Sunday, July 12, 2009

Microsoft Has Turned The Corner

I've got to say: in my opinion, Microsoft has turned The Corner.

You know The Corner.

The one that gets us off of pothole ridden Vista Avenue (one street over from Lincoln in Blue Velvet). The Corner that requires Microsoft to shed some of the fat it has layered on recently just to make the turn without flipping. The one that requires a bit of humility for past failings (the aforementioned Vista, Xbox losses & red-ring, Zune's market performance so far, WinMo asleep at the wheel, no coherent brand strategy, search lagging behind for so long, the abandonment of IE after IE6, a confused developer story, a bungled Yahoo! acquisition attempt, etc etc etc).

The Corner that perhaps doesn't get us out of the bad neighborhood, but is at least pointing us in the right direction. What has helped make the turn?

  • Windows 7
  • Bing
  • Silverlight
  • IE EU chutzpah
  • ...and award worthy, coherent ads that aren't a demonstration of how best to destroy millions of dollars quickly.

Redemption takes a while. Time is needed to allow perception to change and to re-earn trust and respect. Once Microsoft was the scrappy underdog playing catch-up against many competitors. Later Microsoft was the dominating OS and application suite, so drunk and arrogant on its own power (pre-monopoly designation) that it made some truly dumb, strong-armed moves (and even worse, did sloppy "nuh-uh!" cover-up maneuvers). After that, Microsoft went from getting beat-up by the US government to the dot-com bust to the development of Vista, reset after the huge effort of XP SP2. The Evil Empire became The Bungler, hatred turning to scorn and frowning distaste. And the EU hurried over to slip in a few kicks to the wallet.

While all of that could have been avoided with competent senior leadership, it at least served as a hard enough whack to the side of the head that even our mediocre leadership took action to aright the ship.

Now we have the potential to start shaking this off and achieving solid, if not stellar, results.

This is happening, too, while the shine on Google is dulling. Rather than pulling an Apple on us anymore, Google has picked up the nasty habit of pre-announcing technology. Guys, you stole the wrong playbook. And, uh, we don't want it back. Plus the government's gaze has moved from the fallen-working-on-redemption of Microsoft to the obvious domination of Google in search and information strong-arming. A dose of the medicine Google's now getting:

Anyway. Let us enjoy this success of Microsoft turning The Corner, all while being a wee bit smaller and more efficient. 5,000 jobs eliminated so far and a declaration from Ballmer that efficiency is his key focus right now. Wall Street likes how that blood in the water tastes so far.

I'm going to start my whole "and we can cut a whole lot more positions" screed in a second. But first a moment to reflect on the flesh and blood people caught up in the layoff mess we've gone through so far. There is certainly a sobering perspective on this within the abundant comment stream of the last post.

It's not their fault they were part of the layoff. It's not their fault that their position was considered part of the inefficient part of the company that was eliminated. I certainly don't blame anyone for wanting to work for Microsoft. Large parts of Microsoft are magical, exhilarating places to be. In its bones, Microsoft is a great company with amazing potential. It's just turning The Corner and directing itself to where it can focus on efficient, lean-mean, profit making products that engage and delight Microsoft customers.

At Microsoft a lot more positions still need to go to achieve efficiency and focus. 15,000 more is my magic number. It's not personal. But to achieve efficiency and resolution of what to focus on with determination, we need a whole lot less people and to publicly admit there are opportunities we will focus on and others we are okay walking away from. ("That's right, Adobe: you can charge as much as you flipping want for your Photoshop line of software.")

For efficient product development: Yahoo!'s Carol Bartz has a good point when she swears like a sailor over having way too many program managers vs. actual developers (overloaded with one program manager for every three developers). <<edit edit edit - this went quickly into the weeds - let me sum up some quick thoughts>> Looking across groups, I still see exceptionally inefficient use of broad, front-loaded thinking and design locked into a 1970s waterfall model that leads to reality and focus coming way too late and a bunch of frantic, mediocre consensus driven crap floating like chunks into an end product. Kaizen. Kaizen. Kaizen. Efficiency is not going to happen as long as we continue rewarding people for this status quo. Shedding a respectable chunk of the company would bring an exceptional amount of upfront focus to our teams and result in high-quality features end-to-end, vs. what we see in misshapen compromise that we can fit in.

Microsoft has turned The Corner. But our car's suspension is still wobbling from the load we're carrying, and while some fine spots of leadership has gotten us around this bend, it doesn't take much for the remaining mediocre leadership to assume that the pressure is off and to get their grubby hands on the wheel and start turning us back towards Vista Avenue. The job isn't done. It's just beginning. We iterate again.

(Oh, and hey, here's a question for you: if you could create a new Microsoft leader based on the best attributes of our current leaders, what would you create? For instance, I'd start by combining the efficient layer-busting profit focused philosophy of new President Steven Sinofsky with the campus design skills of President Robbie Bach. Ideas?)


Administrivia: to subscribe to all comments here, use the following: http://minimsft.blogspot.com/feeds/comments/default . While I enjoy providing the freedom of unmoderated comments over in The Cutting Room Floor, I had to turn off anonymous comments for the time being. You can still post unmoderated comments, you'll just need to provide a Blogger ID / OpenID.

CRF: unmoderated comment thread: Microsoft Has Turned The Corner (plus a snippet of what I deleted from this post).


-- Comments

192 comments:

Anonymous said...

I hope so! Microsoft is the company that made personal computer what they are.

Bing is AMAZING! Great stuff, you guys should make it worldwide consistent in features fast!

Anonymous said...

This editorial comes to mind: http://arstechnica.com/microsoft/news/2009/01/what-killed-vista-will-make-windows-7-fly.ars

Anonymous said...

Mini you really don't like Robbie Bach very much do you?

Rahul said...

sinofsky is a boss. hes one of the most important people in helping you guys turn this corner, and im excited once more about the future of windows, windows live, and IE (with his leadership). tomorrow apparently will mark the launch of Office on the Web. Hopefully it goes ahead and crushes google docs in its path, rather then matching it.

Adam said...

I think they've turned the corner the wrong way.

skc said...

Heh, I kind of feel bad about all the whiners that will see this post as a betrayal.

Anonymous said...

Hi Mini,

Glad to see some positive sentiment, must be the new lite kool-aid :-)

As I read your post it struck me that the "changes" are just more of the same. Different names, a few trimmed heads, a couple of "new" strategies. But anyone who has been with MSFT for any length of time will recognise that this is nothing new. Same dysfunctional organizational structure, same politics and empire building. Just more of the same shuffling of deck chairs. You'll understand if we are cynical about the outcomes. But hey KT knows all about efficiency, and he'll thank you for everything you do.

Just a few points:
Bing is gaining market share according to the stats - increased market share of the decreasing overall market share of the other MSFT search properties - cannibalism in action. On search and browser usage MSFT is losing. Win7 is the service pack that Vista should have had - still a bloated resource hog - and people are really loathe to spend the ridiculous price tag. The strong arm tactics that you folks are using against netbook manufacturers will hopefully backfire and help Chrome.

MSFT is validating new business models in the online space - giving creedence to it and allowing other more efficient players to compete. With Office Online your revenue model is turned on it's head and I don't think that MSFT will be able to turn the corner and restructure - ever thought what will happen when the Office cash cow stops producing the milk? Is MSFT really structured (and incented) to make this play? I'd say not yet - ask any account manager if they would like to give up their bonus.

Lastly - there is growing animosity towards MSFT - as a consumer I have so many other viable options. In my small sphere of influence MSFT will not make another dime. And there are many people thinking like me.

I still have "friends" at MSFT and I wish them well - but I think the glory days have passed. The arrogance and the greed will not allow you to be all that you can be.

Anonymous said...

Welcome back Mini.

Anonymous said...

No Comments yet? well, I will be the first.

1) it is good to see the company taking some measures to grab a strong hold in this economy.


2) Windows 7, Bing and etc are all good initiatives. But it is too early to celebrate.

3) We spent $800 million on Bing, so naturally we are going to see a jump in query share. Because if you think about it, it is like we are spending $800 million to buy query shares. However, the tougher question is, how sustainable is this jump in query share? How do we make sure users come back to our search engine? Do we even know if users will come back? This is the tough question nobody big up there wants to answer, willing to answer or knows how to answer

So let's not pre-celebrate, let's celebrate when we are really out of the woods. There has been rumor flying around that we are going to see another round of layoff on July 23. I hope it is not true, but let's wait and see

Anonymous said...

zune HD should be added to your list of products that is helping in the turnaround...great device, great reviews.. very unique and a lot of innovation ..

Anonymous said...

It is good to see Bing new faces, the company should take this as an example. Reward people who deliver.

Tech industry keeps evolving. It is VERY exciting to see Bing on Twiiter, to see photosynth there too and much more! And they are actually using this new forms of communicating.

This new social media type of user is key to have on you side!

Microsoft can do a better job promoting this technolgies and embracing this online community with elegance and intelligence!

Anonymous said...

Yea, right. We've been hearing about how Microsoft is going to get Windows right with every new version. IMHO, Microsoft really isn't relevant anymore. I don't even pay attention to their announcements. As they've demonstrated time and time again, quality, usability, and innovation just isn't in their DNA. If it weren't for Office in the workplace, they'd be nowhere.

Brandon said...

I couldn't agree more that we have turned the corner. It's going to be great for the company and great for consumers.

I wrote about it at my blog as well - this is going to be exciting...http://bit.ly/2z8WE

Erik Porter said...

Great post and I definitely agree. As others have talked about though, there's still a lot that hasn't changed (more than has changed, IMO).

Personally, I think we're about 10% changed and need to get to 100% before there will be a visible difference.

It will take a long time, but I'm curious how the current economy and new president will affect Microsoft and if it might hinder (or help) us to get back on our feet.

Amen to Zune HD (and eventually Natal). Making me get excited about music and gaming again.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Mini for finally posting something upbeat. I'm a critical of the company as any, but I feel a lot of the past posts have been relying on incorrect assumptions of products you don't work with. I think the company is showing a lot of innovation with Windows 7, Zune HD, and Natal, and there is far more stuff coming soon that will only further prove the talent that the company has. At this point I am thinking the company is really learning from mistakes it has made and doing what it can to sort everything out.

drhowarddrfine said...

You guys are delusional. Almost finished with a $100 million dollar ad campaign for Bing and it still can't beat Yahoo nor do much better than Live did. And Yahoo doesn't do any advertising!

IE is still the worst browser on the planet, by 11 years, and Microsoft has given no hope that IE9 will advance enough to make a difference. Meanwhile, it still loses market share almost every month as they have for the last four years.

If ChromeOS uses Native Client, Microsoft and Windows are doomed.

All I read here is what sounds like people repeating what Microsoft told them to think rather than look at the writing on the wall. It's like watching dinosaurs mating.

Anonymous said...

"At Microsoft a lot more positions still need to go to achieve efficiency and focus. 15,000 more is my magic number."

Let's just hope people in the next round to go find a prospect or two out there by then. As a still-struggling-to-find-employment member of the 1400, I wouldn't wish this hell on anyone (except perhaps any member of the SLT). Even if you're willing to accept a pay cut -- as is the case for me since I have kids to feed -- employers seem to think you won't stick around if they take that chance and therefore direct the offers elsewhere.

I'm beginning to wonder whether I'll ever exit the "anger" stage. I sure as shit didn't deserve this, and I'm finding this blog entry spitworthy despite the half-assed attempt to hedge.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Min...and I was in the Cinco de Fire round!

There are great things going on at Microsoft. Exiting times for sure.

There are good places to be and bad places to be in the company. I was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. I have moved on and am happy.

Microsoft needs to stay FOCUSED and look at the importance of EXECUTION with QUALITY.

Reward the people that do the work and do it with quality.

Be on the look out for people that talk and do not ad value. There is much to much of that still.

Anonymous said...

Hi Mini,

glad to see you back; I was starting to wonder whether the axe had hit you, too.

Not a 'softie, but working for a European company that is mostly friendly with MS. And, we shared some of your troubles, although on a lesser scale. Also, we took some similar measures some time after you. Therefore I am extremely pleased to see them work out for you, hoping they will work for us, too.

Job cuts. Not as drastic as at MS. I dare say, in our home country they were even kinda pleasant. At first there was uncertainty and fear, but in the end management stuck to its word: no forced layoffs, volunteers only. Massive payments to those who left: 2 monthly salaries per year at the company (except for so-called "hign potentials" and "top talents": we did not want to lose them for obvious reasons, so no payments to those who left). I know a lot of people who went on long sabbaticals with the money...

Leaner processes. Our COO heads a "lean" initiative based upon Japanese management principles. Including the elimination of useless levels of management hierarchy.

Agile development. Rumour has it that Windows 7 was developed using pair programming. We embed Scrum into our development process and cut the overhead ("waste") wherever we can.

Customer focus and lower TCO (Win7). Well, we announced a new way for our customers to deploy solutions cheaply, quickly and with fast return on investments. There is another ace in our sleeves... but I won't spill the beans on that one in public.

On top of these similarities, there are initiatives that grab everyone's imagination and are extremely motivating. Sustainability both for us and our customers. A revamp of the culture in my board area. And so on, and so forth.

If I wrote a blog like yours, I would write a positive post like this one.

Hence I hope that things turn out fine for MS - 'cause this would indicate that we can reap similar benefits.

And who knows: we might, like the rumours have it from time to time, merge in the future :-)

Best from Europe

Anonymous said...

When it comes to headcount reduction dont forget that most of MS reports to Kevin Turner and aren't even in the product groups. Do we need as many consultants if our customers are scaling back due to the economy?

Anonymous said...

Bing – is very good progress. It will take time to grow share. But finally a search experience that is a true alternative and something we don't have to apologize for! I personally think the handicap here was harder than Win7 or any other competitive battle. Nicely done Qi, Satya and team!

Avatar X said...

Will not make remarks on the overall post. but the questions does entice me.

If i had to combine people in Microsoft to create a CEO that could replace Steve tomorrow i would have to also combine both Robbie Bach and Steven Sinofsky and maybe add a bit of bob muglia into that mix since you also need the enterprise side experience.

That brings me to a new question?

Who would you combine for a new Chief Software Architect?. in my book that would have to be a mix of Scott Guthrie and J. Allard if you wanted to replace Ray Ozzie tomorrow.

Anonymous said...

