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A Press Junket To Redmond 329

Posted by kdawson
from the belly-of-the-beast dept.
christian.einfeldt writes "Our very own Roblimo Miller was invited to an all-expenses-paid tour of the Microsoft campus because he is supposedly 'not friendly' to Microsoft. Writes Roblimo: 'I came away with a sense that Microsoft doesn't currently have a clear sense of what Microsoft should be and where Microsoft should be going... I also think, from what I heard during my visit and what other Microsoft employees and customers have told me at other times, that it has degenerated into a series of disconnected fiefdoms that aren't all moving in the same direction.'" Linux.com and Slashdot are both owned by OSTG.
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A Press Junket To Redmond

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  • why? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by netsfr (839855)
    Why has Redmond been so friendly to linux recently?
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Bieeanda (961632)
      With apologies to the Church Lady:

      Could it be... terror?

    • Re:why? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by harrkev (623093) <[kfmsd] [at] [harrelsonfamily.org]> on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @03:36PM (#17212304) Homepage
      I would imagine that it is because they know that they are alienating a large part of their user base (or potential user base). I guess that this is an attempts to win the "hearts and minds" of the people, and it is having about as much success as the US is having with the same plan in Iraq.

      The truly sad thing is that they push WPA, WGA, DRM, Trusted Computing, overly-restrictive licensing, etc., and think that a simple junket and a couple of freebies can make up for treating customers like crap.

      Hey, Microsoft:
      If you are reading this, try treating your customers like you value them. I am about as a law-abiding citizen that you can find. I do not appreciate all of the restrictions that you place on your products in an effort to keep me honest. Your slogan used to be "Where do you want to go today?" Now, it is "You can't go there. We will tell you where we will let you go." Wise up before it is too late.
      • Re:why? (Score:4, Funny)

        by mypalmike (454265) on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @03:57PM (#17212624) Homepage
        Hey, Microsoft:
        If you are reading this...


        Corporate anthropomorphism still sucks.
        • by twitter (104583) on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @05:33PM (#17214142) Homepage Journal

          Hey, Microsoft: If you are reading this...
          Corporate anthropomorphism still sucks.

          OK, how about, "Hey, all of you:

          1. thousands of M$ employees who will read this who can express themselves without being fired,
          2. those few being paid by M$ to read this and present an objective report to those who make decisions
          3. those fewer who actually can make decisions and are also reading this

          but neglecting those hundreds paid to astroturf, who's opinion is neither respected or listened to.

          The way everyone there danced around "hard" questions, it should be obvious that one or two people are actually making decisions that others must follow or quit. The results of those decisions are equally obvious, a second rate product from a hated company. Those at M$ are going to be the ones who know all of the wrongs better than anyone else. None can miss the summary opinion offered by Rob:

          Imagine working for a company that is tolerated, at best, in many social circles. Imagine being a computer science graduate, going to a class reunion, telling people you work for Microsoft, and watching your former classmates slowly back away as if you'd just told them you had a venereal disease.

          Yeah, it's that bad.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by Anonymous Coward
            twitter, please read this carefully. Following this advice will make Slashdot a better place for everyone, including yourself.
            • As a representative of the Linux community, participate in mailing list and newsgroup discussions in a professional manner. Refrain from name-calling and use of vulgar language. Consider yourself a member of a virtual corporation with Mr. Torvalds as your Chief Executive Officer. Your words will either enhance or degrade the image the reader has of the Linux community.
            • Avoid hype
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by MMInterface (1039102)
            First of all you must not live anywhere near Seattle if you think letting people know you work at MS is a bad thing to do in a social situation or towards former classmates. Its the complete opposite. Whats really funny is to go online and see that MS critics think everyone feels the way they do or even cares about the subject. It may be stupid but thats the truth. Out of experience I can tell that your quote doesn't apply to most situations. Apply it to a MS employee in a social or business situation in Ja
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            Yeah, it's that bad.

