Sunday, July 08, 2007

Whether Life Here or Life There, Life is Short.

Long time, no blog. I'm lurking indoors today, taking a break from the abundant northwest-summer sun and re-hydrating. Lots and lots has happened over the past couple of weeks. Let's see what we can cover here before the wonderful weather becomes too much of a temptation...

The Long $1,000,000,000 Kiss Goodnight: now come on, how can you have to put aside $1,000,000,000 to cover faulty Xbox 360s and not go and hold President Bach or VP Moore or VP Allard accountable and fire them? Let's go back in time to November 2005 and a comment I made then about what I called the Ring of Fire showing up on the initial 360s:

First, XBox sucked up one billion dollars from our company and broke that division's wallet. Now is 360 going to break our heart, too?

I can only have faith that this is one place where Microsoft will endeavor for quick turn-around to get replacement units out, no questions asked. With a kiss... give the folks having to exchange their XBox a bunch of Live Points. And I hope this is just a small percent of units. One poll had 14% of people responding that they had a 360 brick shortly after playing it for a while. Oy!

Let's see, over nineteen months later we fess up and - although it seems forced - we do the right thing and cover warranties for our customers. In the meantime, a lot of customers with broken boxes have been jerked around (including Microsofties, complaining internally about how awful it is to try to get their 360 repaired). Look, either at ship time we knew about this problem and decided to ship or we didn't know about this problem and kept shipping once it showed up. Either way, it's a screw-up in knowing and going forward or not doing enough to know about the quality of the box. Deming weeps.

And now we're putting aside a billion, bringing up the bitter memory of the billion point five we deferred because Vista was so late to ship that it missed back-to-school and the holidays so we had to cover with Vista upgrade coupons. It is only because of the abundance of cash left over from the successful cash cow days that we're able to screw up like this, dig into our deep pockets, drop the money on the floor, shrug our shoulders and shuffle on. We're lazy and we're lax and no one is being taken to the public woodshed for this, and I would be surprised as hell if anyone on the Board of Directors, or the shareholders meeting, actually spoke up and said, "Hey, um, excuse me, but, this Xbox business thing seems to be a black-hole money pit. Is it wise to continue investing here? How about spinning them off so that they had to survive on their own decision making?"

The only thing I've seen the Xbox business accomplish, besides making a lot of money disappear, is make Sony dash themselves against the rocks with the PS3. Monkey-see, monkey-do even better. In the meantime, the Nintendo little piggy gleefully exclaims, "Wii! Wii! Wii!" all the way to the bank.

Additional new orifice ripping: MSFTextrememakeover What's another $1B among friends. An interesting thought coming out of that is people wondering about Mr. Bach's loving indulgence in selling MSFT stock is his bailing out while he could and if there are any concerns about the SEC investigating here.

Life and Work Changes: some goodbyes I noticed recently:

Josh Ledgard (of the power couple Josh & Gretchen): Today is my last day at Microsoft.

Adam Herscher: Why big company life didn't cut it - snippet:

So, with that, there were only two things I couldn't get at Microsoft (and probably not at any other large corporation) that helped lead to my decision to leave:

  1. Any semblance of something like a work hard-play hard culture
  2. The ability to take big risks and reap big rewards

[...] allow me to propose one potential solution. I would love to see a large company like Microsoft give employees some sort of equity in the products they work on, in addition to company stock, thereby providing a risk/reward system in which one's work can have a direct impact on their stake in equity.

Adam's comment aligns with my belief that Microsoft needs to be more focused on team rewards and less focused on individual non-team aligned achievements that is coupled with demoralizing bucketing and 10% witch-hunts. My friend from a large technology company showed me some old internal memos that detailed (a) what the group's goals were for the coming year, (b) a progress update on those goals, and (c) what the bonus payout to everyone would be based on achieving those goals. Nice.

Life at Google: Adam's post links to an email circulating inside of Microsoft that reflects on working at Google. Eh, I wanted to read about the review and compensation system and how the Googlers felt about it, fairness-wise. No such luck, but probably right now Life at Google is so much wild fun that the review and compensation system is minor. Everything else in that post sounds like stuff we already knew or suspected. I think we have to live with the fact that Google culture is - and will remain - different than Microsoft culture. We're too big and systematic to go and try to retrofit a Google work-environment across Microsoft, no matter how alluring it might be. I think our only choice would be to break-up into four smaller companies and then reboot and rewire the culture in each to meet the demands and responsibilities for the new company. For instance, an Office culture has to be different (probably quite stodgy) than an online / Windows Live culture. The imposition of a mono-culture right now is slowing us down.

The comments in that post would make for an interesting short essay: Google lovers, Microsofties demanding blood, bemused outsiders, and the occasional interesting insight. Oh, and this one from Andrew Gamache, out hiring the best engineers:

So now it’s clear there’s no career development at Google; and little at Microsoft… If you’re at either one, it’s time to take your future more seriousely than they do. [...] PS- The OS engineer behind XBox, and several of the guys on the original Google Earth Team are happy clients of mine- some makeing over 700K in salary a year– NO options or stock. Cash. Every year. at 28 Years old.

485 comments and trackbacks to this point. Wowza. I can tell you, given the desire to understand how Google works, a Mini-Google blogger would get lots and lots of attention right now. Or an insider could wrap it in a parody with a Fake Sergey / Fake Larry / Fake Eric blog. Those certainly seem to be all the rage nowadays. As evidence, we don't have just one Fake SteveB, we have 2.0!

Life is Short: there's lot more to talk about today, but I've decided to go out and enjoy the rest of the beautiful day, so let me close with the below comment that came in on July 3rd that I'm exceptionally grateful for the commenter taking time to share:

Today is approximately my one year anniversary of leaving MSFT after 11 years. I was a Level 67 woman, banging my head against the wall (or more like glass ceiling) trying to make "partner" and killing myself & my marriage in the process.

I now work for a hard-working start-up in Seattle (30+ people and growing) and couldn't be happier. While not every day is perfect, it's refreshing to read this blog and realize what a different world I am in now:

  1. The people I work with are really smart(a number of our employees are of ex-MSFTies with more joining every week), motivated to do their jobs, and treat each other with dignity & respect.
  2. Our Executive Management is mentally/emotionally mature, grounded in reality of business, value work-life balance, and treat the employees with honesty and respect. (see a theme here?)
  3. Decisions are made quickly and executed rapidly. No grand-standing, land-grabbing, ego-boatsing, political posturing, etc. We're all pulling towards a common goal.
  4. We are accountable to our deliverables, our professional behavoir, and each other. I no longer have to tolerate actions and communications from peers who hide their own incompetency behind obnoxious management styles or the protective shield of HR.
  5. I recognize that when I work really hard (and I do, every day), it directly contributes to my company's success, and therefore my own.
  6. Tomorrow is a holiday. I don't expect there will be much email across the team (except maybe a little from us ex-MSFTies...old habits die hard) that will be waiting for me on Thursday. I don't feel the need to have to spend a day off "catching up."

Net net - if you're spending alot of time reading this blog and have been thinking about leaving, then do it. You don't have to tolerate the working environment you're in, or feel vitimized by the realities & circumstance beyond the majority of your control. There are more feasible alternatives out there. Yes, there is some risk - and less freebies - but life is short and do you want to spend it feeling trapped, frustrated, and ultimately used?

Do what you like. Like what you do. Truly. If you're working in that kind of environment and are looking to hire talented Microsofties ready to grow and shrug off the bureaucratic systems all-around them (ever so much in evidence during this review season... oy, that review tool), a short comment here about why your company is so different and groovy would be welcome.

Because if we Microsofties can't change Microsoft to be that way, then we should at least know where's a good place to move to.


150 comments:

Anonymous said...

Now come on, how can you have to put aside $1,000,000,000 to cover faulty Xbox 360s and not go and hold President Bach or VP Moore or VP Allard accountable and fire them?

Why not can the engineers who designed it instead? I've always thought that major bugs should get the dev and tester fired.

Anonymous said...

I agree completely with the posters who've said (in the past) that risk/reward at MS is horrible.

There are only a few ways to address this, and even if you reward groups, it needs to be done on risk/reward, NOT corporate income. The latter would have everyone fleeing every part of the company that isn't Windows or Office - and Windows & Office being overwhelmed with resumes.

Thus, if you're in building 26 and doing the same thing you've been doing for five years, y' know, your risk isn't too high. Even though you're working on a critical product for the company, you're risking nothing, and shouldn't expect major reward.

I fear that the scenario I've described above is EXACTLY what would be implemented if management even approached this.

Anonymous said...

It's funny how mini and others constantly place all of microsoft's screw ups on the shoulders of top and middle management and never the lower level employees.

What the f*ck do Robbie Bach and Peter Moore know about engineering and design?They're not techies.If the xbox engineers could some how had managed to design a console that was inexpensive to make and cost reduce then Xbox and Xbox 360 would not have cost MS nearly 7 billion in losses.

There's nothing wrong with Xbox's business plan or strategy it's just that the engineers who are in charge of making the thing need to stop f*cking up.

Anonymous said...

How does one go about resigning from Microsoft? Do I email my manager first or just don't show up and fax in my resignation to Microsoft?

Anonymous said...

The entire entertainment division/Live needs to be spun off. The losses from this division would BANKRUPT most companies. What a joke - Xbox, Live (including all it's ugly stepchildren - Spaces, the pitiful photo and movie sharing stuff). It all needs to go. Period.

Anonymous said...

I totally disagree with the previous posts.
"The fish always begin to stink from the head" and if the project manager tells you to buy something and keeping the costs within XXX you have to do it. If the project manager tells you that you will have to deliver the product by YYY you have to respect the deadline even if it is not completed and/or thoroughly tested (Vista\Office 2007 are good examples of it).

Anonymous said...


It's funny how mini and others constantly place all of microsoft's screw ups on the shoulders of top and middle management and never the lower level employees.

What the f*ck do Robbie Bach and Peter Moore know about engineering and design?They're not techies.If the xbox engineers could some how had managed to design a console that was inexpensive to make and cost reduce then Xbox and Xbox 360 would not have cost MS nearly 7 billion in losses.

There's nothing wrong with Xbox's business plan or strategy it's just that the engineers who are in charge of making the thing need to stop f*cking up.



If you can trace a particular design flaw or Sev0/Pri0 bug to a specific Dev/Test, then you should definitely hold them accountable for a $1B hit.

However, the design flaw that ends up costing the company $1B is not a surprise when it comes to the point at which a $1B charge-off is announced. The console has been out for a year and a half, presumably having a steady failure rate over that time after an initial 'burn in' (ba-dum-dum) period early on.

Press/blogs recently have been pretty scathing about the failure rate. Someone up high decided to keep manufacturing the defective console (even putting out a new SKU) and not stop the assembly lines pending a new cooling system. A decision like that goes all the way to the top. And now there's a $1B charge-off. Who should you blame if not Bach or Allard? Who gets the big stock awards when the console hits the streets? Why is the punishment for mismanagement or failure not as great as the rewards?

Anonymous said...

>"What the f*ck do Robbie Bach and Peter Moore know about engineering and design?They're not techies.If the xbox engineers could some how had managed to design a console that was inexpensive to make and cost reduce then Xbox and Xbox 360 would not have cost MS nearly 7 billion in losses.

There's nothing wrong with Xbox's business plan or strategy it's just that the engineers who are in charge of making the thing need to stop f*cking up."

Wow.

A manager who cannot recognize failure in progress and act on that to fix the problem before it becomes one is not a manager but a doorstop (the kind that hits you in the butt on your way out).

Anonymous said...

"The fish...stinks...from the head"...

I don't mean to be rude, but seriously-- there have been people screaming this for 20+ years. Your leads are flawed in some truly unique ways considering this industry. One enormous business coup many years ago has been leveraged well, but it's been done in a way that breeds discontent.

Success has a way of hiding problems-- that is, prolonging demise. Also, developing sycophants, practically like ancient Rome.

Again, without malice: from an outsider looking in, you guys are not building the future. You're feeding off the past.

Anonymous said...

To the poster who asked about resigning: do the right thing and tell your manager face-to-face. He/she will appreciate your candor (vs. doing it indirectly) and might even try to recruit you back. Don't do anything rash, everything you've heard about it being a small world is true...

Really I'm at a total loss as to how to fix things. Maybe at this point maybe we need to just come up with a catchy three letter acronym for 'accountability' to resonate an understanding with the remaining rank-and-file who still allow management to mop the floor with their heads, supplanted with a steering commitee and swim-lane process flow to express the term to properly for execs to read through their blinders.

Anonymous said...

>>so let me close with the below comment that came in on July 3rd that I'm exceptionally grateful for the commenter taking time to share...

Mini - I was that poster...and I was amazed & delighted to see it called out this evening. Glad my words struck a note with you and I hope they do with others out there, too.

But in 20/20 hindsight, I think I'll spell-check more carefully in the future... ;-)

Anonymous said...

"do I just not show up..."

I often wonder how long someone could last on the payroll just not showing up. Here's what you do. Just stay connected on email, respond to important things, show up in the office for your team meeting and weekly 1:1. Do the bare minimum to get by. My guess is that you could stay on the payroll for a good six months before anyone really cared. Probably a year if you don't mind a bad review. In the meantime, a paid vacation, go get another job, work on starting your business, etc. Depending on how "bad" your manager is, this could work for you. Now...not exactly ethical, but this is what the company has become. How many people do you know on the payroll who do exactly this just by virtue of their job description and/or loose deliverables. I would say there are thousands just phoning it in, taking advantage of sloppy overhead and middle management.

Anonymous said...

You know, there are some days I dislike my job, there are a lot of days I dislike the people I work with, but at the end of the day, I know my value and if I quit (and everyone else like me) then what kind of product would we deliever to the 250 million plus people out there that use the stuff I work on? The harder the work I do, thousands (possibly hundreds of thousands) of people are prevented blue screens on a daily basis.