>>Looking across groups, I still see exceptionally inefficient use of broad, front-loaded thinking and design locked into a 1970s waterfall model that leads to reality and focus coming way too late and a bunch of frantic, mediocre consensus driven crap floating like chunks into an end product. Kaizen. Kaizen. Kaizen.

Well said. Regarding "concensus" we have Sinofsky to thank for visiting the trio/triad org model on us, thus institutionalizing mediocrity. The way to fix the issues with the "PUM model" was to *fire the bad PUMs", not change the bloody model.

Now we have a situation where the first cross-disciplinary viewpoint is at VP level. At every sub-level, three people share the responsibility for promoting the vision, owning the architecture and making decisions. By the time any serious issue gets to the VP it's already been nicely sanitized into three green check marks.

IMHO, this is NOT the way to do engineering. You can't have concensus in everything, and nor should you. You need someone with cross-disciplinary technical scope near where the work's being done. The last bastion of engineering savvy is often at the Lead level - that person's Manager simply cannot understand and process the vast amount of information bubbling up from 3 or 4 or 7 different Leads.

If we really want to turn the corner, engineering accountability and empowerment needs to be returned to engineers. Currently, its been usurped by various directors building careers on the promise of saving money, regardless of the technical impact. This has totally undermined the effectiveness of Test across the company, and turned the work into a never-ending round of learning new, arcane and crap "standard" tools, and managing vendors, instead of testing or coding.

Oh, and it wouldn't hurt to have someone - anyone - in the company that is both technically savvy AND inspirational.

Anonymous said...

>>sinofsky is a boss. hes one of the most important people in helping you guys turn this corner, and im excited once more about the future of windows, windows live, and IE (with his leadership).

He's a bean counter in sheep's clothing. I dread to think about what working in Windows will become for the 17 FTEs and 11,000 vendors left after the layoff.

Anonymous said...

I have to admit that I loved Microsoft's solution for the EU IE mess. I laughed out loud while listening to some bungling bureaucrat EU minister going, "...but, but, but that isn't what we meant." Made a nice drive that much nicer. Too bad they are going after Intel now. I think that this is closer to trade sanctions than anti-competitive sanctions - the EU bureaucrats just want to get a large piece of our cash.

I love the new TV ads! Finally something that says why real people by PCs over Macs - duh - Macs are overpriced. Although personally, I'd just as soon get blank hardware and put Ubuntu on it; still for most folks a PC means Windows.

Thank you for pointing out how ancient the development practices are at Microsoft with your comments about the waterfall model. Personally, I was always amazed at how central RAID was for shipping a product. Sort of like, "We know we are going to ship crap with bugs, but it will be the best crap we could come up with in the time allowed." Getting the best crap was what RAID helped do - and also a stinko meter for the crap as it shipped. Some of the worst code I have seen anywhere I have seen in Microsoft projects. At best it was mediocre.

I don't know who should best take over the reins at Microsoft. I think that someone willing to open up the culture away from the weird paranoia feel to something more open. Maybe a good leading research scientist with a more open culture that awards real risk taking. Microsoft needs to remember that the best way to hit the ball out of the park is NOT INNOVATION, but innovation. Trying too hard for that grandslam with INNOVATION just gets you slammed with nothing grand about it. Trying to do something cool and solve problems with innovation will not always get the grandslam, but it will get it every once in a awhile. Loosen up! Make money! Have fun!

Anonymous said...

This is good news for the current msfties. I have lots of msfties friends who are still there. I am happy for them.

On the other hand, after being abused and laid off, I have got a great abhorrence against msft management. Those shitty managers are going to be benefitted more. And it is a bit pity that they did not get their deserved lessons. Instead a large number of innocent people have been suffered from recent layoffs. This is really sad for many of our 2009 alumnies.

praxis22 said...

Cringley in the NYT:

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/13/opinion/13cringely.html

Toby Patke said...

Right on Mini.

MSFT has made a lot of big bets over the past ten years and all off those bets are FINALLY starting to pay off.

As an aside - I think MSFT loves competition. The more market share Apple takes or Google takes - the harder MSFT is going to work. Competition add focus.

...btw, you forgot to mention Natal! How cool!

Anonymous said...

Having known the Indian market for over 2 decades - Having known how other Principals (Oracle, IBM) have been investing in the critical ITS, Manufacturing and BFSI segment in the region and the understanding they bring in the domain, MS India unfortunately is left with no choice but to invest in defensive strategy to hold their share in OS and BP.

In the current times MS India has been celebrating their success on licensing deals which have have arisen from desperation. MS India has hardly a Sales Man who could stand up and sell. The way MS India EPG sales teams work is like this:

1. The Sales Managers (across regions) and his set of Account Managers with their "a** licking" ATS look for Accounts and chase for Licensing deals.
2. They get the Partners to virtually front-end the deals while they wait and watch. Once they get the opportunity qualified through them, they arguably look qualified to internally articulate their ability to excite the customers - till this is found as a rude shock when the Senior Meets the customer :)
3. The Sales Managers are like local goons who are left with no option but to safeguard their teams fate - so they would start pointing at others for the loss or lack of visibility

This vicious circle has gone beyind control. Even the Senior Management seems to be have no other options but live with the current set of Account Managers.

Ironically enough they had segmented some of the High Profile Accounts as Segment of One - which yielded huge business .....but for competition. The Segment of One Account Managers are Clueless - leaving impressions of their immaturity to create Value or be able to mobilize partners.

The most benefited fromt his fiasco are the Managers who have got a second life. What is most shocking is that the Management has no other go...No Plan Bs... cos their priorities are to entertain Executives from Corp and make them look at Greener pastures in India. One such drama was accumulating all orders till Quarter 4 and showcasing it to be the best ever Quarter Ever.

Give us a Break - You can fool some people sometimes. Some Great minds and foot soldiers were laid off at the cost of redundant Managers and Customers. This is a scam i would say. Sad Story

There was a story on Ravi Venkatesan being a liar - I AGREE. In addition to all that has been said, that man started a charity movement caled "Give India" - He tried to make an impression of his altruistic mindset, but the facts of his ways is so apparent.

Anonymous said...

Wow, we kind of both came to the same conclusion at the same time Mini. I'm excited about the line-up we have coming up--go Win 7. I've been surprised (and delighted) by Bing. And I can't believe the wonderful ad campaigns that we've been doing.

I certainly feel safer in my role and the future for the company seems bright.

Now, we just need leadership to be focused.

Anonymous said...

To say that MSFT has turned the corner is pretty bold. I mean, that's a big deal, turning a corner. I would say that MSFT now truly knows where the corner is, and can see it, and is slowly headed in that direction, but not yet turned it. You can't take a few minor releases of non-core software (and Win7 may be core, but there is still a massive cred gap to rebuild) and call that a corner turn.

FARfetched said...

I suppose it's asking too much that the next round of cuts will be directed where it really needs to go — at the management. Y'all are going to end up with a company full of managers the way you're going… and one poor schmuck doing all the real work.

I wouldn't worry too much about ChromeOS for the moment, if I were you guys: netbooks are a couple years ahead of the ubiquitous wireless network infrastructure they'll need to be useful. Maybe it's not important for a lot of people, but if I can't work offline I'm in a world of hurt, whether I'm using Google Docs or Office Mobile. Just focus on making your mobile OS, whatever you want to call it, as streamlined and agile as Who'da wants to make MSFT (reliable would be good, too).

Mikhail said...

While there are certainly some positive things taking place at Microsoft these days, I don't think the company has fully come to grips with the huge changes under way in the economy, and technology.

The reality is that Microsoft is still a 2 trick pony with Office and Windows (i.e. in which I include server as well). However, these software categories are fast becoming commodities, and it is will be increasingly difficult to convince customers to spend hefty amounts on upgrading to new versions.

The lay-offs so far don't even BEGIN to cut expenses to the degree that will be necessary in the next few years as revenue becomes decimated.

The backdrop for the problems Microsoft faces is a global deflationary depression, of which the first inning has only finished (i.e. the rally this year is just a head-fake that will be completely unwound and then some in 2010). This will cause both consumers and enterprises to seriously re-consider any upgrade plans and new purchases.

As economic problems lead customers to move even more quickly towards using on-line services to reduce expenses and better manage costs, the value of the OS itself becomes marginalized. Why spend a lot of money on Windows if all you need is a "web" browser?

Most of Microsoft's strategies still rely on trying to increase revenue through convincing customers to purchase high-end versions of it's products (premium, etc). This push to ever more expensive software expenses on the part of consumers is likely going to run out of steam in short order, and actually work to push customers away. In Microsoft's attempts to show SKU differentiation by hobbling lower-end versions of the product (as they have with the netbook version of Win7), customers will just abandon Microsoft software altogether rather than pay for costly higher-end versions.

Microsoft is still fighting old battles that are no longer going to be of much importance in the years ahead. Advertising revenue is going to be a non-starter in the depression (Google itself will be laid low), so even if Bing "succeeds" in growing share it will still fail to make much money. Likewise with Zune, and attempts to compete with Apple. The changes in consumer spending patterns will start to catch up with Apple in the coming year as very few people will still opt for costly high-end electronics as they strive to save money.

In short, the whole company is still based on a cost structure, and business model, that will no longer work well in the next decade. I am not saying that no one will ever buy an OS again, but only that the margins in nearly all of Microsoft's businesses will be MUCH lower, and the company just isn't structured to live in such a world right now.

Now that I am "free" from the Microsoft family (July 10th was my last day) I will be fleshing out these ideas of mine in much greater depth on my blog.

http://surkanstance.blogspot.com/2009/07/free-at-last.html

Anonymous said...

Silverlight, Windows Mobile, and the Zune are still a joke and will remain so for the foreseeable future.

Microsoft is getting freaked out in their desktop/server division, but you know what? The old cliché is true, the future is mobile.

Apple isn't going to be relegated to 5-10% share of the mobile sector, they're clobbering WinMo, and Android is going after your precious partners.

Rob said...

As an ex-MSFT'er, who was well connected and employed at a high level, and who now frequently engages with MS let me say you aren't out of the woods.

It is painful to do business with Microsoft. Multiple groups working on the same or similar projects, no leadership, and most importantly NO RETURNED EMAILS OR PHONE CALLS - it is very, very time consuming and frustrating. Yes eventually things get done but there is a quantifiable hard money cost associated with Microsoft that I don't have to endure with other companies.

It would be great if the company could stop looking in on itself and spend a little more time with its parters. Afterall, it is the partners that are really Microsoft's biggest asset.

Btw, in my companies not responding on time is grounds for termination. Period.

Anonymous said...

The world has moved on. People are finally realizing that they don't need Microsoft products at work and in the home. There are other options out there.

Innovation is dead at Microsoft:

Bing - rebrand of a tired search engine
Zune - dead before it hit retail
Windows Mobile - OS stagnation
Vista - how long did it take to create this?
Windows 7 - just a re-skin of Vista
Outlook - the Wave is gonna get ya

Anonymous said...

As an insider I have to say I am very excited about the next 18 months. We have some awesome releases coming and it is nice to see multiple internal leaders thinking about the right things.

I would say it is a good time to buy... :)

Anonymous said...

Most of the managers at MSFT couldn't manage their way out of the proverbial wet paper bag. They are useless, a hinderance, and almost completely geared toward managing "up" instead of out.

Start the next round of cuts there and bring in some people who know how to set priorities and determine appropriate focus.

/britmic said...

Microsoft, the "me too" company of the 21st century. Balmer needs to get the boot, pronto. Ozzie? Lotus Notes? C'mon. Microsoft needs to be run by someone who gives a shiitake about human interactions with computers. Not geeks, not nerds, not engineers, not drones, not graphic designers. You know, to coin a phrase, "the rest of us". Someone who cares passionately about reducing mouse miles, carpal tunnel, that sort of thing. Oh wait ...

Harper said...

Microsoft has always been very good at business solutions and their success in the workplace has given them unusual access to consumer markets.

The one thing that Microsoft doesn't seem to be very good at is understanding that people form very strong emotional attachments with their technology. Just look at Apple Fanboys to see how emotional people can get.

Microsoft simply doesn't have it in it's blood to make those emotional connections a priority. They would better off if they stopped trying to compete with every consumer tech company out there and instead focused on what they do well.

Anonymous said...

I agree! Microsoft will continue to innovate through mass copying of other ideas not invented by the company. Then, Microsoft will implement new paradigms on a go-forward basis to establish synergies across the enterprise providing us with a clear 30,000 foot view. If you believe anything I wrote in this previous sentence, commit yourself immediately.

Truth be told, Microsoft is spending cash like a drunken sailor. Anyone hyping the Zune should be arrested. I'm not sure if you have heard of this, but there are two products called iPod and iPhone that have made the Zune completely irrelevant. Then there's Bing. Nifty looking interface, almost a $1 Billion spent and guess what? It's barely nudged the needle.

I'm no fanboy of another company - I work at Microsoft. Yes, the company is turning a corner alright - and it's walked smack into a wall. Nothing you have said here is of substance. Until Microsoft REALLY innovates, things won't change. And from the inside, I can tell you that some great ideas have been killed, and the company is doing stupid things like trying to acquire Yahoo. That's fighting the last war.

On every front, Microsoft has missed opportunities. My company has spent its cash foolishly. Vista was a disaster and should never have been released, and despite all the hype about Windows 7, truth be told, it's a Vista service pack and little more. Microsoft missed the train on search, on smartphones and music players, on social networking and more.

It all starts at the top. Steve Ballmer, for all his supposed intelligence, has no vision. He's competing with right brained people like Steve Jobs who is kicking our butts. He can't see the forest for the trees with new opportunities like social networking. We've become the General Motors of computing, for all this infers.

You fanboys can say what you want. But I see it from the inside. If we don't change fast, Microsoft could become completely irrelevant in 10 years.

Anonymous said...

Any one actually see just how badly Bing is doing after all this marketing effort and paid for media stories.

And all that happened was a bunch of people tried it out once and went right back to Google.

Bing has dropped right back down 8 percent comfotably below Yahoo and its 11 percent share.

Forget about killing Google, Bing has utterly failed to even match Yahoo's markeshare and has been completely forgetten about now that the marketing and PR blitz is over.

Meanwhile, back in the real world:

Win7 is being released into a stagnating PC destkop market.

