit becuase he/she can't take the BS.

I don't want this to be personal, but take as an example Christa Davies, our newly minted CVP and CFO for the Windows Division. She has run strategy for MSN for the last 3 years - arguably the era of a complete lack of strategic direction and during that time, she has gone from a Director to a CVP. Nice. Her strategy, mix things up and keep people guessing provides no solid business results, but makes it quite easy for her to climb the ranks. This is not unique, but her example is the most extreme I've seen.

Billg never would have let this happen...

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 3pm: You're absolutely correct on Payne/Mehdi/Irving (Cole was already out). However, the bigger issue is that top mgmt lacks vision--without vision (the top-level organizing principle), nothing else downstream can be expected to fall into place, unless by coincidence/accident.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of MYR,I'm a manager of managers (new PUM) and I feel the issue is the performance/rewards equation is screwed up. It exists at the individual level when so often the individual relies on a team (direct or virtual) to deliver results...it actually kills good teamwork and focus on the company.

That's exactly right. It's Management 101, which seems to be sorely missing at MS. Look, you really can't expect teams to function well when the system of incentives is based on individual rather than team performance, and when it doesn't encourage people to help each other.

Individual performance goals/metrics should roll up to team goals/metrics and on up the chain through department, group, etc.

...What you don't really need at Microsoft is a smattering of individual superstars but superstar and functional teams.

Superstars are overrated, and who decides what a superstar is anyway? In some cases it's deserved, but in many others it's political. Teams are what matter. Performance by the team/group is what matters. I've said this before, but most people aren't superstars. If MS is aiming for every hire to be a superstar, they are crazy. There just aren't that many truly special people out there. That doesn't mean that you can't have good employees. You just have to manage them and work with them. You figure out what they can and can't do and then you push them towards their strengths and away from their weaknesses, and you give them honest feedback about those things. And here's something else to consider - superstars find new jobs, and while that's good for them and helps them in their meteoric rise to the top, it sucks for the team they are leaving. So ask yourself, is the team better off with a superstar that leaves after a year, or are they better off with that average to slightly above average performer that stays in their role for several years and learns their job inside and out?

One way you can encourage superstar teams is to encourage teaming and team cohesiveness - ie create rewards at the team level. It will minimize all the unhealthy competition and managing up...

Yep

Anonymous said...

"Anyone have inside info on the photo analysis group that's starting up in the Smith Tower, downtown seattle, managed by KarimF?"

No inside info really, but a buddy of mine started there not too long ago and absolutely loves the work and the atmosphere.

Anonymous said...

Another US Agency bans Vista. Maybe we can use H1 visas to get a new CEO, VPs and Board of Directors. Heck, maybe we should sell to Yahoo or GOOG

http://blogs.business2.com/apple/2007/03/key_us_agency_b.html

Anonymous said...

"A comment on awesome groups @ Microsoft. The last really great team I worked for was IIS 4.0... yeah, that was a long time ago. I've long since left the company.

Is that you, Keith? (one awesome developer, I must add...)"

Keith Moore is back with IIS for v7.

Anonymous said...

I disagree. Many times I have seen projects and teams saved through the heroic actions of ordinary ICs. Are the 9-5ers to share in the reward for the success for a project that they would have allowed to fail?

You should ask, why majority of the people are 9-5ers? It is because they do not see any reward for doing more. It is because they do not enjoy working in their team who is full of infighting and bickering.

I have seen projects failing and it was because mentioned 9-5ers became disilusioned, are left without any vision and meaning and decided that it is in their best interest to slack off...

In healthy team, this will not happen -- people will be motivated to finish their project on time.

Paulsc said...

Dear Mr. Anonymous at 12:47:12 AM,

Since this post appears to have some thought behind it, I will respond.

From what I've read of superfetch, it sounds wonderful. I think WEI MAY be useful someday.

Gee, thanks.

And I hate to burst your bubble, but the customers are so far underwhelmed with all of the features you mention. Go to any popular web forum/newsgroup and see what that audience is saying.

Lots of people say lots of snippy things on lots of blogs and newsgroups, including this one. What matters to me and ultimately to Microsoft is what happens at the point of sale and everyday use, and WEI is doing a great job there.

Superfetch - By far, the most common complaint I see about Windows is "OMG...I add more RAM and Vista just keeps using more! This thing is a pig...don't buy it!". That's not just from average users, but from experienced techies. Until there's some better marketing associated with this feature, it's solely responsible for preventing at least a lot of consumer installs (and I'd bet a fair number of business installs too).

You get no argument from me that we need better marketing. Have you thought about talking to marketing? I'm a developer. I write software.

ReadyBoost - The only benchmarks I've seen where it makes a difference is on a machine with 512MB of RAM. And it's MUCH more productive to just purchase another 512MB stick of RAM and add it. Good concept, seems like an innovative idea, but maybe this one is either oversold or people have unrealistic expectations.

Anybody with a system that cannot be easily or cost-effectively upgraded would disagree with you. Not every feature is equally useful to every person. For example, I don't use the Currency gadget or Game Controller CPL all that much.

WEI - Right now, with the crappy "it only goes to 5.9" scale - when there's hardware that's probably worthy of a 10 - makes it useless. This is a perf number. Nerds can talk to their friends about this number, and try to OC to hit the number. It would be a GREAT marketing tool with early adopters, which means it's something
you need to showcase right out of the box. We're wasting a great opportunity here.


Your bathroom scale probably stops at 300 pounds, but that doesn't make it useless (or maybe it does). I agree with you, we need better marketing, but people in the value chain and everyday users are already using WEI to good effect. As to the WEI number itself, it is on an absolute scale that will be periodically adjusted upward to reflect advances in technology.

I think the bottom line is that we need better marketing. I hope we get some, but even if we don't these features are already gaining excellent traction and I'm proud to have helped.

Anonymous said...

just wondering at what stage in the comments we get the ubiquitous link to some thread on channel9 where the same 10 fanboy posters ruminate about something they know nothing about...

You mean like the Windows.com post?


and that would be where exactly?

Perhaps MS should listen to it's "fan boys" more often. or it's customers... or anyone!

MS people spend as much time listening as the fanboys do posting. which is a lot. opinions are like a-holes though, everyone has one. given the size of the customer base, that's a lot of opinion

Anonymous said...

I'm a new manager at MS, but I think the careercompass tool is pretty good. It has clear descriptions of what expecations are for each job. There is some confusion (for me) between the difference in CSP and Competencies, but overall I think it's good. It's better than what we had at my last company, at least.

Anonymous said...

A comment on awesome groups @ Microsoft. The last really great team I worked for was IIS 4.0... yeah, that was a long time ago. I've long since left the company.

Is that you, Keith? (one awesome developer, I must add...)

Heh, nope, I worked for Don Brown and Tony Godfrey, (two very awesome test managers...) SDET turned DJ.

Mr Biased said...

If you want awesome, cool and new try Exchange Hosted Services. Building massive scale internet services and new enterprise businesses. Nothing on the desktop or even in the on prem data center. No faddy web 2.0 rebuild of office but real value added service. Nothing fly by night, very focused on the customers (who pays real $$). A lot of stuff is outside of what MS people traditionally learn or are good at so you get to build new muscle. OK I’m biased. Lots of senior openings as well so lots of opportunity and don’t expect some underfunded group that will get swallowed up by windows or office next year. We are here to stay.

Anonymous said...

I disagree [with rewarding teams instead of individuals]. Many times I have seen projects and teams saved through the heroic actions of ordinary ICs. Are the 9-5ers to share in the reward for the success for a project that they would have allowed to fail? That would purge both the superstars and the Kims we have left in the ranks for sure, leaving MS adrift in a sea of mediocrity.

Reward individual actions to support teamwork; not the teams themselves. Your suggestion is insanity.


aha! here's the root of the microsoft disease: the myth of the lone hero. see, the individual hero only exists in a world where mediocrity is the norm -- great teams that do great things absolutely cannot do them with just one great hero, it's not possible. great teams doing great things means that everyone on the team is doing great work, and when you reward those teams based on what they produce the few people who drag the team down will stand out like a sore thumb and will be moved-on because the team won't stand for them. rewarding teams creates a self-selecting high bar, rewarding individuals creates a culture where a vast sea of crappy people can safely fly under the radar while the individual hero gets the spotlight.

at microsoft, where the norm has long-since evolved to lowest common denominators flying under the radar and nobody has the damn guts to get rid of crappy performers, the only thing that keeps products moving is the hero IC... but you can see it in our products that one lone hero isn't enough to make things great, it's just enough to get crap out the door. in our current environment, OF COURSE you tailor your rewards to that one heroic person and give the majority just enough to keep the cranks turning.

there will *always* be the individual hero -- even in high-performing teams you'll find natural leaders. those people will still rise to the top when you base rewards on the success of the entire team, the difference is that you'll have a healthy team of energized people living in a fair system where success is actually based on, um, success. :P

Anonymous said...

Re bizdogs quote in the intro: "Fixing that is a cultural thing and all the HR tools, comp packages and other rantings won't fix this."

and a bunch of other related laments on lack of direction and missing an enthusiastic purpose:

Comment from outside looking in:
It seems to me that what is missing is an individual purpose bigger than oneself. A lot of me concerns here and even more complaints about selfish managerial decisions instead of selfless ones.

To encourage the troops one needs to a)have a mission b)believe in the mission and c)make sure the mission is full of conscience, conscientious concern for the customer and employees and full of positives that make others want to believe.

How you meld all that while making really great products is one and the same process.

jamie said...

RE: Anonymous said...
just wondering at what stage in the comments we get the ubiquitous link to some thread on channel9 where the same 10 fanboy posters ruminate about something they know nothing about...

You mean like the Windows.com post?

and that would be where exactly?

Perhaps MS should listen to it's "fan boys" more often. or it's customers... or anyone!

MS people spend as much time listening as the fanboys do posting. which is a lot. opinions are like a-holes though, everyone has one. given the size of the customer base, that's a lot of opinion

Tuesday, March 13, 2007 10:25:37 AM


HERE: http://channel9.msdn.com/ShowPost.aspx?PostID=288708#288708

or here:

http://c9park.wordpress.com

or here:

http://www.channel9.ca/index.html

or here:

http://www.winnews.com

or.....

* we care is all. ...but it sometimes appears nobody listens....

Who da'Punk said...

You get no argument from me that we need better marketing. Have you thought about talking to marketing? I'm a developer. I write software.

Paulsc gets my respect for deftly dealing with grumbly feedback.

I made a mistake in letting some snarky comments come through. I want people to be able to praise their groups without worrying about someone coming along to poke them with sharp sticks. So for this post, from here on, I'm upping the filter to bounce negative comments on positive sharing.

Poke me with a sharp stick if I let something through by mistake.

(You can always blog to your heart's content if you have to share with the world your feedback; linking to this post's full URL will show up in the link section.)

Sean Kelleher said...

The Windows CE group is hiring!
Come work on consumer electronics!

We're staffing up like crazy, so it's a great time to join. We need senior SDEs, SDETs, and PMs.

We provide the OS, middleware, and applications for all manner of gadgets: handheld GPS, car navigation, digital media receivers and recorders, Zune, etc.

We're particularly interested in people with strong backgrounds in multi-media, shell, or browsers.

I don't see the job descriptions in our database yet, but check back in a couple of days.

Reasons this is a great team:

Lots of individual autonomy.
Wide variety of technologies to learn.
Smart, motivated people.
Embedded devices out-sell PCs 90:1.

http://www.microsoft.com/windows/embedded/eval/wince/default.mspx

Anonymous said...

In case people didn’t realize, the Microsoft award weekend event this past weekend in San Francisco was a big huge L68+ Partner boondoggle - 2nd annual boondoggle - for the Partners and their spouses to network and enjoy extravagance after extravagance, all expenses paid.

And give out some achievement awards and invite the nominees and their spouses to enjoy the extravagance, too (just, shh!, don't tell anyone else - seriously!).

