Thursday, September 20, 2007

Severance, Neelie, and Rats

Did you say severance? A comment recently asked:

How about an anonymous poll to see how many people would voluntarily accept a healthy severance package, if offered?

Let's say, one month's pay for every year of service and an advance on your August 2008 stock award vest?

I bet the number of employees who would gleefully accept such a proposition would be a real eye-opener!

There's really no exciting reason to remain at the company any longer (especially with this latest slap-in-the-face: "value-based stock awards"). For many, what was once a career is now "just a job." (i.e. Where's the upside?)

So just take a moment to stop reading and contemplate the following (whether you work at Microsoft or not): you walk into work today and discover your whole team is being offered a sweet severance package and you need to decide within the next week whether to accept it.

What are the pros and cons? What do you think about? And do you accept it? If you do, what would the consequences be?

Think about it, it's an interesting exercise.

What did I come up with?

First of all, I wouldn't take it. I'm having too much fun. If I took it, though, what would I do? I'd take a nice long vacation, where long for me is a month. Then I'd make lots of time for catching up with my friends, whether they stayed at Microsoft or not. I'd have a lot more date nights with my Buttercup. I'd make room for the hobbies I'd been putting off and then, strangely, catch up on all those business books (and printed Think Week papers) languishing on the shelf and start playing with new technology, probably weeding through several different start-up'y sort of projects and retaste the joy and sorrows of pulling yourself up from your own boot-straps when beginning with nothing more than a beer-stained napkin drawing. And I'd expect that to lead me to energetic conversations and follow-up opportunities with our fantastic local techie community to find something that added a positive flow back into my bank account.

What's interesting to me is that these are pretty significant priorities that I don't have to leave my job to enjoy. Fun aside, I think I've let too much low-priority daily Microsoft grind gravel and sand fill my jar.

Curiously enough, the Intel Perspective blog has a new post about an upcoming IT Department forced redeployment (Reduction In Force) at Intel and laying down a severance up-front to make it easier. A snippet:

We need to lose some people. We have motivated people who really want to stay, who work hard, but will nonetheless get redeployed. We have burned-out, bitter, highly skilled people who want to leave and will do the bare minimum until they can find other jobs. Why would we not want to keep those who want to stay, and help those who want to leave by giving them a decent incentive to move on?

Would a severance help shake you loose from Microsoft? If so, then you should assert some proactive career seeking right this minute. You'll discover the best way to get a pay-raise: switch companies. Don't wait for your severance ship to meander to the harbor.

Now, let's talk about Office and Vista... why does Neelie Kroes remind me of Dolores Umbridge? Or Lucy van Pelt. When it comes to the big, bad politically charged legal battles, I just see Ballmer, wearing a yellow shirt with a black horizontal zig-zag, laying flat on his back uttering, "Rats!" as Neelie channels her inner Lucy van Pelt and glowers above him with the football. And talk about some self important glowering from Neelie:

"I think it's totally unacceptable that a representative of the U.S. administration criticize an independent court outside its jurisdiction. And I even think it shouldn't be done inside, but that's not my cup of tea. It is absolutely not done. The European Commission does not pass judgment on rulings on U.S. courts, and we expect the same degree of respect from U.S. authorities for rulings by EU courts. And if the parties to a case are unhappy with the Court of First Instance ruling, they can appeal to the Court of Justice, and that is well known by those parties."

Or, to paraphrase, siooma.

While some articles pointed out that Intel, Apple and Google should start worrying, all I can say I can't see the EU dropping this bone while the meat is still sweet. There's Office to look into and Vista to look into, wow, no, this is far from over.

Chris over at LiveSide.net has an interesting post: Why today's EU ruling is good for Windows Live and its users - OurView The Opinion Blog. Okay, I'll read any article like that (and it's most refreshing given that most bloggers nowadays are looking for any stains on our shirt, so to say, to scream page-view-accumulating outrage over). Breaking apps out of Windows and putting them into Live sounds like a bumper crop of goodness that I can appreciate: you don't have to wait until the next version of Windows ships and you can liberate the teams to not be constrained to Windows legal obligations.

Goodness could ensue. And Girl Scout enthusiasm.

Master Chief, Baby! Do we have a big release of some sort next week? I think we'll see a lot of sick days on the 25th and 26th. Followed by the high-fiving neener-neeners from Xbox leadership about having a profitable quarter. Yeah. $250,000,000 in the bank, what, mmm, $5,750,000,000 to go?

And the new Live Search should come out soon. I like that the team is in no way comparing this to take on Google. They realize and admit that's a long, long way out there. We've got a hard enough road ahead to make #2 so those are the tail lights we're chasing right now.

Kip has an overview of Live Search 2.0 screenshots that are beginning to sneak out (from an "oooops!" post that has been removed. D'oh.).

Wrapping up: three from Microsoft Extreme Makeover:

Great quote in the first one, at the end, from Mr. Herbold. And a really good comment about the change that happened to the company as of 2001. A snippet:

MSFT executives responded with the SPSA program, a boondoggle intended to keep the execs awash in the levels of cash they were used to, even if the company ceased performing. Employees had the link severed between the company's financial success and their own financial success so that more money could be diverted into SPSA, and shareholders were pretty much just ignored. The result is happy executives, disgruntled employees leaving in increasing numbers, less effective recruiting to replac ethem, and angry investors.

Who feels like Charlie Brown now?

Rats.


104 comments:

Anonymous said...

Whoa Neelie!!!!

What an incredible statement: "[How dare the US] criticize an independent court outside its jurisdiction."

She must be really sucking down a lot of Pernod lately.

The CFI is hardly an "independent court" in my humble opinion. They are nothing more than a bunch of political hacks (Eurocrats) who are there to further the EU's political agenda (socialism).

Shachar said...

> why does Neelie Kroes remind me of Dolores Umbridge?

Because you drank the kool aid?

Brutally honest question time - what do you think of the anti-trust rules? In general, not as they apply to Microsoft. Are you happy that the DoJ had a tool with which to break AT&T's dominance?

Shachar

Anonymous said...

Couple of comments...

1. Severance...I'd still take it. I've got a gig (2) lined up outside the company. I still am trying to make some things work inside first. But I don't see it as much a severance as incentive to move on, but rather payment for "pain and suffering" of all the crap and lost opportunity I've suffered lo these many years.

2. Office...I think the interesting thing will be to see if we actually use the "cloud" to stream release, deployment and product delivery of a new version of Office...online. BillG alluded to it in a recent team meeting, but in fact I think he was subtly beating up on JeffR for not already having such a thing.

3. Halo...OK, yes, taking a few days of "sick" time (see also the InsideMS post on sick/vacation time). And probably a good chunk of October too. And here is what I am going to do (since I was too lazy to pre-order). I'm going Monday night to the Company Store and camping out. Who will join me? And if I am there still in line in the morning, out comes my bull horn and brown paper "Mini Bag" for my head...join me won't you?

Anonymous said...

Brutally honest question time - what do you think of the anti-trust rules? In general, not as they apply to Microsoft.

They're crap. All crap. True monopolies only exist with government assitance, and of course those are never challenged (until the government gets tired of them and wants a new squeeze). What pass for monopolies (e.g. Microsoft) are just people's choices going in favor of someone else when a Barksdale type has the ear of a government hack. Europe is full of government hacks (the US has too many, but the Old World still sets the standard).

AT&T? Fits my example perfectly. A monopoly because the government denied competitors the chance to run their own lines.

djof said...

Your comments on Neelie Kroes smack of sour grapes. Play the ball, not the person. Ad hominem attacks have no place in reasoned discussion.

Antitrust rules exist to stop companies leveraging their monopoly in one sector into another. They (mostly) work. Microsoft got spanked for not following the rules, as have companies in many sectors.

As a non-Microsoft person whose job involves writing kernel-level code on NT, following the Server part of the case has been interesting. Microsoft's efforts to avoid compliance and to play the case in the media haven't exactly inspired affection.

If Microsoft had apologized and provided protocol documentation on day one, this could all have been avoided. Side note: did MS even have protocol specs? Instead they tried to bully the EC.

Other tech companies under investigation include Apple over iTunes. Would you be comparing Ms Kroes to a sadist if Apple were forced to level the playing field and provide interoperability docs so Zune could play items purchased from the Apple Store?

