Thursday, January 10, 2008

Raikes and Other Exits

Well, I should be sweating to the 80's soundtrack at the ProClub with about half of Microsoft that's trying to squeeze in there for January to burn off Christmas cookies, but here everyday that passes yet another exit hits us, and today we have a biggie...

Jaffe: Exits Microsoft dealmaker Bruce Jaffe going startup - shoot, why swing billion dollar acquisitions when you can be a billion dollar acquisition?!?!

Fitzgerald: Another of the Microsoft old guard moves on All about Microsoft ZDNet.com.

Raikes! Microsoft Announces Retirement and Transition Plan for Jeff Raikes, President of the Microsoft Business Division Company announces it has hired Stephen Elop from Juniper Networks; Raikes will continue at Microsoft through September 2008.

Wow, I'm surprised. I can understand that Mr. Raikes has had a long, long career at Microsoft, but as we wonder about the leadership in the upcoming (and no doubt somewhat dysfunctional) post-Gates era, my money was riding on Mr. Raikes to step up and perhaps be on the shortlist for running more of Microsoft. At least Jeff gets to go out on a high-note.

And of all of our leadership at Raikes level, I respect him the most. There's something more to him (there is something there there) that I admired when around him.

And Stephen "Who?" Elop? I found it ironic that while Mr. Ballmer in the announcement email was praising Mr. Raikes ability to recruit, mentor and nurture Microsoft leadership, Raikes was not being replaced by someone he groomed. I tell you, if I was a Raikes direct I would seriously be considering whether I was ready for a new challenge, at Microsoft or elsewhere.

The Market's reaction on Friday? MSFT Extreme Makeover has an interesting comment on this:

The [external] choice for replacement seems to have the right pedigree, but Raikes did a solid job with Office and was widely seen as the leading candidate for eventual Ballmer replacement as CEO. So I don't think the market is going to react positively to the news tomorrow.

Two more quick things:

CES: MSFT Extreme Makeover has a compilation of BillG and CES and a take on the $1,200,000,000USD acquisition of Fast Search.

Xbox departures: a commenter makes the following observation:

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.)

The main complaint I hear about the games / Xbox area is things are drying up given the "show me the money" religion that's been adopted. Some pet projects (or just random projects) that had nothing to do with future profit have been disbanded. Man, I can't even squeeze out some crocodile tears for that...

Administrivia: expect more CRF'ing after that last post. Boy, did that suck given all the high hopes I had for positive, aspirational comments. I'm bearing a grudge. I'm human. I'm upping the moderation a bit more to be on-topic and less open to general gripes by anti-Microsofters.


74 comments:

Anonymous said...

As an ex-msft outsider, Raikes will definitely be missed. He was one of the few sanity points in the company.

I had the opportunity to meet with a group of Microsoft PMs in the Vista group at CES this week and was amazed that the arrogant not-invented-here turf-protection smug 'we are Microsoft' attitude is still thick and in use. We were not even asking for anything, just providing information they needed (and actually asked for) and we still got a face full of 'we are already doing that' in spite of the fact that they really weren't.

Sad. Raikes was the great hope for the future and for a more down-to-earth Microsoft personality.

Anonymous said...

Maybe someone made it clear to him that he's not going to make it higher in the org. All new leads are from outside the corp.
Or maybe the guy just had enough and took the high road. Good for him! (and bad for us)

Anonymous said...

I have had some battles with Charles over the years. Personal style issues aside, he will be missed. Big loss even though you could probably see this one coming.

Anonymous said...

I'm bummed that Jeff Raikes will be gone. I agree with mini in that he is the most respectable & capable leader among the other jokers like KT, RB, KJ. I think he realize that he cant go any further in the company with Steve stickign around for one more decade. Sigh.

Anonymous said...

Anybody who has been paying attention knows that Kevin Johnson is the heir apparent to SteveB.

Raikes's retirement is to be expected. He did his part, and he has other ventures to keep him busy now.

Charles's departure is bad for the company. Yeah, he's a jerk and his style is a vestige of the old days. But it truly represents the fact that the old days of Cowboy imperialists getting lots of things done as quickly as possible without any regard for the consequences (in both public opinion and personal aggrandizement) are over. Charles is a move the ball forward kinda guy. He doesn't dilly dally, he doesn't mince words, he simply gets big things done. I respect that a lot more than the politicians who make me feel good.

If you're a get "stuff" done kind of person, if you like to move fast and accomplish big things, if you regret every interaction with the entrenched BS above you...well, you need to leave. It's not the company for you any longer.

I left 8 months ago, and I couldn't be happier. More salary, more time, more financial upside. Get out while the getting's good, I say.

Anonymous said...

That's exactly what I thought when I read that. Way to inspire current employees by showing them the only person fit for top ranking position is external to the company. Promoting from within dies a little more in MSFT's hallowed halls.

MSFTextrememakeover said...

"And of all of our leadership at Raikes level, I respect him the most."

Definitely a surprising development and a net loss for MSFT. And of those candidates, he was certainly the most logical fit for next CEO. In fact, he should likely have been given a shot at it several years ago. Also agree that it's strange they went external to find a replacement. MSFT's 2nd largest profit generator and they didn't have at least one logical and viable internal successor ready? Doesn't reflect well on all concerned. And if that candidate did exist and just got overlooked, they're likely leaving shortly too. In any event, Elop does have a decent background. Hopefully he can translate that into continued success for MBD.

