Thursday, December 27, 2007

Microsoft's 2008 - What's Going Well?

Here we are, wrapping up 2007 and launching into 2008. I continue to believe that we're in a good transition time at Microsoft and that 2008 will help cinch that transition as some of the bigger products wrap up major development (Office 14, Windows 7). Trying to keep a positive vibe, I just want to share some of the things going on in and around Microsoft that I see as goodness. I'd like to know what you honestly think is going well, too.

Indulge in some praise, too, if you will. We can get around to the constructive criticism after we're settled into the new year. Drop by MSFT Extreme Makeover for a dose right now if you need a hit.

Competition: Praise the Lord for competition. Without some light to shine the way, we really tend to get lost in our own initiatives. Think of pre-reset Longhorn. Think of post-IE6 (Blake Ross, I've got a hug with your name on it). So I'm thankful for Google, Facebook, Apple, and Adobe. And Amazon. And Nintendo. And all those startups who show that good ideas don't take an army to deliver. And that design matters. And that everyday citizens have cash they'd like to spend, too, for quality products. If it wasn't for our competitors doing so well in their respective areas I'm willing to bet that we'd still being ignoring good design and consumer facing features. As of now, those internal champions have leverage.

Something I haven't seen before, especially around Apple, is a level of humbleness and respect when considering, say, what Apple is doing - and doing well - and how we can endeavor to do better ourselves. I haven't or heard much trash-talking around Apple, but rather aspirational discussion. That's great and makes me believe that we'll be able to deliver something that actually delights our users... and hopefully therefore our shareholders.

I've been bummed lately when our competitors screw up. Really. No schadenfreude here, as much as they do indulge in it in our direction. Yeah, I'm bummed when Apple's latest OS comes equipped with a Blue Screen of death and other failures. When Facebook starts upskirting all of their users' purchases. When Google potentially jumps the shark. I'm bummed because their great accomplishments serve as a big walloping stick to break through blockers at Microsoft (because there are still people convinced that the most secure, robust, solid features are those that you don't ship - not exactly a formula for success 100% of the time).

Their failures serve as excuses to keep on doing what we're doing, or less.

Surprise! Holy smokes, stop your grinnin' and drop your linen! I love my new Zune player. That's right, I'm having a blast listening to my tunes and podcasts on my little black 8GB Zune. I promised to buy a Zune when a solid-state Zune with wireless syncing came out. Now, I'm sure you iPod fans just had to spit out three mouthfuls of foamy indignation. Uncross your eyes and let me comfort you in saying that yes, the iPod is still better. When I picked up the very first iPod nano I was amazed at how it just worked. It was delightful. Not delightful is the decision I made years ago to rip all my music in WMA. Now I know all that is just one big transcoding script job away from being something else, but I'm sticking with WMA. And the Zune is my first WMA player (going through about five different players, all the way back to an Intel 64MB player I first owned) that just works right.

And I really enjoy the Zune desktop software. And I intend to rip off some of their UI designs. Imagine that! A Microsoft team ripping design ideas off of another Microsoft team. "Hello, Hell? How's the snow?"

Solid VS2008? When VS2005 came out, there was a series of negative reactions I noted, mainly around its IDE. Dealing with the VS teams quite often, I certainly know they did a major reset in the way they develop software post VS2005. Is it paying off? If so, will other teams adopt this level of engineering excellence to address issues they have in shipping solid features?

DRM die-off? Raise your hand if you love DRM. I don't dork with anything that has DRM because it's so incredibly rare that I've gotten that crap to work without a lot of manual intervention. How am I supporting the non-DRM initiatives? By spending cash buying MP3 albums as much as I can stand. Radiohead. Amazon. And even the Zune Marketplace MP3s (surprise, part II). Do you hate DRM? Show the DRM-free music the love, then. As expressed in cold, hard cash. Or dippy Live points. Put down the Rock Band guitar and go buy some classic tunes in MP3. This kind of success will help Microsoft detangle itself even more from the DRM monster (which, by inadvertently killing Plays-for-Sure, we're well on the way).

Translucency: I know there are a lot of customers, partners, and competitors who enjoy knowing everything going on with every little new Microsoft feature along the way. When it comes to translucency vs. transparency, I support putting the kimono back on and tightening it up, perhaps doing so in an enticing burlesque-style way, revealing only what we want to reveal. A little toe here, perhaps an ankle there...

Part of my support is obviously Jobs/Apple envy of being able to surprise people with a feature just being released. The other is avoiding embarrassingly-public screw-ups like WinFS or other big features we're going to deliver and then end-up cutting. I think we've stopped being the Britney of the software-news world, now we're aspiring to be the Angelina Jolie.

Obviously, we'll still be doing betas for Windows and Office so that by the time they are released everyone will be yawning about the by-then well-known features, but I hope we can pull-out a few surprises and underpromise and overdeliver. So: way to go IE8 team! And I'm looking forward to seeing the reactions at Mix08.

Not the Bad Guy? It's taken a long time, but I don't believe we are perceived as the Evil Empire anymore. Part of that went out when people decided, at least contextually, to bust apart our empire. Okay, fine, we're playing catch-up now (wink wink). Now the evil part starts fading based on the relative failings of other firms. This is a grand opportunity for Microsoft to follow a vision like the one that Mr. ... Mr. ... Mr. Ozzie shared with us (wow, my mind blanked trying to remember his name there for a second... not sure what that means) at the 2007 Company Meeting and be the good guy on the side of the citizen and their private information, making it protected and easily transportable so that you are assured that you own and have access to what's yours, even it if passes through our clouds.


(Administrivia: sorry for falling off the map, but it just plain hasn't been computerized happiness for me over the past month given a wonky Neomailbox email service [probably anything you sent to me directly from the middle of November for a few weeks got bit-bucketed] and a series of cascading hardware failures on the home network. This is the first time in a while I've gotten the "Mini" account going again vs. the minimal life-support it has been on. It's still rough going as I try to duct-tape things back together and bond with Notepad for a while. I guess I'm working through some karma here.)

112 comments:

Anonymous said...

> way to go IE8 team

Errrmmm... no, I cannot agree. Underpromising is one thing, shutting down all communication with a lot of angry web developers is another. While I'm sure there is a lot of goodness in preparation for IE8, the current PR situation is a mess, and a very bad one.

Concerned said...

Who da'Punk?

danny said...

Mini? Is that really you? Are you going through a mid-life crisis there buddy? Next you are going to be saying something like "I love drowning! Granted it's not as good as living, but once you stop struggling it's really quite pleasant"

Did MS discover who you really are?

Anonymous said...

I bought my wife a new Toshiba laptop for Christmas, saying it was hers and that I wouldn't install all my usual techy stuff on it, and she could do it all to learn how Vista works.

We turned it on and waited through long, unresponsive "Please wait" screens and 5 or 6 reboots before even having to deal with those from Windows Update and other apps (Norton, Toshiba, myphotobook(wtf?), and others).
The experience was complete shit. UAC prompts all over the place, IE pop-ups for installing Windows Live Messenger, Flash, zillions of desktop icons, sidebar crap and system tray icons.

As an employee in the Windows product group I am embarrassed with the first run (OOBE) experience. Both MS and Toshiba should be ashamed.
It should take at most one reboot to get up and running, and there should be some kind of partner agreement and vetting to ensure that 3rd party crap doesn't screw with the user experience.

By the way, how did the perf teams ever agree to allow Sidebar in the box? Slow, fat and horribly clunky.

Anonymous said...

Ah, IE8. My company made the mistake of doing a serious amount of coding that is IE-centric, instead of following open web standards, and now they are blocking downloading of IE7 out of fear that all their cute web apps will quit working. And they have tested 7 so they know that in fact everything would have to be recoded, which they are not prepared to do.

Who da'Punk said...

Hi. Yes, it's me.

The same old me.

Some folks freak out every time I go and post something cheery or positive. If that's you then you're going to have to recalibrate your perception of this blog.

I can only assume some of those folks are Anything But Microsoft'ers and MSFT-H8TRZ or folks who should have left Microsoft long, long ago and that they expect this to be a nice place to bash on Microsoft, all-day, all-night. No.

I wouldn't be working at Microsoft if we weren't doing some great things, let alone had the potential to do fantastic things.

Also, as I've said in the past, if you don't re-enforce what's going well, when change comes, anything that's not obviously valued can be swept away with the change.

(And no, that poor old languishing lawsuit just waiting to be delivered to me still hasn't found a way to my door. Thpfffft!!!)

Anonymous said...

I also love my Zune. I find it's easy to use, nice display, has the built in radio for use at the ProClub for the largescreen TVs. Like the site too, it's pretty slick. Like the subscription. Like the DRM free music. I have an iPod, but use the Zune more these days. J and his buds should be proud; well, most of them. Did I mention I think the some of the testers should be fired? I have never gotten it to work on my 64 bit machine. Works great on the 32 bit one at home. I have tried every suggestion put out internally, externally. It... will... not... work. Someone said Microsoft decided a while ago to try and automate as much testing as possible and in the process eliminated most of the critical thinkers in the test department. Apparently they eliminated someone who might have said, "Hey, how about 64 bit? Did we test that? You know, the processor we're making a requirement for some of our future OS releases? Huh? Did we?"

Anonymous said...

Hey, how about 64 bit? Did we test that?

Ha, right. A hundred bucks says that a tester did bring it up and some tech illiterate PM said "64-bit isn't that important and we have to get this thing out the door right now. We'll take care of it later." And then they never do.

And then I laugh in the faces of the people who come to me a couple of years later and say that they need to attempt to rebuild the test collateral to get a product working and validated under our 64-bit OSes. Sure, our customers got screwed, by your friendly neighborhood incompetent PMs.

Wait, this was supposed to be about Zune, wasn't it? Oh, well...

Anonymous said...

Totally agree with the above poster about 3:d party crapware installed on new computers.

Since MSFT happily tie users hands with licensing, couldn't MSFT use liscencing to help users get rid of this preinstalled crap? How about enforcing computer manufacters to at least ship a "clean" Windows installation CD/DVD or a option to opt-out 3d party crapware during installation?

Anonymous said...

I see MSFT's problems starting at the front door, namely, inHuman Resources. While Lisa Brummel kicks ass (they should name a set of heavy boots "Brummels"), as evidenced by the zero-tolerance way she off'ed Stuart Scott for sexual harrassment, the balance of iHR appears to be focused on hiring offshore labor for dev's.