Anonymous said...

Out of all seriousness, can you look at anti-trust laws from not MS-immediate-profit-centric perspective?

US currently has plenty of trusts/ogliopolies in cell phone/cable/ISP/financial and probably other markets that I'm not aware of. This country is governed by corporations, whose sole purpose is profit by any means possible.

And that's not good in long term. That's why many products here are of much lower quality. I must admit of much lower price as well :)

Trusts and ogliopolies certainly will try to resist change, inventions and competition. This has long history.

When MS/Google/Apple/Intel/e.t.c is forced to make their products interoperable in EU, people in US and all over the world will benefit.

Anonymous said...

please forgive me that i did not mention of competitive opportunities in usa in comment above.

i still feel pain from time, when i wanted to get cell phone service in usa; and figured out that it's lower quality, higher cost; and without competition compared to eu; where i guess competition and unified standards drove the prices down and quality up. which enabled many other enterprises and individuals to benefit from that and those companies still reap huge profits.

Anonymous said...

-My Wife's about to take a (non-MS) severance package. Given the offer, if you are planning to move -or take a year or two off- it makes a lot of sense. But She'd stopped having fun in her job, and that makes a big difference. If half your waking life is spent doing something you no longer enjoy -leave.

As for the EU, well, it's interesting. Remember that IBM got reamed over by them in the 1970s, out of which the EU reverse engineering rules came out. It is legal in the EU to reverse engineer stuff (like protocols) for hardware compatibility, just so that companies like amdahl could make new disk arrays for IBM mainframes., so ending IBM's monopoly on mainframe hardware.

I think our EU judgement on server protocols is designed to have the same effect: to make it easier to interop between OSS and MS products. Given the EU's current stance on software patents (not really legal), there's limited patent rights to defend, just 'trade secrets'.

Personally, I think its a mixed blessing. Yes the ADS, exchange protocols will get documented. But that just makes them more institutionalised. SMB is just part of the eternal background noise of a network, despite its many, many failings. As for the bundling stuff, that is so much "bollocks" to use a UK term. Look at how well firefox is doing despite IE being built in; look at how well ipod+itunes does over WMA products. In the consumer computing world, if the competition is good enough, people switch.

Anonymous said...

Mini, you are a partner so of course you are having fun. You can also afford a month long vacation.

Something I think, why am I reading a partner's blog.

Anonymous said...

>Or, to paraphrase, siooma.

A biddy biddy may Mini? She did--to the mTune of 600 million plus, loss of proprietary code, and forced compatibility with Linux ad infinitum.

Your analogy to Lucy and Charlie Brown doesn't play. Charlie Brown Balmer Aint. Besides, watching old Peanuts plays is like watching the ghost of Charles Shultz back from the grave. It ain't him, just a copy of a copy by a copying copiest.

One of my favorite time wasters is to cruise the urban dictionary for new knowledge and tags. Which of the three definitions for 'Bizzle'
http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=A+Bizzle
applies to Microsoft's (and more notably Balmer and Gates) insane adherence to old obsolete business practices?

Anonymous said...

Severance? I'd take it in a heartbeat. (Standard severance is two weeks pay for every 6 months of service.) I had a great opportunity to leave the company two years ago, but hung in there primarily because I was convinced my options might still be worth something someday.

Boy, was I ever wrong! In that timeframe, we've had 4 (FOUR!) options grants expire completely worthless! Nice work, Steve! I feel like an idiot for keeping the faith!

I agree with a previous poster. At least severance would give me something to show for these "lost years." I've squandered my youth here.

Steve, Lisa, do we really have to spell it out for you? Mic-ro-soft can not com-pete un-der the cur-rent sys-tem!

Blogger supports polls, right? I'd love to see a poll (scientific or not). Might there be 1,500 takers? I think so.

Anonymous said...

If you're young, get out of Microsoft, now! Come back when you're 40-something. They'll still be around.

Anonymous said...

I would not take severance, because I don't have a green card. Need to be a slave for Uncle Bill for now.

If I had a green card I would leave immediatelly, even without a severance package.

Anonymous said...

> If you're young, get out of Microsoft, now! Come back when you're 40-something. They'll still be around.

... and you still won't want to work there, because (unless there's a major change in the culture and leadership) it will still be a political, bureaucratic, and boring place.

As organizations get older, they get slower, more set in their ways, more into doing it the way it's always been done.

About the EU: How hard is it to document APIs and wire protocols? Just shut up and do it already. And stop the pretending that they're asking for something else. The general public may buy it, but among the technical types, you're just making yourselves look bad. ("Bad" meaning either "incompentent" if you can't produce the documentation, or "acting like a two-year-old" if you can but won't.)

MSS

Anonymous said...

I'm one of those who got one of the undeserved underperformed this year, after 5 years of stellar reviews, from a new, clueless manager.

I've been planning to go to another group and am waiting for a formal offer.

If I don't get the formal offer (I've already gotten the verbal, informal offer...which means squat), sure...I'll take the severance and get on with gettin' on. Why not? I'll take it for "pain and suffering."

If I do get the offer, I'm happy to stay and work on stuff I care about.

People don't leave jobs, they leave managers. One way or another, I'm leaving this turkey, even if I have to leave MS.

Anonymous said...

The CFI is hardly an "independent court" in my humble opinion. They are nothing more than a bunch of political hacks (Eurocrats) who are there to further the EU's political agenda (socialism).

Was it not more of a US companies vs US company battle on european battleground? I could see companies as SUN, Apple, AT&T but hardly any european ones (if any).

But hey, maybe SUN & co thought they had a better chance of winning in europe than with the US DoJ which seems to always cheer at the one who has most money?

So, as most of the companies that oppose MSFT seems to be US based, maybe you should nuke yourself a couple of times to get rid of the traitors (Bush style)?

Anonymous said...

Yeah. $250,000,000 in the bank, what, mmm, $5,750,000,000 to go?

What does that work out to? 230 million Halo3 units sold? Whoops, make that 500 million units of Halo 3 to compensate for the losses of expected upsurge in Xbox units. Yeah.

Anonymous said...

According to PI, Ballmer got a pretty good review score this time:

http://blog.seattlepi.nwsource.com/microsoft/archives/122296.asp?from=blog_last3

I guess you might call it "achieved"?

Anonymous said...

IBM tried that "great severence" approach when they needed to reduce the number of people.

It was mostly a disaster.

The problem is that the people who are most likely to take it are the ones who have good job prospects outside the company. Now, some of those people are going to be those who just need a change, but the vast majority of them are the people who are the most desirable ones.

Those with less marketable skills are the ones that end up staying because they don't have an easy way to get another job.

Which I think gives you the exact opposite effect you want.

If somebody said they would pay me $120,000 to find another job, would I take it?

Duh. Of course I would take it.

Anonymous said...

Severance... I faced this 6 months ago and took the money. Standard package as I was less than level 62. After 10 years I had enough of the constant reorgs and anti-team-building. Unless you're drinking from a really big pitcher of the company Kool-Aid, the place just grinds a person down. I miss the great people, but not the place.

Anonymous said...

"If you're young, get out of Microsoft, now!"

My advice: Take advantage of everything Microsoft has to teach you (including what not to do) then get out and make your mark on the world.

If you don't think there's anything to learn at MS about large scale software engineering, do us all a favor and take the stupid advice from the other fellow instead.

Anonymous said...

>Out of all seriousness, can you look at anti-trust laws from not MS-immediate-profit-centric perspective?

MS competitors, like Sun Microsystems, had a big role in instigating the US and EU anti-trust actions. If you believe they had your best interests in mind instead of taking MS' place, you are a fool.

When goverment action is allowed to become a weapon in the hands of competing corporations, it means the corporations have already taken over the government.

OUTRAGEOUS said...

This is outrageous!! Did anyone else get a relo package like this!??? And what has Liddell done for us??? MSFT stuck at 28 and GOOG up 7 again today at, get this... hold on.... ready.... 560!!!

Housing slump yields Microsoft loss on CFO's home
Fri Sep 21, 2007 5:43pm EDT
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Get 100 Commission-Free Trades SEATTLE, Sept 21 (Reuters) - The prolonged U.S. housing market slump has forced many a homeowner to sell for less than they wanted.

