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A Press Junket To Redmond

kdawson posted more than 7 years ago | from the belly-of-the-beast dept.

Microsoft 329

christian.einfeldt writes "Our very own Roblimo Miller was invited to an all-expenses-paid tour of the Microsoft campus because he is supposedly 'not friendly' to Microsoft. Writes Roblimo: 'I came away with a sense that Microsoft doesn't currently have a clear sense of what Microsoft should be and where Microsoft should be going... I also think, from what I heard during my visit and what other Microsoft employees and customers have told me at other times, that it has degenerated into a series of disconnected fiefdoms that aren't all moving in the same direction.'" Linux.com and Slashdot are both owned by OSTG.

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329 comments

why? (2, Interesting)

netsfr (839855) | more than 7 years ago | (#17212106)

Why has Redmond been so friendly to linux recently?

Re:why? (4, Insightful)

harrkev (623093) | more than 7 years ago | (#17212304)

I would imagine that it is because they know that they are alienating a large part of their user base (or potential user base). I guess that this is an attempts to win the "hearts and minds" of the people, and it is having about as much success as the US is having with the same plan in Iraq.

The truly sad thing is that they push WPA, WGA, DRM, Trusted Computing, overly-restrictive licensing, etc., and think that a simple junket and a couple of freebies can make up for treating customers like crap.

Hey, Microsoft:
If you are reading this, try treating your customers like you value them. I am about as a law-abiding citizen that you can find. I do not appreciate all of the restrictions that you place on your products in an effort to keep me honest. Your slogan used to be "Where do you want to go today?" Now, it is "You can't go there. We will tell you where we will let you go." Wise up before it is too late.

Re:why? (2, Funny)

aardvarkjoe (156801) | more than 7 years ago | (#17213238)

The truly sad thing is that they push WPA, WGA, DRM, Trusted Computing, overly-restrictive licensing, etc., and think that a simple junket and a couple of freebies can make up for treating customers like crap.
Sounds good to me. Where do I sign up?

Re:why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17213070)

Maybe they are going to "divide and conquer" Linux community.

Re:why? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17213226)

It's because they're trying to stop the Earth from revolving around the sun. [/thinking like a stupid linux zealot and ranting about the novell deal] and also [/SARCASM]

glass houses (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17212124)

That it has degenerated into a series of disconnected fiefdoms that aren't all moving in the same direction.

How is that any different than the state of Open Source Software?

not trolling either...

Re:glass houses (3, Insightful)

michrech (468134) | more than 7 years ago | (#17212258)

How is that any different than the state of Open Source Software?

Probably because "Open Source Software" has never pretended to be otherwise?

Re:glass houses (4, Insightful)

QMO (836285) | more than 7 years ago | (#17212372)

My (purely off-the-cuff, entirely unsubstantiated, speculative) answer would be: It is arguable that an OSS project often grows, matures, innovates faster and increases in value and resources when it forks.

When a monolithic brand (like Microsoft) lacks unified direction, it not only loses a chunck of the marketing advantage of being a well-known brand, it also tends to stagnate (slower innovation) and lose resources.

Re:glass houses (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17212450)

My (purely off-the-cuff, entirely unsubstantiated, speculative) answer would be: It is arguable that an OSS project often grows, matures, innovates faster and increases in value and resources when it forks.

Details? Examples?

Re:glass houses (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17213004)

unsubstantiated!

Re:glass houses (1)

QMO (836285) | more than 7 years ago | (#17213124)

(Remember, this is still non-expert and off-the-cuff.)

Examples of poor performance when direction is lost: Novell, Corel, Sears

Examples of increased success by forking: RedHat, Novell

(Yes, I see the apparent contradiction. Working out what I mean is left to the reader.)

Re:glass houses (1)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 7 years ago | (#17212518)

You could as easily make the argument that an OSS fork also increases consumer confusion and support difficulties (not to mention splitting up the already strained pool of developers into competing camps).

-Eric

Re:glass houses (1)

QMO (836285) | more than 7 years ago | (#17213044)

Not that I disagree with your points, because I actually agree with them, still.

I think that part of the nature of the OS model is that often when a project forks the number of developers (and support people, and users, which are likely intersecting groups) increases.

I know this doesn't always happen. Sometimes the fork may kill the entire project.

MOD PARENT UP!!! (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17212404)

Even though it's a blast at FOSS/GNU/LINUX/???/PROFIT!

Re:glass houses (4, Insightful)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 7 years ago | (#17212470)

Well, at least the OSS movement was created in the air of disjointed operations that somehow manage to somehow fit into each other. The approach is a completely different one. OSS is created, and if it's good, it is used by the other developers. If it's crap, it will be tossed aside.

