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Microsoft Employees Critical Of Their Employer 367

bonch writes "BusinessWeek is running an article on internal unrest at Microsoft from their own employees. 'Once the dream workplace of tech's highest achievers, it is suffering key defections to Google and elsewhere... Much of the sharpest criticism comes from within. Dozens of current and former employees are criticizing -- in BusinessWeek interviews, court testimony, and personal blogs -- the way the company operates internally.' In related news, Steve Ballmer has pledged to make changes inside Microsoft to avoid the embarrassingly long development cycle of Vista, including a 'revamping of the engineering and the processes.' Is it too late?"
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Microsoft Employees Critical Of Their Employer

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  • by ackthpt ( 218170 ) * on Friday September 16, 2005 @05:38PM (#13580963) Homepage Journal
    Once the dream workplace of tech's highest achievers, it is suffering key defections to Google and elsewhere... Much of the sharpest criticism comes from within. Dozens of current and former employees are criticizing -- in BusinessWeek interviews, court testimony, and personal blogs -- the way the company operates internally.

    Sounds like pretty much everywhere I've worked which at one time seemed a dream job. Eventually things change. Workers set in their ways and expectations grumble the loudest. Truth may be, it still may be a dream place to work, it's just that many people don't like change, where others thrive on it (hint: Change is often an opportunity for promotion or to shift into another position you prefer.

    Like my experiences, I fully expect some people will anonymously gripe, but still stay put because the change of finding a new job, fitting into a new workplace, doing work in new and different ways is often a bigger challenge then standing pat.

    As for Ballmer, he's going to have to go through the kinds of things IBM has done many times over the past few decades. Competition is out there (notably Linux) and Microsoft really is stagnating. Windows Vista may well be their Edsel. [wikipedia.org]

    • There's those that don't like change, they're usually screwed. Then there's not liking the direction of the change. In the past five years, many of the larger tech companies have turned into real shits to work for.
      • There's those that don't like change, they're usually screwed. Then there's not liking the direction of the change. In the past five years, many of the larger tech companies have turned into real shits to work for.

        Yep. Getting away from all the fun and excitement of Whizzy new products and rapidly expanding markets. It's always fun taking the other guy's lunch money.

        Now many of those companies who survived the .com bust are looking to make a profit. Growing companies rarely show a profit, as they rol

        • by CDMA_Demo ( 841347 ) on Friday September 16, 2005 @06:29PM (#13581308) Homepage

          There's those that don't like change, they're usually screwed. Then there's not liking the direction of the change. In the past five years, many of the larger tech companies have turned into real shits to work for.

          I feel necessary to cite from "The IBM Way", (words are slightly off), 'at IBM we believe that we must control change, otherwise change will control us'. No wonder IBM has survived for ages due to the same philosophy. They even sold vaccum cleaners at one point. I think M$ has an idea of how they'd like to "control change" like IBM, as they are constantly breaking the mould by working on different things, but they need better management and better PR!
      • Yeah, they have to earn money the old fashioned way. By selling things people want at a profit.
    • From my experience, reinvigoration of the company will require a pretty gut-wrenching shake-up. I've lived through some half measures where I work and so far they have not produced anything like previous performance.

      I hate Microsoft and what they've done to the PC world, but they are one of the biggest software companies around with a large reserve of cash to fund future development. If they ever learn to truly innovate instead of acting to stifle competition, they have the resources to do great things.

      Go
    • by Vicissidude ( 878310 ) on Friday September 16, 2005 @06:12PM (#13581212)
      Sounds like pretty much everywhere I've worked which at one time seemed a dream job.

      Microsoft is different, if only in scale. These employees work on products that bring in a billion per month for their employer. Yet, these same employees only make market wages. It was only a few years ago, these employees were all but guaranteed from their options to become millionaires. Now, Microsoft is trying to up their profits on paper, so they're squeezing employees for that money. Nevermind that Microsoft is still making around a billion a month. And nevermind that Microsoft's lack of profit growth is directly attributable to those managers who are making a million a year in salary.
    • I worked at Microsoft for a few years. I never found it to be a dream workplace. Many of the largest complaints I had (that of feeling like I was the victim of interdepartment turf wars) turned out to be extremely widespread.

      The basic problem is that despite a huge amount of effort on the part of senior management pushing a message of "help beyond your department," departments still have to justify budgets, and are very unwilling to cite cross-department contributions in this process. So you get a message of "go do this: it is important to the company" and then when you are done you get "I wish you hadn't taken the time out of studying for more MCP exams to make these admittedly great contributions."

      The problem was so bad in my department that the General Manager went to great lengths to make himself available on the floor and break down any image of him as being inaccessible. And yet he was entirely unsuccessful in this endevour.

      When I left, it became clear that my entire department was not long to remain in the US. About 2 months ago, they finally committed to lay off those in my department.

      I never found Microsoft to be a dream place to work. Politics of the worst sort (yeah, politics are everywhere), and in particular failure to recognize outstanding performance lead many blue badges in my department to feel very unhappy with their jobs. In short, we never felt valued.