MSFT needs new blood throughout the organization, not just at the top. Sure, some things might change: instead of everybody running around at 100 MPH and handling e-mail during meets, maybe things would run at 75 MPH and we'd get it right the first time. Outsiders (new hires) may ask the questions MSFT doesn't ask itself.

The one thing MSFT does better than anybody else is heading the wrong way at high speed and then changing direction at high speed (notice I haven't mentioned if the new direction is the right one). These changes stress employees, partners, and customers. I'm not suggesting MSFT become 100% risk-averse; I am saying MSFT's recruiting inbreeding is weaking the competitive gene pool.

I'm waiting for the direction change on Vista myself!

Murrquan said...

I'm a Linux user, and I stopped buying Microsoft products because I believe they are trying to block customer choice, and force proprietary software and data formats on everyone.

Having said that, I love when you're optimistic about Microsoft! It shows that there are good people there, trying to do good things and genuinely focused on pleasing the customer -- something my MS-bashing friends would do well to remember.

Kudos for the neat post. I hope you had a Merry Christmas season, and that 2008 goes well for you and yours. Now let's do our best to make quality products and please our respective customers. ^.^

Anonymous said...

If you don't see the positive at work, then you leave or you become bitter. It can ruin you inside. It can destroy you as a person.

If you don't see the negative at work, you can't fix what needs fixed. You can't make it better for yourself, and you can't make it better for your coworkers who don't have the courage to tackle the problems.

Doing both of these at once is hard. It feels almost schizophrenic, but it's actually the only way to stay sane. The real world has good and bad. To actually live in the real world, you have to see both.

MSS

Al said...

IE...the team that forgot how to communicate.

Why even have a blog if you aren't really going to use it for anything but PR announcements?

What happened to the developer chats?

Bug database? The Visual Studio guys can manage one but not IE? That's right, there aren't any developers relying on IE unlike Visual Studio, right?

Hey, how about a tentative schedule for IE8? Wouldn't that be useful to someone?

Feh.

Anonymous said...

Re the guy with the poor out-of-box Vista experience

MS used to control the OOB experience as part of OEM deals, but Netscape and AOL complained, since it blocked them from paying OEMs to include their products on the home page.

Netscape and AOL won in court, which is why OEMs are free to load up the junk-ware, and Microsoft can't fix it.

macbeach said...

It's tempting to think MM got caught. I hope they did use that rat-cage on the face thing from 1984 on him. brainwashing is an evil evil thing.

On the other hand as Murrquan says, your credibility would suffer if you continued to work at a place for which you had only bad things to say.

But I have to ask: You didn't get screwed up using Home Server did you?

I was about to suggest one to a Windows household I know when I read about all the problems.

As to the Zune, I'd be delighted to try one if the box doesn't say it requires Windows. I like devices that just plug in as USB and show up as disk drives (on either my Linux or OS X boxes). I have nothing against end-user photo or music software, I just don't think it should be tightly coupled to the device itself. Haven't we all been burned by that at one time or another? I don't use iTunes or the ITMS for the same reason.

Tell me I can drag and drop files onto a Zune icon without any drivers and I'll rush out and get one.

I look forward to hearing of any other Microsoft unbundlings.

Congratulations on the IE8 compatibility tests.

Now... stop fighting standards (existing ones) for office products, allow free POP access for Live mail and don't tie other Live functionality to Windows and you will make a fanboy out of me once again.

Go ahead, I dare ya!

ZenArcade said...

"Not the Bad Guy? It's taken a long time, but I don't believe we are perceived as the Evil Empire anymore. Part of that went out when people decided, at least contextually, to bust apart our empire."

No. People look at you the same way they look at a toothless tiger. Not very dangerous at all.

I am a very happy iPod Touch user, but I can see that the Zune gets some well-deserved kudos. That little things is probably ( at least with the average user ) the only product from MS that actually works well.

Zon

Anonymous said...

I bought 2 zunes for my daughters this year, and they've been fabulous. The zune software is installed and running on both my 64bit and 32 bit vista boxes w/out any problems.

We've already had to ground one of the kids from her Zune; it had the intended effect.

As far as testing, yeah; MS made a heavy, heavy investment in test automation. Certainly for Windows; don't know about other divisions. The upshot was that a lot of testers were RIF'd, fired or left, including some very high-caliber STE's. One of the biggest mistakes MS has made.

Anonymous said...

mini: "Praise the Lord for competition. Without some light to shine the way, we really tend to get lost in our own initiatives. Think of pre-reset Longhorn. Think of post-IE6 (Blake Ross, I've got a hug with your name on it). So I'm thankful for Google, Facebook, Apple, and Adobe. And Amazon. And Nintendo."

And don't forget the olpc XO laptop, which is about ten times as innovative as anything Microsoft has produced (except x-box) for decades.

"DRM die-off?" This is bad news for Microsoft, since a key part of its plan was to use DRM to lock everyone into its software.

"I don't believe we are perceived as the Evil Empire anymore."

Really? What about Opera's recent complaint to the EU competition commission, or the ongoing controversies over Microsoft's attempt to ram OOXML through the ISO? I have observed that Microsoft employees have a very hard time understanding why the corporation is viewed as evil. Whatever the company is doing at present is always viewed as entirely legitemate, and it only after a practice is stopped that sometimes Microsofties will admit it was wrong.

By the way, there is a connection between this moral blindness and the problems that mini and others complain about. A corporation that is amoral in its business practices will also likely have amoral managers who screw everyone else as they carry out their ambitions.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry about the OOBE experience too. The perf team is doing some work to present OEMs with data about what crapware is relatively less intrusive than others.

There's no forcible action we can take though, because of the anti-trust rulings. The ostensible purpose of the pre-2000 OEM agreements were to keep the Windows desktop and Microsoft branding from being replaced by a OEM billboard. We lost on that one because it prevented Netscape at the same time. Now we have no Netscape, but plenty of billboards :(.

Anonymous said...

>> stop fighting standards (existing ones) for office products,
>> allow free POP access for Live mail and don't tie other Live
>> functionality to Windows and you will make a fanboy out of me
>> once again

+1 here. And fix both Vista and Windows Mobile. They've devolved into crap that even I (a Microsoft employee) wouldn't want to use even if someone paid me.

Office 14 kicks major ass, though. Take some of that and rub it into Windows and we might have a winner on our hands. Not quite Win 95 kind of winner, but at least something non-embarrassing.

And while you're at it, hire some good design people from Apple and put them firmly in charge of user experience.

Anonymous said...

Mini,

It's a sad fact but Microsoft's reputation as the 'Evil Empire' will not go away any time soon. It's a truism of business and customer relations that bad experiences are remembered much longer than good ones and it only takes one bad experience to negate those good ones.

Having said that, I truly hope that Microsoft can recapture some of its old magic. As a long time Mac user, I can still remember the joy of using Word 5.1 on my Mac for the first time. It was WYSIWYG, it 'just worked', it was lean - the very opposite of bloated and never crashed - everything a well written program should be. I have no doubt that there are current MS products that have elements of that today. But I (and many others) have moved on and it will take a huge effort to try and win us back.

Best of luck to all of you.

DD

Anonymous said...

As far as testing, yeah; MS made a heavy, heavy investment in test automation. Certainly for Windows; don't know about other divisions. The upshot was that a lot of testers were RIF'd, fired or left, including some very high-caliber STE's. One of the biggest mistakes MS has made.

It's not that automation is "bad" in and of itself, like any other tool.

The problem is that the people who were "selling" their vision were - and still are - too egocentric to present a balanced view on what could be achieved with their vision.

The outcome was the simplistic belief by those wielding the purse-strings that all testing aside from automation development could be offloaded to anyone, regardless of background or testing skill level.

The remedy is to have a solid core of folks in test leadership positions who really (and recently) know and understand test. In that regard, Windows is already screwed.

Anonymous said...

"I'm sorry about the OOBE experience too. The perf team is doing some work to present OEMs with data about what crapware is relatively less intrusive than others. "

--

OEM's don't care :) been there ... i work at intel and had to go to a major OEM last year on performance issues with our 07 platform (they were complaining were a result of our boards/sw). When confronted with facts that in fact it was a combination of bad bundling (their sw, antivirus sw and custom performance apps they wrote) they simply said "fix your stuff or we wont ship your stuff".

One of the field team members said it was not a technical right or wrong debate ... it was about $$$$ they make "peanuts" but in massive volume by shipping n^n the number of craplets (even if they are trialware)..

good luck with your push ..

Anonymous said...

>Really? What about Opera's recent complaint to the EU competition commission, or the ongoing controversies over Microsoft's attempt to ram OOXML through the ISO?

I wonder where all these complainers about OOXML were when IBM was ramming ODF through OASIS. Or is railroading your spec through the standards process and getting your proprietary technology rubber stamped as a standard only EVIL if you are Microsoft?

Anonymous said...

The crap out-of-box Windows experience is a manifestation of the fact that most users have very little control over what happens in Windows.

Why doesn't Windows come with a good, user-friendly tool to control what runs automatically at startup? Why isn't there a tool to find out what each system tray icon does and control its visibility? Why is "Add/Remove Programs" buried in the control panel? (Also, why does it have an unintuitive name and look/work like a piece of bad shareware?) Why isn't there a good tool for cleaning and organizing the All Programs menu? Why is it so hard to control what program runs "automagically" when a basic action is performed, like inserting a CD or plugging in a camera?

No wonder average users get so frustrated with Windows. Microsoft has made it so difficult and unintuitive to control what goes on that unless you're some kind of black-belt-ninja-hacker, the best you can do is cross your fingers, click on whatever seems good at the time, and repave your machine every year or two.

Anonymous said...

No wonder average users get so frustrated with Windows. Microsoft has made it so difficult and unintuitive to control what goes on that unless you're some kind of black-belt-ninja-hacker, the best you can do is cross your fingers, click on whatever seems good at the time, and repave your machine every year or two.

I'd like to state for the record that after a year of regular use, my Mom -- a reasonably savvy regular computer user -- is still unable to wrap her head around the ways that iTunes interacts with her iPod. The iPod/iTunes interaction model is completely whackjob.

Microsoft does not have a lock on confusing the "average" user with their products. :P

Anonymous said...

I always wonder if J Allard and co were funded by a real VC (not uncle Bill) for the Zune venture, whether they would have produced the same product?

Would they have got the funding even?

Logan-5 said...