A programmer at MS on the other hand knows his software or API will be used, whether it's good or not, because it was demanded to exist.

Now, how do you get other devs to use your tools? By creating good interfaces and at least a working documentation. Only if there is nobody creating a competing interface you can resort to "read the effing source". Which is not really an option at MS either.

That's the difference.

Re:glass houses (1)

awitod (453754) | more than 7 years ago | (#17213142)

A programmer at MS on the other hand knows his software or API will be used, whether it's good or not, because it was demanded to exist.
In my experience you are quite wrong about this. Microsoft is a fairly ruthless meritocracy and when an individual or group put something out there that is crap, the most likely thing to happen, unless the crap happens to be in some very, very important place, is that it will be supplanted by a competing stack from a newer or overlapping product.

Heck, it doesn't even have to be crap. It might just be that the other group has different needs or that opinion on what is 'best' change.

How many data access stacks can you count from the last 15 years? ODBC, DAO, RDO, OLEDB, ADO, ADO.Net, LINQ....

How many different forms engines and editors?

It's because MS has ALWAYS been a collection of fiefdoms.

Re:glass houses (2, Interesting)

gid13 (620803) | more than 7 years ago | (#17212474)

Well, for one thing, MS is primarily an OS and office vendor, not a maker of every kind of closed source software. So a better comparison might be MS versus, say, Ubuntu + Open Office.

For another, traditional wisdom (depending on how you define it, I guess) would say that the fact that Windows is entirely developed by one company should lead to greater project cohesion. Which it may have done; some might say this is why Windows has traditionally been easier to use. However, this illustrates why it would be a problem for it to degenerate into disconnected fiefdoms; it could lose an advantage.

Lastly, looking at Ubuntu, I think that open source developers are either beginning to figure out how to be cohesive despite being relatively disconnected people all over the world (they have after all been doing this for a while), or possibly Ubuntu is just paying people to do that part of the job that nobody else wants to.

Re:glass houses (3, Insightful)

misleb (129952) | more than 7 years ago | (#17212812)

Difference is that open source is SUPPOSED to be that way. Cathedral vs. Bazaar and all that...

-matthew

Re:glass houses (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17212992)

"People who live in glass houses... shouldn't throw chairs."

Re:glass houses (4, Insightful)

Mr. Underbridge (666784) | more than 7 years ago | (#17213066)

How is that any different than the state of Open Source Software?

1. Because OSS was designed to actually function that way, whereas MS has not.
2) Because each individual OSS project doesn't depend on the others for success, whereas MS has intentionally integrated many of its divisions so that they do depend on each other (Windows and Office and IE, for instance).
3) Because MS has a single leadership, and any a leadership without a coherent plan is a bad one. OSS has many leaders for many projects, and they need not each have the same goal.
4) Each individual OSS project may in fact have a strong leader with a clear well thought out plan. The successful ones usually do.

just what I've always said (2, Insightful)

radar bunny (140304) | more than 7 years ago | (#17212136)

Its not that microsoft is such a "evil company" or intentionally releasing bad product, or not carring about the quality. It is just another case of a company getting too big and trying to do too much. In 10-15 years google will be in the same boat.

Re:just what I've always said (4, Insightful)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | more than 7 years ago | (#17212410)

Its not that microsoft is such a "evil company" or intentionally releasing bad product, or not carring about the quality. It is just another case of a company getting too big and trying to do too much. In 10-15 years google will be in the same boat.

Wrong on all counts:

- Microsoft can be said to be evil as a company, because they play so rough in the marketplace that they have ruined countless companies in their growing process.

- Microsoft doesn't care about quality, they care about money. They will care about quality (and they're moving in that direction these days) when shoddy products stop making just as much money as good ones.

- It is not a case of a company growing too big: Microsoft has been doing a lot for a long time and has been extremely focused so far.

As for Google, IMHO it remains to be seen if this is not simply an enormous balloon full of hot air... At any rate, Google and Microsoft have very different company cultures, so they're not really comparable.

Re:just what I've always said (1)

jo42 (227475) | more than 7 years ago | (#17212980)

History has shown that all over-reaching empires collapse sooner or later. Some with a mightier thud than others. Microsoft's thud cannot come too soon...

What were they thinking? (2, Interesting)

MeanMF (631837) | more than 7 years ago | (#17212144)

I'm not sure what MS thought they were going to get by inviting a "true believer" to their campus, but the article is pretty much exactly what you'd expect.

Re:What were they thinking? (5, Funny)

Macthorpe (960048) | more than 7 years ago | (#17212282)

My thoughts exactly.

What I was going to say was:

Newsflash: Pro-Linux reporter invited to visit Microsoft and gives biased report.