            It's not, actually. At my last class reunion (for high school, as my University is too large for this sort of thing to work) people were quite interested and excited to learn that I worked for Microsoft, and wanted to learn more about the company and how it worked. They thought it was really cool. Your mileage may vary, of course. I don't try to disguise my affiliation with Microsoft when I'm out in bars or cafes, either. There's no point. Virtually everyone in Seattle has a friend or

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by aardvarkjoe (156801)
        The truly sad thing is that they push WPA, WGA, DRM, Trusted Computing, overly-restrictive licensing, etc., and think that a simple junket and a couple of freebies can make up for treating customers like crap.
        Sounds good to me. Where do I sign up?
      • Re:why? (Score:4, Informative)

        by topical_surfactant (906185) on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @05:10PM (#17213754)
        The truly sad thing is that they push WPA, WGA, DRM, Trusted Computing, overly-restrictive licensing, etc.
        No kidding there. As long as Microsoft goes out of their way to treat me like a criminal, I will go out of my way to find alternative computing solutions. Not running an OS that requires me to call Microsoft every time I want to re-install it was just the incentive I needed to spend the time to get all of my hardware running under Linux.


        Now I'm over the major part of the Linux learning curve! The view from up here is much nicer, and I have Microsoft to thank for it.

      • Re:why? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by westlake (615356) on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @05:16PM (#17213834)
        I would imagine that it is because they know that they are alienating a large part of their user base (or potential user base)

        Reality Check 101.

        The Slashdot Geek is not Microsoft's core market.

        Your employer likes the idea of Trusted Computing.

        To the home user, WPA is Click. Click. Done. He doesn't hate Microsoft. He has never hated Microsoft. He lives in a country where corporate hardball is the true national sport.

        DRM is paying $56 for two years of Y! Unlimited through your debit card in a seasonal promotion.

        Wise up before it is too late.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by soft_guy (534437)

          Wise up before it is too late.
          Right, 'cause if you don't start licking Microsoft's ass right now, the cops are going to come put you in jail.
        • To the home user, WPA is Click. Click. Done. He doesn't hate Microsoft. He has never hated Microsoft. He lives in a country where corporate hardball is the true national sport.

          Actually WGA is a pain in the ass if he's using a pirated copy of Windows, which isn't atypical; somebody needs their OS reinstalled and because their computer never came with any installation media, they get a friend to help them out, except that the friend uses some hot ISOs they grabbed from #cablemodemwarez or Kazaa. The person may even be entitled to a legit copy of Windows on their computer, but that doesn't mean they're necessarily running one. A lot of the people I heard complaining about WinXP's WGA were in that category (because people who pirated it themselves are probably smart enough to know why it won't validate and don't try).

          Also, a lot of people hate Microsoft. Aside from the IRS, Microsoft probably gets cursed at more often than any entity in existence. Every time a computer crashes, chances are somebody is mentally (or verbally) cursing Microsoft. They just don't hate Microsoft enough to want to do anything different. Outside of Microsoft fanboys, I haven't found anyone who's really enthused about Windows (or most other MS products) in general. They're not terribly exciting. But they're good enough. In fact, Microsoft's corporate motto ought to be those two words: "Good enough." When you're on top, that's the only standard that matters -- the standard you have to maintain so that people won't get fed up enough to leave.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by mrchaotica (681592) *

          Your employer likes the idea of Trusted Computing.

          Then your employer is run by idiots. After all, the company doesn't have control over the TPM either! Think of it this way: if it screws up on a home machine, you lose access to your vacation photos. If it screws up on a business machine, it can cripple the whole company. And that goes for WGA too.

          What kind of idiot do you have to be to trust your business to a third party? And don't even get me started on governments using Windows...

    • by IdleTime (561841)
      Because they found something in the SCO vs IBM case that they will spring on the community in due time.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @04:38PM (#17213274)
      They're so interested in Linux because they are losing major customers to Linux. I say this as a Microsoft Gold partner in the government sales business - and *MANY* of the deals we go for are now lost to IBM/Linux or Oracle/Linux teams.

