Beta
×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

How Infighting Hampers Innovation At Microsoft

timothy posted more than 4 years ago | from the rather-a-broad-brush dept.

Businesses 450

Garabito writes "Dick Brass, former vice-president at Microsoft, published an op-ed in The New York Times, where he states that 'Microsoft has become a clumsy, uncompetitive innovator' and how 'it has lost share in Web browsers, high-end laptops and smartphones.' He attributes this situation to the lack of a true system for innovation at Microsoft. Some former employees argue that Microsoft has a system to thwart innovation. He tells how promising and innovative technologies like ClearType and the original TabletPC concept become crippled and sabotaged internally, by groups and divisions that felt threatened by them."

cancel ×

450 comments

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

news flash (4, Insightful)

hguorbray (967940) | more than 4 years ago | (#31028108)

Large institutions hamper creativity, innovation...

-I'm just sayin'

Re:news flash (4, Insightful)

drachenstern (160456) | more than 4 years ago | (#31028164)

I would instead say "unintentional megacorp hindered by purpose-sprawl more than code-stink or feature-creep". Some large organizations inspire creativity. Granted not many.

Also: first "frist psot" I've seen in a while that was actually OnTopic

Re:news flash (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31028264)

Large institutions hamper creativity, innovation...

-I'm just sayin'

I concur: Institutionalization hampers innovation. News at 11. Good jorb Slashdot Editorbs. The B is for Bargain!

Re:news flash (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31028284)

Large institutions hamper creativity, innovation...

We have more than enough evidence of this fact by looking at the history of our federal government :-)

Re:news flash (5, Interesting)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 4 years ago | (#31028332)

I worked at Telus (Canadian based Telco) for a while and I can safely say that they foster creativity and innovation. It's actually in their motto type creedo thing, which they bash you over the head with during training. Anyways, every 2 weeks during a regular team meeting they would constantly ask for criticism or feedback of the system, any improvements to be made or new ideas to be tested. Even my short summer as a 411 operator showed that they took suggestions and applied them regularily. For example, when looking through directories that deal with Taxi Agencies, sometimes a number will pop up that isn't the actual line for the taxi cabs, but actually the corporate office. Since you don't want to give them the wrong number listings will sometimes have notes attached. Seemingly ridiculous in hindsight, the notes are only ever surrounded in !!'s or **'s and have no other differentiation. One of my co-workers suggest we use a different font colour for notes. This suggestion was taken up and implemented within the month, much to everyone's delight.

Re:news flash (3, Funny)

mirix (1649853) | more than 4 years ago | (#31028490)

Too bad they didn't apply this system to their horribly lame animal themed ads.

Re:news flash (1)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 4 years ago | (#31028524)

Agreed. I think it is actually the one thing that ties all Telus employees together - is their unified unhappiness towards the ads. Some people hate them, others don't mind them, but no one I ever worked with enjoyed them.

Re:news flash (1)

davester666 (731373) | more than 4 years ago | (#31028732)

I guess the only suggestion they don't take seriously is the one to stop having the highest fee's of any of Canada's wireless carriers...

Re:news flash (5, Interesting)

jollyreaper (513215) | more than 4 years ago | (#31028362)

Large institutions hamper creativity, innovation...

The same thing was going on at Apple before the Return of Jobs. The road to OSX was bumpy.

[quote]Meanwhile, Apple was facing commercial difficulties of its own. The decade-old Mac OS had reached the limits of its single-user, co-operative multitasking architecture, and its once-innovative user interface was looking increasingly dated. A massive development effort to replace it, known as Copland, was started in 1994, but was generally perceived outside of Apple to be a hopeless case due to political infighting. By 1996, Copland was nowhere near ready for release, and the project was eventually cancelled. Some elements of Copland were incorporated into Mac OS 8, released on July 26, 1997.
After considering the purchase of BeOS -- a multimedia-enabled, multi-tasking OS designed for hardware similar to Apple's -- the company decided instead to acquire NeXT and use OPENSTEP as the basis for their new OS. Avie Tevanian took over OS development, and Steve Jobs was brought on as a consultant. At first, the plan was to develop a new operating system based almost entirely on an updated version of OPENSTEP, with an emulator -- known as the Blue Box -- for running "classic" Macintosh applications. The result was known by the code name Rhapsody, slated for release in late 1998.
Apple expected that developers would port their software to the considerably more powerful OPENSTEP libraries once they learned of its power and flexibility. Instead, several major developers such as Adobe told Apple that this would never occur, and that they would rather leave the platform entirely. This "rejection" of Apple's plan was largely the result of a string of previous broken promises from Apple; after watching one "next OS" after another disappear and Apple's market share dwindle, developers were not interested in doing much work on the platform at all, let alone a re-write.

Apple's financial losses continued and the board of directors lost confidence in CEO Gil Amelio. The board of directors asked him to resign. The board convinced Steve Jobs to lead the company on an interim basis. Jobs was, in essence, given carte blanche by Apple's board of directors to make changes in order to return the company to profitability. When Jobs announced at the World Wide Developer's Conference that what developers really wanted was a modern version of the Mac OS, and Apple was going to deliver it[citation needed], he was met with thunderous applause. [/quote]

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Mac_OS_X [wikipedia.org]

TFA's description of the infighting within Microsoft matches the details behind what I pasted above.

Re:news flash (2, Interesting)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 4 years ago | (#31028710)

The difference is, Microsoft's monopoly leads to its downfall. Mac OS had a small marketshare, it was and is pretty easy to change some pretty radical things without much problems. Not the same thing with an OS with 90%+ of marketshare.

Re:news flash (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31028402)

I agree 100%. Small companies are agile, large ones falter under their own weight of numbers.

This same lumbering inefficient behemoth effect can be seen at Dell, Alcatel-Lucent, AT&T, Microsoft, GM, Ford and a thousand other large corporates. Guess all that MBA and Management School stuff just may have been wrong!

And the prime examples - today's Western governments, the US and UK taking the lead.

The challenge for civilization in the 21st century is not Global Warming, but constructively rethinking Government and Business.

Re:news flash (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31028514)

There's a kind of poetic justice here, with Microsoft's tactics of stifling competitors (rather than out-performing them) being used internally.

When has Microsoft brought us the future? (4, Interesting)

argent (18001) | more than 4 years ago | (#31028134)

But the much more important question is why Microsoft, America's most famous and prosperous technology company, no longer brings us the future, whether it's tablet computers like the iPad, e-books like Amazon's Kindle, smartphones like the BlackBerry and iPhone, search engines like Google, digital music systems like iPod and iTunes or popular Web services like Facebook and Twitter.

"no longer"?

When was Microsoft any different?