      By nearly any account, I was a steller contributor. I was asked to provide leadership roles in various ways, from conducting training for my coworkers to acting as a technical lead in the response to the Blaster worm. Yet again, even though these roles were done at the request of management, I never felt that my contributions in these special projects was appreciated in any way, shape, or form. May have just been my department though.
      • by Skim123 ( 3322 ) <mitchell&4guysfromrolla,com> on Friday September 16, 2005 @06:44PM (#13581388) Homepage
        I never worked at Microsoft, but I was an intern there. And in watching some of the interal politics and talking with some team members in my group, I heard similar grumblings. But then again, my wife doesn't work at Microsoft, and she has expressed similar complaints about her past employers. So maybe it's more of a corporate America thing/large company thing, than a Microsoft thing.

        In any event, what I really liked about working at Microsoft for that summer was that the average intelligence of my coworkers seemed quite high, especially compared to my previous internship. (I worked for a Microsoft training partner/consulting firm.) This, alone, wasn't enough to have me take a full time job on at Microsoft; yes, working with smart folks is nice, but working 60 hour weeks and living in a place where the sun comes out 75 days in the year was far from my ideal career! :-)

        • I don't doubt that the turf war phenominon is systematic and fairly universal regarding large companies. If it was just this area, I would not have a strong complaint.

          What I objected to was being asked to do something by my manager, and then be cut down for doing it later because some meaningless metric goal was not being exceeded by a factor of 2 or 3. (There were a couple of consecutiveyears where I passed 7 MCP exams in a 12 month period. As you can imagine, this got very boring, so I still met the goa
        • by demachina ( 71715 ) on Friday September 16, 2005 @07:24PM (#13581618)
          "So maybe it's more of a corporate America thing/large company thing, than a Microsoft thing."

          Its more just a capitalism thing. Its just a basic fact of life that people want to make money. Most people want to make the most money they can. The way you make the most money you can in a corporation is to one way or another surpass your coworkers, to get the credit for successes weather you deserve it or not, and shift blame for failure away from you even if you deserve it.

          If you are good at playing this game you get promoted, you get more stock, you get bigger bonuses. There is just a vast difference in compensation between working people and those at VP and above. Top executives used to make 30X what workers did in the 80's, they now make 400x. VP is similar though not quite as big a multiple.

          Idealist geeks don't play this game well. They are just glad to get a paycheck and if someone lets them sit at their computer in peace. Its a key reason the people in marketing and sales tend to rocket in to upper management, that and geeks tend to lack social skills to survive in management.

          The best way to make money in a company is everyone works together and make great products and everyone makes lots of money and then there is a lot to spread around, Microsoft used to be like this when the stock just kept going up and everyone got rich on it even if you got less than others. Google is like this now. That is a "dream" company, everything is going right and everyone is making a lot of money.

          The problem sets in when it starts getting hard to make your killing. If all of a sudden stock options don't mean certain riches, raises are harder to come by and offshoring is in full swing political infighting and morale problems are just the inevitable result.

          If there is a limited pool of wealth the motivated and greedy opt out of working together and team success, instead they start playing politics to insure they climb and if necessary they do it over the bodies of the people around them, most of whom end up laying on the floor with a knife in their back. Competition is sometimes a great motivator but when it reaches a certain pitch inside a company it stops being a positive and turns in to pure corrosion.

          Most young geeks simply don't grasp that this game is even going on around them, and its why people in their office are driving expensive sports cars while they settle for a couple percent raise a year for 80 hour work weeks.
          • Its more just a capitalism thing. Its just a basic fact of life that people want to make money. Most people want to make the most money they can. The way you make the most money you can in a corporation is to one way or another surpass your coworkers, to get the credit for successes weather you deserve it or not, and shift blame for failure away from you even if you deserve it.

            Well, the basic problem is one of organizational structure. You have a large company divided into a number of profit and cost centers. Profit centers are expected to justify their budgets based on revenue, and cost centers are supposed to lose as little money as possible. Each of these departments is expected to justify their budget more or less independant of the rest of the company. It is this last bit-- this assumption that departments are independant that leads to these turf wars and, in the extreme case, the sort of problem I ran into at Microsoft.

            I don't see it as a Capitalist problem per se because I can imagine companies structured in a way that might discourage these sorts of problems. I.e the company would make *more* money, not less if these problems were solved.
            • by demachina ( 71715 ) on Friday September 16, 2005 @07:58PM (#13581753)
              "I don't see it as a Capitalist problem per se because I can imagine companies structured in a way that might discourage these sorts of problems. I.e the company would make *more* money, not less if these problems were solved."

              I think maybe the point you are missing is you think Capitalism is just a company versus company game. It is just as much, and inherently a person versus person game. You have to apply the same competitive angst there is between Microsoft and Google and extrapolate it to the managers of all the teams in your office who are competing for market(mind) share within the company with the executives above them who are the customers. You have to apply it to the engineers on a team who are competing for a larger share of the options, bonuses, raises and plum assignments. The engineers are totally at the bottom of the heap and a lot less adept at and prone to play the game than you will find among everyone who has made the jump on to the rungs of the management ladder and also EVERY salesperson in the organization. If you want to see competition at its most vicious just look at how salespeople think and work.
        • But then again, my wife doesn't work at Microsoft, and she has expressed similar complaints about her past employers. So maybe it's more of a corporate America thing/large company thing, than a Microsoft thing.

          I never worked for MSFT, but I interviewed with them and turned them down to take a position in a small software-related service company. About 10 developers and 40 tech support guys, an IT supervisor, a couple of sales people, and a bigwig. It was definately the right choice.

          It's a challenge, and

      • Have you... (Score:3, Insightful)

        by HBI ( 604924 )
        ever worked for a large firm (before or after) to compare your experiences at MS with?