Once upon a time, we invested money in making the employees happy as part of sharing "Hey, we appreciate you and the hard work you do. Let's party!." We had great entertainment at the Company Meeting, for instance. Now we supply the entertainment ourselves with employees up on stage singing to us. Great. Yes, let's save all that money for the Partners so that they can go to the Fairmont and enjoy Penn & Teller and meet George Lucas.

Sure. We'll eat cake.

Anonymous said...

"Yes, let's save all that money for the Partners so that they can go to the Fairmont and enjoy Penn & Teller and meet George Lucas."

Ouch.

Anonymous said...

Another good team is Windows International. Julieb is the new GM, she used to be a dev and a very good one at that, so she understand engineering and know what it takes. Team morale is great, more than just people happy after ship Vista.

c said...

What about Windows Live Search for Mobile

Well, I don't know about the team, but the product is awesome. It's fast, responsive, and the UI doesn't blow chunks. And search even works well!

A pity that its competence doomed it to a stealth launch. If it was crap, marketing would be all over it.

Anonymous said...

I'm a new manager at MS, but I think the careercompass tool is pretty good.

You use the word "but" where the word "and" would have been more appropriate.

Career Compass is one of those many things I call "sausage" (http://blogs.msdn.com/cashto/archive/2007/02/21/sausage-sausage-sausage.aspx). "Sausage" is essentially anything that gets more appealing the less you know about it. For example, the slogan of "pay for performance" is an eminently reasonable concept -- but the more you get into it, the more you realize just how fiendishly difficult it is to objectively and fairly measure engineer performance.

In the end, any performance evaluation system can only be as good as the managers that implement it. In my opinion, it should have stopped there. Yet HR continues to perform increasingly bizarre contorsions in order to find some mythical process which can't be fucked up even by the most unclueful manager.

Career compass and myMicrosoft only serve to provide the illusion that not only does such a process exist, but that we've actually gone and implemented it.

There is some confusion (for me) between the difference in CSP and Competencies.

Briefly put, CSPs reflect what you've actually done, whereas competencies reflect what you're capable of doing.

(Hilarity ensues when you discover that there's a huge disconnect between what one is capable of doing, and what one is asked, allowed, or empowered to do. This one seems to come up a lot in my own group, incidentally).

Personally I don't put much stock in the CSP descriptions. If you read them carefully, they differ from each other only by subtle variations in magnitude. At one level, a dev is responsible for "a feature"; the next, for "feature area"; and finally "feature areas" (plural). All of these terms are undefined and can be interpreted -- ARE, in fact, interpreted subjectively by the management chain.

Anonymous said...

OK, so I have been reading the bellyaching for a while and feel I must say something. *It's not about the money*. I know hardly anyone who thinks working for MS is all about the money (well, not anymore). The reason I am here is to make the best darned OS ever! And in the mean time, ship releases of Windows NT ;-) I have had the honor of working on Windows 2000, XP, Server 2003, Vista and now (elided for confidentiality reasons), both as test IC and as dev IC. Being able to shape components in Windows over multiple releases is *the reason* I work for MS.

Anonymous said...

Mini - If the people within those groups can't see obvious problems, it points to leadership problems within the groups (the blind leading the blinder). The LAST thing we need to see in this blog are opinions from people that are oblivious as senior managers at Microsoft!

And in this case, Paul opened the door by talking about how great his features/team are. People thinking about moving to that team should know what customers think of the features. I didn't randomly bash Paul or his team. I commented on the "wonderful" features he was talking about. I'm glad he's happy in his team, but someone else might see some of these problems and realize they wouldn't be happy there.

PaulSC - thanks for responding. I didn't think it was "grumbly feedback" as someone else put it. I wrote the post you responded to, but I'm going to remain Mr. Anonymous

"Lots of people say lots of snippy things on lots of blogs and newsgroups, including this one. What matters to me and ultimately to Microsoft is what happens at the point of sale and everyday use, and WEI is doing a great job there."

Well, what matters to ME, and ultimately to Microsoft, is that we sell TONS OF COPIES OF VISTA!! :) As I stated earlier, some of the features your team is responsible for are *preventing* people from even heading to the store to see the new PC's.

A salesman will tell any lie they can come up with to make a sale (esp. one at Best Buy). So I don't really think that's a big feather in your cap, but in the end it does move more machines, and that's a good thing for everyone.

So if you want to think of it as a sales tool, how do you differentiate two 5.9 systems today? And how do you think the typical BestBuy salesperson differentiatest those systems today?

You mentioned that outside of retail, users are using the WEI. What are they using it for?

And I know it will be adjusted later. But the fact remains that at launch, you didn't have to build a top of the line system to max out all of the scores. You left no room for growth in the RTM version of the product.

"You get no argument from me that we need better marketing. Have you thought about talking to marketing? I'm a developer. I write software."

YOUR feature is costing us money, not mine. YOU go push on your management to get it fixed. And it doesn't matter if it's dev/test/PM/UX/UA/CSS/marketing...it's a TEAM effort.

(regarding Readyboost) "Anybody with a system that cannot be easily or cost-effectively upgraded would disagree with you."

Uh no, they wouldn't. Readyboost makes a crappy experience (and let's be honest about Vista and 512MB of RAM) a little more tolerable. It does NOT make a crappy experience good.

RAM is cheap (a LOT cheaper than a copy of Windows). I can't think of any case where it wouldn't be easy and relatively cheap to upgrade a Vista-class PC from 512MB of RAM to 1GB. Laptop RAM is more expensive, but again, it's still cheaper than Windows. 1GB of DDR RAM is $65 or less.

"Not every feature is equally useful to every person. For example, I don't use the Currency gadget or Game Controller CPL all that much. "

Great point. But ReadyBoost is the only one of that group that gets mentioned in reviews and is prominently featured on the Vista website. So there's SOME promotion of it (I wouldn't exactly call it marketing, but it IS one of the key features), and it's not living up to it's billing. Again, I don't know if it's us overselling it,
or if it's users expecting too much. I tend to think it's our fault though.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of good/bad places to work at MS, Windows Security can be a bit dodgy depending on what team you look at. The post RTM re-org has hit some teams harder than others in terms of people seeking greener pastures in the aftermath, although the on again off again rumor of desired attrition to shrink the org probably doesn't help matters. Oh, and the Peter Principle is also in full effect. Wait several months for critical mass to be achieved and then once the debris settles, maybe you can be a PM director too.

Anonymous said...

RE: Anonymous said...
just wondering at what stage in the comments we get the ubiquitous link to some thread on channel9 where the same 10 fanboy posters ruminate about something they know nothing about...

You mean like the Windows.com post?

and that would be where exactly?

Perhaps MS should listen to it's "fan boys" more often. or it's customers... or anyone!

MS people spend as much time listening as the fanboys do posting. which is a lot. opinions are like a-holes though, everyone has one. given the size of the customer base, that's a lot of opinion

Tuesday, March 13, 2007 10:25:37 AM


HERE: http://channel9.msdn.com/ShowPost.aspx?PostID=288708#288708

or here:

http://c9park.wordpress.com

or here:

http://www.channel9.ca/index.html

or here:

http://www.winnews.com

or.....

* we care is all. ...but it sometimes appears nobody listens....


Looks like there's no responses to the thread you mention, on a forum where there are plenty of replies about everything and nothing.

You can't really complain the borg isn't listening when buddy enthusiasts aren't interested in the topic themselves - feedback takes critical mass to be effective. In a lot of cases it is quantity-driven. This isn't an MS idea, it's standard stuff for any commercial org.

And it takes time for it to get turned back out into a solution/product/feature.

Anonymous said...

Great. Yes, let's save all that money for the Partners so that they can go to the Fairmont and enjoy Penn & Teller and meet George Lucas.

Who's going to be the first to post this on Lisa's internal blog?

On the other hand, the Windows holiday party this year...uh, what holiday party? Okay, the Windows ship-it gift, er. Okay, the holiday gift we all got for, um, er... well, at least the stock price is...okay, we'll it's mid year review time when I get my...

Never mind.

Anonymous said...

Keith Moore is back with IIS for v7.

!!!

You get PhilliCh and JohnL back over there, and you'll have my resume.

Anonymous said...

+1 on the WinSec PM Director comment. Very dictatorial and hierarchical - stifles free flow of ideas completely.

Paulsc said...

Dear Mr. Anonymous at Wednesday, 12:28:07 AM:

Well, by now I'm a little grumbly myself and it will probably show up in this post.

PaulSC - thanks for responding. I didn't think it was "grumbly feedback" as someone else put it. I wrote the post you responded to, but I'm going to remain Mr. Anonymous

Suit yourself. I always post with my real name, as I have nothing to hide. I like the group where I work, I like the people who work there, and I like the work we do.

Well, what matters to ME, and ultimately to Microsoft, is that we sell TONS OF COPIES OF VISTA!! :) As I stated earlier, some of the features your team is responsible for are *preventing* people from even heading to the store to see the new PC's.

Says you. This is just wrong on its face. We are supposed to accept this unsubstantiated statement from some anonymous guy on a blog?

A salesman will tell any lie they can come up with to make a sale (esp. one at Best Buy). So I don't really think that's a big feather in your cap, but in the end it does move more machines, and that's a good thing for everyone.

Hmmm...so it does move more machines after all. Doesn't this contradict what you just said in the paragraph above?

So if you want to think of it as a sales tool, how do you differentiate two 5.9 systems today? And how do you think the typical BestBuy salesperson differentiatest those systems today?

Gosh, I guess it would be by other features not measured by the Windows Experience Index, the price, configuration, bundle and overall deal. But, you know, I'm no salesman or marketing guy. I'm a developer. I write software.

You mentioned that outside of retail, users are using the WEI. What are they using it for?

Why don't you try typing "Windows Experience Index" into a search engine and read about it for yourself?

And I know it will be adjusted later. But the fact remains that at launch, you didn't have to build a top of the line system to max out all of the scores. You left no room for growth in the RTM version of the product.

People should have achievable goals, and there is always room for growth. One only need read your posts to understand that! We can update the scale anytime we want.

YOUR feature is costing us money, not mine. YOU go push on your management to get it fixed. And it doesn't matter if it's dev/test/PM/UX/UA/CSS/marketing...it's a TEAM effort.

Once again, you contradict yourself, except for the fact that it is a team effort. It is, was, and continues to be a team effort by some of the best and most competent people at Microsoft.

Readyboost makes a crappy experience (and let's be honest about Vista and 512MB of RAM) a little more tolerable. It does NOT make a crappy experience good.

Because you say so? I don't think so. We have plenty of hard data that says otherwise. Rants on a blog by anonymous posters are cheap.

This will be the last of your posts that I will respond to. If you have actual feedback supported by more than emotion and really work at Microsoft, you know how to get hold of me. I'm sure the whole team would like to hear your creative ideas and thoughtful criticism.

Greg Linden said...

The fact that many people at Microsoft seem to be looking for an "awesome" group would seem to be a real opportunity for good managers.

Regardless of what dysfunction exists in the rest of Microsoft, make your group awesome and it appears you will get your pick of the best people from across the company.

Treat your people well, involve everyone in decisions and planning, write good code, keep people constantly learning, make your group feel elite, add perks that no other group has, and keep the work fun, challenging, and exciting.

Make your group the place to be. Do not get dragged down by that which you cannot change, the problems elsewhere. Within the beast, build yourself an island of awesome.

Sean Kelleher said...

To follow up on open jobs in Windows CE: do a keyword search for "WEBU-WCE" to see them.

Anonymous said...

At Berkshire, the highest paid executive listed is Marc Hamburg, the vice president and chief financial officer. He received compensation valued at $673,500 in 2006, which includes $662,500 salary and an $11,000 contribution to a defined contribution plan.

And Buffett and Munger both reimburse Berkshire at the end of the year to cover any personal costs, such as postage or calls the company may have paid for. Buffett paid the company $50,000 in 2006, and Munger reimbursed Berkshire $5,500.