Later on in this show: A group of nuns visit Amsterdam and don't enjoy it.

Re:What were they thinking? (1)

maynard (3337) | more than 7 years ago | (#17213156)

Later on in this show: A group of nuns visit Amsterdam and don't enjoy it.

Oh, they enjoyed it. That sneering frown is just meant to throw you off, like a bluff at the poker table. There is some question whether they remember the trip, however.

Re:What were they thinking? (3, Insightful)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | more than 7 years ago | (#17212488)

If Roblimo is a good journalist, then his personal opinions shouldn't enter into his review of the tour, i.e. he should be impartial. If on the other hand he's a rabid Linux fan, which I doubt, then I think Microsoft is right to invite him: you'd be surprised the number of pseudo-fanatics who switch side when the "enemy" treats them nice one day. We all know it won't happen with Roblimo, but Microsoft is perfectly right to try.

Re:What were they thinking? (2, Informative)

IDontAgreeWithYou (829067) | more than 7 years ago | (#17212716)

If Roblimo is a good journalist, then his personal opinions shouldn't enter into his review of the tour

Well, you could have... wait for it... RTFA and see that clearly his personal opinions did enter into his review and saved yourself the time it took you to type that first sentence.

Re:What were they thinking? (1)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | more than 7 years ago | (#17212758)

Well, you could have... wait for it... RTFA and see that clearly his personal opinions did enter into his review and saved yourself the time it took you to type that first sentence.

It's called irony. You know, it's like goldy and bronzy, only it's made of iron...

They only found 10 people? (5, Funny)

elcid73 (599126) | more than 7 years ago | (#17212150)

Supposedly, a total of 10 people were invited, specifically chosen because they were not friendly toward Microsoft.

I think they could have looked a little harder for people "not friendly" to MS.

Re:They only found 10 people? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17212292)

There are 10 kinds of people in the world, those who hate Microsoft and those who don't know binary

Re:They only found 10 people? (1)

harrkev (623093) | more than 7 years ago | (#17212354)

I think they could have looked a little harder for people "not friendly" to MS.
Yes, but even Microsoft could not afford to pay for a junket for every person who doesn't like them. I doubt that there are even enough hotel rooms in Washington.

Re:They only found 10 people? (4, Funny)

garcia (6573) | more than 7 years ago | (#17212542)

I think they could have looked a little harder for people "not friendly" to MS.

I can see it right now:

FROM: Press Junket Passport
TO: Anonymous Coward
SUBJ: Formal Press Junket Invite

Dear Mr. Coward,

We have decided you are unfriendly towards Microsoft and we ask that you join Slashdot's Roblimo on a tour of our Redmond campus. You will have limited access to staff but you will get a great feeling for th excitement that is rippling through our campus. Don't think of it like a UN envoy being led around internment camps. Think of it as a freedom tour!

If you see any chairs near broken glass, best to be quiet and keep moving, fast.

If you have any questions, please wait till the end of the tour. You will be signing an NDA and will not be allowed to post this to Slashdot or your personal journal (http://slashdot.org/~anonymous/journal) after completion of the tour.

Please let us know what kind of caffeinated drinks you want during your tour.

Sincerely,
Media Relations Team
Microsoft

Re:They only found 10 people? (2, Funny)

mordors9 (665662) | more than 7 years ago | (#17212578)

I would certainly feel friendlier toward them with an all expenses paid trip to Tahiti...

One way, right? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17213020)

I mean, come on!

disconnected fiefdoms (4, Interesting)

Speare (84249) | more than 7 years ago | (#17212164)

I say this with experience: this is what Microsoft has pretty much *always* been, by design. Except for the guy with the lousy haircut, Microsoft intentionally divided into business units that were to behave as independent "companies." Each had their own vision, their own agenda, their own tactics on how to get there. Just trying to get an App's new feature melted into the System side of the house for anyone to use... it was like murder. Nevermind a Systems guy telling the Apps folks why they shouldn't rely on the broken older features like metafiles. And then as the antitrust issues were creeping in, everyone saw this Chinese Wall between the Apps and Systems divisions as a *good* thing. Of course, that meant that they couldn't turn and leverage new trends like modems and ftp and this newfangled http thing, but they figured that once it became ubiquitous, everyone would just naturally buy Microsoft products on inertia alone. We see how that's worked out...

Re:disconnected fiefdoms (1)

jasontheking (124650) | more than 7 years ago | (#17212618)

it sounds like splitting up the company as part of the DoJ vs M$ trial, if it was done along those business unit lines , could have had almost no affect at all... just made it harder in future to prove collusion.

Re:disconnected fiefdoms (1)

Pascal Sartoretti (454385) | more than 7 years ago | (#17212874)

this is what Microsoft has pretty much *always* been, by design. Except for the guy with the lousy haircut, Microsoft intentionally divided into business units that were to behave as independent "companies."