Add Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O: Quote, Profile, Research) to that list.

The world's largest software maker disclosed in a regulatory filing on Friday that it suffered a loss of up to $2 million in the sale of a home once owned by Chief Financial Officer Chris Liddell. The sale price of the home was not given in the filing.

Microsoft hired Liddell in 2005, moved him from Connecticut, and bought his home on the East Coast for a price based on independent appraisals when the property did not sell within an allotted period of time.

Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft sold the home in its 2007 fiscal year on the open market -- for significantly less than it paid.

The real estate loss was included in a $2 million "relocation expense" for Liddell. A Microsoft spokesman would not disclose details of the transaction, but said a bulk of that relocation expense was for a loss on the home's sale.

A native of New Zealand, Liddell joined Microsoft from International Paper Co. (IP.N: Quote, Profile, Research) where he was also a chief financial officer. (Reporting by Daisuke Wakabayashi)

http://www.reuters.com/article/marketsNews/idUKN2142978520070921?rpc=44

What are the shareholders doing??? Where is the revolt

OUTRAGEOUS said...

AND THE RICH GET RICHER.... but have they earned it???? MSFT stuck at 28, GOOG at all-time high at 560, ORCL at 5 year high... And the best the shareholders can ask for is to establish a board committe on human rights!! What is going on with this company and management team??? Doesn't anybody care??? $2 million relo for Liddell, raises across the board for all the execs!!! For what?? And 4% raises for the poor schmucks writing code and keeping this company afloat. Thanks for my 4% raise guys! Not even COL to keep up with rising gas prices.

What has the world come to?? Up is down, down is up, left is right, right is left, rich is poor, poor is rich, MSFT is a dog, ORCL is a rocket, shareholders want human rights, human rights sufferers want stick prices to go up....

http://biz.yahoo.com/ap/070921/microsoft_executive_compensation.html?.v=3

AP
Microsoft CEO's Pay Valued at $1.3M
Friday September 21, 7:58 pm ET
By Jessica Mintz, AP Technology Writer
Microsoft Awards CEO Ballmer Pay Package Valued at $1.3 Million, Says He Is Underpaid


SEATTLE (AP) -- Microsoft Corp. Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer received a pay package valued about $1.3 million for fiscal 2007, a year in which profit at the world's largest software maker topped $14 billion, according to documents filed Friday.
ADVERTISEMENT


For the year ended June 30, Ballmer received $620,000 in salary and a $650,000 bonus. Unlike some technology companies that spend millions on executive security, travel and other perquisites, Microsoft gave Ballmer a modest $6,750 in matches to his 401K retirement plan and approximately $3,000 worth of life insurance and athletic club memberships.

Ballmer, who owns about 4.3 percent of Microsoft's shares, received no equity compensation. He didn't exercise any stock options or vest any stock awards during the year, the company said in the Securities and Exchange Commission filing.

Microsoft's compensation committee "believes that Mr. Ballmer is underpaid for his role and performance," according to the filing. Ballmer's compensation added up to just a sliver of the $61.2 million package Oracle Corp. gave CEO Larry Ellison in fiscal 2007. It seemed on par with the $1.28 million package Amazon.com Inc. gave CEO Jeff Bezos -- except for the fact that personal security accounted for more than $1 million of Bezos' package.

Microsoft did not say what Bill Gates, the software maker's chairman, was paid in salary and bonus during the year. Gates, who owns about 9.3 percent of Microsoft shares, did not receive any stock-based compensation. The SEC requires companies to report the compensation details for a handful of highest-paid executives, and Microsoft said Gates' salary and bonus fell below those of Ballmer, Chief Financial Officer Christopher Liddell and three other executives.

At the annual meeting scheduled for Nov. 13, Microsoft shareholders will have the opportunity to vote on two shareholder proposals, also disclosed in Friday's filing.

One, brought by the New York City's comptroller, William Thompson, asked Microsoft to change its business practices in countries he described as "authoritarian." His proposal asks Microsoft to stop keeping data that can identify individual users who live in China, Iran, Saudi Arabia and other countries, and to refrain from giving equipment or training to government agencies in countries he identified as restrictive.

The other proposal asked Microsoft to establish a board committee on human rights.

Microsoft's board recommended shareholders vote against both proposals, citing existing efforts in both areas.

Shares of Microsoft added 23 cents to close at $28.65.

Anonymous said...

"If you're young, get out of Microsoft, now!"

Correction: if you're young and *not having fun*, get out of Microsoft now.

Much as I think we've gone into the crapper in so many ways, I'm doing really cool shit that customers love love love and that makes craptons of money with nobody grousing. I'm also not old. :P

My estimate is that out of 75,000 employees, probably somewhere around 30% -- and I'm not talking partners, who aren't my species -- are actually having fun and enjoying the work they do. If you're in that 30% there's no reason to leave.

Of course, that leaves about 70% who are most likely feeling squicky or who are not especially competent -- this is based on my best guess from interacting with thousands of 'softies over the years. That's a GIANT RED FLAG.

Whole divisions are now filled with really stupid people -- MSDN and microsoft.com used to be the elephant graveyards of the company where you'd find a very pronounced drop in IQ, but sadly the the dim bulbs are now everywhere.

But still... there's that 30% doing interesting work and enjoying it. You just gotta find the right secret special places where life is still fun and senior people keep the chaff away.

But oh, microsoft.com. Or Passport. Or MSN. Or (fill in the blank). Every time I'm forced to talk to one of these bozos I just picture them thanking their lucky stars that they were rescued from a life of working for the Geek Squad. I know it sounds mean spirited, but if you've dealt with these yahoos you know that I speak truth.

For all the trolls who say that Microsoft is a negative on your resume, I would beg to differ based on personal experience. If you're really good Microsoft is a huge asset in your CV, and if you suck then it's not. Just like the rest of the world, actually.

Anonymous said...

"'Multiple exclamation marks,' he went on, shaking his head, 'are
a sure sign of a diseased mind.'
"
(Terry Pratchett, Eric)

I shudder to think what additional depths of insanity that the multiple question marks indicate.

Anonymous said...

Can we shelve the talk on SteveB's pay? The man's a billionaire and what his salary is nothing compared to other CEOs out there. For god's sake, his company just made a profit of 14 *billion* .


In fact, I find it weird that his pay is only 6 times mine. The worst I can do is to write bad code. SteveB is responsible for a *lot* more.

And Mr.Outrage, you have seen the trend for SQL Server vs Oracle in the last few years, right? I dont think I would want to be in Oracle's shoes

Anonymous said...

> can you look at anti-trust laws from not MS-immediate-profit-centric perspective?

MS competitors, like Sun Microsystems, had a big role in instigating the US and EU anti-trust actions. If you believe they had your best interests in mind instead of taking MS' place, you are a fool.

I might be fool, indeed; and I surely don't grasp all details, but I do feel that such court decisions are helpful; and I wish Europe will hold to its few agonizing socialistic values a bit. It's sad to drive through downtown Seattle in night and see all those homeless people, that you don't see in comparable cities in EU. In Kings county there are probably more millionaires than anywhere else, but still people in this blog scream that they lack money.

Oh, sorry, rambling again.

Courts are tactics, I were speaking of laws and culture that enforces them. In US there are anti-trust laws as well, but most of the time they don't work. I wish people won't lose hope that they can influence their lifes and participate in democratic process.

4:40 am, i self critically depart. :)

Anonymous said...

And according to Barron's, Kevin Johnson, Chris Liddell and Jeff Raikes all underperformed and failed to meet their goals to receive their target stock award levels....Of course they got millions

September 21, 2007, 4:55 pm
Microsoft Proxy Gives Details On Exec Stock Awards
Posted by Eric Savitz
Thanks to new corporate compensation disclosure requirements, Microsoft’s (MSFT) latest proxy filing provided some fascinating details on how the company judge’s the performance of its top executives.

In particular, the company discloses the formula used in its “shared performance stock awards” program, known by the acronym SPSA. The SPSA grants cover hundreds of Microsoft employees; the proxy filing by SEC rules provides details on how the program is applied to CEO Steve Ballmer, CFO Chris Liddell, and the company’s next three highest paid employees: Kevin Johnson, Jeff Raikes and Kevin Turner.