Anonymous said...

As somebody in the Office org, I find Raikes' departure disappointing. It was rare to find a complaint about the guy on blogs like this one or hear them around the water cooler, which is something that can't be said of Ballmer, Bach, Turner or a myriad of other big whigs at that same level.

I'm more worried about Stephen Elop. Looking at his bios online, it seems like the guy has jumped around a lot. He's only been at Juniper for a year and spent about that much time at Adobe before that. He did spend about 7 years at Macromedia, but that's really nothing in comparison to Raikes' 25+ years. I worry that the guy might just be hopping through on his way to another company or higher position inside Microsoft.

Anonymous said...

Jeff Raikes was headhunted from Apple back in 1981.

Anonymous said...

as I post on MSFT Extreme I carry over here. Jaffe loss, no biggie, IMO. CharlesF loss big.d he was a pain, but you knew he was right. Does it signal frustration when your biggest voice decides to up and leave?

JeffR will be missed. He had the intangible leadership qualities that is rare in the MSFT culture. Having said that, he had become less and less present in the business and a shake up is due, BUT...Has MSFT gone so far down that we can't attract top grads for IC jobs (going to google et al), and now a flagship job in the industry gets filled with this Elop? I disagree with his 'right pedigree'.

As CEO of macromedia, they had 400 million in revenue. That's 1/2 a month in Office, with 1,500 employees. What, that's like 2 floors in 36? First day on the job will be asking his admin for a really big calculator to carry his 1's...

Office is under all out attack these days. My concern is an exec who fought hard against Adobe in a tools market for design will be lost in the process apps (MBS) or producitivity (Office). he is the hope for our future to hold off Google, IBM, OSS in this space?

Anonymous said...

*****Anybody who has been paying attention knows that Kevin Johnson is the heir apparent to SteveB.*****


Why do people keep insisting that Kevin Johnson is Ballmer's heir apparent.He's the least impressive of the 3 MS presidents.

Anonymous said...

Look. I've read a lot of griping here (in the last N threads) about people within Microsoft being promoted to management positions that they really didn't know how to handle. I've read complaints about the inbred culture and all the problems that resulted. I've read complaints about all the top people being corrupted with too much of the Microsoft culture.

Now I'm reading complaints that a new guy is being brought in from outside. Um, hello? Do you want some new blood at the top, or not?

None of which is to say that Elop is the right answer. I don't know anything on that score. But, from what I've read here, there were lots of internal choices that could have been bad.

MSS

Anonymous said...

As I come up on the one-year-since-leaving mark, I'm amazed that I stayed as long as I did. While it is nice to know that Charles has gotten his (I agree -- a royal pain, but usually right) I think there are more than enough of those still left. I suppose I was one, too.

Life After Microsoft (LAM) is good -- fewer psychiatrist visits, fewer meds, more money. There seems to be a good supply of people out there that want top performance, and are willing to pay for it. The worst thing about leaving, so far, is having to ask FTE friends to get stuff at the company store for me.

Microsoft does a great job of developing world-class talent. Then we all leave and go work somewhere else.

Shows how smart we are.

Anonymous said...

Charles Fitzgerald was a grade "A" asshole. I worked with him and around him for almost 8 years. And he's responsible for much of the mess in field messaging for many of our strategic initiatives. Remember Hailstorm? And besides that, he was a classic Microsoft bully in the worst sense. Glad to see him gone.

Also glad to see Raikes go. Office needs help from top to bottom. Architecturally, the org, investments, etc. This can only be a good thing. One of his directs taking over would only have been more of the same. I'm excited to see where this goes.

Anonymous said...

Non 'softie here. For a counterpoint to Raikes' achievements at Microsoft (and I'll grant they seem impressive), see Jerry Kaplan's tragicomic book "Startup", a journal on his Silicon Valley company that started the pen computing craze. Kaplan was hoping that Microsoft would invest and/or port Office to his newfangled device so he invited Gates over, and Raikes tagged along, both under NDAs. They spent hours pouring over Go's UI, before returning to Redmond and concluding that 1) Go had the wrong approach, operations, leadership, etc., and 2) Microsoft could do something in this space so much better. The result was the Pen Windows project, headed by (you guessed it) Jeff Raikes. At launch, Microsoft's UI looked (another good guess) like the Go demo that Gates and Raikes saw.

Incidentally, other big companies including Apple, IBM, and AT&T came off no better in Kaplan's book, although the stories were different (and telling) in each case.

siliconfuture said...

Any thoughts on the BluRay setback to HD-DVD this week? MSFT has been careful not to stake too much on HD-DVD but OTOH they could have tipped the balance if they had committed more strongly.

IMO HD downloads are at least a decade away from mainstream. Meantime can we expect to see BluRay addons for xbox? Vista support?

ps: i am a MSFT investor not an employee.

Bill said...

Who should we have hired?

Anonymous said...

Charles Fitzgerald was a grade "A" asshole. I worked with him and around him for almost 8 years.

Wrong.

If you ever sat in any of his presentations at places like the Platform Strategy Review events, and talked with our top customers, he 'got' them and they 'got' him. He's a guy with an astute understanding of the marketplace.

I've never heard a negative comment on him for people who knew their stuff, prepared for meetings, and worked hard.