Then Microsoft should be easy to be split up in a few independant companies?

Re:disconnected fiefdoms (1)

ergo98 (9391) | more than 7 years ago | (#17212946)

I say this with experience: this is what Microsoft has pretty much *always* been, by design

Indeed. It's interesting that it could be cast as a problem with Microsoft, as some of Microsoft's greatest disasters have been when they've tried to all move in the same direction...which basically means that they all move as slow as their slowest part.

If every tiny group at Microsoft were free to do what solved their niche best, it would be a fearsome machine. As it is, they're all hobbled by considering themselves their biggest competitor, forever designing around politics as much as they design around technology and the user.

You forgot one bit (0, Troll)

bogaboga (793279) | more than 7 years ago | (#17212168)

'I came away with a sense that Microsoft doesn't currently have a clear sense of what Microsoft should be and where Microsoft should be going...

You forgot one very important bit; that statement above should have read:

'I came away with a sense that Microsoft doesn't currently have a clear sense of what Microsoft should be and where Microsoft should be going in my not so humble opinion...'(emphasis mine)

Re:You forgot one bit (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 7 years ago | (#17212768)

If "I came away with a sense" doesn't imply that the following is an opinion to you, then I don't know what can help you.

disconnected fiefdoms (2, Insightful)

tiltowait (306189) | more than 7 years ago | (#17212170)

gj, you just described any large company (or organization for that matter, as large unis invariably have departments and units which operate akin to feudal baronies)

Everything you need to know from TFA... (5, Informative)

192939495969798999 (58312) | more than 7 years ago | (#17212172)

"None of the Microsoft people I met had anything to say about their deal with Novell, working with the Open Document Format (ODF), acceptance of the GNU General Public License (GPL) as a legitimate software license, how DRM built into Vista may anger users, or other topics I thought might interest you."

Don't forget this part ... (4, Insightful)

khasim (1285) | more than 7 years ago | (#17212538)

Yes, Microsoft does have a security program manager. His name is Michael Howard. ... Howard claimed IIS is now more secure than Apache (as witnessed by number of patches, a measure with which many might quarrel) and Vista is the most secure version of Windows ever, so secure that you may not even need antivirus software for it.

When one of the top "security" guys at a company doesn't even know the basics of security, how can their products be "more secure"?

It isn't how many patches are released. It is never about how many patches are released.

It is about the severity of the vulnerabilities.

One remote root vulnerability is worth 1,000+ local app crashing vulnerabilities.

Re:Everything you need to know from TFA... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17212756)

"None of the Microsoft people I met had anything to say about their deal with Novell, working with the Open Document Format (ODF), acceptance of the GNU General Public License (GPL) as a legitimate software license, how DRM built into Vista may anger users, or other topics I thought might interest you."

What were you expecting? Outside of the circle-jerk at /., most people don't obsess over any of that crap. It's either irrelevant to what they do (ODF, GPL) or decided by people at a much higher level than them (DRM).

Hell, have a poll of the peons at Oracle, SAP or Peopelsoft and see how little response you get on any of that stuff.

How is this different? (1, Insightful)

winkydink (650484) | more than 7 years ago | (#17212236)

...it [Microsoft] has degenerated into a series of disconnected fiefdoms that aren't all moving in the same direction.

The same statement can be made to apply to nearly any Fortune 500 company. It's not something unique to Microsoft, but rather a function of size.

Polonium sandwich... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17212246)

I hope he didn't eat anything during his visit. I heard Steve Balmer updated the cafeteria's menu to include a Polonium sandwich just for Roblimo...

It's true (5, Interesting)

theworldisflat (1033868) | more than 7 years ago | (#17212284)

Having worked for Microsoft's PSS team on-and-off several times, Microsoft truly has no idea where it's going. Even within its own ranks, guys who had been there for 15+ years could barely recognize the company as it is today. Internal wars, endless meetings/bureaucracy and loss of focus are the biggest hindrances. India, of course, is a 4-letter word as far as many are concerned ("It's not about the money...." - Yeah right). People who are truly gifted and could benefit the company are turned away, while politics and buddy-buddy rules bring people in who, honestly, have no clue. It's a downward spiral. I do hope that someday they will regain control of this frenzied beast, and put power back in the hands of the engineers. It's always been a truly education experience working for them, both on a technical and social level...something I wouldn't trade for the world.

Uh.... (-1, Troll)

andreyw (798182) | more than 7 years ago | (#17212326)

*cough*, wow, you know Rob... you didn't have to fawn over Microsoft for having provided you with a trip to their campus.... but neither did you have to be such an ass about it either. Seriously. They didn't have to do this. They chose to do it to give a sense to you, Rob, that They're Human Beings Too. If I could summarize your article in one sentence, it would be "blah blah blah Microsoft is teh suck." I expected a little more...