Ballmer, who owns a 4.34% stake in the company, isn’t a participant. All four of the other execs in the program have slightly different performance formulas:

For Kevin Turner, the company’s COO, the formula is based 25% on the performance of SMSG, the sales and marketing services group, 30% based on customer satisfaction, and 45% based on “product acceptance,” which basically is a measure of how well products sell against expectations.
For Kevin Johnson, who runs the Platforms and Services Division, the formula was 30% customer satisfaction, 60% product acceptance, and 10% a measure of the number of queries on the the company’s Internet search engine.
For Jeff Raikes, President of the Microsoft Business Division, the formula is 30% customer satisfaction, 45% product acceptance and 25% based on the net revenue and contribution margin of the division he runs.
And for CFO Liddell, the forumla is 30% customer satisfaction, 48.75% product acceptance, 2.5% Internet search performance, 6.25% based on SMSG performance, 6.25% based on performance on the Entertainment and Devices Division, and 6.25% based on the Microsoft Business Division.
OK, now, knowing all that, what is interesting is how harshly they were judged for the latest fiscal year. Under the program, Turner and Raikes both were awarded 133,250 shares, compared to a target level of 260,000 shares and a maximum level of 390,000 shares. Johnson did worse, getting 58,500 shares, compared to the same target and maximum levels. Liddell received 46,250 shares, versus a target of 125,000 and a maximum of 187,500 shares.

Microsoft does not provide deeper details on how it calculates the performance of each segment - apparently, though, they set the bar high.

Permalink | Trackback URL: http://blogs.barrons.com/techtraderdaily/2007/09/21/microsoft-proxy-gives-details-on-exec-stock-awards/trackback/

Anonymous said...

>MS competitors, like Sun Microsystems, had a big role in instigating the US and EU anti-trust actions.

And Microsoft had no fault in this matter? Give me a break. A competitor will compete, will play hardball if you screw up too badly and they deem an opportunity has presented itself because the competitor is exhibiting unethical and illegal behavior on a corporate or individual level.

There may come a day when you can look at this as a process of growing up, both you and Microsoft in general. But my skepticism tells me otherwise.

Anonymous said...

I would not take severance, because I don't have a green card. Need to be a slave for Uncle Bill for now.

You're in a tough spot, but you're not a slave. Get real.


> If you're young, get out of Microsoft, now! Come back when you're 40-something. They'll still be around.

... and you still won't want to work there, because (unless there's a major change in the culture and leadership) it will still be a political, bureaucratic, and boring place.


There are a lot of places in MS that aren't like this. The people who work in them just don't post here.

I was a Microsoft manager for years, and some of the whiney "everyone's dumb but me" stuff I read here is so familiar and makes me SO GLAD I'm no longer in management.

Here's some advice that might be useful to a smart, young employee: Make an effort to be part of the team and don't go around being snotty about your managers.

Sure there are some terrible managers out there, maybe a whole bunch. But most of them, while not perfect, are by no means stupid and are trying to juggle a ton of stuff and meet a lot of opposing needs. If you're not helping them make things work, you're a pain in the butt and your manager is unlikely to waste any political capital on you. Why should they? Grow up.

Anonymous said...

Whole divisions are now filled with really stupid people -- MSDN and microsoft.com used to be the elephant graveyards of the company where you'd find a very pronounced drop in IQ, but sadly the the dim bulbs are now everywhere.

Don't confuse cohesion with stupidity. In many ways Microsoft is a friendlier, more unified, more cohesive place to work than it ever has been, thanks in part to the face that "B" and "C" contributiors are mixed in with the "A"-types. I know ... many think that to be a recipe for disaster but if you really love to be someplace - and your peers feel like family to you - then you are much more likely to help them out and in doing so help your group out.

Anonymous said...

J allard for president!

http://www.loadingreadyrun.com/videos/view/228

Anonymous said...

I just read the MSFT proxy statement, http://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/789019/000119312507205208/ddef14a.htm .

How depressing. We aim to pay our execs above average salaries vs our peers yet our stock performance over the last 1,2, and 5 years trails those same peers.

It notes that Kevin Johnson participated in the stock buy back program a couple of years ago. While that may demonstrate inteligence or insider trading, to me it shows that our top leaders don't have confidence in our business. Pathetic.

Kevin Turner only earned a little more than 50% of his target stock grant. Despite our poor performance he walked away with $3.8 million in stock at current prices. Where is the accountability?

I'm out of here. After 11 years at MS I accepted a new postion Friday and will be giving notice Monday.

Anonymous said...

Microsoft Proxy Gives Details On Exec Stock Awards

http://blogs.barrons.com/techtraderdaily/?mod=b_hps_b_tech_trader_daily_blog

Anonymous said...

I'm doing really cool shit that customers love love love and that makes craptons of money with nobody grousing.

As much as I tire of airing my cynicism on this blog, there are two products making craptons of money: windows and office. Please point me to these customers that "love love love" what you're doing.

It is heartening to see the C-level execs getting underperforming compensation. I also like the Ballmer discussion. That he might be responsible for the better business decisions is new insight to me.

I agree with the continued investment in MSN and Live being wasteful. Improve search, sure, but "wave 2" and "wave 3" looks nothing like a cloud platform that will inspire or enable people any where any time. Consistent look and feel and functionality is a good start. It does not require the resource and talent drain it has imposed to the company. What I see is Live leveraging Windows/Office lock-ins as their method of competing with google. Nothing that will take it to the next level.

Never complain about the investment in MSDN; ISVs (developersdevelopersdeveloprs) are what has kept people locked into Windows for the past 7 years.

I never complain about Xbox either. It is a boon to the Microsoft brand, image, and morale (RROD aside). If that was Bill's doing then thanks Bill!

And no, I'm not smarter than all the managers and everyone else on here. I do know that when managers say that "you wouldn't understand" they are protecting their worthless ass.

Anonymous said...

Whole divisions are now filled with really stupid people -- MSDN and microsoft.com used to be the elephant graveyards of the company where you'd find a very pronounced drop in IQ, but sadly the the dim bulbs are now everywhere.

The worst thing you can do for your team and the company is to flip the bozo bit on someone. I wonder how many look at you and classify you a low IQ dim bulb? I just did.

Anonymous said...

I'm just recently out of Microsoft. I'm a top performer and contribute to my team and they know it. However, I want to try something outside. Here's what I found out after 2 weeks out:

1. There're opportunities out there. Talents are scarce.
2. If you can get into ms, you can get in again.
3. MSFT is HUGE in your resume and people respect that.
4. MSFT package with accumulated stock award is very high compare to outside pay. You could probably get a match or even a small paycut.
5. I'm in a tech company (200-400 headcount), I've profit sharing. I'm a partner now dude. I was a Snr.SDE at MS, respected and everything.
6. I stil have many years to go before 40.
7. Many tech companies trying to poach into the Redmond bubble by setting shop in - Adobe, Google, soon Yahoo and many other startups. SV is hard to retain people, tech workers in Redmond bubble are cheaper (than SV) and tend to stay longer which is great for companies.

Now I know why so many Snr Devs leave MS.

Anonymous said...

As much as I tire of airing my cynicism on this blog, there are two products making craptons of money: windows and office. Please point me to these customers that "love love love" what you're doing.

you are wrong, there are plenty of other things we do that make craptons of money in their segment.

my product doesn't make a billion dollars, but it's more than quite handily profitable and is a leader in its segment. it's just considerably smaller than windows or office, *and i like it that way*.

yo. broaden your mind... not every wildly successful product needs to make a gazillion dollars, and that's the entire point.

Anonymous said...

"Whole divisions are now filled with really stupid people -- MSDN and microsoft.com used to be the elephant graveyards of the company where you'd find a very pronounced drop in IQ, but sadly the the dim bulbs are now everywhere."

The worst thing you can do for your team and the company is to flip the bozo bit on someone. I wonder how many look at you and classify you a low IQ dim bulb? I just did.

there is one breed of 'softie i know who use the term "flip the bozo bit" -- and most of them are partners, because that's an old-skool term. nice reveal there, bucko!

as for the content of that sentiment -- absolute bullshit. people do not flip the bozo bit on me because i'm competent and get my shit done and don't screw even the most simple things up -- not because i say mean things to low-performing groups.

respect is earned, bucko. most of the quality people who work in these groups flee after a short time for greener pastures, and so over time the bar is lowered across the board. ignoring it, or refusing to flip the bozo bit when it's justified by historical performance, is really fracking stupid.