Why doesn't Windows come with a good, user-friendly tool to control what runs automatically at startup? Why isn't there a tool to find out what each system tray icon does and control its visibility?...

Because OEMs wouldn't like such a tool, and OEMs are who pay the freight at MSFT. Seriously - you wonder why Apple has better (and more frequent) commercials than Microsoft? Apple is a consumer electronics company that sells to consumers while Microsoft is a supplier that sells to OEMs. OEMs want to ship as much pre-installed crap as they can get paid for. If the pre-installed crap can be too easily uninstalled, the OEMs won't get paid for it, and so won't ship the new MSFT OS with the handy de-crapify tool.

XBOX has some pricing problems, but despite the RROD issues is a popular, even loved, MSFT product. It is also one of the few areas where MSFT is the ultimate producer and not just a part of the supply chain.

One lesson MSFT needs to learn is that the 90's, where MSFT the supplier was a bigger name with the public than any of the OEM producers, was an anomoly, and an unstable situation. The AT trial was but one manifestation of that instability.

More common is something like Panasonic plasma tvs. You can buy a Panasonic. Or you can buy a Toshiba, JVC or Fujitsu, but you'd still be getting a Panasonic screen, since they OEM to the others.

Anonymous said...

Definitely agreement on some of the good things outlined in this post, like competition and Zune.
As for the bad things, 2 biggies:
1. Simplicity. We must simplify our user experience not only thru good design and practices but thru a way more simplistic product strategy. I have a good bunch of apple products, including a desktop and a phone, and the comparison across experiences in both platforms is simply embarrassing for microsoft.
2. Culture. Our totally disrespectful email centric culture has to be eliminated. All those meetings (90%) where someone talks to himself while others do email have to stop. No laptop in meetings policy should be enforced across the company. If we can't listen to ourselves, is someone really expecting us to listen to our customers?

Anonymous said...

Why doesn't Windows come with a good, user-friendly tool to control what runs automatically at startup? ...

Because OEMs wouldn't like such a tool, and OEMs are who pay the freight at MSFT.


I'm not buying it. The OEMs have no practical choice but to bundle Windows. If Microsoft wants to make Windows easier to use, the OEMs will have to accept that. (That's purportedly what we do with every new version anyway, right?)

I think what's more likely is that the PMs in Windows are oblivious to the problems of the common user. Or if they recognize the problems, they think it either comes down to user error ("we already have add/remove programs, what dumbass doesn't use that?") or they come up with half-assed fixes. ("Too many confusing icons in the system tray? Let's automatically hide them, instead of giving users a tool that lets them understand and control the icons.")

Some Guy said...

"I'm sure you iPod fans just had to spit out three mouthfuls of foamy indignation"

What a peculiar thing to assume. Why would we care what other people spend their money on?

I bought my first iPod, and each one since then, because they appealed to *me*, not because anyone else liked them.

Some Guy said...

"Would they have got the funding even?"

That depends on the VC, of course. As Nolan Bushnel has pointed out, a lot of VCs really aren't very bright. They'll follow fads, and if Apple's made a couple billion dollars with a music player, then some of them might assume that if you spend x dollars on advertising in a market of size y, you'll get z million bucks back.

Anyone who's had a really novel idea and tried to pitch it to a VC can tell you just how small-minded they are.

Some Guy said...

"Both MS and Toshiba should be ashamed."

Sorry, I don't agree with half of that statement. How can Toshiba make the initial user experience any better, when Microsoft comes down like a ton of bricks on any OEM who even pre-installs an app on the desktop that MS doesn't like?

Ok, it's Toshiba's fault for putting up with such a lousy OS vendor, but you pretty much have to be IBM or a tiny mom-and-pop screwdriver shop if you're going to get anywhere with Linux.

Some Guy said...

"OEMs want to ship as much pre-installed crap as they can get paid for."

Umm... Since nearly all of the profit margin in a PC sale goes to MS, who can blame them for that?

Any PC maker besides Apple (and Alienware before Dell screwed them up) is scraping by on razor-thin margins, so much so that they can't even afford to make the cases for their laptops out of polycarbonate instead of polystyrene. Have you picked up a Sony VAIO laptop lately? They're *flimsy*.

jon said...

Welcome back, Mini. Good luck with the duct tape. And great topic!

I agree with most of your points, with the exception of "translucency". Your own blog's an example of how futile it is for Microsoft to try to control information; and the security team and Devdiv have shown that in the right climate, transparency doesn't result in leaks. Conversely there are huge costs when you tell your employees that the default is "you shouldn't talk about it". There was an excellent article a few months ago discussing how Microsoft's increasing manipulation of its messages to the blogosphere both reinforces the "evil empire" perception. Just as importantly, a control-based approach sends a continuous message to employees that "we don't trust your judgment" -- and creates a chilling effect for discussions in general, because in a low-trust climate, a desire to control external messages invariably leads to internal secrecy.

In terms of MS as the evil empire, I agree with the commenters that this is something that looks very differently inside and outside Microsoft -- most of the people I talk to see the OOXML fiasco as a lot worse than anything IBM did with ODF. On the whole, though, I think Microsoft has made some good strides in moving to a less-evil image, especially among what they so charmingly refer to as "the elites". This is a place where Google has really helped -- since most people perceive them as both more competent and less subject to government scrutiny (for example, in the privacy space it's Microsoft that's under a consent decree with the FTC, not Google), they're increasingly viewed as more of a threat.

Which leads me to one of the most important things I think is going well: unlike a lot of its competitors Microsoft avoided any high-profile privacy or security fiascos this year. The security differences are most glaring in the OS space, where Apple now appears to be roughly where Microsoft was in early 2002 -- before the "security push" (where they shut down development for two months to focus on security) and XPSP2. In terms of privacy, Microsoft's far from perfect, the attention they've given to this starting in the aftermath of the WMP "phone home" fiasco several years ago means that they've got a substantial advantage. Conversely, Facebook's Beacon and Google's Reader show that these other companies still don't get it. With MoveOn.org's involvement with Beacon, candidates like Ron Paul putting civil liberties on the table as a campaign issue, and the do-not-track registry proposal, privacy's likely to get a lot of attention this year, so hopefully Microsoft can leverage its advantage more strategically than in the past.

Anonymous said...

It's weird that Mini and all the commenters here have failed to notice the mass exodus from the Xbox team in 2007. By my count, more than 15% of the product team (dev/PM/test) have left Microsoft for Apple, Sony, Google, Yahoo, MySpace, Amazon, and various other companies (including several startups, local and in the Valley).

This is great progress towards a Mini-MSFT!!

(Though, it's mostly bad attrition and has some other negative implications you can work out on your own.)

Anonymous said...

> Because OEMs wouldn't like such a
> tool

Last time I looked, each and every OEM (except for maybe SUN and of course Apple) is really without an alternative to installing Windows on their PCs and laptops.
And most of the crapplets don't run under Linux either, if one considers Linux an alternative in this scenario.

The AMD5000x2 Dell I bought only really came to life after I added an additional 2 GB of RAM (making it 3 GB total). Having Google Desktop and the Vista Desktop Search both index your harddrive at the same time probably didn't help that situation.
(But I only used Vista to update the BIOS and the DVD-RW firmware anyway, and to try out Safari for Windows).

The irony being, of course, that this is all an outcome of the Netscape anti-trust lawsuit.
It didn't help Netscape - but it didn't do MSFT any good either, as it seems.

logan-5 said...

Any PC maker besides Apple (and Alienware before Dell screwed them up) is scraping by on razor-thin margins,

That is not Microsoft's fault (though it may be MSFTs problem). How is it that OEMs got themselves trapped in a commodity market? And regardless of the answer, how does making your product less attractive get you out of the mess? Turning a commodity product into an advertising vehicle is a short term solution at best.

I'm not buying it. The OEMs have no practical choice but to bundle Windows. If Microsoft wants to make Windows easier to use, the OEMs will have to accept that...

No, not really. As the first reply I quoted points out, OEMs are not exactly raking in the cash. They're in a thin margin business and could easily decide they have better uses for that factory space (assuming they're even still making their own boxes and haven outsoured that, in which case it's even easier to opt out of the market). There's no law (of man or market) that says Dell and HP always need to sell PCs.

Besides, in the A-T climate, a call to the local State AG to complain about Microsoft strong-arming poor widdle HP would cause MSFT all sorts of grief.

I think what's more likely is that the PMs in Windows are oblivious to the problems of the common user.

That too, is part of the problem.

Bottom line, MSFT doesn't have as much control over OEMs as people think, and in the wake of the A-T case, it has even less than it used to. And in the past, hasn't had the right people (e.g. Windowss PMs) to chart a course out of the mess.

Now, to be fair to the Windows PMs, (and GPMs, GMs, etc.), almost all of them are reasonably smart, and most of them are even well-intentioned. But they have been far too short-sighted to deal with the quality problems. To fix this, MSFT needs to get it's leadership thinking much longer-term. The answer to "What's going well" will be a much longer list if MSFT can do that.

Anonymous said...

>>How can Toshiba make the initial user experience any better, when Microsoft comes down like a ton of bricks on any OEM who even pre-installs an app on the desktop that MS doesn't like?<<

I'm fairly young...where can I get an example of this behavior?

john x said...

What else is going well? The stock is up a nice 20% for the year; Oh I wish they would bring back the options back again.... :)

Anonymous said...

> Why doesn't Windows come with a good, user-friendly tool to control what runs automatically at startup? Why isn't there a tool to find out what each system tray icon does and control its visibility? Why is "Add/Remove Programs" buried in the control panel? (Also, why does it have an unintuitive name and look/work like a piece of bad shareware?) Why isn't there a good tool for cleaning and organizing the All Programs menu? Why is it so hard to control what program runs "automagically" when a basic action is performed, like inserting a CD or plugging in a camera?

I don't think it's that simple. You're talking about users who often don't know where their files are stored (My Documents or the Desktop, but they "just appear" to them), who think that the blue e is "the internet" rather than Internet Explorer. Trying to make it easy enough for these people to "clean up" without destroying things is really hard.

It would be better to make a system that doesn't need cleaning up, but that would be really hard - especially if it has to be open to the third-party software of the user's choice.

Worse, this system also has to be useful to the expert user, who wants to really be able to control the system. The only way I can see for this to work is something like the idea of "progressive disclosure" - hide almost everything from the user (and do it all for him/her), but have an easy-to-activate expert mode (or several, one for each area of functionality) that lets the user play with the power tools.

MSS

Anonymous said...