      Microsoft is friendly to Linux because with SuSE they may be able to win some deals that require Linux - and with close interactions to Linux companies they can tune their FUD campaigns to combat it more effectively.

      Also, loyal partners (90% of our sales are on the Microsoft stack) are finding Linux extremely valuable (our prototyping is all done on Linux/Ruby/Rails/Postgresql) - and yes, I've done demos with Microsoft where the server in the sales demo is 100% Linux/Ruby/Rails/Postgresql in a virtual machine. At one point they were even paying us to do the ports of some of our stuff when we said we were having a hard time porting to sql server (some of the extended index types that PostgreSQL has that sql server doesn't).

      They see that Linux is important to their customers and partners - and desperately try to understand it.

      So why, you may ask, are we such a loyal microsoft partner - we're doing government sales; and their washington sales&marketing (lobbyests?) have been more supportive of us than oracle or IBM have.

    • Windows 2015? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Kadin2048 (468275) <slashdot.kadin@x[ ].net ['oxy' in gap]> on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @05:16PM (#17213844) Homepage Journal
      Why has Redmond been so friendly to linux recently?

      Well, they have to do something after Vista. And it's been a long time since I've heard of anything out of that advanced-OS research group they had going, the one that was supposed to totally redesign everything.

      Maybe they're thinking that Apple didn't have a bad idea with OS X ... but where Apple went with Mach and a BSD userland, Microsoft could take a Linux kernel and then wrap an interface and a Windows API compatibility layer around it. They'd still be able to hold on to the control that they're so desperate for, because the Windows compatibility layer would probably not be open source, and maybe they could even find some way to patent-encumber some changes that they'd make to the kernel, so that MSLinux programs wouldn't run on other distos, but they'd be able to claim that other Linux programs would?

      Sounds farfetched, but then again if you had told me in 1994 or 1996 that Apple would completely toss out the MacOS kernel and buy somebody else's rather than developing it in house, I would have laughed at you, too.

      Even if they never go down that road, the fact that it's been mentioned here means someone at MS must have at least thought about it. If they could find a way to produce a Linux derivative that people could easily migrate to, but not away from, I think they'd jump on it in a second.
    • Re:why? (Score:5, Funny)

      by Chyeld (713439) <chyeldNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @05:30PM (#17214078)
      "Keep your friends close, keep your enemies closer."

      "If you are going to kill someone, you should be able to smile at them when you pull the trigger."

      Ring any bells?

      Novell Headquarters: "Hey! We just got a cool wood horsie from Microsoft! Lets put it in the Board room!"

  • glass houses (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @03:25PM (#17212124)
    That it has degenerated into a series of disconnected fiefdoms that aren't all moving in the same direction.

    How is that any different than the state of Open Source Software?

    not trolling either...
    • Re:glass houses (Score:4, Insightful)

      by michrech (468134) on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @03:32PM (#17212258)
      How is that any different than the state of Open Source Software?

      Probably because "Open Source Software" has never pretended to be otherwise?

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        How is that any different than the state of Open Source Software?

        Probably because "Open Source Software" has never pretended to be otherwise?

        Or more likely, because "Open Source Software" isn't trying to control how you use it.

    • Re:glass houses (Score:5, Insightful)

      by QMO (836285) on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @03:40PM (#17212372) Homepage Journal
      My (purely off-the-cuff, entirely unsubstantiated, speculative) answer would be: It is arguable that an OSS project often grows, matures, innovates faster and increases in value and resources when it forks.

      When a monolithic brand (like Microsoft) lacks unified direction, it not only loses a chunck of the marketing advantage of being a well-known brand, it also tends to stagnate (slower innovation) and lose resources.
      • by elrous0 (869638) *
        You could as easily make the argument that an OSS fork also increases consumer confusion and support difficulties (not to mention splitting up the already strained pool of developers into competing camps).

        -Eric

        • by QMO (836285)
          Not that I disagree with your points, because I actually agree with them, still.

          I think that part of the nature of the OS model is that often when a project forks the number of developers (and support people, and users, which are likely intersecting groups) increases.