Anonymous said...

Great. Yes, let's save all that money for the Partners so that they can go to the Fairmont and enjoy Penn & Teller and meet George Lucas.

Who's going to be the first to post this on Lisa's internal blog?

--

Remember, the company is for the partners and by the partners.

keeperplanet said...

I said: >"How you meld all that while making really great products is one and the same process."

Noting a number of announcements about XBOX Live being ported to PCs, well that's a start:
Vista Gamers to Get Xbox Experience
http://www.technewsworld.com/story/8F3kRO62iS0Vcv/Vista-Gamers-to-Get-Xbox-Experience.xhtml

However, from the perspective of most, including myself, Microsoft management still does not quite get it. It's more of an issue of having faith in the sales process, your product quality and customers, by trusting customers to enthusiastically and voluntarily coming to Microsoft because of that faith. Leveraging to force customers is really a 19th century idea and does not belong in these days of deeper customer wisdom.

I noted this article by Oliver Welsh on Gizmodo about Valve's Steam and discussions with Doug Lombardi, Valve's marketing manager. Here:
http://www.gamesindustry.biz/content_page.php?aid=23438

What's great about Lombardi's vision vs what one would hear from the leveraged manipulations any Microsoft customer has learned to endure and longs for the day when he has a real choice to switch, is that Valve is a company with a vision more based on providing for the customer . . . almost in a religious way of care and concern, responsibility and appreciation of the customer's loyalty.

That is Something XBOX is trying to emulate, but just can't quite trust the customer to make the right decision, so the old gestalt of `steal it while you can' still dominates inside Microsoft marketing and management.

The article is a must read for every softie to grasp a couple of things: the perception of the market must be customer based. I found it interesting that sixty percent of Valve customers bought Valve products retail after an online experience. Not every gamer wants to play all the time online. Valve is servicing this need, just as it is servicing the need for indie support through steam source, PC gamers, etc.

I am sure Microsoft will continue to improve and work on these things, but it will take some serious changes in direction first.

Buying Tellme is a huge first step. Let's see if Microsoft can manage to bring the computing world present in human story of 'Minority Report' to life, starting with voice control of all computing experiences. Imagine that if you need a vision.

Meanwhile, I just installed Windowblinds so I don't feel left out of the Vista UI experience while maintaining the robust quality needed to continue computing using XP.

Anonymous said...

"You get PhilliCh and JohnL back over there, and you'll have my resume."

Not familiar with those two. I dind't start with IIS until the last half of v5. I do miss Don Brown too, he was probably the best test manager IIS has ever seen.

Anonymous said...

"If you want awesome, cool and new try Exchange Hosted Services."

Well I agree it's pretty "new" in that the current Exchange Hosted Services is built entirely on Linux.

Anonymous said...

A la David Letterman:
Top Ten Reasons Why Career Compass Sucks

1. Forget taxes. I am way madder about how my productivity goes to feeding Catbert and his masters.
2. Any hope I had of LisaB saving the company is lost.
3. You know that there is a team in HR waiting to overanalyze the data from the tool, after they pay a consulting firm to create their queries and reports, since they can’t code, that is.
4. HR can now justify their inflated salaries, “I did everything on the list for my CSP, so my career model says that I am a level 64.”
5. I bet LCA loves it too. “Look, exhibit A ‘Career Stage Profile for Attorney’ shows that I am a level 66.”
6. CSP. Does that stand for “Career Stage Profile” or “Communism Stage Profile”?
7. Google is now validated. Its employees can rightly say that Google is the better place to work.
8. Mark my words. If he survives that long, SteveB will eventually say, “The Career Compass blah blah blah will never happen again.”
9. I bet SteveB does not have the option in the tool to select “Stay at Home Dad” as a career move in which he is interested.
10. There is no CSP for “Chief Truth Officer”, which is Mini’s real role at the company. 

Anonymous said...

My RSS reader picked up a new post from you, and then it disappeared. Something about Vista 2007, fire the leadership now! Can we see?

Anonymous said...

OT, but interesting. Shouldn't someone at Microsoft be ranked higher on this list? http://www.pcworld.com/printable/article/id,129301/printable.html
Sad how we're decreasing in relevance...

Anonymous said...

"Treat your people well, involve everyone in decisions and planning, write good code, keep people constantly learning, make your group feel elite, add perks that no other group has, and keep the work fun, challenging, and exciting."

You got it, Buffalo Bob! One note: Elite is NOT GOOD. Leads to arrogance, insularity and fiefdom-building. I think you could replace that word with "important" or "capable" or "enthusiastic".

Well done.

Who da'Punk said...

Comment feed now live: this blog switched to the new Blogger last night.

Each post now has its own feed for comments. If you're using a browser like IE7 or Firefox, you can pop your RSS icon and discover it as (of now) the third feed listed.

Let me know if there are any issues to pass on regarding this.

Mini.

Anonymous said...

You want an example of awesome places to work within MS? Microsoft Game Studios - and specifically the 1st party studios - and even more specifically Bungie, Rare and Lionhead.

Great work, great morale, people banging on the doors to get in.

Why? Because MS leaves them alone and they manage themselves. You get MS paycheck and benefits without the BS. However, those places generate their own BS.

Anonymous said...

So, I'm upgrading an XP box to Vista, and good grief, what a train wreck of an experience. I put the disc in, and the first thing it asks is to do an online compatibility check. Okay, fine.

Click.

It wants to download the advisor! Hello, I have the disc in the drive, why are you downloading the advisor? Because the team was too eff'd to get the thing done for RTM? And it's not some silent, watch the progress bar while we get stuff in the background thing. It takes me to a standard, effin incomprehensible Microsoft.com download site.

Eeediots. But fine, I'll download the thing.

Okay, downloaded, click run.

"Hello, we're sorry, we need a new version of msxml to work. Click here to download."

Argh! Morons. Okay, click to download.

Another effin Microsoft.com download page, this one even worse, because I have to pick the architecture I need to download. Now, I know what an ia64 is, but whos grandma knows that? Hell, who knows that besides people who work for Microsoft and Intel?

Well, msxml6 is now installing.

Since people are advertising teams, I assume there are a gazillion openings on the Windows Setup Team, because the entire Vista team was fired for this fiasco?

Wait, we're back again. MSXML6 is installed. Now, where's the upgrade advisor? Gone. Need to "download" it again from microsoft.com,. cause it ain't installed anywhere. Holly freaking moley.

The Partners were all fired too, right?

No?

Why am I not surprised.

Someone is responsible for this disaster, and I don't mean some L62 dev lead and his L61 ICs.

Anonymous said...

Anyone else read Gunnar Mein's feeble attempt (see InsideMS blog)at justifying why the members of the "Technical Community Network" and their spouses needed to be flown to Vancouver last year and SF this year for a self-congratulatory gala event?

Yes, the partners are hard done by. Work is just too stressful of a place for them to talk with their peers. They need a kinder, gentler atmosphere where they and their significant others can speak freely.

I'm not saying we shouldn't recognize the top 1 or 2 brilliant technical minds in the company. We should. We just shouldn't pay for the expense of shipping the other 499 to a different city just so the can move their hands together in a clapping motion in unison.

Apparently it's not enough to be outrageously compensated, the partners now need to form a reacharound committee to pat themselves on the back. Kind of like the Academy Awards.

And did anyone else see that J Allard was nominated for a technical acheivement award? J Allard? His only technical acheivement has been the creation of a machine that vaporizes dollar bills.

Anonymous said...

OT, but interesting. Shouldn't someone at Microsoft be ranked higher on this list? http://www.pcworld.com/printable/article/id,129301/printable.html
Sad how we're decreasing in relevance...


Wow. That list is amazing! You've hit the nail on the head. Microsoft's impact on the web has almost completely vanished.

Here's an interesting link. Check out Ballmer's take on Google's business strategy:

http://www.macworld.com/news/2007/03/16/ballmer/index.php

He's got some balls to question the business strategy of a company making money hand over fist while his own bleeds cash from the death of a thousand cuts.

Anonymous said...

And did anyone else see that J Allard was nominated for a technical acheivement award? J Allard? His only technical acheivement has been the creation of a machine that vaporizes dollar bills.

Another award winner hasn't done anything other than an HR generalist. I leave it as an exercise to the reader to figure out who.

Anonymous said...

"He's got some balls to question the business strategy of a company making money hand over fist while his own bleeds cash from the death of a thousand cuts."

Personally, I would just as soon Ballmer and the rest of the executive team learned the cardinal rule which is to never disparage competitors, but your "bleeds cash" comment is completely inaccurate and makes you out to be the ABM troll that you no doubt are.

Anonymous said...

> [Ballmer's] got some balls to question the business strategy of a company making money hand over fist while his own bleeds cash from the death of a thousand cuts.

Almost. Ballmer's company makes money hand over fist; Ballmer's web services/search divisions bleeds cash and would, if not propped up by the two cash cows of OSes and Office, cause the company to die, not the slow death of a thousand cuts, but something a bit more rapid and dramatic.

MSS

Nelson Biagio Jr said...

Hi, my friend, what's up?

And how about Microsoft MVP Global Summit? Did you see the Robert Scoble's post?

Regards

Anonymous said...

DogH,

I agree that Ballmer should Just Quit, but when has he ever done the right thing?

He won't quit, and he'll keep running the company aground until the owners fire him. BG holds a lot of shares, but he doesn't hold a controlling interest. Fire Ballmer at the next annual meeting, or your company is just going to continue to decline.

Anonymous said...

Want to know where the FUN jobs are located? It's in the FIELD! SMSG - specifically technical consulting and Premier Support. Formerly Rick Devenuti, now Maria Martinez. US Services headed by Brian Boruff. An AMAZING group of leaders.

NOTHING more rewarding than direct interface with the customers with us as the go-to experts

We have awesome teams, strong intra and inter-group collab, clear goals and objectives, a culture of "no tolerance for non-performers," and a solid & clear mission: assist customers with software deployment planning, execution, and operation.

I've been in the field for 10+ years, my entire career. I have consistently been provided with challenges and opportunities for growth and promotion.

I cannot imagine working anywhere else in the company (or outside of Microsoft), and certainly plan (and hope) to be here for another 10 years.

Is it hard work? Yes. The travel plays hell on the family and work-life balance.

Do I love the work? YOU BET!

Am I comp'ed well? As well as or better than my peers in other consulting companies.

Ask anyone in Microsoft Consulting or Premier Support if he/she likes the job - I bet you get a higher positive response than any other group.

Anonymous said...

>Anyone else read Gunnar Mein's feeble attempt (see InsideMS blog)at justifying why the members of the "Technical Community Network" and their spouses needed to be flown to Vancouver last year and SF this year for a self-congratulatory gala event?

Some bozo partner came around and tried to bash an IC dev in the internal blog. The dev was just stating the obvious in very clear terms, just as a dev would. And Lisa Brumel doesnt trust the blog, she wants people to do MSPOLL instead.

Anonymous said...

Top ten reasons the partners rock.

10. A select group that managed up.
9. When in the company of partners, it feels like a small company.
8. We are not like IBM. IBM took eighty years to get to the bottom. We will get there in forty.
7. Partnership is a meritocracy
6. Every partner is gods gift to humanity
5. If you are accountable, you are not fit to be a partner.
4. If you are not a partner, you arent worth anything
3. MSFT is a company of the partnes, by the partners and to the partners.
2. If you cant get along with the next partner, welcome to the club! We will set up a morale event for your family.
1. Non partners - are they crying for bread? Let them eat cake instead.

Anonymous said...

"Some bozo partner came around and tried to bash an IC dev in the internal blog."

You must have been on a different blog: all I recall is some poor fellow's whining about how the partners were getting unfair rewards getting him ripped on by a variety of people. Kind of sad really how envy consumes some people.

(BTW, I'm amused you still think I'm a partner. LOL)

Anonymous said...

Maybe our hiring binge is our way of cutting off Google's air supply? Nothing else seems to work, so Steve probably thought "lets suck out the oxygen from the atmosphere and hope they die".

