Robert McLaws: Windows Edition

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Review: Microsoft 2.0 by Mary Jo Foley

Few people have covered Microsoft longer and more consistently than Mary Jo Foley (besides maybe Ed Bott). A couple of weeks ago, MJ sent me a copy of her new book Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft Plans to Stay Relevant in the Post-Gates Era (PS, thanks for the mention in the Acknowledgements, MJ), and I thought it would be appropriate to get my review online this week, before BillG finishes cleaning out his desk.

Microsoft 2.0 is a look deep inside the bowels of the Beast, from a perspective that only Mary Jo can provide. But don’t expect a sweeping fictional narrative of Microsoft’s future, this is a fact-based, thorough (though at times a tad dry) walkthrough of virtually every aspect of Microsoft’s business. Foley leaves no stone unturned, and no business model unexplored.

Aside from some brief parts about the on again-off again-on again-off again-on again Microhoo nonsense saga (which she later explained in a blog post), MJ does very little prognostication. Most of that is because Microsoft made the extremely unwise decision to instruct MS employees not to cooperate with her interview requests. Its really too bad, because they could have had the opportunity to inject a lot of insight to a book that is getting a lot of coverage in the wake of Gates’ departure this week. But I guess if Microsoft was able to clearly define their strategy to the public, there would be less of a need for this book to fill in the gaps, so I guess it is a Catch-22.

But, this is the real reason for her approach, in her own words:

[Some of my colleagues] wanted me to make the case that Microsoft has lost its Evil Empire crown and soon will become nothing more than a footnote in the tech industry. And they wanted me to go to the trite "narrative nonfiction" route, putting "likely" dialog in 'Softies mouths, to do so.

I can't do it. I find that style of writing affected and offensive, for one. But more importantly,that's not how I see things evolving. Yes, Microsoft is at a crossroads. But to me, crossroads isn't synonymous with dead. I know not everyone agrees.

Just when you think its over, MJ pulls out some cards she must have kept in the vest for a very long time: never-before-published memos outlining among other things, Windows Live "Wave 3" planning, Steven Sinofsky's reasons for not involving customers earlier in the development process, and Kevin Johnson's Reorg memo. Where most tech reporters have a cursory understanding of the practices and technologies that make up Microsoft’s business, she shows that even standing from the front gates, she can still dig into the truth. Just think what she could have done with Microsoft’s backing... she could have done a better job articulating Microsoft’s strategy than Microsoft has been able to do for the past 2 years.

The bottom line is, you can pay $1500 for a subscription to Directions on Microsoft, or you can spend $16.95 and buy Microsoft 2.0. IMO, the latter will get you the best value. MJ can hold her own better than any so-called “analyst”, and this book provides the breadth and depth of business information that one would expect to find only in the Harvard Business Review. This is a must-read for anyone that considers themselves a “Microsoft Watcher”.

Final Verdict:

Posted on Jul 08 2008, 11:25 AM by Robert McLaws
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