OK, they had a good compiler and toolchain in the '70s, but actual innovation has never been their forte. Microsoft Research has been doing interesting stuff in the past decade or so, but that's more a sign of *increasing* innovation at Microsoft, if anything.

Re:When has Microsoft brought us the future? (1)

sopssa (1498795) | more than 4 years ago | (#31028236)

Well one that I could think of from recently is Microsoft Courier [gizmodo.com] . It seems quite innovative and the tablet I would like to have (iPad.. just meh). I really hope it becomes reality and the things TFA mentions don't happen to it. Then I could actually say MS innovates.

Re:When has Microsoft brought us the future? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31028252)

Ah, but the question isn't "innovates" but "brings us the future". And it's pretty hard to argue against the fact that Microsoft was the one who shipped a GUI to the most people, and fostered (for better or worse) a relatively open hardware market that allowed the lowest bidder to deliver our PCs.

Re:When has Microsoft brought us the future? (1, Flamebait)

jcr (53032) | more than 4 years ago | (#31028338)

OK, they had a good compiler and toolchain in the '70s

I don't recall their compilers and tools ever being more than mediocre.

-jcr

Re:When has Microsoft brought us the future? (4, Interesting)

shutdown -p now (807394) | more than 4 years ago | (#31028700)

I don't recall their compilers and tools ever being more than mediocre.

Are you talking about C & C++, or dev tools in general. If the latter, would you also consider C# (language design), VC# (the actual compiler), and CLR mediocre?

Also, what would be your base for comparison? For C/C++ - GCC? Intel compiler? If we're talking about .NET - Java? ObjC/Cocoa?

So, competition is killing competitiveness? (3, Insightful)

spun (1352) | more than 4 years ago | (#31028146)

And cooperation would make Microsoft more competitive? This is a clear example of how competition doesn't produce excellence, cooperation does. If competition really DID produce excellence, then all companies would be organized with multiply redundant, competing internal departments. Obviously, that's not the case: internally, companies function cooperatively, and those that foster too much internal competition ultimately fail.

Re:So, competition is killing competitiveness? (2, Insightful)

sopssa (1498795) | more than 4 years ago | (#31028254)

Exactly. Cooperation should be kept inside company, and fight with competition with other companies. Work together, but have enemies that push you to work better. Sadly, people are people and mostly care about their own goals.

Re:So, competition is killing competitiveness? (5, Insightful)

spun (1352) | more than 4 years ago | (#31028368)

Of course people care about their own goals. But most people's goals are not 'others must lose so I can win.' Recent economic research shows that people seem to be more motivated by notions of fairness and reciprocity than selfish gain.

Enemies aren't the best push to work harder. Friends that you don't want to let down are a better, more reliable motivator, IMHO.

Re:So, competition is killing competitiveness? (5, Insightful)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 4 years ago | (#31028304)

Competition does produce excellence when all competitors are engaged in positive activities, like building competing products the best they can to see who's is better.

Competition falls apart when the competitors resort to sabotage, instead of simply doing their best in a fair competition.

I'm actually shocked that I'm about to do this, but I'm going to bring up a sports analogy: people like to watch sports games, which are competitions between two (or more sometimes) teams or people. Audiences like fair competitions. But if the competitors start cheating (like with steroids) or using sabotage (like Nancy Kerrigan), audiences don't like that, and if it happens too much, the sport starts losing audiences and falling apart (like baseball). Along these lines, no one's going to watch a sports game that only involves cooperation, instead of competition. Of course, there is one exception to this rule: hockey. Sabotage is perfectly acceptable there: teams frequently get a disposable "bully" player to pick a fight with one of the opposing team's best players to take him out of action for a while.

The problem with competition inside companies, even if it didn't involve sabotage, is that it consumes a lot of extra resources which could be spent on more profitable activity, such as producing more products for sale. Decently-run companies typically already have all the competition they want, and more, from their competitor companies, and wouldn't dream of creating even more unnecessary competition within. Only a truly stupidly-run company would do this. Unfortunately, some companies have giant unstoppable cash cows that let them waste tons of resources on this kind of idiocy.

Re:So, competition is killing competitiveness? (5, Informative)

pow2clk (1040104) | more than 4 years ago | (#31028558)

... using sabotage (like Nancy Kerrigan) . . .

Not to distract from your overall point, which is well taken, but in the interest of fairness and accuracy, I feel I must point out that it was Tonya Harding who sabotaged Nancy Kerrigan.

Re:So, competition is killing competitiveness? (5, Funny)

ben0207 (845105) | more than 4 years ago | (#31028886)

It sort of worked out for her though, as she is now the Queen of Blades, leading an almighty Zerg armada across Terran space.

Re:So, competition is killing competitiveness? (1)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 4 years ago | (#31028950)

Sorry, I didn't mean to imply that Nancy was the saboteur, just that she was involved in the incident. I couldn't remember Tonya's name. I should have said "the Nancy Kerrigan incident"; that was sloppy of me.

Re:So, competition is killing competitiveness? (1)

spun (1352) | more than 4 years ago | (#31028912)

You know, the problem you ascribe to competition inside companies is one of the prblems that exist with competition between companies: duplication of effort, and consumption of extra resources. Competition also destroys intrinsic motivations: if you are doing something to beat others, you aren't doing it because you love it. In fact, even if you did love it, over time, you won't anymore, you'll only love winning.

Your example doesn't really show that competition produces excellence, if anything, it outlines the motivations competitors have for cheating.

Re:So, competition is killing competitiveness? (3, Insightful)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 4 years ago | (#31029142)

You know, the problem you ascribe to competition inside companies is one of the prblems that exist with competition between companies: duplication of effort, and consumption of extra resources.

That's only in theory. In practice, it works quite well, as we can see from history. Can you point to any society where companies never compete with each other, and the society is successful? The Soviet Union worked like that (there were lots of companies, managed by the State, and prohibited from competing with each other). It was a disaster; things were rationed, and quality was crap. Market-based economies have always worked well (just look how much it's done for China; they were all starving under a command economy and now they own America), and they're intrinsically based on competition.

If you don't have competition, you have no way of 1) determining who does the best job, and 2) preventing shoddiness and poor performance from becoming commonplace. In a command economy, the upper government tells one company to make widget A, and they do. If it sucks, it's too bad, because there's no alternatives. You could try to fire the managers of the company, but that won't get your widget made properly any faster, plus the problems may be endemic, and simply replacing the managers won't fix it. In a competitive economy, different companies are free to try different approaches, and the best one wins. It's not perfect (like when marketing gets involved and gets people to buy shoddy products), but it's a lot better than the alternative.

Competition also destroys intrinsic motivations: if you are doing something to beat others, you aren't doing it because you love it.