Mobile has completely dropped the ball and the cellphone world is settling in on a split between iPhones and Android based devices. I can't even think of the last time I even saw Mobile brought up in any cellphone news item or story on the web.

IE continues to drop like mad in marketshare.

Silverlight has managed to get installed on large numbers of machines thanks to the massive OS marketshare but is for the most part completely unused.

Netbooks continue to be the growth part of the PC market where the best case scenario is continued dropping of revenue and profits. And this is all before ChromeOS hits. One just has to look at how cellphone manufactureres jumped on the Android bandwagon to see what a massive threat ChromeOS is in the netbook space.

The only real bright spot is someone came down hard on the Xbox clowns. No more new multi-billion dollar Xbox hardware dragging the rest of the company down.

Slapping some motion controls on the old Xbox 360 hardware ensures Robbie Bach and the rest of the idiots working for him won't be able to blow through another 3-4 billion dollars.

Anonymous said...

Microsoft has been downright silly with the EU.

A little bit like a shady foreigner coming over and spitting in the eye of the state trooper who caught him up to no good. Sure, it makes the guy's ego feel fine for 2 seconds, but his action has repercussions.

And since when does the accused get to choose his punishment? The EU could and may well prevent Microsoft selling Windows 7 here if Microsoft doesn't smarten up.

Just remember the EU doesn't need Microsoft, but Microsoft does need the EU's business.

feathertail said...

The changes in consumer spending patterns will start to catch up with Apple in the coming year as very few people will still opt for costly high-end electronics as they strive to save money.

I was agreeing with most of what you said, but I have to take exception to this. Because you'd think that that's how it works, but Apple seems to have had their business hurt the least by the economic downturn, whereas commodity PC vendors have been hardest-hit.

Kirk Davis said...

While it's great to see that Microsoft is *finally* doing some things right - and Windows 7 is a big part of that - there are some things I don't quite "get".

I do "get" having a free, limited-power Office 2010, which could (if it's actually great, and fast, and more useful than Google docs) take a huge chunk of the web-office-app market.

But what, exactly, is the obsession with search? I mean - Microsoft constantly rolling out new search engines (I can remember the butterfly ads for MSN, and "live search", etc) reminds me of "Desktop Linux" trying to compete with Microsoft Windows on the desktop.

Desktop linux hasn't succeeded because Windows is a deeply entrenched near-monopoly on the desktop. Likewise, unless Microsoft comes up with a *radically* new idea for search, just being "as good as Google" isn't going to put a big dent in their search market share.

Is this obsession with search due to the perception that "search is the gatekeeper" to information or something? Because I don't really buy that, and I think that just as Linux is succeeding where it's naturally strong (web-servers, mail servers, smartphones, MIDs, etc), Microsoft should play to its own strengths.

If Microsoft offers a compelling follow-on for Windows 7 (eg., a Windows 8 that really blows our socks off) and knocks one out of the park with Office 2010, that would be great. Windows Server 2008 is great, and SQL Server is kicking butt - so put your reinforcements where your best troops are breaking through, and stop wasting time trying to out-Google Google, or out-Adobe Adobe (as you also said).

Oh - and either GIVE UP on WinMo or else PUT SOME DAMN EFFORT INTO IT before Android, WebOS and the iPhone put a stake through its heart. I've been using WM since it was CE 2.11 (I have an HTC Touch Diamond now), and i'm ITCHING to ditch it for either a Pre or an Android phone. WM6.1 is still slow, laggy crap, and is about as finger-friendly as life scorpions.

Oh - and great work on the .Net framework 3.5 and 4.0, which I use daily, they're the best products Microsoft puts out. WPF & WCF are the sort of innovation I absolutely love.

Kirk Davis said...

While it's great to see that Microsoft is *finally* doing some things right - and Windows 7 is a big part of that - there are some things I don't quite "get".

I do "get" having a free, limited-power Office 2010, which could (if it's actually great, and fast, and more useful than Google docs) take a huge chunk of the web-office-app market.

But what, exactly, is the obsession with search? I mean - Microsoft constantly rolling out new search engines (I can remember the butterfly ads for MSN, and "live search", etc) reminds me of "Desktop Linux" trying to compete with Microsoft Windows on the desktop.

Desktop linux hasn't succeeded because Windows is a deeply entrenched near-monopoly on the desktop. Likewise, unless Microsoft comes up with a *radically* new idea for search, just being "as good as Google" isn't going to put a big dent in their search market share.

Is this obsession with search due to the perception that "search is the gatekeeper" to information or something? Because I don't really buy that, and I think that just as Linux is succeeding where it's naturally strong (web-servers, mail servers, smartphones, MIDs, etc), Microsoft should play to its own strengths.

If Microsoft offers a compelling follow-on for Windows 7 (eg., a Windows 8 that really blows our socks off) and knocks one out of the park with Office 2010, that would be great. Windows Server 2008 is great, and SQL Server is kicking butt - so put your reinforcements where your best troops are breaking through, and stop wasting time trying to out-Google Google, or out-Adobe Adobe (as you also said).

Oh - and either GIVE UP on WinMo or else PUT SOME DAMN EFFORT INTO IT before Android, WebOS and the iPhone put a stake through its heart. I've been using WM since it was CE 2.11 (I have an HTC Touch Diamond now), and i'm ITCHING to ditch it for either a Pre or an Android phone. WM6.1 is still slow, laggy crap, and is about as finger-friendly as life scorpions.

Oh - and great work on the .Net framework 3.5 and 4.0, which I use daily, they're the best products Microsoft puts out. WPF & WCF are the sort of innovation I absolutely love.

TWENTY5 X YOU said...

Awesome article here... it basically summarizes everything that I have been thinking about (the past few years and months).

Google IS becoming the Microsoft we once hated.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/25pics/3713572643/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/25pics/3714385858/

Anonymous said...

I respect Microsoft a great deal, they've done a tremendous amount to put computers into just about everyone's hands and a strong and healthy Micorsoft is good for the whole industry.

That being said, I see some very serious parallels to how IBM was in the early 1990s and before. Basically, IBM had an "IBM" branded version of just about everything computers or computer-like. Everything... Turning "The Corner" to me would suggest some sort of overall vision and clearity throughout the entire Microsoft product line.

Tell me, why does the Zune still exist? Is it fear of what Apple can do with the iPod? Is it because they think they can make a better iPod? (We're all waiting on this one) Is it fear that Apple's media victories will somehow translate in to OS victories and erode marketshare? Fear seems like the worst reason to be in the market and if they can do better, then they need to start doing so, that would be "Turning the Corner." This market is also a commodity market, better needs to be *better* more flash and a similar UI experience isn't it. There might not be a *better* way to let someone listen to their music.. at least not one that's obvious.

The same can be said of XBox and especially Windows Mobile. What's the overall goal with Xbox? To lose billions of dollars to prevent Sony or Nintendo from potentially expanding in to the media space? There is no chance that XBox is going to commandingly "win," it's a net loss, what exactly is the goal? Why couldn't a software partnership with Sony or Nintendo reach the same goal? Don't get me wrong, I love me some XBox games but the shareholder in me hopes that it can eventually turn into something greater and as another poster mentioned, if Apple is going to be hurt by consumer spending cuts, XBox almost certainly will be too. Windows Mobile doesn't even need mentioning, just look at how iPhone went from non-player to where they are now against Windows Mobile, Blackberry, Symbian and all the other players.

I hope they are "Turning The Corner" or "A Corner" but I just need to see more clearity across the greater product line. Bing is nice and looks to be a good product, it is just a me-too competitor to Google done out of fear, not a pace setting innovation. I still don't fully understand why Bing is needed, is it just to get a cut of the ad revenue? COuldn't that be done with Office Online? And isn't Office Online a strength? ANd isn't it something that *has* to be built to compete?

Anonymous said...

While this is exciting, let's all stay focused and let's not count the chickens prematurely :-)

Anonymous said...

Ha! This whole article is rather funny, but the icing on the cake is the last item in the list on why Microsoft's getting better…award-winning ads?

You're a true comedy great. This blog is going in my feed reader, right under Fake Steve Jobs.

Anonymous said...

"fallen-working-on-redemption of Microsoft"

Um, I really don't think MS is working on redemption. They simply went from being obviously way over what was legally allowed back to what the gov't said were permissible.

MS still is way behind producing the documentation they were ordered to provide to the EU.

And their implementation of SilverLight is classic Microsoft strategy. Provide a first class implementation for Windows. Then provide a crippled partial implementation for Apple's OS. Ignore Linux.

Anonymous said...

Hey nutjob: your post was a waste of pixels, electricity, oxygen, and bandwidth. If you're going to bash, at least have something intelligent to say. Do you really expect any ad campaign to surpass another co. with alot more marketshare like Yahoo? I think you're better off posting comments on TMZ, not here. Thanks.

< You guys are delusional. Almost finished with a $100 million dollar ad campaign for Bing and it still can't beat Yahoo nor do much better than Live did. And Yahoo doesn't do any advertising!

IE is still the worst browser on the planet, by 11 years, and Microsoft has given no hope that IE9 will advance enough to make a difference. Meanwhile, it still loses market share almost every month as they have for the last four years.

If ChromeOS uses Native Client, Microsoft and Windows are doomed.

All I read here is what sounds like people repeating what Microsoft told them to think rather than look at the writing on the wall. It's like watching dinosaurs mating.

Anonymous said...

This is wishful thinking at best, IMO.

I don't think Microsoft will have turned the corner until:
1. WinMo gets a complete reboot. It sucks. It's always sucked. It will always suck unless they kick it into the can and start over.
2. More importantly, Microsoft embraces the future of mobile computing. This means a lot of things, and the announcement today about offering Office online might be part of that future (sorry, I haven't read all the details yet, so it's hard to know for certain).
3. Windows proper finds a way to be a compelling upgrade again. Win7 is primarily a compelling upgrade because Vista didn't get any traction in the marketplace, and it's been so long. Will Win8 be compelling? It's hard to imagine. For corporations, perhaps.

I'm very skeptical about any corner being turned here. The long slow decline might be slowed down a tad, but that's all I think has happened with the recent layoffs and better press.

Anonymous said...

As an ex level 65 softie who left 5 years ago, sorry but I think you guys are still drinking cool-aid while the rest of the universe has moved on to a completely new form of refreshment.

It's amazing to me how comitted I was to MS, then how frustrated I became by it over the 7 years I was there, and now how utterly irrelavent its become to my reality as a consumer of technology. This really hit home when last week i finally broke down and bought an iPhone. The design elegance, ease of use, integration across multiple apps, and the fact that it just plain works everytime - simply breathtaking. It's changed how I do everything - I now use my PC for only 20% of the things I used to use it for. This is what Billg used to talk about as his vision for the future. Others are there now or re-writing all the rules while MS still fights the old battles.

IMO the best thing MS could do is to say Office and Windows now have to compete in the new world, which means the cash cows are effectively dead. How would the company survive? You need to be doing that today or it will not survive as a serious force. And nothing I see leads me to believe MS is capable of that kind of transformation of its own initiative.

A once great company is in the process of becoming utterly irrelavent. Very sad.

Anonymous said...

Part of the reason Microsoft is turning the corner is BECAUSE of Xbox and the work being done in E&D. Don't be so quick to write off all of the goodwill and brand recognition brought to Microsoft as a result of the entertainment division.

Anonymous said...

Seems like all the positive comments are only coming from Microsoft employees.

Anonymous said...

"zune HD should be added to your list of products that is helping in the turnaround...great device, great reviews.. very unique and a lot of innovation .."

whatever

Anonymous said...

I'm an outsider but a customer. From my very far vantagepoint, I think Microsoft has very poorly managed the transition from growth company to utility. Stock options were what drove the company in its heyday. The stock is now, for all intents and purposes, dead. Stock options or grants are insufficient to incent the minions. Very simply, the best will leave for other opportunities, what's left will be mediocre. Microsoft will rise and fall with its people. Get and keep the best and you have a chance. Otherwise, forget it.

DD

justme said...

"...and award worthy, coherent ads that aren't a demonstration of how best to destroy millions of dollars quickly."

What ads are you watching? I think every ad MS has put out recently is *exactly* a "demonstration of how best to destroy millions of dollars quickly."

I've seen allot of ads saying they're MS, but selling HP and Sony hardware... not very coherent, nor the best use of cash.. I want to see MS show me what makes the products *they* make worth my dropping some cash on them.

And what, exactly, is "award worthy" about ads where a man goes to buy a "portable" laptop "with good battery life" and he buys a 17" lunch tray best known for having the worst battery life in its class? I guess it may get "an Best BS on TV" award... That ad, and many others are being crucified for being pure (and poorly written) fiction. How is spending cash on these ads helping Microsoft or it's shareholders? (or it's customers or potential customers?)

I'm not just ragging on MS for giggles... I'm frustrated because they just can't be this incompetent.

Bing has potential, but I've thrown business related searches at it and it's failed to be useful to me. I'll try it again from time to time, but so long as Google has more relevant results I, and I'm sure many, won't be changing their default search engine. For consumers, the great porn results I keep hearing about may make a difference, shrug.

Win 7 may be the real answer.. I've been running the 7 in a vm for some time.. Besides "It's Vista, just a lil peppier and with better marketing" I'm just not sure what it offers the PC market. Will enterprise let go of XP and make the jump? Will tech savvy consumers that have been turning to MacOS X on laptops and Linux on netbooks run to buy or yawn?

I think it's way too early to make any grand predictions one way or another for MS. It's too early to say "MS is dead. It just doesn't know it yet." But it's also too early to say "This is where 10 yrs from now we'll say 'MS turned the corner'".

Anonymous said...

Wow it took you that long, Mini? Ever since I saw the potential of SilverLight 2, I knew MSFT has had a winner. This thing is the real deal allowing people to build quality web apps. The other hot air crap coming out of Google / Mozilla camp such as HTML5 and Chrome OS are just grasshopper hypes. MSFT walks the real walk, dude, and it's just the beginning. There're more such winners on the way. Guaranteed!!

Anonymous said...

I think that this section is a ccase of wishfull thinking:
"Shedding a respectable chunk of the company would bring an exceptional amount of upfront focus to our teams and result in high-quality features end-to-end, vs. what we see in misshapen compromise that we can fit in."

How do you know that the ones that are left are the right ones or just the ones that were "connected"?

Anonymous said...