The reality is that he's also a guy who doesn't sugarcoat anything and tells it like it is, helping break the confirmation bias found in certain places inside the Redmond bubble.

He also made sure people didn't believe their own hype(i.e. "don't tell me you're a more agile team until you actually deliver someting.")

The reality is that the truth hurts, and in most cases he pointed out things that various product groups should have thought about months or years earlier.

In many cases he had to drag PGs kicking and screaming to do something that made more sense for the market and our stockholders.

His departure is a loss, but I'm sure we haven't heard the last of him.

logan-5 said...

Look. I've read a lot of griping here (in the last N threads) about people within Microsoft being promoted to management positions that they really didn't know how to handle...
Now I'm reading complaints that a new guy is being brought in from outside.


Yeah, it's a conundrum. New blood is needed and the "bench" is weak because the wrong skillsets have been promoted up the management chain over the years. But, MSFT also has a fairly poor track record of bringing in outsiders. Rick Belluzo, Kevin Turner anyone?

Plus, Raikes was pretty far down the list of execs who needed to be replaced, so it's concerning that the shakeup appears to start with him.

But, you have to start somewhere, I guess, and maybe Ballmer has learned how to bring in outsiders more effectively. It's good that they're doing something. Hope it works out.

Anonymous said...

Re: Blu-Ray

Dell and other OEMs ship Blu-Ray drives on Vista today. And Vista supports all that great crap-tastic DRM that Blu-Ray requires.

Just shop carefully: Make sure your new Blu-Ray PC and external display support HDCP (most new HDTV's and monitors ones should) if you plan to hook your computer up to an external display via HDMI.

Anonymous said...

Huge loss with Raikes leaving. Who is this Elop guy? Seems Office craps more money in a month and all the companies put together this guys worked has makes in a year. Sort of like calling a HS quarterback to lead the Patriots next season.

Some Guy said...

MSFT's next CEO had better be an outsider. You guys need a Lou Gerstner, and you needed him a decade ago.

Anonymous said...

Just shop carefully: Make sure your new Blu-Ray PC and external display support HDCP (most new HDTV's and monitors ones should) if you plan to hook your computer up to an external display via HDMI.

I didn't understand a bloody word of this. Is this the brave new world for high definition and consumers? How can anyone sell this stuff when only the geekiest of geeks can make heads or tails of what the requirements are??

I realize I shouldn't shoot the messenger but...You lost me at hello, bud.

Anonymous said...

I worked in a Raikes org for 3 years. I never saw him in his office, I never got an e-mail from him, I never heard anything about him. He was the definition of an unnecessary layer of management. I'm surprised anybody has anything good to say about the guy. You guys must be higher in the org chart than I am.

Anonymous said...

re: poor track record w/hiring outside execs

Yes, most prior external exec hires have turned out to be busts, but in the more recent incoming class, I think Chris Liddell has proven to be outstanding. Why? Well, for starters, he actually came into MS with deep functional expertise and a track record. He wasn't an internal "let's-bet-that-a-smart-person-will-pick-this-up" bet that has more often than not failed at this level. Just very strong in his functional discipline. He didn't come with much industry expertise, but he was a very quick learner. As a leader, he's charismatic and leads by example, setting a high bar for himself. Definitely believes he's a change agent and IMHO one of MS' best exec hires I've seen in the almost 10 years I was in MS' Finance org.

I haven't worked with KT enough to make a call on him (Liddell's "classmate"--they came in around the same time--with functional expertise).

Enough on that b/c then MS will turn around and hire an internal candidate to fill division CFO roles with folks who would have no change of getting a job as a CFO at companies a twentieth the size of their division. Pretty inconsistent and frustrating.

Mr. Bee said...

Outsider here: I can’t resist commenting on all the glowing words about Raikes and others. Just a couple of things to think about:
--If a company is going to change, it has to change from the highest level, Gates, Balmer and Raikes would be those highest levels to replace.
--Change must be not only going to be in the strategic big picture, but also in the details of it’s implementation. Microsoft has to figure out a way to kill of the corporate culture that has brought it where it is today. Personally, I doubt it is possible, but getting rid of the architects of the long period of questionable business practices is a good start.
--Raikes is a company man—therefore as a chief executive he would be supportive of things like
a) Vista, an overweight dysfunctional but lovely example of devolution in performance and useful functionality;
b) DRM, a genuinely negative mark on Microsoft’s reputation which is going to get much worse before the whole media management business collapses before your very eyes,
c) the art of ME-TOO, already predictably iToo;
d) ratcheting of complexity of code to give the look and feel of more value (which has proven to be a flawed strategy of course);
e) implementation of deception in order to maintain dominant market share (another way of saying monopoly dominance), e.g touting `we are your friends, we love you, we want your business, we love our customers’ when the end result has nothing to do with the customer or customer needs, but more with a strategy that smacks of a kind of rabid failure to play well with others.
--Raikes would also be a supporter of some of the weird `OS standard features’ that no one questioned when pushed out to the public years ago and that have become lead (as in the heavy metal) anchors in the development of the OS. Some of those features would be a reduction in the ability of the OS to work well with legacy data and components. Including the whole registry system, object management, the coupling of elements within DRM that kill off access to one’s own copyrighted legitimate media and data that is often owned by the user. There is a long long list of these kinds of violently negative aspects of the OS’s dna (from the customer and end user perspective) that Microsoft will probably (unfortunately) continue to embrace.

