Sunday, March 27, 2005

Microsoft Toast

It takes a crisis to raze a company.

Financial Times article reference from a recent comment:

and as if on cue we get:

"Is Microsoft Toast?"

ht tp://

Well, Thomas Hazlett's " Is Microsoft Toast" article at least ends on a high-note:

Its dominance challenged, Microsoft is naturally striking back – with a new, more bug-resistant Internet Explorer web browser, with vastly expanded email (Hotmail and MSN) offerings, and an array of intensive counter measures. This looming competitive Armageddon may well rock Microsoft to its core, it most certainly will produce a new bundle of benefits for consumers – something the “antitrust case of the century” never did.

High-note to me because a rocking of Microsoft to the core, let alone an Armageddon, will hopefully be an all-around beeyotch-slap to our fouled-up product-team bureaucracies that also blows away the process-for-the-sake-of-process-to-keep-all-these-middle-managers-employed. I truly believe all these people we've hired has resulted in us shipping less products than more. There are more people in a product-planning room telling why it's too difficult and hard to ship a feature vs. defending why it's so desperately needed and would make us money. Small teams with a vision and a touch of enthused-naiveté would help us start the long scramble upwards.

Note: Scoble has a post related to this as well: Financial Times asks if Microsoft is feeling the heat.

A few more random things:

  • Unsurprisingly, lots of interesting comments in Better off without Ballmer?
  • Another call-out from the world of PSS in comment that says that any cut-backs right now are unbalanced and especially hurting the public-face of Microsoft as our support quality dwindles.
  • Sorry, no apologies from me from being too Redmond-centric. Though it's very interesting to hear what's happening in the rest of Microsoft in the US / World because, well, I don't have much visibility into the goings on in North Carolina.


Anonymous said...

Sorry, no apologies from me from being too Redmond-centric. Though it's very interesting to hear what's happening in the rest of Microsoft in the US / World because, well, I don't have much visibility into the goings on in North Carolina.

Hey, just so long as somebody acknowledges that we're down here, that's fine. It's understood that PSS does the grunt-work of Microsoft; we're not sexy and cool like the coders (though our CPR guys try to be), and we have to interact with those evil customers. The problem comes when managers, and fellow employees, begin to think that we're not at all important and, as such, subject to whatever inane idea flies by today.

Most of us are as dedicated to Microsoft as any Redmond-ite--probably even more, since we don't get near the attention you do--and we want to succeed as well. Crazy as it may sound, being a phone monkey is an enjoyable career. I'll be the first to admit (saying "I" because I can't speak for everyone in PSS) it's a case of jealousy. Some of us have been sent up to Redmond for various training or mentoring stints, and have come back ready to apply for virtually any job up there. We are jealous, and we're indignant that our contribution isn't taken as seriously as we perceive yours as being. If I'm way off-base here, please let me know. Redmond is not the Utopia of Microsoft--as your blog clearly demonstrates--but are our concerns down here unfounded?

Thanks for the specific mention of my comment; I'll try to post more.

Anonymous said...

If MSFT gets rocked to the core by market forces, it will be very ugly and the entity that comes out the other side - assuming one does - may well be smaller but not necessarily more efficient. In particular, many of the best/brightest will simply depart for greener pastures leaving the people you're against with possibly an even higher representation in the new entity. The new smaller entity would also be unlikely to again dominate as MSFT has and shareholders (who have already lost 3 ENRONs)would be further decimated during the process and likely never come back to the name. Much better for all involved for MSFT to take aggressive action now voluntarily (as you and others have suggested) vs leaving it until no other choice is possible. Unfortunately, I don't think it's something that Gates/Ballmer will do unless pressure is applied. So that leaves appealing to large external shareholders and unfortunately many of them are dependent on MSFT corporate business or hope to be. Plus, it's not their money being lost. Still, if we could get the list from IR, parse it for pension funds or related (that aren't in bed with corporate and actually have their own money on the line), find the right contact and ensure that they have this URL and the concerns being raised here, you might get one or two to champion the cause - especially since they should already be concerned. And with so much destruction of shareholder value, that's all it would likely take to get general shareholders out en masse and get some real change quickly. Is CALpers invested for example? They've championed other similar causes...

Anonymous said...

>>we have to interact with those evil customers.<<

And don't forget about the dinosaurs. I guess working at Redmond is better than PSS because PSS are the ones the dinosaurs are trying to eat.

Anonymous said...

While getting rid of some employee deadwood would help the bottom line, I don't think it'd address the core issue: there don't seem to be a whole lot of ideas for innovative products swirling around at MS. I left the company last year [after 7 years], partially because I couldn't find anything [other than MSN & Xbox] that wasn't shackled to one of the gargantuan black holes: Longhorn, Office, Visual Studio or SQL. And none of those are likely to get the average consumer very excited. So if you just got rid of people, you'd just end up with less people ... still working on the same tired old stuff. Good for a short blip on the bottom line, but not exactly a long-term strategy.