Corner Turning Metrics and Goals

Was the primary long term goal of layoffs to reduce cost by reducing headcount or by reducing the average cost per headcount?

What is the tooth to tail ratio in overall cost and headcount?
Tooth = anyone who designs, writes, or tests code sold to the public for a profit.
Tail = everyone else = management, support, facilities, internal tools, data processing, etc.

What are the primary goals behind creation of Avanade (joint venture between Accenture and MS) and the new contract with HCL. Lowering the average cost per headcount? IT workers are becoming more of a commodity? Will this trend grow at MS? Are there more external workers not listed in the MS HR database?

Microsoft argues for more H1-B visas due to a shortage of IT workers. There is shortage of high end developers in the US (for many reasons) but not IT workers in the US in general. So one unspoken (to Congress) goal is to reduce average cost per headcount.

I have worked in the tail part of MS three times. In each case there were more people than needed to do the work and not enough people to do the work. The contradiction comes from inefficient structure. MS uses org model it evolved for developing Office for the back office. Reducing cost per head count is one way to try to resolve this contradiction at least during a recession. Revising organizational structure is more difficult and has no guarantee of $uccess.

MS has been a good place to acquire skills with which I can earn more money elsewhere....sort of like being paid to go to school.

Anonymous said...

I'm not convinced. The problem really comes down to doing what is right versus doing what will advance one's career. Too many folk choose the latter rather than the former leading to much disunity and short term thinking. And if someone with a clue does take the helm it results in a "we'll just wait until next year's reorg". It's the cancer of the successful tech company.

Anonymous said...

That was great observation, Mikhail. Too bad hardly enough people realize USA is heading toward depression 2.0 and make the reasonable adjustment to it. They are in for a rough ride the next 3 to 5 years.

Anonymous said...

Pretty interesting that if Ballmer would just take a few quarters' revenue to the Snoqalmie Casino, he'd be better off with his bets than his "big bets" over the last 10 years have gone. By a long shot.

What does that say, the risky bets with the wrong people and the same old?

Anonymous said...

"15,000 is my magic number"

Forgive me for wondering Mini, but where does that number come from?

Is it related to revenues per employee -- does weeding things down by 15,000 get you to some perfect value?

Or is it give a closer correlation between parking spaces and offices?

I've been running my own ship for a couple years now away from Microsoft, and even though it's tiny, it does require some analysis relative to how many projects I have vs how much time and bandwidth is vailable.

Have you been made privy to the inner thinking of upper management relative to every single strategic initiative on campus and beyond? And based on those revelations, crafted your own specific, ingenious, and economically brilliant corresponding headcount equivalents?

15,000 may be the perfect number. And if applied primarily in the NW, it will further decimate my backyard's economy. Since you're so gleefully proposing dumping on me and my neighbors with this economic nuclear bomb, please offer some kind of reasoning on how this number was derived.

Unless you sit alongside the Board of Directors with a 20,000 foot view that gives you the proper perspective to go with a buttload of global entrepreneurial wisdom, tossing out that figure strikes me as clueless, middle management armchair quarterbacking.

Anonymous said...

"All I read here is what sounds like people repeating what Microsoft told them to think rather than look at the writing on the wall. It's like watching dinosaurs mating."


Interesting thought. Although... one would be wise not to mess with dinosaurs while they're mating.

Anonymous said...

Mini, I have loved your commentary and your attitude for years. But I have to advise you, that what's needed is not turning a corner, but a major revolution of perceptions and deliverables.

Case in point... My organization builds a platform and applications that are utilized by governments and large industrial organizations worldwide.

Due to reliability and licensing issues, we've pretty much banned Windows as a deployment system for our platform and applications. There is only one app (and it is admittedly a major, center-of-our-universe app) that still runs on Windows, and that is because it relies on a piece of hardware for which only Windows drivers are available.

In response, our electronic engineers have designed a new piece of electronics from scratch, and we developed Linux drivers for it. Once this new board and it's drivers are debugged, we'll be deploying 100% Linux, no Windows.

This was not a cheap thing to do, but the organization felt compelled to do this based on the facts at hand.

This anecdote sort of tells you where people's heads are at today...

I have a very long (20+ years) history with Microsoft, in various ways.

I once sat in Ballmer's office alone with him, talking and chatting back in the days when he NEVER wore a tie, when his "dress up" was a long-sleeved V-necked sweater (and his office was not very fancy at all).

So, I don't hate Microsoft, there's a lot of history and affection here.

But your core independent developers have been so completely turned off and alienated, that a real revolution of perceptions is needed, not just turning a corner...

What can be done to fix this?

Anonymous said...

"Seems like all the positive comments are only coming from Microsoft employees."



Umm, that's exactly what makes it so startling -- for years, all of the negative comments in this blog have come from Microsoft employees, so imagine my surprise to see even a tiny few optimistic comments.

We need to feel good about ourselves again before anyone else is going to feel good about us.

Anonymous said...

Xbox is not a bad product. Zune is not a bad product (really).

And I daresay, VISTA is not a bad product.

Mini, all you see is the bottom-line. Which is necessary but not sufficient. You've never been able to articulate WHY these products failed or WHY products are bad(or even if they were truly failures at all).

So you cut 15,000 people. Um, ok. How is that making MS create better products again? This question is open to everyone.

Additional question - anyone else find it odd that much of MS's "thought leadership" has left for Google...and seemingly created another MS at Google? Has anyone felt the impact of these departures? I know I haven't.

Anonymous said...

I agree with @Monday, July 13, 2009 7:08:00 PM. 15,000 sounds like an arbitrary number IMHO. I value your opinion, Mini, but I'm not sure I understand the justification for this type of reduction.

Eliminating certain products, definitely.

Eliminating certain organizations, possibly.

Eliminating people outright, meh, not so much.

I think a more optimal approach would be the following:

A) Eliminate products which have both no profitability AND no roadmap to profitability.

B) Re-assign those resources to teams which need work in those areas wherein Msft is most heavily criticized. This includes quality, security, and performance.

I don't believe reducing headcount (purely a cost-cutting measure) is a long term strategy for success. It hurts morale. It hampers productivity. It triggers talent flight.

Companies never achieve rapid growth by bean counting and playing economic defense. They achieve prosperity by pursuing new markets and creating markets where none exist.

I'm a relative n00b to Msft, and I'm also only a few years out of college, but even recognizing my own inexperience, one thing I've learned by studying the history of tech companies... I'd hate to see Msft become the next IBM, AT&T, etc. (in terms of corporate culture).

Anonymous said...

I am ex-MSFT from a decade ago - left to go to grad school. A couple of years ago, I was teaching an information systems course and in class discussion I found today's college students view Microsoft the same way we viewed IBM back in the 1980s - that is, big, stodgy and mostly irrelevant. Students overwhelmingly looked to Google and Apple for exciting new products. I was quite surprised at how Microsoft had lost the mind share of so many young college students. That's not good. The solution is to innovate - don't just say "Freedom to innovate" - really innovate. Focus on the customer more than integrating all the products and technologies. Let your smart people roll, let cleverness rule.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, Mini, just not seeing it here. All I see are the same old groups flushing money down the drain and the same old power games from upper management that is wrecking products.

Anonymous said...

Regarding rewarding people who are getting some of the products right.

The typical approach at Microsoft is to do a poor job at first in a rush to get it out the door and then spend way too many years trying to get it right. Eventually things get fixed, relatively speaking. Example: Bing. Why should people be rewarded for eventually getting it right, when they never were punished (fired; demoted etc) for the poor job they did? Why doesn't Microsoft emphasize and reward getting it right the first time? For example, how can Bing leadership team be rewarded for relatively minor traffic growth (powered by massive Ad spending) when the same team bled red for so long and missed so many opportunities?

What is the message? Reward mediocrity? If that is the case, precious little has changed at Microsoft. A massive bureaucracy doesn't become efficient overnight. I know, none of this stops the leadership from patting itself on the back and reaching for out sized rewards coming at the expense of the chopped headcount.

Anonymous said...

Well, the important thing about Kevin Turner's success is that he earned his $10 million payout last fiscal year.

http://www.reuters.com/finance/stocks/companyOfficers?symbol=MSFT.O&viewId=comp

He's great. We need more Walmart. Let's get rid of the stock awards for non-partners and replace them with Sam's Club memberships.

Anonymous said...

Regarding Bing, I believe there are untrustworthy behaviours under the hood, specifically black list result filters. Try this searching for “transferhandler.export to clipboard swing”. Google finds about 100 results all related to Java. Bing finds exactly two results. One is my comment on this subject elsewhere and the other is in French. How can it be possible without deletion of “things Java” ?

Kevin Goldsmith said...

I don't think that Microsoft will have truly turned a corner until it starts developing NEW products instead of me-too ones.

Instead of defining new billion dollar markets, Microsoft is still jumping into existing markets and trying to take out the big players. This just means that MS will blow through huge cash reserves to convince people to switch from their existing brands to Microsoft, making it nearly impossible to actually make any profit.

You point at Bing, Zune, Silverlight and Win7. The only one of those that is an actual original product is Win7 and one could actually make the argument that Microsoft gave up the innovation ghost on the OS a while ago and is now chasing OS X.

For Microsoft to once again become a great company in the current world it needs to do more than imitate and iterate. It needs to innovate.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you Mini. Cut the staff. Start by eliminating the sales force. Thanks to them, my city has now sunk millions into Microsoft technology because our CIO was gullible and believed the crap your salespeople told him. We could have spent far less on open source software and our citizens would be happier because we might have been able to reduce their taxes. Not anymore, thanks to Microsoft.
Its funny, because we had been an IBM mainframe shop and we were at their mercy for all these years.
Looks like we just went from one drug dealer to another though.

Anonymous said...

Problem: Consumers want to carry their groceries with them.

Microsoft: Here's a cardboard box with a handle on one side so you can drag your groceries home. It is not very expensive.

Apple: Here's a metal wagon with wheels and a steering handle -- in red. It costs more.

Apple's corner is at Consumer Needs and Quality.

Microsoft's corner is at Microsoft Needs and Cost.

The Corner Microsoft needs to be turning is the same as Apple's, and it's still several blocks away.

Anonymous said...

+1 on the need to focus and have more fingers in fewer pies.

That said, in order to truly turn a corner Microsoft needs to find a new area of massive, multi-billion dollar growth, and those are few, far between, and someone else has a couple of years of headstart by the time Microsoft recognizes them.

Win 7 is nice, but honestly, for majority of people Win XP is fully adequate.

Office 2010 does not offer anything that would warrant any expenditure at all. Sinofsky jumped the ship just in time. 2007 was awesome, 2010 is meh.

Bing still did not beat Yahoo in search marketshare. It's nice, but perhaps at this point someone should just let that entire overleveled org go and gradually sunset the service (outsourcing the actual search to Yahoo, if needed). Personally, I don't see how this whole thing will become even $1B business in the next five years. As an MS shareholder, I'm concerned.

The only bright spot for me in the recent Microsoft history is Xbox (disclaimer: I do not, nor I ever did, work in E&D). I know it's $6B in the hole, and I know there were hardware problems, but this is one of the very few Microsoft products that has millions of paying customers who love both the hardware and the service. That's something money alone can't buy. You need talent and vision to pull this off.

Anonymous said...

The only thing that's turned the corner is the perception of the products you mention.

People who hated Vista now love Win7. While Win7 does have some important improvements over Vista, it's still largely the same.

People who were't excited about Live Search now love Bing even though even less has changed between the two. (To those commenting that the Bing team has really delivered... delivered what? The biggest change seems to be the relocation of some stuff to that left bar.)

What corner has Silverlight turned? I think I saw a headline a few weeks ago about a new release. Haven't heard anything about it before or since. None of the sites I frequent use Silverlight, except Netflix for streaming video. (Actually, that IS quite good; now I can watch Netflix when I'm on the go with my MacBook.)

The Laptop Hunter ads are at least consistent. Their message is that Apple makes terrific laptops that everybody would buy if only they had the money... but they are consistent.

Anonymous said...

Who says MS doesn't have competition. Look, we have competition from google, ipod, PS3Firefox etc. We can even predict our future competition. Let some cool product or service roll out, we will ensure to inject billions and make crappy look alike.
This is because our CEO's vision is hindered with paranoia.

Anonymous said...

Regarding Anon regarding Bing regarding Java:

Instead of reaching directly for the tinfoil hat, consider that Bing just does a poor job of understanding what you meant by your search criteria. Replacing the "." with a space in your search terms give lots of results in Bing

Anonymous said...

We need to feel good about ourselves again before anyone else is going to feel good about us


OK doctor Phil. I guess once we regain our self esteem the Universe will take care of the rest, right?


Seriously guys, the problems run a lot deeper than this. From a cultural standpoint the layoffs might actually make things worse since they reinforced the relative weight of the management structure and reduced the collective level of experience amongst the ICs.

I have no doubt that MS can ship whitepapers and Power Point presentations by the truckload. Actual software? Not so much.

Anonymous said...

"If i had to combine people in Microsoft to create a CEO that could replace Steve tomorrow i would have to also combine both Robbie Bach and Steven Sinofsky and maybe add a bit of bob muglia into that mix since you also need the enterprise side experience."

Sinofksy and Muglia I can see. What would Bach contribute? Playsforsure? Fail. Xbox? Financial fail. Zune? Fail. WinMo? Fail. MediaCenter? Fail. Mediaroom. Fail. Surface? Financial fail. What am I missing?

Anonymous said...

except MSFT just announced more vaporware with the "coming" of web base Office! LOL some "turn" MSFT has made and still using the old playbook!

Anonymous said...

Many other commenters have it right. Microsoft is no longer relevant in today's industry. End users flock to Apple and Google in droves. Go into any Apple store on the weekend or evening, and you'll see it packed, with 20 minute wait times to purchase a new machine! Unbelievable. You walk into a Best Buy or Fry's, and you see the same 50 machines loaded with crapware, and no one buying them. It's interesting. I was at a local Best Buy in the past month. I observed a number of parents buying computers for their kids for college. In each instance I heard the kids say that they wanted an Apple, not a PC. They explained that the machines were nicer, and the software was more stable. Again, the Apple section was packed, but the PC section had just a few casual observers.