As a customer and end user, I have been exploring ways to get away from Microsoft products, not out of spite, but out of necessity. Eventually, if Microsoft does not make a radical about face in its whole business strategy, all your customers will demand this occur whether it be in the form of a forced break up or in the form of slow adoption of alternative means of operating computers using devices for entertainment.

Trust me when I say, none of us out here will be too upset when that happens. In fact some of us will cheer it on.

Anonymous said...

Raikes rules. He really had the right business sense to make money on the technology developed by the rest of organization. He knew to hire great business leaders into key places so they could make money. There are more new, profitable, billion dollar businesses coming out of his org than anywhere else.

Anonymous said...

Mr Bee,

Why hide your real grip in endless text? You obviously have a major axe to grind against DRM because, well, you're one of "those guys".

Thats fine, but give it a rest. MSFT didnt invent DRM so your righteous rage is misdirected.

We "get" that you have a creator endowed right to copy music, but content creators and owners are begging to differ. In case you didnt notice, Apple does a little DRM too. When/if consumers revolt, then no one will do DRM (on commercial media).

DRM in the enterprise is a whole different story and is a GOOD THING. So before you rant and rave half cocked against a security technology in the broadest sense, at least make sure you're targeting the right parties.

It's just amazing how the RIAA and MPAA demand copy protection and Apple gives it to them... and is lauded... And MSFT gives it to them... and is reviled.

Some of your other comments are accurate (re: a lack of focus on the real needs of the customer), but dont be so quick to assume that Raikes would be on board with that. Its very difficult to fight the machine.

Where is it you work that you dont realize this? Which sterling example of utopian human cooperation and the betterment of mankind is paying your salary, I wonder, that these things all seem uniquely MSFT problems to you?

Anonymous said...

>Outsider here: I can’t resist commenting on all the glowing words about Raikes and others.

Mini, I thought you were filtering this junk out? This person obviously doesn't know anything about Raikes.

Anonymous said...

Some pet projects (or just random projects) that had nothing to do with future profit have been disbanded. Man, I can't even squeeze out some crocodile tears for that...
I haven't heard of any problems for the pet projects...

Anonymous said...

Charles' departure seems like good timing. He has had a huge impact at Microsoft but change is good. He can be a little hard to be around if you're thin-skinned but he's also funny as well. One of many funny Charlesf quotes that comes to mind (roughly): "Websphere is the IBM middleware museum that you have to pay a dozen IBM consultants to walk you through." Or may be it was 100 IBM consultants. Funny either way.

Anonymous said...

So who's this Rob Short guy that just quit today (monday)? Mary Jo says he used to have something to do with operating systems once upon a time.
Looks like another one rides the bus.

Joe said...

hey ladies and gentlemen -

i just wanted to pint out another side to these rapid departures: they are usually done right before major restructurings.

if the heads at the top are rolling, or spending more tie with the family, whatever, you can be sure that the little guys are going to get it, and soon.

Anonymous said...

Rob called in rich and fed up. Didn't you read Mary Jo's article?

Anonymous said...

It'll be interesting to see where all those high-level folks emerge three months from now, particularly Rob. As a DEC'er Rob has a non-compete redacted out of his employment contract. So he could go to Google today and just start working on operating systems there if he so desires.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
Rob called in rich and fed up. Didn't you read Mary Jo's article?

Yeah, I did. Work with me here. I was refering to the fact that he's been gone a year and that's like 100 years in non-internet time. I'm also implying to the question, "What had he done lately?"

Since you missed the subtle invitation, what do you think his final legacy is? If it's 'Vista', feel free to expn.

Anonymous said...

Of all the departures, the loss of Charles is going to have the biggest impact.

Was he a pain? Of course. But usually, he was right. His influence in shaping the industry and the direction the company is/was heading was pretty profound.

Anonymous said...

>Outsider here: I can’t resist commenting on all the glowing words about Raikes and others.

Mini, I thought you were filtering this junk out? This person obviously doesn't know anything about Raikes.


Because he/she had a different and negative opinion? Yikes!

People that high up the chain, no matter if they're largely respected and revered, frequently fail to connect with the folks at ground-level. Suppose this person was a level 60 and had never met or see him personally in years -- why on earth should this person sing his praises?

It's important to remember that the company is so huge that lots of people never, ever come in direct contact with their senior leadership other than maybe a yearly giant all-hands meeting or a major launch e-mail.

Anonymous said...

I just want to chime in as a non-softie, to me the griping about Vista reeks of bitter astroturfing nerds who have decided that the new script is Microsoft sucks. Do you hear me??? Convicted monopolist silicon bullies start your copiers non-standards compliant blue screen of death blah blah blah. Give it a rest, guys, there's preaching to the choir and then there's having imaginary interviews with yourself in the shower. Why yes, Larry, I am something of an expert about computers, let me tell you why Microsoft is the worst company in the history of the universe,

Anyway, as one data point in the other direction, I got a new tablet recently and WOW. Vista and Office just rock. I'm really having fun with my computer and the tablet integration is stellar. The annoyances just aren't there for me and the UI pleasantly surprised me from the new start menu to the revamped Explorer etc.

