Thursday, April 22, 2010

Microsoft FY10Q3 Results

Time for another quarterly update - all indicators point to a great quarter. With Win7's results and upcoming releases of Office 2010, Natal, and Windows Phone, things are on the upswing. Like I wrote back in July 2009, I believe that Microsoft has turned the corner and is headed in the right direction, though by no means is the corporation out of the scary neighborhood a lot of bad turns sent it into.

But we have hit the bottom with Vista and have emerged as the can-do underdog. If Microsoft knows anything, it knows how to do underdog. We really need to learn how to be the gracious competitive top-dog, too, but for now, underdog works.

Plus, given time, the context of the competitive marketplace has changed a lot. First: thank goodness for competition. Even pureblood Google and Apple fans should be thankful for competition from Microsoft, even if they deign its presence with faint of disdain and use air-quotes when saying the word competition (and for some reason, I can't get a vision of the Seattle Weekly's Uptight Seattlelite out my mind while writing that). Second: there's enough growing concern with Apple and Google's success that folks naturally want balance and by no means do they see Microsoft as dominating. Rather: underdog, fighting for balance.

Things have gotten interesting again. Let's check-in on some of the original reasons this random blog started up:


  • Microsoft needs to reduce employee size. It’s too big. It doesn’t need a quicky Atkins-equivalent. No, it needs to get itself on a corporate exercise program that will shed itself of unwanted groups and employees. And stay on that.
    • Wellll, we added a lot of jobs in the five years after that point, but when the cold harsh reality of over-hiring became obvious, it was handled (poorly) through layoffs.
  • Microsoft needs to stop hiring. It’s hard enough finding the scarcest of treasured corporate resources: the talented individual suitable for working at Microsoft. Stop hiring, trim down, and rebalance those precious scare employees inside to where they can be more productive and make products that delight our customers.
    • There have been freezes and slow-downs so that's good. But some hiring continues. What we really need is an efficient defrag to allow load balancing in the company.
  • Unleash employee driven innovation with a Microsoft Labs community area.
    • We have various labs now and other efforts that have come and gone.
  • Re-energize the home market. The home market is pretty tepid with-respect-to Microsoft-branded software. It can’t take that much effort to invigorate Microsoft for the home user and make it cool.
    • Yes, we realize now that the consumer market is worth pursuing vs. making the IT department happy with limiting features. People find cool technology now outside of work and bring it into the workplace (e.g., the iPhone). This is much improved and has a long way to go before we're great at it. Actually leveraging the power of the individual PC is still barely tapped, and probably groups are confused given Azure and three-screens about pushing more onto the desktop than we are.
  • Start working vigorously on Internet Explorer again. Winning the browser wars, dusting off our hands, and running away screaming from IE to the Next Cool Thing represents the very worst in less-than-competitive behavior.
    • Yep, we are working on IE with great passion. How we participate and influence HTML5 will be an interesting process to watch. I have no faith in the W3C (what was the last useful thing they helped create... XML namespaces?). HTML5 is the Next Big Thing if you listen to some folks who have large impact regarding Microsoft's future direction, so something is going to happen here. Have fun, IE-team!
  • Less research, more application.
    • Goodness knows most of the researches I know or occasionally work with are motivated to find out what product teams need and get inline with producing interesting features that the product team just doesn't have the background to create, so kudos there.
  • Continue the community effort and make it so if you’re not leading cool innovation, your butt is dedicated to some time per week helping out in the community, sharing all that wonderful knowledge between your ears. Reward that!
    • I did have this under the next section of "Not-addressed" until I realized that employee blogging covers this and has become so rampant that it has faded to a point that it's not acknowledged ("blogging is dead" and everyone now of course communicates in spurts of 140 characters. Uh-huh.). I'd like to see this turn into engineering employees writing more code that ships outside of our product line rhythm.


  • Re-interviewing: all employees below a certain life-time review average need to re-interview. Those that don’t make the cut the second time around get to look for new opportunities elsewhere.
    • Just an idea regarding what to do for people who do not have career momentum. Over the years, the question has been: "Will this person make Level 63?" - if not, they should find a new company.
  • Back to Basics. Win32 and C++. Bread and butter. Not everything can run in the freaking CLR.
    • Our development story is a complete mess. And I don't see it getting any better. I'd say we're on a collision course of Bach vs. Sinofsky given development options for the Windows Phone vs. Windows. In the middle of this is a meandering DevDiv organization. If we have a gap in our underdog armor, it is our development story.

Back to quarterly results: the analysis I look forward to:

Friday we have a Town Hall. I'm sure there will be questions about going forward competing with the iPhone and iPad and Google. And maybe questions / comments like:

  • Are the layoffs over?
  • Wow, what a great quarter. I'm really looking forward to my raise this year...

Administrivia time...

This old blog: hey slacker blog-writer, what's going on here? Well, obviously not much. Mainly, unlike many of you talented people, I don't do multitasking well. Writing especially. Back, going on six years now, this was my spare time focus for writing and reading & responding to all the great comments. It was a unique place that arose organically as a lone voice to ask, "Aren't other people concerned about where Microsoft is going?"

Well, this lone voice has other writing passions right now (not involving Microsoft) and that's where I'm putting the occasional spare time I squeeze out of my life. I'm sure you can understand. It also happens at a time where things are fairly good with-respect-to Microsoft's future and direction. Yes, there are problems but there have been more successes than failures and the success of our competitors have provided clarity regarding direction and what success looks like.

If there are interesting constructive topics you'd like to discuss, please let me know.

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