Love? With most jobs, it's called "work" because it isn't fun. Suppose your job is to clean toilets. Someone has to do it, but no one really likes it. Most people do work because they want money, not because they love it. I don't even like my job very much, and I went to college to do this (software engineering). If I didn't have to work, I'm sure I'd have fun writing my own software, but doing it for someone else (and dealing with their dumb requirements and rules, and having to drive in traffic to work every morning, and sit in a bullpen, etc. etc.) isn't much fun. But it's a better job than cleaning toilets or flipping burgers, and pays a lot better too, so I stick with it.

And companies that compete don't do it to "beat others", but to survive and make more money. More money = more success and means being that much closer to retirement or whatever your goals are. If you can do a better job than your competitors, you get more business and more money.

Your example doesn't really show that competition produces excellence, if anything, it outlines the motivations competitors have for cheating.

No, business competition is like a big game. And like any other normal game, there's rules, or else the biggest thug will win by brute force. Sure, businesses cheat sometimes, and that's why we have a government and laws to deter this kind of behavior. Unfortunately, sometimes we have governments (like in the USA) which don't want to enforce laws or have lax regulation, and then you get things like massive mortgage bubbles. Just like in any sports competition (here I go again, a guy who normally hates sports), you have to have rules and referees to make sure competition is fair, or else the whole thing collapses. Notice how no one watches baseball any more because all the players are taking steroids.

Even in places where you'd think people would avoid competition, they still do. Look at the F/OSS world; there's lots of cooperation (like the thousands of developers working together on the Linux kernel, or on KDE, etc.), but there's also lots of competition (KDE vs. GNOME, Linux vs. *BSD, XFree86 vs. X.org, etc.). It actually works a little better than companies because developers are more free to choose which project ("team") they want to join, based on how interested they are in the project. With companies, you usually have to live nearby, or be willing to move there, to work with that company, plus you have to convince them to hire you. With OSS software, you can dive in on your own and send in patches, and you can live anywhere there's an internet connection, so there's no barrier to entry like with normal jobs. And as we've seen, this competition has produced a lot of great software. Just look at X.org; the guy running XFree86 was an asshole, and very little progress was being made, but instead of sticking with that group, most of the developers jumped ship when someone forked the code, and now X.org is advancing far faster than its competitor (which is still around, though it doesn't seem to be doing much).

Re:So, competition is killing competitiveness? (1)

LordLucless (582312) | more than 4 years ago | (#31029060)

Along these lines, no one's going to watch a sports game that only involves cooperation, instead of competition.

Synchronised Swimming has a world wide audience!

Re:So, competition is killing competitiveness? (1)

MojoRilla (591502) | more than 4 years ago | (#31028350)

In the entertainment space, companies are organized into competitive divisions. Each division has its own bottom line, and compete for resources within the company.

Uh... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31028712)

Whence cometh Brittany Spears...

Re:So, competition is killing competitiveness? (1)

spun (1352) | more than 4 years ago | (#31028926)

Examples?

Re:So, competition is killing competitiveness? (1)

dangitman (862676) | more than 4 years ago | (#31028426)

And cooperation would make Microsoft more competitive? This is a clear example of how competition doesn't produce excellence, cooperation does.

That depends. Cooperation is all well and good if you're cooperating towards a decent goal. But if you're cooperating towards a flawed goal, then that only increases the rate of your failure. Ultimately, you need vision to choose what goal you want to work towards. I think that is what has been lacking at Microsoft - lately they've just been taking a shotgun approach, just try whatever and see if it works.

With regards to the competitive aspect - competition can produce good results. But it has to be worthwhile competition, not corrupt backbiting as illustrated by the article. From reading the article, it seems that Microsoft has become a collection of fiefdoms. A bunch of "vice presidents" of various areas protecting their own turf - not people who are trying to achieve a goal other than self-preservation. Management culture gone awry.

Re:So, competition is killing competitiveness? (1)

spun (1352) | more than 4 years ago | (#31028948)

While I understand from your post that you believe competition produces good results, I have no idea why you believe that. Is it just 'common knowledge,' or do you have any sort of argument to back up your belief?

Re:So, competition is killing competitiveness? (1)

dangitman (862676) | more than 4 years ago | (#31029088)

I think you're misconstruing my argument a little. I'm not saying that competition always produces good results - in fact, the major part of my argument is that the type of competition within Microsoft actually produces terrible results. What I was saying is that under the right conditions both competition and cooperation can create good results. But the major thrust of my argument is that both are useless without good leadership and vision.

Not surprising? (1)

InlawBiker (1124825) | more than 4 years ago | (#31028154)

The goal at any large corporation is to leverage their market position, which in technical terms is "fuck-ton huge." They're way past the innovation stage, except there they have to be Zune is a good example. They came up with a solid product pretty quickly when they put their minds to it. Sure, they're getting their asses kicked, but it's a good product.

Re:Not surprising? (1)

swb (14022) | more than 4 years ago | (#31028406)

I think a lot of the problem is that the "goal" never really was innovative products, it was always a businessey goal of world domination. Ballmer was B-school all the way, Gates was the son of a lawyer. These weren't innovation guys, they were make money and win guys, which is why its always been nearly transparent that their goal is domination via monopoly.

And chances are this was the core culture at Microsoft at the management level -- they hired really smart people who thought the same way, and I'm sure it has trickled down through the layers of product management as well.

At that point, the standard inter-departmental warfare and turf protection you see anywhere just becomes kind of synergistic -- I'm sure the product manager for Office wields that product like a monopoly inside Microsoft the same way Microsoft does Windows in the computer marketplace. Defend Office against anyone that would undermine their control of Office and Office's internal power.

I'm sure the internal culture would never allow for it, but it'd be interesting to see MS setup a separate entity, officed somewhere else (Minneapolis or some other location outside the usual centers of IT gravity) and give them a billion dollars cash and the source to Windows and tell them to come up with a new OS that could run on the same hardware as Windows and Windows programs, but have no other limitations, marketing handicaps or management oversight.

I would bet the outcome would be pretty cool and be missing a lot of the needless bullshit that internal politics and the driving business motivation ends up handicapping Windows (and producing stuff like Vista).

Re:Not surprising? (2, Informative)

RichM (754883) | more than 4 years ago | (#31028596)

They came up with a solid product pretty quickly when their pensions were threatened.

Fixed that for you.

BUTT IT'S FUNNER TOO WATCHED!!! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31028174)

Goes goes M$FT!! BETter then ear eater fightser

Reboots (-1, Flamebait)

furball (2853) | more than 4 years ago | (#31028184)

It's all the reboots that hampers innovation at Microsoft. How the fuck does anyone get any work done?!