That actually means something to me, and there are not many places where you can affect that much specific change.

(lets not get into why there are even bluescreens, I know the religious debate....in the end though if I can prevent our mistakes, then the overall numbers come down.)

Anonymous said...

Notes from the field ...

On XBOX
I agree with Mini's calling for Bach's head on a platter. I also agree with the comments that place blame on the engineers. My initial reaction is to get rid of the entire reporting chain.

Whether Bach understands engineering and design is really irrelevant. Msft pays him $10M+ per year to execute. His team failed in a BIG way. If he cashes the checks and sells the options (which we know he does), then he needs to step up and be accountable. It's his job.

Of course, this will never happen because this is Msft. A lot of someones will make a lot of lame excuses and Windows and Office will continue to print money. Msft goes on.

As for the engineers, knowing Msft the way I do, I lean towards believing that one or more of them pointed out the issue way in advance, but it got postponed to v.next - typical Microsoft software engineering. Only the console isn't software, and you can't fix it with a patch on Microsoft Update. Oops!

Find the person who postponed it and can them and their management chain. Harsh, yes, but it's their freakin job!

If the engineers missed it, then get some engineers that know what they're doing.

Only at Microsoft can a $1B+ fubar be made and nobody gets fired. Simply amazing.

Risk / Reward
I look at the risk / reward comments from a slightly different angle. I'm actually OK with my rewards, particularly for virtually no risk. What I'm not OK with is my ability to have an impact (I'm in the US Field Sales org). In the scheme of things, it really doesn't matter what I do. Or what my boss does. Or what her boss does. Even at the GM level, there's really not a lot of decision making capability. Our quotas flow down from on high and get peanut buttered across the org. Same with our budget. Same with our investment. Same with our community investment. Same with our marketing budget. Same with marketing content. Same with ...

While I might not be partner or VP material (then again, I might), my talents are getting wasted - and rusty. I want to work somewhere where *I* matter. Where if *I* screw up, people know. Where if *I* close a big deal, it affects the company. I guess I'm not a big company guy, and Msft turned into a big company.

So, I too am calling an end to my long Microsoft career. I have learned a lot and worked with a lot of really talented people. I've met people that were scary smart. I will miss these people. I will miss the Kims (hopefully I'll hire some of them!) I won't miss the politics or the lack of accountability or the lack of decision making empowerment.

I'm not sure what I'm going to do. Right now, I'm leaning towards a couple of start-up opportunities. Step one is to take a couple of weeks or a month away from Microsoft to clear my head. Microsoft has been good enough to me financially that I can afford to do this (thank you).

I'm not bitter (in fact, I'm extremely grateful), but I do wish I had done this 5 years ago. That's when I really quit growing at the exponential pace Microsoft is capable of pushing you to. I didn't quit learning, and I certainly made a good living, but I feel like I could be so much further down the path than I am now. I played it safe.

My advice, don't get to where I am - don't play it safe. When your personal growth starts to level out, find something else to do. If not within, then outside. Is it scary? Yes. Is it a smart decision? I think so - ask me in a year.

Vista
Selling Vista into the enterprise is ... difficult? Very difficult? Impossible? Our deployment numbers in the enterprise are not where they need to be. We have made progress on drivers and app compat, but neither is where it needs to be for widespread enterprise adoption. There are also a bunch of "oops" that make deploying Vista to thousands of machines more difficult than it needs to be.

SP1 will help, but it's going to take more time to get more apps fixed. The marketing materials tell us that "49 of the top 50 apps" are compatible with Vista. Our reality is that there are a bunch of internal and 3rd party apps that don't work. Every account I've worked with has delayed their Vista rollout due to drivers and/or app compat. It's a big problem that's going to take a lot of time to fix.

iPhone
One of my friends got an iPhone and it's a people magnet. *Everyone* wants to see how it works / play with it. He says it's not perfect, but he's single and he's gotten more than a couple of young ladies to enter their telephone number into it ... I'd pay $500 for a good ice breaker :-) Any Smart Phone stories like that?

Yeah, I know, the iPhone isn't "enterprise ready" and it doesn't have Exchange synch (yet). Big deal! It's cool. It's hip. It's flying off the shelves. A lot of people want iPhones. All things Windows Mobile hasn't accomplished yet. But they're only on v6 ...

XBOX 360
I bought Guitar Hero 2 the other day. It's a ton of fun, but the kids want to sell the X360 on ebay and buy a Wii. A friend of theirs brought a Wii over for a sleepover, and I'm getting one (I made them go to bed, then stayed up playing all night - bad dad!). It's FUN. It's cheap (if you can find one). And even though the controller doesn't use "cameras" to determine movement, who cares, it works.

Yet another reason Robbie should be kicked to the curb...

Reviews and Commitments
The tools *SUCK*! The cobbler's kids truly have no shoes. Infopath needs to figure out this advanced new feature called "cut and paste". If the team Googles the term, I'm sure they can get some pointers... Can we please go back to Word?

I was so excited when I got my commitments handed to me. I think I have 7 "required" commitments and 2 "suggested" (by the powers that be - whoever they be). My commitments actually make some degree of sense, so I decided to take all 9 of them as-is. So all I had to do was click the button ... not really. Turns out, all you have to do is cut and paste 3 freakin sections of text for each commitment (we already talked about how Infopath SUCKS at cut and paste).

If you're going to have "required" commitments, why make 70K+ people cut and paste 20+ times? Why not populate automatically or with the click of a button?

Maybe I'm stupid and I missed the magic button (flame away if deserved) ...

How to resign
Someone asked how to resign. I haven't done this in a long time, but I have a face-to-face meeting scheduled with my boss, which I will follow up with e-mail. As a manager, I always respected people more when they had these conversations face-to-face. Maybe you should pose that question to Lisa on the InsideMS blog? :-)


All the best from a soon to be ex-Softie!

nff

Anonymous said...

Why not can the engineers who designed it instead? I've always thought that major bugs should get the dev and tester fired.

Yeah but what if they found the bug, and engineering said "it will take x months to fix it" and Robbie and friends said "no time for that, ship it anyway"? That strikes me as an entirely believable sequence of events.

Anyone on the XBox side shed some light on this? It would be a definte shocker if it were revealed here that they shipped knowing of that problem.

Anonymous said...

"We were just following orders."

Rings kind of hollow, doesn't it?

Anonymous said...

I've got to say, every time this "allard" character's name comes up, I have to shake my head and wonder why nobody above him in the MSFT hierarchy hasn't figured out that he's a complete poseur.

Then, I remember who's running the joint.

Anonymous said...

"What the f*ck do Robbie Bach and Peter Moore know about engineering and design?They're not techies."

Ok, think about what you said for a second.

Let me just mention at this point that Tony Fadell, Bertrand Serlet, Sina Tammadon and Scott Forstall *are* techies.

Hell, for that matter: Segrey Brin, Larry Page, and Eric Schmidt are, too.

Steve Jobs may not write code, but his design sense is very well-demonstrated.

Is the answer starting to dawn on you?

Anonymous said...

"It's funny how mini and others constantly place all of microsoft's screw ups on the shoulders of top and middle management and never the lower level employees.

What the f*ck do Robbie Bach and Peter Moore know about engineering and design?They're not techies.If the xbox engineers could some how had managed to design a console that was inexpensive to make and cost reduce then Xbox and Xbox 360 would not have cost MS nearly 7 billion in losses.

There's nothing wrong with Xbox's business plan or strategy it's just that the engineers who are in charge of making the thing need to stop f*cking up."


um, this is why we pay these "non-techies" bazillions of dollars a year and why we give chicken scratch to the low-level engineers. robbie and peter are given their bloated payouts to make sure that every possible check and balance and dilligence is in place to make sure that this kind of thing doesn't happen and that the business makes money.

robbie, this wasn't you posting was it? ;-)

Aníbal said...

I'm not a microsoftie but; I just wanted to tell you that Moore had this exchange with LevelUp's N'Gai Croal:

"Real quick: are you still going to be profitable for the next fiscal year?

Yes. sir. Yes indeed. Absolutely."

More on the interview here.

Anonymous said...

Why not can the engineers who designed it instead? I've always thought that major bugs should get the dev and tester fired.
Based on past experiences at MGS this is my guess:
- The design for the Xbox was split up between different teams, and components were outsourced to external contractors.
- People had to get 1 or 2 steps up the chain to get information to and from another team.
- Whoever designed the motherboard specced the cooling and the required air flow.
- Whoever designed the case didn't have that information, didn't care about that information, or was told to ignore it because they wanted the case to look exactly like it does.
- At some point during development, which was rushed to be out before PS3, some engineers notice the bad air flow.
- Their Management tells them "it is too late to fix this, we need to be out soon".
- Problems were not communicated up the chain, the severity of the issues took senior management by surprise. But it actually is too late to change it.
- Management decision was made to produce units and hope for the best. It can't be that bad, can it? Who cares if one or two units fail.
- Bingo, $1B down the toilet. And Nintendo is making money with their Wii.

Anonymous said...

I expect to be hiring a couple dozen people in the next year, and I can tell you that Microsoft is rapidly becoming a very strong negative on a resume.

Engineers from MS had better be able to tell me what they tried to fix, and convince me that they left because they were sick of incompetent management getting in their way.

Line Managers from MS had better convince me that they aren't office politicos, and that they really can bring a project in on budget, or they go right into the round file, too.

Senior managers and VPs from MS, I would rule out categorically.

Anonymous said...

Someone said:

What the f*ck do Robbie Bach and Peter Moore know about engineering and design?They're not techies.

Perhaps not, but they have the power to make key decisions about product design and engineering.

As much as I love Apple's products, there have been instances in the past where executive decisions have trumped engineering common sense, and as a result, the products have suffered.

A couple of "for instances".... Suppose Bach or Moore dictated that Engineering had to cut costs to a certain extent? That might force the engineers to use poorly-spec'd components or otherwise cut corners. Or perhaps the executives dictated that the product had to be complete within a certain period of time, and engineering had to cut corners to meet the new deadline?

Your statement makes it sound like the executives in charge have no real power whatsoever and are therefore blameless... when in reality, they have all of the power, even over areas where they might have little to no knowledge.

Anonymous said...

Engineers from MS had better be able to tell me what they tried to fix, and convince me that they left because they were sick of incompetent management getting in their way.

Line Managers from MS had better convince me that they aren't office politicos, and that they really can bring a project in on budget, or they go right into the round file, too.


IC Testers and Devs you can pretty much assume were trying to fix things and cared about quality. Your biggest concern there should be estimation skills. IC PMs you should grill about commitment to quality, since the role emphasizes and rewards features over quality.

Very few Leads (first line managers) at Microsoft are politicos. Second Level managers are maybe 50-50 politicians vs engineers. Past 2nd level, it Politics City. That's for Test and Dev. For PM, the poltics starts one level earlier.

Senior managers and VPs from MS, I would rule out categorically

You're right about this one. You might miss a gem or two, but the odds are highly in your favor avoiding these people.


Realistically, Senior ICs (that's Individual Contributors) and Leads at Microsft are where you find the "Kims" - technically solid people who focused on doing their jobs as best they could and gradually losing ground to the climbers who promised the moon and screwed up the execution.

Anonymous said...

"- Bingo, $1B down the toilet. And Nintendo is making money with their Wii."

I guess that the profitable Wii is "just not a big enough business" for Microsoft to take an interest in it. (Isn't that the usual reason we give for not getting into a profitable business? That it's too small for us to care about?) Instead, chasing blockbuster dollars, Microsoft went after a power platform that could host mini-cinematic "blockbuster" games for which a limited number of people are willing to pay top dollar.

Sure, maybe "all the cool kids" will spend $60 on blockbuster games, perhaps a few times a year. But the market for those games hasn't changed very much over the years, and really seems to be stagnated around a core "gamer group."

The 360 has made inroads with Live Arcade, but $399 is a big chunk of change to plonk down to play casual games. As we're seeing, not everyone's willing to do that. That same $399 can be used to purchase a computer which can play casual games.... and run Office, and let you send email, and edit mp3's, and, and, and.

The Wii has more mass appeal as a game platform. It may not have any mini-cinematic epics that a game studio can charge top dollar for, but given the way it's selling... hmmm... just maybe MANY people prefer playability (and to some extent affordability) over the over-produced graphical masterpieces that their creators are so proud of and niche-group fans are so fond of.

Anonymous said...

What the f*ck do Robbie Bach and Peter Moore know about engineering and design?They're not techies.

It's troubling that they are not techies, almost like the guy who doesn't play any games being fairly high up in the division.

But technie or not, what actual leadership at that level does is set a tone for the entire organization. These guys could have made quality job #1. They could have used their bully pulpit to insist on quality and to challenge everyone to make customers happy, whatever it takes.

The fish does rot from the head down. You see some "leader" selling lots of stock before a 1 billion cash charge is announced, you get less and less motivated to do the right thing yourself.

Keeperplanet said...

>"The Long $1,000,000,000 Kiss Goodnight: . . "

Just one more egg in the eveready bunny's basket. Alongside such great accomplishments as the five year Vista development, the Acquantive acquisition, the one billion $ partner payout of 2006, surface computing (a giving gift not yet on the radar of incompetence), Zune, not releasing Halo III on pc's (which would cover the Billion dollar Xbox loss in three months), and so on.

Just to give you an idea of what a scrounging entrepreneur could do with a billion dollars: design and develop and distribute a line of a dozen computer products each working well and blowing the sox off of Xbox, design and develop software to drive it, design and develop an iPhone competitor, design and develop a realistic zune replacement that people really want, design and develop a realistic surface computing project that would be marketable and within reasonable price points for the general public.

The Xbox fiasco is an unbelievable event beyond most peoples wildest imagination. BTW, somebody better hold the development manufacturing contractor accountable as well; perhaps time to look at an alternative manufacturing source.

Anonymous said...