        I have worked for at least five and the experience is pretty much the same everywhere, except for one that was a wholly family-owned private bank (despite being rather large by the standards of the day).

        I tend to chalk up the issues I have with large organizations due to the soulless nature of publically owned companies. If they have an owning management, that controls the fate of the organizations, their focus is less on
    • by gnutechguy ( 700980 ) on Friday September 16, 2005 @06:36PM (#13581350)
      I was a Microserf in Support... that's right; not all Microserfs are developers.

      Here are some problems with Microsoft:

      1. Training - There's a phone; now go do that support stuff

      2. Customer satisfaction surveys - Customers got mad when you had to tell them "Windows doesn't work that way". You had to get a 8 or 9 out of 9 on everyr survey or your manager would get mad. Unsupported product? Third-party issue? User error? Tough!

      3. Managers - I had 5 managers in one year. One manager skipped free training because it interfered with "Survivor" on TV. Only manager had atechnical clue; the rest might as well have managed a pizza parlor

      4. Co-workers - they regularly backstabbed contractors. Why? Because they could

      5. No internal processes - Support engineers have to just make everythingm up. There are NO processes for escalation

      I am glad to be gone from that madhouse
    • Eventually things change:

      From blow to suck.

      KFG
    • The stock isn't flying like it used to.

      Most of the top employees may be with them.
    • Nah, their Edsel was Windows ME. This will probably be more like their Aztek or something.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      As a former summer intern, I'll have to disagree. It's not just the people who have been there the longest who are complaining. I got out of the software sector, and hopefully eventually out of computers, largely due to my experiences with Microsoft (and a host of other reasons, but MS was emblematic).

      Microsoft, as a company, is suffering from the same stuff its software suffers from: bloat. There are levels upon levels of management with no clear role as to what exactly it is they do. There are project lea
    • by HangingChad ( 677530 ) on Friday September 16, 2005 @08:15PM (#13581838) Homepage
      it still may be a dream place to work, it's just that many people don't like change

      Disney used to consistently be on the list of top 100 companies to work for. The corporate atmosphere changed, not the people. If you mean "change" being a switch from focusing on the needs and interests of their employees and customers to "shareholder value", then yes, you're quite right. People don't like that kind of change, except for the shareholders of course.

      Same thing happened at EDS, which used to be a really great company to work for. The focus shifted from quality service to executing contracts as cheaply as possible. Morale tanked, service went to hell, contracts impoded, downward spiral began.

      Dell is currently experiencing the beginning of its slide. One of the first signs is a shift away from quality customer service. That's how it begins.

      The only thing surprising about the MSFT internal distress is how long it took for people outside the company to find out.

      If you want to test my theory, then watch SAIC. Currently an employee owned company, but they're about to go public. My bet is their IPO will lead to a period of rapid growth, eventually shifting to a focus on making money for the stakeholders. Service will suffer, the employees that have been there the longest (and hence make the most) will get forced out so they can be replaced with lower cost replacements. Turn over will increase, service will suffer, contracts will be lost. SAIC will turn into EDS.

      I think it's funny how bean counters see the old guys as a liability to be replaced. Forgetting that the reason they have been with the company so long and make the most money is that the customer likes them and they get the job done.

      When bean counters get ahold of your business, the same thing is going to happen as when Republicans get ahold of your country.

  • by John Hasler ( 414242 ) on Friday September 16, 2005 @05:42PM (#13580990) Homepage
    We can only hope.
  • by Mr. Flibble ( 12943 ) on Friday September 16, 2005 @05:42PM (#13580994) Homepage
    As the saying on leadership goes: "A fish rots from the head down." If the report about the chair [theregister.co.uk] is true, then I would suspect that this is where it begins.

    (Again, we don't know if the story is true... [theregister.co.uk])
    • (Again, we don't know if the story is true...)

      Yet, who would have guessed he'd have done the monkey dance?

      Even Bill Gates has been known to vent his ire inside the company compound, If I recall it was in regard to killing Java, and we saw the long battle with Sun after Microsoft began co-opting it with their own codes.

      Google is the least of their problems -- They only choose to make it so.

      • Google is the least of their problems -- They only choose to make it so.

        Exactly. Microsoft needs an "enemy." Whenever they corner a new market they enter something new to challenge the market leader in that segment. It's how they keep that "underdog" attitude they always seem to have...

    • I've never thought Ballmer was the right person for the job. But that makes Microsoft pretty interesting right now from a business perspective. I'm still guessing we will one day hear SB is "moving on for personal reasons" (AKA, the institutional investors said "Get someone new.") If this happens, who will replace him? That's a very interesting question.

      If Microsoft had the right CEO, I think it highly likely the company would begin introducing some very compelling products again. Their technical products

      • See here is the problem. Microsoft's historic earnings record has made the leaders more or less beyond reproach from shareholders. The early participants largely control the company (Gates is still the Chairman, IIRC), so it would take a large change to make this happen.

        Since Balmer and Gates have been involved in the company from the beginning, though decades of extremely strong growth, there is a strong tendency to defer to them.

        Furthermore, Balmer isn't that far out of character compared to Gates re: m

        • No doubt what you say is true. But ultimately it will come down to the quantity of unhappy institutional investors. If enough of them begin to complain loudly enough, Warren Buffett will say to Gates, "Well Bill, MSFT did pretty well when you were CEO. I'm not saying you should take that job again, but it's time to start looking..."

