2012-11-12T18:46:41.410-08:00Well, I can't believe it: Microsoft Announces Leadership Changes to Drive Next Wave of Products.
2012-07-19T08:46:35.323-07:00Quarterly results time, quarterly post time. What kind of questions do you have the financials and what's ahead for Microsoft? For me: first of all, that damn browser is at again. If billions of dollars go towards amending IE then that pretty much undoes all the good work that Sinofsky has been weaving. Post consent-decree, there is a certain amount of swaggering happening on the old SafeCo campus. Oy. Financial impact of the Browser Choice Screen screw-up? Sure enough, the exclusion of being able to install an alternative browser on Win8 RT (a very purposeful name) is getting anti-trust attention. Other items in motion: Okay, so much for all that cash spent on aQuantive. How do the other acquisition investments shape up? Expected Surface unit sells in next year? Availability? (And if you've used Win8 on ARM, which are the preferred deities we should be praying to make it actually fast and fluid?) Poor Nokia. Microsoft's Lost Decade. So, you know, that happened. SteveB has often remarked on how he ignores the stock price of Microsoft and doesn't know what it takes to move it upward. Those financial types are just too darn inscrutable. He just focuses on doing his job. The stock has been flat and Microsoft Millionaire phenomena is a distant memory. It's a historical mind-trip to read a book like Microsoft in the Mirror and discover that most Microsofties then were hesitant to admit they worked at Microsoft, out of the resulting discomfort of everyone expecting them to be rich. Oh, to have such an awkward problem like that. While Microsoft is on the edge of rolling success after success (financial and technical) in Windows 8, Office 15, Windows Phone 8 (yeah yeah), and Xbox, there's a level of white-washing to emphatically focus on what we currently have, despite ourselves. Vista happened. Kin happened. Billions have been sunk into the success that is Xbox, including funding the fall-out of a rushed technical designs. aQuantive happened. Six billion dollars in shareholder value gone "poof!" without so much a "ta-da!" And now it appears the EU has the opportunity to return to the Microsoft ATM for millions or billions of USD due to the browser choice screen mysteriously disappearing from Win7 SP1. I guess the testers were too busy fixing their cranky automation to notice. I thought perhaps this year's SteveB Company Meeting "YEAAAAAH!!!" victory dance song should be I'm Still Standing but now maybe Oops, I Did it Again is more appropriate. With you know, a little pinky pointed to the corner of the mouth. Vanity Fair has been making news with their Lost Decade piece. I really hoped to find something new and salacious, but it wasn't much more than what you'd find written here between the posts and the many passionate, thoughtful comments from smart, good-looking people like you. Perhaps post-article the author Kurt Eichenwald will get some good insider loving and have a more revealing follow-up. Stack ranking comes up as one of the reasons Microsoft does so poorly due to the internal competition and lack of cooperation it inspires, impacting strategy and results. Remember the org-chart cartoon from earlier? Microsoft was depicted as hierarchical organizations with handguns pointed at one another. Reality? Myth? Culture. Like some low-brow Ferrengi scavenger, leadership adopted stack ranking without really trying to think through their own system or realize that stack ranking is meant for organizations in transition (layoffs / downsizing) vs. a constant twice-a-year grind that goes on and on and on. Snippet from the above link: The biggest mistake is to use it forever. "If you're going to do forced ranking, look at it as a short-term, three-five year thing. Do it annually but don't do it forever. By the end of four or five years, you've gotten all the value," he says. Microsoft's particular implementation of stack ranking has been used—and under fire—for way more than five years. In 2005, HR grad student Stephen Gall published a scathin[...]
2012-04-19T22:04:22.388-07:00Isn't this the best time ever to be in tech! I love it. And I love profits, too!I know, I just lost half of you there. But it's amazing. The amount of competition and change and adoption makes me nothing but giddy. If you're a PlayStation fan-boy then you have to at least love the competition Xbox brings to make PS better. And same for Xbox. Same for Apple, Google, and Microsoft. The competition between iOS, Android, and Windows is awesome, especially if you're a developer or service being wooed day-in and day-out. Inside Microsoft, we'll constantly flagellate ourselves about how other competitors are leapfrogging us. But it's good to see, starting way back when I said Microsoft Has Turned The Corner, the amount of collaborative integration that has happened to make the whole far greater than the sum of the parts. A snippet from that post from near three years ago:Redemption takes a while. Time is needed to allow perception to change and to re-earn trust and respect. Windows 7 re-earned trust and respect. Windows 8 is a big turning point. It's not perfect. It's no true iPad compete story: it's different. However, it would not have existed without the iPad. Thank you, Apple. RIP Steve. It's a big reboot of the Windows developer story in a way that is fresh and semi-consistent, visually, across phone and Xbox (and slowly across our web properties, too). Our developer story is still concerning. Windows 8 is blazing it's own trail, which is different than WP and different than Xbox. For now. It's not that I want to write the same app between all the platforms, but I do want no-friction traversal for a Dev to start on one, have a great idea, and switch over and start on the other, without muttering, "WTF, this is completely different." We have a chance to get there and that vision needs to be revealed soon. Consistency is one thing, quality is another. I was reading that HBR article about Steve Jobs leadership lessons and the first thing I thought about it: Steve Jobs would not have let almost any of those new Xbox apps ship. He would have torn them to pieces. I think this is a case where we so desperately wanted out partners to support the new Metro that we gave in to mediocrity. And once it's there, it's there for good. This is where we really need to clamp down or what is prime real-estate is going to turn into a flea market. So anyway, how are we doing? I'd say we're on the upswing with endless challenges. We turned the corner and did indeed manage to get out of the bad side of town. Profits are up, people are writing appreciative come-back articles, and I really don't have much of an ax to grind (well, except for the premier software company being completely incapable of creating an enlightened review model, let alone lately keep some key young talent). Go-go-Microsoft!Some links on today's earnings:Microsoft beats estimates as most divisions see growth - GeekWireMicrosoft’s Earnings Surpass Expectations - NYTimes.comMicrosoft Q3 2012 by the numbers $17B revenue, 60 cents EPSMicrosoft turns in a strong quarter Microsoft - CNET NewsUpdate Microsoft exceeds analysts' estimates with $17.41 billion 3Q revenue Microsoft Pri0 The Seattle TimesSee you next quarter!Mini-Microsoft Microsoft MSFT -- Comments[...]