A billion. A BILLION!! For f*ck's sake, this is NOT OK, not by anyone's standard ... *someone* has to go, even if it's just a heavily financially-greased token.

Anonymous said...

dood sez:
"Based on past experiences at MGS this is my guess:
- The design for the Xbox was split up between different teams, and components were outsourced to external contractors.
- People had to get 1 or 2 steps up the chain to get information to and from another team.
- Whoever designed the motherboard specced the cooling and the required air flow.
- Whoever designed the case didn't have that information, didn't care about that information, or was told to ignore it because they wanted the case to look exactly like it does.
- At some point during development, which was rushed to be out before PS3, some engineers notice the bad air flow.
- Their Management tells them "it is too late to fix this, we need to be out soon".
- Problems were not communicated up the chain, the severity of the issues took senior management by surprise. But it actually is too late to change it.
- Management decision was made to produce units and hope for the best. It can't be that bad, can it? Who cares if one or two units fail.
- Bingo, $1B down the toilet. And Nintendo is making money with their Wii."


Bingo indeed. My past experience in MGS matches.


Another dood sez:
"I expect to be hiring a couple dozen people in the next year, and I can tell you that Microsoft is rapidly becoming a very strong negative on a resume.

Engineers from MS had better be able to tell me what they tried to fix, and convince me that they left because they were sick of incompetent management getting in their way."


Really? Do we get extra credit based on how long ago we realized this and pulled the ripcord?

Back to mini's request:
Is my company groovy? No not really. We make very workmanlike product for a somewhat stodgy industry that is facing a lot of negative impact right now.

But I will say that every aspect that was negative at MSFT is positive here. And its a damned shame I had to go elsewhere to find it.

Anonymous said...

disclaimer: not a Softie, but I work at a company that produces cellphones and other complicated gadgets.

The decisions that led up to that $1B figure being released didn't happen lightly.

Possibly there was a large class action lawsuit brewing in the background and this was the out of court agreement.

Possibly one or a number of suppliers were providing bad parts. Problems arose, MS knew about it, gave the suppliers a deadline to fix things, deadline passed, shit hits fan, and now the suppliers are footing the bill with MS doing the administration of the X360 replacement program.

I'm leaning towards supplier issues because there is no single recurring problem being reported by the public, like say, certain automatic transmissions on Chrysler cars in the 90's.

Those problems may already have been fixed as 'the word on the street' says the new Elite versions are far more stable than the previous ones.

There's way more to this story than what's being told to the public.

Anonymous said...

The startup well is beginning to spring. If you're thinking about leaving, it's time to go. I'm out of here on September 15th, as soon as that final check shows up.

The Microsoft I knew and loved for 12 years is long gone. I'm starting my own company, and we're going to have a heck of a time doing it. We'll likely fail. We could possibly do well. We have a shot at hitting it big. Same as everyone else, really.

If you're young, single, and have no one depending on you, you really have no excuse for being at MS anymore. If you have family obligations, I feel for you.

Who da'Punk said...

Administrivia: email contact info?

I received a question about email contact info. It used to be on my profile page but got removed (probably when I switched to the new Blogger). Hmm, probably explains the dramatic drop in spam to this account.

Anyway. It's back.

keeperplanet said...

>"I'm leaning towards supplier issues because there is no single recurring problem being reported by the public, . . ."

What you are describing is component failure due to heat: random component failure at different times for different user patterns. Component failure is usually caused by faulty heat management inside the box and enhanced by machines that begin to get dirty and cannot be cleaned, aka a `sealed console'. I could describe the ways components fail in this manner, but that would take a while.

The same components are likely used successfully on other products with better heat management, unless there is some bizarre custom chip that was designed for this unit.

I'm leaning toward a redesigned board with the same or similar components that would behave in the same way if on the original board design.

That is all speculation of course, and I don't work for MS or their suppliers.

Anonymous said...

If you have family obligations, I feel for you.

Why? Venture funding minimizes any risk equally whether you are single or with a family.

Anonymous said...

doodette opined -
If you're young, single, and have no one depending on you, you really have no excuse for being at MS anymore. If you have family obligations, I feel for you.

Oh horsehockey. I bagged msft with a mortgage on my head and family clinging to my waist. Sure I turned down some startup offers because one of the main reasons for my leaping over the side was that I was a stranger to people far more important to me than my manager...but the mortgage is being paid, retirement is getting saved for and I get to see my kids while they are awake. So no way should family be keeping you there. In fact, it should be a reason to *leave*. My kids might grow up to hate me, but it wont be because I was absent.

Anonymous said...

Well from the Xbox Semitech perspective, the Xbox 360 was a complicated project involving a new architecture, new semiconductor process technology (90nm), new pcb technology (lead-free), thousands of engineers on multiple continents and timezones, and a tight schedule. Given the complexity, I'm surprise that the thing even works. So, yeah there are problems. Of course we could have waited until we solved all the problems but then what would the market look like if MS gave Sony the lead again? Either way, we probably would have been screwed.

I was somewhat surprised in this afternoon's update meeting when Robbie Bach took responsibility for the screw up. I'll give the man credit for that.

Anonymous said...

"I was somewhat surprised in this afternoon's update meeting when Robbie Bach took responsibility for the screw up. I'll give the man credit for that."

And yet, he's still there. Accepting responsibility without leaving means nothing. Fact is that he'll still get his big payouts, bonuses, SPSA grants, keep dumping his shares, etc. Where is the responsibility? No, Ballmer will never ask for his head the same way he won't ask for any of his senior leads' heads. He's paying them all off and protecting his base so that he'll never leave. Sound familiar? How many dictators are that way?

Anonymous said...

I often wonder how long someone could last on the payroll just not showing up.

Come on don't even bother with that. Go find yourself a doctor who will write you a note that the hang nail, or insert any number of stupid medical excuses... hemorrhoids, stubbed toe, TMJ, stress you have you have requires short term disability. You can easily score 3 months off a year if not more.
In a group I worked in there was an individual who pulled this crap every year (and still is from what I understand) for the 3 years I was there. I don't think they worked more than a total of 1 year for the 3 I was in that group. What a joke. Friggin’ HR is the reason this useless excuse is still in the company. Too worried the company might get sued for wrongful termination. Whatever... makes me sick.

Anonymous said...

I was somewhat surprised in this afternoon's update meeting when Robbie Bach took responsibility for the screw up. I'll give the man credit for that.

Talk is cheap. If he resigns with no golden parachute and no August 31st stock grant/SPSA heist, then I'd give him some credit.

Anonymous said...

Mini-

Please spin off a thread about the iPhone and the claims of MEDPG management that it is not competition to Microsoft's business, as we are focused on the Enterprise user.

6 years an no $ to show for themselves. Ah Windows Mobile, what you could have been if there was "average" leadership...

Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Let's say that MSFT has 50,000 US employees. Now let's say that the X360 issue is going to cost 1.1B in total. For the cost of that fiasco, each of those 50k employees could have been given a $22,000 bonus this year. Lets go further and assume that only the top 10% of those people deserve cash from this pool. Hey, a $220,000 bonus for each of the top 10% employees! Nah, instead let's just give it to continue to keep the $6 (+?) billion xbox effort afloat.

Anonymous said...

throughout the last couple of years, Robbie has sold about 500,000 shares of stock. In May 2007 he sold 200,000. Good thing he didn't wait until after this xbox 360 news was announced!

Anonymous said...

I know it pales in comparison to the $1b clusterf***, but let's not forget that they're also paying $50m for 2 pieces of exclusive GTA4 content. $50m USD.

Do we REALLY expect to get our money back on that investment? What's the most we can charge for marketplace content? How many downloads will we need to get? After all of the bad press for the previous GTA games, I can't believe we'd put so much money into this game.

As to the previous comment that said Robbie Bach accepted responsibility for this, where did he make that statement? Did he go into details on what exactly the problems are?

Can anyone think of another company that's had a $1b screw-up and has NOT fired senior people because of it? This is the kind of thing that usually results in a huge management purge. I hope there's a shareholder revolt because of this.

The engineering team that probably found these problems 12+ months ago and proposed a solution should get big fat bonuses. Instead, I'm sure they'll get the shaft for not fighting harder for the fix. No, I don't work on that team :)

Anonymous said...

I originally said...
>>>> If you're young, single, and have no one depending on you, you really have no excuse for being at MS anymore. If you have family obligations, I feel for you.

Someone then replied...
>>> Oh horsehockey. I bagged msft with a mortgage on my head and family clinging to my waist.

Firstly, I was speaking about doing your own startup (where the angel burden is on you, the VC burden is on you, nearly all burdens are on you). Secondly, I honestly meant no disrespect by my statement. I have lots of friends at MS with families who would not think of leaving because MS is a safe paycheck and any risk to them, no matter how much they would be willing to take it, means a risk to their childrens' education, etc.

For me, I am single, and I have absolutely nothing to lose by leaving. I've saved well, and the early days at MS were actually good to me financially. Now is the time to leave as this is a period of innovation (outside the company, of course) very similar to the time when I first came to MS. I have my sanity and possibly my freedom to lose by staying at MS. There isn't a day that goes by when I don't want to reach across the table and strangle my gutless, sycophantic, self-absorbed, jackass of a GM.

If you have a family and are willing to risk doing a startup...well, I applaud you. I don't think I'd have the guts to do it if I had little mouths to feed.

Anonymous said...

Someone said:

I'm leaning towards supplier issues because there is no single recurring problem being reported by the public, like say, certain automatic transmissions on Chrysler cars in the 90's.

No. There is a single recurring problem being reported. The "red ring of death", with speculation being that the device is overheating to the point of failure. This is substantiated by the repaired machines arriving with large heat sinks where there were none.

So, we have a machine (the XBox 360) designed with insufficient cooling. Design issues aren't likely the fault of suppliers... it's the fault of the designer, i.e. Microsoft.

Anonymous said...

Someone said:

new semiconductor process technology (90nm)

90nm fab wasn't new in November 2005, the release date of the XBox 360.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/90nm

As a matter of fact, Apple was shipping XServes with PowerPC 970s based on the 90nm fabrication process back in early 2004.

Anonymous said...

Someone then replied...
>>> Oh horsehockey. I bagged msft with a mortgage on my head and family clinging to my waist.

Firstly, I was speaking about doing your own startup (where the angel burden is on you, the VC burden is on you, nearly all burdens are on you). Secondly, I honestly meant no disrespect by my statement. I have lots of friends at MS with families who would not think of leaving because MS is a safe paycheck and any risk to them, no matter how much they would be willing to take it, means a risk to their childrens' education, etc.


That'd be me.

Fair enough. I did misunderstand the statement. To be honest MS *was* a safe haven for a long time. And no, I would *not* recommend being the head startup guy for someone with a family. Even if you can take care of the basics for your family - food, shelter, etc - the necessity of massive hours on the job when building the business forces you to largely treat them like a business expense - and nothing good can come from that.

BUT with what it takes to just maintain position at MSFT (which as you know is indeed swimming against the current there) IMHO, it is not really doing the family much good. Sure as hell didnt for mine. My point being: there are many places out there for people who really want to balance work and life; places better than MSFT.

(sorry this is turning out longer than I had expected)

Now before anyone flags me with the "clock-puncher" tag - no way. My family has been through many ship-cycles. They understand that. But we are all relieved that they are better planned, executed better and that my team makes every effort to get folks home while still making profit. I work *hard* but when I go home - its done. I actually got mildly rebuked for answering an email on a saturday.


If you have a family and are willing to risk doing a startup...well, I applaud you. I don't think I'd have the guts to do it if I had little mouths to feed.


I dont know if I would applaud that. "Cringe" would be a better term for my reaction - for the reasons noted above.

Now my dad..he did it right. My mom pointed out what he was missing and Dad scaled back his business building efforts. Sure we had fewer luxuries and such - but we did fine. Once my brother and I left home - he jumped in feet first with Mom's blessing. Now he is building his third company at 64 and driving younger folks into the ground. Now *that* I applaud.

keeperplanet said...

>"Please spin off a thread about the iPhone and the claims of MEDPG management"

What's to talk about? Oh, you must mean Microsoft's seemingly confused vision on what it wants to do regarding mobile phones. Same problem that existed with Play for Sure then becoming Zune then falling flat. You have MEDPG products (way better than iPhone in terms of PHONE features) somehow falling in the mud face down?

Interesting article by Matthew Miller at ZDNet:
http://blogs.zdnet.com/mobile-gadgeteer/?p=469
'Apple seems to have forgotten the phone in the iPhone'

When will you guys figure out that Apple's secret is focusing on the sale and the presentation and the rest is irrelevant providing the design is cool? While Microsoft focuses on an a great idea but gets kicked around because of all the customer needs and expectations. It is a really hard thing to accomplish when speaking of a `partial product' like software on someone else's phone.

It is all about giving your customers what they want (emotion) and need (intellectual stuff).

Anonymous said...

"peers who hide their own incompetency behind obnoxious management styles or the protective shield of HR"

This is the crux of the broken culture at Microsoft which creates disasters like the XBOX fiasco. A HR that protects and empowers incompetent managers. Having worked for over a decade at Microsoft, I have seen a culture shift where people are too scared to rock the boat. Even a bad manager can setback the career of a successful developer or tester using the review process. I was in a group where a person complained to HR about a shady practice used by a manager that she believed was in violation of company policy & maybe the law. That person, in spite of her accomplishments, was given a bad review and ultimately put on the new equivalent of PIP. Next thing she was fighting for her survival and her initial complaint was forgotten. I am sure HR was aware of the retaliatory behavior from the manager.

I would not be surprised that some developers and testers in XBOX team where aware of the seriousness of the problem. But the current MS culture did not allow them freedom to speak their mind or escalate issues. Too scared of the retaliatory behavior from their managers.

