Robert McLaws: Windows Edition

Blogging about Windows since before Vista became a bad word

The Future of Microsoft

Over the past few months, I've made no effort to hide my concern for the transition Mcrosoft will make over the next 18 months. With the old guard (Bill, Jim, & Brian) departing and a new team rolling in, the lack of communication with the public on the new courses being charted leaves me nervous at best. Conversations with some Microsoft employees at CES last week informed me that some of my posts were misconstrued internally, so I wanted to clear the air regarding my feelings about Steven Sinofsky taking the helm of the good ship Windows.

(Note: Some of you may think this is kiss-a$$... I don't care. I'm posting this because I want to, not because some external force is "making" me.)

Office has been the tightest ship at Microsoft for a very long time. Under Steven's direction, Office has the best record of shipping software of any team (besides Money, of course). But for the longest time, the Office team has been a black hole, rarely communicating much of anything to the outside world.. From my perspective, it's been one of the most secretive teams at Microsoft, and IMO, it hasn't been a good thing.

That is, up until about 18 months ago. Slowly but surely, elements of the Office team started sneaking blogs up on the Internet. Suddenly, the flood gates were opened, and Office team members had 3 of the top 20 blogs on MSDN. The fact that the team opened up as much as they did, especially about such a game-changing release, will improve Office 2007's adoption.

So, my concerns about the future of Microsoft were threefold:

  • The transformation at Microsoft that I mentioned in my opening paragraph.
  • That SteveS might try to put the blogging genie back in the bottle, based on how Office was run in the past. The Longhorn "reset" (which I will blog about soon) had such a negative reaction in the press that maybe the team internally had a perception that the openness of the Longhorn project is what destryed the public perception of what MS tried to accomplish. Based on that thought process, it would be easy to conclude that Microsoft would be better off if public communication was more coordinated, meaning an end to blogging.
  • That some of the MVPs and Featured Community leaders weren't being briefed under NDA about the transition: what's being planned, how it's being implemented, what are the rammifications, etc. Microsoft doesn't want anything trumping the Vista/Office launch. The fact that Microsoft isn't communicating plans with ANYONE externally is frustrating. Some of us know how keep our NDAs.

So, tie all those things together, and you have one nervous tech pundit.

But after having discussions with a bunch of MS employees (I won't name names), I was relieved to hear that there are very excited things going on at Microsoft right now. I still think that, as a publicly traded company, that Microsoft should be communicating more about those changes, instead of stonewalling us. But now that I've gotten a brief peek under the tent... I'm excited to see what MS employees are so excited about.

Speaking of the New Guard... where the hell is Ray Ozzie? His last post was like 9 months ago.



  • MGerlach310 said:

    I agree that the transition will be scary, anytime there is shake ups, of this magnitude, I think anyone would be scared.

    Personally, (and especially with the exposure I have being an Xbox MVP) I think some of the teams should be a bit more like the Xbox team.  They have community teams (like Zune too), and they have what is essentially the public head of Xbox to the community in Major Nelson.  While he is not the "top dog" of it all, he is still a channel into the team, and out from the team for the public.

    While I do feel that blogging is good, there will always be items that will never be discussed with the public, and that is just how it is.  To what degree that takes hold, who knows.

    January 15, 2007 9:17 PM
  • anonymus said:

    Speaking of Office, I ditched Outlook 2007 after reading what they've done to HTML email. AND ENCOURAGE OTHERS TO DO IT TOO.

    January 16, 2007 1:07 AM
  • anonymous said:

    What is it that they have 'done to it'?

    January 16, 2007 3:50 PM
  • They ripped out the IE HTML rendering engine and used the Word rendering engine instead.

    January 16, 2007 6:05 PM
  • January 17, 2007 12:23 PM
  • Bob said:

    MSFT's main problem is overpromising and underdelivering. So while being less vocal with promises may impact someone like yourself, it's more likely to result in customers being positively surprised vs disappointed. Surely that's a lot more important.

    January 17, 2007 3:48 PM