Therein lies the challenge of this blog and of reforming MS (it does need internal change). Just raising the subject causes all the bitter ABM losers to launch Firefox and immediately begin banging out screed after screed, their vision blinded by a decade of anti-Redmond angst. And in any collection of legit complaints you always have a few malcontents who are in denial about their own shortcomings. Microsoft? Yeah they suck, just look at MY review last year! It's almost impossible for an outsider to tell the signal from the noise (but when someone calls Vista an unstable atrocity I know from personal experience it's 100% noise).

This is probably why so few companies manage to pull out of a major slump without decapitation and/or business-threatening disaster. I sure hope MS makes it because I damn sure don't want to have to make do with what Apple and the open source community consider acceptable.

Anonymous said...

Being a 10+ year MSoftie I really enjoyed watching the gluttonous layers of unnecessary management expand to point of point of near implosion. What a good ole boys club this company has become. Myopic, greedy managers trying to make a quick buck at the expense of doing anything that resembles customer service. We have more layers of management now than a 30 story Baklava. Enter the dark ages of Microsoft people......

Anonymous said...

(but when someone calls Vista an unstable atrocity I know from personal experience it's 100% noise).

So because your anecdotal evidence is to the contrary, you're willing to paint all the complaints about Vista's stability as "100% noise?"

I've never had cancer. I guess that means no one gets it.

(Yes, I know that's extreme, but the point is, don't allow your personal experience to color your objectivity so totally, especially when you're in the midst of patting yourself on the back for noticing the lack of objectivity in others).

BTW, on a clean install on a new machine, Vista still locks up on me about once a week. But go ahead and paint me as part of the "ABM noise." Stereotypes save a lot of time, don't they?

Anonymous said...

Speaking of execs and churn, MIT Sloan Management Review has a great article this month titled "When Bad People Rise to the Top". It is mostly about what boards need to look for when hiring CEOs, but it seems entirely applicable to how you look at your direct managers and senior managers in your org. My favorite sentence "Still others work their way upward using time honored image management techniques." Wow, how many times have we seen THAT?
I think the library may have that available electronically, it is a good thing to read before midyears, and espcially before mid-year manager feedback.

Anonymous said...

re various Vista gripes

Did you see the clip where they asked Gates "which Microsoft products needed a little more polish time before they were ready for prime time?"

answer: "Ask me again after we ship the next version of Windows."

Oh yeah.... subtle.

Astroturf or no astroturf, you can't claim with a straight face that Vista delivered as expected based on the hype and the time invested in its development.

Anonymous said...

When bad people rise to the top? This is the Peter Principle circa 1968. People rise to their highest level of incompetence, then ruin systems by constantly reaching for something they're incapable of obtaining.

Cultures that prize managers as stewards of the ship unwittingly foster this because the goal of managers generally is to "succeed" and success means obtaining more managerial prowess-- read more power-- and not necessarily a job well done.

anonymous coward said...

Astroturf or no astroturf, you can't claim with a straight face that Vista delivered as expected based on the hype and the time invested in its development.

I can claim that. However, I'm not including the time invested in Longhorn. Vista (the product that was shipped) delivered as expected.

Anonymous said...

yeah I dismiss out of hand anyone who claims he has weekly lockups and doesn't believe he has a serious hardware or driver problem-sorry, you just scored an own goal, dude

Anonymous said...

if you think Vista's problems are "noise", I'd check out David Pogue's blog comments

http://pogue.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/01/18/explaining-the-macintosh-surge/

These are not mac fan boys, these are people from everyday life who have bailed. Pretty sobering reading. Something needs to be done, especially in response to Apple's advertising.

Anonymous said...

From the seattlepi: Alleged inside-source reveals the truth about the 360 red-ring-of-death failures

Anonymous said...

yeah I dismiss out of hand anyone who claims he has weekly lockups and doesn't believe he has a serious hardware or driver problem

Windows employees worked tirelessly, 80+ hour weeks, week after week, month after month, to make sure Windows 95 worked great with all PC hardware in existence at the time. They went so far as to reverse engineer and write drivers for devices made by companies that had gone out of business. They did what it took because they were devoted to delivering a great user experience, AND they knew that if Win95 didn't work great out of the box for almost everybody, it would be received poorly by the public.

It's interesting to see that mentality shift a complete 180 degrees. And it's interesting that Microsoft employees are so quick to blame driver writers, when a more legitimate case can be made that it's VISTA that's not compatible with THEIR drivers.

Anonymous said...

I know you all love it when i post links here - but i have no way to send mini stuff otherwise,

http://channel9.msdn.com/ShowPost.aspx?PostID=374208

almost 3k views in 2 days ...

jamie

Anonymous said...

I am surprised that no one has brought up what is almost definitely a factor in the recent departures of so many Partner-level people: not meeting the goals set for this year's SPSA payout. For the last payout, the Partners were given a bye when it looked like they weren't on track to hit some key metrics and those metrics were "adjusted" by the BoD. This year, not so much. It looks like the BoD and people like KevinT and RayO are putting their foots down, instead of just in their mouths. One of the key metrics for SPSA that has been widely publicized is customer and partner satisfaction. Reading all of the negative (and unfortunately accurate) press on Vista and other debacles (Office Live, OneCare, etc.), it's easy to make the assumption that customer and partner satisfaction is suffering as a result. If so, one would hope that Cafe PFT (Partner Feeding Trough) is going to be a bit on the lean side this year, with maybe some ground chuck and Budweiser instead of the usual filet mignon and Cristal.

Anonymous said...