If Robbie Bach wants to get to the bottom, he should identify the engineers who should have known about this and why did not they raise their voice little bit more vociferously. I bet the root cause would come down to bad managers having the ability to act out their agenda behind the protective shield of HR.

Anonymous said...

Few people are getting the full implications of the announcement of the Microsoft Development Center in Vancouver, British Columbia. For those not aware of it: that is the Vancouver in Canada, north of Seattle, not the one down theI-5 in the way to Portland, Oregon.

Microsoft is not only solving the problem of thousands of Indians, Chinese and other immigrants that currently are almost at the end of their H1-B period and have no hope of getting a green card. Microsoft is also paving the way to massive savings that probably would compensate for the aQuantive, Xbox and Great Plains/Navision mistakes in the long run.

Microsoft was fighting a lost battle against Silicon Valley and the “Seattle Valley” to get talent at huge cost. Now, instead of paying U$80K to get a junior developer in Redmond, what about paying CAD80K (Canadian Dollars) for a top Software Engineer in Vancouver?

Also, think about the consequences for the Redmond region: instead of more and more people competing for houses that get farther each day, now there will be at least 2 thousand people leaving probably in the next 2 years. Pop!Was that the house market in Redmond or Sammamish? Boom! Was that the explosion of house prices in the distant Duvall?

Anonymous said...

$1billion buys a lot of towels.

Anonymous said...

'Confession is Good For the Soul: Why Microsoft Must Be More Forthcoming About the Xbox 360's Flaws--Or Initiate a Recall'

http://blog.newsweek.com/blogs/levelup/archive/2007/07/10/why-microsoft-must-be-more-forthcoming-about-xbox-360-flaws-or-initiate-a-recall.aspx

Keeperplanet said...

>"Design issues aren't likely the fault of suppliers... it's the fault of the designer, i.e. Microsoft."

Great catch Sherlock. But something else is causing this kind of crap to happen. Some kind of psycho-terrorism where no one who realizes there is a problem feels free to step up and say it like it is.

Maybe because they are in fear for their jobs of being accused of not being a team player.

Softie executives and HR really need to study and absorb that thought.

Anonymous said...

throughout the last couple of years, Robbie has sold about 500,000 shares of stock

I would not want to be holding a bunch of shares of MSFT stock, even without an Xbox billion dollar set aside.

Anonymous said...

Oh man, check out netflix's career page, it reads like it was written by an ex-msftie:

6. Consistently outstanding people
We're a high-performance team, not a family.

A strong family is together forever - no matter what. A strong company, on the other hand, is more like a professional sports team, which is built to win. It is the responsibility of management at every level to assemble the team that wins big.

To accomplish this, we seek to fill every position in our company with exceptional performers. In many companies, adequate performance gets a modest raise. At Netflix, adequate performance gets a generous severance package.

Oh wow. Also this: "Our only absolute rule is integrity, and violations almost always result in termination."

Anonymous said...

SO, after 18 months of being gone from Microsoft and agreeing with many of the comments here, I have decided to return - to a fast growing group with an exciting mission.

I went to a startup - employee 87, and now about 200+ people in the org. And the management has no clue how to grow beyond their current vision - serial entrenpreneurs and no idea how to get beyond the startup stage but determined to take this one bigger. I tried to continue creating a group that could evolve into supporting a large company - I was the services director - but, they don't understand how or why a product company would ever need services - Hello, Enterprise space, any flashbacks here? :)

Anonymous said...

RE: Now, instead of paying U$80K to get a junior developer in Redmond, what about paying CAD80K (Canadian Dollars)

That might have been an advantage a couple of years ago, but the way the US$ is sinking, $80K CDN will be worth more than $80K US in a couple of months.

Anonymous said...

"Now, instead of paying U$80K to get a junior developer in Redmond, what about paying CAD80K (Canadian Dollars) for a top Software Engineer in Vancouver?"

Yeah, except $1 CAD = $0.95 USD and closing. Parity on currencies will happen soon, and Vancouver isn't exactly a cheap place either. Immigration issues will be simpler, but I *really* don't think it's about money. In our group, the external candidates we get (American or not) just don't meet the bar anymore -- good talent is really, really hard to get, and we are paying a lot for it too.

Anonymous said...

ultimately put on the new equivalent of PIP

What's the new equivalent called? How is it different from the old PIP?

I'm getting some interesting emails from my manager, and I want to find out if I'm about to be PIP'd before it happens.

Anonymous said...

When will you guys figure out that Apple's secret is focusing on the sale and the presentation and the rest is irrelevant providing the design is cool?

*sigh* You really want to go down this road?

Because you know this is rank nonsense, don't you? "The design" is the dismissive term that Apple critics use to refer to what might more accurately be called "the superior hardware and software."

Look at a Porsche compared to a Toyota. Notice how one car is better made; can go faster; is, in fact, superior in every way from an engineering standpoint; its performance reflects this. Oh, never mind: it's just a car. I'm just getting caught up in "the design" -- silly me.

Look at how OS X on StrongARM lets the iPhone conduct every UI interaction with a unified interface, so that the different UI components (alphanumeric keyboards, media screens, dialing interface) all occupy the same fluid space, with an accellerometer controlling its response to its orientation.

Oh, never mind, I forgot: that's just "the design" -- irrelevant. Silly me.

If you really want to, you can judge every product in the world by means of a "feature checklist" and dismiss every other metric and characteristic as merely "the design" or "the marketing" but I swear to you, no consumer, anywhere, thinks like this. What you scornfully dismiss as "the design" actually IS the product, according to any criteria that matter to the user.

Anonymous said...

I see a lot more Camrys on the road than Porches. Even in Redmond.

You're absolutely right on your point, btw. But ultimately, Microsoft has gone after mass market with more affordable pricing --- Apples cost more than the average PC, the iPhone is $600 compared to say a T-Mobile Dash which is about $0 (mine was -$50... gotta love that $100 rebate!).

And it shows...

Anonymous said...

Now, instead of paying U$80K to get a junior developer in Redmond, what about paying CAD80K (Canadian Dollars) for a top Software Engineer in Vancouver?

Uh, we pay much more than USD 80K for a junior developer. Care to send in a resume and try your luck?

Anonymous said...

That might have been an advantage a couple of years ago, but the way the US$ is sinking, $80K CDN will be worth more than $80K US in a couple of months.

Uhh waiter? reality check, please?
Thank you.
What? They have taxes in Canada? Oh yes, there be monsters up there in the Great White North Eh. Big hungry ones. Big dogs that Gregoire and Sims only dream about.
Each of La CDN tax dogs will take a much larger bite out of 80k CDN than our annoying but much smaller and fewer tax dogs manage to take here.

The net after the dogs are done (about 40k if you're lucky), will not buy what 40k does here.
Here's a few things you might need from time to time that are more expensive up there
Gas (aboot $4/US gal), groceries, housing, car insurance (imagine the gov't being in charge of car insurance), new vehicles, tires, beer (please, not that, not the beer), smokes, clothes.. I miss anything you might need?

Well, you can always find a cheap source of herbal therapy.

Anonymous said...

"Having worked for over a decade at Microsoft, I have seen a culture shift where people are too scared to rock the boat. Even a bad manager can setback the career of a successful developer or tester using the review process. I was in a group where a person complained to HR about a shady practice used by a manager that she believed was in violation of company policy & maybe the law. That person, in spite of her accomplishments, was given a bad review and ultimately put on the new equivalent of PIP. Next thing she was fighting for her survival and her initial complaint was forgotten. I am sure HR was aware of the retaliatory behavior from the manager."

I extend pre-emptive apologies for the length of this post.

Let's bring this discussion into the present tense. What if I know that someone in charge of a feature is refusing to correct a design flaw? I called them on it, and they insisted that I was wrong, although I am absolutely certain I am not. A former SDE who left several months ago, following our old manager out the door, agrees that it's an obvious problem.

When I relayed to our new manager my observations re: the design, and indicated that I'd already discussed these observations with the feature owner, he threatened to give one of my key features to this other guy because he has more faith in this guy's technical acumen than mine. Why? The other guy outranks me in MSFT tenure by 8 years and in our group, tenure is considered an indicator of technical intelligence level. Non-technical business managers run the division, and tenure is the primary measure they routinely apply to determine the relative worth of ICs' technical opinions. The PM in question has been with Microsoft since the nineties and he's old school: the type who plays by the rule, "the one who yells the loudest and is the most obnoxious wins," and prioritizes protecting his own ego above delivering results as a team.

It's not as if a redesign will cost us months and millions. Absolute worst case, I'm guessing a two week set back, and the real cost might be in the small single digits of days. That's not even the issue. He's not saying, "Can't go back and fix it, don't have the time," which would be more defensible because it doesn't deny the existence of the boulder in the middle of the road. He's saying, "no, there's no problem here." Our manager is not technical enough to understand the issue.

I've decided I can no longer work for our manager for reasons including but not limited to events such as this. My search for another group to move to after reviews is now in progress. This manager has retaliated against others who disagreed with him before. I'd be taking a risk of the type detailed in the poster's quote above if I went over his head, or even if I continued to press the issue with him.

My LRA is 4.25 and this spring my then-manager and I mutually agreed I was on track for Exceeded/Outstanding. Unfortunately, he's now at That Competitor in Kirkland and a climber politico was handed the reins as our new lead 3-4 months ago. Since I tell it like it is, and the current lead is desperate for his poo not to stink even if a temporary odor will result in a complete lack of fragrance a year down the road, we don't get along well and he's had little to say in our 1-1's beyond complaints about my attitude for nearly three months. In contrast, our former manager complained about the 12 year veteran's argumentative, authoritarian attitude and praised my for-the-good-of-the-product attitude. It appears to be a difference in preference/style as much as anything. And that's important because unless one's manager is very, very good, similarity of work style ("I think I'm great. How much is HE like ME?") often matters at least as much as results.

Here's how errors of this sort, of a much more mundane cost, many orders of magnitude smaller, happen every day around here: Since it's not a billion dollar mistake and lives won't be at risk, my instinct is to just let my involvement stop there, and let it ship with the design flaw. It's the safer alternative for my career. It grates on me that I believe in my gut that that is the wrong thing to do for the product, and that I have to choose between protecting myself or protecting our customers' experience with our product. I can sadly see all too clearly that this is a slippery slope. How big of an error would I have to see, for me to risk my career and ability support my family on it?

If you were in my situation, what would you do? And, do you have any teams to recommend to someone who is quality-centric but also not afraid to be held accountable for hard decisions that sometimes must be made in shiproom? I'm interested in technical PM opportunities or dev opportunities that offer design work and cross group interaction as well as coding.

Don't get me wrong. Like everyone, I've refused to fix issues based on the business case more than once. But refusing to fix it on the gounds that there is no issue, either out of stubborn ignorance or out of lack of cojones to own a hard decision that reflects negatively on one's initial design, is not the kind of behavior I want to see in teammates. Maybe I've been unusually fortunate in that most teams on which I've worked outside the big M didn't tolerate that type of behavior by engineers.

Anonymous said...

Just as being in love, having all that money in the bank means never having to say your sorry (Until you really have to!). Accountability is one of the key employee tenets at MS, and I sure hope that the X-Box team have to pay some dues in that respect; this story is a travesty of poor management and risk taking with all of those 'valued' consumers.

I use an I-Pod (as an ex-Softie) and would love an I-Phone. The design and cool intergration hooks me in, but having used numerous other devices Apple's also just work the best for me. If only we had such visionary ODMs.

I like the car analogy, but Toyota vs Porsche? Toyota are way too smart and possibly design 'better' cars perhaps. Need a more lumbering and steerless choice - How about Ford?

Anonymous said...

>I am sure HR was aware of the retaliatory behavior from the manager.

And I am sure they did something about it. No company allows this, let alone Microsoft.

As far as I know there is no new equivalent of PIP.

Keeperplanet said...

>"*sigh* You really want to go down this road? ...

What you scornfully dismiss as "the design" actually IS the product, according to any criteria that matter to the user."

No, not that road. You misunderstood my point, and thank you for so eloquently describing what Apple IS good at.

I think I was suggesting that it is something that Microsoft could learn from because for all its technical prowess, Microsoft has serious difficulty finding the customer sweet spot of want and need-and you are right, a list of features is not the way.

And to be fair, I was talking about the mobile OS, which Microsoft has no control over the hardware the OS resides in for those products and therefore cannot control the concinnous integration of form function and now in this century emotional and intellectual desires of its customers, which goes way beyond something physical or visual.

As an industrial designer myself, I understand well what you are saying and agree, but what I am trying to convey is what Frank Lloyd Wright said last century that is just now coming into relevance: that form and function are one, and in five words shows how 100 years of Sullivan's edict that form follows function is obsolete at best. So what Microsoft needs to focus on, in a practical sense, is figuring out a way to meld the customer and designer into the etheral lines of code where its power and accomplishment reside, but which is no longer enough to satisfy the needs of the modern and not so modern world.

But I could have said all that by just saying the 'rest is irrelevant providing the design is cool'.

Anonymous said...

Someone said:

"Interesting article by Matthew Miller at ZDNet:
http://blogs.zdnet.com/mobile-gadgeteer/?p=469
'Apple seems to have forgotten the phone in the iPhone'"


This is incredibly naive. Have you actually used an iPhone? I have. I bought one. And it's by far the best cell phone I've ever used. And I've been using cell phones since the early '90s. I've gone through dozens. The iPhone trumps them all.

"When will you guys figure out that Apple's secret is focusing on the sale and the presentation and the rest is irrelevant providing the design is cool? "

Let's see. Presentation. Done. Sale. Done. Design. Done. That about pretty much covers all the bases for ANY product launch, and Apple executes brilliantly on all three facets.

"It is all about giving your customers what they want (emotion) and need (intellectual stuff)."

And that's exactly what Apple excels at. That's why when Apple entered the cell phone market, millions of people gave a sigh of relief, "Finally! Someone who can actually build a cell phone that works elegantly and effectively!"