If that's the case, the strategy is not really working. We're having a hard time keeping qualified people, not to mention attracting them.

Anonymous said...

Personally, I would just as soon Ballmer and the rest of the executive team learned the cardinal rule which is to never disparage competitors, but your "bleeds cash" comment is completely inaccurate and makes you out to be the ABM troll that you no doubt are.

I'm no troll. I don't even know what "ABM" stands for, so I can't comment there. I'm just an observer, and if what I'm seeing isn't "the death of a thousand cuts" now, then it is rapidly becoming so.

As this commentor astutely stated:

Almost. Ballmer's company makes money hand over fist; Ballmer's web services/search divisions bleeds cash and would, if not propped up by the two cash cows of OSes and Office, cause the company to die, not the slow death of a thousand cuts, but something a bit more rapid and dramatic.

EVERYTHING but Office and Windows is a cut that bleeds. With the negative Vista reviews, how long before Windows becomes the biggest cut of all?

Anonymous said...

In this article in the San Jose Mercury News, Ballmer says: At Microsoft, Ballmer said the threats he worried about most were new business models, such as advertising-based media sites and open-source software companies, most of whom give away their code for free.

Um, forgive the insolence, but apparently Ballmer doesn't watch much TV where they give the programming away for free. In fact, this revolutionary new business model (of giving stuff away for free) has been going on in the Television space for over 50 years.

I guess the notion of giving away something of lesser value (e.g. TV programming or MSFT software) in order to gain something of greater value (e.g. advertising bucks) is still too difficult the Redmond billionaires to grasp.

Anonymous said...

You must have been on a different blog: all I recall is some poor fellow's whining about how the partners were getting unfair rewards getting him ripped on by a variety of people. Kind of sad really how envy consumes some people.

And here we have a perfect demonstration of what is wrong with MSFT's leadership. No matter how many times some poor, long-suffering grunt explains why the partner compensation plan is wrong, the partners (or partner-wannabes) stick their fingers in their ears and say "la la la la I can't hear you. You're just jealous."

Gunnar, proof by repeated assertion is a logical falacy, and a piss-poor method of leadership.

The rank and file are unhappy about the huge payouts and luxury packages (like the boondoggle trip to SF) given to a group that has utterly failed at their jobs, forcing said rank and file to work nights and weekends to make up for their leaders incompetence.

This is not about pay, it is about accountability, and mostly, it is about a plan to somehow get our collective asses out of the rut we are stuck in as a company. We have thousands of talented, experienced, skillful employees across the company who's work is being squandered, hindered, compromosed and generally fucked up by incompetent leadership, piss-poor strategy, misdirected investments, irresponsible behavior and general all-around lack of success by the 800 or so most senior people at the company.

But the company shows no sign of getting this, because it continues to throw money at the Failures We Call Partners, and then chalks up any complaints to "jealousy." At the same time, it tries to cut costs by skimping on raises, skimping on hardware budget, skimping of facilities, and telling the accomplished, successful Kims that they are Limited, Too, and shouln't let the door hit them on the way out.

Framkly, I believe that the Partners know the company is doomed because they have no fucking clue how to make it sucessful again. So they aren't trying - they're just pillaging the money for as long as it holds out.


Sorry, that's more profanity than I usually use, but I am damn angry about what these incompetent fools are doing to Microsoft.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Anonymous @ 3/16 8:52 pm... I've been in the field for the past two years and absolutely love it. The reason I'm here is that my husband got a job in Silicon Valley, and my team happily let me follow him out. I work from home every day, so the commute is not an issue. My manager's top priority is advancing my career (be that inside or outside the group), and his second highest priority is helping me maintain my work/life balance. Those aren't just words; he supported my applying for a position with another team a few months ago, and when I decided it wasn't right for me, he welcomed me back with zero hostility. He even set up a 1:1 for me with my skip-skip level manager when she was in town for a visit, where all we talked about was where I wanted to go with my career and what she could do to help me get there. My manager is working with me right now to make my job (traditionally high-travel and high-stress) doable during my first pregnancy. I'm a developer by background and sometimes I miss coding day in and day out, but I love where I'm at and can't imagine changing.

Anyway, SteveB was down at SVC earlier this week, and someone asked him why MS doesn't seem to be investing much in our internal IT systems, e.g. the fact that we have no way to do our expense reports offline (a major pain point for those of us in the field). Steve's response? He said that MSIT's first priority is dogfooding our products. OK, fair enough. But he went on to say that they are trying to invest more in not just dogfooding but developing their own stuff, and they're starting with -- you'll love this -- the HR systems. Yes, he held up CareerCompass as a shining example of our investment in internal IT.

Why start with HR? Because it affects the whole company, so any investments there will have the widest impact. (I guess it never crossed his mind that any screw-ups there will also have the widest impact.)

Just remember, when you're clicking on random buttons that seem to have nothing to do with your job, you're reaping the rewards of our investment in internal IT!

Anonymous said...

>> forcing said rank and file to work nights and weekends to make up

Whoa there, buddy. In my 7 years at MSFT, management only tried to "force" me once, and I gave them a finger by not coming with no consequences. If someone forces you to work nights and weekends, you better change groups, otherwise you'll just burn out in 3 years and will spend the rest of your MS career vegetating in your office because you won't care anymore.

Anonymous said...

If you haven't read the recent story about Ballmer's chat at Stanford, heres some highlight quotes which he made regarding Google:


"They're going to double in a year. That's insane, in my opinion,"


He then went on to compare their hiring increase with our own growth over three decades (I have no idea what that has to do with anything and his argument is weak at best)
"What that's allowed us to do is build up a base of capable people.."

Oh wait, but theres more..

"They're still really one business, and it's a search and advertising business," he said. Google's other efforts have been "cute," he said.

Look, I love this company. I really do. But I wish we didn't go mouthing off like that about competitors, I mean its totally uncalled for and laughable really. I wonder what those students thought?

Re: Mid year reviews. I have to admit I was skeptical about YAT (Yet Another Tool) but careercompass made it a hell of a lot easier. It was less work to fill out. I think a few other folks have also pointed this out, but reviews really shouldn't come as a surprise to you or to your manager and in theory, should just be a 'formality'. It takes some work getting to that point (finding the right manager/communication methods) but once you're there, its a lot easier.

Anonymous said...

Speaking as someone looking to diversify my investment portfolio, I wouldn't dream of risking my capital in MSFT shares while poseurs like Allard still have a job there.

Anonymous said...

Re Ballmer's chat at Stanford: there's actually one thing MS does better than Google and that's basic research. MSR is one of the top CS departments in the world. People do top grade research and publish it in journals and conference with zero internal censorship. Google also has researchers, but their work is much closer to product dev than research. They don't publish much. So far only one MSR researcher
http://ciprian.chelba.googlepages.com/
has switched to Google, compared with scored of people from other MS groups. Not that low-brow Ballmer has what it takes to appreciate that. MSR is Bill's baby; if it were up to his ape pal, the place would have been shut down long time ago. If fact, MSR was deported to its current off-campus location, in what's arguably one of MS worst buildings, when Ballmer took over as CEO in 2000.

Anonymous said...

Any opinion of AdCenter as a good group to join? They have a lot of job postings.

Anonymous said...

Why aren't the cool things from MSR not coming out as products? Or, Does anyone have a list of such succesful transitions?

Makes me wonder - MSR seems to be doing some ultra cool stuff but we never get to ship any 'cool' product.

Anonymous said...

there's actually one thing MS does better than Google and that's basic research ... Google also has researchers, but their work is much closer to product dev than research.

Microsoft is trying like heck to get its research to map to product dev. For so many years (and billions of dollars) it didn't. When we missed the turn in Search, MSR came under the microscope. Its the product team's job to keep them there.

Anonymous said...

By and large, MSR is a drain on the company. It's Bill's path to academic legitimacy - I think he has been personally affected by widespread claims of MS stealing ideas, not doing any original work and also by his dropout status. The value MSR brings to the company pales in comparison with its budget.

A more product / customer focused research outfit like Google's is what MSR should morph into.

Anonymous said...

A great place to work is SoftGrid, a groundbreaking product offering application virtualization, result of a 2006 acquisition (Softricity). It's a small team in Boston, MA, far from the all the problems that seem to hit so many teams on main campus. Truly a startup-like experience, shipping an independent product, yet one with great sales and potential (interesting roadmap, fully funded). Nothing like being in a small team, where every individual can make a difference.

If you want a real change, look East, young man :-)
http://www.softricity.com/company/careers.asp

Anonymous said...

If fact, MSR was deported to its current off-campus location, in what's arguably one of MS worst buildings, when Ballmer took over as CEO in 2000.

You do know that Mr. Ballmer owns those buildings on 148th right? He leases them back to Microsoft.

Anonymous said...

I guess everyone has seen the scoble proclamation by now, but its making headlines. Like here.

http://business.timesonline.co.uk/tol/business/industry_sectors/technology/article1529988.ece

So the question is mini, is he right?

Does Microsoft do the s thing or is it just individuals who comprise the whole, thereby creating the illusion that a whole company creates a giant sucking sound. That's got to be tough to be bunched in with such blind opinions.

Or maybe its just selective sucking, like when Mini choses to ignore legitimate posts to make sure his vision of what sucks does not get heard. Its all so confusing.

Me, I remember a culture in America where just using the suck word would be deemed crude and rude. I submit it is still the case, but the difference is nobody (in the free world, anyway,) cares, as it is just a word.

Anonymous said...

Now that the shake-up has begun at MSN, I am hopeful the same will happen at Xbox marketing and sales. If the company is so committed to retaining senior-level women and encouraging diversity, then its time to hold the boys club over there accountable as well. Has anyone looked at (or care about)the attrition rates there? I agree its a cool product inside a company sorely lacking fresh consumer excitement, but the politics and on-going landgrabs there are exhausting. The clique at the top seem to be untouchable despite repeated documented cases of dubious behavoir, financial improprieties, cronyism. All the best and brightest have departed in the last year, and what's left are yes men, resters & vesters, and those who only want to ride it out for the benefits and freebies.

Anonymous said...

http://www.playfuls.com/news_06578_HALO_3_to_Cost_130_No_Xbox_Live_Compatibility_with_PC.html

Quote from article about Halo 3:
"After the recent announcement that in May the Xbox and the PC platforms will be bridged, the newly unveiled details about HALO 3 leave almost no hope for PC fans. As usual, Microsoft is planning to boost sales for its Xbox 360 console using an extremely enticing title, just like they did with HALO 2 (which will be available this year only for Windows Vista) and Gears of War."

I wonder if that is what Scoble meant by saying Microsoft sucks.

Anonymous said...

>So far only one MSR researcher
has switched to Google


Thats not true. Kai-Fu Lee was a high-profile defection..

Anonymous said...

MSR is one of the top CS departments in the world.

Source, please.

People do top grade research and publish it in journals and conference with zero internal censorship.

Source, please.

Google also has researchers, but their work is much closer to product dev than research. They don't publish much.

Source, please.

So far only one MSR researcher
http://ciprian.chelba.googlepages.com/
has switched to Google


Source, please.

MSR is Bill's baby; if it were up to his ape pal, the place would have been shut down long time ago.

Source, please.

If fact, MSR was deported to its current off-campus location, in what's arguably one of MS worst buildings

You need to get out more if you believe the 100 buildings are "one of MS worst buildings".

Based on your lack of proof and supporting details, I can only hope for the sake of Microsoft that you don't represent Microsoft or MSR.

Anonymous said...

Any opinion of AdCenter as a good group to join?

Here's the simple answer to all of these questions: Ask yourself if you believe in and use the product, or are passionate about the technology. If not, it's not the group for you, regardless of what's going on. I've seen people turn around groups that blew because of their passion, and I've seen people do lousy on great teams because they really didn't care about what they worked on. Don't just join a development team for a paycheck, find one that you'll love. If it's not great when you get there, make it great.