Anonymous said...

This article about how we bungled the EU case by coming up with specious arguments ("some protocols are so secret, if you knew them, you'd have the source") and not refuting obvious ones ("Microsoft already killed all the innovators - Novell, Real, Netscape").

If we had had anyone with a bit of knowledge in the courtroom, we wouldn't have argued the first one and we'd have pointed out that our competitors shot themselves or fell prey to others (Netscape died because of Apache, Real died because they insisted on being obnoxious, ...)

The sad thing is, I can see how our lawyers would have come up with that ridiculous argument by listening to our dev managers and GPMs - people who are clueless about actual software development.

Next time we get into a suit like this, let's have some frontline engineers in the courtroom, please.

Anonymous said...

And for CFO Liddell, the forumla is 30% customer satisfaction, 48.75% product acceptance, 2.5% Internet search performance, 6.25% based on SMSG performance, 6.25% based on performance on the Entertainment and Devices Division, and 6.25% based on the Microsoft Business Division.

> He has nothing to do with any of these doing well. He should be tied to what he can do - contain headcount in his division and improve the return on invested capital.

Anonymous said...

I think that - along with the latest edition of Michael Howard's book on creating secure software - everyone at Microsoft, including Partners, VPs, etc. should get a free copy of this book:

http://www.amazon.com/Mistakes-Were-Made-But-Not/dp/0151010986/ref=sr_1_1/105-8685390-0489203?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1190590082&sr=8-1

Anonymous said...

If Microsoft offered a VSP package like Intel's who would accept it?

The acceptance of a VSP package like Intel's depends on many factors: the local job market, the national job market, the marketability of the individual's skills, visa status for some, career mobility in Microsoft, and the individual's family situation.

Of the workers that have the freedom to switch employers this is my prediction from most people accepting the VSP to least accepting the VSP.

1) All employees in the web properties aka MSN, Live, etc.
2) IT
3) Test developers
4) Sales
5) Employees near the end of their careers
6) First level managers
7) SDE non-web
8) Single income multiple dependents
9) Second through sixth level managers
9) Employees with multiple years at Fargo
10) Research
11) people working in niches that are only found in Microsoft

I can not make no predictions for program managers since no company I have ever worked had nearly as many.

I am not sure that the groups most likely to leave are the ones that management wants to go so I don't expect a company wide VSP anytime soon. As a side note, I accepted my VSP from after I found a better paying job.

Anonymous said...

The stock is getting ready for a nice upside run to $31-$32. Sell it once it passes $31 or the day after earnings release, whichever comes first.

Anonymous said...

The magic number for Halo 3 sales is $125 million within the first 24 hours. If this target is met, then the stock will shoot up.

Anonymous said...

Gimme severance! Either pay me to stay or pay me to leave! The current structure is like an IV morphine drip. It keeps me just sedate enough not to bolt for the exits. That's about it. It doesn't inspire me.

It'd be worth taking a paycut for an equity stake in a company whose stock is actually going somewhere! And if it means less bureaucracy, red-tape, politics, brokenness, organizational paralysis, etc., it really becomes a NO BRAINER!

I wanna know how I can earn double my salary on a regular basis (and every-now-and-then triple it). Microsoft doesn't offer me that anymore. It's not even a realistic possibility! I have to believe there are dozens of opportunities out there that can give me that. Some of them are obvious. Some are hidden gems. The rest you can find on your own with just a little legwork.

Can you find a role at Microsoft that's "fun?" Absolutely! But, the message at the company has become increasingly clear. If you want to advance, if you want to excel, if you want to GET PAID, you've gotta tow the line on the bloat, BS, and backstabbing. Fun quickly drops out of the equation.

Look at the people who've gotten promotions over the last few years. By and large, there are more stooges than innovators. One way or another, either they go or we go. It's as simple as that.

Might as well make it quick and painless. A good severance offer accomplishes that.

Anonymous said...

"Of the workers that have the freedom to switch employers this is my prediction from most people accepting the VSP to least accepting the VSP.

1) All employees in the web properties aka MSN, Live, etc.
2) IT
3) Test developers
4) Sales ...
"

From what I've seen, the average sales hack is typically two levels higher than the average engineer. That blows my mind!

This is the Ballmer culture.

Anonymous said...

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/microsoft/2003896223_msftproxy22.html

Have you ever wondered why exec stock awards vest in 3 years, while the rest of us have to wait 5 years for our paulty awards...?

From the story:
The net result was a 101 percent payout, indicating the company, as a whole, exceeded its goals for the three-year period, but just barely. That translated to stock awards of 37 million shares, which vest over three years, divvied out among the 900 executives participating at the time.

Anonymous said...

The magic number for Halo 3 sales is $125 million within the first 24 hours. If this target is met, then the stock will shoot up.

says who? generally when we report exceptionally good earnings the stock *goes down* because investors are like "OMG, this is the surely the last time M$FT will ever be able to make a profit and it's all downhill from here."

our stock is a chronic loser at this point and there's no such thing as great news that makes it shoot up.

Anonymous said...

Microsoft considers stake in Facebook
Software giant could get up to 5 percent of the social-networking site

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/20959030/

Don't worry Mini. Its only a 5% stake not a $6 babillion dollar kneejerk.

Anonymous said...

Don't worry Mini. Its only a 5% stake not a $6 babillion dollar kneejerk.

Though the buy valued the company at $10 billion, so it was a half billion dollar kneejerk. No worries, it should pay off like Baidu.

Anonymous said...

Instead of determining who would or would not accept severance, why not just initiate layoffs like 10% of workforce? Give them severance sure, but just make the call about who's the chaff.

One thing is known for certain, the market loves layoffs. I can imagine no other fix for the stock price which is so certain. Could this explain 12k new employees last year?

Anonymous said...

The magic number for Halo 3 sales is $125 million within the first 24 hours. If this target is met, then the stock will shoot up.

says who? generally when we report exceptionally good earnings the stock *goes down* because investors are like "OMG, this is the surely the last time M$FT will ever be able to make a profit and it's all downhill from here."

our stock is a chronic loser at this point and there's no such thing as great news that makes it shoot up.


You are comparing a long term investment vs. a short term trade. I agree with you that this stock is dead and will probably be for the next 1-2 years. The $125 million in sales within the first 24 hours is what Halo 2 did and analysts expect Halo 3 to have $200 million in sales within the first 24 hours. In addition analyst expects MSFT to sell 2 - 2.5 million Xbox units due to Halo 3 by the end of the Christmas season.

Yesterday the stock had a nice run before giving back some of the gains in the afternoon. Traders don’t care if the stock goes up or down, they make their money either way by going long and/or short. If the stock closes above $29.27 today (200 day moving average); you can expect a nice upside tomorrow.

A note to people thinking about shorting stocks - DON’T DO IT. It is very, very risky and you can go from hero to zero real quick. It is not an easy thing to master and this is why every successful trader has lost his/her fortune an average of 3 times

Anonymous said...

"You are comparing a long term investment vs. a short term trade. I agree with you that this stock is dead and will probably be for the next 1-2 years."

MS has been a long term bad investment for more than 5 years. If it's dead for another 1-2 years, it would have to increase more than 50% just to catch up to the S&P.

Anonymous said...

How the heck is Facebook worth $10B? I'll be gone in three years when folks figure out that:

a. They have absolutely nothing of value to say to the world (or to their friends for that matter).

b. No one gives a shit about what they have to say. Same as with blogs.

If anything, purpose-built sites like LinkedIn have better chances of survival.

Anonymous said...

I am really disappointed with the performance of Microsoft and have been thinking what could the company do to improve.
Comparing Microsoft with Birkshire Hathaway, a company I admire a lot, I couldnt resist applying their model to Msft.
What do you say to "Buffet For Microsoft"? We can have different business units work individually like different companies under Microsoft flagship and they send the excess cash to Buffet to deploy. Individual business units will compete for cash like outside businesses and hence will be more answerable unlike now.
The only problem is Buffet doesnt want to dabble in technology and is overly occupied with BRK. What is the opinion of the readers on this model?

http://www.valueinvestmentblog.com/

Anonymous said...

