Robert McLaws: Windows Edition

Blogging about Windows since before Vista became a bad word

Mary Jo Foley: The Exit Interview

Alright, I admit it. I knew what was going on all along. Mary Jo Foley dropped a bombshell this afternoon, announcing she was leaving MicrosoftWatch to branch out on her own after 11 years at ZiffDavis. What are her plans for the future? I have the exclusive Exit Interview.

RWM: You’ve been covering Microsoft for ZiffDavis for a very long time. What made you to decide to go solo?
MJF: It just seemed like the time was right. It’s a bloggers’ market out there. Blogging is the future of journalism, in my opinion. More and more bloggers are not just reacting to – but actually breaking – news. I wanted to try my hand at running a business that was blog-centric from the get-go. So I decided to take my show on the road.

RWM: Does this mean you’ll be moving back to Redmond? Will we be seeing you in the cafeteria of Building 10 anytime soon?
MJF: I am an East Coaster by birth and plan to stay one for the foreseeable future. So I will continue to do my job of watching Microsoft from the Right Coast, in NYC. But you might see me in the Building 10 cafeteria; some folks report that they’ve seen me flipping burgers there in the guise of a line cook :). Truth or urban legend? I take the fifth.

RWM: What is your favorite memory of covering Microsoft the last 11 years?
MJF: The day that Windows 95 was released to manufacturing is my favorite memory. Back in the stone age in 1995, the Web wasn’t the main place to break a tech news story. That still happened in print. Leading up to Windows 95, my job with PCWeek was to write one story every week -- for almost a full year – about the latest happenings with “Chicago,” a k a Windows 95. The day that product RTM’d, I felt a big relief (since I had just finished a print story claiming Microsoft had RTM’d the product – without Microsoft confirming that fact). I also felt a big sense of accomplishment, in that I had been able to bring readers the blow-by-blow story about Windows 95 through a big part of the development process. (Remember: This was in the pre-transparency, pre-pro-blogging era at Microsoft.)

RWM: Least favorite?
MJF: I’d have to say being blacklisted by Microsoft for writing a story based on an internal memo penned by Mark Lucovsky (now with Google, ironically) that acknowledged 63,000 bugs were still left in Windows 2000 when the product shipped. I was barred from executive interviews at the Windows 2000 launch as a result of my story. My “punishment” lasted for a few years. Certain Windows execs refused to speak to me or meet with me for ages because of that story. I believed, and still believe, that I was just doing my job as a reporter.

RWM: Why are you sticking with covering Microsoft? There are so many other companies doing cool things… isn’t Microsoft on its way out?
MJF: There still is no other company in the tech space, IMHO, that matters as much as Microsoft. Because of its position in operating systems, Microsoft’s strategies and policies affect nearly every hardware, software and services company in this business. And with Microsoft slowly but surely diversifying, I believe the company will continue to play a big role in a variety of markets for quite some time. It would take a really big screw-up on Microsoft’s part in the order for the company to cease mattering.

RWM: What do you see as Microsoft’s biggest challenge in 2007?
MJF: Microsoft needs to convince users that Vista and Office are worth upgrading to. That could be an uphill battle, given the skepticism that currently prevails regarding the stability of Vista, and the extent to which both of these products represent compelling upgrades over their existing counterparts. Microsoft is going to need to prove that Vista and Office 2007 are as good as the hype.

RWM: What can we expect to see from you now?
MJF: On my new blog, http://blogs.zdnet.com/microsoft/, you can expect to see lots of Microsoft news, rumors, tips and pointers to the most interesting Microsoft stories of the day from all around the Web. I also have some other interesting new projects in the works, so stay tuned :).

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