Anonymous said...

I think Google is happy for MS to outdo it in basic research. Bell Labs and IBM have come to realize that basic research in Computer Science is not a sound business investment, and I don't expect MS to be far behind in such a realization. Let's face it, MSR hasn't exactly had a stellar track record at producing results that are actually useful to the business. I realize there are a few toy examples here and there, but if all the investment dumped into MSR had been put into building a stronger development organization, you'd have a lot more to show for it.

Anonymous said...

Re: Scoble

People like Google. People like iPod. People like many other things. This is the kind of reaction you get when you insult and try to replace something that people like. Do you think Microsoft would have its piss-poor reputation (and stock performance) if it wasn't constantly "declaring war" on things that people like (including previous versions of Microsoft products like WinXP)? No.

Anonymous said...

If fact, MSR was deported to its current off-campus location, in what's arguably one of MS worst buildings, when Ballmer took over as CEO in 2000.

You do know that Mr. Ballmer owns those buildings on 148th right? He leases them back to Microsoft.

---

I doubt that would be legal. Any proof of that accusation?

Keeperplanet said...

>"Bell Labs and IBM have come to realize that basic research in Computer Science is not a sound business investment, and I don't expect MS to be far behind in such a realization."

I almost don't know where to begin to respond to that. Let me try to scratch the surface of your empty mind. Remember Xerox Parc? You ought to spend an hour or two using your great innovative search engine to learn something.

I have no idea of what consists of MSR, how its managed or what it really does, but the concepts of pure research and applied research are probably the most misunderstood ideas of our time.

IBM and Bell Labs both are responsible for some of the most significant innovations in computer science application since the seventies, which was when Xerox Parc was founded (1970), which is largely why Microsoft has made so much money in the last 25 years.

What is really going on is the dumbing down of America to a large extent starting with the current system of enterprise which forces corporate leaders to abandon R&D years before it bears fruit. Look at Ford. In the early 90's, just ten years after a robust embracing of Japanese auto building ideas that were originally adopted from an American (Dr. W. Edwards Deming), they scaled back their R&D groups look at them (and Chrysler, and GM) today, right back where they were thirty years ago.

No, I would suggest that instead of ten thousand, put that money into 1000 competent talented researchers, tied to a skunkworks development arm with real requirements to develop x products a year. They must however report to a creative and innovative CEO who thinks in terms of long cycle returns for certain segments of the company.

And no, they won't fit into your idea of corporate slavery. Whatever MSR is doing, if it is not spitting out dozens of products that won't see serious markets for ten years, you have the wrong people in there.

Anonymous said...

MSR is not responsible for the fact we missed out on search. MS leadership is to blame. Between 1999-2002 there was much internal effort at MSR to start a search group. Ballmer refused to fund it, for the same reason we didn't have a search product group: he thought of search as a feature, not a cash cow. Only when Google discovered the advertising model and showed that search could bring in billions, did MS start taking search seriously, and MSR / Eric Brill got funding to start a search group.

People seem to think MSR's budget is huge. That's good, it means we're making a splash on a shoestring. In fact, the MSR annual budget worldwide is less than $300 million.

One reason MSR's cool stuff doesn't get into products is that MS product managers suck. Think about all those managers that people on this blog constantly complain how low their quality is. Those are the exact same people that are supposed to pick up sophisticated cutting edge technology from MSR and put it in their products. Such tasks are way over their heads.

Anonymous said...

>>So far only one MSR researcher
>>has switched to Google

>Thats not true. Kai-Fu Lee was a >high-profile defection..

Kai-Fu had started his MS career at MSR. However, by the time he went to Google he had been a VP for a few years. Hence, he is not considered an MSR researcher who has switched to Google.

Anonymous said...

Mini - this was supposed to be a thread to post the good groups that people can move to. And I gotta say...I was shocked to see sales/"the field" on the list because of previous threads. :)

But you're letting a lot of posts from obvious trolls through, including one for someone advertising jobs outside of Microsoft!

Please send some of this nonsense to your cutting room floor.

Fred said...

Keeperplanet,

Your reference to W. Edwards Deming (whom I'd never heard of) prompted me to look him up. Fascinating, and apropos.

One of the reasons I love reading this blog is that the participants are so smart and are versed in the rhetorical and abstract underpinings of systemic thinking.

Microsoft (or, bitching about Microsoft) is an especially good venue for this kind of stuff, since the correlation between the distributed system of the core product (Windows) and the distributed system of the corporation itself (personnel, projects etc.) are interrelated in such a complex and intricate way.

I can think of a certain CEO who would benefit greatly from studying people like Deming (or C. Wright Mills or Alan Kay) but who appear to lack the intellectual acumen.

Anonymous said...

From Jeff Matthews blog:

http://jeffmatthewsisnotmakingthisup.blogspot.com

Now, the last quarter I saw, Microsoft had 71,000 employees, whose efforts generated about $3.5 billion in operating income.

Meanwhile, Google’s “random” collection of not quite 11,000 employees generated $1 billion in operating income in the same quarter.

Sharp-eyed readers will have already done the math, which is this: Microsoft generated only slightly more than three times the profit of Google despite having almost seven times as many employees as Google’s random collection of hipster do-good engineers.

Anonymous said...

One of the major points of this post was to bring out the 'good groups' in msft. It's interesting to see 2 things

1) Not a lot of groups have been listed 'goto'
2) None of the ones listed were shouted down (or did mini filter them out?)

Are people not sure how their groups really fare?

I am part of the devdiv and thought this division as a whole fared much better than the rest of the org. But i was surprised to see just scottgu's org being mentioned.

(or everyone in my org is really really happy that no one reads minimsft :-))

Anonymous said...

>In fact, the MSR annual budget worldwide is less than $300 million

This excludes SPSA and partner stock awards. MSR has the highest number of have been partners in the company. As usual, there is no accountability for anything. One can hear the giant sucking sound of dollar bills.

Anonymous said...

Hey Mini, here is a topic idea for your next post:

What happens to all of the written comments in MS Poll?

Anonymous said...

Another tip on a group to avoid - JawadK org.

Jawad had another team meeting today where he showed he just doesn't get what's important. People care about big problems getting fixed. Instead, he only showed us what new big problems will be coming soon.

Anonymous said...

>> Microsoft generated only slightly more than three times the profit of Google

<sarcasm>
Yeah, because we all know that profit scales linearly with the number of employees, right?
</sarcasm>

Google isn't even a truly multinational corporation. They don't have much customer support. They don't have legacy products or enterprise contracts requiring support for such products. They don't have a consulting arm. They simply don't do a heck of a lot of stuff that Microsoft does, so you can't really compare the two companies.

Keeperplanet said...

>"would benefit greatly from studying people like Deming (or C. Wright Mills or Alan Kay).."

Fred, don't forget Dr. John E. 'Willie' Warnock and Dr. Charles M. Geschke. These two famous computer scientists who also changed the world and who founded that other large software company but without the baggage that Microsoft is laden with.

It will be interesting to see if Apollo becomes another idea missed by Microsoft.

Anonymous said...

Media Center and Zune (yes Zune) kick ass and you're all fools for not working there. Have fun building yet another word processor and spreadsheet app or toiling under the whip of the Windows org. And I'm no bright eyed newb. I've been at MSFT...a long damn time. I'm happier now that I have been in ages. Now if only ATI and NVIDA would stop shipping such crap drivers.

Anonymous said...

And another thing(s):

Partners are all leeching knobjockies and I'm sick of hauling them around on my back.

They're supposed to be the big deal makers right? The guys who go and make stuff happen with outside partners? You wanna know why Media Center with CableCard enabled turns into a massive DRM mess while at the same time Comcasts own boxes spew their content DRM free and pristine over 1394? Our mighty partners caved with the cable industry. Yes siree, awesome deal there guys. Way to go. Your ability to screw our users and treat them like criminals is truly epic. Can't wait for the encore.

Anonymous said...

Another tip on a group to avoid - JawadK org.

-------

amen .. that group is cancerous ..

Anonymous said...

"Another tip on a group to avoid - JawadK org.

Jawad had another team meeting today where he showed he just doesn't get what's important. People care about big problems getting fixed. Instead, he only showed us what new big problems will be coming soon"


I agree on the value of his organization ... sadly some good people but also alot of turds ... poop runs down from the top.

tcpip team = stars
other teams = turds

Anonymous said...

> Another tip on a group to avoid - JawadK org.

Disagree. It is one of the best places for a fresh candidate from college.

Ihar Filipau said...

MS people spend as much time listening as the fanboys do posting. which is a lot. opinions are like a-holes though, everyone has one. given the size of the customer base, that's a lot of opinion

That's where the "corporate goal" thingy (or "corporate vision" or "style") comes in handy.

One cannot satisfy everyone. True. Not everything what catches your eye.

One must filter out critic which is directed at things going against company/product stated goals. That way you would have product more aligned with goals and potentially more appealing to people who it is designed for.

Take for example Mozilla/Firefox. I'm Netscape user since Navigator 2.0 times. I did web development/etc. I am power user with high demands. I consider myself profi and Mozilla fan boy. How much of my feedback was taken into Firefox? Zilch zero nada. Why? Because I am NOT target audience of Firefox. Firefox is made for and aligned with needs of end-users - who wants browser which "just works" - whose many comments gets integrated into Firefox with every major/minor release. That what is called leadership and adherence to stated goals.

Adam Barr said...

I think the community around this blog is forming pretty well. People are actually starting to ask for advice, not just criticize random executives. So I would like to try something:

I have a lawn mower for sale. It's a Black&Decker CMM1000, which is a battery-operated, rechargeable mower. You can do a search on the model number to find out all about it. As the reviews say, it works fine for a small lawn (1/3 acre, maybe) where you mow once a week or so...it can get bogged down a bit on wet, tall lawns. But if you mow regularly it works fine and not having to deal with gas or a power cord is really nice (it's also quieter than a gas mower).

It's 4 years old and seems to work fine. I'll sell it for $150 (or best reasonable offer). Plus, I'll offer a money-back guarantee until the end of the summer. If interested, contact me at my Microsoft email address. Pick up is at Microsoft or our house in Redmond. Thanks.

- adam

P.S. Remember, this is how craigslist started...

Anonymous said...

>MSR is the best CS department

We should replace MSTE and have MSR give CS classes. This will allow MSFT to cut costs. This will allow MSR to get off of the ivory tower and cross pollinate.

Anonymous said...

Google isn't even a truly multinational corporation.

You just pointed out how much they can grow from here.

They simply don't do a heck of a lot of stuff that Microsoft does, so you can't really compare the two companies.

Perhaps they have a better business model due to their services based approach? When compared to IBM, Microsoft is in the same position by virtue of being a pure software player whereas IBM is a software+hardware company.

Anonymous said...

For product manager types:

What I hear is good: MSN (the site, not the org), Xbox, Mobile, Zune, STB.

What I hear and know is not good: IW, Windows Client, anything "Live" or search, Corp PR, Corp Dev, & LCA

Anonymous said...

Our mighty partners caved with the cable industry.

I think this is a different problem - as a company, we often think about complicated technical solutions to any problem presented to us instead of coming from the 'what do our customers want' angle.

Keeperplanet said...

>"They simply don't do a heck of a lot of stuff that Microsoft does, so you can't really compare the two companies."

Yes, but you must to survive.

Here is a great link to a recent podcast interview with Eric Schmidt
http://iinnovate.blogspot.com/2007/03/eric-schmidt-ceo-of-google.html

I think the interview will help traditional softies understand Google and what the internet is really all about. When looking at the internet business from where Microsoft has come, it is hard to get an accurate handle on what is happening and why.

Schmidt's description of the internet as being a scale business was a fascinating take. While Google started with the internet its main reason for existence, Microsoft is something else having to adapt.

Schmidt gives a great description of an entrepreneur also. Lessons to be learned at Microsoft which has a traditional structure that is not up to par with normal entrepreneurial expectations and behavior.