Let's take a look at Windows 7. It's definitely better than Vista. However saying that is like laying a stick on the ground and saying jump over it. The internals of Win7 have not changed much from Vista, and there's nothing innovative about it. Sure you get a new UI, but this ends up costing corporations, you know, those folks that pay millions for licenses, will need to retrain their staff. I used to joke at this back when XP was released and folks at where I was working were scared of the move from 2000, but this is a real concern for corporations. In fact, in a report this week, 6 out of 10 corporations say that they will not upgrade to Win7 anytime soon. There's always a lag in adopting a new version of Windows, but I never recall the response to be this bad.

Let's look at Bing. I think it has one good feature in it. Cashback. This was really an innovative concept, albeit it's not one that originated from Microsoft, rather it came through an acquisition. Besides this, its result relevancy is just not there. Sure Bing is getting traffic now, but is this really sustainable?

There are many other facets of Microsoft that had deteriorated substantially even in the past year - since Bill left. For instance, Bill always used to say that Microsoft is so great because of its people. When, since Ozzie and Mundie have been running the show, have they reaffirmed this? Oh wait, they've never even sent a company wide mail! Now wonder those who are leaving Microsoft by way of layoff or choice are happy to be leaving the company.

Mini, I'm sorry, but you're right Microsoft _has_ turned a corner, but not the corner that you've illustrated in this post. Microsoft has turned the corner to becoming irrelevant, and it's not just at the corner but already walking down that street.

Anonymous said...

This just in from that bastion of socialized free enterprise, Goldman Sachs:

"Goldman said yesterday that it set aside 48 percent of its total revenue, or $6.65 billion, to reward employees for the company's performance. That share is the same as Goldman set aside in 2007, before the crisis."

Goldman is a company that should make $16billion profit on $56billion revenue, annualized. They have some 30,000 employees, who will be paid somewhere around $1 million each, based on the publicly available data as cited above.

Microsoft should bring in about $60 billion revenue and $20 billion in profit. Show of hands please: how many FTEs, apart from the usual parasites aka partners, make $350k+? What's that, just 800 of 95000 people? Oh well. Enjoy the health benefits and the steady pay-check. And all you men make sure to bend over extra deep at the annual physical.

Anonymous said...

"There are many other facets of Microsoft that had deteriorated substantially even in the past year - since Bill left. For instance, Bill always used to say that Microsoft is so great because of its people. When, since Ozzie and Mundie have been running the show, have they reaffirmed this? Oh wait, they've never even sent a company wide mail! Now wonder those who are leaving Microsoft by way of layoff or choice are happy to be leaving the company."

I think this comment is a load of bollocks.

First of all, Bill *said* Microsoft was all about the people, but he checked-out a long, long time ago and Microsoft hasn't been all about the people for at least a decade if not longer. Steve has picked up the same refrain but it's just a line of BS -- you can say it all you want without ever doing anything to show it.

Ozzie and Mundie are absolute no-op losers and it boggles my mind why we chose to hire the inventor of fucking LOTUS NOTES -- for chrissakes -- to lead us into the future, but our deep tech minds have never been visible to anyone other than their inner circles so nothing new there.

Also, my friends who were laid off and who are still shell-shocked and recovering would beg to differ with your characterization -- very, very few people were happy to be laid off and a lot of people are really struggling now. Please don't characterize them as feeling fortunate.

Anonymous said...

"15,000 is my magic number"

I don't know if we can reach this number, but, I can tell you that there are many teams in new Windows org (WEX+COSD) which can be cut without having any impact to the business.

I would like to hear from others on their experiences working with various windows teams and can be cut in a blink of an eye

Anonymous said...

I agree with this post that compares goldman with Microsoft.
And adding to that comment the paycheques are not steady, they are in threat of the layoffs.

Anonymous said...

>> Replacing the "." with a space in your search terms give lots of results in Bing

Hmm, so z-index and its associated problems are still there. That's too bad. Google has been searching the whole index for years now.

Anonymous said...

@"This just in from that bastion of socialized free enterprise, Goldman Sachs",

Unfortunately Goldman Sachs is at the top of its game, in its industry. It is the Google and Apple love child, so to speak.

That is where the best and the brightest are, and have been for the past five to ten years.

All that is left at MSFT now is fumbling around for the next failure, splitting up the fixed promotion and compensation budgets by waging war with peers, and complaining about it all on this blog.

Anonymous said...

"Apple's corner is at Consumer Needs and Quality.

Microsoft's corner is at Microsoft Needs and Cost."

Wow...couldn't have said it better myself. And speaking as a partner of Microsoft that ships a sh*tload of core apps (Win Server, SQL, VE), the "love" from Microsoft these days for partners is non-existent.

skc said...

>>Regarding Bing, I believe there are untrustworthy behaviours under the hood, specifically black list result filters. Try this searching for “transferhandler.export to clipboard swing”. Google finds about 100 results all related to Java. Bing finds exactly two results. One is my comment on this subject elsewhere and the other is in French. How can it be possible without deletion of “things Java” ?<<

Heh, one thing Bing managed to prove with your post is that this blog comments section is populated by quite a few MS haters. For example, thanks to your query I now see that you posted this same exact comment on TechCrunch.

Interesting.

Are you Matt Cutts from Google by any chance?

Anonymous said...

Nice to have you back, Mini! I sense forward momentum as well, thanks to all the releases that will be coming out soon. Glad I bought stock when it was at rock bottom, too.

For those naysayers who say the company is doomed, I'd like to remind you that has been said of many companies in the past - such as IBM -- and I invite you to check out their stock valuation today. (Hint: 4X ours)

My guess is we'll get a surge from Win 7 and Office 2010, plus Natal, but the economy is a long way from recovering, so it will be a slow climb back for everyone.

Regardless, it's nice to see Mini's voice out there again.

Anonymous said...

very well comparison between goldman and ms rewards...

proves the point that ms just considers the people peons

adsense said...

Nice article. I included a link to the post in my Chrome OS related blog's Link Roundup post here:

http://www.chrome-os-blog.com/071509-google-chrome-os-link-roundup-170/

Anonymous said...

"Also, my friends who were laid off and who are still shell-shocked and recovering would beg to differ with your characterization -- very, very few people were happy to be laid off and a lot of people are really struggling now. Please don't characterize them as feeling fortunate."

+1

Sold our house. Living with relatives. Getting a handful of interviews but no offers. Wondering how long until we wipe out our emergency fund ... and then our severance ... and then the proceeds from the house sale ... and then the savings we've worked 20 years to build.

Anyone who thinks we're thankful for this has no fucking idea what it's like out in Job Search Land these days. I'd take "working in hell" over "watching my life fall apart" anyday.

Anonymous said...

"Heh, one thing Bing managed to prove with your post is that this blog comments section is populated by quite a few MS haters."

Yep, anyone that has any illusion of value in the comments here should seriously think about that. I actually think Mini should throw all anonymous posts to the cutting room floor and only allow non-anon to the main post... and yes i am anon on purpose, i dont have an account and dont ever post so dont feel like opening one... but i get the irony and hypocracy but i still like my idea... :)

Anonymous said...

A little ago, all the morons from the Microsoft Store got a promotion. After all, the online store was going "sooooo weellll".

Now, they cause this snafu with the store promotion to pre-sell Windows 7 in Europe. Would someone please fire these guys for pure incompetence?!

Anonymous said...

Talk about turning the corner. Has anyone recently applied at the MS.com/careers web site? It is sloooow like hell. When will MS ever learn that looks doesn't always equate performance? WTF cares for AJAX on careers site?

It takes me almost 2 minutes to get the new postings. No clues if the Search works or not - I mean no visual cue at all.

Be customer friendly first - then we can develop consumer products.

Anonymous said...

I observed a number of parents buying computers for their kids for college. In each instance I heard the kids say that they wanted an Apple, not a PC. .
.
If you go to a coffee shop anywhere near the u-district it's very hard to find a single person using a PC.

With Vista and Win7, Microsoft has more or less copied OS X's visual effects, Spotlight, and now the Dock. That's nice, but it's the superficial stuff. The fundamentals of how you install and manage your applications, where their data is stored, where all your files go, etc. is still kind of a mess. And the UI in Win7 is a mess too--some windows have their names in their title bars, some don't. Some windows have ribbons, some have toolbars, some have menu bars, etc. Some pop-up UI has a red X to close it, some has a floating X, some doesn't have any X and you have to click outside it, etc. Some buttons look like buttons, some look like links, some look like text with pictures at the left, etc. All of this UI inconsistency implies shoddy craftsmanship to me and I'm not surprised when people feel like OS X is a higher quality operating system even if it crashes just as much or has just as many security flaws.

Anonymous said...

Great post. Even the trolls sound worried you might be right.

The evidence I'd like to see is when the next disruptive technology is introduced, offering great promise but potentially threatening Office and Windows, it's MS doing it for once rather than responding years late to someone else. That would be proof that the company is ready to reinvent itself and compete for tomorrow's business instead of just defending yesterday's. Until then, it's hard to say how much of this is real change and how much is just competition and the economy making it impossible (finally) for the SLT to ignore the precarious position a decade of wrongs turns has led to.

Anonymous said...

how does the budget look for each group?

do we have a generally reduced operating budget or..?

I know search is still hiring, which may or may not be the right thing

Anonymous said...

I love that a guy who was bounced out of the old SMS team (notoriously after one of the worst products ever (sms 2.0)) into Jawads networking team (really, need anyone say more?) into the windows planning group (when the hiring criteria was having a pulse) is seen as some credible contributor.

Sorry Mikhail, your best contributions were social looking at the economy & posting ot litebulb. Your blog is ok, but i feel you would have had some credibility if you'd delivered something that generated value.

Anonymous said...

CAN ANYBODY TELL ME HOW MANY A- contractors are there from volt, aditi excell (three major vendors). Do not trust headtrax. go to outlook, address, search for a- alias, muliply by the number of pages with counter per each page.

former contractor, trying to get a new contract

Anonymous said...

"how does the budget look for each group?"

I've heard from a few sources that the FY10 promo budget has been severely cut in many teams.

David Gerard said...

While this can happen, Zune is not going to take over the world:

http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?pid=7271611&id=623900290

Note that iPods have DRMed music, but they don't *take away your paid-for songs* if Apple stops selling the song in question.

It's a pity, as the Zune hardware is really pretty good. They had wifi on a music player ahead of Apple, for instance, but completely failed to capitalise on it. (Use an iPod Touch to see what you're up against - it really is just about the perfect little music player with web browser.) One way to ship *lots* of Zunes is to make the firmware more easily hackable - then the freetards will buy them to put Rockbox on. Hey, an unit shipped is a unit shipped! Market share!

Anonymous said...

Problem: Consumers want to carry their groceries with them.

Apple: Forget the groceries. They're not aesthetically pleasing. May I present iPlastique, the most innovative bag in human history. It's tiny, it's stylish, it comes in different colors. We invented it. Well, not really. But we'll claim we did. It doesn't hold groceries, but it costs so much that you won't be able to afford them anyway. You need it. And really, you can't be too skinny or too cool.

Anonymous said...

"very well comparison between goldman and ms rewards...

proves the point that ms just considers the people peons"

Seriously do you have any idea how silly that comparison is? Goldman's profit comes only from there people. Their entire compensation process is tied to individual contribution. They don't make any real R&D investment and relatively low fixed cost as compared to the computer industry.

Anonymous said...

MS:> Problem: Consumers want to carry their groceries with them.

Apple:> Wrong! Consumers don't want to carry their groceries (they just had to). What they really want is to carry iPhone. What about groceries - let several PMs from bing design a bag for them, they'll even attach a cash-back so people may actually look at it.

Amazon:> Consumers don't have to carry their groceries - we'll give them AmazonFresh straight from the cloud.

I don't think WE PASS THE CORNER because we still think the old way.
Nothing has changed, we may get a better customer reception for Win7, but we'll stumble in Win 8 or Win 9 again because we haven't really learned our lesson and people in charge (GMs, VPs) are still playing their political games rather then trying to solve real customer's problems.

Let's face it SteveB can not deliver the change :-(

Anonymous said...

Are we dismantling Test to save money? Let's see...

1. "Raise the bar" by eliminating STEs, even though SDETs are not necessarily good testers (as opposed to tool writers)

2. Attempt to automate everything adn offshore execution, leaving SDETs to manage vendors and battle tools and... well that's about it. They're certainly not gain coding expertise that was touted

3. Move quality upstream! Inother words, make the developers do testing and write tools (in and of itself not necessarily bad)

4. Now how many SDETs do we need? Hmmm...

The only thing that's really changed for SDETs is having stuff taken away, primarily empowerment.

MCSInTheField said...

We were asked to push this website on our customers:

http://www.microsoft.com/india/controlcosts/home.aspx

I like my customers. Not a chance I'll tell them about this except as a joke.

Anonymous said...

Look none of this really matters, what matters is that Who-Da-Punk left a David Lynch reference in the post. Now that is truly important!

Anonymous said...

The promo budget in our org is 50% of what it was last year.

Anonymous said...

The motto is not "Turned the Corner" but "Lipstick on a Pig". Think about it: Win7, ZuneHD, Bing, etc. 90K people are nervous seeing on the pig everyday.

Anonymous said...

Microsoft's Ballmer Dismisses Chrome

If memory serves, didn't he dismiss iPhone initially too? And iPod. And OS X. And Google search. And Gmail. And Google apps. And SAS. And cloud computing. And...

Steve, stfu. Seriously.

Anonymous said...

The only thing that's really changed for SDETs is having stuff taken away, primarily empowerment.


SDET is often a thankless job. A lot of people assume you're doing it because you're not good enough to be a dev. I've seen a lot of SDETs move on to other jobs because of the stigma.

I'm an experienced SDET and I wouldn't switch jobs with a dev or a PM. There's a lot of creativity and freedom in test. I tend to believe that devs have to deal with a lot more constraints.

Most IC devs I've worked with understand that SDETs have a different skillset and actually enjoy working with them. I can't tell you how many times I found bugs or design flaws that were readily apparent to me yet had completely escaped the scrutiny of everybody outside of test.

I do agree that it's really easy for middle/higher management to dismiss testers though. That's where it pays to have a good test lead/test manager who knows how to play the visibility game and "advertise" the test org's work upwards.

Anonymous said...

1. "Raise the bar" by eliminating STEs, even though SDETs are not necessarily good testers (as opposed to tool writers)

You have the useless eggheads like Alan and BJ on the EE test leadership team to thank for that. They would curl up and die if they were ever dropped into a real test crisis.