Fiscal results: Microsoft Investor Relations - Earnings Release FY12 Q2.
My favorite tech bloggers:
Sorta looks like there's a trend with reduced PC sales impacting Windows. It will be interesting a year from now to see (given that it's released for Holiday 2012 and all) if we see Windows 8 reversing the trend. Of course, the economy could just be better by then.
End of the obligatory quarterly post.
Briefly: what's going on here? Well, obviously, not much.
The only thing I've felt an urge to write about recently is Microsoft's curiously messed up media strategy when it comes to video and music. Zune Music is on its deathbed, Media Center moved back to Windows and that basically put it on indifferent life support. Microsoft breaking from Dolby in Windows 8 means a lot of stuff that used to work out of the box won't. But maybe the mess is simply a chaotic churn of local media assets being deprecated for services and for Xbox to start replacing media PCs.
I'm none to happy, but I'm one of those dinosaur's who loves the dickens out of his Media Center setup.
That small missive aside: I've avoided putting the Mini Cap on just because of dealing with the constant drone of negativity. Yeah yeah I made that bed and the chickens are coming home to roost in it. Or something like that. Comment moderation right now is a necessity and one big bumming drag. So I stopped. Sorry you 120+ pending comments. Once Google Blogger has native support for community influenced commenting (just voting up and down, that's all I want) I'll be more interested in resuming posts. For now, it's gotta be something major for me to put that Mini Cap on.
See you next quarter!
Here it is, FY12Q1 already: Microsoft Reports Record First-Quarter Results $17.37 billion of revenue driven by solid business and consumer demand.. Wow, is that the longest, braggy release title we've ever had? Read it and you'll also discover that Bing has an organic line. In the Q&A session, Microsoft Management Discusses Q1 2012 Results - Earnings Call Transcript - Seeking Alpha, there was a lot of Qs about Skype and - news to me - we discover that $51 billion of our cash assets are kept offshore, to avoid taxes. Viva la 1%! (I kid).
(I'm out on the road so this will be short.)
My usual suspects:
And a bonus view of OSD:
2011-09-27T20:13:02.587-07:00(Note: updated below with follow-up comments.)It's my most favorite time of the year: Friday the 23rd is the annual Microsoft Company Meeting!That's right: I pull up my sleeves and thrust out my arms out wide and say, "Shove in the Kool-Aid IVs to the left and to the right and keep it flowing!" Man I love it. It is one of my favorite holidays of the year.Reminder: when it comes to comments, share your internal-only content enthusiasm over on OfficeTalk (especially via the otalk WP7 app) vs. trying to put it here.A Story of Steve, Steve, and StevenThis year is one of those inflection points: Apple has been soaring with its excellent device results, blowing Microsoft away and cannibalizing our Windows powered device market. The Microsoft stock is horribly flat and there are calls all-around for Ballmer to be replaced. Now, several things are in play: Mr. Jobs has stepped down due to his health reasons, WP Mango is reaching release with Nokia devices to begin their flow, and Windows 8 has demonstrated a reboot to the Windows experience and development platform. With Windows 8, Microsoft has emerged with the talking points that the company is being re-imagined.All I can say is that SteveB should give SteveSi the CEO Bacon Achievement award: exceptional results that saved the CEO's bacon. Oh, SteveB had to be so happy to have Windows 8 revealed at BUILD right before the Financial Analysts Meeting. "How ya like me n-O-w?!?!" Actually, big chops to SteveSi who not only has done the impossible organizational wrangling between Win7 and Win8 (and wherever it is leading with Win8+) but also did such a smooth job with BUILD that some bloggers dared to pass the Steve Jobs torch to SteveSi. Wow. Didn't see that coming.(psst. Board. CEO ma-ter-ial. Uh-huh. There you go. Not that I'd probably work in a SteveSi CEO Microsoft, but ya could do a lot worse!)One thing I'd love to see SteveSi do: give the same level of support to writing Windows8 apps as Microsoft afforded its employees for Windows Phone. I'm not expecting him to, but if he did, I'd relish having my Spock-meets-Spartan view of him rebooted.The Big Check-in - How Are Things GoingI expect that Mr. Turner will do the big picture for us. I like this comment regarding one point of view of how things are going for Microsoft:There are certainly some issues at MSFT but some of the people that post in this blog are just over the top in their pessimism and whining. As I see it right now, the good, bad, and ugly of MSFT are: The good:XBOX Kinect blew it away this past Holiday, over 35M customers now pay for the priviledge of XBox LiveThe enterprise business is strong, committed revenue is higher than it's ever been (MSFT has a global enterprise business that is really unmatched by anyoneOffice365 and Dynamics both are rapidly growing businesses with a ton of upsideMSFT now has 11 distinct businesses that do over $1B in revenue - I can think of maybe one or two other businesses on the planet (GE, etc) that can say the sameLargely because of this diverse portfolio of businesses, MSFT was able to grow revenue, operating income, and net income in spite of *declining* PC sales (MSFT is not a one-trick pony any longer, if it ever was)Even with weakness in the PC market the past couple of quarters, it's hard to argue with the success of Windows 7 with over 400M licenses soldMSFT's Cloud offerings collectively are second to noneBing has a long ways to go but has actually made some progress in the US search market against Google, which was once thought impossibleAs an employee, unless you are a bottom 20% performer, the new comp plan is a win. If you don't think so, then you don't really understand the changeSay what you will about Ballmer, there are some senior execs at MSFT that are truly outstanding. Mattrick, Satya, KT, Qi Lu, PK, Lisa B - you won't find anyone better than these folks anywhereThe Noki[...]
It has become a tradition for folks to share their review numbers to help get a sense of what's happening and how your numbers stack up. This year we have a new challenge of working through an entirely new review system and (for engineering) a pay-raise for the levels most at risk of departing for greener pastures. I know folks on the edge of leaving who have been willing to hang on to see what happens.