          I know this doesn't always happen. Sometimes the fork may kill the entire project.
    • Re:glass houses (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Opportunist (166417) on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @03:46PM (#17212470)
      Well, at least the OSS movement was created in the air of disjointed operations that somehow manage to somehow fit into each other. The approach is a completely different one. OSS is created, and if it's good, it is used by the other developers. If it's crap, it will be tossed aside.

      A programmer at MS on the other hand knows his software or API will be used, whether it's good or not, because it was demanded to exist.

      Now, how do you get other devs to use your tools? By creating good interfaces and at least a working documentation. Only if there is nobody creating a competing interface you can resort to "read the effing source". Which is not really an option at MS either.

      That's the difference.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by gid13 (620803)
      Well, for one thing, MS is primarily an OS and office vendor, not a maker of every kind of closed source software. So a better comparison might be MS versus, say, Ubuntu + Open Office.

      For another, traditional wisdom (depending on how you define it, I guess) would say that the fact that Windows is entirely developed by one company should lead to greater project cohesion. Which it may have done; some might say this is why Windows has traditionally been easier to use. However, this illustrates why it would be
    • Re:glass houses (Score:4, Insightful)

      by misleb (129952) on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @04:10PM (#17212812)
      Difference is that open source is SUPPOSED to be that way. Cathedral vs. Bazaar and all that...

      -matthew
    • Re:glass houses (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Mr. Underbridge (666784) on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @04:25PM (#17213066)

      How is that any different than the state of Open Source Software?

      1. Because OSS was designed to actually function that way, whereas MS has not.
      2) Because each individual OSS project doesn't depend on the others for success, whereas MS has intentionally integrated many of its divisions so that they do depend on each other (Windows and Office and IE, for instance).
      3) Because MS has a single leadership, and any a leadership without a coherent plan is a bad one. OSS has many leaders for many projects, and they need not each have the same goal.
      4) Each individual OSS project may in fact have a strong leader with a clear well thought out plan. The successful ones usually do.

    • Re:glass houses (Score:5, Interesting)

      by radtea (464814) on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @05:10PM (#17213770)
      How is that any different than the state of Open Source Software?

      It is different because F/OSS has never had the single-minded goal that MS did in the 80's and 90's. "A computer on every desktop and in every home" has to be one of the best mission statements of any organization anywhere. It is actionable at all levels, from negotiating ubiquitous OEM deals to ensuring user-friendly features.

      The problem facing MS now is that they have achieved their mission and have nothing to replace it with. In a decade we've gone from Win3.1's breakout to XP, which is a stable, fully-featured OS that satisfies the vast majority of needs of the vast majority of users. I run Linux (Slackware, which I've run since 0.96 days) on my servers and one laptop, but XP does everything I want on my business laptop and Windows development machine (some customers want Windows apps--go figure.) It's not like I'm a natural MS customer, it's just that their OS actually serves my needs.

      MS is like Alexander the Great after his conquest of the East. Far from weeping that there were no more worlds to conquer, he was purportedly thinking about western conquests when he died. But his great mission in life, the conquest of Persia and it's dependencies, was finished. He had to pause and consider what he was going to do next before going on, whereas before that the mission was clear and all that mattered was its execution. (Note to history pendants: yeah, yeah, yeah.)

      What we know about MS is: they are sitting on a mountain of cash, and they have a history of flailing around before figuring out what to do next. I expect we'll see a lot of very expensive flailing on the next few years. It'll be an interesting show that we all should enjoy watching.
    • Actually, it is similar to not only free software projects, but businesses in a free market. They each try to optimize their own niche, those who succeeds thrive and the rest die out. It is "How The System Works".

      The problem when it happens to divisions inside the same company is that, unlike for free software projects and small companies, there isn't a objective market to determine who is going to flourish and who is going to wither away. Inside the same organization, it becomes a political game of infl
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Arker (91948)
      I was thinking something similar when I read this.

      I don't think the decentralisation factor here is their problem, at all. A decentralised structure has lots of advantages, and it's really the only efficient way to organise any entity of such size.