Anonymous said...

I'll agree with what the previous post says - its a paradigm shift that really needs to happen.

IMO, one of the major changes that needs to happen is that FTE's need to stop looking up to BillG as the Great Infalliable One - its something thats tightly coupled with the culture of the company. Bill is Microsoft. Everyone aspires to be like Bill and drive a blue lexus or whatever.
What people are forgetting is he's not only smart but he's also human - heck he had to revise his book in 1995 to include a chapter on the internet. If you think he's going to come back from his think-week (In Secret Hideaway,
Bill Gates Ponders
Microsoft's Future"
) like Moses and guide us out of the desert, then I'm afraid you're sadly misguided.

Anonymous said...

Uh oh. Looks like lowly tech is no more :-\

Anonymous said...

Are there any reasons to stay at Microsoft anymore?

In other words, why are you still here?

Anonymous said...

I love how all the Indians are always defending Microsoft - maybe because they think MS is opening Hyberabad to help India or some nonsense like that (you know instead of a software sweatshop - India the new Mexico!). Everytime management does something stupid, (cutting ESPP, drug benefits, towels) you can guarantee a whole lot of Indians defending them for whatever reason.

Just lovely!

Anonymous said...

Any reasons to stay? While they might be doing dumb things and trimming benefits a bit, they still deliver paychecks and good benefits. As long as you don't care about believing what they're doing, it's still a good place to work.

Anonymous said...

I worked for MSFT for about 5 years, and loved most of the experiences. However there is a serious darkside: 50% of your job is doing your job the other 50% is politics and posturing. I have worked with or on Microsoft products for the greater part of 15 years. There really hasnt been any geniune innovation for almost a decade.

I am not sure if Microsoft will be made into toast by a competitor or just from its own weight. With greater than 92% of the desktop os and office productivitiy suite in the US the only way to go is flat or down. Microsoft spends so much money protecting that Marketshare and Billg hates every dime spent. If he had his way he would spend nothing on PSS or Sales of his products. Most sales people at MSFT are so proud of their results. The sales people have no impact on sales, most of their sales are based on run-rate and back room deals struck with the customer and a senior vp at MSFT.

I remember walking around Campus and seeing the posters of the Map of the world and the statistics of the countries with the most piracy. Piracy is one of the largest competitors of Microsoft.

Microsoft should/has to build offices throughout the world. The only way Microsoft will grow revenues is if they can sell their software to markets they have not reached before. Moving into China/India/Middle East is a good strategic move.

Microsoft is also tired of paying top american dollars for software development. The American coder knows his value and forces companies to pay up and corporate america hates it! So they go to India and employ some fine coders for next to nothing. Microsoft gets what it wants: cheaper products, cheap labor, and a new market to sell into.

Lets talk about MS Office. MS Word has not changed a bit. Writing documents and constructing words into sentences has not been revolutionized by Microsoft. Excel has not changed and neither has mathematics or GAAP. The coolest thing to happen to powerpoint has been animation. Outlook has been the real reason people purchase office due to the relationship with Exchange and the better security aspects. Which leads me to the next paragraph.

Sooner or later Corporate America is going to wake up and go... hmmm openOffice works pretty well and I pay less than pennies for my enterprise. Wow, all that money I spent with Microsoft can be used for projects that empower innovation such as RF, datawarehousing, and operations/automation softare. Maybe we can put that money into better benefits to attract better employees. Or perhaps we too can fund ventures in some third world country to outsource American jobs.

Exporting American jobs will kill corporate americas principal consumer: Americans. One of the principal reasons for the great depression was that there was not enough consumer spending because the people could not afford to purchase the products they made in the factories.

Microsoft has profited off of the consumer by selling new versions of products that are just improvments in security. Windows Server 2003 was mostly a security update. Active Directory improved some, DFS, and IIS improvements.

Windows XP was just a dressed up version of Windows 2000 client with some cartoon interface and a great marketing campaign. Sure there are some security improvments, in XP SP2, but again these are improvements that should have been in the original release.

Now lets talk about the organization. There are so many layers of management. When I was there I think there were 10 people between me and Bill Gates. Why? There were managers of managers of managers of managers... and it keeps on going. You get to the director level at Microsoft and wonder 'Why are these people here?' What do they do for the stock holders? You eventually find out that they are the buddy of the buddy of some serious big shot at Microsoft. Wow, how exciting. A bunch of people that know nothing about the business of technology, let alone technology, hired because of buddy nepotism. Yikes. It got so bad once that my managers wife was on my virtual team. Wow did she have the power. She was nothing more than an admin at Microsoft but when she spoke people were afraid for their jobs.

I could go on and on. I have even considered writing a book about the inside of Microsoft but I am sure I am not alone on that venture. I have so many stories about life on campus. About people so stressed out that they nearly killed everyone in the office. What is unfortunate is that Microsoft used to be a magical company, an inovative company. Now it is just the GM of Software! It is rusting!