Leaving versus staying, at MS or anywhere: *You* are the master of your career. You had faith "back then" and it didn't pay off -- accept it and decide what's best for you now. Having had my fair share in a 17-year career, I don't defend any infliction of pain and suffering, but it's up to you to stay and take it, or go and find something else.


And, if you think that Microsoft is alone in its bureacracy, politics and "boring" state, or executive pay or clinging to the status quo, then you really do need to go out and work in other jobs and for other organizations. I've worked at start-ups, agencies, and big companies (prior to MS) and they *all* have some combination of all those things that we employees hate -- you just gotta pick your particular prescription of negatives versus the positives.

MS isn't perfect by any stretch but don't be naive in thinking it isn't just like 99% of the companies out there.

Yes, people mostly leave managers, but they leave companies too. Really great managers, who are clearly few and far between, cannot always compensate for the many other factors that make up your work "life." Stop whining and make something happen -- severance or not.

Anonymous said...

SEATTLE (AP) -- Within hours after die-hard fans finally got their hands on a copy of "Halo 3," blogs brimmed with reports that special limited-edition packaging is scratching the video game disks. Microsoft Corp., which owns the studio that makes "Halo 3," responded quickly on its Xbox Web site with details for a replacement program. Customers can fill out a form and send in their scratched limited-edition disks for a free exchange through the end of December.

At Microsoft, quality is Job 1. And way to go to cut into profit margins, guys.

Bah ha ha ha.

But seriously folks, amazing how Microsoft has such a tendency to shoot itself in the foot.

Anonymous said...

Comparing Microsoft with Birkshire Hathaway, a company I admire a lot, I couldnt resist applying their model to Msft.
>
Berkshire managers are known for their integrity. BRK rewards its managers for adding shareholder value.

Microsoft is not known for integrity. It rewards managers for destroying share holder value.

Anonymous said...

As a member of a business group that routinely makes decisions about packaging, I can tell you that PLS & Supply Chain are seen as a 'distraction' and often times people don't put enough time into understanding the issues raised in launch meetings. It isn't to say that PLS & Supply don't have issues, but it wouldn't surprise me at all if this packaging snafu wasn't the result of some overeager member of a BG who didn't really understand the issues around special packaging & the potential risks. There are more important things you know, like strategy -grin

Anonymous said...

Can someone post a link or details on what the "value-based stock awards" are? I am no longer at the company as of earlier this year, but just curious what it is.

FWIW, I am very happy with my decision to leave. I was a SDE II at MS and am easily going to clear 180k in cash this year (no worthless stock awards that take 4.5 years to vest)... and this is in a city where cost of living is comparable to Redmond/Seattle (ie it is not NY).

Anonymous said...

but it wouldn't surprise me at all if this packaging snafu wasn't the result of some overeager member of a BG who didn't really understand the issues around special packaging & the potential risks. There are more important things you know, like strategy -grin

Is this what happened with the new packaging for Vista and Office? Y'know, the stuff that people can't figure out how to open...

Anonymous said...

You are comparing a long term investment vs. a short term trade. I agree with you that this stock is dead and will probably be for the next 1-2 years. The $125 million in sales within the first 24 hours is what Halo 2 did and analysts expect Halo 3 to have $200 million in sales within the first 24 hours. In addition analyst expects MSFT to sell 2 - 2.5 million Xbox units due to Halo 3 by the end of the Christmas season.

no, i'm saying that you can't predict a bounce with MSFT based on good news.

take a look at the stock today -- it's not doing anything interesting, even though H3 sold a bazillion units yesterday.

there are no predictable bounces with our stock. the few blips we've had in the last years have been seriously random.

Anonymous said...

what is PLS?

Anonymous said...

Anybody ever heard of a company called Frog Design? A couple of Microsofties I know went to work for them in Seattle and SF, doing UI and architecture work. I heard they're small but do some pretty cool stuff. Wonder what you guys have heard. They're at www.frogdesign.com.

Anonymous said...

Mini,
What about a new topic on 'with great power comes great responsibility' re: blogging.

I saw today that someone in Live posted descriptions and screenshots of the next gen search interface - that hasn't launched yet.

He's since taken the entry down, but thanks to RSS, both descriptions and images got picked up on other sites and cached before it got pulled.

This reminds me of the issue that occured during our initial discussions with Yahoo where some blogger said we were in discussions with one of the major internet companies (of which there are only 2 of significance, and only one of 'em aint Google)

We've got a great open policy on blogging, but when do we hold bloggers who provide non-public business info to account?

(This blog would be exempt, as it focuses primarily on internal HR issues, of which investors mostly are happily oblivious to)

Anonymous said...

generally when we report exceptionally good earnings the stock *goes down* because investors are like "OMG, this is the surely the last time M$FT will ever be able to make a profit and it's all downhill from here."

our stock is a chronic loser at this point and there's no such thing as great news that makes it shoot up.


That said, Microsoft was hiring through the dotcom bust and is still hiring - I would imagine every product category is growing as well. That's a lot of compound value buried in the stock. Tough to ignore.

Anonymous said...

Some tough medicine, recommended by Cnet:

http://www.news.com/8301-10784_3-9785337-7.html

If there's any executive at Microsoft who actually has the guts to do this, make him the CEO.

Anonymous said...

Microsoft is not known for integrity. It rewards managers for destroying share holder value.

That may be a bit extreme but no doubt Microsoft rewards employees for winning at all costs regardless of long term consequences. Hence the reason Microsoft has alienated so many in the industry; OEM's, ISV's, IHV's, the developer community as a whole. We can probably thank both Bill and Steve for that. It paid off big time in the short term but long term it has really bitten us in the arse. Doh!

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure I get the point of this week's discussion.

Most people have a level of resistance to moving. When young, the level is low - it's usually you and ... well, you. Getting an apartment in a different town isn't that scary. With kids and/or spouse/significant-other and/or a homeowner and/or older, it becomes more of a chore.

Microsoft merely needs to limit the irritation an employee feels to a level where it's slightly lower than the irritation that most people have at moving.

(Please, no posts about all the amazing other opportunities in the Puget Sound area. Their volume is tiny in comparison to other parts of the country. For most people, it's Microsoft, or move elsewhere.)

Those employees who are upset at Microsoft (that group includes me) may feel treated disrespectfully, but not so disrespectfully that they're willing to pull up stakes and head somewhere else.

In an environment where self aggrandizement has been rewarded for all of the years I've been at Microsoft (over corporate responsibility), only idealists and volunteers (my opinion, of course) are actually complaining because they want to improve the company. (I suppose the naive fall into that group too, but ...)

Most people are venting and doing nothing else. They won't quit, they won't do anything. Let them vent. They can let off steam and not suddenly scream at their manager, PUM, GM, etc. that said person is a moron the next day.

Anonymous said...

take a look at the stock today -- it's not doing anything interesting, even though H3 sold a bazillion units yesterday.

Nintendo sells a bazillion units of just about all of their games, *and* makes money on their hardware. Why do you think that Halo 3 sales would make any difference in the world?

DennisJ5116 said...

I think a lot of people would jump. I left BofA after the Nations Bank takeover. 3 weeks for every year netted me 39 weeks. It was sweet.

Anonymous said...

>"Anybody ever heard of a company called Frog Design? A couple of Microsofties I know went to work for them in Seattle and SF, doing UI and architecture work. I heard they're small but do some pretty cool stuff. Wonder what you guys have heard. They're at www.frogdesign.com."

Frog Design has been around about since the 80's, originally with a lot of European designers, claiming to be so much better than the US talent, originally got their start from Steve Jobs designing some of the early MACs. They once had a multi million dollar annual retainer from Apple.

My take is they are stuck in the 20th Century, pounding the old saw that the Apple/Adobe UI is the way to go as is evidenced by your ex designers ending up there--great UIs but does not respond to the Microsoft dominance of business and end users. Think about how much value added those designers gave to Vista then ask why Frog would hire them and you will understand how industrial design has lost its way over the years.

Frog uses Pro-E as a primary parametric engineering tool, which is struggling to find industrial designers who can effectively use the UI even with all the upgrades to compete with SolidWorks.

Don't get me wrong there is a ton of talent at Frog, but like most of the industrial design community, it has trouble figuring out where it is going and what the future portends.