Anonymous said...

I just don't think they push people in the right direction at Microsoft, I also think there are too many tired old managers that are sitting on their tenure.

Keeping around managers who have no vision while staffing new hires whose fresh talent is being wasted in some pigeon holing position is not a great way to get innovation.

I've worked on two different products at the company, and with both of them there were always 1 or 2 people that did the real work to every 5 that just talked a lot.

If Microsoft wants to cut the fat, they should cut managers while pushing ICs (especially young college hires) to be inspired to do the best work they've ever done.

Anonymous said...

"Seriously do you have any idea how silly that comparison is? Goldman's profit comes only from there people.
Their entire compensation process is tied to individual contribution."


WOW now there's a concept! Tying compensation to individual contribution. We don't want that kind of thing 'round here ... no Sir.

What we want is to continue with an arcane performance review process which is based on some manager's subjective view of your 'potential' reflected in stock awards, and loosey-goosey commitments that can be twisted around by that same prescient manager, depending on your popularity.

So I agree with you that it is just incomprehensible that GS runs a system that ties compensation to actual business results, rather than personal opinions. What were they thinking? ;-)

Anonymous said...

For the record, I actually dont feel SteveB is a bad leader or a bad guy... but... I dont think Microsoft can turn the corner with him as CEO and I dont think we turn the corner with KT either...

For what it is worth, I am predicting Bill returns as CEO similar to Howard Schultz and drives us around the corner while also allowing time for a few successors to be properly groomed to take over... we have a few within MS and probably out in the industry but none are ready.

Anonymous said...

Steve Ballmer's denial can't stop change from coming

Anonymous said...

I've worked on two different products at the company, and with both of them there were always 1 or 2 people that did the real work to every 5 that just talked a lot.


Let me guess who got the gold star bonuses, promos, fat stock awards and so on...

Anonymous said...

"I've heard from a few sources that the FY10 promo budget has been severely cut in many teams."

We've chosen to hold back promotions this year as we'd be plunging people down to 80% compa ratio -- we simply don't have the budget to give anyone meaningful raises even with promotions. We're waiting until we can get people at least 3-4% with their promotion, as opposed to the 1% we could do this year.

Seriously, this is so fucking *stupid*. You cannot promote people without giving them a raise, even in a shitty economy -- that's not how capitalism works.

Anonymous said...

"Redemption takes a while"

Good observation. An example:

"Microsoft is an unlikely Twitter-buyer and partner. Twitter doesn't think it could take the PR hit. Twitter balked at even doing an ad deal with Microsoft. In a meeting about a potential "sponsored tweets" deal with Microsoft, CEO Ev Williams worried about how Microsoft's brand would effect Twitter's. The note reads, "Ev: I don't like what this does to our brand, and this cannot be measured." Another asks, "Why did we start talking to Microsoft in the first place?" Notes from another meeting, however, suggest Twitter is working on a "secret xBox" product.

http://www.businessinsider.com/10-things-twitters-stolen-docs-taught-us-2009-7

Anonymous said...

There's one place where Microsoft hasn't turned the corner, our completely f'd up review process. I am a senior manager with a team of over 30 people, and my experience with my HR and GM / CVP management chain this year is completely different from the last 3 years. Specifically, I went in with a review model that met all the curves for Contribution Rankings, and with solid data for every employee around Commitment Ratings, where my managers and I had gone through everyone’s commitments in detail and felt that we had assigned the right ratings, ending up with about 50% Exceeded, 48% Achieved, and 2% Underperformed. I was then told that this was unacceptable and we had to be closer to 30% Exceeded. After very long discussions around why and how we ended up having to just take our “lowest stacked” Exceeded people and change them to Achieved to meet that “acceptable ratio”.

This seems completely opposite to what LisaB has previously said about Commitment Ratings and what is up on HR WEB:
“Managers should review the employee's performance against commitments and carefully compare the performance to the Commitment Rating definitions to assign the appropriate rating. During this assessment, managers should keep in mind that this rating is based on individual performance and is not relative to the performance of other employees.”

As far as I can tell all of my peers and I have the same current thinking about Commitment Ratings, that they are about absolute performance vs. commitments and therefore that the Exceed/Achieved/Underperformed rating for employees is about pride in your work and having your manager recognize it. If we are going to force a specific ration of Exceeded to Achieved then the only way to avoid people having too many exceeds is to raise the bar on commitments, to the point where most will be achieved. However work/life balance goes out of the window if you do so.

Why do we need a specific ratio of Exceeded vs. Achieved if we already have the Contribution Ranking curve? Hypothetically wouldn’t it be good for the company if we set tough commitments and the majority of employees rose to the challenge and Exceeded them?

At the very least if our approach and philosophy has changed then we should communicate that to managers and employees and Lisa should just be honest that the changes she put in have now been reversed and we’re back to the same old 2.5-4.5 model.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

"Also, my friends who were laid off and who are still shell-shocked and recovering would beg to differ with your characterization -- very, very few people were happy to be laid off and a lot of people are really struggling now. Please don't characterize them as feeling fortunate."

+1


+1 again. My expertise is in a very narrow niche, as I'm guessing is the case for some others at Microsoft because it is a large company with very specialized roles. Finding equivalent employment elsewhere that uses that expertise has proved to be a challenge this time around. Garden variety dev work abounds, especially if you're willing to move to the East Coast or Texas. But finding another company with a business need for another employee with my full skill set isn't easy.

I've had one very solid lead regarding a role that is the type I'm seeking. And it turned out there's an agreement that prevents that org from considering me until mid-2010, because of a non-poaching, NDA clause in some MS contract they have that applies even to the laid-off.

Anonymous said...

Looks like the analysts are predicting a decline in revenue for Microsoft this quarter. Any idea as to whether there will be layoffs this time ?

Anonymous said...

definitely more fat to cut. Especially in Frank Holland's world. $180/hr for Accenture vendor PMs? What's the deal? Arent we suppose to control costs?

Anonymous said...

So I heard the cartwheeling walmart boy described an Apple complaint call about obsolete laptop ads as the single greatest call of his business life.

I'm not yet entirely sold on his story about phone call from Apple. Lawyers only use for a phone is to have their secretaries take messages. I think he got pranked. But say the call was real and your baloney laptop hunter ads are helping you eke back half a point in a market where you have 90% share. I still would not describe one whiny phone call about that as the single greatest call of my business life.

For me that would have to be a call from a market research firm calling to say "Hey you broke Google's back" or "WinMo takes 90%" .. Sad to see SLT has such low goals. Keep on cart-wheeling walmart boy. What's next .. bouncy balling?

Anonymous said...

>15,000 more is my magic number.

Lots of groups have been shaved down but MSR doesn't appear to have had any formally announced cuts (correct me if this is inaccurate).

Research is useful for an R&D company if there's a lot of tech transfer. To that end, individual research groups should be evaluated to see how many are contributing to product teams.

Is a group producing only lots of papers more valuable than the disbanded Flight Sim team which was actually bringing in revenue?

Anonymous said...

After reading through all of these comments, I think the only rational conclusion anyone can make is that nobody posting here has a rational perspective on reality...

Anonymous said...

Garden variety dev work abounds, especially if you're willing to move to the East Coast or Texas. But finding another company with a business need for another employee with my full skill set isn't easy. .
.
I don't mean to single you out because I have no idea what your position or skill set is, but I am constantly amazed by all the PMs and testers at Microsoft who have degrees in CS but virtually no "hard" skill with computers. "I could be a dev if I wanted to but I'm not interested in coding" is the refrain I always hear, and it's true in rare cases, but is usually laughably false. I have interviewed several experienced PMs and testers for dev positions and they couldn't begin to answer my warm-up questions. Didn't know what shifting a number meant, didn't know which character signifies the end of a C string, etc. To me this is the same as getting a degree in medicine and then after a few years forgetting how many kidneys are in the human body. These sorts of people are thriving at Microsoft but would be complete non-starters at any other high-tech company I've worked for, for almost ANY position. I wonder if they realize how lucky they are to be at Microsoft and are appropriately worried about being laid off.

Anonymous said...

Nearly all the anti MS posts in this blog go something like this:

"The sky is falling, stop living in the MS bubble and you will see the dominance of google/apple/linux yaaaaaah!"

I find that highly amusing. Who really is living in the bubble?

Everyone who says how loathed Vista is, should look at the Ubuntu forums. There is a reason why Linux is still at 1%:



http://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?t=1136106
http://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?t=1140855
http://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?t=1133336
http://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?t=1141426
http://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?t=997919
http://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?t=1139592
http://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?t=1139572
http://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?t=1143729
http://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?t=1150169
http://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?t=1138706
http://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?t=1064810
http://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?t=837019
http://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?t=1129991
http://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?t=1211020
http://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?t=1211539
http://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?t=1212276
http://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?t=1182218


And ever looked at the apple support forums? Not exactly an island of peace:

http://discussions.apple.com/category.jspa?categoryID=235&start=0#threads

Quote from a thread:

http://discussions.apple.com/thread.jspa?threadID=2061619&tstart=0

Quote:

----

"These forums need MORE censorship, not less...

[......]
I am sick and tired of having to slog through the slanderous, irrational, vicious rants about all things Apple just to find some valid question from a user who actually needs help. There are numerous posts by some users presenting various theories about bugs, features, performance issues as FACT. The continuous flow of statements like "As we all know" do a disservice to users looking for advice. Then we have the statistics "gurus" who extrapolate negative experiences into diatribes about how some issue is "major" and/or "widespread". They count posts and views, then use this to "prove" that Apple is covering up something. It always boils down to smearing Apple with nefarious motives. Of course there's the ultimate "Apple is the new Microsoft" put down. I don't understand why the moderators don't control this stuff more. They used to. If want to read slanders and FUD about Apple and it's products I should have to go to a WIndows fanboy forum, NOT HERE.
"
--------------

Quote END



Now, this reminds me of something...

Or what about the linux hater's blog:

http://linuxhaters.blogspot.com/

Each entry generates around 1000-2000 comments, and most of them are about how linux sucks.

The measly MS hate here is nothing compared to that.

By the way, I am not a MS employee, nor do I have any relations to MS, I am just noticing that something is indeed changing, and many people here, who are hopelessly caught in the past, are not noticing: That the "alternatives" to Microsoft are not as universally loved as you may think. This was different a few years back.

Anonymous said...

I was then told that this was unacceptable and we had to be closer to 30% Exceeded. After very long discussions around why and how we ended up having to just take our “lowest stacked” Exceeded people and change them to Achieved to meet that “acceptable ratio”.

This seems completely opposite to what LisaB has previously said about Commitment Ratings and what is up on HR WEB



And that surprise you because... ?

Anonymous said...

"So I heard the cartwheeling walmart boy described an Apple complaint call about obsolete laptop ads as the single greatest call of his business life."

LOL. Suck on it, Apple troll.

Anonymous said...

I still don't understand why are we keep hiring contractors when cutting full timers. There are many teams I know they keep hiring contractors but will not keep full time. Even at the time of layoffs some full timers were removed keeping contractors. I believe the whole purpose of having contractors is to let them go if there is no budget. We can rearrrange fulltime into different teams and let most of the vendors and contractors go. This boosts morale of full timers and they feel more valuble than contractors. See google or any other company they remove contractors before removing full timers.

Anonymous said...

"For those naysayers who say the company is doomed, I'd like to remind you that has been said of many companies in the past - such as IBM -- and I invite you to check out their stock valuation today. (Hint: 4X ours)"

Yes, it has. And the overwhelming majority of times it's been right. IBM is a rare exception. HP too. Not a lot of others. Why? Because both have successfully reinvented themselves several times. IBM began life as a tabulating company; HP as a provider of test equipment. Neither company is even in that business directly anymore. You can argue that MS started life as a provider of Basic, but really that was the OS of the time. Today, MS still makes most of its revenue, and more than 100% of its profits, from Windows, Office, Servers. Just like it did ten years ago. That isn't the case with IBM or HP. Also, stock valuation alone tells you nothing. Presently, MS has both a higher marketcap and a higher P/E than IBM. Meaning it has a higher total valuation and is more expensive relative to each dollar of earnings it generates. But IBM has been announcing fantastic results, including this last report. Whereas MS has been reporting decreasing revenue and missing earnings for at least two quarters. It will probably be three after next week.

So yes, IBM shows it's rare but possible. It also shows the cost (they almost didn't make it at least once) and what's required. Is MS prepared to totally reinvent itself instead of focusing primarily on putting fingers in the increasingly leaky dikes of Windows and Office? Not so far. (Hint: 100% of people who took that approach aren't around anymore).

paulsc@exmsft.com said...

Finally, with Windows 7, I can set the clock to Coordinated Universal Time. People in the sciences, transportation industries, and US Armed Forces thank you.

Anonymous said...

To all those complaining about the review model: yes, it is fundamentally broken. I've worked with principals in some divisions who were entirely comparable with SDE II's in other divisions (and vice versa).

What you have to understand is that it is not going to get 'fixed'. There is no cost-efficient way to make it 'fair'. It is a game people play for money, and if you don't get what you deserve, you played that game badly. It is your mistake to think that you should be compensated according to your contribution and impact in the company.

Just take what you can get and decide how much of your personal time you are willing to give up for the amount of money on your paycheck.

Anonymous said...

RE: Sales. The principal mistake we're making as a company is to keep sales and support separate. This results in sales massaging the numbers to make the scorecard nice and dumping a mess of unrealizable promises on the poor folks who 'own' the relationship with the predictably frustrated customer later.

Anonymous said...

"As far as I can tell all of my peers and I have the same current thinking about Commitment Ratings, that they are about absolute performance vs. commitments and therefore that the Exceed/Achieved/Underperformed rating for employees is about pride in your work and having your manager recognize it. If we are going to force a specific ration of Exceeded to Achieved then the only way to avoid people having too many exceeds is to raise the bar on commitments, to the point where most will be achieved. However work/life balance goes out of the window if you do so.

Why do we need a specific ratio of Exceeded vs. Achieved if we already have the Contribution Ranking curve? Hypothetically wouldn’t it be good for the company if we set tough commitments and the majority of employees rose to the challenge and Exceeded them?

At the very least if our approach and philosophy has changed then we should communicate that to managers and employees and Lisa should just be honest that the changes she put in have now been reversed and we’re back to the same old 2.5-4.5 model."