Why innovate? (2, Insightful)

Fractal Dice (696349) | more than 4 years ago | (#31028200)

1. profit 2. ??? 3. innovation

Re:Why innovate? (5, Funny)

Spy der Mann (805235) | more than 4 years ago | (#31028672)

Actually, it's more like this...

1. Profit!
2. Try to exterminate competition
3. Realize it doesn't work against Google
4. Throw chairs
5. Litigate
6. Realize other products like Firefox are eating your market share, DESPITES your efforts to monopolize the market
7. Patent troll
8. Realize people aren't buying your FUD
9. Realize you have to GPL some of your products because they found out you plagiarized some code
10. Throw more chairs
11. Realize how the media are turning against you
12. Get back in the bandwagon
13. Fire Ballmer
14. Buy chairproof shields for your buildings
15. Innovate

or...

13b. Invest more in the XBOX dept.

16. Profit!

Methinks he doth protest too much. (4, Interesting)

argent (18001) | more than 4 years ago | (#31028210)

Tablet PC might have become a great product, over the long term, but when it was released NT was far too heavy-weight a product to base it on. Unfortunately the Tablet PC had management's ear, and the more practical (for the time) Pocket PC and Handheld PC lines based on their existing mobile operating system got largely squashed and forced into a secondary role. They could have had something more like the iPad, based on Windows CE, for a more affordable price... with applications targeted for the handheld environment. Instead they got the overpriced Tablet PC.

Why didn't management just let both products proceed as best they could? Because they were trying to PREVENT internal competition.

Sounds pretty right to me (2, Interesting)

manekineko2 (1052430) | more than 4 years ago | (#31028436)

I'm not so sure you're right that they should have put a lot of effort into something WinCE based for a tablet.

Witness the response even the vaunted Apple received to its iPad. It's being widely criticized as being an over-sized iPod Touch. Will it be a huge success? If it were from any other company than Apple, I'd say no way. Even coming from Apple though, even if it succeeds, there's clearly a significant number of people out there looking for a full computer experience that's usable with touch or pen input.

I actually got one not too long after they first came out, and it was a decent computer. It wasn't being hampered by processing power, running XP, but rather just the general quality of their tablet interactions, like the guy said. It really did feel like Office support was shoehorned in, which at the time I couldn't understand, but now makes more sense.

His criticism actually strikes me as very apt, looking at Microsoft's often dysfunctionally bad product launches.

Is there even an argument as to why their much-neglected Windows Home Server line should not be integrated with Windows Media Center? You've already got a box with a gigaton of storage in a box that's supposed to be left on at all times. And you're supposed to get a second PC to run Windows Media Center to DVR television programs? How many servers does Microsoft think each family wants in their house? Hint, the answer is that even one is pushing it. They control all elements of the software chain, yet the integration between WHS and Windows clients still leaves a ton to be desired. It feels like something that a 3rd party hacked together and released, not at all like Apple's all cylinders firing together smoothness.

Or in another area, where is the total lack of integration between their Xbox division and all other divisions? People have been clamoring for some type of connectivity between Windows Mobile and their Xbox for ages, and they're just now getting around to doing it.

His criticisms sound pretty plausible to me. For a company with its mitts in as many related fields as Microsoft is, the lack of cohesiveness between product divisions is striking.

Re:Sounds pretty right to me (2, Interesting)

Mongoose Disciple (722373) | more than 4 years ago | (#31028842)

Witness the response even the vaunted Apple received to its iPad. It's being widely criticized as being an over-sized iPod Touch. Will it be a huge success? If it were from any other company than Apple, I'd say no way.

I think this is correct and pretty key. Apple is in a position right now where any consumer electronic device they create has a buzz about it and draws interest regardless of how good it is or if they've even admitted it exists yet. If a Microsoft (or a no-name company) had released a product identical to the iPhone in Apple's place, I'm sure it wouldn't be a complete bust but it wouldn't have had the same kind of frothy early adoption.

I'm curious to see how long they can keep it going.

Re:Sounds pretty right to me (1)

larry bagina (561269) | more than 4 years ago | (#31028882)

the ipad won't be available for a couple months and even then it may be another year before the possibilities are more fully explored. It is just a big iPhone, but at the same time, it isn't. Yeah, you can surf the internet while you take a shit or read a book, but I can picture a lot of business uses that are a lot more exciting. iWorks is there. The Omni group will be rewriting all their applications. There will undoubtably be creative audio visual apps.

Re:Methinks he doth protest too much. (5, Insightful)

Greg Hullender (621024) | more than 4 years ago | (#31028450)

Actually I'd claim that the real problem with Pocket PC and Tablet PC (and I worked on both products) was that they predated cheap, universal wireless communications. The effort to send a text message from a cell phone is much greater than any of the input methods on either of those devices, yet millions of people do it all the time. That wireless network totally changed the value proposition of one of these devices, and before that, they just weren't worth the trouble.

In plain terms, the isolated Tablet was little more than a crippled laptop, and the isolated Pocket PC was almost completely useless. Attach them to a network, though, and they become something magical. Something none of us working on them was wise enough to foresee.

--Greg

Re:Methinks he doth protest too much. (1)

Ohio Calvinist (895750) | more than 4 years ago | (#31028714)

Microsoft's strength and weakness has always been that it has allowed any Windows application to run on almost any Windows device with little modification (if any). Windows CE was marketed as "lightweight Windows" but it did not run Windows applications, it ran poor replacements for Windows applications (Pocket Word, Pocket Excel) that were not good enough to replace their PC analogues, but because they were branded as such seemed far inferior. I think their issue was being "too" ahead of the curve, unable to provide a consumer product with the horsepower at a reasonable cost that didn't act like a really useless PC that ran none of their apps and had next to no storage versus a mildly more expensive laptop. (From someone who owned CE 2.1 and PocketPC devices). The devices failed to attract developers. Tablets were expensive, and as the article suggested, were Windows PC with crappy bolt-on pen support that raised the price $1000. Microsoft also has to deal with lackluster hardware releases from vendors looking to maximize short-run profits over market dominance. In every case you see Microsoft trying to make XBOX development like Windows development, Windows Mobile development like Windows development. Apple on the other hand seems content to have a mobile software ecosystem and a "computer" software ecosystem, even though the distinction is based on role/purpose and input method over any profound distinction. In the end, the bar is different. Any Microsoft Tablet will get asked the question "Will it run Office (well)" where Apple is asked "Will it play music, movies and run Facebook." The customers are demanding new ways to use their PC from Microsoft, and the customers are asking apple for media devices.

Overstatement (1)

sourcerror (1718066) | more than 4 years ago | (#31028220)

The tablet required a stylus, and he much preferred keyboards to pens and thought our efforts doomed. To guarantee they were, he refused to modify the popular Office applications to work properly with the tablet. So if you wanted to enter a number into a spreadsheet or correct a word in an e-mail message, you had to write it in a special pop-up box, which then transferred the information to Office. Annoying, clumsy and slow.