I don't think it's that simple. You're talking about users who often don't know where their files are stored (My Documents or the Desktop, but they "just appear" to them), who think that the blue e is "the internet" rather than Internet Explorer. Trying to make it easy enough for these people to "clean up" without destroying things is really hard.

This is just the kind of attitude that would result in the current mess. Users are idiots, so let's make a bunch of band-aid knee-jerk "automagic" usability fixes instead of good, solid, easy-to-use tools that regular users can find and use to learn about their computers.

I wonder how much Microsoft's product design has caused the dumbing down of today's computer users. You mention that users often don't know where they save files--well, why would they? My Documents comes up automatically in the Save dialog and there are only subtle UI indications of where they are or how to get back there.

You should see the glee that "Average Joe" users experience when they first download a file using Firefox--"hey, look, it showed up right there on my desktop!"

It's not that people are idiots and can't learn about computers, it's that Microsoft, with all its good intentions, just makes the process that much more difficult.

jon said...

Inspired by this and some of the other end-of-year roundups, I started up a thread on Liminal States called Microsoft 2008: Where are the opportunities? and seeded it with a few initial thoughts: put the user truly in control of their information, make Live the best front end to the network-of-networks, and abandon DRM. Arguably based on the discussion so far here, "assist an open source effort to release an easy-to-use tool that helps everybody, experts and normal users, regain control over their system". MSS is right that there are a lot of complexities here; seems like it's worth trying ...

Anyhow, opinions welcome!

jon

Anonymous said...

Since MSFT happily tie users hands with licensing, couldn't MSFT use liscencing to help users get rid of this preinstalled crap? How about enforcing computer manufacters to at least ship a "clean" Windows installation CD/DVD or a option to opt-out 3d party crapware during installation?


Actually, this was all related to the DOJ case and enforcing this is specifically forbidden. Of course, the option would be cool.

I recently bought a Sony and it was almost rendered useless by crapware - some of which was pretty hard to uninstall.

Some Guy said...

John X,

A bump in the year when MS *finally* shipped a new version of windows isn't a whole lot to write home about, when you consider how dismally MSFT has been underperforming the NASDAQ since Ballmer got the CEO gig.

Check the five-year chart at google finance. MSFT up 34.42%, and the NASDAQ was up 83.2%.

MSFT hasn't been a growth stock for at least five years now, and it's time for them to switch gears and become a dividend stock.

Anonymous said...

>OEMs want to ship as much pre-installed crap as they can get paid for

Enter Dell's Vostro models.. Perhaps its too little too late.

RE: OEM's razor thin profits.
That is not Microsoft's fault (though it may be MSFTs problem).
This is a huge problem for msft. If OEM's aren't profitable/successful, what do you think that means for msft? Same goes for the mobile space - what kind of profit do you think partners are seeing from selling WM devices?

Anonymous said...

I love my 80G zune. The only bummer is the accessory scene is super weak. Video coversion: use Handbrake(free) or Nero Recode or if you must go to WMV: use TMPEGEnc Express 4, excellent. I do wish the PC software had more options for filtering your browse view. Other than that it's awesome. Trivia: the Zune client and Media Center use the same rendering engine.

Anonymous said...

I loved the post, I love this company, and I am critical… you touched on something that really hit home, why I think I work for the greatest (or soon to be greatest) company on earth. Yes Microsoft has been viewed as the evil empire. Why? Google was and is a great competitor, as an American citizen their technology and popularity has allowed something incredible to take place. The media had been dangerously in control (and still is) of information, and things that I learn about constantly using Google, and the last couple months almost always using MSN Search (relevancy is outstanding, way to go!), were never possible before, and accessible to everyone.

I loved Ozzie’s speech at the company meeting, and to me, he hit home on the reason this company will ultimately help to save our country and life as we know it. If you think this sounds crazy, you have no idea what's going on in the world and in the US. But that's not a subject for this blog! Back to the subject of MS.

I feel that we are failing to differentiate ourselves from Google on one key aspect, something I’m very disappointed in our leadership over. On one hand, our technologies enable people to find information, form opinions, and communicate, but our advertising technology is just the same as Google. We track what you do, we ‘protect’ your identity (do we REALLY?), but in reality we secretly monitor your activities, and we DO NOT disclose what we know about you. I hope that this company realizes what an opportunity there is to really make an impact, a positive impact for freedom and democracy, and how it has to take this very seriously, and so far, it hasn’t. At least I haven’t. There are very simple technical approaches that will maximize ad revenue AND protect the user’s information, ads that actually benefit users. Microsoft is a company that can be the innovator here, but it is too conservative, and a follower, and just won’t, and I think that’s sad. People up above are too afraid to do anything bold!

Speaking of the power of information, I want to ask Microsoft to host an event, by Richard Gage, who has agreed to come do a lecture in Seattle, and I wanted very much for that to be on campus. I won’t mention what Gage’s topic is, you can Live Search the controversial subject and this blog is certainly not the place for that. Does anyone have some kind advice for me, who I would ask, where I would pursue getting Microsoft to host this event?

No, Microsoft is not the evil empire. It’s perception is changing. But here is a prophecy for the world, Microsoft will soon become the greatest. What’s great? Promoting freedom of information, privacy, rights, choice, empowering users, exchanging ideas. I loved the part of the post where you talked about our competitors, and view that as healthy – I applaud this. We could be better than Google, but what is greatness? We all have our own definition, and I think I’m at the right company.

Does anyone have some advice for me, regarding how to get Microsoft to host an engineering presentation by Richard Gage? Where and who do I ask? I'd greatly appreciate it.

Anonymous said...

It's pathetic how MS people blame others for a lousy UI experience. Yes, the government forced you to play with others. Wah wah. Yes, OEMs have thin margins and want to clutter up my system.

Like one or two other posters said, there's a lot MS *can* do once you stop making stupid whiny excuses.

Make Add/Remove USEFUL. It's for end users. Let us uninstall multiple programs at a time, for example.

Make Windows far better at cleaning up after programs. No excuses; you came up with private, secured storage for ClickOnce apps, for example, as well as other "transparent" interception layers so you know you can do this.

Prevent registry cruft. It's simply unbelievable that nothing is in Windows to clean up/defrag/optimize the registry, which leads to performance degradation over time.

Put a decent "time machine" into Windows. System restore is a useless joke. Apple's time machine is slightly better (and much easier to use than System Restore, which in MS typical fashion is scattered across a control panel and a totally separate, deeply nested Start menu app). If you want to see how to do it right, look at VMWare Workstation's snapshot manager, which is infinitely better than anything in Windows or Virtual PC's awful similar feature.

Stop with the stupid excuses. Come up with ideas like any customer with a valid product key can download a clean .iso of their OS. And for God's sake, make activation and product key use more convenient; why doesn't Windows show me anywhere what my product key is instead of forcing me to haul my PC with the oh-so-conveniently located sticker (usually underneath or in the back) out of its resting place?

There is so much more MS could but won't do to make Windows better and more pleasant to use. It's really disheartening to see the level of "blame others" and "it's not our fault" and "we can't do anything". Where have all your can-do people gone?

radiohead said...

You mentioned Radiohead.

For those who don't know, this groundbreaking band from 1991 on 10/10/07 released their new album from their website for 128 kb mp3 download, using a pay whatever you feel like scheme. They also made a US$80 discbox set available that was a beautiful boxed set of 2 CDs, 2 vinyls and a buttload of artwork.

The major difference here is that before the album's release, they ended up not renegotiating (and failed actually) with their parent corporate label EMI, and settled with a somewhat independent label to not only distribute their album (CD) in stores to retain literally full creative control and ownership of their songs.

Radiohead likely didn't care or want DRM on the first release MP3s and the discbox official release had no DRM on the CDs

When re-negotiating another contract with EMI, the band wanted ownership and say of their (not entire) back catalog, so in the sense that they wouldn't want a song used in a commercial for instance. EMI accused the band of wanting 10 million UK pounds which the band and their management denied, and claimed Guy (new head of EMI) had his head up his arse so to speak.

Anonymous said...

2. Culture. Our totally disrespectful email centric culture has to be eliminated. All those meetings (90%) where someone talks to himself while others do email have to stop. No laptop in meetings policy should be enforced across the company.

Outstanding insight. I would add the need to turn off cell phones in meetings, along with the laptops. If the meeting doesn't deserve your full attention, should you even be meeting in the first place?

Anonymous said...

No laptop in meetings policy should be enforced across the company.

Only if managers can be fired for reprimanding or punishing others for not attending a meeting.

Or people are allowed to snore audibly. Your choice. :)

macbeach said...

Richard Gage?

Oh gees, I can't resist.

But no time in this blog to talk about what Ozzie said about the company saving the country?!

MM: I think you've been had. If you get someone like Gage, at least consider rebuttal time:

http://screwloosechange.blogspot.com/2007/06/richard-gage-aia-and-crackpot.html

Anyway, I really WOULD be interested in Ozzie's remarks. Are they published anywhere?

I'm not an MS employee. But I was a fan once. Long ago.

Long ago, in Windows 3.1 days Bill Gates wrote a nice one page memo explaining that the old PC operating systems (DOS primarily) didn't do enough. He was right. Each application (Wordperfect, Lotus 123 were popular at the time) had to have it's own screen drivers, it's own printer drivers, etc. Gates pointed out that this was rightfully the duty of the OS to smooth out hardware issues and provide a standard interface to standard devices. He was absolutely right, and Windows, primitive as it was, was the only thing on the market attempting to offer such functionality. (An alternative from IBM at the time called (I think) TopView, was little more than a GUI file selector.

I ran out and got my first version of Windows. Even though my PC at the time was woefully inadequate, I upgraded it to run OS/2 (while it was still a joint MS/IBM effort), then got a new PC to continue running first OS/2 (from IBM) then Windows NT, then 2000. While I used 2000 for quite some time, it's really been downhill since NT.

The move of video drivers to protected space made my system unstable (including file corruption) and while better drivers solved this problem, I realized that the high minded philosophy in Gate's memo was no longer (if it had ever been) a motivating factor in design decisions at Microsoft (HEY! Let's make GAMES run faster on business machines!).

In spite of poor implementation decisions (don't get me started on the registry!), even some of the general design concepts for PC based systems still made sense at the time. Client/Server architecture and the need to keep certain business processes decidedly OFF the users machine made a lot of sense, as did the need, even with faster and faster systems, to consider distributing processes, load balancing,etc.