If you've ever been able to successfully float 50% of a 30-person team as Exceeded, you're in a very, very rare part of the company.

The curve never went away, it's as strong now as it ever was. There's never been a single year since the roll-out of E/A/U that I've been able to get more than 20% of my team in the Exceeded bucket, and frankly it's usually more like 15%. The reasoning, of course, is that our bonus and stock rewards pool is slanted in favor of the top 20% of performers, and it's difficult to tell someone that they've exceeded expectations if you don't give them any money to back it up. Tends to make people stop trying. :P

So yeah, we still curving hardcore on both future potential with stock and performance with E/A/U. Sounds to me like you were in a weird bubble where you got away with ignoring the curve for a few years, but it eventually caught up with you.

Anonymous said...

I've had one very solid lead regarding a role that is the type I'm seeking. And it turned out there's an agreement that prevents that org from considering me until mid-2010, because of a non-poaching, NDA clause in some MS contract they have that applies even to the laid-off.



The Justice Department is investigating such non poaching agreements on the grounds that they constitute an attempt to rig the job market and keep salaries artificially low.

Here is the relevant article from the financial times.

Anonymous said...

Regarding the poster who didn't want to single me out for lamenting that "garden variety dev work abounds", and goes on with the apparent assumption that I didn't want dev work...

I have specific driver-related expertise. I DO want dev work, spare me PM or something else not allowed to check-in code. However, I don't want to work on algorithms for graphical games, or paging algorithms, or compilers, or user interfaces and reports. I want to work on a specific type of drivers that I can't name here without risk of identifying myself. While I could earn mid-level dev salary doing any one of the above, it's only in drivers that I get to continue to develop my senior-level skills in that field and am paid for all of my expertise, and there's a factor of 2 difference. Just because two jobs both require the use of the C language doesn't mean that both are equally a good "fit" for my resume and career goals, or that I am worth the same dollar amount to both of those employers based on what I bring to the table.

There are things that one learns doing a certain type of coding that make one better at that type of coding, but don't appreciable improve one's ability to do other things like embedded SQL, which I would have no idea how to do without consulting a manual and which form the bulk of some "C programming" positions. Being a senior driver dev doesn't make me a senior game dev or senior database dev. That's what I'm facing right now. Hopefully that is a more clear problem statement.

Anonymous said...

As someone that has been reading this blog from time to time, I find that the quality of posts/comments has taken a steep fall. The original poster and all the others have very little sense of how business is run OR how a business can be run.

Remember, MS is not a 100M $ org. There are several products with long legacies and several competitors to each product offering that MS has to offer. Plus MS has about 70~90K people.

Why wouldn't then MS layoff people then? Is it too hard to get it?

I do agree with some of the posters that MS has lost it's creative gene through these years. Reflecting on that, MS was never ever creative in the first place. MS's creativity is not in innovating products, but in innovating the market place with already working ideas.

XBox, Bing, Zune are all examples of MS adopting a market winning idea through sheer use of financial and software power. There is nothing wrong with that. Being an alternate comes with a certain revenue and the share price reflects accordingly.

MS is not a charity. I will never understand the punk's motive here. This is corporate America dude. Nobody cares what you think. You belong to the rank-and-file unless you are part of the shareholders. Will never get how an employee can be so attached to a corporation?

If you got laid off, move on.
If MS is not kind to you, move on.

Shit happens. No company is perfect. I work in a sort-a startup and it is the same way.

There was an ignorant poster asking why contractors and no FTE? Contracts are easy to fire and require no health insurance. Try to understand how much you cost for your company in terms of all the perks, benefits, free towels, sodas, gym membership, etc.

Get a life guys!!!

Anonymous said...

For the July 17, 2009 11:15:00 AM poster complaining about not getting a review model with 50% exceeded approved...

As others have already commented on, different parts of the company have different approaches but anything above 30%, or maybe even 35%, exceeded will draw scrutiny. Submitting such a model says 2 things:

1) The managers have not set level appropriate commitments. Sorry, but laws of larger numbers (with 30 interestingly being about minimum sample size you can realistically make this statement about), saying 15/30 truly exceeded appropriately aggressive commitments for that level really say both the individuals and managers are sandbagging on goals.

2) Review budget (sadly with no merit increases & reduced promo budget this year) is always a fixed amount. How were you going to reward this team of rock stars with a fixed budget? Screw others in the org by asking for an unbalanced model where you get more any they get less (since your shit obviously doesn't stink – way to alienate your peers)? Do you give all your achieved folks a 4% bonus? Give all your exceeded folks a 9% bonus? Ultimately, it's a zero sum game. I'd be looking for another team (even in a bad economy) if got an exceeded with 9%, as I would with an achieved (assuming it wasn't a "bottom of the bucket"==deserved 4%, like a 4% bonus in the 10% stock bucket).

While the review model is far from perfect, it is what it is. For me, I'm happy it's now a slightly flexible curve vs. rigidly enforced curve as it used to be for commitments, but let's be honest - it's still a curve. I know we all want lots of money and want to take care of our people, but I'd assert the principle of differentiating the truly top folks and sending a message to the true underperformers is good and is solid.

Mini, maybe looking at alternative review models is a good topic for a future post as we approach review models freezing and everyone starts to get (and gripe) about their numbers in Aug/Sept?

While I (as a manager of ~50) get frustrated by the review model too, after thinking long and hard about what should change I actually only have 2 suggestions.

A) Eliminate the forced curve for stock just as has been done for commitments. However, I think formalizing the flexibility helps better set/manage expectations. Keep 20/70/10, but allow a +/- 10% range for the 20/70 range and maybe only 5% for the 10%.

B) For L63+ only, Change comp for 10% "Kim II" (“plateaued”) folks to be slightly reduced stock (maybe a 50%-100% range?)but without the stigma associated with 10%. No shame in being a solid L64 who has peaked. For those under L63, sorry, if you've plateaued at that level - there are enough others who are still hungry and have not peaked that most managers would trade you out. Sorry if that sounds harsh or heartless, but it's also something pretty much every L65+ manager would tell you if you asked...

If anyone starts reacting to the %’s, go read HR web and see what flexibility the managers have to work with.

Anonymous said...

For those of you like Mini wishing for the next round of layoffs, you won't have to wait long. August 15th, 1000 heads.

Anonymous said...

I still don't understand why are we keep hiring contractors when cutting full timers.
Hiring contractors is cheap for MS. They don't have to spend on benefits, equipment, subsidies, and for many people, office space. Also they don't have potential legal liabilities they would have with full timers(things like race discrimination issues, equal opportunity related matters, performace reviews, etc etc). It's easy to fire and replace contractors. At the same time MS keeps all these contractors hooked up to MS technology. It's a Win for MS, a Win for agencies, and a so-so-Win for contractors as they get jobs even though at a very low pay.

Anonymous said...

"Move quality upstream! Inother words, make the developers do testing and write tools (in and of itself not necessarily bad)"

Can't imagine why any halfway decent tester would be worried about that. Developers aren't any worse at writing tests as they are at writing code and lots of them aren't any better either if you know what I mean. On top of that they hate being forced to clean up their own messes so they don't put that much work into it anyway.

Anonymous said...

Some green shoots, maybe. Turning the corner, not yet.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

what is the typical bonus an exceeded 20% get? 6%, 10% of your salary?

do leads get paid more than ICs at the same level? i.e a Lvl 63 dev lead vs a Lvl63 SDE?

Anonymous said...

Will there be any performance pruning after the year end review?

Anonymous said...

>>>>"Move quality upstream! Inother words, make the developers do testing and write tools (in and of itself not necessarily bad)"


>>Can't imagine why any halfway decent tester would be worried about that.

OP here. From an engineering perspective, couldn't agree more. However, this company is run predominantly by business people.

The last few years have demonstrated that the non-coding tester is not valued - we got rid of STEs. Those remaining have automated the hell out of everything, and Test has the largest proportion of vendors (many offshore).

I'm wondering if the desire is not so much to push quality upstream, but reduce the number of SDETs needed to a bare minimum.

Anonymous said...

>>I have specific driver-related expertise. I DO want dev work, spare me PM or something else not allowed to check-in code<<

Try Google. According to the posts here, ChromeOS is about to topple Windows afterall. They'll be needing your skills pretty soon.

Anonymous said...

Mini, if you want to see fat trimmed, I've got bad news for you - in the wake of decent performance in one very large sales group, they've inserted new layers of management all over the place. It definitely reeks of a VP inventing jobs to help out their friends get promoted, and build up a fiefdom.

If this kind of stuff is still possible by a newly minted VP in a group that should have a lot of executive attention, then Microsoft hasn't learned anything about being lean.

Anonymous said...

Its time MS relooks at the Services strategy. We need to move out of being just a support org to EPG and SMS&P and start being a true Services org. There is a lot of scope to collaborate with partners and work closely on various integtration projects. Services needs to move beyond the MS product,acquire skills on other products which integrates with MS products to compete with organisations like IBM and HP. There is a big Pie the competetors and Partners are enjoying.

Also we need to bring down the cost of delivery considerably to become competetive. Services org is trying out small time things to reduce cost, but are bound by the policies by Corp and thus unable to make large changes.

For e.g., I am not sure why we can't outsource under a controlled environment, a portion of the Premier deliveries. We could offload the most common deliveries like Adrap, Exrap etc., thus cutting the delivery cost. This will also help show higher value for money for the customers and thus build more trust.

Also the TAMs should be allowed to do their delivery management role and not asked to sell. Customers are increasing seeing TAMs as burden. TAMs were trusted advisors until they were not talking about $$s. The only best story about Premier was the TAM. We are increasing seeing that this is being diluted.

High time the services start standing up on their own legs and show a new path towards MS success. Other competetors are making large part of their revenue from services.

This way employee would benefit, customer would benefit and MS would obviously benefit.

Just a broad thought.......

Anonymous said...

To the manager who submitted 50% Exceeded for calibration...

Are you serious? That alone speaks volumes about your own leadership and your own management... not sure if you realize that or not but suffice to say you have almost certainly been "labelled" by your leadership and not the good label either.

Anonymous said...

"I'd like to remind you that has been said of many companies in the past - such as IBM -- and I invite you to check out their stock valuation today. (Hint: 4X ours)"

MS is a $16 to $20 stock based on earnings and revenue growth (decline really). $24 already reflects undue optimism about a PC rebound and the impact of Windows 7. The path of least resistance is lower: MS <$20 before year end.

Non-MSFT said...

August 15th? How do you know? Best of luck to everyone.

Anonymous said...

>For those of you like Mini wishing >for the next round of layoffs, you >won't have to wait long. August 15>th, 1000 heads.


Which groups or all the goups..?? is it going to be performance based.. like 10% will be cut.?

Anonymous said...

FIRE RAY OZZIE (BLOATWARE, OLDWARE, NOVISIONWARE, HIDDENWARE, SILENTWARE)

The creator of Lotus Notes and Groove is our savior? First of all, where is he? Second, what has he done? Third, does he have an email account? Fourth, did we keep the receipt because I'd like to return Ray and Groove and get our money back.

shareholder

Anonymous said...

"There was an ignorant poster asking why contractors and no FTE? Contracts are easy to fire and require no health insurance."

Actually you are the one ignorant of the facts. Employees can be fired at any time, for any reason or no reason. Employees can equally quit at any time with or without notice. Hence the term 'at will employment'. Contractors on the other hand have an employment contract which specifies the rights and obligations of each party.

FTEs reading this can check this out by going to http://hrweb and opening any policy or employee handbook ... more often that not you are required to sign your name to attest that the contents therein do not alter the nature of your at-will employment nor do they constitute an employment contract, or some such LCA verbiage.

As for 'contractors require no health insurance' is a crock of shit. Independent contractors or agency contractors all get health insurance in some ways and it is built into the rate that MS pays.

There is no actual financial advantage, in fact quite the contrary, to employing v- as compared with FTE. But it looks good to Wall Street! You remember them don't you ... the same sage ones who led us into the global financial meltdown ... OY why do we listen to these schmucks?

Anonymous said...

"August 15th, 1000 heads."

Man, that's brutal. They're going to call everybody in a Saturday to fire them?

Obvious troll is obvious.

Anonymous said...

There was an ignorant poster asking why contractors and no FTE? Contracts are easy to fire and require no health insurance. Try to understand how much you cost for your company in terms of all the perks, benefits, free towels, sodas, gym membership, etc.

The contract agencies get an incredible amount of money per person. There's not as much of a difference as you'd expect, and you give up a lot. Contractors are able to take advantage of some of the perks that FTE's get.

In cases where the project cycle is longer than 1 year, most projects would be better off getting a qualified FTE or a vendor to do the work.

The quality of available vendors and contractors in the area seems to have really dropped off over the last few years. Don't know why, since there should be a lot of people that have been laid off from other jobs.

Anonymous said...

"Microsoft Has Turned The Corner"

Good. But the industry and customers didn't wait around. If this had occurred five years ago, MS might have retaken leadership. But technology and business models have now permanently shifted in ways that are detrimental to MS's incumbent positions. And Apple and Google have become too well positioned and too strong financially in this new world to be caught and passed.

Turning the corner late is still better than not. But MS's golden years are definitely behind it.

Anonymous said...

"Actually you are the one ignorant of the facts. Employees can be fired at any time, for any reason or no reason. Employees can equally quit at any time with or without notice. Hence the term 'at will employment'. Contractors on the other hand have an employment contract which specifies the rights and obligations of each party.

There is no actual financial advantage, in fact quite the contrary, to employing v- as compared with FTE. But it looks good to Wall Street! You remember them don't you ... the same sage ones who led us into the global financial meltdown ... OY why do we listen to these schmucks?"


Please don't offer uninformed opinions as facts -- you don't know what you're talking about.

First of all, as anyone who has ever tried to fire someone at Microsoft can tell you, the process is a massive pain in the ass and takes a long time and a lot of work unless something illegal has happened. If I have a contractor I can't stand, however -- I call the agency and they don't come back the next day.

"At will" employment is great for the employee, but a myth for a company like Microsoft that regularly gets sued for wrongful termination. We are very careful about how we terminate people and it's not a simple process.