The pop-up box thing doesn't seem to me a that bad idea, given that your hand-written letters will be much bigger those already on the screen. (But of course I haven't seen it, so I can't be sure.)

Re:Overstatement (1)

dangitman (862676) | more than 4 years ago | (#31028458)

The pop-up box thing doesn't seem to me a that bad idea, given that your hand-written letters will be much bigger those already on the screen. (But of course I haven't seen it, so I can't be sure.)

But why enter numbers into a spreadsheet with handwriting? Surely some kind of pop-up numeric pad would have been better, or maybe something like the iPhone's scrolly number wheels, or a simple +/- digit increment button?

Yeahbut everything would be perfect (1)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 4 years ago | (#31028838)

If they'd just agreed to modify the Office applications so they understood handwriting.

 

Why Innovate? (1)

jgtg32a (1173373) | more than 4 years ago | (#31028222)

When you can wait for others to do so and then copy what works.

Re:Why Innovate? (1)

Thantik (1207112) | more than 4 years ago | (#31028278)

Why risk copying when you can just buy them outright and then sue anyone that comes near you?

Re:Why Innovate? (1)

Greg Hullender (621024) | more than 4 years ago | (#31028386)

In the case of Tablet Computers, it has been a very long wait for someone to make something that worked!

--Greg

rip-offs (2, Informative)

pydev (1683904) | more than 4 years ago | (#31028290)

ClearType had plenty of prior art, so I don't think it counts as significant innovation.

TabletPC wasn't just a "me too" project, Microsoft actually actively sabotaged their competitors to drive them out of the market and then tried to grab the market for themselves (and failed).

So, if these are the kinds of "promising innovative technologies" that fail at Microsoft, let's just all say "good riddance".

Re:rip-offs (1)

Antiocheian (859870) | more than 4 years ago | (#31028356)

ClearType had plenty of prior art, so I don't think it counts as significant innovation.

What prior art ?

TabletPC wasn't just a "me too" project, Microsoft actually actively sabotaged their competitors to drive them out of the market and then tried to grab the market for themselves (and failed).

What are you talking about ?

So, if these are the kinds of "promising innovative technologies" that fail at Microsoft, let's just all say "good riddance".

And finally, who is "all" ?

Re:rip-offs (3, Informative)

sconeu (64226) | more than 4 years ago | (#31028646)

TabletPC wasn't just a "me too" project, Microsoft actually actively sabotaged their competitors to drive them out of the market and then tried to grab the market for themselves (and failed).

What are you talking about ?

Go! Computer.

Read Startup: A Silicon Valley Adventure [amazon.com] .

Granted, it's a touch biased because the author was the founder/CEO of Go!, but it still shows how MS sabotaged competitors.

Re:rip-offs (4, Insightful)

Midnight Thunder (17205) | more than 4 years ago | (#31028550)

In many ways whether they are 'rip-offs' doesn't matter in this context. What matters is that infighting at Microsoft prevented them from leveraging these technologies and actually making a product that people want. If Balmer really wanted to change this culture of infighting, then he has everything to do so, the problem he either doesn't care or doesn't want do what is needed.

Microsoft has plenty of potential, but it needs to put these smart minds in place and tell them that its not the department that counts, but the company. Everyone within the company should take the ideas within the company and use them to do something useful.

losing market share in high end laptop ? (1)

godrik (1287354) | more than 4 years ago | (#31028294)

I haven't RTFA but I dont feel microsoft is losing market share in high end laptops... Linux on laptop is mainly provided on netbooks which I won't call high end laptop.

Re:losing market share in high end laptop ? (1)

zonky (1153039) | more than 4 years ago | (#31028316)

Perhaps they're losing group to OSX?

Re:losing market share in high end laptop ? (2, Insightful)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 4 years ago | (#31028354)

http://www.betanews.com/joewilcox/article/Apple-has-91-of-market-for-1000-PCs-says-NPD/1248313624 [betanews.com]

Not just laptops but all high end computers. Sure, some of the blame lies with the hardware manufacturers too but a lot of it is Microsoft.

Re:losing market share in high end laptop ? (2, Informative)

JustNiz (692889) | more than 4 years ago | (#31028668)

Dunno what _you_ mean by high-end computers, but of the top 500 super computers, 446 run some flavour of linux, only 5 run a Microsoft OS.

Reference:
http://www.top500.org/stats/list/34/osfam [top500.org]

Re:losing market share in high end laptop ? (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 4 years ago | (#31028756)

Since you wasted a portion of your life with that silly, pedantic nitpick, the least I can do is correct myself.

Not just laptops but all high end personal computers. Now, do you feel better?

Re:losing market share in high end laptop ? (0)

dangitman (862676) | more than 4 years ago | (#31028470)

I wasn't aware that Microsoft even sold laptops.

I'd partly agree ... (2, Interesting)

JustNiz (692889) | more than 4 years ago | (#31028298)

>> "Microsoft has become a clumsy, uncompetitive innovator"

I'd agree with clumsy and uncompetitve, but innovator? lol. Sorry no.

Microsoft hasn't innovated anything truly new in decades, except maybe the marketing dept changing a few colour schemes or finding new ways to screw customers.

In fact can anyone think of anything technically innovative that Microsoft ever put their name on, that wasn't originally bought, copied, 'embraced', assimilated, or blatantly stolen from some other company? I can't.

Clippy! (4, Funny)

garyisabusyguy (732330) | more than 4 years ago | (#31028460)

'nuf said

Re:I'd partly agree ... (1)

debrain (29228) | more than 4 years ago | (#31028508)

In fact can anyone think of anything technically innovative that Microsoft ever put their name on, that wasn't originally bought, copied, 'embraced', assimilated, or blatantly stolen from some other company? I can't.

For those wanting a reference, the article "Microsoft, the Innovator? [dwheeler.com] ", Mar. 2001 by David Wheeler would seem to agree with your assertion, as does Microsoft: Hall of Innovation [computing.net] (not original link - original article seems to have been taken down). Both generally accord with my personal recollection.

Re:I'd partly agree ... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31028608)

To name a couple...
C#
MSSQL

Microsoft produces some amazing and refined technology in key areas especially when the top people (Anders Hejlsberg, Jim Gray) in their field are running these programs with unfettered control.

Re:I'd partly agree ... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31028740)

COM/Active-X and COM+ were innovative. Sure they borrowed a lot from DCE and CORBA, but then Apple borrowed a lot from Xerox PARC to build the Mac, and from Amazon for the iPad.