Back then, it seemed to me that it was still mostly the IBM people, and others associated with OS/2 that were contributing to this public dialog on the PCs place in the grand scheme of things. Nowadays, while MS people show up at events and submit papers I have a distinct feeling that nothing coming out of MS is for the "common good" if it doesn't coincidentally serve the company's interest (please, no need to remind me of Gate's charity, I'm speaking here only of technical contributions).

Which brings me to "the good of the country". When I was a Computer Sciences undergraduate (70s) we used mainframes and mid-sized computers to learn on, from companies such as DEC and IBM. Oh how lucky I feel that those companies didn't feel the way Microsoft does about its products. Otherwise, like a lot of todays youth, I would feel that computers, while very interesting were mystical beasts to which only the clergy had access. No, I had (in my particular case) IBM source code to play with. We made operating system mods just for the learning experience, and the adventurous, would take that to the next step and write machine level code from scratch or optimize schedulers for the school's main computer systems. Where do students today get that sort of experience? From Linux, BSD and other open systems that don't treat the implementation of linked lists as though it were the invention of the wheel!

One reason America is falling behind in computer training is that our kids are too used to seeing the PC as primarily a gaming device, and Microsoft has had a lot to do with this (but no, they are not exclusively to blame). Compare that with other countries where kids are cutting their teeth on older machines, running Linux, and writing device drivers, small footprint applications, language tools. Another area where Linux is popular is for the disabled. Sure Windows has finally caught up in this area, but I know a guy who can program circles around most people (including those at MS) who doesn't use a GUI at all. Totally blind, he needs a screen reader, works entirely in character mode and by necessity, when working on Windows projects can use the sounds from a transistor radio to help diagnose program bugs that stump everyone else. He doesn't use Linux at home because he is an Open Source fanatic, he uses it because that is what is available to him, and by and large, as time goes on, I think he's gotten the better end of the deal from Microsoft's "translucency".

As a company, you are wrong in thinking that openness is a concession, a favor to the world. It is just the opposite. Mods that people like me made to IBM software routinely found their way back into the base distribution, and I guarantee that some of them would never have originated at IBM. There is a whole world that Microsoft has cut itself off from by its Gollum-like behavior. The world does not need Microsoft. Best to get that idea right out of your heads.

Anonymous said...

It's really disheartening to see the level of "blame others" and "it's not our fault" and "we can't do anything". Where have all your can-do people gone?

They went to startups, because there is no opportunity for wealth at Microsoft anymore. Microsoft is now a 9-5 (or 11-7 for devs) company. The fire is out.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of the power of information, I want to ask Microsoft to host an event, by Richard Gage, who has agreed to come do a lecture in Seattle, and I wanted very much for that to be on campus. I won’t mention what Gage’s topic is, you can Live Search the controversial subject and this blog is certainly not the place for that. Does anyone have some kind advice for me, who I would ask, where I would pursue getting Microsoft to host this event?

Richard Gage is a "WTC controlled demolition" wacko. Assuming you do actually work for MS, you must be a PURE hire.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of the power of information, I want to ask Microsoft to host an event, by Richard Gage, who has agreed to come do a lecture in Seattle, and I wanted very much for that to be on campus. I won’t mention what Gage’s topic is, you can Live Search the controversial subject and this blog is certainly not the place for that.

Particularly given that you'd have no defense for any attack on a vulture like Gage:

http://911guide.googlepages.com/ae911truth

(Mini, may I suggest you delete at least the "Richard Gage" portion of the previous post, as well as any followups on that topic, including this one?)

Anonymous said...

Lately, minimsft almost fell off my radar. The latest post resonates 100% with my understanding of Microsof internals. Mini - you gained my trust again. For now :-)

Anonymous said...

If someone is in a meeting but using the time to catch up on email (via their laptop) or phone calls, the person running the meeting should just kick them out. They clearly don't want to be there and don't care about the meeting anyway. That should be recorded somewhere as well.

It's not fair on other people in the meeting, people who may actually care about the outcome, for some to waste their time and create distractions.

There's no excuse either. If you accept the invite, you're promising your full presence. If you can't give that, refuse. If you don't have the wherewithal to refuse a meeting that you don't want or need to attend, then you're probably in need of some help in being assertive.

This is a behaviour I loathe, but I know ways to stop it when it happens (thanks GE facilitation training!)

Anonymous said...

Why doesn't Windows come with a good, user-friendly tool to control what runs automatically at startup? Why isn't there a tool to find out what each system tray icon does and control its visibility?

I'm going to assume you're not using Vista. Open up the control panel, and in the new view (not "classic") there's a section named "Programs" with two links under it. The second link is "Change startup programs", and takes you into Windows Defender's Software Explorer, which classifies all of your startup apps by manufacturer and gives you a ton of information about them. If you're a "normal" user, I'd say it's fair to assume anything that's not from Microsoft, Google, Adobe, or Apple is probably something you'd consider removing, and you'd only have to look at the more extensive information if you like. For each item there are also three buttons: Remove, Disable (in case you're not sure and want to be able to easily revert your change), and Enable (to revert a Disable). This should be easier to get to (if you use Control Panel in classic mode or as a menu off of the Start menu it's unclear which option gets you into Windows Defender Software Explorer), but the functionality itself is great.

Why is "Add/Remove Programs" buried in the control panel? (Also, why does it have an unintuitive name and look/work like a piece of bad shareware?)

Where do you want it to be? It makes sense for it to be in the Control Panel, because it's for controlling your system. The Vista name ("Programs and Features") is just as bad as "Add/Remove Programs", and the UI has a different level of suck (rather than being the craptastic HTML-rendered XP panel, it's now a proper Explorer window but entries load asynchronously and cause the list to bounce around as apps are added in alphabetical order).

Why isn't there a good tool for cleaning and organizing the All Programs menu?

At least for me, the All Programs menu has become completely useless with Vista's integrated search. I don't have to dig around to find what I want. I just start typing, and the ridiculously fast search on my 2.5 year old laptop pulls up results and refines them as I keep typing. We should do more with searching and less with hierarchical menus, IMHO.

Why is it so hard to control what program runs "automagically" when a basic action is performed, like inserting a CD or plugging in a camera?

On the Control Panel, either click "Play CDs and other media automatically" in the new view or "AutoPlay" in the classic/menu view, and you're taken to a great tool that shows you all of the different types of autoplayable media your PC knows about (standard stuff like audio vs. data CD, but also devices you've connected like a camera or iPhone), with independent options for each. Again, surfacing this is an issue (I don't recall being able to go to this app with a single click when presented with the "Ask me" default autoplay dialog), but the functionality is all there.

No wonder average users get so frustrated with Windows. Microsoft has made it so difficult and unintuitive to control what goes on that unless you're some kind of black-belt-ninja-hacker, the best you can do is cross your fingers, click on whatever seems good at the time, and repave your machine every year or two.

Or you could go into the friendly new Vista Control Panel view and follow links in descriptive English (or whatever language you're using). I don't have to know that PCs call it "AutoPlay". I just click on the link that says "Play CDs and other media automatically". I don't need to know that Add/Remove Programs is now "Programs and Features" or that I can open it quickly just by running appwiz.cpl. I click on the descriptive text of "Uninstall a program" when I want to uninstall a program, and I'm done.

For all of the bashing Vista gets, it's obvious that many people haven't taken the time to see what Vista actually does do better.

Anonymous said...

Such hostility about people not paying attention during meetings. I would have thought that these people would be grateful for a clear-cut metric that tells them whether or not the meeting is useful for anyone.

I think many of these people calling for strict meeting rules should be careful what they wish for. They may find themselves begging door to door to get any attendance.

Anonymous said...

No laptop in meetings policy should be enforced across the company.

Or, maybe you might want to confirm whether people in meetings might be using their laptops for something productive (such as taking notes, or following the meeting lead's PowerPoint presentation online because it's easier for them to read that way).

In other words, don't assume that everyone who brings a laptop to a meeting is surfing and reading e-mail. Creating global policies to forbid laptops in meetings to address individual behaviors, is just plain silly. 1:1 conversations might be a better way to handle true offenders who are actually surfing and e-mailing, rather than taking notes or following the meeting.

If you don't have the wherewithal to refuse a meeting that you don't want or need to attend, then you're probably in need of some help in being assertive.

That ain't necessarily so. One of my previous managers *required* that people attend certain meetings, to the point where meeting attendance is included in their commitments. Some managers might reinforce that requirement in other ways. In my view, that's a lame management practice, but it is a practice that might also preclude the person from refusing to attend meetings.

Frankly, I believe that many teams enforce a culture of having too many meetings, at the expense of actual, focused work. Our energies would be better spent on creating better software.

For example: I'd like Vista to run better on X64. After months of frustration and lack of driver support, I finally gave up, wiped my system clean, and installed 32-bit Vista. My system is much happier now, but I wish that the 64-bit version was more stable and had better driver support. If that were the case, I'd continue to use it.

Anonymous said...

> For all of the bashing Vista gets, it's obvious that many people haven't taken the time to see what Vista actually does do better.

I'm going to give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that they are computer savvy people who just didn't know that Vista can do those things. And that's the problem (not just with Vista). It can do nifty things, with useful and helpful UI, but I can't find the starting point. And I get told, "the starting point for that particular task is at this location". For each task, I have to learn (and remember) the starting point to get to it.

What I want to see is a list of common tasks, in plain English (or other language), that lets me click on the task that I want to do, and it will bring up the OS's nifty and intuitive way of doing it. Sounds like Vista made progress on the "nifty and intuitive" front, but I still have to find the goodies. Make a hot-linked list, put it a couple of prominent places (desktop and start menu, probably), and then people - even computer illiterate - only have one place they go to be able to do all the stuff that the OS lets them do, but they can never figure out where to go to get started.

MSS

Anonymous said...

As far as testing, yeah; MS made a heavy, heavy investment in test automation. Certainly for Windows; don't know about other divisions. The upshot was that a lot of testers were RIF'd, fired or left, including some very high-caliber STE's. One of the biggest mistakes MS has made.

Thanks for the kind words, but let's not re-hash that one again. Learn and move on. It was 2 yrs ago. Many of us who were RIF'd have been back since as CSG, and even FTE. Most found positions paying considerably higher paying than when they were lowly 58 FTE peons. Many are paid better than the now low-bar 59 SDET, and even several Test Lead roles. Quite a few of those that survived the RIFs have since left.