What's a good format? How about something like the following, obfuscated as you wish:
If you like the review system, I'd really like to understand why (something better than, "whee, I got a 1+," please) and I'd encourage commenters to not slam the positive perspectives. I'm not too pleased with the new system at all because I feel very good engineers in my org are getting lower results because of a very strict curve. I'm probably breaking the rules in that if an excellent person got a 3 I'm having my folks be truthful in writing review feedback that, yes, they did an excellent job, just when it comes to the 3 realize that more people did even more excellent work and what it is they need to do to step it up (or, you know, start connecting recruiters with all of those competing 1s and 2s). Same thing for 4s who are doing a good job and not really having any performance problem. HR would prefer me to write the text of the review according to the verbiage of the ranking system, but screw that. I did that years ago when people got a trended 3.0 and I'm still scrubbing those dark spots of demoralizing compliance off my soul.
How do you feel, whether you're a manager writing reviews this year and comparing results to last year, or an IC trying to make sense of your compensation and recognition?
(ring-ring, Mini, ring-ring)
How is this quarter shaping up? First of all, let's review some competitors:
We've already been given a small preview thanks to the Partner conference: good Windows 7 numbers and Windows Phone, as loved as it might be (especially compared to Android) just ain't selling much. And no one is holding out any hopes that current customers will see their Mango update until New Years.
The iPad continues to suck in consumer love and money... money that we'd prefer they send our way but there's nothing comparable for them to buy. Windows 8 ARM tablets? Sometime next year, but what we showed at All Things D is our take of squeezing an elephant into a VW bug. Here's some deep respect and chops to the folks doing all this work, but it's a subtraction game followed by many frustrating conversations about why it's okay not to have certain obvious things work... obviously. And I have to say it's fascinating watching Sinofsky wrangle the Windows organization in this long game of reshaping itself and the consequences it has for the rest of the company.
My one analyst question for today: when the hell is Bing going to stop losing money?!? It appears that the internal hiring spree has finally cooled down so that's good - the piling of warm bodies has stopped (well, only to be replaced by throwing warm bodies on The Cloud because, ah-huck, we're all in). Seriously though, now's the time to start shaking the Bing tree and let the goodness of the search eco-system keep on going and shed the remaining busy work. Come on, if Xbox did it, so can you!
Calibration cacophony: I owe a post about our new review system but I'm not going to put money down about when that's going to happen. In the meantime, I'd love to sit down with each and everyone of you that supposedly told LisaB that the previous review system, with its Exceeded and Achieved and its 20% this and 70% that, was just too durn hard to comprehend. Let's chat. This discuss (*whack* against the side of your head) your results for this year. I'd like to discuss (*whack*) what a peer relative result within a strict percentage based system means. As part of this discussion (*whack* *whack* *whack*) you'll learn that your results are less that what you're used to and the message and your rewards are strictly viewed through your percentile bucket, no matter if you're at the top of your bucket or the bottom. I do seem to have some feedback from your peers to discuss (*whack*) although the majority of it seems to spring from a glowingly content-free "I'll rub your back if you'll rub mine" point of view.
Be careful what you ask for, because the person listening might turn it into one big step backwards. Oh, and for some of you, here's a salary bump.
That's $8,500,000,000USD for the Skype brand.
Also, because, you know, the aQuantive acquisition didn't destroy enough shareholder money.
We're bringing Skype to the Windows Phone. Just like how it's on the iPhone and Android and appears it will continue to be.
Okay, so we're bringing Skype to the Xbox. Because, you know, we don't already have video chat on the Xbox. Oh, wait... crap. Why do we need this? Other than the brand and the user base, and that's not worth 8.5 billion dollars.
Some early stories:
What I'd like to hear is each Microsoft board member share their reasoning why this is an excellent idea and worth 8.5 billion dollars. And I'd keep a really, really close eye on their nose.
2011-04-28T07:55:05.248-07:00What's on your mind as the Microsoft FY11Q3 results get released? Some things I'm thinking of:Win7 Business being eaten alive by iPads? Oh, those hungry hungry cannibals eating away the post-PCs for your PC dependent iPad slates. Probably no good news in the Win7 OS business could please people seeing Apple having to buy everyone working at Apple pants with ten pockets so that they can continue stuffing money into them.Office 14 / SharePoint: continued strength? Leveled? Dip?Kinect: what are the post-holiday sells like?Xbox Live security: not that we want to be cocky, but if Xbox Live was broken into like Sony's Playstation Network Microsoft would have a big-black eye. Probably two. How confident is Microsoft in the network's security?WP7 numbers: how has the trend been in activated phones? How is the Nokia deal shaping up? How will Microsoft not be the weepy little toy of the phone carriers crying over a release chart when the Mango update goes out?Share price: talk about one dead share. It's a dead fish. That a bunch of hippy dock-workers played hacky-sack with and left to rot out in the sun. So dead that we're shifting budgets around to not award stock but give out crisp, sweet-smelling Benjamins instead to the employees we value most. Microsoft millionaire days? A long, long distant memory. I think of that book Microsoft In The Mirror where a number of interviewees were reluctant to share with outside folks that they work at Microsoft because folks would light up, assuming they were rich beyond words. Today's response? "You work at Microsoft? Well bless your heart."Keeping employees: seems as though we'll need to justify the extra bucks and effort the company is putting into spreading cash to the section of employees most likely to be recruited (aka poached) or give up on Microsoft. I'm sure that the investors could care less about our performance review system, but it's sad we stuck with a 20th-centry industrial review system for a 21st century Gen.Next workforce. Like many opportunities: buh-lown.The two pressure points I certainly continue to feel:WP7: the NoDo update was just a Class-A Cluster-Fuck. And I don't use language like that very often. And the fact that the pre-update bricked phones was inexcusable. The WinMo team has to realize that everything they have to do must be perfect and ahead of schedule (wrt running in customer's hands). Any sort of focus other than that is a recipe for disaster. Mr. Ballmer is a fan of Coach John Wooden. WWJWD? Pound excellence into the team such that releasing an update was the easiest thing they had to do. If you're the kind of person looking for a challenge to fix Microsoft and prop-up its future, look for opportunities to join that team. Less Pink, more you.iPad: it's pretty. It's slick. It comes from a company where design is realized. It doesn't do as much as a PC, but it does enough. And by now everyone has been able to put together the pieces (e.g., Windows 8 demonstrated running on ARM) to figure out when Microsoft might release something that has similar form factor. But will it have the elegance and cohesiveness of the iPad 2, let alone the iPad 3? Will it be too late? Should Microsoft release an iPad competitor, it will be THE defining moment for Microsoft's future: back in the game or game over.Mini-Microsoft Microsoft MSFT -- Comments[...]
