Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Microsoft FY06Q3 Results

Update: added discussion of the released financials. Plus Ballmer talking about firing people. And Intel's restructuring.

Another quarter, another check-in with FY06 for MSFT. So how is it looking?

Pre-discussion of the earning results:

Post-discussion earning results: Yee-ouch! Right in the kisser! You'd think we done good. Except for meeting expectations. And how does The Street treat those who come up short?

It slaps them with a 2.5.

Let's see, after hours check-in has us down over 6% to $25.59. Yes, the commenter who sold at $27 yesterday is looking pretty bright right tonight. So we did not meet expectations.

The webcast was pretty boring, until after just over an hour Rick Sherlund of Goldman Sachs probed quite deftly regarding how the numbers didn't seem to add up and that there had to be some kind of mystery project going on to represent a big chunk of extra expense. A two-point-four billion dollar mystery. Liddell was mum. Discussion:

Snippet in the InformationWeek link:

"The revenues looks good…but your expenses are more than $2.4 billion more than I estimated....There's something really big here. It sounds like you're building a Google or a Yahoo and Ray Ozzie has said this is really expensive. It looks like you're ramping up your online business and the decision is to take the benefits of next year's product cycle to gear up for a battle in the online market," said Rick Sherlund, partner with Goldman Sachs as he tried to suss out what was going on.

SQL server has been a knock-out winner. Xbox 360 has been a wonderful way to burn through cash.

General round-up:

Meanwhile, in the world, Mr. Ballmer goes and describes how everyone needs to fire as many people as Microsoft does (ar-roo? I'd like to see that!) and Intel slaps down a painful reality-check restructuring. I think Mr. Ballmer needs to be taking some advice vs. giving it. I know, I know... get Vista wrapped up and then whip-out the bitter medicine. Even Mr. Johnson is noting that Windows has more people than it needs. If you're in one of the groups that Kevin notes as being part of the redundant overhead (e.g., photos), you know it's time to start looking around before someone starts arranging the chairs and plays the arr-i-eff music.

In other going ons...

(1) Jamie has done it again over at Channel9 with C9Park: Browser Wars. Yes, I laughed pretty hard at Han Scoble but ever more at Princess LisaB.

(2) Mr. Scoble had an interesting post this week... what was it again... oh yes: How Microsoft can shut down Mini-Microsoft. When I first saw the title my mind raced wondering just what the heck kind of break Scoble had been on. Re-education with a head-mounted cage and a hungry rat? Then I read it and appreciated its forward looking optimism.

Yes, please: marginalize me! Nothing would make me happier than to put up the post titled My Work Here is Done. (Well, I guess that could have multiple meanings.) Basically, address the pillars that have become the foundation of this blog and not only can I go back to more date nights with my beloved Buttercup but also we all end up with an efficient Microsoft with well compensated and empowered employees along with delighted, happy shareholders, customers, and partners. Win. Win. Win. Win.

(3) DerekDB, a wonderful Ex-Microsoftie (bad attrition again), has landed a one-two punch with a couple of recent posts. In More Developers != More Features he discusses the mis-middle-management going ons with Longhon / Vista, including this snippet:

Vista isn't neutered and delayed because of any lack of people. It is a mess because of middle management. [...] At least at the time I left (6 months ago), I saw very little evidence that the management of these failed projects was getting any kind of a slap on the wrist. The problem is that in an org that large with that my dependencies, it was impossible to tell which team was actually mismanaged, and which team just was dragged down by the other mismanaged teams.

And while still running hot off of this, Visual Studio (perhaps in some sort of revenge) starts letting loose the grief upon Derek: VisualStudio ...oh my.... I've mentioned woes people have had with VS before (VS2005 specifically). Derek's thoughts here:

What developer wants to waste time with this crap? It is embarrassing (for Microsoft) that I've had such better experiences with Sun's JDK and Eclipse. Sure, VS is faster, but what good is faster, when it doesn't work?

How are the VS service packs coming, anyways? Anyone in VS-land willing to reach-out to Derek and pick him up as a buddy as we fix VS bugs and work towards Orcas? I think you'd have a wonderful time.

(4) Dare has a couple of interesting posts, too: New Features aren't Innovation and Our Org Chart is %@&$'d Up (sorry... prude here). Plus a goodbye to Gretchen (hmm, that one has some whispering in Scoble's ear).

Thursday, April 20, 2006

MS Poll 06 and Happy Booming Brains

So, have you filled out your MS Poll for the year? It doesn't take long, especially if you don't have any extra comments to throw into the mix. I guess if you're a Partner you get the special leadership questions. So put a reminder on your Outlook calendar to spend five to ten minutes going through the poll and let loose what what you truly feel.