As for total cost of FTE vs. contingent -- the cost of a fully burdened FTE head at Microsoft is more than the cost of a contractor (including all benefits, stock, bonuses, etc.) in most cases, especially if you're only using the contractor for a 6 or 9 months. You can also bring people in with domain skills you need but who might not meet the bar for long-term hire potential.

So again, please don't spout off a bunch of nonsense and claim that it's a fact.

Anonymous said...

In India SMSG - Many Managers and Directors have been instructed to take up IC roles. The ex-EPG GM's hand picked Directors have been given redundant roles. Some of the "fastrack Directors" (those who could strike a deal too fast with their managers for promotion) like HD have been given new lease of life. The Flambouyant Neeraj Dotel - who announced his exit from MS to all partners and customers has been shown door by many employers (including Oracle) has "decided to stay back" in his ex-role as BFSI Sales Manager (managing fewer Accounts than before).Probably to save Microsort India from Devastation:)))). Heard last - he is working hard on giving up Alcohol and reaching work on time. Nitin Mirchandani - the guy who is still wondering why he got "Circle of Excellence' last year, who has seldom faced the customer - has become an ATU lead :))))))

All a**-lickers have been relocated and given portfolio requested for.

1. Is it just in India or does sycophancy work well in other regions as well...

While Mini's poster reads "Microsoft has Turned the Corner" Here in India we are working two steps ahead - " Creating Tsunami for Future"

Anonymous said...

I don't know, Mini. Something about your lack of compassion for people, both still employed (I now have more than twice the work due to the layoffs) and who've lost their jobs just makes me question your overall judgment. Dumping fifteen thousand more desperate technical employees into an already shaky local economy amidst all the other bloodletting going on would turn Seattle into the Flint Michigan of high tech. Not exactly a recipe to retain the high quality of life here that attracts so many smart, desirable employees to MS in the first place.

I'm sick of people saying this stuff isn't personal, and it is not the business of Microsoft to give people jobs. It's more complicated than that. Why do we want to strike a massive blow to consumer confidence and community integrity just so we can work fewer people harder without changing our sluggish corporate culture? Why can't Microsoft become leaner and more creative by changing its behavior and priorities? Fewer wasteful meetings and habitual bureaucracy, more focus on fostering creativity and producing results? Why have we been doing everything the same way for 10 years? Why aren't there more options for people to earn less and work less (flex time?) Why is wrecking people's lives and firing thousands the first answer you can come up with?

Anonymous said...

"The quality of available vendors and contractors in the area seems to have really dropped off over the last few years. Don't know why, since there should be a lot of people that have been laid off from other jobs."

Funny I would say the same thing about FTEs. To be fair I don't know why either, but as usual I have some ideas:

- retarded interviewing and hiring practices, which emphasize MACH at the expense of hiring people who transcend college grades, and approach hiring as a collective decision rather than holding the hiring manager accountable
- poor grasp of customer issues and how hiring the right people might address those
- internal listening systems that would capture the real world experiences of new hires

But mostly it is the fact that we are no longer cool. Apple is cool, Google is cool, maybe Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn are cool. But Microsoft is a club of old farts trying to stay marginally relevant, hence only a refuge for the desperate and marginally employable.

Anonymous said...

I'm sick of people saying this stuff isn't personal, and it is not the business of Microsoft to give people jobs.


The "it's not personal, it's just business" line that is often repeated in times of layoffs is pure BS. It is ALWAYS personal. It was personal when they told you that you had to "own" your job. It was personal when you spent your evenings at work to meet a deadline, forgoing time with your family.
So if it was personal all that time that you worked for them, it sure is personal when they lay you off and screw you out of your upcoming stock award, killing your kids' chance at a college education in the process.

Anonymous said...

do leads get paid more than ICs at the same level?

No.

what is the typical bonus an exceeded 20% get? 6%, 10% of your salary?

Minimum of 15%.

Anonymous said...

First of all, as anyone who has ever tried to fire someone at Microsoft can tell you, the process is a massive pain in the ass and takes a long time and a lot of work unless something illegal has happened.

I understant you are one of those hypocritical managers in Microsoft. Was it a massive pain for you or for the person whom you have fired? I am not going to redescribe all those firing ( either performance pruning or layoff) by Microsoft which was an agonising experience for the employee.

"At will" employment is great for the employee, but a myth for a company like Microsoft that regularly gets sued for wrongful termination.


Microsoft have recently fired lots of employee without any notice and in the final meeting both the HR and the manager showed this "At Will" excuse. But I think most of them would do the inverse. Before moving on to another offer they would actually spend some time with his team based on the business needs. But Microsoft executed these firing very clumsily and as a consequence many people found themselves in a quandary.

Anonymous said...

"what is the typical bonus an exceeded 20% get? 6%, 10% of your salary?

Minimum of 15%."

Depends on your organization. It's 12.5% in MCS.

Anonymous said...

"Please don't offer uninformed opinions as facts -- you don't know what you're talking about.

First of all, as anyone who has ever tried to fire someone at Microsoft can tell you, the process is a massive pain in the ass and takes a long time and a lot of work unless something illegal has happened. If I have a contractor I can't stand, however -- I call the agency and they don't come back the next day.

"At will" employment is great for the employee, but a myth for a company like Microsoft that regularly gets sued for wrongful termination. We are very careful about how we terminate people and it's not a simple process.

As for total cost of FTE vs. contingent -- the cost of a fully burdened FTE head at Microsoft is more than the cost of a contractor (including all benefits, stock, bonuses, etc.) in most cases, especially if you're only using the contractor for a 6 or 9 months. You can also bring people in with domain skills you need but who might not meet the bar for long-term hire potential."

Boy who got up on the wrong side of the bed?

a) You are confusing "contractor" and "contract". And having been in the situation of dealing with v- performance issues it is nowhere near as simple as you state.
b) You can fire an employee any time you like. You should engage HR first but are not required to do so.
c) Suing for wrongful termination is much narrower than the paranoid think. Either the employee needs to have been discriminated against i.e. being a member of a 'protected class' or dismissed in retaliation for say being a whistleblower. The former is next to impossible to prove unless the firing manager is a complete moron.
d) Contractor costs vs. FTE costs are not that far apart. Finance uses a $155k annual figure for FTE costs. Any contractor billing $80+ per hour costs more than that.

As for 'spouting uninformed nonsense' I will leave the ad hominem without retort, and instead tell you that my nonsense is very well informed indeed.

Anonymous said...

"Why can't Microsoft become leaner and more creative by changing its behavior and priorities?"

Because it hasn't in ten years despite the increasingly obvious need to.

Anonymous said...

"At Will Employment" works perfectly in the right setting but it does put more ownership and accountibility on the manager to actually do thier job and be competent in order to be a successful employment approach. We all know most front line maangers at MS are woefully inexperienced and largely unprepared to manage people initially and unsupported over time with mentors or training so the problem just continues to be exasorbated. MS continues to resist measuring people management in a meaningful way that impacts annual rewards for managers so there is no real driver for improvement. IC contributions even for managers are generally the focus in annual review for front line managers and small team managers so it is no mystery why people management gets little attention by those managers which is where it has the most impact.

Furthermore, the Management Excellence inititive is a joke which is an excellent indicator of the overall people management priority within MS despite some flavor of "people" being a #1 priority and commitment for almost every VP. It is not neccisarily the fault of the MELT but three years in, there really is no solid exec sponsorship to drive improved management across MS other than marching to the Poll numbers which are not indicative of anything "real". The exec leadership role for Talent Mgmt is a revoling door on the way to other priorities in the company and the MELT is struggling to maintain active membership past a core group of 15-20 people in part because there is no meaningful reward or recognition for managers to devote hours to that effort in leiu of their day job. Not to mention a number of the past core MELT managers were recently laid off, fired or removed from management back into IC roles... that is an interesting message to say the least. I feel for the folks in HR who are driving this as their primary day job... it must be a tedious job given the clarity around its lack of support broadly at MS.

of note, this is not unique to MS... almost all companies have this same problem so it is not a MS specific problem but one that if we chose to invest in, the return would be exponential but I think our current SLT has a hard time understanding that.

Anonymous said...

"First of all, as anyone who has ever tried to fire someone at Microsoft can tell you, the process is a massive pain in the ass and takes a long time and a lot of work unless something illegal has happened."

I understant you are one of those hypocritical managers in Microsoft. Was it a massive pain for you or for the person whom you have fired? I am not going to redescribe all those firing ( either performance pruning or layoff) by Microsoft which was an agonising experience for the employee.


You need to take a step back from personal experience.

I've fired good people who simply didn't have the right skills to succeed -- which is painful for everyone involved -- and I've fired bad people who, upon finally ridding the company of their malignant presence, caused me to go celebrate. How I feel about each circumstance is different, but it's always difficult.

What's the same in every case of firing someone -- with the one exception of the guy who was stealing lab equipment and selling it VIA THE OLD MICRONEWS, for chrissakes -- is that terminating employment at Microsoft is a long and difficult process for everyone involved that doesn't happen over night or on a whim.

Layoffs are not the same as firing someone -- they happen in large numbers and the decisions are made at a much higher level. Layoffs feel like being fired to the person on the receiving end, but there's very little that individual managers can do to exert any influence on that process and so, from the manager perspective, it's nothing like firing someone.

Anonymous said...

Actually you are the one ignorant of the facts. As for 'contractors require no health insurance' is a crock of shit. Independent contractors or agency contractors all get health insurance in some ways and it is built into the rate that MS pays.
WRONG. Get your facts first before posting. Contractors can choose whether they want the health insurance offered by the agency or not. You get a higher pay rate if you don't choose what the agency is offering as far as health benefits, and other benefits for that matter. You can get health insurance on your own outside if you choose to do so or just be one of the 40-plus million uninsured folks out there in the country.

Anonymous said...

The "it's not personal, it's just business" line that is often repeated in times of layoffs is pure BS. It is ALWAYS personal. It was personal when they told you that you had to "own" your job. It was personal when you spent your evenings at work to meet a deadline, forgoing time with your family. .
.
No, they just tricked you into thinking it was personal. I admit, it IS deceptive on their part. They flatter you, say you're the best of the best, give you a bunch of benefits, tell you you're doing critical/important work, etc. Ultimately the company's loyalty to you (or the community) is not an official priority for anyone--not your lead, not your manager, not the executives, not the shareholders, etc.

Anonymous said...

"But Microsoft is a club of old farts trying to stay marginally relevant, hence only a refuge for the desperate and marginally employable."

Couldn't agree with you more. Very true at least India Area Sub!

Anonymous said...

Windows 7 will shake up the industry! be sure to check out NDF, the most amazing feature in Win7 @@

Anonymous said...

what, did mini get promoted? no, ms hasn't turned the corner. just go play that carol bartz f-bomb video on product managers and developers.

Warnie said...

As an outsider with a vested interest (you don't want my list of Microsoft certifications and the systems I've supported in the last 15 years), the biggest problem with Microsoft, in my opinion, is the absolute lack of brand cohesion.

Ignore Google. Who cares if Google is becoming the "new" Microsoft?

Microsoft is spread too thin in too many markets. It's making the company too fat and straying the company away from real innovation and change and, for the average consumer, they see a lot of things with a Microsoft name but they don't see where they all fit in. There's no "grand scheme".

Ditch Bing. Microsoft's track record in the search engine market has been absolutely dismal. Pepping it up (again) and giving it a new name (again) isn't going to magically make it better.

Sorry Zune owners, but Microsoft needs to either ditch Zune or let it 'hacker' friendly to push units which people put third-party software on. The Zune is just one of many media players on the market and Microsoft was betting on their brand name catapulting it to near-iPod levels of success. It didn't happen and it's not going to happen. Stop pouring money into that sieve.

Xbox: As an Xbox owner, I'll say this is the one Microsoft brand I will defend as vehemently as an Apple fanboy. However, fire the people who designed the 360 because they've cost you billions. Redesign a new 360 with less hardware failures. Get the Xbox "house" in order so hardware problems don't continue to drain your resources.

WinMo: No point anymore. Get rid of it.

Microsoft Stores: Nix this idea before it even starts. Do you realize how much money this is going to suck out of Microsoft to lease retail locations, contract with OEMs to display product, hire local employees, supply inventory, pay real estate utility bills and taxes...

Windows 7 is not going to be the panacea many think it's going to be. The company I work for has already decided to wait a year, possibly two, before moving from XP Pro to Seven. I know we're not the only ones to make such a decision. Frankly, 7 is much like Vista, glitz and glam with little innovation in the substance, and a lot of that glitz and glam confuses the average user.

Microsoft really needs to get back to its roots (to an extent) and focus on "turning the corner" by addressing anti-Microsoft sentiment within the big three money makers: Windows, Server, and Office.

By cutting a lot of these failed experiments out and properly fixing the Xbox 360 failure problems, Microsoft can recoup a lot of money and get back to basics. Then, and only then, will they be free to actually start INNOVATING again.

Anonymous said...

MSFT should prove it in the 2010 results. FY09 results are disastrous, worse then any tech company of this size.

lalita said...

PM heavy to say the least! The Admins take on more logistic handling, timeline juggling, dev motivating tasks then the PM. I'm sorry but still too much time spent in meetings and too many redundant reports. I love Microsoft, still a diehard fan which is why the last 5 years has been a major tug on my heart strings. Mini, love your work keep it up!

Anonymous said...

Always interesting to read comments here that are critical of the MS strategy in search when it is clear the vast majority of our employee population doesnt get it and (wrongly) focuses on search results and the current state of the search experience as the "strategy".

Anonymous said...

Perhaps Microsoft has turned a corner, just remember if you turn three more you are back where you started.
The challenge ahead is that the growth for the high profit margin products is limited.
In marketing you have the following options:
New products to new customers (lots of growth hard sale)
New products to existing customers (good growth, easy selling)
Existing products to new customers (marginal growth - very hard for MSFT, there are not a lot of new customers for the current products)
Exisiting products to existing customers (new releases - no real growth just selling the same to same).
All the products mini is talking about are existing ones in new packages. That is not going to get you a lot of growth and it not the corner you really wanted to turn.

Omega said...

I can't really get a lock on a name for the mentality.

But no corner is turned here. Microsoft still resorts to these enormous and cumbersome handles to refer to their problems.

You can't admit to screwing up and be to the point of looking back on it in one step. You've skipped the entire "learning from your mistake" phase.

Slow down and stop trying to save face. It's the #1 source of your mistakes!