That example perhaps also shows why Microsoft's senior management team is so cautious - when you invent an entire infrastructure in your development labs, there are many things that you won't get right the first or second time, and you'll be stuck supporting your mistakes for backwards compatibility. There will be embarrassing moments, as when the Quicken CEO called a press conference telling people not to use Active-X for security reasons. You might end up with an architecture where "you can't get there from here". It's much easier to learn from a competitor's good ideas and mistakes, as Microsoft did with the successor to COM.

Re:I'd partly agree ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31028742)

Would ActiveX count as Innovation, in the sense of innovating on the ways that external parties could DESTROY your computer?

Re:I'd partly agree ... (1)

heffrey (229704) | more than 4 years ago | (#31028814)

So what? They aren't in the business of doing innovation. They are polishers. So are Apple for what it's worth. You don't have to innovate to be successful. What is so important about innovation?

Re:I'd partly agree ... (1)

kjart (941720) | more than 4 years ago | (#31028828)

I'd agree with clumsy and uncompetitve, but innovator? lol. Sorry no.

Microsoft hasn't innovated anything truly new in decades, except maybe the marketing dept changing a few colour schemes or finding new ways to screw customers.

In fact can anyone think of anything technically innovative that Microsoft ever put their name on, that wasn't originally bought, copied, 'embraced', assimilated, or blatantly stolen from some other company? I can't.

Everyone seems to agree that Microsoft isn't an innovator, so who is?

Re:I'd partly agree ... (3, Insightful)

Blakey Rat (99501) | more than 4 years ago | (#31029138)

Everyone seems to agree that Microsoft isn't an innovator, so who is?

You're not going to get a fair answer to that question on Slashdot.

I mean, Apple completely stole Time Machine from Microsoft's already-implemented Shadow Copy feature, were they derided as copy-cats? No. But Microsoft uses a transparency effect in Aero just similar to a transparency effect in OS X, and suddenly there's huge posters accusing Microsoft of being nothing but a copy machine.

To actually answer the question, Microsoft hasn't innovated anything truly new in decades? I'd say the Office 2007 Ribbon interface is certainly something truly new*. I'd say that the fact that Firefox 4's UI looks a hell of a lot like Internet Explorer 8's UI probably means something. (To be fair, it might just mean both of them cribbed from Google. But that's still something. :) Fast user switching was in Windows before OS X or Linux had it. (If Linux has it now?)

In the Enterprise, there's Sharepoint, which isn't a completely new idea, but combines several existing ideas in a very useful fashion. There's Microsoft's dominance in data processing technologies with their OLAP tools. (Actually, I just Googled that and it looks like they bought that from another company-- oops.)

Looking at a different area... I'd certainly say Xbox Live was innovative in many ways. I'd say putting a HD inside a game console was a pretty innovative idea, as was the entire concept of Xbox Live Arcade (especially since all the competitors in that space have ripped it off.) And what about the Arc Mouse for laptops? That thing's pretty damned slick and innovative. There's the Surface table/technology.

In short, Microsoft might not be the most innovative company in the world (although who is?) But don't pretend they aren't doing anything, either-- you're only deluding yourself.

* Of course at this point the Slashdotter chimes in with "the Ribbon sucks! I hate the Ribbon! It takes 46 years to figure out how to save a file now! etc!" That misses the point that the Ribbon is, in fact, new.

Re:I'd partly agree ... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31028958)

Other than Xerox PARC (that gave us the GUI, Ethernet, laser printing, etc), name any other company that hasn't done the same? Apple is as guilty, if not more so than Microsoft. They didn't invent the GUI, or the Mouse. They didn't invent the MP3 player, or the Smart phone. They didn't invent the touch screen. They didn't invent the Laptop or the Tablet form-factor, etc, etc, the list goes on and on. They did, however invent Firewire - I'll give them that.

Re:I'd partly agree ... (1)

foqn1bo (519064) | more than 4 years ago | (#31028962)

C#? .Net?

I work there now... (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31028318)

I work at MS now. It's a great job for solid steady employment, but it's definitely not the place to go for innovation. Every department is run by high rolling MBA types, most of who were liberal arts majors in college, who go out on extravagant "off site" meetings where they wave around marketing studies to each other to determine the minimum amount of features and quality assurance to put into our products to maximize profit, as if running technology business were the same as running a 50's era factory. Making the product "better" or producing something you have pride in comes secondary, and no consideration is given to the second and third order effects their decisions have on the overall health of the company or its products.

They shoulda made YOU the CEO (0, Troll)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 4 years ago | (#31028872)

marketing studies to each other to determine the minimum amount of features and quality assurance to put into our products to maximize profit, as if running technology business were the same as running a 50's era factory.

Clearly you could run Microsoft better. More profit, bigger margins, larger market share etc etc etc.

 

Hate to break it to you but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31028978)

Microsoft has consistently released shoddy product and has done so since long before it employed any fabled "liberal arts major MBAs".

Welcome to the real world, Microsoft. (4, Insightful)

FurryOne (618961) | more than 4 years ago | (#31028334)

Microsoft has become the Company they scorned in the 90's... IBM. I wonder how many IBM'ers are laughing at Microsoft now that the shoe is on the other foot?

Gradual Decay (5, Interesting)

Greg Hullender (621024) | more than 4 years ago | (#31028340)

For a long time, Microsoft avoided the sort of sclerosis that seemed to affect big companies like IBM, AT&T, and Xerox. People attributed it to things like Microsoft's amazing decentralization of responsibility (in which each VP operates much like the CEO of his or her own startup) to the "Program Manager" role that separated the job of collecting requirements from the job of progamming them. But over the last decade, things seem to have gradually frozen up.

I was at Microsoft at the same time Dick Brass was (and even reported into his organization for a while), so I'm going to beat up on him a little. (He won't mind.) We really wanted Tablet PC to be viable without a keyboard because it made such a difference in weight and size. There are a number of problems with operating such a device that way, but simply logging into it was a bear. Virtual keyboard and handwriting recognition solutions were both miserable, so we looked at biometrics. Now for a Tablet PC, the obvious biometric is signature verification, but one powerful individual in Dick Brass's organization had such a passion for fingerprint verification, that he effectively stopped us from even evaluating signature verification systems. Never mind that the fingerprint systems were extra hardware, stuck out the side, were easy to break off, etc. -- this individual was impervious to reason. Dick could have broken the logjam, but wouldn't get involved. Ultimately, we did nothing, and no serious keyboardless Tablet PCs were ever made (that I know of). This wasn't the only reason, but it was enough by itself.

This pair of problems -- the non-technical guy who kills ideas and can't be reasoned with plus upper management that can't get involved -- seems to have become depressingly common across the whole company. Bright people get discouraged and leave. People who thrive on stifling other people stay.