What's really funny in a 'karma biting you in the a$$' kind of way is taking a dance through the GAL and HT and seeing where our former fearless bosses are now.

Several of the people who tagged us as not worthy of staying on, with no career velocity, and no hope of getting ahead, etc, i.e. Kims, are now pretty much at the same level and title as before.

Now, I'm part of an actual 'team' (heh, remember that term and how you tossed it out so eagerly in interviews when you werer still fresh and young?)in a much better group, in a much less hostile org , getting paid much better than I was as a lowly STE.
I just love driving home to my family in time for dinner EVERY DAY. Just for grins, I drive past my old bldg every once in a while. I love to see my old bosses still in their offices. Getting paid less than I do, working more hours than I do, and going nowhere in their MS careers, like I was.

MSFTextrememakeover said...

Good post, Mini. Great to see you back. Also encouraging that you're seeing some positive developments.

Anonymous said...

If you don't have the wherewithal to refuse a meeting that you don't want or need to attend, then you're probably in need of some help in being assertive.
Some folks are required to attend meetings "to represent" a team, and/or to have "visibility" even if their participation during the meeting is null or so brief that it provides no value whatsoever. That's just the way it is nowadays.... sad but true.

Anonymous said...

It's weird that Mini and all the commenters here have failed to notice the mass exodus from the Xbox team in 2007. By my count, more than 15% of the product team (dev/PM/test) have left Microsoft for Apple, Sony, Google, Yahoo, MySpace, Amazon, and various other companies (including several startups, local and in the Valley).

That's depressing. I know two who left Xbox last year, and they were two of the best engineers at Microsoft. I didn't realize their departures was part of a larger trend. What's going on over in Millennium? What does this mean for Xbox 720 (or whatever the heck they'll name it?)

Anonymous said...

In other words, don't assume that everyone who brings a laptop to a meeting is surfing and reading e-mail. Creating global policies to forbid laptops in meetings to address individual behaviors, is just plain silly.

Yeah, what rock do you think we crawled out from under? This is what people *always* say when you talk about banning laptops. "I'm taking notes" or "looking up the Web site." 99% of the time they are not doing that, unless they are the designated note-taker for the meeting (how many meetings do you attend where there is someone actually tasked with taking notes and writing down who will do what and by when? (silence)).

It's just to provide a rationale for bringing the laptop and using the time "productively" period. And if you think it doesn't drive the people who are trying to pay attention NUTS to hear that constant clack-clack-clack (whether you're "taking notes" - cough, cough - or catching up on your e-mail - bingo!), you've lost the ability to put yourself in anyone else's shoes.

Out with you already! Call in to the meeting and put it on speaker/mute if you have to do other work during the meeting time. Don't wreck the meeting for everyone else around you! Goes double and triple for the "all hands" meetings where people attend just to show that they're "team players" and then spend the ENTIRE time head-down, clacking away on their laptops. And not even in the back of the room, but right in the middle. Can't even hear the speaker if one of those clackers is next to you!!

I say again: stay in your office and call or Live Meeting in, and spare the rest of us your noise and clear lack of interest in being there. Or maybe the new buildings should all include "quiet rooms" for the must-have-laptop folks to clack away amongst themselves, with one-way speakers from the real conference room and a button they can push if they're taking a break from clacking and want to pipe up with something (though it's likely to be the same point someone else made WHILE THEY WERE CLACKING AWAY!!!)

Grrrrr.....

Anonymous said...

MacBeach, I watched a Gage presentation online, and My god! What a bunch of Hogwash.

I'm proud to be a level 65 engineer, and I agree with every one of my collegues on this topic, its something that we discuss regularily.

A couple differences between Microsoft and our government. For the most part, people who screw up are held accountable, not promoted. A trillion dollars goes missing and hardly anyone notices. At MS, Xbox looses a billion and at least questions were raised. Our leadership knows what their doing half the time. All of my collegues are extremely intelligent, the best engineers I know, and we all agree unanimously why 3 steel frame buildings collapsed at free fall speed, for the first time in history.

I think I may start asking a new interview question: given a 47 story building, cause it to collapse in 8 seconds, evenly into its foundation. A back of the envelope solution will get you pretty close.

That Gage video is like dozens of others on the internet. A theory that holds alot more weight with me than the official one. That one doesn't hold up on a whiteboard, not with me or anyone I know personally. Sorry.

Anonymous said...

All of this 2008 navel-gazing has recently become much less relevent to my interests. (cue the serious cat)

My wife is going to buy a new desktop PC this year, but we're buying it under the same assumption that our corporate IT policy is using - It's going to have to run XP for another two years because even SP-1 may not make Vista good enough.

I, on the other hand, am going to do something I've never done before (since DOS 3.2). I'm buying a machine without a Microsoft operating system. My next purchase is going to be an ASUS eee PC. I love the footprint and portability and I absolutely love the price. I can't wait to use it in all of the places that I can't lug my current notebook.

Bu-bye. I'll check in again this same time next year to see if there's anything interesting happening.

Anonymous said...

What does this mean for Xbox 720 (or whatever the heck they'll name it?)
My prediction: Xbox 720 will be a component of Windows. The start is already done with the integration of Live into Vista, and I'm sure the remaining technologies will find a home on the PC as well.
That may include a hardware-based DRM solution and a certification process, i.e. an application getting access to the more interesting APIs only if it is signed.

Anonymous said...

I think I may start asking a new interview question: given a 47 story building, cause it to collapse in 8 seconds, evenly into its foundation. A back of the envelope solution will get you pretty close.

I, for one, would appreciate this as an indicator of what my potential coworkers were into. Possibly even on a phone screen so I could waste even less time calculating the efficacy of aluminum foil hats for you.

Anonymous said...

RE: Browsing during meetings

I do this on my iPhone now. I'm not a PM, so I'm not eligible for a laptop anyway. So I'm OK with banning laptops.

Anonymous said...

Can we leave conspiracy theories out of this site, or at least edit out the part of the posts regarding how long buildings take to fall down?

Whether they're right or not, it's utterly irrelevant to this blog and only serves to draw in the nuts.

Or will we start seeing Moon-landing theories here as well?

Anonymous said...

In my current company it's almost required to bring laptops to some kinds of meetings. We use them to access web-based tools to go over bug lists. People are issued laptops with quiet keyboards, so it's not much of a distraction when people use them to write emails.

(What's next for Mini-Msft? Complaints about employees not washing hands after using the restroom? I guess Mini-Msft is the new "MicroNews". :-) )

Anonymous said...

RE: Browsing during meetings

I do this on my iPhone now. I'm not a PM, so I'm not eligible for a laptop anyway. So I'm OK with banning laptops.


Fine by me if you absolutely insist on being rude, since at least you won't be click-clacking at 100 decibels and disrupting the meeting for everyone else.

Could you maybe scrape up the minor decency to sit in the back so that it's not directly in the face of the other attendees that you don't give a hoot-n-holler about them or the meeting?

Anonymous said...

For all of the bashing Vista gets, it's obvious that many people haven't taken the time to see what Vista actually does do better.

You're right, I tried Vista for a while but gave up on it due to compatibility, UI, and performance annoyances. I did not use the new management software but if it works as well as you describe, that's a step in the right direction.

I have a feeling, though, like MSS, that it doesn't. Discoverability isn't solved by putting a "plain English" string somewhere in the system. The tool to control startup programs should be accessible at startup--"Press F1 to manage startup programs" on the Windows boot screen. The tool to manage system tray icons should be the first icon IN the system tray. The tool to uninstall programs should be right next to whatever you use to RUN programs.

Unfortunately Microsoft has done a huge disservice to hundreds of millions of potential customers by making Vista so resource-intensive. Most of the people I know (non-techies) are using 5+ year old computers that still run Windows XP and associated software reasonably well, so there's very little reason to upgrade. That means 256MB RAM, 20-40GB hard drives, etc., and not a prayer of running Vista. So it's going to take a long, long, long time for most people to see any of these claimed UI improvements.

Anonymous said...

The new laptop problem is one I've shared. I recently bought a new Sony laptop, top-of-the-line pretty, new thing, and yes, of course it came with tonnes of pre-installed crap, and of course you can't get a clean copy of the OS, only the one complete with crap.

The laptop came with Vista Business installed, and in the box with the laptop was an ad for Vista Ultimate.

So I got a shiny new copy of Vista Ultimate and put it on the laptop.

Of course at that point Sony no longer supported anything. In spite of Vista Ultimate being advertised in the box of the laptop Sony wouldn't provide any drivers and their drivers for Vista business were crippled so as not to work with Ultimate. (Wouldn't install, wrong version detected.)

So, you've got two big problems there. One, Sony's attitude is crap refusing to provide a clean OS in any format to their users (I did buy it, after all) and two, Microsoft is the one who put a flier in the put for an OS that wouldn't work on the machine. (Sony claimed they had no control over it.) And of course neither company cared or wanted to help at all. (Good thing I work at MS and could get internal help. Yup, it works now.)

So, MS can't force Sony not to preload laptops with crap. OK, how about they force them to provide a clean copy of the OS so the user can put it on themselves? Why can't they ensure that if they advertise Ultimate the computer can actually run Ultimate? Why aren't the making sure that a huge OEM like Sony even supports Ultimate?

I would say all around this is crap, and as a MS employee I would have no way to explain it to a customer.

Anonymous said...

That PC sales are hurt longterm by the consequences of the shortterm gains vendors make by installing crapware is unfortunate.

The bigger problem, IMHO, is that effectively, what OEMs do to the systems they ship hurts our Brand.

Is there any chance we can force them to include a disclaimer about responsibility for maintenance or deny them use of our Brandname?

Anonymous said...

Is there any chance we can force them to include a disclaimer about responsibility for maintenance or deny them use of our Brandname?

I just want to reiterate my previous point which seems to have gone lost. Instead of trying to force OEMs to do this or that using the legal system, this is an opportunity for Microsoft to fix the fundamental design flaws in the Windows UI that enable this problem.

If Windows said "Press F1 to manage startup programs" during boot and offered a tool for doing so, you could easily bypass all the crapware that comes on new machines. If the OEMs don't like this benefit to their customers, fine. What are they going to do. They can't put OS X on their computers.

Anonymous said...

For all of the bashing Vista gets, it's obvious that many people haven't taken the time to see what Vista actually does do better.

My god, this is the crux of our hubris and customer problem in a single sentence -- we think that if we bury a bunch of crap in a bloated, unintuitive and buggy product that our customers should be required to take classes to learn how wonderful our shit is when they do it our way, instead of it being immediately obvious by virtue of superior design and function.