And expect that I'm the only that's going to be harassing you to do so. Strangely, in LisaB's kick-off email about the poll to the managers, she asked for management not to harangue people into filling out the poll. Maybe pressured people are negative? Is it a stealth poll? It will be interesting to see what the participation statistics are.

The poll seemed the same-old-same-old to me. Any interesting comments you're putting in there? I'd be exceptionally excited if VPs had their group's MS Poll numbers made public to help other people move around. Those with high numbers should at least brag about it as a way of attracting the best and brightest looking for new challenges (or to get out of their sinking ship).

You know, a bigger point about MS Poll is that it's a reflection on you and where you are in your career. Do you feel valued? Are unnecessary rules getting in your way? Are we going in the right direction as a company? Is it a great place to work? Do you have a good deal? Does your group act upon MS Poll feedback? Are you paid well?

Listen, Good Looking: if you're saying strongly disagree to a lot of those questions, you've got to hit the reality check button and decide either to find new work digs in Microsoft or a new company altogether. Think about it after you submit it. You have to take advantage of the times in our economy when you're most valued and now is one of them. Computer Software Engineer is the #1 hot job. The boom is back. Ride the wave, either at Microsoft or someplace where you are happy.

Speaking of happiness, there's been a lot of talking about deciding to be happy:

And then it sort of bounced around the net even more.

I'm sure Gretchen and Zoe are quite happy to be doing what they are doing at JobSyntax:

Thanks for the mention, Mini! I have started a new blog with my new company. I plan to be even more direct and honest than before. :)

So Gretchen would never, ever say: if, as you ponder the poll and your happiness, you decide now's the time to test the waters outside of Microsoft, get in contact with us over at JobSyntax to see how we can help you find your way through the talent landscape and build your confidence to find the company that best suits you.

She's just too cool for that.

I'm not! Strike while the hiring iron is hot, baby! Fundamental truth: the best way to advance your career is to change companies. Not jobs. Companies. And, as you ponder those experiences required to advance at Microsoft in the CSP and wonder when you'll ever be able to meet the challenges let alone ever be given those opportunities, just realize the best way is to leave and grow, and then see how far up the ladder you can climb should you return.

I know, a slick Mephistopheles I'm not.

Other random notes...

* Mark the calendar: April 27th, 2:30 PM PST Microsoft 3rd Quarter results. Sure would be nice if that coincides with the day that anyone who wants to can buy an Xbox 360. You know, four months after the Christmas rush. Does Bryan Lee with his amazing abilities to mis-predict still work for Microsoft? Yes, of course.

* AdamBa's latest post, A Former Microsoftie Kapenda Thomas, reminds me of that dev vs. test vs. PM post I promised. Yes, yes, y'all, it will come but I'm still getting over that whole mess of negativity I kicked off with that little "fire da bums" post. I've got to see how I can fold that future post into a happy, pro-active piece before getting it up. This post from Mr. Barr is at least an example of a happy ending with pro-active people.

* This past week, Slashdot discovered an essay from last year: Working at Microsoft. I'll once again highlight my favorite snippet:

In contrast, most of the middle management should be tossed. [...] Of the six-seven managers I've had, I'd relish working for (or with) only two of them again. Two were so awful that if they were hired into my current organization (even on another team), I'd quit on the spot. The other two-three were "nngh" -- no significant impact on my life one way or another. I'd love to think this is some kind of fluke, that I've just been unlucky, but many other Microsoft employees have shared similar experiences with me.

* Finally: is it Sinofsky + Ray Ozzie to save Microsoft from itself? An Ozzie focused feature appears in Fortune magazine: Microsoft's new brain. It's a good read and has some length to it. Near the end:

Now comes the hard slog of reinvigorating a 70,000-employee business. Many of the new services the company is coming up with cut across multiple parts of the organization and will require much closer cooperation than has been common in the past. That makes for tension.

You could really simplify the reinvigoration by having less employees. Just throwing that out there.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Scoble's Moderation and That Old Time Conspiracy Reward Challenge

Quick blog-technology-centric post for something near and dear to the Mini-Microsoft blog: comments.

I've said it. Lots of other people have said it (lots... said it so much I wonder if I should just put up one word posts some time). So it must be true: comments by the readers of this blog are what truly make it unique and perhaps even important for some moment of time.

I felt bad about moderating when I first did it. Not anymore. I only feel bad about the precious personal time I have to burn getting the comments scanned and approved and how it can slow down the conversation. But I'm really glad Blogger has comment moderation. This blog would have either died or moved onto another host long ago without it.

So now, given my personal context, I've had a Neo-ish "whoa!" to hear that Robert Scoble has started comment moderation on his Scobleizer blog. Whoa!