2011-04-21T08:02:01.705-07:00"I am not a number, I am a free man!"Well, at least we don't have a Six to give out.Goodbye E/A/U + 20/70/10[I/II] and hello 1 to 5.Kim, we just don't have a Limited to give to you anymore.So we have a new review model. And a rework of our compensation. With cash, cash, cash. Forget that Microsoft stock because it's dead in the water and today's Microsoft employee is all about the paycheck. And if you actually work on creating products at Microsoft, you're getting an extra R&D bump.And with the new 1 to 5 review score we have a new curve, too. 20% of you get a 1 (whoo-hoo!), 20% of you get a 2, 40% of you get a 3, 13% get a 4, and 7% get a 5. And probably fired.Your review score is now a composite of: your results (where results, not effort, matters), what you did to get your results, and what your proven capability is. With an ideal that teamwork and feedback is now part of the review system, though it's not clear if feedback is mandatory via peer based reviews.It's too bad that the internal InsideMS blog has been eradicated and wiped out of existence. It could have lived on a little bit longer so that the review system could be discussed there.So what are your reactions?Is the InfoPath-based review form dead? Please? Can we go back to a simple little Word form out of respect to our new simplified review score?The next thing I think of, as a manager, is how is calibration now run. We used to do two stack ranks for the two review scores. Now we either do one or we do three (results, what was done for the results, and proven capability). Three seems crazy.Next is whether this will indeed help retain employees. We've been losing a lot of good people and the Puget Sound area is ramping up in hiring. Google has always been draining people away. Facebook is now grabbing some great developers and Amazon is hiring like crazy.So now you have some mystery amount of cash in your future to look forward to. And a simpler review score. But is that what you really want? Is that what you told LisaB during her Listening Tour? Given that Microsoft stock is in the toilet, does the future influx of cash coming in September make you feel better about working at Microsoft and will this make up for having reduced benefits (e.g., a new medical plan with more of that new cash out of your pocket)?Will you be honestly told during the whole year how well you're doing so that you have frank feedback that helps you be fulfilled with your job? A problem with Stack Ranking is that leadership (once burnt by the review model) holds back praise due to the peer relative Stack Rank pushing a person down and then creating a "surprise" gap between the past praise feedback given and the review result earned. That's not fixed.Anyway: let's celebrate saying goodbye to the 10% / Limited rating. Since the 10%-ers were not actually fired you ended up keeping people on staff who were designated as now plateaued and limited in there career at Microsoft. They had reached the end of of the ladder. These now demoralized individuals with no hope for future rewards or promotions should have at least been given a Peter Principle plaque or something.Old school: with respect to the new Scarlet A, I assume that a 4 is the old 3.0 and that a 5 is a 2.5 and that having either a 4 or a 5 now limits other group's interest in your career, which kind of means that we've gone from making 10% of the employees unattractive to making 20% of the employees unattractive. We'll see if that's the case as this plays out of over time.So, chair-rearranging or just what you were looking for?Mini-Microsoft Microsoft -- Comments [...]
2011-01-27T21:40:26.700-08:00A quick check from the last Quarterly Results leading up to today's Microsoft Quarterly Results:What's great: Kinect. We sold millions of Kinects and it's full of cool! And we have a 93% customer satisfaction rate with Windows Phone 7. Looking around, I think that's also assuming that 93% of Windows Phone 7 handsets sold are the Samsung Focus.What's good: our reputation is working through the bothersome-hated-defeated-spurned-ignored-renewed-respected cycle compared to Google.What's okay: Windows Phone 7: we sold some to non-employees and two-million licenses are in the channel. I have no idea what that means with-respect-to actually sold hardware. But it's no KIN, so... success! Yeah.What's really, really bad: the iPad is gnawing away our laptop market. And a new version is coming out soon.Hungry Hungry Cannibals: reading Ms. Friar's last beat-the-hell out of Microsoft Goldman-Sachs report just about made me permanently hungry for human flesh given the repeated fixation on cannibalization. I swear, I'd look up from my print-out occasionally and longingly eye my more fit co-workers. It's the iPad baby, and - booga booga - it's going to destroy Microsoft. Well, at least destroy Windows.First all: sure, Microsoft leadership deserves all the head-bashing it gets for both mobile and small form-factor markets. We had the jump on these markets with inelegant, uninspired devices that never had a chance of taking off with consumers and no one was bold enough to reboot the product line without successful leadership from Apple showing us the way.Next: our iPad-compete strategy is unspoken. For good reason. Just about any application developer at Microsoft can tell you that it's a secret wrapped in red. Most Microsoft-observers have put the pieces together and figured out our strategy could be and realize who could be on point to deliver something exceptionally cool to compete with Apple. This will certainly could be our bet-the-company chance to validate the tortoise-vs-the-hare fable.How have our past tortoises fared? I can think of three recent late to market responses: Zune HD (iPod - remember those?), Kinect (Wii), and Windows Phone 7 (iPhone / Android). All great devices. In order for our possible iPad compete story to be a success, it has to pull a Kinect and be beyond the competition vs. a me-too or, well, me-kinda-sorta.CEO Changes: Mr. Ballmer's respect meter in the ephemeral tech-business... news (?) world is still low. Kinect has helped, but questions linger regarding what he's doing with his leadership team given Muglia's upcoming departure. I had always remarked to folks that Bob's a survivor. His time just finally ran out. It will be intriguing to see what leadership steps in or up and what happens to Bob's current team. And who might be next. Bets? Unless HR is about to unleash something huge that's been in the making my first bet is on LisaB. Also, Craig, I'd love to know what successes you've brought to the company as of late.In the midst of Google and Apple going through leadership changes, you've got to ask: who is on the bench to replace Mr. Ballmer? What is the Board's plan? I have to reject Ms. Foley's point of view that there is no-one that can replace Ballmer. That's a too big to fail leadership jail sentence. Perhaps the decision is that his departure immediately results in a broken up Microsoft and the presidents he is putting in place now would be quite capable of running those sister corporations. Given the convergence and consolidation that is happening internally on a number of fronts for future development, such sister corporations would be much more dependent on each other, so it's not as whacky - or dog-eat-dog cannibalistic - as it might have seemed[...]