I don't *want* to take the time to see what Vista does better, I want it to be friggin' obvious the first time I turn on my new machine. I want to see blazing-fast speeds compared to XP SP2, I want to see an interface and user experience that's 5 years beyond the last OS on my machine, and I want our customers to agree that a serious step forward has happened.

Vista is not what it should have been by a million miles, and the fact that such a multitude of customers are still debating if it's an actual improvement over XP SP2 is embarassing.

Anonymous said...

The bigger problem, IMHO, is that effectively, what OEMs do to the systems they ship hurts our Brand.

Is there any chance we can force them to include a disclaimer about responsibility for maintenance or deny them use of our Brandname?


I totally agree .. even Intel was trying to push on MS for their OEMs .. totally discarding taht its' OEM' crapware and arguing "e.g. vista issues" to avoid p**ing the OEM off.

OEM's should allow a customer to get 1 - vanilla OS w/ base drivers and 2 - custom OS w/ base drivers and a variation of 2 but w/ crapware ....

that would probably increase customer satisfaction (as well as avoid the various "crapware" issues)...

Anonymous said...

What are they going to do.

Bitch to the kleptocrats at the DOJ and EU, who will then fine MS several billion dollars for strongarming OEMs. Again.

Sorry, Charlie, once a product goes out the door, you can't control what people do with it.

Anonymous said...

RE: the ongoing debate about how OEMs should offer vanilla installations to customers...

Again, it's an economics problem. The PC OEMs have allowed (or been pushed depending on your viewpoint) to be commoditized to razor thin margins. Their current margin comes from the bounties they receive by loading on all that 3rd party stuff. Yes, if you didn't know, Google *paid* them to put search onto the box before it shipped.

Breaking this cycle is challenging and requires us to solve both business & technical problems. OEMs need to:
1) Continue driving innovation on their HW so they can demand higher margins. We need to help them with this.
2) Leverage new monetization opportunities within the platform that *WE* create.

Macbooks demand a premium because of their slick ID, design, and overall HW quality. Apple was first have mainstream ideas like backlit keyboards, bezzle webcams integrated into above the screen, etc. There isn't any reason that PC OEMs couldn't have done this first. But, we need to help them deliver the goods by offering a simple, robust software platform that makes innovating in the HW/SW interface layer easy. That means making it easier, not harder, to write device drivers. Sorry Vista.

Cutting the OEMs into other monetization opportunities is equally critical. We MUST share the revenue stream from the forthcoming supposed "software services" with the OEMs. Example: when your HP printer runs low on ink, it notifies you and automatically presents a user with the opportunity to purchase new ink by some criteria (price, location, etc.). This example isn't terribly compelling but you get the idea.

Until we open up doors for other monetization streams, the PC OEMs are going to continue down the current path. This is both damaging to our brand over time and it encourages people to consider a Mac.

I know I did when I saw Leopard vs. the Dell POS I just got.

Anonymous said...

If Windows said "Press F1 to manage startup programs" during boot and offered a tool for doing so, you could easily bypass all the crapware that comes on new machines. If the OEMs don't like this benefit to their customers, fine. What are they going to do. They can't put OS X on their computers.

OEMs want absolute control of that flow .. if we have any bit of control they will play the DOJ or "go back to current--" threats to hit us at the wallet.

Anonymous said...

"I don't *want* to take the time to see what Vista does better, I want it to be friggin' obvious the first time I turn on my new machine."

Hear hear! Precisely right. How long does it take to realize how the iPhone works, and what's cool about it? Thirty seconds maybe? (I would say compare that to the Windows Mobile experience, but some fish are so easy to shoot they don't even come with a barrel.)

Anonymous said...

Just to add to the blah-blah about uninstalling products. Assuming you find your way to the Add/Remove programs, my favorite is that right in the middle of an uninstall you get that message that says "The following file is shared and may or may not be needed by other programs. Do you want to delete it?"

What the???

I've never used Macs. Do they ask this insane question too?

Anonymous said...

I don't *want* to take the time to see what Vista does better, I want it to be friggin' obvious the first time I turn on my new machine. I want to see blazing-fast speeds compared to XP SP2, I want to see an interface and user experience that's 5 years beyond the last OS on my machine, and I want our customers to agree that a serious step forward has happened.

So I bought a car a couple of years ago. It came with this handy 300-page manual in the glove box. Two years later, I still haven't read the manual. I've looked at it maybe three times, to find answers to specific questions.

But I still can drive the car, and all the features just work. It's got some kind of active suspension control, and I don't know much about it, but I've felt it save me from wiping out at least twice.

In the same way, I think that Microsoft should be striving for the maximum usability without the user ever touching the manual/online help/website/other source of technical info. Don't get me wrong, the technical info needs to be there, readily available. But try to make it so that 99% of the time I don't need to read it.

MSS

Anonymous said...

Yet another ("Charlie etc.") response from someone at MS who is in a pout because the courts got involved and doesn't want to find another way.

Fine. Let the OEMs do what they have to do; sell ride-along space to Google et al.

If Windows made it easy, fast, and clean to uninstall anything, no problem - us doofuses (read, people who pay for the stuff) can just uninstall it and be grateful that someone else footed $20 of the PC's cost. But we all know that once anything gets on a Windows box, an uninstall never gets the box back to pre-install; as others have mentioned there's always cruft left over, reg fragmented, and so on.

So yeah, MS needs to make Windows better, cleaner, and more convenient in this and other regards. That has little to do with blaming OEMs or courts.

Moreover, you could work with OEMs from a "brand management" perspective and at least suggest enthusiastically that OEMs offer us doofuses the choice of PC+crapware for $1000, or PC pure for $1025. Either way, the PC from a "brand mgmt" perspective should come with an OS reinstall disc - stop making excuses about this!!! Windows is simply too fragile to assume it won't need to be reinstalled during a PC's lifetime, so make it easy! Macs come with a full OS disc. Generating a "crapware-riddled" disc for the $1000 PC or a "pure" disc for the $1025 PC is no big deal.

So quit blaming others for our sucky experience. I really, really, really wish there were a credible OS competitor out there to get you guys back on your toes...

Anonymous said...

I've never used Macs. Do they ask this insane question too?

nope.
and the most cool thing is: you can just put your apps wherever you want.
and installling an app is most of the times just dragging the application to wherever you want.
deleting an app is just moving it to the trash.

most of the time, 'cause a lot of apps nowadays come with an installer

Anonymous said...

I think my idea of simply allowing the user to control startup programs on startup is much less questionable legally and much more beneficial to OEMs than any alternative mentioned so far. They could still preinstall as much crapware as they wanted, there wouldn't be a legal battle to force them to ship a "clean" version of anything, and it certainly isn't a feature that automatically (and uncompetitively) removes software.

Semi-related: Ha, yeah, the shared DLL dialog in uninstallers is a gem. What's also great is when the software is so buggy that the uninstaller crashes halfway through, or when it leaves behind a bunch of files and regkeys. The OS should really be responsible for removing a program, although the design of Windows makes this a challenge.

Anonymous said...

... right in the middle of an uninstall you get that message that says "The following file is shared and may or may not be needed by other programs. Do you want to delete it?"

What the???

I've never used Macs. Do they ask this insane question too?


No, but OS X doesn't have a package uninstall manager. Instead you just drag apps to the trash. While that's really simple, it does assume apps are self-contained and don't create data folders in the user's ~/Library/ folder. Most apps are well-behaved, some are not.

Anonymous said...

I've never used Macs. Do they ask this insane question too?

Of course not. There's no registry, so there's no system-level component checklist where the uninstaller doesn't understand why something is shared or required. The whole shared-library architecture is completely different on Macs. If you throw away something you may need later the Mac either understands what's going on and stop you, or leaves you alone. There's no "I think you're breaking your own or a third-party-vendor's rules here, although of course I don't understand this warning I am now giving you" error message.

It's just not a problem; All big-vendor application suites put stuff in smart places and then get rid of their own stuff when you run their custom uninstaller programs, which are very simple with no system overhead. The entire "System" folder (sans libraries) is off limits to everybody except Apple, which simplifies everything tremendously. Without the registry, EVERYTHING's simpler and easier.

Anonymous said...

The laptop came with Vista Business installed, and in the box with the laptop was an ad for Vista Ultimate.


You probably got a laptop with an illegal copy of Vista (Business is not supposed to ship on OEM retail HW). Talk with piracy@microsoft.com.

Anonymous said...

Either way, the PC from a "brand mgmt" perspective should come with an OS reinstall disc - stop making excuses about this!!!

Agree 100%. It's the OEMs who decide what ships in the box, though. One real big one saves $.14 by not shipping install media with the machine, but will happily send you the media free of charge ($14 for FEDEX overnight to your house).

Anonymous said...

For all of the bashing Vista gets, it's obvious that many people haven't taken the time to see what Vista actually does do better.

An untuned stock install of Vista brought my brand new, top of the line UMPC and its little 800MHz processor to its knees. XP, on the other hand, is quite snappy.

Whatever it is that Vista does better is lost in the shadow of the things it does wrong. I can only hope that Longhorn Server hasn't been screwed up as badly.

Logan-5 said...

So quit blaming others for our sucky experience. I really, really, really wish there were a credible OS competitor out there to get you guys back on your toes...

Well, as I've said, this is such a sticky problem because it's such a wierd situation. MSFT is a supplier to OEMs. In any other market, the brand name in question would be Dell, or HP, or Linovo, etc. The ultimate manufacturer who put the unit together and made the final decisions about what the customer got out of the box. In the Wacky Windows Ecosystem though, the brand name is Windows, and MSFT has - due to both market and legal forces - limited control over what the OEMs do.

Now, limited doesn't mean zero, but is does mean limited, as in less that total. Apple has total control over what goes into Macs. Macs have a far better brand these days than Windows, and its directly related to that fact.

That doesn't mean the people saying MSFT doesn't get, or care, about the end users are wrong. Both sides in this argument are right. Because MSFT has less ability to control the OOBE experience than Apple, MSFT is not as good at it. It isn't considered as important, isn't given as much attention, and what attention it does get is less effective anyway.

MSFT can't solve this problem by simply saying "we're going to take this seriously." Controlling the Windows brand and Windows experience to the degree Apple does with Mac is simply, fundamentally, incompatible with MSFT's business model.