          A side thought: I think Ballmer would be an excellent CEO for a company like Nike, Carl's Junior, maybe even a car company *cough*GM boring designs*cough*. They offer totally mar

          • That things were going well under Gates was an accident of the market. I don't think that Ballmer can be blamed for most of the current problems. After all the issues of market saturation, and emergant competition were nacient when Gates left the helm.

            I don't discount what you say, but there are so many other companies out there that are interesting and trading is still active enough for Microsoft, that most of the critics today, can simply sell their stock carefully and invest elsewhere. Note, however,

            • That things were going well under Gates was an accident of the market

              I disagree with you here. I think Gates is a better businessman than that, and his competitors were not his equal.

              I think that most investors are likely to simply say "Hmm... I think it is time to take my money elsewhere."

              They already have, That's why the stock is at a low PE. I think of MSFT as a call option on the unrealized potential of the company. A new, effective CEO could make all sorts of changes - spinoffs, new product lines

    • by twitter ( 104583 ) on Friday September 16, 2005 @08:49PM (#13581970) Homepage Journal
      If the report about the chair is true, then I would suspect that this is where it begins.

      Well, yeah, a guy who admitted that he would be working as an insurance saleman if it were not for M$ is not the best man to be running a tech company. Then again, M$ is not much of a tech company as it is a sales and marketing company.

      You can see how nuts Balmer is from the article himself. The complaints are that people are not being rewarded by a company that's got poor organization and infighting that interferes with getting things done. His response is ludicrous:

      Employees' complaints are rooted in a number of factors. They resent cuts in compensation and benefits as profits soar. They're disappointed with the stock price, which has barely budged for three years, rendering many of their stock options out of the money. They're frustrated with what they see as swelling bureaucracy, including the many procedures and meetings Chief Executive Steven A. Ballmer has put in place to motivate them. And they're feeling trapped in an organization whose past successes seem to stifle current creativity.

      Worse is what he has to say about those problems:

      "We have as excited and engaged a team of folks at Microsoft as I can possibly imagine," says Ballmer. "[Employees] love their work. ...[cites Xbox and MSN as successes and might as well have farted] says Ballmer. "We won the desktop. We won the server. We will win the Web. We will move fast, we will get there. We will win the Web."

      Won the server? He's losing the desktop and what does that have to do with NOT PAYING PEOPLE WHEN YOU ARE BURSTING WITH MONEY or STUPID FUCKING INTERNAL SALES MEETINGS WHEN YOU SHOULD BE PUTTING OUT PRODUCT? Steve, baby, being second rate was good enough for Windoze 3.1 and 95. For all the money your company has you should have something on the desktop 6 times better than KDE, Gnome and all that have, but you don't. You've got a piece of shit that has not fundamentally changed in ten years. That and the bad attitude of thinking he can cram that second rate junk down people's throats is pure lunacy.

      It is so over for that company and that's good. At last the closed source nighmare of the 80s can die. The greed heads and control freaks can go back to insurance sales and the business can revert to key banging and hacking among equals.

  • by aktzin ( 882293 ) on Friday September 16, 2005 @05:46PM (#13581029)

    Also on BusinessWeek there's an interview with Ballmer where he dodges every question he's asked (and re-asked) regarding morale issues at Microsoft, competition, release delays with Longhorn/Vista, etc.

    http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/05_39 /b3952008.htm [businessweek.com]

    Oddly he didn't jump around screaming "Developers, developers, developers!!!" this time around.

  • by Numair ( 77943 ) on Friday September 16, 2005 @05:46PM (#13581033) Homepage
    I have dealt with people at Microsoft in the past, and found that their problem is not with their engineers or with the guys in the trenches, but with the business development guys. Seriously, how many of them does it take to screw a lightbulb? It's pathetic ... So much schmoozing and nonsense, no focus on real results - everyone is always trying to get that one big deal, not focusing on the incremental stuff that is vital to actual innovation taking place.

    The best thing Microsoft could do is make a statement that they will stop issuing statements, and let their work/products speak for themselves ... Which they can totally do, as evidenced by the tremendous amount of innovation seen in Office 12, for example ...
    • by The Bungi ( 221687 ) <thebungi@gmail.com> on Friday September 16, 2005 @05:55PM (#13581106) Homepage
      That's true, to a certain extent. If you talk to the developers, the SDTEs, the technical writers and all the folks in the trenches you can see they're as excited and motivated than I remember them in the mid-90s when the company could do no wrong. Microsoft has undergone significant changes (the blogs, Channel9, etc) in the past few years and people generally don't give them credit for these things and instead just cry doom because the company behaves like... well, a company. It's not a garage project anymore. It has shareholders and governability issues and the whole deal.

      Having said that... the marketing folks (of whom the non-technical 'evangelists' are the worst) have been getting on my nerves lately. Microsoft seems to have hired quite a bad batch of them - or the problem comes from the top.

      Either way, they have some issues to work out. But these 'is this the end for Microsoft!?' headline-grabbing 'reports' do get tiresome. Especially since they've been going on since 1999.

    • Fewer BizDev losers would go a long way

      I have dealt with people at Microsoft in the past, and found that their problem is not with their engineers or with the guys in the trenches, but with the business development guys. Seriously, how many of them does it take to screw a lightbulb? It's pathetic ... So much schmoozing and nonsense, no focus on real results - everyone is always trying to get that one big deal, not focusing on the incremental stuff that is vital to actual innovation taking place.