Coffee Jones said...

Sooooo... I'm thinking of leaving my current gig, and want to join MS. Is this insanity?

Anonymous said...

"EVERYTHING but Office and Windows is a cut that bleeds"

Actually, the latest version of Windows is also bleeding, or it's a major hemorrage tht's got a leaky bandage on it, depending on how you want to look at it.

Longhorn was a complete failure that wasted tens of billions of dollars. Vista is a two-year rush job, which is costing the company market share every day, since it doesn't run worth a damn on the machines that people already have, and if they have to buy a new machine anyway, why not reevaluate whether to stick with Windows at all?

MS needs to end the culture of empire-building, and they need to do it now. Kill any project that doesn't have a realistic prospect of making back its development costs, and get rid of the dead wood in the groups that ARE pulling their weight. There's no excuse for Office to have more than 100 people working on each app.

Ballmer gave an interview last week where he said that GOOG's hiring was "insane". Well, GOOG is making about 67% more PROFIT PER EMPLOYEE than MSFT. That's the bottom line, friends. Mini is right, there are just too many people at MSFT, and too many cooks spoil the broth.

Anonymous said...

Adam Barr...you are a moron. And Mini, you should filter that stuff out. Adam, seriously go back to your little classroom and pontificating BS, your anti-innovative sunshine and koolaid aren't helpful here.

Anonymous said...

"Sooooo... I'm thinking of leaving my current gig, and want to join MS. Is this insanity"

No. Absolutely not. No company has employees with this kind of maturity and intelligense.

Even if everything disappoints, you will find yourself in the midst of some extremely talented and smart developers( and SDETs and PMs...)

(But mini may not like the addition to the current 70K)

Anonymous said...

Someone wrote:

What I hear is good: MSN (the site, not the org), Xbox, Mobile, Zune, STB

Which of those groups is generating profit? MSN, Xbox and Zune all stick out like sore thumbs (money losers), I don't know about Mobile and STB.

If I got to run an unprofitable division, I think I could make it a lot of fun for everybody!

Anonymous said...

>> This will allow MSR to get off of the ivory tower and cross pollinate.

Actually, the solution is mush simpler than that. Instead of expecting MSR people to come in and ram their ideas down your throats, go and talk to them. Tell them what problems you have now, and what you expect 2-3 years from now. Ask them to look into coming up with solutions.

Microsoft and MSR remind me of Xerox and PARC. Xerox made copiers at the time and wasn't interested in anything else. They've missed a hundred and fifty billion dollars in profit (maybe more!) that PARC research could generate if they weren't so near-sighted and copier-oriented. Microsoft, Apple, Adobe and a host of other companies were the result of Xerox management's ineptitude.

Same with Microsoft. Microsoft is built around selling Windows and Office and by and large it isn't interested in anything that doesn't have a direct and immediate effect on Windows and Office. This could cost us dearly in the long run.

It's a damn shame that we have some of the brightest minds working for us in MSR and yet MSR has to beg for its innovations to get adopted by product teams.

Even so, there isn't a single major Microsoft product that doesn't have MSR contributions in it.

Anonymous said...

Mini - An ad for a lawnmower got through. WTF?

Are you really reviewing these comments? Or are you having one of the partners do it for you? :)

Anonymous said...

Fun with numbers:

GOOG

Operating Income: 3,549,996,000
FTE: 10,674

$332,583 per employee

MSFT

Operating Income: 16,472,000,000
FTE: 71,000

$232,000 per employee

GE

Operating Income: 44,814,000,000
FTE: 319,000

$140,482 per employee

AAPL

Operating Income: 2,453,000,000
FTE: 17,787

$137,909 per employee

IBM

Operating Income: 12,829,000,000
FTE: 366,486

$35,005 per employee

BA

Operating Income: 3,014,000,000
FTE: 154,000

$19,571 per employee

... we're not IBM yet...

Anonymous said...

Google isn't even a truly multinational corporation. ... They simply don't do a heck of a lot of stuff that Microsoft does, so you can't really compare the two companies.

Yes, that's true, and no sensible person would compare an internet search/advertising company with a software company that makes operating systems and productivity suites. But, thanks to executive leadership (Ballmer in particular), here we are. Fighting a losing fight that nobody's sure why we're in in the first place. Thanks, Steve!

The real embarrassment for us is not Google or missing the web services boat. It's the abject failure at our core business. Whereas Apple and Red Hat give customers a reason to upgrade their OS almost every year, Microsoft takes 5 years to produce a product that gives customers many reasons to downgrade. Not only that, but Microsoft seems to be unwilling (or unable?) to make lightweight, cost effective client software for applications like cell phones, MP3 players, and PVRs. Yes, yes, smartphones are great but where are our royalties for the billions of dumbphones being sold? Ah, musn't get the blood pressure up too much...

Charles said...

When compared to IBM, Microsoft is in the same position by virtue of being a pure software player whereas IBM is a software+hardware company.

IBM is also a service company, and (considering their investments of equipment to complimentary startups) arguably a VC as well.

And IBM's labs and research divisions are without par in the commercial sector.

IBM's offerings work (and they're well documented).

Microsoft has all its eggs in the Windows basket; the classic one-trick pony. IBM, OTOH, is well diversified.

IBM is bashed a lot here as a dinosaur, but MS should manage itself and serve its customers half as well as does IBM, let alone survive and thrive for a hundred years.

If you want to compare 'pure software plays', compare Microsoft to Oracle, though Oracle has a substantial and growing service component.

Anonymous said...

@ Charles:

You do know we have a pretty good services org, right? over 8k people covering consulting and support, and it makes profit too...microsoft.com/microsoftservices

Anonymous said...

A comment on awesome groups @ Microsoft. The last really great team I worked for was IIS 4.0... yeah, that was a long time ago. I've long since left the company.

Is that you JohnsonA?

Anonymous said...

On groups and recommendations...

TO AVOID
- MBS: MS should never have acquired Great Plains and Navision. You cannot get thousands of people into the company without going through Microsoft interviews like that.
- SQL: Unless you like more to do politics than to do software.
- In Office: Outlook (just use the app and you will know why), InfoPath (why is this needed?), OBA (the Office Business Applications team = no business; just politics), Groove-related apps (if Ozzie was not here...).
- In Windows: the Shell (the team should be restarted, as Windows restarts failing applications),

RECOMMENDED
- DevDiv: Software cannot be done without dev tools. The division has good and interesting projects starting, while some old ones in maintenance mode drag resources. You just need to get lucky with your project and manager.
- Home and devices: A few great projects here and there; and execution cannot drag on forever (the market pressure avoids too much politics getting into place).

Anonymous said...

>MSR has to beg for its innovations

Can you list the top ten MSR innovations? Not some small feature that was re-implemented.

Anonymous said...

Which of those groups is generating profit? MSN, Xbox and Zune all stick out like sore thumbs (money losers), I don't know about Mobile and STB.

If I got to run an unprofitable division, I think I could make it a lot of fun for everybody!


I can't speak for MSN or Zune, but the Xbox 360 business was designed to be a significant source of profit. Unlike the first console, which never had this goal, the group is on track to make it happen.

It's no surprise that some parts of the business with employees resting on monopoly profits couldn't possibly imagine things any other way. Then again, most of those employees probably weren't around at the time the investments were made to turn those into profitable businesses.

Under the quoted philosophy, why make great, fun products that customers use because they love when you could work on massively-profitable products that customers use because they have to?

My two cents: Xbox is a great place to work as an engineer. Lots of freedom to make your ideas into shipping features, released quickly without the typical overhead found elsewhere in the company. Anyone who spent several years on Vista could appreciate the release schedule: Major system software updates released to customers every six months and SDK releases every other month to game developers.

Anonymous said...

Kai-Fu: MS is basically following his paper how to win in China. Funny how things get traction when you leave. He is the Pied Piper for Chinese talent.

Jawad: HBR case study of how not to be a leader. Oh yeah, and kick his
lapdog director next to his office.

Tim Chen: He will leave soon; he did his tour of duty at MS. He is a good guy. Most likely become a REAL CEO of a telecom company in China, unlike his BS title now.

Adam Barr: Wait, wasn't that the name of He-Man's alternate persona?

Anonymous said...

there's actually one thing MS does better than Google and that's basic research.

See? Even Scoble agrees with me


"http://www.webpronews.com/blogtalk/2007/03/21/microsoft-researches-better-than-google"
> scoble @ techfest


=)

Anonymous said...

I can't speak for MSN or Zune, but the Xbox 360 business was designed to be a significant source of profit. Unlike the first console, which never had this goal, the group is on track to make it happen.

Are you accounting for the *billions* of R&D that went into this project? Turning a profit is great, but you're already deeply in the red.

Anonymous said...


On groups and recommendations...

TO AVOID
- MBS: MS should never have acquired Great Plains and Navision. You cannot get thousands of people into the company without going through Microsoft interviews like that.
- SQL: Unless you like more to do politics than to do software.
- In Office: Outlook (just use the app and you will know why), InfoPath (why is this needed?), OBA (the Office Business Applications team = no business; just politics), Groove-related apps (if Ozzie was not here...).
- In Windows: the Shell (the team should be restarted, as Windows restarts failing applications),

RECOMMENDED
- DevDiv: Software cannot be done without dev tools. The division has good and interesting projects starting, while some old ones in maintenance mode drag resources. You just need to get lucky with your project and manager.
- Home and devices: A few great projects here and there; and execution cannot drag on forever (the market pressure avoids too much politics getting into place).


Quick question: on what have you based those recommendation on?

Anonymous said...

A few more tidbits from deep within the management ranks of the company:

Exec reorg: Stay tuned, there's lots more to come. The Blake Irving-Alex Payne-Satya Nadella three-step is just the opening moves in a very extensive executive dance. Look for several more big names (i.e., ones that Mary Jo loves to toss around at parties) to either decide to spend more time with their families, or move to roles for which they are as equally unfit for as their current ones.

Career Compass:
HR hates it as much as the rest of the company, they just don't want to piss of their fearless (and ex-developer) leader. Its true purpose is to provide documentation for use when employees start suing for being terminated or held back due to discrimination, and to provide ammo for the "why you will never reach Partner level" discussions that are going on all across the Collective.

HR:
There's lots of dissatisfaction within the HR world, and lots of personell changes happening there, as well. Note that most of the recent mangement hires within HR have been from the outside. That tells you something about their reputation within the company.

Mini and InsideMS:
Management is even more pissed about the fact that this blog continues to thrive than they ever have been. It's beyond the level of chair throwing, and well into the foaming-at-the-mouth stage. Lisa's blog is a disaster, and she is trying to get permission to kill it. Anonymity has been removed (never really was there), and Partners are being notified about inflammatory posts from their employees. Also, it's sad to see Dawn-Marie leave.

Charles said...

Anonymous, at Wednesday, March 21, 2007 8:42:00 AM said: Charles, You do know we have a pretty good services org, right? over 8k people covering consulting and support, and it makes profit too...microsoft.com/microsoftservices

Indeed, which is why I suggested the comparison with Oracle which also has about 8,000 consulting employees (*not* including an additional 7,000 in support).

IBM, OTOH, has upwards of 190,000 employees in IBM Global Services with annual revenues approaching $50B (from services alone). That is what diversified looks like.

IBM offers multiple computing platforms and many of its core systems software products run on multiple platforms (e.g. DB2), as do Oracle's.

Comparatively, Microsoft is not diversified; not in revenue streams, not in offerings, and not on platforms (and no, money losing game consoles, media players, and websites don't count).

Anonymous said...

Are you accounting for the *billions* of R&D that went into this project? Turning a profit is great, but you're already deeply in the red.

If by this project, you mean Xbox 360, yes. My claim was entirely about the Xbox 360 and future programs. I should clarify that the profit is also simply not just one quarter in the black, but sustained profitability going forward.

If you refer to the original Xbox, while I absolutely expect that money to be made back over time, that was viewed as a one-time cost of entering a hardware market against an extremely strong competitor on short notice and with inexperience.