Keeperplanet said...

>Anybody ever heard of a company called Frog Design?

Sorry Mini, you probably don't want to start a tit for tat design thread here, but . . .

I won't comment on good or bad, but will instead just note that this year, the Supreme Court made a very substantial ruling on the value of patents and invention (you will have to research the exact case, but I think it was an win for Microsoft) which has repercussions on the nature of invention. In other words, it stated that obvious invention is not patentable. That is not the same as a design patent, but implies that invention must have some kind of redeeming and unique non-obvious characteristic or feature that makes it a patentable product.

Industrial design is often confused with the concept of innovation and invention, but is mostly a profession which uses style and emotional impact to confuse a buyer into purchasing a product which seems better and regardless because it looks better, the customer then must have it anyway. (iPhone, iMac etc. are good examples). 25 years ago, industrial design had its roots in the Bauhaus and the Crafts movement here in the US that gave it a utilitarian functional level of definition, or as Frank Lloyd Wright would say, joined form and function. That changed from a pragmatic for the masses profession to a profession based on style and the impact of the emoticon of coolness to drive the PERCEPTION of value instead of actual value to the common good.

Any company that relies on this formula for financial gain and increased sales WILL see a positive bump in those things but if the product is problematic (XBOX anyone) then the losses will be even higher in the end.

You need a designer/design firm that has both the capability to invent NEW features, both design and mechanically as well as UI based features. New invention that does not get canned into the above mentioned Supreme Court ruling that obviousness does not a patent make is what you are looking for, otherwise your patents will end up being shit-canned along with most cool industrial design as only skin deep.

I am moving back to LA for those interested. Same contact info.

Anonymous said...

FWIW, I am very happy with my decision to leave. I was a SDE II at MS and am easily going to clear 180k in cash this year (no worthless stock awards that take 4.5 years to vest)... and this is in a city where cost of living is comparable to Redmond/Seattle (ie it is not NY).

Can you please tell us which city you are in, and what kind of work you are doing that pays 180K? Thanks

Anonymous said...

Anybody ever heard of a company called Frog Design? A couple of Microsofties I know went to work for them in Seattle and SF, doing UI and architecture work. I heard they're small but do some pretty cool stuff. Wonder what you guys have heard. They're at www.frogdesign.com.

I've heard that sock puppets doing stealth marketing for their companies under the guise of hey guyz have you heard about the best company EVER are teh suxorz.

And it usually means your company sucks too.

Anonymous said...

-------------
Hence the reason Microsoft has alienated so many in the industry; OEM's, ISV's, IHV's, the developer community as a whole. We can probably thank both Bill and Steve for that. It paid off big time in the short term but long term it has really bitten us in the arse. Doh!
-------------

The decisions made by Bill long time ago created the Microsoft Windows and Office monopolies. Yes, these decisions alienated OEM's, ISV's etc. And yet it is these monopolies that are keeping the company AFLOAT, after 15-some years - not the Microsoft technology. (side track - name a computer program that has problems multiplying two numbers and yet commands 95% + of the market?)

In my book, 15 years is a long term horizon. I am continually amazed at the fore-sight that created such lasting competitive advantage. I can't think of other examples that come even close to this.

An MSFT investor.

Anonymous said...

"Anybody ever heard of a company called Frog Design?"

frog [it's lowercase on purpose] is one of the top design agencies in the world and MS should be bummed if people of the caliber that they hire left.

That said the agency environment is about a 180 degree turn from working inside a huge company so it might have just been a cultural fit. I'm a designer and I moved back to web companies after several years in desktop software because it just took too long to ship and the politics were such that risk-taking was punished.

Anonymous said...

$170 million in Halo3 sales == 1/6th of the $1B warranty extension charge.

Five more Halo3's needed to fill that hole.

Anonymous said...

"side track - name a computer program that has problems multiplying two numbers and yet commands 95% + of the market?"

*cough*Intel FDIV bug*cough*

Anonymous said...

>"Anybody ever heard of a company called frog design?"

Yes, very well known and respected in the design industry.

There showcase their work at many MS events like PDC and MIX.

They did a lot of WPF projects - Yahoo! messenger is one of them.
http://messenger.yahoo.com/windowsvista.php.

They also did some of their showpiece keynote work for Mix 2007 which is in Silverlight.

Anonymous said...

>>
>>Anybody ever heard of a company >>called Frog Design? A couple of >>Microsofties I know went to work >>for them in Seattle and SF, >>doing UI and architecture work. >>I heard they're small but do >>some pretty cool stuff. Wonder >>what you guys have heard. >>They're at www.frogdesign.com.

Shameless recruiting post. If you want to hire people goto monster.com or something like this.

Anonymous said...

Most people are venting and doing nothing else. They won't quit, they won't do anything. Let them vent. They can let off steam and not suddenly scream at their manager, PUM, GM, etc. that said person is a moron the next day.

Well, I'm not just venting, I'm voting with my feet. Nope, not leaving the company (sorry Mini) but finding a better group to work in. The advantage of a big company, as Mini often tells us, is that there are LOTS of options right here, without having to screw up your insurance choices yet again. And if the next gig doesn't work out, there are even more options right here on the farm. So if you have any kind of semi-reasonable skill set, take it on the road! Take a chance that just perhaps things aren't quite so hellish in another org (check it out first, of course) and maybe your work life will get a whole lot better with minimum disruption.

It's worth a shot.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure someone else has probably pointed this out and Mini just hasn't approved the comment yet, but just in case...

$170 million in Halo3 sales == 1/6th of the $1B warranty extension charge.

Five more Halo3's needed to fill that hole.


Way more than that. The $170 million is in sales revenue. You still have to subtract our costs. The actual profit is going to be a fraction of that. As in probably under $50 million (yes, margins on games really are that low, even allowing for the distribution of fixed costs - though even there, I have no doubt Halo 3 has incurred more fixed costs during its development than any other title we've ever published).

So more like 19 or 20 more Halo 3s needed in the short-term to offset that RROD charge. Or 150 or so Halo 3's (allowing for time value of money) to make back all that the Xbox "experiment" has cost us over the years.

And nothing like another Halo 3 anywhere on the horizon.

(Of course Robbie Bach knows this. That's why the billion dollar hit got added to last year's books. Otherwise there wouldn't be a chance in hell of Xbox being profitable this fiscal year as he's determined it will be. Little details like the 6+ million we've already wasted? I'm sure the PowerPoint at the next company meeting will somehow manage to leave those out).

Sorry to be a buzzkill for anyone who's spent the last three days slaughtering Covenant and other players. Hope the experience is worth all it's cost the company.

Anonymous said...

"Hope the experience is worth all it's cost the company."

It is.

Some Guy said...

"I've heard that sock puppets doing stealth marketing"

I don't think that guy's a sock puppet. Frog doesn't need anyone astroturfing for them, they've already got a major reputation from work they did for Apple and NeXT, back in the 80's and 90's. Most of the people in the Apple developer world know who they are, and it's kind of sad if microsofties don't.

Of course, Apple's doing their industrial design work in-house these days, due to their desire for total secrecy. If Apple's still going to Frog for any work these days, it's probably for things like cables or retail packaging.

I haven't heard what Frog's been up to lately, but I'm sure they're not hurting for clients. (I did hear through the grapevine that Michael Dell's wife hired them for some kind of website design, and they decided to decline any further work from her. Seems she was a difficult customer.)

Anonymous said...

You guys do realize that the $170 million is just from the first day, right? I can't believe people are still negative on this blog after one of the biggest launches we've ever had.

Remember those photos of people queuing up to buy their iPhones? Compare the sales of the iPhone from their opening weekend to that of Halo 3 - the difference is quite staggering.

Cheer up folks. Atleast for this week. We just shipped something historical.

Anonymous said...

Someone great once said "The journey is the reward."

So consider your experience working at MS your reward and not the pay.

Extra points if you know who said that quote.

Anonymous said...

Remember those photos of people queuing up to buy their iPhones? Compare the sales of the iPhone from their opening weekend to that of Halo 3 - the difference is quite staggering.

How on Earth is it relevant to compare sales trends of a video game to sales trends of a cell phone? There are a plethora of proxies which would be much more suitable.