Re:Uh.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17212400)

"*cough*, wow, you know Rob... you didn't have to fawn over Microsoft for having provided you with a trip to their campus.... but neither did you have to be such an ass about it either. Seriously. They didn't have to do this. They chose to do it to give a sense to you, Rob, that They're Human Beings Too. If I could summarize your article in one sentence, it would be "blah blah blah Microsoft is teh suck." I expected a little more..."

My sentiments exactly. I get the sense that he never gave any of the MS groups, nor their products, a chance. The guy really needs to grow up.

Re:Uh.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17212842)

Microsoft doesn't deserve a chance. They shut have been shut down by the DoJ by 1995.

Re:Uh.... (4, Insightful)

harrkev (623093) | more than 7 years ago | (#17212414)

Well, he expected a little more out of Microsoft. All he got was a huge grope-fest where he got the whole "look how great this stuff is.." without ANSWERING ANY OF HIS HARD QUESTIONS...

What if you went to buy a new car, and tried to ask tough questions about horsepower, reliability, maintenance, but were just told to admire the shiny paint job and leather seats over and over again. Wouldn't you be rightly annoyed and walk out of there with an unfavorable opinion?

Or, maybe you prefer snow jobs?

Re:Uh.... (1)

InsaneGeek (175763) | more than 7 years ago | (#17212472)

Were they "hard questions" or were they loaded questions, two very, very different things, and it seems pretty obvious he wasn't all that interested in a real dialog with answers but more interested in doing the "neener neener, I got ya" child thing.

Re:Uh.... (1)

Loco Moped (996883) | more than 7 years ago | (#17212650)

Were they "hard questions" or were they loaded questions,

They were neither hard nor were they loaded. They just weren't answered. Fool.

Re:Uh.... (1)

heinousjay (683506) | more than 7 years ago | (#17212948)

I guess when you wholeheartedly (perhaps zealously) agree with the sentiment behind the questions, they don't seem loaded. It's a little different when you're on the receiving end.

I'm not really defending Microsoft, though, and if you didn't append that "fool" to the end of your post, I probably wouldn't have replied. I'm just don't with arrogant zealotry.

Re:Uh.... (1)

andreyw (798182) | more than 7 years ago | (#17213166)

All of the questions he asked can only be answered by the company's legal department - why the hell would a marketting guy know the answers? And even if he did, he would not be in the position to speak for the company. Because that's what the legal peopel are for. So if Roblimo really wanted answers, he would have asked the right people.... not that they have any need to tell him the answers.

Why aren't you GPL'ing all of your code, assholes? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17212924)

His questions (which my post's title typifies) sucked.

You would answer idiotic questions like that? Get real.

Very clever, yes. (1, Flamebait)

dedazo (737510) | more than 7 years ago | (#17212362)

The more you bullshit them with snide post-mortem "let me tell you how it is" articles (to which they will never reply because they can't) designed to convey the idea that you have lots of "cred" with the "community", the less they will reach out to you. Change in Microsoft has to come from the bottom, not the top. The more you insult lower-level employees who won't get on their knees and celebrate you as some sort of god and talk frankly about what Ballmer said last week because they're not supposed to (or simply don't want to), the less they'll talk to you at all. Jesus christ, that's like berating a clerk at the DMV for a speech made by the governor. WTF? If you wanted to get clarification about something Ballmer said you should requested to talk to him, and skipped this "junket" thing entirely.

The more I see how the members of this "community" behave the less faith I have that the person who ends up running Microsoft in the next 10 years will bother being civil to them. Grow the fuck up.

Re:Very clever, yes. (4, Interesting)

jcr (53032) | more than 7 years ago | (#17212522)

Change in Microsoft has to come from the bottom, not the top.
Nope. Microsoft has no shortage of talented coders. The problem is in their management, and that's not going to change until the Vista disaster causes a shareholder revolt, removing their top six levels of deadwood.

Go read The Peter Principle if you want to understand how a company gets this way.

-jcr

Re:Very clever, yes. (1)

mrbcs (737902) | more than 7 years ago | (#17212718)

Go read The Peter Principle if you want to understand how a company gets this way.

Loose quote: "In any Heirarchy, any individual will rise to his or her level of incompetence... and remain there."

My favourite line.." avoid that last fatal promotion!"

This was one of the most enlightening books I've ever read. Just reading this book dropped my stress level dramatically. We've all seen the results, it's nice to learn how it happens.