Where I do disagree with Dick is that I think a VP still has enough autonomy to make his/her own org successful. Microsoft's top management could still fix this problem if it consistently focused on getting and keeping the right VPs and eliminating the bad ones. I think the problem and the solution start and end in the same place.

--Greg

Re:Gradual Decay (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31028478)

Personally I wouldn't be able to use signature verification because my signature is so inconsistent. I can print my name in exactly the same way every time, but I cannot write in cursive at all.

Re:Gradual Decay (4, Interesting)

Greg Hullender (621024) | more than 4 years ago | (#31028540)

Personally I wouldn't be able to use signature verification because my signature is so inconsistent. . . .

You'd be surprised how many people say that, and yet when the software gets to see their dynamic signature (as points in time, not just an image), it easily finds the things that make their signature unique and clearly distinguishes it from anyone else's. Or so it appeared, anyway. As I said, we never really got to do a proper evaluation, but we did do enough to determine that a lot of our intuitions about the problem were simply wrong.

--Greg

Re:Gradual Decay (1, Flamebait)

clampolo (1159617) | more than 4 years ago | (#31028904)

You'd be surprised how many people say that, and yet when the software gets to see their dynamic signature (as points in time, not just an image), it easily finds the things that make their signature unique and clearly distinguishes it from anyone else's.

Good God!! You guys couldn't even get the DHCP in Vista to keep from knocking out my router. And you think someone would be stupid enough to buy a device that uses advanced signature recognition software to access it? I could just imagine forever losing access to my data because some stupid signature recognition algorithm had a bug.

Just admit that Microsoft has very poor technical talent and poor innovation. While you were bitching and moaning about styluses, Apple realized people hate using a stylus and brought us touch screen interfaces.

Re:Gradual Decay (1)

yuhong (1378501) | more than 4 years ago | (#31028544)

This pair of problems -- the non-technical guy who kills ideas and can't be reasoned with plus upper management that can't get involved -- seems to have become depressingly common across the whole company.

So why wouldn't upper management get involved? This is not the only problems MS had during the period, but...

Re:Gradual Decay (1)

Greg Hullender (621024) | more than 4 years ago | (#31028682)

Often the upper-management guys are non-technical and they're loath to get involved in any sort of dispute over a technical issue. When the dispute is between someone technical and someone non-technical, I'll at least say that I don't think they generally favor the non-technical guy; they just don't do anything.

This doesn't happen all the time, and I can hardly speak for every group at Microsoft either. But it happens often enough in enough groups to be a problem. And it's my perception that it happens more and more.

--Greg

Re:Gradual Decay (1)

digsbo (1292334) | more than 4 years ago | (#31028576)

You make a good point about the power of a single executive to do serious harm to a project/team. I experienced this myself a few years back; a particular VP of "Business Development" required us to work with a favored vendor of his choosing. Despite any and all evidence to show they were neither interested in nor capable of delivering their part of the solution, we were strictly forbidden to solicit competitive proposals. I suspected kickbacks were part of the reason but could not prove it.

This is a real weakness of many companies that have fallen into the common trap of allowing personal relationships at the executive level to dominate business decisions. A lot of short-term thinking based on ego and this year's bonus. Since the typical executive severance is what an engineer makes in two or more years, it's really not a problem for them to run companies into the ground and hop from enterprise to enterprise.

10 year old compute had 1.5% of the power. (1)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | more than 4 years ago | (#31028794)

Guys dont forget the effect of Moore's law. 10 years is 6 * 18 months ago. Computers were 1/(2^6) as powerful as they are today. 2^6=64, Hence the computers had just 1.5% of the computing power of today's computer. To do signature or handwriting analysis, you simply did not have the power. Facebook could not have existed in a dial up AOL connectivity era. Just have some historical perspective. The tablet PC dreamt up by Dick Brass would have just sucked. Or he could claim he was ahead of the time. Anyway think about it.

Re:Gradual Decay (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31028900)

This sounds like what I encountered at a large internet company that will remain nameless, at least in terms of highest level executives not policing their direct reports, or at least the intermediary managers not pushing them for resolution (for fear of losing/using political capital). The end result is that one groups bad decision cannot be corrected by someone in another group. When you add IP avarice or NIH syndrome into the mix, you have one F*ckedCompany.

They don't deal with each other in good faith (4, Interesting)

astrashe (7452) | more than 4 years ago | (#31028428)

The OpEd basically says that people inside the company screw each other over.

That's always the way they seemed to me from the outside -- there was this sort of thug culture there in the 90's, when they'd threaten to cut some company's air supply if they didn't buckle under, etc. I mean, they just came across as obnoxious bullies. And it turns out that's what it's like on the inside.

If they would just start dealing with everyone in good faith, it would do them a lot of good. Gates is a close friend of Warren Buffet, and Buffet knows the value of straight shooting as well as any business leader in the US. Microsoft should emulate Buffet on that point. You really can do well by doing good.

But just to take a recent example, that business with selling patents off to a troll company that would use them to harass Linux users leaves a bad taste in people's mouths. It makes you want to use someone else's products if there's anyway you can.

It must be a pretty depressing place to work.

ARGH!! (1)

goose-incarnated (1145029) | more than 4 years ago | (#31028430)

Is it too much effort to spell properly even in the damn summary? Surely the story has "threatened" spelled correctly? I'm noticing more and more that spelling nowadays is like food seasoning - you just need to sprinkle some of it around, doesn't matter where it falls.

(Wasn't there a story earlier this week about declining standards?)

American as apple pie (3, Insightful)

U8MyData (1281010) | more than 4 years ago | (#31028432)

And this notion suprises anyone? It's not unlike any large family where one kid stuffs a sock in anothers mouth, someone taddles on Johnny, or another dumps their sister from the wagon. Turf wars exist everywhere; the challenge is to minimize them. But... How do you do that when competition is king? Where wining the battle is put before what is good, just, or honorable? Just asking?

MS eats own dogfood (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31028464)

From TFA:

Internal competition is common at great companies. It can be wisely encouraged to force ideas to compete. The problem comes when the competition becomes uncontrolled and destructive. At Microsoft, it has created a dysfunctional corporate culture in which the big established groups are allowed to prey upon emerging teams, belittle their efforts, compete unfairly against them for resources, and over time hector them out of existence.

Looks like they have the same predatorial culture internally than what we see when MS is dealing with theirs "partners".

Microsoft innovation? What innovation (1, Troll)

okshaw (949729) | more than 4 years ago | (#31028466)

Microsoft doesn't innovate. I can't think of a single Microsoft product that was invented at Microsoft. They copy the inventions of other companies, and use cross-subsidization and OS lock-ins to push thir product to the top.