Anonymous said...

I extend pre-emptive apologies for the length of this post.

Are you sure you're not part of the problem? Do you frequently ask yourself "Am I being an ass?" If not, I suggest you start.

Assuming everything else in your post is correct (note that I only have one side of the story) then I'd say you only have one real choice: get out and find a new group. I've been around for a while and based on what you're saying, you're in a sick group. Get out and hopefully it will die on its own.

Anonymous said...

"If you were in my situation, what would you do? And, do you have any teams to recommend to someone who is quality-centric but also not afraid to be held accountable for hard decisions that sometimes must be made in shiproom? I'm interested in technical PM opportunities or dev opportunities that offer design work and cross group interaction as well as coding."

if i was in your situation -- and i have been -- i'd keep my yap shut, give the team up as a lost-cause and find a better fit as soon as practical.

i'm a pm and have been fortunate to work on quite a few teams with stellar dev managers where the kinds of problems you mentioned just didn't exist, and where the politicos were confined to the PUM and above level (as they should be). the best possible world at microsoft, IMO, is a PUM with both a heart and a political mind, and a gpm, dev manager and test manager who all work well together and stay out of the politics to focus on shipping. there aren't a plethora of these teams at MS (or anywhere else, frankly), but they do exist.

finding people you respect at the mid-manager level is key to your long-term happiness at microsoft. after 10 years i have a pretty diverse group of senior discipline managers and PUMs who i've worked with and come-up through the ranks with, and when reorgs blow through and throw me into a toxic org it's pretty easy to jump ship and hook back up with a great group of folks...

as long as you realize that at microsoft the best you can hope for is a few years in any one place before reorgs bring in vile people, then you're fine. when the ick comes in, you go out. it's not so bad!

and really -- i think the good times never last no matter where you are, and you need to stay nimble and be ready to move-on to the next challenge when the magic inevitably goes away. that's true at microsoft or at a startup.

Anonymous said...

">I am sure HR was aware of the retaliatory behavior from the manager.

And I am sure they did something about it. No company allows this, let alone Microsoft.

As far as I know there is no new equivalent of PIP."


wrong on every count.

most human beings who aren't vile sociopaths have a reasonable desire to "do the right thing" -- but in the case of HR, there's an ever-present conflict about what that means. the right thing for the company or the individual? frequently the right thing for the company is the opposite of the right thing for the individua, and involves cleaning up the mess of the crappy manager with as little ripple as possible if he or she is worth more to the company than the person who got screwed -- and because microsoft doesn't value people management as a skill, there are many many many cases where crappy people managers are still highly valued by the company. there are countless stories of people who did not get a fair shake because it wasn't in the company's immediate interests.

as for the PIP -- there has always been, and will always be, a PIP. when someone's performance sucks there are 7,681 hoops to jump through before you can fire their useless ass, and those hoops include spelling out exactly what that person needs to do to keep their job and monitoring their success (or lack thereof) against those performance improvement targets cuz that's what you need to convince HR and legal that you have enough documentation to win any potential lawsuit. and that's a PIP.

Anonymous said...

"90nm fab wasn't new in November 2005, the release date of the XBox 360."

What turnip truck did you fall off of? Products don't magically appear on store shelves! We started the Xenon design in 2002. So 90nm was new at the time!

Anonymous said...

"So what Microsoft needs to focus on, in a practical sense, is figuring out a way to meld the customer and designer into the etheral lines of code where its power and accomplishment reside..."

I find this to be such an interesting statement, because I'm almost certain that they are delivering the best products they can. The point is that they don't understand people. You don't go to geeks to plan a wedding, or a dance, or a party, or any other social gathering. Geeks are notoriously...well... geeky. What is coming out of MS appeals to tinkerers and nerds, not average folks. And what's coming out of MSA certainly is taking us into the future to be like Star Trek. Unless, the future is really a Star Trek convention.

Engineers fail to understand that most people are not engineers.

So, when you say that MS needs to focus more on (insert target du jour), you're missing the point. They are! They're just bad at it.

Anonymous said...

I'm a Microsoftie in a subsidiary. I could see very little difference between the problems faced at Google and in my subsidiary. Except here, small man's syndrome seems to be the prevailing culture!

Surely if we want to attract talent, build our brand and do great things we need to be an exciting place to work with good compensation and interesting work to do. Where has the magic gone?

Anonymous said...

HR at Microsoft is so rotten that it stinks from a mile away. The main problem happens just under Lisa Brummel: the way she organized HR is totally broken, because HR is organized along the same lines of the Microsoft divisions. Just below Lisa you will see that HR has GMs for MBD, Windows, etc. And under those, the subdivision continues to follow the company hierarchy. This goes down up to the level of certain GMs and PUM, who have their assigned “HR Generalist”. In the ideal world, that would work perfectly: the same person would hear all the stories from a certain unit, and would double-check everything to separate facts from fiction. Have you ever seen a HR Generalist doing that?

It is easy to understand why no foolish HR Generalist would be serious about investigating anything. Their review is tied to the feedback of the GMs/PUM and Principals/Partners in the unit that they support. If there is any fight going on in the teams, would they first look at the levels of the people involved or would HR really look at the issue? What do you think? Have you ever contact HR?

For the person who wrote: ”What if I know that someone in charge of a feature is refusing to correct a design flaw? I called them on it, and they insisted that I was wrong”. You should run away as fast and as quick as you can. Tenure at Microsoft IS VERY important. Wake-up and consider reality: would Microsoft mess up with someone that has been in the company for 10 years or with someone in the company for 1-3 years? What is the risk of trying to fire someone that has 10 years of good reviews, compared to getting rid of someone that is “not fitting in” and has been here for 1-3 years? Think about the risks of being sued for discrimination based on age, race, sex, etc. One would better have a very good paper trail to fire someone with over 5 years of Microsoft nowadays, since the person can laugh all the way to the bank just with the settlement that is certain to happen after threatening to sue.

Anonymous said...

I was laughed when I read the Netflix quote - I've done work for them a couple times, and I can tell stories of their incompetence and cheapness.

BTW, the best guess is the iPhone uses a Samsung ARM multichip package, which is not a StrongARM - only Intel
and Marvel make them.

Anonymous said...

I came across this very interesting discussion and I thought I would share it with you folks. Its kinda off topic but I couldnt resist.

John Cook from seattlepi spent a day with Rich Barton (Zillow.com CEO) and he writes:

But Barton, who also serves as a venture partner at Silicon Valley venture capital firm Benchmark Capital, got the biggest laughs for re-telling a story from his Microsoft/Expedia days in which he, Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer would sit around and "chuckle" about Google as a "commie thing."

The link to the article is here: http://blog.seattlepi.nwsource.com/venture/ and the blog post is titled "Zillow, Google and Communism". There is an interesting audio clip as well.

After listening to it, it has left an unpleasant taste in me - I kinda feel ashamed that I work at company whose leaders thought Google, Wiki, and Craigslist as commie things. Those are among the best things that have ever happened on the Internet. Not to mention the fact that now we are desperately trying to compete in all those areas.

Who da'Punk said...

...and folks, I have zero interest in any further Apple / iPhone design back and forth discussion. It does not float my boat.

Anonymous said...

"I expect to be hiring a couple dozen people in the next year, and I can tell you that Microsoft is rapidly becoming a very strong negative on a resume.
Engineers from MS had better be able to tell me what they tried to fix, and convince me that they left because they were sick of incompetent management getting in their way."

Rule #1 of interviewing for any job: don't criticize or badmouth your previous employer or supervisors.
Rule# 2: don't break rule #1 under certain penalty of not getting the job.

Anonymous said...

A few broad rants and Observations...

Someone above mentioned that only a company like Microsoft can absorb a $1 Billion hit because we have our two cash cows (Windows OS and office), well folks what is that old saying... All great things come to an end one day and so will our cash cow. One day and the day is coming soon the BILLIONS and BILLIONS we are pissing away on crap (XBOX, Search, ZUNE, Origami) is going to sting. Yes maybe not today, but some day it will. Our day of reckoning is coming forth...

Its funny, I am child of the 90's and growing up, Microsoft was the "thing"... the most admired and feared company. We could do anything... create any market and kill off any competitor. Now, people who are only 10 years my junior laugh at us. No one can believe that no one dared to compete with us, now it seems like every kid on the block is looking to knock us down one more step or even worse, don't even care or have us in mind.... including and especially the big boys (Google, Adobe, Apple, Oracle).

Back to XBOX, is it not ironic that we, MS, and Sony spent so much time and MONEY trying to kill each other, and now the least advanced gaming system (Nintendo Wii) is kicking our ass and handing both of our asses to us on a silver plate. Someone mentioned that we are missing the boat because we are focusing on hardcore gamers... well duh (not trying to be sarcastic)... isn't it just like us to look beyond the obvious... For some reason, we just do not get that most people ( the biggest market, i.e. biggest bang for the buck) are casual gamers who play maybe once or twice a week and are NOT willing to fork over $400-$500 for a system and $50-$60 for a freaking game.

For the last 5 years or so we been schooled again and again and sadly we have not learned anything... except laugh and mock and have our CEO throw chairs and say that "I am going to kill those guys"... By the way, if anyone runs into Gates or BAllmer, can you please ask them how the killing is coming along

Google came along and we laughed, now we are lost
Apple came along with portable, downloadable music and we laughed, now we have a sad excuse called ZUNE.
Apple came out with the IPHONE and again we laugh and mock, geez I wonder what will happen...

And recently we are trying to compete with Adobe over the creative audience (graphic designers and web/print artsy nerds) with something called Silverlight or some crap.... has anyone seen this crap, the vector arts program looks like the first generation of Illustrator.... What the F*** are we doing... or rather not doing right. Do we have no shame, why would we release this crap and think this is a competitive tool-set.

On Vista, our PR/Marketing/and bean counters (finance and Accounting)are feverishly putting out memos/announcements about how great Vista is doing.... they would have us believe that we are beating back corporate IT departments because every one of them are rushing our doors to upgrade.... Well lets be honest, for those of us out in the trenches and have an IQ above retardation, we know the truth... Many companies do not want touch the thing....But you are probably saying, well the numbers (financial reports) says we are doing well.... I have this short story for you.... I was a economics major in college and one of my old econ profs use to say that for every study you can show, he can point to 10 others that refute it. For every study showing a link between cancer and smoking, there are 10 that refutes it... It is all a matter how you slice the pie.. and like many companies today, we have figured out a way to slice the pie so that we look good.. Now if you don't believe me, just look on your desktop at work and home... How many of you have VISTA on it???


But I digress because maybe Google (and everyone else) needs to do to us what we did to IBM. IBM invited us into their house and we systematically knocked them off of each of their steps and then they brought in a new leader,
Louis V. Gerstner, Jr., and he set them back on track.... changed their business and brought them back to their glory days. Now, the real question is will we get a Gerstner or a Steve Job that will ride into town and save us... Maybe and Maybe Not....

Anonymous said...

Back to Xbox

Unfortunately, Mini is right on this one. When 360 manufacturing was ramping up to full swing, it took building 2-2.5 machines to produce 1 sellable unit. I think the failure rate was 2.5:1

The problem was evident then, and is what kept the launch volumes lower than expected.

And now those problems have ended up w/ our customers. Is it just a manufacturing problem and/or an engineering issue or both? I bet both.

Again, we are faced with the issue of acountability. Is someone going to be held accountable for this? I suspect not, as do others. It would be reassuring to see Jay or Robbie being canned for this - and not canned like Blake was, where they get an extra 6 months to catch one more vesting cycle.

I stay because I'm lucky and like what I'm doing and like the people w/ whom I work. My wife left after 15 years, and boy is she having fun. Never been better.

Milk the cow. Milk the cow.

- Bandit

JKL said...

Someone said:

">I am sure HR was aware of the retaliatory behavior from the manager.

And I am sure they did something about it. No company allows this, let alone Microsoft.


Not only does retaliatory behavior happen, it is also a tool to shutdown complainers. They are considered a troublemaker and put the company at risk. The company is already heavily policed from outside and does not need to be policed from inside too. What happens in Microsoft should stay in Microsoft.

This is especially true if the complaint could have liability ramifications for the company. The first thing that happens when you make a complaint of that nature is HR informs Legal. Legal wants to know if there is documented evidence, not whether its true or not. HR Generalist listens to you so sympathetically. She is trying to figure out what kind of evidence you have. HR Generalist will even ask you to forward the relevant emails, that are looked at by legal to see if this could cause trouble if it went outside Microsoft. If you do not have anything in email and your only evidence are two people in the team who can corroborate what you are saying, that’s no good. These people will not risk backing you if things escalate outside MS. HR and Legal understand this. They will not even talk to these individuals. If they do then it could become evidence.

Now here is the HR "Prestige". Your Manager will find out about your complaint, even if you had asked HR to keep it confidential. Part of this communication will include that you may not be as valuable as previously thought. The method by which your manager discovers varies on a case by case basis.

This orchestration is planned by the HR Director and executed by the Generalist. What data is collected, who they talk to and how to dispose of the complaint is decided by HR Director.

Once the manager finds out about your complaint, HR lets human nature take care of the rest!

Your manager pulls his "Prestige". There are variety of ways they could do this. One tried and tested way is by putting you to work with people who may have existing conflict with you or one of his cronies. Conflicts will be generated and he will side against you, publicly as much as possible. Hey, now everyone you disagree with knows where to find a sympathetic ear. Now you are not a Team Player either and the conflict reduces your productivity. In fact HR will talk to everyone your manager points them towards who would corroborate that. You get strange emails or as HR calls it documentation. Problem solved.

Very successful practice from the days of Machiavelli, when information flow could be controlled.

Now HR does care about you. It has made it much easier for you to move to another group. Why complain and risk everything when you could easily move on. Together with the safe emailing guidance, it provides better protection for Microsoft. It is well known that curing the symptoms cures the disease.

jessica said...

