I recently read an
interview at News.com with Bob Muglia about the removal of WinFS from
Longhorn Client and Server. In that article, he said:
"Our mistake, frankly--and it was a mistake--was to go out and
talk about it before we really had clarity as to how we would be able to
deliver it and all the complexities there."
As a Microsoft MVP, an avid early adopter, and a big fan of many of the
things that you do as a company, I have to say that I was pretty shocked by that
statement. In the past 18 months, you've made tremendous strides in opening up
the company to the outside world. Openness fosters trust in the marketplace, and
it's pretty obvious that you are the market leader when it comes to technology.
Your leadership in corporate transparency has the potential to change the face
of American business, the effects of which we are just barely beginning to
The "problem" with transparency, at least from a corporate management
standpoint, is that miscalculations that would normally go unnoticed are vastly
magnified, mostly by your detractors. Your business practices have gotten you in
trouble with the court of public opinion, and as the old saying goes, you never
get a second chance to make a first impression. Your PR job is complicated even
more by the fact that many of the people that just flat out
hate you are free-love hippie nutjobs that don't understand
that free-market economies are the best base for a society, given the
limitations of human nature. They still think that communism/socialism could
work, and that all commodities should be free, because they are too expensive.
They try to sell people on the smoke-and-mirrors idea that their software is
free, but the costs are far greater. They forgot the adage, "There's no such
thing as a free lunch."
But I digress. The easiest way to build trust with people is to show them
what you're working on. The only way you can know if you're doing something
right is if you get it in lots of people's hands, and let them work with it.
That's why PDC 2003 was such a great thing. It was something you had never done
before... showed everyone what you were thinking and what you wanted to do. It
got outside the "Echo Chamber" and said "hey, you guys use our stuff.... what do
You think we should do?"
And it was great. You got some great feedback from your customers. They
started using some things, and they came back with "Ok, Avalon looks really
cool, but we need it on XP." You got exactly what you were looking for, even if
it wasn't what you thought you wanted.
Regarding WinFS, you found out that it wasn't as ready as you thought it was.
It was a total pain in the ass to build anything decent. Performance was still
terrible. The schema system needed more work. The APIs needed refactoring. It
just needs to be easier. But you wouldn't have known any of this if you hadn't
taken that chance.
The thing is, you can't spend too much time focusing on your
detractors. Sure, many of them have some valid points, but Microsoft could
eradicate cancer and broker peace in the Middle East, and there are still going
to be people out there with big mouths and small brains that hate you.
The bottom line is, the experiment worked. You're going to have a better v1.0
product because you took a huge risk. You can't just run back and say "Well,
lots of people complained about it, so we should go back to the way things were
and not talk about it until we launch it." That's not gonna fly anymore.
Especially with open source right around the corner.
Learn from http://weblogs.asp.net and http://www.LonghornBlogs.com. You have
the best developer community on the planet. I'm sure lots of Java people will
get angry about that statement. I don't care. We spend more time working on our
product than trying to figure out how to bash the other guy. The same isn't true
on the other side of the fence.
Part of the reason I like Visual Studio 2005 so much is that it has features
and fixes I suggested. Just think if you could replicate that feeling with your
operating system. Make it so that computers aren't so frustrating... and still
be able to open it up under the hood for the power users. The Giant Spyware
acquisition was a great start. Keep going. Keep talking about what you're doing.
Keep giving us bits to beat the hell out of. Listen to us when we tell you what
sucks and what doesn't.
Please don't listen to your PR people when they tell you criticism is bad,
and secrets are good. They are afraid, and they are wrong. You already let the
genie out of the bag. Please don't try to cram him back in.
Hoping you continue the march to transparency,
Robert W. McLaws
Microsoft MVP & Windows Fan
PS: We want another Longhorn build before the beta! If you don't know how to
pull it off... talk to the VS2005 teams.