      Yep. Bee

  • Not surprising (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Snatch422 ( 896695 ) on Friday September 16, 2005 @05:48PM (#13581048)
    This is no surprise. Microsoft has gotten so big that they have become a jack of all trades but no longer a master at anything. When you try to do everything you expand so large that its hard to control the growth of the company and management policies. Microsofts sole power was in being able to compensate people well but people are leaving not because of money but because they do not like the job. This could be a big problem for Microsoft and we will watch Google and other companies slowly eat up some of the top devs from MS.
    • Re:Not surprising (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ackthpt ( 218170 ) * on Friday September 16, 2005 @06:41PM (#13581371) Homepage Journal
      This is no surprise. Microsoft has gotten so big that they have become a jack of all trades but no longer a master at anything. When you try to do everything you expand so large that its hard to control the growth of the company and management policies.

      This had a lot to do with the downfall of General Motors. Once so big and mighty it could do no wrong. Then this punk Ralph Nader pointed at one of their major failures and they handled it badly, first denying the problem then eventually running away from it. The Corvair really was a great car and a few tweaks was all it needed. 20 years later they'd repeat this incredible behaviour with the Fiero (engine fires, hard shifting, stuck brakes, stuff coming apart, etc. (I had one)) But the wealth of the company allowed it to cast off promise and potential over really minor issues. They acquired EDS and Hughes, neither of which had jack to do with their core competency which was building cars, yet they failed with on a regular basis.

      Microsofts sole power was in being able to compensate people well but people are leaving not because of money but because they do not like the job.

      The money isn't even that good, particularly since an experienced developer who knows his arse from a hole in the ground could go elsewhere for better. Microsoft is delusional being blind-sided by this.

      This could be a big problem for Microsoft and we will watch Google and other companies slowly eat up some of the top devs from MS.

      It's been happening since the dawn of time. What Microsoft is utterly failing to do and what they should do is spin off companies. Instead they try to keep eveything under one roof -- Video games, Office Automation, Servers, ISP, Operating System, Consumer Electronics, Television, Web Portal, etc. They should be spinning these things off when they show potential, not continuing to bind everything together through Windows and IP. It's too much of a stretch and creates too much bureaucracy to keep it all together. We see the failure through the flaw count.

  • by eno2001 ( 527078 ) on Friday September 16, 2005 @05:50PM (#13581069) Homepage Journal
    All companies have internal employee gripes about working there with very few exceptions. Those exceptions tend to be companies that are flush with cash and are able to treat their employees as they should be treated. But when it comes to "brass tacks", the niceties are the first thing to go. Now, I should also say that I can't stand Microsoft or Windows, I think they're both shite. But, Windows isn't going to suddenly disappear and niether is Microsoft. Witness the auto industry. There are companies out there that make shitty autos but you don't see them dying out. You also don't see consumers russhing out to buy a new car every time the auto industry says to do so. The same thing applies to Windows. As much as Microsoft might wish that people will flock to Vista (whatever flavor) the real truth, and they know this, is that there are people who are STILL going to be running Windows 95 out there if it still works for them. So, none of this article warrants gloating about the demise of Microsoft. It ain't gonna happen. If it were, then Chevy should have disappeared decades ago.
    • There's a lot of auto makers, though, and not all of them do very well. Sure, most turn a modest profit, but they're not the big movers, and many will fluctuate between profit and not from quarter to quarter.

      The analogy is poor, though, because one of the reasons Microsoft is able to pull in such a great amount of money is that the near dominance of the OS market means that their other products are both easier to maintain (only need to code one "real" version) and a nearly sure bet (if you make the main

  • Vista (Score:5, Insightful)

    by glockNine ( 851509 ) on Friday September 16, 2005 @05:52PM (#13581082)

    With some of its key breakthrough features gone, Vista's improvements include better handling of peripheral devices, such as printers and scanners, and cutting in half the time it takes to start up. Those are needed improvements, and there's no doubt that hundreds of millions of copies will be sold as people upgrade to new PCs. But the changes are hardly the stuff of cutting-edge software engineering.

    Indeed. Microsoft is going to have to rely heavily on its marketing dept. in order for Vista to sell. I mean, seriously, what does it really have to offer that is a big improvemnt on XP, or even 2000 for that matter. Sure, the fanboys will all buy it becasue it is the "new and exciting MS Operating System" and joe sixpack will get it with his new computer, but what businesess will be able to justify the cost of a meaningless upgrade.

    If MS is really going to be pushing better printer and scanner compatibilty, a new GUI, and faster startup times as the big features in Vista, they might as well just let all of their top programmers go to google and start hiring all of the top marketing people in the world to replace them.

    • Re:Vista (Score:4, Insightful)

      by smallpaul ( 65919 ) <paul@prescod. n e t> on Friday September 16, 2005 @08:00PM (#13581762)
      I don't really see that it matters a lot whether Vista "sells". Microsoft has to continue to upgrade their operating system platform so that it is seen as sufficiently modern. That's enough to deter defectors ("switchers"). When they unbundle something like WinFS, the .NET Runtime and Avalon, that still deters switchers, because those features are still only available on Windows. It's not important what is in the box: it's what is available for the platform.