MSFT needs to either find a way to live with this and be a good supplier to others who control the brand, or it needs to stop being a supplier and start being an OEM (or, like Panasonic in plasma screens, be both).

Anonymous said...

Interesting story
Lisa brummel buys Seattle Storm

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/storm/2004113091_stormsold08.html

Anonymous said...

Microsoft can easily get complete control over the quality and presentation of PC's the same way Apple does. Just start building them.

However, the profit margins aren't what Microsoft may be historically accustomed to.

Can't have your cake and eat it too.

Anonymous said...

Caveat: I work in Windows

What's going well? I'm excited about several things:

1.) Vista SP1 is getting very close now and looks great. I wish we had shipped this level of quality with Vista RTM, but at least we're getting it right now.

2.) OEM's and hardware vendors are starting to make major progress addressing the crashing bugs in their Vista drivers so the user experience is definitely improving across the board.

3.) We finished our first Win7 milestone on time and the end build is surprisingly high quality for something this early on. Things are just way better now than they were under the previous administration.

To me these are all promising signs and I'm back to being excited to get up and come to work in the morning.

Anonymous said...

OEM's and hardware vendors are starting to make major progress addressing the crashing bugs in their Vista drivers so the user experience is definitely improving across the board.

Vista "shipped" over a year ago (2006), with general availability LAST January. And now it is nearly up to what I'd call an alpha-level quality. I don't know what Job One is these days, but it sure ain't Quality.

Anonymous said...

Caveat: I work in Windows

2.) OEM's and hardware vendors are starting to make major progress addressing the crashing bugs in their Vista drivers so the user experience is definitely improving across the board.


Caveat: I work in Windows too.

It's been a YEAR. I finally bit the bullet yesterday and installed Vista on my Dad's computer, and half of his peripherals barfed due to driver incompatibilities, including his brand-new Canon printer.

It's a humiliating defeat for our company, and the fact that a year later OEMs are just fixing the serious problems is nothing to be happy or positive about. We failed, fixing it now is not anything to crow about, and we really need to figure out how to make sure it doesn't ever happen again.

Anonymous said...

I work in Windows too, and I'll second those comments. Our management is much improved and that should show in product quality.

I also think we're starting to see some desirable hardware out there, such as the Dell XPS One all in one, and the Dell XPSM1330 and M1530 notebooks. With all the bashing OEMs are taking on this thread (rightfully so for crapware), Kudos to the OEMs focusing on good hardware design.

Now it's up to Windows to match this slick hardware with a great Windows 7. I'm optimistic. (I think folks make too much of Apple's very real advantage in sexy hardware. Not that I disagree, I just think that even with equal hardware sexiness Windows still has a ways to go in sw/hw integration, great apps that take advantage of new hardware (like webcams), and sw polish).

For the record I also completely agree that Windows needs a more robust app model that puts the operating system in charge of dependencies, separates app state from system state, makes applications plugging into system extension points more robust, and uninstalls more reliable. To be realistic though, it's not going to happen overnight. A great strength of Windows is our huge library of compatible applications (especially in the corporate / LoB space), so the Windows app model will evolve more slowly than we'd like. For a long time, even after a new app model with all these things was introduced, you'd still see older apps not written the new way suffer these problems.

Anonymous said...

A great strength of Windows is our huge library of compatible applications (especially in the corporate / LoB space), so the Windows app model will evolve more slowly than we'd like.

Why don't you just go ahead and say the app model will never evolve?

MSFT is terrified of pissing off its developers, so it won't cut the lazy ones off at the knees by making the aggressive moves that need to be made to modernize Windows. Sure, you've got that great legacy library of apps, but that's a sword that cuts both ways.

This is in stark contrast to AAPL: they may upset third-party developers once in a while, but in doing so they make the agile moves they need to make to modernize their OS. End users (you know, customers), as a result, are thankful... and that's just one reason why you'll often hear someone say they love their Mac, but almost never will you hear someone say they love their Windows PC.

Anonymous said...

I used to love coming to MiniMSFT and reading about what was going on at the company. Now it seems that all I see is bitching about product quality and petty debates about our products (or competitors) not relevant to the culture change that Mini has been advocating. I'll unsubscribe now and check back when Mini and commenters get back on the core agenda.

Anonymous said...

A great strength of Windows is our huge library of compatible applications (especially in the corporate / LoB space), so the Windows app model will evolve more slowly than we'd like. For a long time, even after a new app model with all these things was introduced, you'd still see older apps not written the new way suffer these problems.

[Original app model poster writing:]

I don't believe that - this would have been true a generation ago, but these days, we own very reliable virtualization technology. We can afford to radically change what it means to be an application installed on top of the os - and run every single legacy app that doesn't conform in its own virtual session.

(Yes, that's not necessarily the best choice for Terminal Servers, but for the desktop, it's perfect)

Anonymous said...

Re: app model (I'm the second Windows dev)

I agree that there will be a time when aggressive app model changes are required to keep Windows competitive. It's a hard business call. Is that time now? Every time AAPL changes their architecture and breaks or slows all their old apps, it seems they cut their market share by half.

Will virtualization help ease the transition? Yup, it could. But lots of Windows apps are valuable because they integrate with the system and each other. This is a challenge with a virtualization-based compat plan.

I believe Gates once said that MS folks' natural tendency was to value new ways to make a little money more than boring old ways to make metric shitloads of money (I'm paraphrasing :). A premature or ill-thought out abandoning of app-compat could cost market share for Windows. It's a fine line and a hard business challenge to decide when the time and technology is right. I hope we have the right people making a roadmap for this (don't have visibility into that and wouldn't share here if I did).

After all: If the next version of Windows didn't run old apps very well (or at all), why buy Windows instead of a Mac? Look at the (justified IMO) outrage at device compat in Vista...

Anonymous said...

It's weird that Mini and all the commenters here have failed to notice the mass exodus from the Xbox team in 2007. By my count, more than 15% of the product team (dev/PM/test) have left Microsoft for Apple, Sony, Google, Yahoo, MySpace, Amazon, and various other companies (including several startups, local and in the Valley).

There have been a lot of GOOD people leaving Xbox and joining other teams inside of E&D. We have also lost some very talented people to other companies. The interesting thing is that these companies are not offering more money or a better jobs. People are leaving because the organization has changed in the wrong direction. We have management who does not create excitement, nor a vision people can believe in. It's a bunch of outsiders, and morons telling the org how 'super passionate' they are, not showing the org how 'super passionate' they are.

Anonymous said...

The interesting thing is that these companies are not offering more money or a better jobs. People are leaving because the organization has changed in the wrong direction.

This isn't quite true.

I'm a senior engineer who left Xbox for another local company and doubled my salary (not an exaggeration). Several Xbox friends did likewise, and one even returned to Microsoft a year later -- the fastest way to a promotion and raise.

J Allard and the Xbox org he created are notorious for under-levelling, under-promoting, and giving crappy bonuses (perhaps appropriate for an org that has lost so much money) relative to the rest of Microsoft. Most lvl 61 ICs in Xbox would be lvl 64+ elsewhere inside Microsoft.

Also, it's not that Xbox management has changed direction, as that they're failing to supply any direction at all. There was an awesome push to launch the 360 with sometimes flawed but overall solid goals, and then ... crickets. J left for Zune and all the wind went out of the sails. Xbox Live Video Marketplace and the HD-DVD peripheral had a smaller (totally fubar'd) push and then... more crickets. Xbox hasn't done anything worth mentioning since then, except recognize that the 360 hardware had numerous design and manufacturing flaws and struggle to keep Xbox Live working during the holidays.

Meanwhile, look at all the lessons that could be learned from Sony's XMB UI (becoming pervasive across its product line) or Nintendo's Wii (Miis and channels are simple but brilliant) or the many other things happening in the consumer device and online spaces!! The Xbox org should be firing on all cylinders, and instead they're idle. Talented engineers don't idle well.

A few years ago, the Xbox org was known as the place senior talent fled to -- a last refuge from the idiocy taking over the rest of Microsoft. 10 years Microsoft experience was the median (often with even more prior experience outside Microsoft). The org had strong competitive focus, internal goals, drive, and oozed talent. The new Xbox org, like the new Microsoft ... not so much. As Xbox loses its mojo, that senior talent is finally fleeing the ship entirely.

And good riddance. Microsoft will get smaller only when there aren't great teams to work with or great products to work on. Hopefully in a few years, everyone reading this blog will get pink slips as Microsoft finally slims down.

Anonymous said...

J Allard and the Xbox org he created are notorious for under-levelling, under-promoting, and giving crappy bonuses (perhaps appropriate for an org that has lost so much money) relative to the rest of Microsoft. Most lvl 61 ICs in Xbox would be lvl 64+ elsewhere inside Microsoft.

As someone fairly senior who recently joined Xbox from DevDiv with insight into how we level the disciplines, I would respectfully disagree -- although I was told by almost everyone who interviewed me the exact same thing that you state above.

I think some folks in Xbox need to spend some time working on the asp.net team (for example) just to get a better view about where they actually fall on the dev, pm and test totem pole. :)

Anonymous said...

"What's going well? I'm excited about several things:

1.) Vista SP1 is getting very close now and looks great. I wish we had shipped this level of quality with Vista RTM, but at least we're getting it right now. "

Well, me, I'm excited that "upgrading" back to XP solved my Vista problems :-) You don't really appreciate XP until you ran Vista.

Vista SP1 is the proverbial lipstick on the pig. After SP2 or SP29, it'll still be the half-baked get-it-out-of-the-door-asap piece of ill-conceived, ill-executed and ill-tested piece of mediocreware that a bunch of ball-less PM's put together and foisted on the unsuspecting buying public.

Ex MS tester here (yep, worked on Vista too: not proud of it).

Anonymous said...

I used to love coming to MiniMSFT and reading about what was going on at the company. Now it seems that all I see is bitching about product quality and petty debates about our products (or competitors) not relevant to the culture change that Mini has been advocating. I'll unsubscribe now and check back when Mini and commenters get back on the core agenda.

Amen!

Anonymous said...

>> The laptop came with Vista Business installed, and in the box with the laptop was an ad for Vista Ultimate.

> You probably got a laptop with an illegal copy of Vista (Business is not supposed to ship on OEM retail HW). Talk with piracy@microsoft.com.

Huh?? then Dell is in deep trouble... we've been buying boatloads of Vostros with OEM Vista Business (and using our downgrade rights to install XP Professional, BTW)