For instance, it would be much more understandable (though still not idiot-proof) to forecast Halo 3's eventual sales by looking back at Halo 2's opening day sales vs. its eventual sales to date.

Halo 2 moved 2.5 million copies its opening day ($125 million). And as of September 2007, a little under three years and pretty much at the end of its shelf life, it's up to 6.5 million, in other words the opening day sales still account for over a third of total sales.

Without accounting for any other factors (of which there are many, but let's act like execs and make the simplest and least likely calculation), it would be reasonable based on the above to forecast Halo 3's total sales revenue to come in around $500 million.

And remember, that's revenue, not profit. So it doesn't even come close to offsetting half of the RROD cost.

Cheer up folks. Atleast for this week. We just shipped something historical.

With any luck, it'll be more "historical" for being the wakeup call that Microsoft needs to get away from Xbox. Halo 3's launch went about as well as humanly possible (okay, special edition disc scratching aside) and it's still not going to recover a tenth of the money that Xbox has lost to date. It's time to pull the plug. Leave the videogame business to companies like Nintendo that actually want to be in it instead of those that see projected revenue increases and assume they can half-ass it like Xbox and still make money.

Anonymous said...

[b]You guys do realize that the $170 million is just from the first day, right? I can't believe people are still negative on this blog after one of the biggest launches we've ever had.

Remember those photos of people queuing up to buy their iPhones? Compare the sales of the iPhone from their opening weekend to that of Halo 3 - the difference is quite staggering.
[/b]

Sure, but the upper bounds on possible iPhone sales is somewhat looser than that of Halo3 sales.

Let's shoot for the moon and assume every Xbox 360 owner buys a copy. That's pretty much as far as it can go (and can go higher as more 360's are sold in the future of course).

So about 12M copies of Halo3, at $60 each, assuming 100% profit... $720M. The 360 warranty extension hole would then be about 70% recouped.

All you have to do is sell one copy of Halo 3 to every single 360 owner at a 100% profit margin.

Anonymous said...

"You guys do realize that the $170 million is just from the first day, right?"

Try all pre-orders (which date back to Nov 06 in some cases) plus the first day.

Anonymous said...

This isn't intended as any sort of troll, but seemed strangely profound to me.

I've just come to the profound conclusion that Microsoft is less loathsome than Google.

A large part of Microsoft is engaged in the production and support of generally useful products. Even subtracting HR, legal, and the undead PM armies, my assessment is still positive.

Google is an organization that is dedicated to selling ads and bringing ever more people under its purview to aid that purpose. They certainly offer useful services, but the percentage of effort dedicated to them isn't large and is shrinking as ad monitoring and placement efforts grow further. We may have our stupid table, but it's a heck of a lot better morally than something that listens to the ambient environment to determine user behavior.

What's especially corrosive in my view is the internal impression that Google is now the model to follow. I'm not sure I want to work on products whose primary design purpose is to "monetarize eyeballs". I'm happy to take the cash from someone buying Office, for example. It's a simple exchange of money for product. I wouldn't be so happy providing "free" Windows that requires users to watch and acknowledge ads. Or a version of Windows that is sending user behavior back home to further aid our ad sales.

I could go further on about the glamorization of Google youth and perceived strength, but then I'd have to violate Godwin's Law to make the increasingly visible comparison.

At Microsoft, most of the time, I can look at myself and feel (if not proud then at least) constructive. That's at least something. I see the hemorrhage of people to Kirkland and this is what keeps me here.

Anonymous said...

"$170 million is just from the first day"

Not exactly. That's six months of pre-orders. The hard-core gamers are pretty well covered already.

"We just shipped something historical."

Assuming you mean that we just made history, hmmm. My son's copy arrived with no disk! Scratched disks, missing disks... Yeah, we made history -- it really is a fantastic game, still, no matter what, we find a way to screw up.

Anonymous said...

"Extra points if you know who said that quote."

Chinese proverb.

Also Steve Jobs (book title).

And...others...

Anonymous said...

I can't believe we pay people to come up with these STUPID marketing campaigns.

http://www.microsoft.com/forefront/easyeasier/index.htm#intro

Anonymous said...

It remains to be seen how well Halo 3 will sell. At our local Bellingham WA costco store, Halo 3 along with Xbox360 are displayed at the most visible spot along the entrance path and I still saw lots of them this past Friday night and didn't see anyone stop in front of that booth. Even now the same store still doesn't have any Wii in stock- every time they got new shipment, they were all sold out within minutes.

The same thing at Bellingham's Target, Circuit City, and Bestbuy stores- lots of Xbox360s but I've never see a single Wii that is not a display unit.

Keeperplanet said...

>"Extra points if you know who said that quote."

I know you think Steve Jobs said it. Not quite. He lifted the phrase for his book from a Chinese proverb. I think he also lifted the original Mac UI from Xerox PARC (which is why Microsoft won the lawsuit by Apple to stop use of said UI. Steve Jobs great inventor also bought the rights to the iPod and he lifted the idea for the iPhone.

So the extra points are for copying a copyist? I suppose the extra points would be for Steve Jobs for being shrewd enough to copy good ideas very very well.

Here are a couple of Picasso quotes that are more relevant:

Success is dangerous. One begins to copy oneself, and to copy oneself is more dangerous than to copy others. It leads to sterility. (Pablo Picasso)

Ah, good taste! What a dreadful thing! Taste is the enemy of creativeness. (Pablo Picasso)

Anonymous said...

The Excel Bug may be "minor" but it is big enough and public enough to dent confidence in Office 2007 for ages.

I think Microsoft should name and shame the devs who screwed the converter up, but more importantly, the PMs (WHY do you have so many goddamn PMs compared to anyone else in existence?), and most importantly, the middle management chain involved in this debacle. As I understand it, there are on average 7 levels of mgt between Steve Ballmer and the devs/PMs. The bottom 2 levels should get demoted if possible; the midlevel managers at levels 3 and 4 should get fired. After all, what else are they there to take responsibility for?

That should tell people that you're serious about serious bugs.

Who da'Punk said...

R'oh, r'oh.

Hey, Facebook friends, fyi, I've had my account disabled. Terms of Use, etc. etc. I've written Facebook to see if they'll reconsider, but if not, my Facebook-fanboy days look like they are over...

Anonymous said...

Mini:

Was your Facebook eviction a gesture of good faith towards a Microsoft investment? :)

Anonymous said...

...maybe Facebook got a court order and just decided it's easier to turn the account off than collect access logs.

...maybe it's a good thing.

Anonymous said...

I know what the severance offer was last spring:

1 month salary per year, capped at 6.5 years
NO STOCK acceleration
Buy out of sabbatical (if not taken)
6 week paid formal job search

All in all, significantly less than what banks offer under the same circumstances.

Anonymous said...

From what I've seen, the average sales hack is typically two levels higher than the average engineer. That blows my mind!This is the Ballmer culture.

As a level 63 "sales hack", I can tell you that, for my customer mix, it is my credibility and intimate knowledge of actual customer problems that is the only value left at MSFT from their point of view.

Lots of us "sales hacks" that are lvl 62+ have 15+ years of development and infrastructure background as customers before we join. What has the average "engineer" (that imagines himself as so valuable) done pre-MSFT? Four years of university? Wow... Impressive.

As the Redmond ivory tower, completely narcisistic and self-focused, continues to demonstrate ever more breathtaking levels of cluelessness with releases like Office 2007 and Vista it becomes increasingly incumbant on us "sales hacks" to convince IT that you guys really arent just totally lost and actually have some plan longterm.

So before you write off the field and look for more comp and promos for the "engineers" in Redmond, take a REAL look at the work you guys are doing. Think it "sells itself"? What a laugh. As a consumer of MSFT products for 16 years on a professional level, and now as a "hack" for 7, I can tell you that now more than EVER you guys REALLY need the translation layer between you and the people who keep you employed.

I know its painful for Redmond to accept that IT is important, but for all the talk of your grand visions and frustrations with management, all of you seem content to gripe about Apple and Google (who are eating your lunch with consumers), keep growing fat off of the Windows/Office monopolies (whose days are really running low) and expect that somehow the stock will magically rise if only we could unload SteveB.

This is one "sales hack" who, quite frankly, is really growing tired of being a professional spin doctor for arrogant "engineers" who are completely disconnected from reality.