First, I'm not a Microsoft employee.

Second, I find it interesting that IT CAN'T BE MY HARDWARE IT'S GOTTA BE VISTA is the serious response of a technically savvy person who has done a clean install of an OS and encounters weekly lockups that millions of other people (hello!) aren't encountering. Software that was beta tested by millions of users before it went RTM, software that is being shipped on millions of new computers without incident.

Also note: There is more hardware out there now than when Windows 95 launched by a couple of orders of magnitude. I'm not surprised that not every last bit of it works flawlessly and neither should you be. Especially when Linux and Mac OS X are notorious for not playing nice with all kinds of legacy and new hardware. Yet you're whining when some driver (and you don't even know it's not your hardware flaking out) or God knows what else is causing your computer to crash? How about addressing the double standard you've just set up whereby only perfection will do and everything leading up to that is an OUTRAGE--but only when the company concerned is Microsoft.

Sorry, but you're making the real problem crystal clear to any sensible person reading your replies. Go outside and take a deep breath.

Anonymous said...

I've been using Vista on 3 machines for over a year and it's solid on all of them. Seriously. There was some problem with Sony's driver stupidity but that was Sony, not MS. I think it's one of the most solid OS's MS has ever released, not to mention the most secure, by a long shot.

The problem with Vista, I think, is that it didn't live up to the promise. It's not that what we have is bad, it's that we promised so much more. Oh, yeah, and what we did provide was inexcusably late.

If we could just shut up about products that aren't done, fully bake a product, (Zune, Xbox, Orgami, anyone?) and _then_ deliver, I think we could make out considerably better.

But, of course, the only people who can do that have a pay grade such that I can't even talk to them, so I'm pretty sure my opinion doesn't matter.

Anonymous said...

Also note: There is more hardware out there now than when Windows 95 launched by a couple of orders of magnitude. I'm not surprised that not every last bit of it works flawlessly and neither should you be. Especially when Linux and Mac OS X are notorious for not playing nice with all kinds of legacy and new hardware.

But that's not the point, is it? Like it or not, fair or not, Microsoft is competing more with Windows XP than either of those OSs. By now, all of everybody's stuff works great with Windows XP, so that's the standard to beat.

Microsoft had the option of making incremental yet substantial improvements to XP and selling it as a new OS version, as Apple does. Everybody would have been happy. Instead they made Vista and we have this mess.

Anonymous said...

>>http://pogue.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/01/18/explaining-the-macintosh-surge/

These are not mac fan boys, these are people from everyday life who have bailed<<

Dude, you honestly believe those comments are from Mac faithfuls? Do you even know who David Pogue is? lol.

Anonymous said...

On the "Vista's great" vs "Vista locks up" debate:

"It works fine for me" - true, but not relevant.

"It locks up for me" - true, and bad news, but also not relevant.

"It works for millions of people" - true, but not relevant.

What's relevant is that there are reports of lots of people having problems. Now, you really can't answer that by "it works for me". Trying to do so just marks you as being either clueless or disinterested in customer satisfaction.

You also can't just write it off as "broken hardware" or "bad drivers". Dude, it's your brand that's getting tagged with the "broken" label here. You'd better care more than you're showing, and you'd better not just tell customers that it's someone else's fault. They perceive that Windows is the computer. This is Microsoft's great marketing triumph, but it means that, rightly or wrongly, Microsoft gets the blame, at least in the customer's view.

If there are bad drivers that are causing significant numbers of Vista problems, Microsoft needs to work with the vendors to get it fixed, fast. If the vendors won't cooperate, Microsoft needs to just do it themselves, because it's Microsoft's reputation that is getting trashed.

MSS

Anonymous said...

"And it's interesting that Microsoft employees are so quick to blame driver writers, when a more legitimate case can be made that it's VISTA that's not compatible with THEIR drivers."

I don't know that the Win95 team worked any harder than the Vista one. Maybe they did (options were worth something then!). But the real issue seems to be that Vista's ship date was delayed so much that MSFT lost all credibility with manufacturers. Those folks then waited until they could see the RTM with greater visibility, which resulted in many drivers either being missing or buggy at release. I see that as MSFT's failure, not the manufacturer's. All that said, the driver issue has been largely addressed. It's time to move on.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, but you're making the real problem crystal clear to any sensible person reading your replies. Go outside and take a deep breath.

I am the original poster. I haven't made any reply before this, let alone plural. So you might want to polish up that crystal ball.

Anonymous said...

Xbox RROD

Thanks Anonymous for linking to the Seattle PI article about Xbox 360. Great stuff!

I'm an ex-Xbox employee and can confirm that most of what's in that article is dead on -- painfully accurate. Some additional remarks:

"Too bad that they screwed up and forgot to retain the JTAG IEEE 1149 test functionality, at least what little they had."

This reply clearly shows the interviewee came from the hardware/manufacturing side of the org. The reason JTAG was mostly disabled in the original mobos is that this was a vector for hacking the original Xbox, and the team didn't want the Xbox 360 to be so easily cracked. Granted, not everyone's got a JTAG reader, but Bunny sure did. This is one of those dual-use problems -- the features you absolutely need to test hardware quality and just do day-to-day development are the same features hackers can use to crack the box. DRM and security features create numerous challenges for Xbox development and manufacturing, and this is just one of them.

"Low [initial] yields always indicate serious design and manufacturing defects."