Anonymous said...

Adam Barr: Proudly Serving my Corporate Masters :)

MSFTextrememakeover said...

"If you refer to the original Xbox, while I absolutely expect that money to be made back over time, that was viewed as a one-time cost of entering a hardware market against an extremely strong competitor on short notice and with inexperience."

So $5B+ was the cost of reckless stupidity on the part of the leadership team? That's quite a bit for a learning exercise, wouldn't you say? More importantly, what was the opportunity cost of that capital? Since you still think the money will be recouped "over time", what timeframe do you have in mind? By my reckoning, it would take at least another decade - and that requires it to go from current losses to $500M/year in average annual profits - which is highly unlikely imo. I don't know any companies who - even under highly optimistic assumptions - are working on 15-year payback periods. But maybe you're seeing something I'm not?

Anonymous said...

"Anonymity has been removed (never really was there), and Partners are being notified about inflammatory posts from their employees. Also, it's sad to see Dawn-Marie leave."

I don't get you. Anonymous commenting is still allowed. Dawn-Marie, put herself in a very awkward position with her 'bravado'. Don't feel sorry for her.

Anonymous said...

> HR hates it as much as the rest of the company, they just don't want to piss of their fearless (and ex-developer) leader.

bs from a troll. CSP started way before Lisa came on board.

Anonymous said...

A few more tidbits from deep within the management ranks of the company:

Career Compass:
...Its true purpose is to provide documentation for use when employees start suing ...


This jives with my view from shallow in the management ranks. Good luck on that, Anyone in management, you might want to make sure your own backside is not hanging out too far.

Lisa's blog is a disaster,

No kidding. Was that "Diversity" post meant to generate comments that "forced" Lisa to kill it?


Okay, so who wants to start a company with all the talent Microsoft is about to piss out the door? This, my friends, is the opportunity of a lifetime.

Anonymous said...

Dawn-Marie, put herself in a very awkward position with her 'bravado'

As people usually do -- she probably found new job before she started posting under her name. However, I wouldn't do the same -- who knows when you'll need to return back :)

Anonymous said...

They're supposed to be the big deal makers right? The guys who go and make stuff happen with outside partners? You wanna know why Media Center with CableCard enabled turns into a massive DRM mess while at the same time Comcasts own boxes spew their content DRM free and pristine over 1394? Our mighty partners caved with the cable industry. Yes siree, awesome deal there guys. Way to go. Your ability to screw our users and treat them like criminals is truly epic. Can't wait for the encore.

Lol, dude, I think I know who you are. Couldn't agree more - the folks making decisions on the media teams have got to be the most clueless, in-grown, consumer-hating junkies on the planet. There are some extremely bright folks at MS regarding consumer/professional media, but not a one is calling the important shots for the business. It's a crying shame too... I am so freakin' glad I'm not there anymore - way too much frustration over wasted potential.

Anonymous said...

Actually, the solution is mush simpler than that. Instead of expecting MSR people to come in and ram their ideas down your throats, go and talk to them. Tell them what problems you have now, and what you expect 2-3 years from now. Ask them to look into coming up with solutions.


And they are accountable to me how? I have tried to initiate such a discussion with folks at MSR. They gave me the warm and fuzzies initially and then plain absconded. Apparently they were working on a paper deadline, after which then didn't get back to me. I had no authority over them and they were not answerable to me. They went on to the next cool toy science project.

Unless there is a formal mechanism to tie in MSR to planned and shipping products, they will continue to exist in their ivory tower.

BTW, I did ship a project that MSR had initiated. There was a strong reason why that was successful, and it cannot & will not scale to other projects/people.

Anonymous said...

Lisa's blog is a disaster,

No kidding. Was that "Diversity" post meant to generate comments that "forced" Lisa to kill it?


Think so? I still think that management thinks that every post to that internal blog means one less post out here, and considers that a win. No? Why not?

Anonymous said...

"Anonymous commenting is still allowed."

Really.. Hit the internal blog with Firefox. You get prompted for credentials. Why? Because they have the site configured with Windows Authentication which means that IE silently logs in with your credentials and every one of your "anonymous" posts comes with your domain\username.

Anonymous said...

So $5B+ was the cost of reckless stupidity on the part of the leadership team? That's quite a bit for a learning exercise, wouldn't you say? More importantly, what was the opportunity cost of that capital? Since you still think the money will be recouped "over time", what timeframe do you have in mind? By my reckoning, it would take at least another decade - and that requires it to go from current losses to $500M/year in average annual profits - which is highly unlikely imo. I don't know any companies who - even under highly optimistic assumptions - are working on 15-year payback periods. But maybe you're seeing something I'm not?

You're right that I'm seeing something you're not. The console business has massive potential for profit, it's been keeping Sony afloat as a company.

I wouldn't say it's as much reckless stupidity as it was a single incorrect early bet, the belief that shipping console hardware based on x86 PC commodity parts had even the slightest chance to cost-reduce well.

Although none of this is public, there were a ton of lessons learned and documented internally over the four years of the Xbox program. For one example, the console peripheral business is traditionally a good source of profit. The first Xbox's peripheral program was actually a money loser. The Xbox 360's peripheral program is massively profitable and successful far beyond expectations. There are lots of these examples across the business.

I understand that your concerns aren't helped by poor explanations from the executive level, but there is a strategy and it is being executed well.

Think about the fact that Xbox 360 is still $299 and $399, despite loud customer demands to cut prices and clobber Sony. The opportunity is there, but the focus is on being a responsible source of profit for the rest of Microsoft, despite the potential for short-term localized share gain.

I can appreciate that from the perspective of software-only projects, even the greatest failures weren't money losing-pits, so to you Xbox must be doing something incredibly stupid. But that's how the hardware business can magnify a small number of mistakes.

I can't imagine you'd claim that the money would have been better spent on Windows, Office or Windows Live. I also respectfully suggest that you point to any other group in Microsoft that actually has strong competitors like Google and Sony chasing them, instead of the other way around.

The value of the business to Microsoft is more than just earning itself out the red. If you can't see that, I'd argue you either aren't looking very hard, or have a rosy view of what's going on elsewhere at Microsoft.

Anonymous said...

I think the community around this blog is forming pretty well. People are actually starting to ask for advice, not just criticize random executives. So I would like to try something:

I have a lawn mower for sale. (snip)

- adam

P.S. Remember, this is how craigslist started...


LOL. This is TOO funny, and scary, and sad in a way...

It so typifies the Microsoft orthodoxy. Take an idea from the market that seems to be successful and re-implement it in such a way that makes no sense to anyone in the market and comes across as REALLY stupid, and makes another sad testimony to a once-great company.

What is left inside Microsoft are people like Adam.

Keeperplanet said...

>"So $5B+ was the cost of reckless stupidity on the part of the leadership team? That's quite a bit for a learning exercise, wouldn't
you say? More importantly, what was the opportunity cost of that capital?"

Excellent points. How many of us entrepreneurs would die in bliss with just one opportunity to spend that kind of money on development? My questions are a little different.

Do you (Microsoft) own your production facilities at XBOX? Or do you only own the tooling for the about to come out cool black copies of Apple's idea of black on black? Really, the hardware business is tough and no place for amateurs.

If you analyze the value of XBox division, I would surmise it is all in the intellectual property of the games and live services and the people who run that. Hardware is obsolete the day you start selling it and it is a huge effort just to keep current.

Considering Microsoft's strategy that brung em of selling software to enable others to make money on hardware, I am perplexed at the strategic aspects of XBox to be a single closed system. Emulating Apples super limiting strategy is bizarre for Microsoft, especially since MS has managed to piss off every PC gamer on the planet.

Talk about shooting yourself in the foot.

Anonymous said...

What did Dawn-Marie do?

(Recent ex-MSFT with no access to the InsideMS blog.)

Anonymous said...

"Lisa's blog is a disaster,

No kidding. Was that "Diversity" post meant to generate comments that "forced" Lisa to kill it?"

Haven't seen this. Can you explain what the story is here? Thanks.

Anonymous said...

"IE silently logs in with your credentials and every one of your "anonymous" posts comes with your domain\username"

We have a winner. Wasn't there a thread on this site recently about how manager feedback is anonymous? Hey look over there -- it's a monkey!

Keeperplanet said...

>"Think about the fact that Xbox 360 is still $299 and $399, despite loud customer demands to cut prices and clobber Sony."

Mini, If you are saying you can sell XBOX for less than $299 and $399 and still make money, I would bet that the FTC and shareholders would suggest you prove it. That means you have to make the hardware for less than $100. Knowing Microsoft, I find that claim to be nonsense.

Don't you think what is really going on is that Microsoft managers think they can compete with Sony head to head. Great. Do it, but don't sit there and spout nonsense that XBOX at $399 or $299 is actually making money.

MSFTextrememakeover said...

I understand that your concerns aren't helped by poor explanations from the executive level, but there is a strategy and it is being executed well.

Actually, the executive level has provided no explanation. They simply cite Xbox as a huge success (actually "one of the greatest creations of shareholder value ever") in the absence of any financial analysis or data that backs that up. While doubtful, I'm still willing to entertain that as valid. Apparently, they're simply unprepared or unable to make the case.

The opportunity is there, but the focus is on being a responsible source of profit for the rest of Microsoft, despite the potential for short-term localized share gain.

You mean the "new" focus is on being responsible, now that the old focus of being irresponsible has blown through $5B with no sustained profit to show for it despite 6 years of effort. But again, you keep talking about the potential w/o netting it out. Are we talking more than my best case $500M/year in profits or not? It's a simple question - why is everyone seemingly afraid to answer it?

I can appreciate that from the perspective of software-only projects, even the greatest failures weren't money losing-pits, so to you Xbox must be doing something incredibly stupid.

No, losing money for extended periods with little hope of payback in any reasonable timeframe seems stupid to me, regardless of whether it's via software, hardware, search, etc.

"I can't imagine you'd claim that the money would have been better spent on Windows, Office or Windows Live."

I didn't. However, I could easily make a case for $5B of incremental investment spent wisely in any of those areas having likely yielded higher profits at this point. And of course MSFT could have invested it in any number of new areas.

I also respectfully suggest that you point to any other group in Microsoft that actually has strong competitors like Google and Sony chasing them, instead of the other way around.

Servers might respectfully disagree - with cause imo - but again, if the business case was presented and made sense, that would an admirable accomplishment. In the absence of said, Xbox just looks like lead lemming in the race to jump off a cliff.

"The value of the business to Microsoft is more than just earning itself out the red. If you can't see that, I'd argue you either aren't looking very hard, or have a rosy view of what's going on elsewhere at Microsoft."

Well, if you mean that it helps obscure MSFT's otherwise anemic top line results, I agree. But at the end of the day, that in itself is a pretty poor justification for the business. WRT having a rosy view on MSFT, if you read my blog, I think you'll find that doesn't apply :-) However, I'm not convinced that the road to fixing those problems is to hold up examples of "success" - and give the executives involved even more responsibility - when that success has yet to be proved by any reasonable, objective, business measure.

Anonymous said...

The value of the business to Microsoft is more than just earning itself out the red. If you can't see that, I'd argue you either aren't looking very hard, or have a rosy view of what's going on elsewhere at Microsoft.

Okay, I'll bite. I'd like to hear how the xbox division is producing over $6billion+ in value to Microsoft. And please skip the "it gets us in the living room" hand waving. I'd like to see some real numbers justifying such a massive expenditure. Maybe there really is a great business case. Pretty much everything I've seen from upper management is equivalent to "well, we're going to try to place it all on red".

Anonymous said...

"every one of your "anonymous" posts comes with your domain\username."

Obviously. In fact you don't have to prompt for UID/PWD and can still track with just the IP address. But then, some level of trust is implied in things like this. I trust the inside MS blog as being 'truly anonymous'

Though i agree with almost everything thats written in this blog, I don't think the management will stoop down to that levels of apparent anonymity and setup a honeypot...