      Of course, from a short-term profits point of view, it would be great if people paid for Vista upgrades instead of waiting until they revved their next computer. If you can get them to upgrade now AND buy a copy with the next computer then you are of course laughing all the way to the bank. But if all they can do is sell the OEM versions with the computers, and cross-sell Office and the server stuff they'll still be making money left, right and center.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 16, 2005 @05:55PM (#13581102)
    I'm a MSFT stockholder. All you layabouts, get off your duffs and get back to work. Whaddya want, more free Cokes? Give me a break.

    You want to be smurfy, get good enough to work for the research arm and then we'll talk. Otherwise be thankful you aren't stuck in a cubicle at Symantec or somewhere lame.

    Youse don't know how good youse got it.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 16, 2005 @06:01PM (#13581143)
    Well, I guess that's better than internal unrest from someone elses employees
  • Is it too late?

    Let's see... the new version of the operating system used by a large majority of the world has been expected for a long time. The (relatively) scant time remaining should be spent for small changes -- polishing stuff up and finding those hard-to-find bugs. The main elements of the project should be basically implemented, it should be time to ensure a rock-solid product in light of it's competition from the Unix-likes of the world (including, of course, OSX).

    And where are we now? IE7 is the

  • by mcguyver ( 589810 ) on Friday September 16, 2005 @06:03PM (#13581160) Homepage
    To put this in perspective MS has 61,000 employees. If MS has 200 disgruntled employees then that's 0.003% of their staff. At a former company we had 150 employees and it's safe to say that 10% of them were disgruntled, if not more. If you want to find a disgruntled employees, look not at Microsoft but at the DMV, Delta and Northwest airlines. /devils advocate
  • by bombadier_beetle ( 871107 ) on Friday September 16, 2005 @06:03PM (#13581163)
    The culture just isn't what it used to be, and besides that, people are getting burned out, considering the kind of hours we've kept for the last howevermany years. Not to mention that management has made some bad decisions lately that have hurt the company, and there's a murmur of concern going around that Cars is going to be Pixar's first ho-hum movie.
  • by RickMuller ( 134647 ) on Friday September 16, 2005 @06:04PM (#13581165) Homepage
    Chairs will continue to fly until morale improves.
  • by Bardez ( 915334 )
    As a soon-to-graduate senior, I can't possibly express how much I want to avoid Microsoft, but I can try. For one, you have anti-compete clauses. Although from what I've seen and heard these are pretty common, but MS is in everything. I think the only IT industry they haven't infiltrated is porn, and while it is a very richeous and worthwhile industry, that isn't what I'm trying to do with my life. Combine that with the fact that their development is very dictated: 'this is what we want, we just need ma
  • so much money... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by craters ( 720373 )
    Microsoft has so much money that besides the screw ups we KNOW about, it could screw up on numerous unknown projects without ever having a hit to it's bottom line. Thus you get a culture where stupid is as management does. The end result is lack of true innovation which also results in lack of choice for consumers and businesses.
  • They will either make it through successfully or they won't. They've made it through several others, my money would be on them making it through this one.

    Google, if they are ever as successful, will face the same challenges as they grow.

    One final thing. Microsoft hasn't issued stock options for quite a while now, something the BW writer missed.
  • by saddino ( 183491 ) on Friday September 16, 2005 @06:18PM (#13581251)
    ...to change a lightbulb?

    Seven.

    One Project Manager...to write up the requirements.
    One MBU Intern...to report on how Apple engineers did it in Tiger.
    One Marketing Droid...to call CNet and tell Ina Fried that it'll be changed in an innovative and exciting new way in Windows Vista.
    One Software Engineer...to begin work on it and then take a job at Google implementing Lightbulb Beta.
    One CEO...to throw his chair around his office when he finds out.
    One PR Flack...to explain to Bob Enderle how "although the lightbulb won't be changed in Windows Vista, it will be released in 2007 as a separate, more refined technology."

    And Paul Thurrot, who will receive a private demostration of the lightbulb, devote one week on SuperSite explaining that Apple's lightbulb in Tiger is dimmer, Google's Lightbulb Beta is "limited," and MS's solution, while late, is indeed superior and "Highly recommended."

  • by serutan ( 259622 ) <snoopdoug&geekazon,com> on Friday September 16, 2005 @06:19PM (#13581255) Homepage
    Unbreakable office furniture!
  • God I hope so!
  • by SideshowBob ( 82333 ) on Friday September 16, 2005 @06:26PM (#13581298)
    It's just like Apple when Jobs was ousted and Scully took over. The pinheads don't know how to inspire/lead/challenge the techies.

    Same thing with HP when it was no longer a place for engineers, run by engineers.

    You can probably find the same pattern repeating at lots of high tech companies.
  • I doubt they have any idea what's going on in MS.

    "If you take a look at where we're going with innovation, what we have in the pipeline, I'm very excited. The output of our innovation is great," says Ballmer. "We won the desktop. We won the server. We will win the Web. We will move fast, we will get there. We will win the Web."

    They won the server? How the hell do they figure they won the server? And how does one "win the Web"? You might win webbased email, or search engines, but how do you "win the web"?
    • They aren't even close to winning the server. Maybe they can convince most of the non-techies that they won the server, but they didn't. They're WAY behind on the web, in any way I can interpret it...Apache beats IIS both by functionality and marketshare, Google beats them on search engines and email...Maybe Microsoft has a prettier website?
      • Here's a useful statistic for you: there are about 2 million aspx pages out there, about 6 million jsp pages out there, and about 150 million PHP pages out there.

        [wait for it]

        And there are almost 600 million asp pages in the catalog.