I have gone through 3 xboxes already :(

spymasterflash said...

the best guess is the iPhone uses a Samsung ARM multichip package, which is not a StrongARM - only Intel
and Marvel make them


Originally made by DEC. Remember them? Intel bought it for cheap. I don't think the SA, any version, is in production, nor has it been for many years. Xscale is not StrongARM. And no need to guess, they have dismantled the glorious iphone and discovered the secrets. Right next to the Made in China.

Anonymous said...

re: For the person who wrote: ”What if I know that someone in charge of a feature is refusing to correct a design flaw? I called them on it, and they insisted that I was wrong”. You should run away as fast and as quick as you can. Tenure at Microsoft IS VERY important. Wake-up and consider reality: would Microsoft mess up with someone that has been in the company for 10 years or with someone in the company for 1-3 years?

Use of company tenure as an engineering design criteria is just crazy. I note with amusement that this scenario was one of my old favorite interview questions. Less than 1/4 of the people I've asked this question of (>hundred) had the wherewithal to make an engineering-based choice instead of the fear-based choice. Sad.

Keeperplanet said...

>"Louis V. Gerstner, Jr., and he set them back on track.... changed their business and brought them back to their glory days."

And all that ended up in the Xbox with a Power PC chip. I guess what goes around comes around. Who's having the last laugh now.

The question is, how much does the chip cost in the 360? How hard would it be to compile all of Xbox's games to be driven by any of the thousands of AMD and Intel chips that work better, are faster, more up to date and cost less?

Last question: What effect would a processor change have on existing Xbox customers, the existing game base?

Inquiring minds want to know.

Anonymous said...

>> Use of company tenure as an engineering design criteria is just crazy. I note with amusement that this scenario was one of my old favorite interview questions. Less than 1/4 of the people I've asked this question of (>hundred) had the wherewithal to make an engineering-based choice instead of the fear-based choice. Sad.

Was this at Microsoft? If that question were used in our group and an interviewee made the engineering-based choice without acknowledging that there may be political fallout and without explaining how [she/he] would handle it, and the AA heard the answer, Level 60 would be calling their name. No matter how good of an engineer someone is, unless [she/he] is old buds with a PUM or Director, that engineer will not last more than a year or two in some divisions if [she/he] is unwilling or unable to navigate the game. Not advocating that criteria personally myself. Simply reporting reality from the trenches, and wistfully wishing that that reality were different.

Anonymous said...

What turnip truck did you fall off of? Products don't magically appear on store shelves! We started the Xenon design in 2002. So 90nm was new at the time!

You missed my point entirely.

As I said, Apple was able to release products using 90nm fab without trouble (and I'm sure other designers were, too). I'm suggesting that 90 nm fabrication is an unlikely culprit in the XBox 360 fiasco.

Anonymous said...

JKL's Comment on retalation as a tool.

Strangely enough, something similar happened to me. I was quite mystified at the time but eventually figured it out.

I had complained to HR that someone in the team was misusing the MS internally purchased software. The software was being provided to some vendors as a form of partial payment for work they had performed for us. My manager had ignored me on several occassions when I had pointed out what the acceptable use of internally purchased software.

Though to be honest, HR did tell me informally that its not worth "rocking-the-boat". I should have listened. I could have saved a lot of grief becasue conincidently around that time my manager started having all sort of issues with my deliverables and my effectiveness with other team members. While the practice of using ms software for payment stopped, it is a small consolation for me. I received my lowest ever review score. Now, I am in a different team and I just do my job. Lesson learnt.

Why have all these policies when MS is not interested in enforcing it. Worse still punish people when they try to bring violations to attention.

Anonymous said...

So what have we learned on this thread?

1) Making mistakes WON'T get you fired

2) Pointing out mistakes WILL get you fired

Sounds like a winning formula for me. If this is what decades of enviable success and growth does for a company, give me failure and stagnation every time.

Anonymous said...

2) Pointing out mistakes WILL get you fired

Even more reason why this is the perfect place to NAME NAMES. It's generally acknowledged that particular internal people read this blog.

Here are the scenarios:

1. You're a great manager. Nothing to fear here.

2. You're a crappy manager. You get a spanking here.

3. You're a good manager that gets a spanking here anyway. Someone will call BS ad stand up for you.

4. You're a bad manager who gets pimped here. Someone will call BS and tell it like it is.

Of course, anything untoward, vindictive or malicious is easily moderated out by Mini.

Name Names!

Anonymous said...

Why have all these policies when MS is not interested in enforcing it. Worse still punish people when they try to bring violations to attention.
You should never, ever report a policy violation(including sexual harrasment) of any kind to HR, nor your manager, nor your manager's manager, nor anyone else working for or at the company, I repeat: NEVER. Rule of thumb is: STFU! -- During your employment at any company completely avoid contact with HR people , unless it's the day to receive your benefits documentation. HR are not and will not be your friends in any situation. HR will always protect the company, not the employees.

Anonymous said...

Dow up 300 points from Mon-Fri
Nasdaq up 30 points from Mon-Fri
Apple up 4 points from Mon-Fri, closes at all time high ($137.73)
Google up 5 points from Mon-Fri, closed at all time high ($552.16)
Microsoft closes below $30 again...
The $1 Billion crapped away for XBOX would have been way to artificially inflate the stock price (i.e. stock buy back)

Anonymous said...

Here is how a Googler describes his ex-Microsoft colleagues.

Steve Yegge said:

Sunday, July 17, 2005



Well, I've spent a few food-filled weeks in the Land Where Everyone's From Microsoft, so I figured it was time to blog again.

They really are, you know. From Microsoft. You can walk up to anyone in the Kirkland Office, even a potted plant, and say: "So! I'll bet you a million dollars you're not from Microsoft." And 80% of the time, they get all dejected and say: "Yeah, I was there." They're not even happy they won the bet.

So then I say: "Wow. Microsoft. That must have been cool." I get this evil gleam in my eye when I say it, but they don't notice since they're all dejected and looking at their shoes. (They're $1000 shoes, but they're still dejected. I guess if you're dejected, looking at your $1000 shoes can cheer you up a little.)

And they say: "Well, it was cool! Except we never launched our project. And we hated all the other teams. And they hated us. And each other. And our customers kind of hated our project too. And we couldn't make any forward progress, because we were crushed under the weight of blah blah blah..." They tell me their whole, sad, shaggy-dog story, and it's always the same. Project was cool, never launched it, everyone hates each other. (Editor's Note: actual percentages and experiences may vary. Some shoe prices inflated for dramatic effect.)

It's really cheery around here, I tell ya.

Actually it is really cheery, because everyone knows they're not at their old company anymore. If you ask anyone: "are you glad you came to Google?" They always brighten up instantly and say: "oh, hell yeah! I'm actually writing code!"

Anonymous said...

>Here is how a Googler describes his ex-Microsoft colleagues.

Big deal. I'm sure if you asked ex-Googlers whether they were happy at their new jobs, they'd say yes too. Happy people stay, unhappy people go someplace else (at least if they can get anybody else to hire them).

Anonymous said...

>>They always brighten up instantly and say: "oh, hell yeah! I'm actually writing code!"

These must be in the areas of Google where they aren't writing code to garner revenue from online ads.

Either that or writing code to sell online ads isn't as eye-crossingly, terminally, mind-bogglingly dull, dull, dull as it sounds.

Anonymous said...

Best thoughts, Mini.
To get it out of the way:
Stats: 4 months out with 6+ years at MS. I had to come back and read up since the xbox fiasco.

I have my own business, growing, and profitable. I know that many of you are "thinking" of starting your own business/start up. Here are some thoughts/comments to think carefully before taking the leap. You have heard these many times, but here are the real twists.

1. I answer to nobody, but myself.
Truth: You answer to everyone.
Your customers, your employees, the city, the state, federal govt, your vendors, your suppliers, your family, the competition, your allies, your friends, your enemies, your community, and the wonderful thieves.

2. I make my own hours.
Truth: Sure, after you take care of your customers, your employees,
the "man", your vendors/suppliers, family, business planning. Employees calling sick, irate customers, the "man" hassling you,
your vendors/suppliers not following through.

3. I make money from my own efforts.
Truth: After you pay, See answers #1 and #2.

4. I am happy working for myself and following my own dreams than following someone else's dream.
Truth: 100% correct. If you are not thinking this every 30 minutes (even after working 16 hours a day for 7 days straight), then you are not ready for your own business/start up.

Sounds hokey, I know. But there hasn't been a day that I regret my decision to leave and follow my dreams. Do not live half lives.
Only thing that I truly regret and I think about often: I wish I had the guts to leave 3 years ago. Don't be like me and let precious time and life force slip pass you by.

Good luck, softies! And slip in a couple extra lime Talking Rains cans for me when you leave. :)

Anonymous said...

"The question is, how much does the chip cost in the 360? How hard would it be to compile all of Xbox's games to be driven by any of the thousands of AMD and Intel chips that work better, are faster, more up to date and cost less?"

Relative to PC processors, the PowerPC chip is inexpensive and has been cost reducing well.

Contrast with x86 chips, which don't. x86 vendors introduce new chips with higher speeds, cores and features. They don't devote much engineering to cost reducing existing models.

Those vendors also avoid supporting custom functionality or IP ownership deals, which can force future products to require per device licensing fees for emulating proprietary tech from a previous model. The first Xbox used an off the shelf Intel chip, but if it hadn't, MS would have had to pay licensing fees, just like the nVidia GPU.

It seems obvious to you and most that Intel and AMD chips would be a great fit for a console, but what works for the PC isn't always the best decision elsewhere.

This incorrect assumption was the primary factor behind the billions of dollars lost on the original Xbox. Your observation on the benefits of x86 could have just as easily been spoken by an Xbox exec back in 2000.

Anonymous said...


HR are not and will not be your friends in any situation.


Let's not be overly dramatic. HR was actually very compassionate and supportive the first time I had to terminate someone for poor performance. It was incredibly stressful for me even though the person was clearly a poor performer and had been given more than adequate time to turn things around.

So this is one time when HR can be your friend. Ha!

Anonymous said...

I am sad.

I miss the WIM days. Heck, the pre-WIM days. The ENERGY around what we do. It is all stifled under so much legal (consent decree) and bureaucratic crap, that nothing is FUN anymore. Hell, so much crap has been sold up river.. it isn't even possible anymore.

Given, I was only CSG in the mid 90s and FT after that.. But I miss that FUN.. That ENERGY. That LET'S DO IT!

Sure, I might be working on the lowest level of a filesystem somewhere.. but there is cool shit happening and I am part of it! We all get together and talk shit for a few hours a week.

Not any more.

Internal process. Forms. Towels. Legal paranoia.

Has anyone here had to fill out a &#_(%& msexpense form for a hotel with variable hotel rates? You know, go talk to a partner or customer and get their point of view? It is great to do.. until you get back.

MSExpense is our technology? What we use? Are you shitting me? I can't even get anything other than pissed that that is the best we can do with our own technology at our own company. Our. Own. Technology.

Piss rivers about upgrades and compatabilities for expense and other systems.. and you are standing right with our partners. It. Sucks.

I can only wish it was like my last company where I traveled back in the late 1980s.. I could spend about 1 minute to an hour currently reporting expenses.. If only I had piece of paper and a pen rather than using shitty "save time online" tools.

And at the end of the day.. I could spend the time on the customers issues... Not my own (trying to deal with internal tools)

And do not even get me started on purchasing... I might have an aneurism.

We got some great stuff going on.

I fully expect it to the killed, squelched or shut-down by "the company."

Anonymous said...

I think it is a good thing that the Xbox problems have been acknowledged and will be fixed.
Abraham Lincoln springs to mind:

You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time.

This should build confidence amongst gamers instead of everyone ignoring the elephant in the room.

There are people who have had seven xboxes die on them. I am on my second and most of my friends are now on their third.

One thing is said whenever people ask why we put up with it, The games are such good fun and xbox live is excellent, warranty helps too.

Sony and Nintendo wish that their online services were as good as live, they both wish they had the depth of quality titles about to be released too.

The xbox and Live are great products and when the reliabilty problems are solved it will be regarded as an excellent product.

Anonymous said...

If you ask anyone: "are you glad you came to Google?" They always brighten up instantly and say: "oh, hell yeah! I'm actually writing code!"

Lol, you don't have to go to Google for that experience. Almost any job you can find will let you spend more time actually writing code than your job at MS. In fact, probably more than 90% of your time. It's great too!

Anonymous said...

Flashback to 2005 (or thereabouts):

1) Apple is in trouble: the G5 PowerPC chip won't go in a laptop because of heat problems.

2) Furthermore, Apple is a low priority viz. the PowerPC chip supply because the XBox 360 is going to be a huge success and suck up all the chips. Who cares about Apple when you've got Microsoft?

Flash forward to today:

1) Apple's PowerPC problems all went away in one "cut the gordian knot" move when Jobs just switched the entire Macintosh platform to Intel.

Suddenly, Macs can run at top speeds, dispense with the liquid cooling aparatus, be cost effective, run fast in a laptop...and (just as a side benefit) run Windows and Linux.

Meanwhile, XBox 360 is a billion-dollar disaster...because of heat problems.

Now that's what I call visionary management.

(I won't even get into the part where Apple switched their entire OS architecture to a different CPU in six months, while five-years-in-the-making Vista can't even emulate XP properly on the same hardware.)

Anonymous said...

Either that or writing code to sell online ads isn't as eye-crossingly, terminally, mind-bogglingly dull, dull, dull as it sounds.

Hello Mr Bitter. Lets face it, unless you are developing brand new code from scratch or developing a whole new system or finding the cure for cancer or saving lives as a ER doctor... everything is boring after a while. At least, these guys at Google are happy at what they do and the company treats them well.

We at Redmond are shitting on each other, stumble through mistake after mistake, and watch our management piss away BILLIONS after BILLIONS on money losing projects...XBOX anyone.