Anonymous said...

Regarding MSRs "basic research": there are a few people in MSR that are true to their research goals, and certainly have the brain power to do it.

But the organization as a whole is polarized towards "technology transfer". Publication (which should not be confused with basic research) is a check-mark for most of MSR, with 70% of efforts focused on product.

Anonymous said...


TO AVOID
- MBS: MS should never have acquired Great Plains and Navision. You cannot get thousands of people into the company without going through Microsoft interviews like that.


Well you also can't change the culture of a company from one to another overnight (or in 5 years). As with most parts of the company most of the people have good intentions, but the old school guard (be it Redmond, Fargo or Vedaek) is hard at work trying to ensure that they continue to build their empires.

Look at Satya's replacement... Tami Reller who most old Great Plains people blame for the one and only RIF at Great Plains because of her incompetent financial management. Yes, you too could lose millions, have absolutely no vision, never help ship a product and never have any strategic insight, yet rise to corporate VP.

Overall, Microsoft is still suffering from the problem of a lack of strategy. The only strategy that Microsoft has ever been able to pull off, a sort of strategic one-trick pony, is to identify a competitor and beat them by throwing money at the problem. If Microsoft actually had a strategy, it might actually figure out what it SHOULD NOT be doing and do what it should BETTER.

And who the heck EVER thought that InsideMS: was anonymous? They can track every click you make when you're browsing the web. I can't believe that people read/post to this blog from inside the firewall. They know who you are what what you've typed, all assuming they really give a shit.

Anonymous said...

Really.. Hit the internal blog with Firefox. You get prompted for credentials. Why? Because they have the site configured with Windows Authentication which means that IE silently logs in with your credentials and every one of your "anonymous" posts comes with your domain\username.


Ok...that's scary. Can anyone explain this away? I'm not posting there anymore, for sure... :-(

Anonymous said...

>But the organization as a whole is polarized towards "technology transfer". Publication (which should not be confused with basic research) is a check-mark for most of MSR, with 70% of efforts focused on product

If the product teams do a tech fest, they can kick MSR's butt.

Anonymous said...

The X-Box profit strategy:
"We lose money on each unit, but we make it up in volume."

And RE: those who thought their posts on InsideMS were anonymous (inside a secure network where every connection is authenticated by a domain server)...I guess that just shows how low the hiring bar has moved.

It's sort-of like signing your e-mail "anonymous" and hoping no one thinks to look at the e-mail header.

um...

Duh!

Anonymous said...

Msftextrememakeover

Lets assume that MS sells 100 million or more xbox 360s.Think of the money that will be made from that installed base.Look at the different ways that installed base will generate revenue.

*Royalties from retail game sales(pure profit)
*Royalties from Xbox live marketplace(pure profit)
*Royalties from from xbox live arcade(pure profit)
*Xbox live subscriptions
*In game advertising revenue(pure profit)
*Sponsored Live competitions
*Movie downloads(pure profit)
*Music Downloads(pure profit)
*xbox Peripherals

Include the fact that the 360 is not just a game box but also will double as a set top box then you are dealing with a product that appeals to hundreds of millions of people and not just millions with the xbox or PS2.IPTV service providers could give away 360s as a set top box.

You need to look at the big picture.Xbox and Xbox 360 was a great investment.Microsoft has lost more money on dumber things that NEVER worked out.

Its just a matter of how fast can MS cost reduce the hardware.

Anonymous said...

Really.. Hit the internal blog with Firefox. You get prompted for credentials. Why? Because they have the site configured with Windows Authentication which means that IE silently logs in with your credentials and every one of your "anonymous" posts comes with your domain\username.


Ok...that's scary. Can anyone explain this away? I'm not posting there anymore, for sure... :-(


I noticed this awhile back and sent mail to Lisa about it. Apparently it's to filter out non-FTEs (for legal reasons). They claim that no logging is done.

Anonymous said...

>>Really.. Hit the internal blog with Firefox.
>>You get prompted for credentials.
>>Why? Because they have the site configured with
>>Windows Authentication ...

>>Ok...that's scary. Can anyone explain this away?
>>I'm not posting there anymore, for sure... :-(

I don't have any inside knowledge, but the blog is limited to FTE's and there are plenty of others with corporate access. Try going to hrweb, or even msw in Firefox. The sites all have FTE content separated and requiring authentication.

At the company meeting, Lisa said we would just have to trust her that everything was anonymous. I don't know what the person above claiming it's not knows (or doesn't), but I for one am willing to give it a chance. Worst case, they don't like me, screw my career at MSFT over, and lose someone who cares about making the company better. And I find out politics are worse than I'd ever expected and waste less time here. But I don't think that's how it'll work...

Anonymous said...

Lets assume that MS sells 100 million or more xbox 360s.

Well sure, if you're just going to "assume" a total that's even more than Sony (who absolutely dominated last gen) have managed to sell in the eight years that PS2 has been on the market, you can come up with all kinds of rosy "economies of scale" scenarios.

But if you're going to talk reality, you really need to start by not assuming something so absurd. Nintendo is actually competing this gen (although they did a pretty good job of battling Xbox for #2 last time, they never threatened Sony). And despite the high price tag, it's way too early to count out the PS3. The market may be growing overall, but not by so much as to "assume" even the top dog is going to sell 100 million "or more" consoles. It took them a year to sell 10 million and they basically had the market to themselves. From here it only gets tougher.

Include the fact that the 360 is not just a game box but also will double as a set top box then you are dealing with a product that appeals to hundreds of millions of people and not just millions with the xbox or PS2.IPTV service providers could give away 360s as a set top box.

"Could" is a mighty dangerous word. It leads to even more frightening logic like "assume."

Anonymous said...

"Lets assume that MS sells 100 million or more xbox 360s..."

That's the problem, guys. That's not going to happen. The gaming market is being over-exaggerated. It may do all those things, but no one seems to really want something that does all those things... yet. Microsoft and other tech companies don't seem to understand that when they create products that leap ahead of customer need, they end up creating apathy, not lust. Instead, you should be attuned more to what customers want (think Wii) with the intent to bring them slowly along to more and more functionality that they didn't "know" they wanted until you provided it. This is what Apple does so well.

If I build a flux capacitor into my telephone, no one knows what to do with it. But over time, if I can let them see that they'll be able to go back in time and re-do that argument with the significant other, they'll buy in droves.

Stop building products that wait for an audience to recognize them. Start building products people want (aside from kids and big kids), and bring them along for the ride.

Keeperplanet said...

>"You need to look at the big picture. Xbox and Xbox 360 was a great investment.Microsoft has lost more money on dumber things that NEVER worked out. Its just a matter of how fast can MS cost reduce the hardware."

I am an industrial designer and entrepreneur so I have been kicking these kinds of calculations around for about 30 years now. The fact is you will never reduce cost of the hardware unless you take the Wii route (its a toy stupid) and also limit the performance of your device--simply because the market is and will be demanding a vast number of solutions that Microsoft can never hope to provide in terms of hardware. It is a never ending battle which Microsoft had correct with its original strategy of software is pure profit (until you get sucked under by service packs).

The other option is to release XBOX division from its chains to Microsoft, which would make it a direct competitor with both Apple and Microsoft primary customers like HP and Dell, as well as Sony.

You have no choice here. Either you do that or you get out of the business of competing with your customers by building hardware. Nasty business that.

You have incorrectly assumed that Sony's strategy of `computerized stereo and video `console' components for the living room' is the correct growth strategy. If you go there you have to build or buy lots of manufacturing facilities of consumer hardware products.

Alternatively, Lets assume that MS saves the accumulated losses on 100 million XBox 360s and instead, drives its game host and a revised home computer OS together, leaving the current OS for business platforms, combined with the live offerings, which include both XBOX Live and MS Live.

Let's call it for lack of a better name, PxbOS.

Then MS sells 600 million software units world wide at say $29.99 plus optional online subscriptions. Think of the money that will be made from that installed base. Look at the different ways that installed base will generate revenue.

*Royalties from retail game sales(pure profit) x600 million units x the number of games one chooses to purchase.
*Royalties from PxbOS live marketplace(pure profit) x600 million units.
*Royalties from from PxbOS live arcade(pure profit) x600 million units.
*PxbOS live subscriptions x600 million units.
*In game advertising revenue(pure profit) x600 million units.
*Sponsored Live competitions
*Movie downloads(pure profit)
*Music Downloads(pure profit)
*PxbOS Peripherals x600 million units.

What you end up with is an ever expanding and increasing market and customer base because you are enabling existing and new hardware manufacturer customers, and the best part is you don't have to use the strategic leveraging options which are really hurting both MS reputation and sales in all MS markets. Forced leveraging is the lazy CEOs method for generating short term profit.

Anonymous said...

RE: You need to look at the big picture.Xbox and Xbox 360 was a great investment. Microsoft has lost more money on dumber things that NEVER worked out.

This is what happens when you put techies in charge of the business side of things--they use logic that defies the laws of business.

XBox was a success becuase it didn't lose as much money as some other products.

Right.

Anyone else need an explanation for the last five years of stock price "flatness?"

In business, losing money isn't, in and of itself, a bad thing (of course making money is better). It's simply a measure of success (or lack of). Many business opportunities lose money. But, when you see that your product and/or strategy is LOSING money, you change your approach or dump it, not do more of it (because it's "cool" or whatever)!

The first rule of getting out of a hole is to stop digging when you realize that you're in one. Unfortunately, MSFT started out on such a high mountain (of cash) they won't realize they're in a hole until they've dug (spent) another 40-billion dollars at which time, it'll be too late to rebuild the mountain they once had.

Hey, but those inside will have had fun building cool stuff that no one else wants to buy, so where's the harm?

Anonymous said...

Here's an idea: sell your MSFT stock and move on. While it's true that the stock hasn't done much, you also have to realize that the company is valued quite richly. If MSFT had a low valuation 5 years ago, you'd have seen some decent appreciation.

MSFT is a very poorly run company and there is no reason to think this will ever change. Swallow your pride, sell your overvalued MSFT shares, and put the money into a better investment.

You'll be so much happier you won't even believe it.

Keeperplanet said...

>"Hey, but those inside will have had fun building cool stuff that no one else wants to buy, so where's the harm?"

Hey, I'm with your argument, but to augment your point, the real harm is in creating false value and expectations across three generations of kids, young adults and boomers. Like the Napster givaway, you end up with a worldwide group of vicious attitudes against you, the provider (that's Microsoft for partners in Redmond) for having to eventually charge true value for your hardware. Just a wild guess of retail $800 from looking at the photos on Tech Republic here
http://content.techrepublic.com.com/2346-22_11-5652.html?promo=036&tag=nl.e036&cval=TR_today&ctype=default
, I looking at about $200-$500 worth of parts (3 power pc cores water cooled!, all kinds of custom chips, connectors, cables, etc.) and assembly/production cost. Even a Mac book Pro does not have that many parts.

Anonymous said...

These things do really happen. But never get proportionate coverage in the media....

http://www.internetnews.com/security/article.php/3667201

http://arstechnica.com/journals/apple.ars/2007/03/22/leopard-not-ready-for-april--barely-beta-not-final-or-gold-master

http://blogs.zdnet.com/Ou/?p=450

http://news.com.com/2008-1016_3-6169494.html

Anonymous said...

The financial attractiveness of the Xbox investment lies in the question of what the Xbox business is worth.

What value would the Xbox business (market position, brand, IP, etc.) command in either the public or private equity markets?

If greater than the billions invested to date and related cost of capital, then you have yourself a good investment.

Anonymous said...

Isn't it simple? From a very young age, Microsoft has developed and adapted optimally to achieve one huge goal: a PC on every desk in every home and office. It has achieved that goal. The company is now past maturity. It will soon retire, spend its time meeting up with old friends chatting about the good days, and slowly fade into a charming irrelevance with a glorious past. New huge goals are the business of hot young things, not the elderly.

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