2010-10-28T07:45:06.777-07:00How about some FY11Q1 Microsoft earnings!My usual suspects for earnings discussion:Mr. Joe Wilcox over at Beta NewsMr. Todd Bishop over at TechFlash's Microsoft BlogMr. Joseph Tartakoff somewhere within paidContent.org.Once more, with feeling. I expect that we'll have yet another break-out quarter, a better idea that Kinect is poised to be a great seller for the holidays (sell-out pre-orders and screaming Oprah audiences can't be too wrong), and some glow from reasonable WP7 reviews (oh, and yes, we all realize that it doesn't have copy and paste - and yet the apocalypse will not arrive). So this seems like a do-over with more good news from the last quarter. Will Wall Street react with the same "Meh?" An interesting pre-earnings release article: Sleepy in Seattle - Microsoft learns to mature.Again, not much love for Mr. Ballmer. So, since the last quarterly earnings, Ms. Friar at Goldman Sachs dropped a bomb on Microsoft and there's been serious concern that Mr. Ballmer is clearing the executive bench at Microsoft. Or is it cleaning house? Since we're unable to criticize any mistakes our departed leaders have made, it remains a big unknown.iPad, iPad, iPad! Once it was "Google, Google, Google." Now it's Apple's iPad meant to be Microsoft's undoing. First of all, major props to Apple's continued success. It's been a long journey for Steve Jobs and Apple - especially for those of us who read The Journey is the Reward back when it was new. I like my iPad. It's fun. It's also no notebook replacement. I'm not even going to use it for writing tweets on Twitter, let alone writing emails. It's for screwing around, and I like screwing around... so I like my iPad. I'm blessed that I've got the spare cash for such a luxury device and the spare time to play with it. It's a new, quick consume experience that our Tablet vision failed to realize because our Tablet vision (like all visions of that time) was so firmly shoved up the Enterprise's butt we didn't care for consumers who'd pay good money to have a fun device to facilitate their screwing around.We continue an expensive lesson in enlightenment. And spanking: Microsoft's consumer brand is dying.And goodness help us if Apple TV takes off. Our inability to string together a coherent TV strategy (despite having been in the TV realm for over a decade) is yet another dropped pants embarrassment waiting to happen and represents the anxiety that Wall Street has about our future despite having successes in the present.Bloodletting Cost cutting's slippery slope continues. I'm sure if we don't talk about continued overhead management (people, benefits, etc) that it will be an analyst question. I still believe we need to chuck about 15,000 positions (and half of our super-ballooned contingent staff) rather than continue the slow squeeze around the company that's making this an ordinary job with some extraordinary wonderful people who just haven't given up on the company. Yet. I hope that the analysts realize that continued, consistent bloodletting because a negative for hiring, and (allow me to be pro-hiring for a moment) if we can't bring in deep-talented new blood to replace the departed dead wood, our future is doomed to mediocrity.And that doesn't get you a good dividend.New Talent And we're losing the battle for hiring new talent. If you review who we're losing to, it's a big surprise. You look at who is ahead of us in preference and you say, "Really? Graduating students think they are a better place to work than us?" It's a cold splash of reality that makes me - they guy who said we've turned things around and things are going great for our major initiatives - wonder if things are worse outside of the Micro[...]
A Microsoft position got retired this week: Chief Software Architect.
That used to be - quite unofficially - Mr. Bill Gates by the sheer nature of his intellect. And it led to many entertaining and terrifying BillG Reviews. A good friend of mine at the time, an architect for his team before we got all hung up about titles like that, bragged: "I've never been to a BillG review and I intend to retire without going through one." He did.
But I think he missed out. As have, unfortunately, many intellectually shallow PowerPoint B.S artists who rose up the ranks in the meantime.
When I was a teenager, one book I loved to contemplate over was a series of quotes by Robert Heinlein's character Lazarus Long. One goes like (courtesy the internet vs. hard-copy because the book is lost behind a stack of neglected Col Solare): "[...] Roman matrons used to say to their sons: 'Come back with your shield, or on it.' Later on, this custom declined. So did Rome."
The rigor of a focused, intellectually deep and sturdy software development declined with BillG's departure. No more technical assistants. No gauntlet of the BillG review. On his way out of the company, Bill anointed Ray to serve as Chief Software Architect. I don't think that was Ray's idea. In fact, I can only imagine him tilting his head and saying, "Wha-?" He didn't take a broad view of Microsoft at all, but rather focused on growing the Groove momentum into other areas for the future.
As part of any enduring legacy, it will be interesting to see what happens to Mr. Ozzie's groups over time, Windows Azure especially. And I can only hope to the Good Lord above that the "I'm all in" cloud claptrap takes a retirement, too. We get it. We have The Cloud as a platform. In my mind, it makes as much sense as saying "Compilers! We're all in!" or "Layered Windows! We're all in!"
I feel with Ray Ozzie's departure that Steve Ballmer has finally asserted his complete control over the company. We've had some house cleaning this year, ranging from Mr. Ozzie to Mr. Bach & Mr. Allard to Technical Fellows to continued targeted layoffs. Perhaps this is due to the big, contemplative review Mr. Ballmer had with the Microsoft Board this year. Mr. Ballmer has hit the reset button. Do we have a Hail Mary pass, or is this Ballmer 2.0?
We'll see how that goes. In the meantime, here's hoping that the technical Presidents reporting to Mr. Ballmer can take up the custom of intellectual rigor. Because that is one custom we can't let decline anymore.