All these guys at Google have to do is come up with one more big hit and they can easily have a market cap as big if not bigger then ours. It took us what 20 some year to reach this point and these guys have a market cap of $172 Billion in just around 2 years. And if you go to their website and look at all the things they are doing and doing it/giving it away for free, it is not going to take them that much longer to come up with something viable that will pump more money into that company. That is what they are showing publicly, who knows what they are brewing in the dark corners.

Yes, I know the criticism of Google is that they are a one trick pony.... guess what, what do you think MS is... we have Windows and Office... And yes I know they are two products but essentially they work together as one because most desktops do not have one without the other. All I see is that we spend BILLIONS and BILLIONS on failures and like everyone points out, people are not being demoted/fired for all the wasted money.

keeperplanet said...

>"It seems obvious to you and most that Intel and AMD chips would be a great fit for a console, but what works for the PC isn't always the best decision elsewhere."

I think you misinterpreted the intent of my question. I actually understand well why you don't use Intel or AMD and it has nothing to do with licensing or what you did with Xbox 1. BTW, I was more interested in the answer to how hard it would be for me to compile the games to work on my own (AMD and Intel hand built) hardware just so I can get the performance and reliability and processor and graphics upgrades on the biannual basis I would prefer.

And I am not about to put any of my expensive game or movie disks into an Xbox as you well know they tend to get eaten alive by the machine that doesn't serve your customers very well, y'all.

http://www.pcworld.com/article/id,134587-c,cdrcdrwdrivesmedia/article.html

As an executive at EDD, have you yet calculated how much money you have lost by not giving your customers contemporary, fast, efficient and powerful processors to run those expensive pro games you sell? And how many IBM chips was it you said that you can choose from to satisfy your customers?

I have no idea what IBM is doing with its Power PC chips, where it is taking the die, etc, or how on earth you would upgrade the `one' product being made by Microsoft EDD.

Clearly the software end of EDD MGS is in great shape, well defined and on a positive financial track, even with the handicap of limiting first releases to Xbox, but to be honest, your strategy for the devices part seems to be in some kind of black hole from hell. Maybe that is best, leaving the devices up to your partners, but I wonder, sometimes, whether you could actually spin off a real moneymaker in hardware, like IBM has been doing from its inception and like Apple is doing, by making great and desirable products. God knows you have a powerful hook with MGS and your software interactions.

But anybody with half a brain tied behind their back would be able to see that what you are selling today has the same processor and graphics as the product you were selling at introduction, and you are, after all only selling one product, as if it is some kind of difficult trick to build one product to sell at a loss. Now that's a brilliant business model worthy of an MBA from Stanford for sure.

I have always assumed, looking at the number of chips on the inside of an Xbox that have custom Microsoft stamps and markings, that Xbox is about (the image of) proprietary hardware that cannot be reproduced or easily copied. Right. I have always assumed that is the reason you use a Power PC chip--for the proprietary aspects-- to keep people like me from taking my games and playing them on my pc or on another mass produced console that happens to use a fifty bucks worth of hardware to get the same performance.

And I have always understood that the strategy is good for a game box costing $199 and playing Nintendo style games (maintaining the `its a game stupid' strategy), but for the pro, first person shooter, movie download and playback, military and professional markets, the vision is completely and totally wrong, which is why there is so much failure in that mode on your part. It is like going out and on purpose wearing platform high heels so you can win a running race. You might look taller, but in the end, well. . .

Anonymous said...

I miss the WIM days.

+1 on that.

And regarding not going to HR for anything, even sexual harrassment, I disagree. I went to them over an incident of that sort regarding an individual not within my chain of command. In my case there were witnesses, so HR saw a real exposure. Plus, they informed me that they'd had minor issues of this sort with that person before. He was demoted, and I was absolutely none the worse for wear.

Anonymous said...

"HR was actually very compassionate and supportive the first time I had to terminate someone for poor performance."

Troll? You are agreeing with everyone else. HR is not there to help employees. It is there to help the company and managers.

Anonymous said...

> What is coming out of MS appeals to tinkerers and nerds, not average folks.

Well, no. You do *not* appeal to tinkerers and nerds with dysfunctional (as in Zune WiFi) DRM-laden crap (Zune, Vista) that is extremely hard to tinker with (closed source = pretty much everything Microsoft produces). So no, not nerds and tinkerers. Then who? Enterprise. Boring, 800 pound gorillas just like Msft itself. And that is a huge market, mind you, not that bad a strategy after all, Msft just has to admit it.

Anonymous said...

It was incredibly stressful for me even though the person was clearly a poor performer and had been given more than adequate time to turn things around.So this is one time when HR can be your friend.
HR was protecting the company and they sided with you, for convenience let's say. Depending on your interaction with HR and the circumstances surrounding the 'managing-out' of your report you may be "next in line"...time to polish your resume.

Anonymous said...

I have been reading this blog for a while. All the "I-left-MSFT-X-months-ago-after-Y-years" sound really identical to each other in terms of how general they are and how they never go to any details about what they are working on now in their new place.

Can you guys please provide some details of what general area you are working on in your new place like:

1. Hardcore Kernel level stuff like virtualization, storage, device software like in cell phones etc.

2. Web 2.0 stuff/selling online ads

3. End user apps

Anonymous said...

Robbie Bach took responsibility for the screw up. I'll give the man credit for that. And yet, he's still there. Accepting responsibility without leaving means nothing. Fact is that he'll still get his big payouts, bonuses, SPSA grants, keep dumping his shares, etc.

Ballmer once told a story about two friends that were being pursued by a grizzly. One of the friends sat down on a log to more tightly lace his shoes. His pal said: "what are you doing? Here comes the bear!" His friend looked up and said "I don't have to out-run the bear, I only have to out-run you." (the moral of story - sort of - is that you don't have beat everyone in the industry, you only have to beat your nearest competitors.)

Likewise, the sr. management knows their necks are only on the line to a certain degree. Ballmer is a dog with a nasty bark and - when it comes to making tough decisions about his directs - probably no bite. Just promise to fix the problem and you are good for more raises, bonuses and rewards. Even Ray Ozzie, who came to Microsoft with a fastidious work reputation, must be figuring out by now that its much easier to game Ballmer than it is to sweat the details.

Some of us have stories about how glad we are to be out of Microsoft. Compare yourself to the "made men" (men mainly) that will never have a bad day inside Microsoft no matter how much they screw up. Life isn't fair, but neither should it be this out of whack.

Anonymous said...

Has anyone here had to fill out a &#_(%& msexpense form for a hotel with variable hotel rates? You know, go talk to a partner or customer and get their point of view? It is great to do.. until you get back.

MSExpense is our technology? What we use? Are you shitting me? I can't even get anything other than pissed that that is the best we can do with our own technology at our own company. Our. Own. Technology.


ABSOLUTELY!!! EVERY WEEK I am filling out Expense Reports on MSExpense. I'm not based at an MS Office and when I "go to work" it is at a customer site (and generally a plane ride away from my home). So I am using MSExpense ALL THE TIME for my Hotel, airfare, rental car, meals, etc. Sure, there are some stupid things that MSExpense does, but it is LIGHT YEARS BETTER than what all of my previous companies had us using for expense reports. MSExpense pulls my AMEX charges right from AMEX, lets me associate them with the particular customer trip, and after the approving manager approves them, pays AMEX for me. As a frequent traveler, this is AMAZING!!!!!

Now, problems that I see with MSExpense??? 1) If receipts are going to be required for that ER, I should be REQUIRED to attach an electronic copy of my receipts to the ER (and have the option, even if they're not). This would allow the approving manager to view them FROM MSExpense while deciding on approving the ER. THEN, once approved, they print out on a printer in Fargo all nice and stapled so that they can be filed. Don't give me the BS about the "IRS Regulations" saying I have to send the "Original Receipts" for my Hotel, if I don't get a zero-balance receipt from the Hotel, they FAX it to me, which shows up as a .tif in my inbox. So I print this .tif and THEN it is OK with the IRS? If that is fine, then having a printer in Fargo print it for me would be the same (and save on postage).

And if you think we've got it bad here in the US, try being a non-US based employee submitting an ER. If you were in Canada, you'd fill out an EXCEL SPREADSHEET with your expenses, MS would pay YOU for those AMEX charges, and YOU have to then pay AMEX. That is pretty much the same system at every other company I've ever traveled for, so given the choice, I'd take what the US folks have for MSExpense in a heartbeat.

A grunt in the field...

Anonymous said...


Can you guys please provide some details of what general area you are working on in your new place like:

1. Hardcore Kernel level stuff like virtualization, storage, device software like in cell phones etc.

2. Web 2.0 stuff/selling online ads

3. End user apps


Happiest time at work I ever had was 7 years ago when I was working #3 above -- custom application for one customer (organization). The best feeling: Actually seeing software helping a particular guy I was working with for months to make software tailored for his needs.

Anonymous said...

(I won't even get into the part where Apple switched their entire OS architecture to a different CPU in six months, while five-years-in-the-making Vista can't even emulate XP properly on the same hardware.)

Yeah, I'm sure it only took them 6 months to get this working. There were rumors of an x86-based Mac OS for a LOT longer than that.

By the way, we support 2 architectures with Vista, and 3 with Windows Server 2008.

Anonymous said...

>Meanwhile, XBox 360 is a billion-dollar disaster...because of heat problems. Now that's what I call visionary management.

A) The Xbox 360 CPU doesn't use the PowerPC 970 architecture used for the Macs, so there's no relationship.
B) Other systems that use processors with much higher power consumption, like IBM's Power5 and Intel's Itanium 2, work just fine even though the processor module alone generates more heat than 3 entire Xbox 360s.

Your conspiracy theory is entertaining but based on pure cluelessness. Some engineer flubbed the heat dissipation design and will hopefully be terminated and that's all there is to it.

Anonymous said...

>> Sony and Nintendo wish that their online services were as good as live

Sony, maybe. Not Nintendo. Nintendo is busy with making gaming accessible to non-gamers again. I'm fairly certain that Nintendo will win the console wars this time around. I have all three consoles, and Wii gets 5x the playtime compared to the other two. Why? Because it's fun, natural and effortless to play. So much, in fact, that my 3 year old can play it, too, and my wife (who, like a lot of other people, can't manage the controls of a "regular" console) doesn't pass a chance to play a little tennis or bowling.

Anonymous said...

Some of us have stories about how glad we are to be out of Microsoft. Compare yourself to the "made men" (men mainly) that will never have a bad day inside Microsoft no matter how much they screw up. Life isn't fair, but neither should it be this out of whack.

Martin Taylor anyone?

Anonymous said...

>>Can you guys please provide some details of what general area you are working on in your new place like:

1. Hardcore Kernel level stuff like virtualization, storage, device software like in cell phones etc.

2. Web 2.0 stuff/selling online ads

3. End user apps

Taking a look at the list of local startups (which is huge) and what they do, its probably fair to say that at least 90% fall into the online bucket - numerous social engineering outfits and various services. There are even startups that deal with starting startups. Google for "Seattle startups" and you'll get some interesting hits.

There seem to be few in areas 1 & 3, which would be where many MSFTies skills are, particularly (3), desktop/client apps. There is an outfit downtown that is doing virtualization, and it got some of our long-standing OS people.

That makes me wonder how many ex-MSFT folks are getting picked up for their MS skills by startups. I'd say that flexibility - a proven ability to turn your hand to diverse and new things - would be more important than say, ten years in one group, but then again, many MSFTies HAVE done a bunch of different things inside the company.

Prior to MS, I worked for a local startup where I did software, hardware, made fixtures, prototypes, demos, went to shows... in retrospect, I loved it, and miss the very short distance between your effort and the look on a customer's face (hopefully a pleased one). Interestingly, the company failed due to an inability of the owners to relinquish responsibility to others in the face of rapid expansion, rather than lack of customers.

It would be interesting to hear from the startup folks what they are seeing in the job market, who they are hiring, and why.

Anonymous said...

I'm considering moving from an S-plan role to a C-plan role. I've heard that sometimes a job offer will contain a signing bonus of $15k-$20k to help ease the pain of stepping down from an S-plan to a C-plan. However, I've also been told you have to be a certain level (64+?) to even qualify. Can anyone shed some light on this?

Anonymous said...

>I'm considering moving from an S-plan role to a C-plan role.

What is an "S-Plan" and a "C-Plan"?

Anonymous said...

Your conspiracy theory is entertaining but based on pure cluelessness. Some engineer flubbed the heat dissipation design and will hopefully be terminated and that's all there is to it.

>
Meanwhile Robbie and friends treat themselves to multi million dollar stock grants. Enuf said about accountability in this company.

Anonymous said...

EB Games Australia Recalls 360s

EB Games in Australia has issued a recall on every single premium Xbox 360 its stores had in stock. Apparently, store managers were first asked to test whatever units they had, but that has since been changed to a complete recall of the consoles.

The issue seems to be a problem with the hard drives. A new stock of 360s should be in stores by mid-week.

From Wired - Game | Life

Related story on www.kotaku.com

Anonymous said...

>"You might look taller, but in the end, well. . ."

A tall pig with lipstick. . .
bad hard drives in Au?
red rings of death for two years straight, no fix?
no recall, just an extended warranty?
(problem? what problem?)

Whats next?

Anonymous said...

Did anyone catch the Microsoft presentation at E3? They really took the "presentation" part a bit too literally IMO as the whole thing largely came off as a PowerPoint briefing. Given the tone of much of it, I wonder if they used the same script they used when they informed Gates and Ballmer of the present state of the Xbox.

One thing that really caught my attention (for its absurdity) was their bragging about how many third-party Xbox 360 games had made it onto top ten seller lists since last fall while none from Nintendo or Sony could say that.

Well, duh! Talk about a meaningless statistic. Of course third-party games were going to be far more successful last fall and winter when the 360 had 8 or 9 million units already sold while PS3 and Wii were in short supply.