Re:Very clever, yes. (1)

dedazo (737510) | more than 7 years ago | (#17212782)

The problem is in their management

And I said something different?

and that's not going to change until the Vista disaster

If by "vista disaster" you mean it will very likely be installed in a couple of hundred million computers in the next five years, I guess you have a point. Nothing else because of sheer inertia, Vista will be no different than Windows 95, 2000 or XP were. Let me guess, you predicted the same "disaster" when XP was released, right?

Re:Very clever, yes. (4, Interesting)

jcr (53032) | more than 7 years ago | (#17213076)

You said that change would have to come from the bottom. It can't. That's the point you're missing.

Let me guess, you predicted the same "disaster" when XP was released, right?

No, I just said that XP was crap, and didn't fix the grievous mistakes of NT.

Longhorn was the biggest software project failure of all time, at least in the private sector. Vista is just a face-saving move to ship an XP service pack and pretend that it's the major update that was promised for the last six years. Vista also differs greatly from Windows 95, which was actually eagerly recieved by customers, because it really was substantially better than its predecessor.

-jcr

Re:Very clever, yes. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17213078)

He said: Change in Microsoft has to come from the bottom, not the top.
You said: Nope. Microsoft has no shortage of talented coders. The problem is in their management

Um, you realize you negated what he said and then validated it? I don't understand what "coders" have to do with anything. Can I quote posts with double positive-negatives and then get modded up too?

Re:Very clever, yes. (1)

jcr (53032) | more than 7 years ago | (#17213134)

The coders are the people at the bottom at MS. They can't effect the change, because of all the layers of deadwood above them. The change has to come from above the management, that is to say, from the shareholders. This isn't going to happen until the Mac has taken over 20% of desktops and Linux has taken the same amount from the server side of their business, so it could be as much as five years away.
-jcr

No Strategy? (2, Insightful)

acgrissom (1002693) | more than 7 years ago | (#17212428)

"Imagine working for a company that is tolerated, at best, in many social circles. Imagine being a computer science graduate, going to a class reunion, telling people you work for Microsoft, and watching your former classmates slowly back away as if you'd just told them you had a venereal disease." Hilarious. Anyway... I'm not sure that a disagree with the assessment that Microsoft is going into different directions. There at least appears to be a media strategy similar to that for which Sony is hoping. Recently, HD TV shows and movies were available on Xbox Live. The Media Center versions of Windows interact with the Xbox, as well -- and the Zune works with them both. Certainly, Microsoft is diversified, and not all of its businesses overlap. I doubt that the Office team goes the meetings with the Xbox team. However, there does seem to be some semblance of a strategy, even if, like most corporate bureaucracies, many of the peons working there could not care less about the vision of the company.

Three steps (4, Funny)

MaxPowerDJ (888947) | more than 7 years ago | (#17212448)

step 1. Start a Microsoft Hate blog
step 2. Get famous
step 3. Get invited to Redmond for a free weekend and a Zune
step 4. Sell the Zune on ebay
step 5. PROFIT!

"Disconnected fiefdoms" (2, Insightful)

jcr (53032) | more than 7 years ago | (#17212466)

Yep, sounds more like IBM every day.

-jcr

Re:"Disconnected fiefdoms" (2, Interesting)

Target Drone (546651) | more than 7 years ago | (#17212776)

Yep, sounds more like IBM every day.

I worked with a guy in his sixties who had a lot of experience in the business world. He told me companies are a lot like people. As children they're nibble, quick, and go through a lot of growing pains, then as they grow older they get hardening of the arteries.

Re:"Disconnected fiefdoms" (1)

jcr (53032) | more than 7 years ago | (#17213160)

There are some companies that remain highly competent for a very long time. 3M is the first example that springs to mind.
-jcr

MVPs (4, Informative)

Westley (99238) | more than 7 years ago | (#17212496)

"There are people who love Microsoft. The company has an active Most Valuable Professional (MVP) program that encourages outside volunteers to help other users."

Now, this doesn't specifically say that MVPs all love Microsoft, but I think that's the conclusion most people would draw from the above statements. As an MVP (C#) I'd just like to say that MVPs don't all love Microsoft. I'm more positive about MS than I used to be, partly as a result of meeting some great and really smart employees, partly due to some good technologies coming out of Redmond (along with not so great ones, certainly) - and no doubt freebies have a certain amount of influence.

However, this doesn't make me a Microsoft shill, and it doesn't mean I dislike non-MS software where appropriate (for instance, I prefer Eclipse to Visual Studio, even though I prefer C# to Java). In the MVP community there's plenty of irritation with certain bits of Microsoft. MVPs are often valued within the community because they're not shills, and won't always say things are rosy. I'm not saying we're completely unbiased - MS treats us very nicely, and we'd have to be inhuman not to be swayed at all by that - but that's a long way from the implication of the quote above. I've certainly never had any pressure put on me to be "nicer" about MS in newsgroup/blog posts.