Moderation. So I know you have Clay Shirky talking about it and folks like me and Scoble living it, but what is the solution? It seems that blogging as a communication medium is prone to entropy the more successful a blog becomes... perhaps comments should be tiered so that there is always a secondary page one can go to for all submitted comments and elevated comments (either by the owner or readers) can make their way onto the main blog page to ascend next to the main post's text. Kind of like Slashdot, just without the one-liner noise of each filtered message.

In the meantime, while showering after another fun day weeding between rain clouds, I just contemplate the amount of vile-infused comment hatred I was gobsmacked with as of late. Well, not directed at me. At Microsoft. It's freaking irrational. You might point to past sins, but that doesn't add up. There is plenty of choice out there and this caricature that has been foisted up of Microsoft does not match the passionate, corporate company I work with. Nor each person I work with. But a whole generation seems to have bought into it, and it comes as a price of "anything but Microsoft" when indeed Microsoft would have been the best and obvious choice. Add onto that a new immergence of nationalism associated with software and more and more people are finding reasons to hate Microsoft that don't add up.

So I don't let those comments go through, but they do stick to my conscience. I'd like a solution to that, too. And a milkshake.

(and I see Bubba Murarka will be making an appearance on Scoble's blog - good luck, Bubba!)

Oh, and rather than adding a comment for this theme again:

Thus, I have concluded you are not the independent blogger you say you are but are rather a paid foil of the executives, with the mission of extracting feedback that would seldom be expressed through the sycophantic MS Poll.

Not that that's such a bad thing, of course. The comments keep things in perspective and help people let off a little anonymous steam.

Well, please step up to the mic for the next town-hall with Ballmer and ask him yourself, "Does Microsoft control or direct the Mini-Microsoft blog?" Or some other fun question like that to put the leadership on record about this recurrent topic (hey, I'm a Mulder fan, I like my conspiracies, too). Tell you what, if you do then I'll route you a nice dining giftcard to a fine Eastside restaurant for you and your sweetheart. But in the meantime: no, it's just me doing my thing when I have spare time. I work hard during the day to make money for Microsoft and our shareholders, and I steal as much spare time away from my non-work life to put up the occasional post and moderate the comments. Sometimes it's too much and I go on break. Just like me, it's all pretty simple.

My only compensation is when our leadership gets asked the hard questions or when it seems change is enacted to address the serious issues brought up within the conversation here. As for you "sleeping with the enemy" and all that... well, do you think change is needed? Looks like the call for change has received attention. Will that change happen if you silently go back to your keyboard, or will it happen if we all work together to discuss what's not working and how to arise to the occasion and do better. Well, not just better. To do the absolute best. As we know we all can.

Silence solves nothing.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Gretchen Moves On, MSPoll, and un-Breaking

As I slowly transition from un-break mode, just a few interesting notes:

Gretchen over at Microsoft's Jobs Blog is moving on. Gretchen hit the fan (and I became a fan) with her break-out rant The talent landscape, and why I'm ready to lose it which was so honest and 100% Microsoftie. Around work, I used it as a little litmus test to get people's opinions. Some managers thought she should be outright fired (hmm, strip color: Bozo) others thought she was right on and checked in to make sure we were doing the right thing in our relationship with recruiting (strip color: Keeper).

She even mentioned this blog a few times, especially noted in the post Microsoft, the media, and Mini. I'd love to be an NSA operative listening in on Microsoft's recruiting when a hard questioned is asked about ratings or reviews or other issues brought up here and in other blogs. Anyway, I really enjoyed how she took on describing working for Microsoft in a straight-forward, honest way. It was as if she was looking you straight in the eye as she wrote. Our PR folks could learn a lot from that.

Staying on my message about a smaller Microsoft and not hiring people and gettin' on with the firing of people, well, allow me to unjoyously lick my finger and mark the air above me to score one for the Mini side of life. Bad attrition is still attrition.

Other going ons... the MSPoll is upon us! I haven't opened it up yet myself. Oh, the ranting I will do. But, I always ensure to throw in lots of kudos about some of the life of the Microsoftie that I don't want to go away in absence of praise: our medical plan is outstanding, we still have free cola, while stationary supplies are harder to find we still don't have to grovel for a pad of Post-Its, and the ball-fields are staying where they are. Remember that upper management does read the comments, but if you just have pronouns and no aliases, your direct praises and criticisms are non-actionable.

Praise the Keepers. Rail against the Bozos.

Lastly... usually I summarize interesting comments as of late. Especially ones to old posts. I'm blown away right now with all the comments. When I moderate, I scan and approve, promising to re-read in detail later and elevate interesting ones into the discussion (like this one about trying to get permission to interview and insights for others). Let's see, how many of those do I have... 1,108. Looks like I need another break, though Mr. Umrani might rip me a new one if I do that. I'll go through and try to find the gems in there but, if you don't read the comments, you might want to wade through the last few posts for your own enjoyment.

Updated: s/tongue/finger/. Ahem.