        Remember that paying customers build dynamic pages, not static pages. I don't know about you, but owning 75% of the dynamic pages out there doesn't sound like being beaten.

    • That's precisely the problem! Ballmer can only think of "winning"---as in somebody else has to lose. OS/2. Novell. Netscape, Sun, whoever, and now Google.

      Did Apple "win" the whatever? Never. They made an iPod.

      They did win affection. Like Google.

      Where's Microsoft's iPod? Whatever it is, it's going to be made in Gooogle Labs now.

      They ought to think what's the coolest thing they can do with a comptuer----hardware and software included.

      (MS hardware---mice etc---is more innovative than their software)
  • by markov_chain ( 202465 ) on Friday September 16, 2005 @06:30PM (#13581316) Homepage
    From the article:
    After the ruling he praised Google, noting, "the culture is very supportive, collaborative, innovative, and Internet-like -- and that's bottoms-up innovation rather than top-down direction."

    Why do I get a mental picture of a row of Google engineers mooning Steve Ballmer?
  • by elister ( 898073 ) on Friday September 16, 2005 @06:53PM (#13581446)
    I tested hardware for Win98se, WinMe, Win2k & WinXP. And main annoyance I had with my job was that it was far too boring. I would often email in sick Monday, Tuesday, & sometimes Wednesday. When I came in, I was able to easily catch up and log all my test scores by Friday afternoon. The job was just too slack, and it showed with management who would take our entire team out to Hooters resturant, come back 2 or 3 hours later drunk off their asses. The boss would invite me to go with them, but I really dont like getting drunk in the early afternoon. We had mini-fridges in the lab and occasionally people would start drinking at noon.

    While some may think this is great, it really creates horrible work ethics should you move on to a new job. Lots of young people thinking that this was normal, and when they moved onto a new job outside the company they might assume that its ok to eat, drink, sleep, & shower at work. This is basically what happened to me, I moved on and ended up getting fired from two jobs, for doing things that were considered very tame at Microsoft (swearing in a casual way, using email for non-business related purposes like talking a friend down the hall). I came really close to getting fired on my current job for creating a batch file to copy .ini files which got Lotus Notes to work (call after call to internal support didnt work). My boss accused me of hacking the operating system, and I got dinged pretty bad on my evaluation. So while I did have some fun at MS, it set a bad example of conduct for future jobs.

    Policy and proceedure are radically different at Microsoft compared to companies like Starbucks, or Blue Cross.

    The irony for me was that MS was going to hire alot of entry level testing positions (they lost the perma-temp lawsuit). I didnt think I was qualified, but my boss pressed me to apply. I never got the job because im not very good at answering Brain Teaser type questions, if only the interviewers had asked me questions relating to my job, maybe I would have been hired. But most of the people in my lab, the ones who didnt really care about getting hired on full time, got hired full time. Including the potheads and alcoholics.

    I had one guy who couldnt take the stress of working at MS get hired on full time, and he would duck into the parking lot to smoke pot for 2 hours when he told everyone he was over at the developers office testing. This one guy was responsible for testing Digital Video devices, and he was just too fucking stupid for words. The developer however was the smartest, nicest guy I ever met there.
    • >...I came really close to getting fired on my current job for creating a batch file...

      Ummm, no. What happened wasn't that you got corrupted by MS, it's that you have been joining ridiculously crappy companies ever since.
  • Is it too late? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by aminorex ( 141494 ) on Friday September 16, 2005 @06:55PM (#13581462) Homepage Journal
    It's always too late to improve the past, and it's
    never too late to improve the future.

    The article seems to raise the spectre of two distinct kinds of issues: management problems and engineering problems. I think Microsoft manages its business operations very well, and perhaps could use some improvement in its management of human resources, but I won't comment about that substantively.

    Realistically, the windows source base is vast at this point, and being needlessly complicated by the demand to build a dozen different versions, and by the need to maintain support for legacy applications. This is a real problem, but it's a good problem to have. The open question is what is to be done for it.

    The conservative position held under Ballmer's leadership appears to be "throw more time/money/people at it" and stay the course. But there may not be enough time/money/people. Complexity compounds combinatorially.

    One reasonable alternative is to maintain a Win32 legacy compatibility operating system, and fork an incompatible version that breaks backwards compatibility, in order to make the development of new technologies much more managable. For a smaller player, fragmenting a market they need to grow would be suicidal. But for a monopoly like Microsoft, whose monopoly position is threatened by rising competitors, it is a good move, because it will fragment markets which OSX and Linux would otherwise gain, while keeping their installed base secure. Moreover, with a faster release cycle they can collect more "Microsoft taxes". A faster release cycle requires a less complex technical base.
     
  • by deanj ( 519759 ) on Friday September 16, 2005 @07:12PM (#13581563)
    There are critics inside every organization... I bet there are critics inside Google too. This is nothing new, other than they got some folks inside Microsoft to talk about it.

    Wait a while....they'll be writing the same article about Google.
  • by Master of Transhuman ( 597628 ) on Friday September 16, 2005 @07:14PM (#13581575) Homepage

    Cut out the security reviews they implemented several years ago.

    Eliminate debugging cycles...

    Oh, and cut out the design phase..."Gotta get that code out the door and if we don't start coding now, we'll never get done in time..."

    Oh, wait, they never had a design phase...That was actually the "marketing feature list" phase.