Achieved their goals (1)

wfolta (603698) | more than 4 years ago | (#31028518)

I think Microsoft achieved their goals. Their main emphasis has always seemed to be leveraging their current monopoly to create other monopolies. The only innovation I remember them making was to invent the office suite, which put their better-but-single-property competitors heads in vices. (And leveraged their insider knowledge from their first monopoly.)

Sure, Microsoft has a lot of very smart people working for them, and no doubt they have very interesting things in their laboratories. BUT the corporate goal has always been something akin to "Windows everywhere" and the entire company has worked towards that end. MS Tablets did not stumble because of political infighting, they stumbled because they ran MS's desktop property, using their desktop metaphor.

They may have failed to be considered an innovative company. They may have carried their external turf war mentality turn inwards. They may have stumbled on small devices because they wanted Windows Everywhere. But they certainly succeeded where they wanted to: OS monopoly, browser monopoly, office suite monopoly. (Jobs') Apple has a different goal and seems to be succeeding -- or at least threatening to succeed -- rather admirably.

I would guess... (0, Flamebait)

jav1231 (539129) | more than 4 years ago | (#31028572)

I would guess it goes something like this:
Programmer: "Oh Hi, Mr. Balmer! Hey, I thought you might like this cool innovation we're working on for the next Windows!"
Balmer: "rrRrRRRRAAARRRRRRR!" (throws chair)

Re:I would guess... (3, Funny)

keeboo (724305) | more than 4 years ago | (#31029030)

Programmer: "Oh Hi, Mr. Balmer! Hey, I thought you might like this cool innovation we're working on for the next Windows!"

It's not "programmer", it's "developer" (the man likes that word).

Corporate structure. (4, Insightful)

v(*_*)vvvv (233078) | more than 4 years ago | (#31028708)

It is my understanding that it is common belief and practice to motivate employees by creating a competitive environment. But a lot of companies take this to mean "within the company". Well, if you create a win lose situation, there will always be losers, and if it is all happening inside the company, you're forcing everyone to concentrate on fighting with one another, and inflicting harm to other parts of the company. In biology, this would be a disease.

And in any great competition, you will always have your dirty players, your cheaters, and those who thrive at politics and manipulating the minds of those around them. This is a lot of wasted energy that otherwise could be put towards improving something or creating value within the business. Not to mention, true craftsmen thrive on isolation and focus, and are easily slain with swords. That is why you should never pit your sales department (soldiers) with your dev department (architects), because if you've hired the right people your sales department will always win.

At the end of the day, it is up to the "parent" to know what they are doing, and to put up the walls that help channel energy in all the right directions. Soldiers go outside the company to fight their wars. Developers just sit back and fight deadlines.

If you do compete, compete with your competitors. If you do have internal competitions, make sure no one loses. You can make it a win-win, or just a single win, situation, like rewards for certain targets. But never leave room for open politics or cat fighting within departments or between employees. Just create a total dictatorship where there is one leader who knows what they are doing, and is responsible for everyone else. Democracies may allow everyone to stand equally, but they are the worst at getting anything done. And no one needs to be equal in the workplace.

Re:Corporate structure. (1)

rabtech (223758) | more than 4 years ago | (#31029008)

It doesn't always take a competition; we know it as "Not Invented Here Syndrome". Even when there isn't a competition internally, other departments will still oppose you because they weren't the ones to come up with the idea. Eliminating that sort of thing requires a massive push from the top for better leadership throughout the organization and rare is the CxO/VP that has that kind of head for business, vision for leadership, and political clout to pull off the change without getting quashed.

Software Darwinism (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31028760)

I once knew a guy who worked at Microsoft, and after his stock made him enough money to no longer have to worry about bills, he left so he could focus on what he enjoyed. One thing he told me that many people don't understand about Microsoft is that the company *wants* its teams to treat each other as competitive threats, because it allows a sort of "software Darwinism" - his words not mine - to take place. As a result, he said that teams don't tend to work each each other unless there is a clear net benefit for them, because their jobs - and thus their ability to feed their families, etc - is on the line otherwise. That also means they tend to want to work on "safe" products.

Re:Software Darwinism (1)

Alioth (221270) | more than 4 years ago | (#31029076)

That explains a lot about the abombination that is the Win32 API - it always felt like it was designed by two dozen different teams who never spoke to each other. I guess that there must be at least a kernel of truth to that supposition.

Large company syndrome at work. (3, Insightful)

ErichTheRed (39327) | more than 4 years ago | (#31029116)

This happens a lot with any large company where revenue is dependent on keeping a few cash cow products generating income. First, you don't want to do anything to upset what's making you money, so you start really playing it safe. Vista was a horrible flop, but Microsoft spent a ton of time and money polishing it up and rolling out Windows 7. But imagine Microsoft throwing out all the 20 years of Windows backward compatibility and totally starting over. It won't happen until the product absolutely cannot be supported anymore. Windows 7 including "XP mode" is a really good example - they desparately want to avoid angering enterprise customers who are still running custom software that relies on Windows 98's quirks 12 years later. Heck, there's still a couple of places I know running the core of their business using a 16-bit screen scraper app and an equally-old terminal emulator!

Second, you have the organizational problem. Microsoft is huge, so huge that enterprise customers need a Technical Account Manager just to handle their support calls and make sure they can find resources. I know they have a Research arm, but I can't see how an individual developer's idea might possibly make it high enough up the food chain to make much difference. To make things worse, the management structure is probably so deep within product lines that multiple product VPs are clamoring for Ballmer's attention. These guys are fighting for their jobs, so I imagine there's tons of poltics involved. I would bet that early-90's Microsoft was a lot more collaborative.

I definitely see Microsoft progressing towards IBM and Oracle territory as far as products go. They'll deliver nice safe products for business, but the consumer will be left out. XBox is another story...but just look at the mess that is Zune!

I've actually worked for large organizations, both IT and non-IT. (I haven't worked for a software company.) I can tell you that smaller organizations are better, up to a point. Once you get too small, say in the medium business category, you have to deal personally with a potentially psychopathic owner or CEO. If they're benevolent, it's great, but most entrepreneur-y types are nuts to begin with, and tend to treat employees like "the help." But once you grow too big, such that communication becomes a problem and politics start entering into every decision, the situation can be just as bad.

But yeah, I can't see Microsoft creating another "category-killer" product with their current structure. My dealings with them as a Premier Support customer have been interesting....it takes them several days to admit that a problem exists, log it, and "officially" tell me that they're working on a hotfix.

I got to see this first-hand in my last job. The place started off like a startup, got big, and all of a sudden people were doing the CYA thing that I've seen all over the large-business world. Everyone was way too panicked about getting chewed out by our crazy CIO to be focused on doing good work.

Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>