2010-10-10T09:06:02.529-07:00Wow, what got in the corporate water for this week? Coming off the glow of last week's Company Meeting Koolaid we first got hit by the Goldman Sachs downgrade hang-over, then, to channel Mr. Ballmer, "Boom-Boom-Boom!"Health care changes on the way.Live Labs gets shut down.Technical Fellow Gary Flake, one of Microsoft few-TED stars, resigns.Technical Fellow Brad Lovering leaves.A glassdor.com survey that shows a lowly 50% approval rating for Mr. Ballmer.IEB gets re-orged.Massive gets shuttered (like we were all looking forward to billboard ads while blowing crap up in Xbox).Adobe acquisition rumors.Matt Rosoff leaves Directions on Microsoft.All this right on the eve of Windows Phone 7 being launched. Feels like one big... purge.As for the Microsoft health plan changes: I haven't personally taken a bunch of time to figure it out yet. I had a fully scheduled Friday and I half listened to the Town Hall while working. My attention lapsed and the next thing I know they are talking about a Health Visa card against our Health Savings Plan we can use for paying our share of a visit to the doctor and roll-overs and portability. I realized I just missed some detailed stuff. Microsoft has set-up internal forums to help the employees figure this all out, so I encourage everyone to utilize that. But in the meantime, a commenter on the previous post added this:OK, I just watched the Health Care Town Hall replay. Hard thing to do early on a Saturday morning. Let's see if I have this straight. If I go with the Health Savings Plan: All my preventive care is still free (to me). Annual physicals, dental checkups, immunizations, etc. - no charge. Wellness programs are actually beefed up even more. For a family of 3+, the most we would have to pay out of pocket annually is $2500.00. At the beginning of each year, MS will themselves add $3725 or thereabouts to my Health Savings Account...so MS is more than covering my $2500 obligation anyway. Even if I have a catastrophic illness or injury, I'm still ahead $1225. I hope more insightful minds will follow up to correct any misunderstandings I have about this, but my takeaways from LisaB's deck are: Switch to HSP.Lose both legs in a snowboarding accident. Profit!A follow-up to that:Not quite right on the healthcare costs. Worse case scenario for family of 3 is: All your preventive care costs are covered 100% by MSFT You pay 100% of the first $3,750 in non-preventive costs. This is your deductible. After your deductible is paid, you pay 10% of non-preventive costs. This is your co-pay. You pay a max of $2,500 in co-pays per year. So your max annual costs are $3,750 + $2,500 = $6,250 MSFT will pay $2,500 into your Health Savings Account each year, so your net out of pocket cost is $3,750. If you sign up for the HSP account in 2011-2013, then MSFT will contribute an additional "early adopter incentive" of $1,250. But after 2013, your max out-of-pocket costs are presumably back to $3,750 You could pay that $3,750 out of tax-free contributions you make to your own HSA account, but then that money is locked away and can only be used for health expenses. If you don't want your money locked away then you have to pay with after-tax dollars. In order to come up with $3,750 in after-tax dollars, you'll need to earn about $5,000 in pre-tax dollars. So, in the worse-case scenario this is equivalent to a pay cut of $5,000 per year. Maybe not too bad for someone making $200k, but that would be a 10% pay cut for someone making $50k. Will increasing health care costs follow Ms. Brummel's charted path? It's interesting that the excise portion of the future ended up being a small little[...]
2010-10-06T12:49:53.203-07:00Oh, great, we've hit a case of the downgrades as a sequel to the quarterly results that no-one bought.Specifically, Ms. Friar at Goldman Sachs downgraded us with a variety of reasons and expectations. From Mr. Todd Bishop: Goldman downgrades Microsoft, makes case for major overhaul. Snippet of some gold Goldman Sachs from there:They call for three steps to "unlock value" in Microsoft's shares.(1) A materially increased dividend beyond the recent 23% increase, moving Microsoft into the top 20 dividend-paying companies in the S&P 500 in terms of dividend yield. We believe this would open the door to a larger investor base and keep the company more diligent from a spending perspective. (2) A coherent consumer strategy that could involve paring back investments and/or divesting more peripheral assets such as gaming. (3) Market leadership in Cloud. Microsoft has a strong portfolio of enterprise data center assets and could become a leader in Cloud deployments, but the competitive environment remains highly in flux, with Microsoft still not a clear "winner," in our view.Flashbacks to MSFTExtremeMakeover's last blog entry: Eight Years of Wrongness. Upgrade the "Eight" to a "Ten".The more interesting follow-up by Mr. Bishop is adding up the numbers in Goldman Sachs' assessment comes up with a $30 share price vs. Goldman Sachs' downgrade to $28: Numbers How Goldman Sachs values each Microsoft division.Now then, if this report was dated, say, 2006 I would be remarking at the exceptional smarts and bravery of Goldman Sachs to step forward from the meek institutional investor crowd that have been giving Microsoft a free ride. Instead, now that the farm's barn doors have been wide opened for a while, Ms. Friar is walking around saying "Without preventative re-enforcement and diligence of door utilization, it's possible for the horses to escape from here." The timing is just peculiar, and is resulting in the resumption of resignation requests for Mr. Ballmer: CNBC's Fast Money Microsoft's Steve Ballmer Needs to Go Analyst. Also, Ms. Victoria Barret follows-up with Goldman to Microsoft Do Something - and reflects on her summer story Time to Break Up Microsoft.Sorry Mr. Institutional Investor, your voice was needed years ago. You have been complicit and ineffective during the worst of it. What's the agenda here? It would have been better for a coalition of institutional investors to speak with one voice, vs. Goldman Sachs. Because... given how Goldman Sachs has proven itself untrustworthy in attempting to destroy the American economy for its own fortune (cue their extended pinky touching edge of mouth), you have to wonder if they have their own greedy agenda - are they betting against the Microsoft stock and expect to benefit from its near-term decline? Or hope to force in a Neutron-Jack CEO to wipe out half the employees and all non-profitable groups?Or do they expect within a year for Microsoft to have had a very successful consumer cycle and then reward that with an upgrade, in the meantime having had bought up a good bit of cheap stock? Are they looking for quick short-term gains vs. a thoughtful consideration of long-term growth? I feel a baleful gaze cast on us.And mainly: it's a very poor matter of timing for a break-up. We're about to have a mobile phone come out that actually binds the companies divisions far closer than ever before: Office, Windows Live, Xbox Live, Bing, and Dev Div: this damn thing is the antidote for break-up talk. WP7 wouldn't be impossible to create with a break-up, but it'd be exceptionally difficult. WP7 is pulling together huge resources that [...]
Best. Company Meeting. Ever.*
(*excluding the classic Company Meetings, especially the one where Cheap Trick played afterward.)