Not necessarily. Yield is an overall heuristic affected by many factors, including software, test processes in the plant, and component shortages. The real problem was that the launch was far too compressed. The GPU was late, a memory vendor slipped, memory clock speed wasn't nailed down until the bitter end, major software features were still being designed right at launch, and tons of other problems. It wasn't a realistic schedule, and everyone knew it. "You can't move Christmas." Microsoft was very afraid of Sony, feeling a year advance was necessary to compete. We were still discovering CPU errata a year after launch.

"The main design flaw was the excessive heat on the GPU warping the mother board around it."

Another initial design flaw that commonly leads to RROD is the foil between the GPU and heatsink becomes brittle from all the heat and eventually fragments, making electrical contact with the GPU and shorting it out. One way to kill an early Xbox 360 is to just move it around a lot. Later models removed the foil.

"One of the problems that I have run into my 360 is that the disk tray will fail to eject and not let me swap disks. Have any ideas?"

Tray control is done by the SMB, which can fail for numerous reasons (most of which generate an RROD eventually). Let the console cool off, or better yet, stress it until you get an RROD and return it.

"Does some games more than others cause hardware failure. Gears of War and Dead Rising were thought to be system killers when they came out."

These games don't stress the GPU or CPU anywhere nears as much as backwards compatibility and HD-DVD playback. However, the answer is otherwise correct in the details.

"Let's go over some of the rumored reasons RROD. Could you tell how close each theory is?"

The main point is that there are literally hundreds of causes of RROD. You can read out a more specific reason by holding down the binding button and pressing the eject button four times, but even this is still a coded summary. Microsoft started tracking RROD (and other, invisible) failures in the field early last year, leading to the discovery that failures were even more widespread than realized and the decision to extend warranties and take a $1B loss. Basically, almost every Xbox 360 console made has experienced some kind of hardware fault (mostly non-fatal, but still "unexpected").

"Of all five videogame systems on the market now, only the Xbox 360 has had such major hardware failure problems."

Not true. You should see the failure rates on the other consoles, or other consumer devices, like the iPhone. I've heard iPhone failures are as high as 20%, and yet it's a sweet device.

"In the end I think it was fear of failure, ambition to beat Sony, and the arrogance that they could figure anything out, that led to the decision to keep shipping. That management team had made some pretty bad decisions in the past and had never had to pay a proportional consequence."

Amen, brother! However, I wouldn't blame just management for this -- the entire organization acted this way.

I don't fault Microsoft for the numerous errors made with the Xbox 360. I fault Microsoft for not learning from those errors and not learning from the competition. Go look at the cool stuff happening today -- web-based UI on the iPhone; channels and Mii and the controller on the Wii; the XMB interface, photo organizer, and other features on the PS3.

The old, great Microsoft would have dissected these features, understood them fully, copied them, made them better, and released them less than a year later. It was this ability to execute that enabled Microsoft to be arrogant successfully, driving unrealistic schedules.

The Xbox org never completely came to grips with the fact that things have changed. The org that built the Xbox 360 was several times larger than the one that built the original Xbox. You can't keep the same fly-by-wire processes that worked ok (but not great) for a much smaller team in place and expect good results.

Anonymous said...

All that said, the driver issue has been largely addressed. It's time to move on
amen, 90% of the Vista gripes have been obsolete for some time, the ABM crowd needs a new script (back to Slashdot boys)

Anonymous said...

That X-Box 360 article included the quote
In the middle of '03 I tried to convince our director of "innovation" that we needed to do motion control, simple and intuitive controllers, and focus on family oriented and just plain fun content. Well before the Wii came out. He completely disregarded it. Oh well. I bet they wish they had that decision back as a do over.

Doesn't that sort of pinpoint the source? I mean, there can't be too many people who tried to convince the director of "innovation" that they needed Wii-like controllers.

Is this a real insider, or a fairly good summary of generic XB360 issues that people have long known about? I don't see enough specifics that I couldn't have pieced together myself from various Internet forums.

I tend not to believe anonymous insiders until I see something really specific that only they could possibly know and no outsider could accurately guess.

That's not to say the information isn't accurate, just that it's already pretty much known.

Anonymous said...

Anybody else catch the Townhall with Bill Gates last week? I thought it was funny (in a scary way) when he mentioned that he doesn't run Vista at home on any of his computers due to compatibility issues. Other than that, more time was spent discussing Google than previous meetings.

Anonymous said...

Well since the Xbox 360 and Vista are again ragin' topics here, the following might make it past Mini's renewed required-topicality filters. Anyhoo, Wired has a recent article about the iPhone and how it got created, etc. Note this paragraph about how difficult and expensive it was to build, and why.

To ensure the iPhone's tiny antenna could do its job effectively, Apple spent millions buying and assembling special robot-equipped testing rooms. To make sure the iPhone didn't generate too much radiation, Apple built models of human heads — complete with goo to simulate brain density — and measured the effects. To predict the iPhone's performance on a network, Apple engineers bought nearly a dozen server-sized radio-frequency simulators for millions of dollars apiece. Even Apple's experience designing screens for iPods didn't help the company design the iPhone screen, as Jobs discovered while toting a prototype in his pocket: To minimize scratching, the touchscreen needed to be made of glass, not hard plastic like on the iPod. One insider estimates that Apple spent roughly $150 million building the iPhone.