Just thought I'd try to clarify things a bit.

Microsoft is now boring (2, Insightful)

Animats (122034) | more than 7 years ago | (#17212630)

Microsoft is boring. Nobody is really excited by Vista, certainly not IT managers who have to pay for it. Nobody believes Microsoft's security pronouncements for Vista, since they said essentially the same thing about Windows 95, Windows 2000, and Windows XP. There are still many corporate IT installations quite happy with Windows 2000, the last version before Microsoft slaved the desktops to the mothership in Redmond.

Customers don't really want Office N+1, either.

Reminds me of General Motors in the early 1980s, right before the Japanese car makers started eating their lunch on quality.

Re:Microsoft is now boring (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17212870)

They were always boring, Windows entire design is an amalgamation of business orientated marketing speak and ineptitude. The console and media player moves are me-toos from the embarrasing uncle who thinks he's cool. Microsofts zero-innovation contributions to computing are only notable as triumphs of copycat design, marketing and law-breaking.

No, it's never mattered that MSFT were boring, it's all the other stuff that matters. Microsoft are like a bad smell that's been allowed to linger for much too long. Even when you have grown accustomed to the stench, you're still gonna catch the occassional stomach churning whiff.

The usual "big company" blues (4, Interesting)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 7 years ago | (#17212672)

Did you notice how the worst programmers usually end up in big companies? I'm not saying that MS did that in the past, but from what I've learned recently, they have fallen into the "save my job" trap recently as well. It's sad, but unfortunately a very normal trend if you start to let people hire their aides themselves.

Imagine you're a programmer somewhere and are now told to hire 3 people to complete your team. What will you hire? Well, as a good programmer and a "honest" person trying to do the best for your company, you will hire the best people your budget can buy.

The reality is very different, though. Especially in a dog-eat-dog company world, where your boss is monitoring your and your team's progress closely. You will never hire people who're better than you, because you could suddenly end up with one of them being your boss because he gets promoted ahead of you. So you will only hire people who are at max as good as you are.

Even if you try to be "honest", you'll get a lot of pressure from the other teams who resort to this tactic because they want to save their job. Your team must not be better than theirs, which would be easy if you're hiring best material. Try it and you'll be the primary target for any company mobbing. You broke the rules.

And why make yourself your life harder than essentially necessary?

MS is also facing another problem a company faces when such changes set in. Meetings and bureaucracy weigh people down and wear them out who want to create and shape, who want to drive things forwards. The 9-5 guys mentioned above don't care, hey, a meeting is more or less time to let your mind wander and keep yourself busy with more important things (like, what color should your new car have?). But people who are there for the reason that they want to create and shape new and exciting things get bored. Also, MS isn't amongst the top payers in the biz anymore.

So the movers and shakers start looking around for new grounds to play on. And companies like Google are more than happy to scoop them up.

The end result, and so far MS is still far from this, is a company that is plagued by bureaucratic, fearful people who do anything to keep their job because they know themselves that they are unfit to fill the position they have, the position they got after the "good" people left and they were bumped up on the ladder. So they wrap everything up in so much red tape that it LOOKS like they're doing something useful, but essentially all that happens is them trying to protect their job.

MS hasn't reached that point yet. But I can see them moving towards it if they don't find a way to get out of it. Momentum will certainly carry MS further for a while, like an oil tanker without its engines running they will keep rolling for a long while. Unfortunately, that momentum also works against them, inside the company. They'll have to restart that engine soon.

Fiefdoms?! Blame the video games... (3, Funny)

creimer (824291) | more than 7 years ago | (#17212694)

... has degenerated into a series of disconnected fiefdoms that aren't all moving in the same direction.

The executive staff is playing too much Age of Empires, and everyone else is playing too much Gears of Wars. Microsoft was a better company when Minesweeper was the only game in town.

Re:Fiefdoms?! Blame the video games... (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 7 years ago | (#17212834)

Microsoft was a better company when Minesweeper was the only game in town.

Screw you, Minesweeperite! Solitaire or death!

Fiefdoms (2, Interesting)

awitod (453754) | more than 7 years ago | (#17212934)

I've been doing business with Microsoft for years. I was an MVP for Microsoft Access in the 90's and these days I run a large .Net user group and work as a sales guy for one of the bigger consulting companies. That said...

You could have said the same thing about them in 1997. I've often wondered, but I'm pretty sure it's that way on purpose.