2010-09-27T08:13:36.680-07:00Hello, SafeCo Field! Another year, another Microsoft Company Meeting!Anyone who has read this blog for a while knows that I'm a big fan of the Company Meeting, though I have to admit this is the first year I've thought of skipping and just go out for some beers instead. Well, instead I'll peruse the past and conjure up some enthusiasm:2009: Mini-Microsoft Six Hopes for This Year's Microsoft Company Meeting + Mini-Microsoft Quick Thoughts on the Microsoft 2009 Company Meeting2008: Mini-Microsoft Microsoft Company Meeting 20082007: Mini-Microsoft Microsoft Company Meeting Ahoy! + Mini-Microsoft Microsoft Company Meeting 20072006: Mini-Microsoft Microsoft Company Meeting 20062005: Mini-Microsoft Microsoft Company Meeting... I'm looking for some dates! + Mini-Microsoft Microsoft Company Meeting 20052004: Mini-Microsoft Microsoft Company Meeting 2004 (the non-meeting Company Meeting)Alright, I'm in. So what is there to talk about going into the Company Meeting?No Elop: yeah! So no repeat of last year's late-night telemarketing demo unintentional-skit. In fact, we might have one big demo cut altogether...Unique Demos: anyone who repackages a demo from earlier in the year should just get boo'd off-stage. Any demos should be new and quick quick quick.Dreading Mundie: please spare us. If the Company Meeting had a chatter meter for when the audience stopped paying attention and started talking with their seatmates, this would be the peak.WP7 Microsoftie Demos: I think it would be sweet and smart to have some of the top-notch Windows Phone 7 apps created by Microsofties - under the application developer program to support employee apps - get up on stage and do 1 minute demos of their apps. Microsoft exists only due to the great work of the geeks who work there - celebrate it.Financials: a nice review of *profits* from the various groups.Stealth Layoffs: are we done yet? I'm all for making Microsoft a smaller company, but not at the morale busting cost of layoffs lurking around campus like the Spanish Inquisition. It will eventually take a toll on people considering moving to groups that are in a start-up mode with unclear Senior Leadership Team support.LisaB: she tried something big, Ballmer didn't go for it, and then she faded and became busy with layoffs. And her basketball team. Ms. Brummel kicked off another Listening Tour this year. Now would be a good tie to roll-up any insights and results. What is my dream result? Team based awards. And it's pretty simple.Every VP-level person has to stack rank their organizational teams, top to bottom. For Sinofsky-fied product teams, this would be at the Dev Manager / Test Manager / General Program Manager triad level, typically defining a product team such that every product team get a rating. Every team gets ranked just like individuals and the team gets a rating just like you and me: Exceeded / Achieved / Underperformed and 20% / 70% / 10%. This - along with the concise VP-level written evaluations - gets pasted into every team member's annual review and part of the overall bonus / stock compensation now comes out of this result.The reasoning: strong, well-run and results-producing organizations should be rewarded. And poorly run, low WHI organizations should be disinfected with some mighty strong corporate sunlight. When it comes to informationals with new teams, you can ask: "What was the team's rating last year?" in addition to MSPoll results.Reviews: as long as we're on LisaB and HR: how about them reviews this year? At least we had merit increases back. If you're feeling [...]
Just a quick post: some of you enjoy posting information relevant to your review, both looking at numbers and a critical view of the message given to you. It has started to happen a bit in the last post (I'm going through the comments now) so I'm just going to capitulate (again) and put this small post up for the 2010 Annual Review share and compare. Yes, this is a bit late.
Oh, and obviously grab yourself a few grains of salt. Folks seem to like this format:
Administrivia: yeah, that was another long pause moderating and posting and all that. I was on an extended vacation that continued as an extended vacation of the mind. My apologies. I've got at least one short post in mind before our Company Meeting 2010.
2010-07-22T07:42:09.083-07:00FY10Q4 Microsoft earnings are upon us. So, what's been going on since last we met over the quarterly results?The KIN phone collapse put WP7's future in doubt. Would WP7 meet the same fate? Is it under the same level of mismanagement? Fortunately, some fairly positive takes on pre-release WP7 have been coming out ahead of earnings to shore up confidence and excitement.Market Cap - yes, Apple passed us by and there was an abundance of articles and postings questioning just how much longer Microsoft would have to endure Mr. Ballmer as CEO (hint: a long loooooong time).Itsy-bitsy-layoff-committees: targeted small layoffs to kick of FY11 team budgets. If they are that low key and only disclosed on some random bit of the blogosphere, do they really amount to much accountability on Microsoft's sake? Again, our contingency hiring is out of this world so it's not like we're saving a bunch of money - we just have folks on the payroll we can easily cut loose as needed.What kind of questions might be / should be posed during the earnings call?Dates: firm dates for WP7 devices and Kinect and associated Kinect titles beyond the kind-of-interesting launch titles.Win7 + Office 2010: are the cash cows still, err, bringing home the bacon?Bing / Ad-center: is Bing on the upswing? Is Bing / Ad-Center doing anything more than eating the bacon that our cash cows bring home?Legal: it's been very quiet on the European Union front. Office 2010 was released without a single investigatory squeak, as far as I know. Is this all behind us for now? That would be great.WP7: application developers in the queue? We need to re-enforce the cool apps that we'll have ready when WP7 is launched. In a move that has totally delighted me, Microsoft is giving every employee the ability to write and deploy WP7 applications (and, what, ability to get a device at launch, too?) - wow! Now's the time to truly show off your stuff and write for WP7 and get your app out the door.The glow of Windows 7 has dimmed and Office 2010 and the VS2010 eco-system need to pick up the steam as we head to WP7 and Kinect launch. Apple is rolling in the moolah being a content delivery channel and our story, other than some Xbox features, is still pretty fuzzy. For instance: Windows Media Center is one of those crown jewels we've let plop out of the crown and get kicked around the court. I love WMC but it seems to be a neglected feature, caught in the chop between E&D / Zune and Windows. After a phone, it's the next experience we should bring out some reference hardware for to easily DVR HD channels off the air and plug right into your HDMI system and watch it go.My usual suspects for earnings discussion:Mr. Joe Wilcox over at Beta NewsMr. Todd Bishop over at TechFlash's Microsoft BlogMr. Joseph Tartakoff somewhere within paidContent.org.(I'll update the post later if there are interesting developments from the earnings release.)Mini-Microsoft Microsoft MSFT -- Comments[...]