All interesting stuff, and then you get to the last line. They spent $150 million? ONLY $150 million??? To come up with a product unlike anything anyone had ever seen? To take a market by storm? To change an entire industry? To develop the "must have" gadget of the moment? ONLY $150 MILLION???

What did Microsoft spend on Xbox again? How many billions? How many billions spent on Vista? Astonishing. I'm not sure I even believe that 150 million number as it seems far too low, but even at double, triple or more, it's still shockingly small compared to what Microsoft has spent building products without a fraction of iPhone's impact.

What's the cash burn rate on Zune compared to iPhone? Anybody know? That might be so funny I'd have to cry all day about it.

Anonymous said...

Doesn't that sort of pinpoint the source? I mean, there can't be too many people who tried to convince the director of "innovation" that they needed Wii-like controllers.

There's already been a followup Q&A posted on the blog where the "source" revealed that he's sure his identity has already been figured out. He also revealed that he's no longer with Microsoft.

Anonymous said...

I'm pretty sure only an idiot would believe the iPhone only cost 150 million dollars to create.

See thats the the thing with anonymous sources.

And here you are buying it hook, line and sinker.

RDF in full effect.

Anonymous said...

What did Microsoft spend on Xbox again? How many billions? How many billions spent on Vista?

Despite its truly extraordinary design, the iPod is made out of bog-standard commodity parts that are hooked together in a standard architecture, just like every other MP3 player. I would be speechless if Sony's or any of the other MP3 players other than the Zune cost a tenth as much to design.

As for comparing the iPod to a device of the complexity of the Xboxes or Vista, well, I think even Apple's engineers would have a good laugh at that one. Peddle your trolls someplace where there are people who don't know any better.

Anonymous said...

As for comparing the iPod to a device of the complexity of the Xboxes or Vista, well, I think even Apple's engineers would have a good laugh at that one.

The discussion was about the iPhone, not iPod, and I imagine the former's complexity is roughly on par with the XBox 360's. If you think all Apple did to make the iPhone was connect up some commodity parts, you could make the same "complaint" about Microsoft and the XBox--IBM CPU, nVidia graphics chip, Seagate hard drives, etc.

jon said...

On the driver (etc.) compatibility problems: it's an great point that no matter who's "at fault" these issues tarnish Microsoft's brand.

From a Microsoft perspective, this can seem kind of unfair: a lot of these problems really are caused by latent defects within the drivers. Going a few years back, and getting ridiculously geeky for a second, a classic example of this was that under the Win95 heap manager, free memory was not reused with a process, so a dangling pointer leading to use-after-free bug had no effect. Under XP, this same situation would lead to a crash ... but the bug had been there all along. Or if a driver hasn't done their synchronization right and there's a lurking race condition, it's very likely to be triggered by a change as significant as the move to Vista. (It's a little old and focuses on applications instead of drivers, but my Steering the Pyramids presentation has some numbers (slide 33) about the relative frequencies of different kinds of problems.)

Still if you look at it from the customer perspective, it was all working -- and then Microsoft did soemthing to break it. So I think their attitudes are right. Arguably, Microsoft shouldn't have offered an upgrade path from XP to Vista: the implementation costs are huge, and customer satisfaction is taking a beating.

And in terms of DRM ... Raikes' role aside, take a step back and look at it. In the last couple of years, Microsoft's attachment to DRM has hurt Vista, crippled Zune [imagine if people could really share music on their Zunes], let Yahoo and Apple and even Google position themselves as more freedom-friendly, and now apparently led to stripping out some useful test functionality from XBox. At this point I don't think it's only "those people" who question whether Microsoft is doing the right thing here.

Anonymous said...

The discussion was about the iPhone, not iPod, and I imagine the former's complexity is roughly on par with the XBox 360's.

Well the imaginings of some blog commenter do it for me, pity the iPhone is a typical Apple product that looks cool for a half hour and then quickly grows stale while my Xbox 360 is still getting use while Jobs dreams up another gimmicky gadget like Mac Book Air or Apple TV (firing on all cylinders there eh?)

Anonymous said...

pity the iPhone is a typical Apple product that looks cool for a half hour and then quickly grows stale while my Xbox 360 is still getting use

I don't know what planet you're living on. I can hardly go anywhere without seeing people happily using their iPods, MacBooks, and now iPhones. Apple is a terrific company by almost any measure and I'm not sure how you could argue with that.

My friends with iPhones love them and use them several times per day. (Did you forget that they're phones?) Half of my friends with XBox 360s got bored with them and don't play them anymore unless it's the occasional big release.

Anonymous said...

I don't know what planet you're living on

Earth, where Apple is also revising downward its projected iPhone sales.

Step out of your echo chamber. You and all your friends are not an exactly scaled version of the rest of the world. That is actually the worst thing about the Internet, so many people who sit in bubbles and only talk to people pretty much exactly like themselves. Great majestic herds of ABM wildebeasts...

Anonymous said...

Reminiscing about my old days at Microsoft, I remember Jeff Raikes being one of two guys who purportedly looked Bill Gates. Pieter Knook was the other one :)

Best wishes to both of them....

Anonymous said...

"All new leads are from outside the corp." Indeed. MS recently hired Kudo Tsunoda, former head of the now-defunct EA Chicago, as a GM: http://www.gamespot.com/news/6185160.html Does MS do background checks? A search for him on youtube is revealing.

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