As for the months since, both of those systems have yet to be on sale half as long as the 360, but in addition, Nintendo has always succeeded on the strength of its own titles and given its current innovate interface (something Microsoft didn't offer), it's understandable that third parties would hold off even more than normal to see what customer acceptance was like before they commit.

PS3, meanwhile, is still priced high enough that most casual gamers haven't taken the plunge yet.

Even given that, I wouldn't be surprised if the same stat didn't hold up a year from now. Wii is selling like crazy and third parties are starting to notice. But even if they don't, who cares? People have always bought Nintendo systems for Nintendo games, a situation Microsoft can't claim with a straight face (Halo aside, but Bungie has gone out of their way to remain untainted by the MGS "process.")

Given what I saw at E3 (not literally "at" the show, but from watching the addresses from the companies and reports from the show floor), I really think Nintendo is going to keep making up ground and inevitably surpass the 360, all on the strength of a console that is actually "inferior" enough to be sold for a profit rather than a loss.

Going back to the subject of this post, how will Bach, Allard et al spin away those results? They tried to convince everyone that the reason they lost last generation was due to Sony's one-year lead and that if they could simply launch a year ahead of Sony and Nintendo, it would be a similar runaway for them. Imagine if Sony had held off on Blu-Ray and was selling at a price point competitive to the 360. Both of those systems would be handing MGS their lunch instead of just one.

But I'm sure nothing will change. Xbox 720 (or whatever) will be brought to us by the same crew and will similarly underperform in relation to the money spent on it.

Chad said...

I find the following quote quite interesting:

I think our only choice would be to break-up into four smaller companies and then reboot and rewire the culture in each to meet the demands and responsibilities for the new company.

A number of years ago, a co-worker mentioned that he was happy that Microsoft wasn't broken up, because they would have become more dangerous if they had been. Perhaps it would have been better for us all if MS had been broken up into several smaller companies, each responsible to hold their own. How many sane companies would continue pushing a product that was bleeding BILLIONS of dollars? Most companies would go under after losing several million, much less into the billions of dollars.

I'd much prefer to see a bunch of Mini-softs where each company had to focus down on its core set of products and learn to sink or swim with what they had, instead of leeching off of the success and profits of Windows and Office. By doing so would hopefully cause the Mini-softs to focus more intently on several key products, and let the not-so-necessary products whither away and die.

Anonymous said...

Regarding the announce of Peter Moore leaving Microsoft:

Peter is being made the unofficial fall guy, but given the all-too-neat waiting of Mattrick in the wings, this was obviously in the works for quite sometime. Maybe Peter just got sick of the toxic crap at the top, too?

Anonymous said...

http://biz.yahoo.com/ap/070717/microsoft_personnel.html?.v=1
Well, Peter Moore is gone now and he's leaving before this years' stock grant.

Anonymous said...

"It would be interesting to hear from the startup folks what they are seeing in the job market, who they are hiring, and why."

Most startups nowadays are working on the web. I'd say 99% of them use LAMP or Python or Ruby on Rails. ASP.NET is almost non-existent. No startups are going to pay a fortune for Win2k3 servers and MS SQL Servers. If you aren't working on the web and using LAMP or Python/RoR, chances are you aren't gonna get funding.

The way I see it, hardcore and low-level coding is important and needed in few cases. However, programming is quickly becoming a commodity(you can imagine the complexity of the various sites out there). Hardcore website scaling skills are still in high demand. Most people outside MS except for enterprises don't care much about MS technologies. You need to be nimble. That's the reality.

I was a L64 dev and I left 12 months ago.

Anonymous said...

I'm the guy who said above you need to be nimble. I feel that a lot of MS employees don't know what's happening outside. You need to know the world is changing. Some MS people still think Mac users use IE for mac as their web browser, Windows Mobile already does what iPhone can do, and that Silverlight has a chance(where's the reach??). Oh my god! You can't make this stuff up.

Anonymous said...

An "S-Plan" is a sales comp plan. The C-Plan is the corporate comp plan. The T-Plans are the technical (field) comp plans. The execs have their own comp plan, but I'm not sure what it's called (the rape and pillage plan I think).

The main differences are:
The ratio of salary to "at-risk" (i.e. bonus) comp
The inclusion of RBI (revenue based incentives - i.e. commission) in the at-risk plan in addition to CBI (commitment Based Incentives). Some services roles have UBI (utilization based incentive), based on the number of hours they bill.

The C-plan is built on an 83/17 ratio. 83% of your target comp is salary. 17% is at risk via CBI bonus. Your ability to make significantly more (or less) is limited.

The S-plans are built on a 60/40 ratio. 60% of your target comp is salary, 40% is at-risk. This means that you can make a lot of money if you have a banner year. It also means you don't make much if you miss your number or get a bad review.

There are at least 7 S-plans and at least 5 T-plans. As far as I know, there is one C-plan, but the bonus increases as you move up the levels. I think it doubles at 65-67 and doubles again at partner. I haven't checked in a while, so ymmv.

I have never heard of a signing bonus for internal transfers. However, "everything is negotiable".

When you move from an S-plan to a C-plan, make sure two things happen:

1) you get a level bump. S-plans are typically leveled below C-plans (and often below T-plans).

2) compute your comp target and make sure your offer meets or exceeds the new plan.

If you move from a C-plan (or T-plan) to an S-plan, make sure two things happen:

1) keep your level
2) keep your salary

Both can be done with manager approval. Just tell them that you read it on "mini".


Given the quotas I've seen for next year, being on a c-plan might be the best bet for next year ... ymmv.

Anonymous said...

Peter Moore is out - http://www.1up.com/do/newsStory?cId=3161357

Anonymous said...

Yeah, Peter Moore is really being punished for the RROD problem.

http://www.dailytech.com/article.aspx?newsid=8084

"In addition to his new position, Moore will receive an annual base salary of $550,000 (plus a discretionary target bonus percentage of 75 percent of annual base salary), one-time bonus of $1.5 million, the option to purchase 350,000 shares of company stock and relocation-related expenses of $330,000."

What a bitch that is. I'm glad they don't punish the rank and file like that. Way too harsh.

Anonymous said...

Former L64 dev,

Yes, Microsoft skills are worthless outside.

PHP - 40 job ads
http://seattle.craigslist.org/search/sof?query=PHP

LAMP - 4 job ads
http://seattle.craigslist.org/search/sof?query=LAMP

Ruby - 25 job ads
http://seattle.craigslist.org/search/sof?query=Ruby

SQL Server - 189 job ads http://seattle.craigslist.org/search/sof?query=SQL+Server

ASP.NET - 102 job ads
http://seattle.craigslist.org/search/sof?query=ASP.NET

C# - 172 job ads
http://seattle.craigslist.org/search/sof?query=C%23

Anonymous said...

Peter Moore may be out, but look at the deal he's getting at EA!

http://sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/712515/000119312507156469/dex101.htm

Anonymous said...

To the anonymous@Tuesday, July 17, 2007 10:04:00 PM, the 64 dev did say enterprises use ms technologies. If you take a real look at the craigslist jobs, C# and asp.net jobs are likely the ones you don't want unless you want to do consulting/temp, or be stuck in an IT department.

Anonymous said...

Cheer up Softies. What goes around comes around:

"Steve Yegge said: Sunday, July 17, 2005 [Microsoft sucks, Google is great]"

Now cut to Steve Yegge 2 years later:

"If you set up any organization of saintly do-gooders, with no politics anywhere in sight, then the presence of a single master politician can go unrecognized for long enough for every single sheep to be eaten and replaced with a wolf. At some point the shepherd looks down and perceives that he now has a flock of wolves, and he wonders how it happened. But a shepherd rarely witnesses the process while it's in motion, because the wolves are so sneaky.

"I was being eaten alive on my mansion project, and yet I was utterly oblivious to anything but the need to survive, which due to various odd circumstances required working without sleep and eating marshmallows without respite, apparently until either I was dead or forever happened, whichever came first."

Anonymous said...

Keeperplanet asks several times why Microsoft went with IBM's POWER line instead of AMD or Intel. There would probably be two reasons - one is that the processors are just better at stream processing. Altivec is a ferocious beast, but if you can keep it fed there's no better SIMD set on the market. Look at the minor increase in throughput between Apple's old dual G5 systems and the brand new Core2 Duo systems in SIMD workloads (Photoshop is an example).

Sony took things even further with the cell concept, which completely changes the older game programming model but provides massively improved performance through parallel processors.

The second reason is that it's very hard to install another OS (such as Linux) on such a system (compared to x86). Microsoft retains control and can both determine how these machines are used and limit piracy.

Anonymous said...

Peter Moore is leaving!

Anonymous said...

Yeah, Peter Moore is really being punished for the RROD problem.

http://www.dailytech.com/article.aspx?newsid=8084

"In addition to his new position, Moore will receive an annual base salary of $550,000 (plus a discretionary target bonus percentage of 75 percent of annual base salary), one-time bonus of $1.5 million, the option to purchase 350,000 shares of company stock and relocation-related expenses of $330,000."

What a bitch that is. I'm glad they don't punish the rank and file like that. Way too harsh.


If you've got a point, I fail to see it. The perks you mention are all coming from EA, not Microsoft.

Unless you're one of those "us vs. them" conspiracy types, the details of EA's arrangment with Peter Moore are completely irrelevant to any "punishment" due for the RROD fiasco (which, you hopefully know, happened while he was working for another company, namely Microsoft).

Anonymous said...

"Cheer up Softies. What goes around comes around:

"Steve Yegge said: Sunday, July 17, 2005 [Microsoft sucks, Google is great]"

Now cut to Steve Yegge 2 years later: link


OMG... this was the most tediously unreadable, never-ending thing ever. It was like reading War and Peace, but without the interesting bits.

Please Steve, don't ever write again. And if you want to dis Google, try to do it in under 10,000 pages and without paragraph after paragraph of filler for crying out loud.

That was painfully bad.

Anonymous said...

Refering to the ex L64 Dev, if you search craiglist sf bay, your ratios would be inverted. Seattle consultants for C#, ASP.NET usually means they do projects for MS.

Anonymous said...

To the Former L64 dev,

If you search SFBay area, you would have gotten:

PHP - 222 jobs
C# - 171
ASP.NET 116
Windows - 443
Linux - 505

Searching in Seattle biases you as most would be contracting for MS

Anonymous said...

SOS Curve
Mini,
I would ask for your and fellow (ex)softies's help to do some good (or share some pain).
I left a few years back as an individual contributor and am now managing a 20 people team in another large company.
We just introduced a "brand-new management tool called -the curve- " that brought back quite a few memories. Any suggestions/horror stories on how you administered it from the manager's point of view?
Thanks in advance

Anonymous said...

Microsoft seems to operate under the assumption that as long as it gets into a market, it'll understand it and dominate it... eventually. That's a huge assumption that isn't seeming to pan out very well.

Past business coupes were just as much business acumen as they were competitor ignorance. Tech has matured a great deal, though. Now, vision matters even more than before because people have LOTS of choice.

Sometimes, in peoples' lives, turning points only come after major upheaval. So what's it going to take you for you guys-- that is, the company?

Anonymous said...

Unless you're one of those "us vs. them" conspiracy types, the details of EA's arrangment with Peter Moore are completely irrelevant to any "punishment" due for the RROD fiasco (which, you hopefully know, happened while he was working for another company, namely Microsoft).

His point is that getting snapped up immediately to head EA Sports for a eye-popping sum isn't exactly a sign that he's lost credibility or respect. The gaming industry is a tight knit group and obviously nobody whose opinion matters thinks he's responsible for the Xbox 360 "fiasco".

Anonymous said...

That post in defense of MSEXPENSE is really depressing. If we can convince ourselves that systems like that are reasonably good, we shouldn't be in the software business.

No offline data entry, no help with exchange rates, poor page layout that requires scrolling for almost anything you do, meaningless or downright misleading error messages, etc, etc. I used an expense reporting system written in Paradox over 20 years ago that absolutely rocked compared to MSEXPENSE circa 2007.

And at a more strategic level, what happened to the concept of dogfooding? If customers saw how systems like MSEXPENSE, MSMARKET, and (worst of all) the performance management stuff compare to what we tell *them* to do in these areas, they'd laugh. Why don't we practice what we preach?

Anonymous said...

His point is that getting snapped up immediately to head EA Sports for a eye-popping sum isn't exactly a sign that he's lost credibility or respect. The gaming industry is a tight knit group and obviously nobody whose opinion matters thinks he's responsible for the Xbox 360 "fiasco".

No, that's the truth. It wasn't the original poster's "point" at all.

Anonymous said...

You said: "The imposition of a mono-culture right now is slowing us down."

Pogo said: "We have met the enemy and he is us."

I say: Culture is what we do. Mini, it's you and me and everyone else who are collectively imposing this mono-culture on ourselves.

Our execs understand that the current, pervasive culture is strong and does not meet our needs for taking us to new levels (measure this in long term stock growth if you wish).

Culture change must be grassroots, it cannot be mandated. But, it can be supported at the top and our leadership needs to do more there.

We grew fast. Manager positions were filled in a vacuum by folks at hand. Many of our middle layer management is comprised of these folks. Are they capable? Did we know much about running a business when these hiring decisions were made? Does running a business at our scale work when run by Directors and GMs who made their mark in the glory days?

I hope to still be here the day a loud crunching sound is heard as the middle management layer is compressed between the grassroots and senior leadership. I have been looking at external opportunties recently. While my "performance history" at Microsoft has been great, staying at Microsoft is not a given for me, but is what I want. But that requires a cultural revolution.

Anonymous said...

"Robbie Bach took responsibility for the screw up"

Did he take a cut in his bonus? Did he bring in someone who can actually do the goddamned job?

The asshole didn't "take responsibility" in any meaningful way, he just mouthed a platitude.

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