2010-07-06T20:09:41.757-07:00Get out of the way Microsoft Bob, you have a replacement that Microsoft's Gen-Y employees can claim for their own! It's spelled K-I-N.KIN's demise can't surprise anyone. When I looked at the phone's features, I thought: alright, an incomplete Facebook experience that I cannot improve by installing new applications... and I pay $$$ through the nose for a plan. But I've got a green dot and KIN Studio... maybe that will be enough to sell enough units to justify the Danger acquisition and the person-years of work behind getting KIN out. What the hell where all those people doing? I couldn't imagine anyone wanting the resulting iffy feature-phone at a smartphone cost, but KIN wasn't made for me. I was willing to let the market be the judge of KIN.Verdict? Guilty, guilty, guilty.The original Zune/Pink phone had interesting momentum but it all got squandered. What's the one ThinkWeek paper I want to read this year? Lessons Learned from Microsoft KIN and How Microsoft Must Change Product Development. You can't have a failure like this without examining it and then sharing what went wrong, all with respect to vision, execution, and leadership. How big was the original iPhone team? How big was the KIN team? Why did one result in a lineage of amazingly successful devices in the marketplace, and the other become a textbook extended definition for "dud" ?Interesting comments:All I can say as a former Windows Mobile employee who is now working for a competitor in the phone space is that this is good news for the rest of us. [...] Personally I quit because of the frustrating management and autocratic decision style of Terry Myerson and Andrew Lees. The only exec in the team myself and other folks respcted was Tom Gibbons who is now sidelined. Lees and Myerson don't know consumer products or phones. Gibbons at least knows consumer product development. We often talk about how Andrew Lees still has a job but Microsoft's loss is a gain for the rest of us. AndAnd now Kin is killed *after* it has shipped in June 2010. You can bet Andy was involved in the development of Kin, the partnership agreements with the OEM, Verizon and most importantly the "ship it" approvals all along the way. And Microsoft discovers its a bad idea after it blows up in the broad market. Absolutely no thanks to any pro-active decision making on Andy's part. Now there is spin that Andy killed kin to put all the wood behind Windows Phone 7. Er, the guy was in charge for two years of Kin development. He could have made this decision far earlier. Similarly Windows Phone 7 has two years of development under his watch. Based on his past performance, 99% chance this is also going to be a total catastrophe. It further doesn't help that much of the Windows Phone 7 leadership team was kicked out of Windows when they screwed up Vista.And finally, one Danger-employee's point of view of why they became demotivated:To the person who talked about the unprofessional behavior of the Palo Alto Kin (former Danger team), I need to respond because I was one of them.You are correct, the remaining Danger team was not professional nor did we show off the amazing stuff we had that made Danger such a great place. But the reason for that was our collective disbelief that we were working in such a screwed up place. Yes, we took long lunches and we sat in conference rooms and went on coffee breaks and the conversations always went something like this..."Can you believe that want us to do this?" Or "Did you [...]
2010-05-30T16:07:56.584-07:00Well, here's to wrapping up FY10. The kick-off of the Annual Review Season is our long, long, sloppy kiss goodnight to the fiscal year that was. How are various things wrapping up?Entertainment and Devices: with Bach and Allard out of the picture the E&D snow globe got a shaking where it's not clear how things are going to change. I was surprised at the number of pro-Bach comments in the last post, and a number of commenters believed that Mr. Bach had what it took to be the next Microsoft CEO. I respect your opinion, but I have to admit I did my best "ba-roo?" reading that.Regarding Mr. Bach's departure: you can't call it accountability. Accountability would have been right after the red-ring o' death $1,000,000,000USD write-off. Come on, when senior leaders get together to consider what kind of emergent opportunities to get into, it's all about the billion dollar market. Perhaps they wrongly assumed that it exclusively meant income. It's pleasant that we have an entertainment presence like the Xbox and that Sony took a hard one on the chin, but did it really need to take that much money away from the shareholders and tarnish our reputation so much? And leave so much more unfulfilled around TV media entertainment that is getting rapidly covered by competitors?Given the swirling flakes in the E&D snow globe, does E&D need to be Sinofsky'd? Discipline can be a good thing. You don't want every project to be like Forza. Willy-nilly feature development without stringent peer reviews and pre-checkin testing: dumb. Agile? So is using two hands instead of one to smear poo all over a wall. You've got twice the mess to clean-up. Those days should be behind us. More than anything, E&D needs leadership that oozes passion for everyday joys and who show up late Friday afternoon to play with what's new this past week and give praise and feedback. It needs joy and delight and laughter. And while running the trains on time is good for everyone, it doesn't need the stoic, passionless, data-driven rectilinear styling of a Sinofsky org's Switzerland.No, rather than Switzerland E&D needs Italy. It needs curves and "oooo's!" and non-linear surprises. Sinofsky, I'd say, is on a three-release effort with Windows so he's busy anyways. I can't imagine if he was brought in to help pull things around, though, that it would go very well... I imagine his lieutenants first job would be to put the ribbon into the Zune client app and Media Center and then try to figure how to wedge it into the Xbox dashboard. Nanites would start flowing through everyone's bloodstream, and their skin would turn sickly pale... the trains would run ontime, just to dull destinations.Kin: we put a lot of time + effort around Danger and producing the Kin (well, maybe more effort could have been spent on keeping the services running). Kin is not made for me or my social circle, so I can't judge it as a device. Sales will be the deciding factor here. And I'm sure when the first quarter numbers are released, we'll just say, "Well, we have an update to the Kin feature phone that we are sure will increase uptake significantly." Like fully supporting Facebook and Twitter features. I love the green dot, though.And I do like Kin Studio, which I think pushes Kin over the top for some Millennials. If Kin Studio could be adapted soon to be a feature available for every WP7 phone user then we'd really surprise and delight potential phone users.WP7: As[...]
Just a quick celebration of this morning's news: Robbie Bach is retiring from Microsoft.
I'm so happy for him. And for Entertainment and Devices. And Microsoft.
This is a great opportunity for E&D to evolve and restructure. And, of course, a great opportunity to really screw up who to put in charge and such.
And yes, J Allard is out of here as well. Don Mattrick and Andy Lees step up. Also: David Treadwell side steps. And Office shuffles up a little bit.
What would you do with the various groups, products and who else would you put in charge?