15 October, 2006

Letting Go

By Jove, you take a few weeks off to get some head space from the company meeting, attend to personal and career issues and the world just keeps on a-turning!

From MSFT's one year rate of return of almost 20%(!!!) to Vista invading Europe to Zune's increasing street-cred and momentum!

The pipeline is filling and everything, and I mean everything is going so great at Microsoft, there's hardly anything to write about.

Except that I was two hours late to the company meeting because the bus I was on was doing the milk run, my ass froze to my chair, I got stepped on when trying to wade into the feeding frenzy that was the lunch line and the lines to the bathroom were so insane I almost peed my pants waiting because of all the coffee I had to drink just to keep warm.

Don't even get my started about the 'Product Fair'. The crush of frenzied people lunging for cheap, plastic crap made a Who concert seem sedate by comparison. By the time it mellowed out a bit enough for me to try and take in all the wonderful goodness we're working on and about to ship by talking to people at the booths, there were the constant interruptions of, "Do you have any more Frisbees?", "Do you have any more t-shirts?", "Do you have any more badge clips?", which made me grab a glass of wine and look for some food.

Bad idea.

The only "food" that wasn't deep-fried, (hello, wellness?) was a few token veggies sitting next to coagulated Ranch dressing and cookies. Don't get me wrong, I love cookies, but wine + carrots + cookies = feeling ill on the bus. (At least it wasn't taquitos + chicken strips + wine + cookies = mess on the bus.)

Now that I have that off my chest...

On to: The Microsoft Company Meeting.

This was the first company meeting I've attended. It was likely my last.

Why? (Besides getting frostbite on my butt?) Because it was like attending a Jim Rose Circus show without the entertainment, music and booze. I was pretty much left with a gaping mouth and a disgusted feeling. Oh sure, I was one of the poor schulbs making noise every time my team was mentioned, but rest assured, it was because I was sitting in the same row as my GM and I certainly wasn't going to be one to commit career suicide in front of the rabid masses.

I did, however, find one point of entertainment and one point of real interest in the show.

The entertainment was that for all the noise about search, all the noise about advertising, all the noise about online services, all the noise about games and all the noise about beating back Google, Linux and Sony, the ghost of the past was still in the room. Google is still coming, coming, coming, coming and coming. Linux is still coming and coming and coming.

The entertainment was counting how many references were made to competitors by name during the company meeting and measuring that against the real threat to revenue streams. You can even play along at work or wfh by loading up the on-demand version of the company meeting.

You might expect that the top three would come out something like Google, Linux and Sony. Bzzzzt! Guess again.

(Here's a hint: it rhymes with Snapple.)

For all of the competitive threats online, (go re-read Ozzie's '05 memo and Gates' '95 memos for a quick refresher,) all of the competitive threats in the enterprise posed by Linux, IBM and SAP, and all the threats that Sony and Nintendo pose in games, Apple is the competitive ghost that still drives senior leadership.

What else can explain why Apple was mentioned more times than another other competitor at the company meeting and that it has never been clearly linked as a competitive threat in the online services arena other than as a purveyor of music and movies to the rank-and-file? So what gives? If Apple is a threat on par with Google and Linux, tell us so we can all update our commitments to fend of that threat as well.

Otherwise. It. Is. Time. To. Let. Go. Of. The. Corporate. Insecurity. We. Exhibit. About. Apple.

There, I've said it. Seriously people, it's time to move on.

Which brings me to the interesting part of the company meeting.

Ray Ozzie will help in saving all of our asses if we let him.

I had a hard time hearing him, as most of my co-workers attention drifted off and started chatting during his speech, but what I did hear gave me hope that the Microsoft that I really wanted to join might just be the one he helps to bring about. If you missed what he had to say, go listen to it. Twice.

Ray is not stuck in the past, fighting the last fight. He's firmly looking to the future what needs to be done to get us there and be a solid, respected competitor. And he might just help us realize that the future looks a lot more like this instead of this.

Next Up: Delegated to the Dustbin of History


  1. Hey, welcome back. I didn't go to the company meeting, didn't even watch it. After many years at the company, I've never gone. So have to resist the urge to puke. Plus, I'm pretty sure that being kept in that stadium for that length of time is against the Geneva Convention.

    I've had some meetings with Ray, and the jury is still out. At the end of the day, he's fighting a massive old boy network in the exec ranks and he will report to Steve. Steve has to go.

    Glad to have you back....

    Now let's go beat Gapplony...I mean, it's not like IBM isn't actually there... duh.

  2. Apple is a threat. Just a different one than we're used to dealing with.

    Apple is using our own strategy against us... slow and steady wins the ultimate race. Apple is going to take it's time to slowly capture market share, to slowly enter into business markets, to slowly introduce new technologies. Why? So as not to attract the attention of the likes of us.

    They've got you fooled. Look at their stock performance over last 5 years. Look at ours. Look at Sony's and Linux companies too since you mentioned them as well.

    Now tell me they (AAPL) are not able to hire more talent than us, than Sony, than RedHat.

    This keeps up, just like with Google today, the real competition will be for resources.

  3. I don't discount that Apple is a competitive threat. My point was that leadership makes more noise about other competitors yet always trots out Apple as a tough competitor without clearly locating them on the competition map.

    My other point is that by focusing on the platform metric we're fighting the last war, which is way over. It's like American Standard vs. Kohler plumbing fixtures; people pick them for style, but they both give you water. No one other than those companies and their shareholders care what their market share of fixtures are.

    I also keep hearing about this scramble for talented resources (smart people) like it's some zero-sum game. It's not.

    You only need to have exactly one person smarter than your competition on your team in order to beat them. The really hard part is listening to them and doing what they tell you to do.