    Oh, and last but not least...postpone the "Universal Searchable Filesystem" until Windows 2010...
  • by sl4shd0rk ( 755837 ) on Friday September 16, 2005 @07:17PM (#13581591)
    Nearly everyone where I work is critical of their employer too. People bitch no matter what.
  • by Locke2005 ( 849178 ) on Friday September 16, 2005 @08:08PM (#13581795)
    ...says Ballmer... "We won the desktop. We won the server. We will win the Web. We will move fast, we will get there. We will win the Web." When did Microsoft win the Server? I must not have been paying attention when they handed out that award! (I will give them credit for owning the desktop for the foreseeable future. However, I beleive the desktop will become less and less important in the future as more people use network appliances to accomplish most computing tasks.)
    • In his world, he probably did win the server. If you think of the server as "the departmental O/S for serving files and sharing printers" then he won...I mean, when was the last time you saw Lantastic in an office?

      Microsoft has only recently had a real enterprise mindframe. They still think from the PC up, rather than from the ERP system down.

  • It's fairly simple (Score:5, Interesting)

    by petrus4 ( 213815 ) on Friday September 16, 2005 @08:09PM (#13581804) Homepage Journal
    Either Ballmer, Allchin, and Gates give up control of the company, or Microsoft will be irrelevant (if not bankrupt) by 2012-2015.

    Something I've said many times before, and will maintain, is that Microsoft have never had a concrete, long term operating system strategy after Windows NT 4. That is evident from the fact that 2000 and XP were both merely incremental upgrades to NT 4 for the most part.

    Vista is going to be comprised of leftovers...Things which Microsoft would have incorporated years ago if it hadn't been for them having to make ship dates. It is also going to be Microsoft's last release that the majority of the computer-using public care about.

    Microsoft need to do what Apple have done; move to a BSD core, and thus allow each group to play to its' own strengths. The BSD people are very good at making a core, underlying operating system. Microsoft on the other hand have proven that they're good at UI and glitz. If the two were to be combined, we'd have a system unlike anything we've yet seen...the best of both worlds. This is where the GNU crowd need to see that the BSD license is useful in the grand scheme of things...because it gives companies who want a closed-source product a competently-constructed base.

    However, I know that realistically, Microsoft are not going to do this. Gates, Ballmer, and Allchin are going to stay in control, and the company is going to become irrelevant, because they won't let go of their usual, failed way of doing things.
  • by calstraycat ( 320736 ) on Friday September 16, 2005 @10:14PM (#13582347)
    The exodus of good employees from MS and their inability to attract top talent can be easily explained. Microsoft's stock price has been flat for the last five years [yahoo.com].

    People didn't flock to Microsoft from 1990 -2000 because it was such a wonderful place to work. They went there to get rich on stock options. Working for MS now is no different than working for GM or Dupont. The massive growth [yahoo.com] phase ended five years ago and will never return.

    The reason people are leaving for Google can be explained by this [yahoo.com]
    graph.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 16, 2005 @10:32PM (#13582417)
    Frankly, working for a big corporation is not a dream. It's a crying shame. Do you think you have value to the corporation? Think again. Do you think loyalty is rewarded? Hardly. Look at the airline industry. All those United employees put in all those years, and in one day, their pensions were gone. Money, socked away for 20, 30, or 40 years. And that was part of their compensation.

    Who's to blame? Wallstreet. Demands by investors. The press. If you're in this for the long haul, you're disrespected... and your stock price plummets. The market wants a quick return. You can't go around with 20 billion in assets, and maybe a 1 or 2 percent profit. The market won't like you. Stock will plummet, shareholders will vote out the directors, CEO will get fired.

    It's just like revolving debt. The market doesn't respect savings. They only care about debt and the interest on the debt. If you're cash heavy, you're a target for breakup. So you have to carry a lot of debt as a poison pill. It's sad.
  • by Jugalator ( 259273 ) on Saturday September 17, 2005 @06:15AM (#13583732) Journal
    In related news, Steve Ballmer has pledged to make changes inside Microsoft to avoid the embarrassingly long development cycle of Vista, including a 'revamping of the engineering and the processes.' Is it too late?"

    I actually don't think Vista would've been so delayed if it wasn't for Microsoft suddenly, sometime between build 4083 and 5048, decided: "OK, let's throw this XP SP2 kernel out of here and base Windows Vista on Windows 2003 SP1 instead!", essentially forcing them to start from scratch in many areas, which the public build 5112 showed. Lots of interesting stuff previously in was suddenly gone, and it was curiosly looking much like XP/2003 Server again. The look of that build was what made even Windows and OS X evangelist Paul Thurott say the Longhorn project had the markings of a shipwreck.

    This, and that XP SP2 development took a lot of developer time from the team that should've been working of Vista, and that SP2 became delayed, probably forms at least about a year of delays.

    As usual, there are two sides of the coin with things like this -- it's not simply bad for a Windows user; it's good that they take their time to not rush things out.

    Interestingly, if Microsoft had done a less of a sloppy work with Windows XP so it wouldn't need a supersized SP2, Vista would probably have been able to be released earlier. And they can hardly hide behind that the age when XP was released wasn't a virus-infected Internet age, so it should've been predictable XP would've needed a strong security given its audience and being a major hacker target. In hindsight, that should've been the focus of XP, not a fancier UI. Instead, only now is Microsoft understanding this, and are pushing for e.g. a stronger firewall in Vista, and a new account system *nix always had. Their first clearly security-oriented OS is arriving in 2006. It's hard to stop yourself from laughing.

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