My two cents on Rob's excellent writeup (1)

xmas2003 (739875) | more than 7 years ago | (#17213022)

That was a damn fine writeup ... someone with balls at Microsoft should send it up the chain all the way to Bill Gates with a "we have to change our culture" comment. I won't hold my breath.

The repeated "I can't comment on that, I'm a product marketing guy" it totally weak and speaks volumes about their lack of accountability. I was surprised you didn't push Nick White ("Mr. Cut off the Conversation") to have their "lawyers who make all patent decisions" meet with you guys ... since it seems they are the ones who really make the decisions ... ;-)

We're listening (3, Insightful)

overworked+underpaid (743766) | more than 7 years ago | (#17213054)

Okay - I'm a Software Engineer at Microsoft. And yes, we're listening.

In regards to Microsoft operating as a cluster of separate companies: I have worked in large companies before, and I believe that MS does better than average at working cohesively toward common goals. This is an incredibly hard thing to achieve in such a large organization and it's something we continually strive to improve.

Having said that, I believe it is important to allow our engineers some freedom to take slightly differernt approaches to the problems that they're working on - this encourages innovation. The down-side of this is that some products may not integrate as smoothly as others in the early stages, but seamless integration will come as the products mature. There are heaps of great examples of this - Messenger, DirectX, PowerPoint, PnP, Xbox, Media Center, IE... all of these technologies innovated in a way that may have seemed orthogonal to our other products, and didn't integrate terribly well in the early stages. As these products have matured, they have become more seamless and work better with other technologies.

Bureaucracy? I have heard this comment before, but, to be honest, I don't see it. Microsoft has much less red tape than other companies I have worked for. That's one of the things I love about working here as an engineer - we just do our job and build cool stuff. It's almost like the rest of the company just exists to make that easier.

I know that most of the people who have read this far are thinking "Holy Cow! Check out the Micro$oft fanboy! The PR department has him trained!". I'm the first to admit that we're not perfect - in fact we're a long way from it. But we're self-critical and we're always trying to improve.

Keep the feeback coming. We're listening.

Re:We're listening (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17213188)

Perhaps they shouldn't let "overworked+underpaid" represent them in public forums.

Not too long ago... (2, Insightful)

Zigurd (3528) | more than 7 years ago | (#17213108)

Not too long ago, Apple failed to ship OS 8, and drifted sideways until their mindshare among developers was near zero. At roughly the same time, Microsoft shipped Win95 and some pretty decent developer tools. Believe it or not, for a while, many of the people who would have dreamed of working for Apple - and who now dream of working for Google, dreamed of Working for Microsoft.

Microsoft was a bigger success than Apple. Microsoft still has nearly twice the market capitalization of Google. And yet, it is evident that Microsoft is no longer a "dream company" to work for.

What is the moral of that story?

When a Bad Idea, like favoring content publishers over your own paying customers, becomes ingrained in a company, it is incredibly difficult to excise that mistaken point of view. Bad ideas require smart people to develop intellectual blind spots, otherwise the Bad Idea glares too much. The Bad Idea becomes a kind of passive-aggressive ogre everyone tries to avoid talking about. So nobody does, until the company is in crisis.

The really scary thing is that Microsoft is so big and so profitable, that to mention "crisis" and "Microsoft" in the same breath sounds a little incomprehensible. GM and Ford were destined to have a crisis from the moment they bought labor peace at the expense of future customers. But they didn't really feel it until, 20 years later, their customer were gone and they had to sell their finance divisions to buy a few quarters more time to find a solution. Microsoft could go on into what are now unforeseeable futures without figuring out that DRM and "Trusted" computing are antithetical to personal computing.

Re:Not too long ago... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17213198)

great idea, lets bash microsoft because it sells stuff for money, when we all know idiotarians prefer that we all work for nothing and make no money and live in grass huts.

I got an invitation to the Vista Launch too (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17213148)

...
Really.
It's not as if I'm going to use Vista, not at present at least..

So let me get this straight . . . (1)

UnknowingFool (672806) | more than 7 years ago | (#17213174)

all-expenses-paid tour of the Microsoft campus because he is supposedly 'not friendly' to Microsoft.

So all I have to do to get a paid trip to Seattle is to hate MS and write about it? In that case: Hey Bill, Wind0ze suxx0rs, L1nux 1337!

the best part (1)

snarfbot (1036906) | more than 7 years ago | (#17213220)

the best part was when he was talking about microsofts "home of tommorow" "The examples that popped into my mind most during the NDA tour were Marshall Brain's online books Robotic Nation and Manna . Bits of Kurt Vonnegut's 1952 novel Player Piano also boiled up from my memory. Microsoft has a positive take on many of these technologies and how they can work together to make our lives different in the future, but since it won't allow me to share its optimism with you, Brain and Vonnegut's dystopian visions will have to do."
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