      The problem is the opposite - despite a certain degree of decentralisation in fact, it's still nominally a monolithic company, and the central authorities are imposing a huge overhead, a huge beaureacracy, on top of that. This is a company with MANY layers of mana
  • by MeanMF (631837) on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @03:26PM (#17212144) Homepage
    I'm not sure what MS thought they were going to get by inviting a "true believer" to their campus, but the article is pretty much exactly what you'd expect.
    • by Macthorpe (960048) on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @03:34PM (#17212282) Journal
      My thoughts exactly.

      What I was going to say was:

      Newsflash: Pro-Linux reporter invited to visit Microsoft and gives biased report.

      Later on in this show: A group of nuns visit Amsterdam and don't enjoy it.
      • by mangu (126918) on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @07:59PM (#17216482)
        Pro-Linux reporter invited to visit Microsoft and gives biased report.


        My father once told me: "you cannot be neutral between good and evil". Sometimes a report may be called biased when it's just trying to give a neutral description of biased facts. At the risk of pulling a Godwin [wikipedia.org] here, would you expect a report on Nazi Germany to present a description of their efforts on recycling used toothpaste tubes as a counterbalance of their prosecution of Jews?


        Roblimo didn't seem to be biased to me, unless he lied about the basic facts in his report. If he actually was required to sign an NDA in order to visit the "Microsoft Home of the Future", if he was given evasive answers to simple questions like those he made about Steve Ballmer's threats against Linux users, or about "working with the Open Document Format (ODF), acceptance of the GNU General Public License (GPL) as a legitimate software license, how DRM built into Vista may anger users", etc, then his report isn't biased at all, it seems more like a neutral report on a strongly distorted situation.

    • by Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @03:48PM (#17212488)
      If Roblimo is a good journalist, then his personal opinions shouldn't enter into his review of the tour, i.e. he should be impartial. If on the other hand he's a rabid Linux fan, which I doubt, then I think Microsoft is right to invite him: you'd be surprised the number of pseudo-fanatics who switch side when the "enemy" treats them nice one day. We all know it won't happen with Roblimo, but Microsoft is perfectly right to try.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        If Roblimo is a good journalist, then his personal opinions shouldn't enter into his review of the tour

        Well, you could have... wait for it... RTFA and see that clearly his personal opinions did enter into his review and saved yourself the time it took you to type that first sentence.

        • Well, you could have... wait for it... RTFA and see that clearly his personal opinions did enter into his review and saved yourself the time it took you to type that first sentence.

          It's called irony. You know, it's like goldy and bronzy, only it's made of iron...
  • by elcid73 (599126) on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @03:27PM (#17212150) Homepage
    Supposedly, a total of 10 people were invited, specifically chosen because they were not friendly toward Microsoft.

    I think they could have looked a little harder for people "not friendly" to MS.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @03:35PM (#17212292)
      There are 10 kinds of people in the world, those who hate Microsoft and those who don't know binary
    • by harrkev (623093)
      I think they could have looked a little harder for people "not friendly" to MS.
      Yes, but even Microsoft could not afford to pay for a junket for every person who doesn't like them. I doubt that there are even enough hotel rooms in Washington.
    • by garcia (6573) on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @03:51PM (#17212542) Homepage
      I think they could have looked a little harder for people "not friendly" to MS.

      I can see it right now:

      FROM: Press Junket Passport
      TO: Anonymous Coward
      SUBJ: Formal Press Junket Invite

      Dear Mr. Coward,

      We have decided you are unfriendly towards Microsoft and we ask that you join Slashdot's Roblimo on a tour of our Redmond campus. You will have limited access to staff but you will get a great feeling for th excitement that is rippling through our campus. Don't think of it like a UN envoy being led around internment camps. Think of it as a freedom tour!

      If you see any chairs near broken glass, best to be quiet and keep moving, fast.

      If you have any questions, please wait till the end of the tour. You will be signing an NDA and will not be allowed to post this to Slashdot or your personal journal (http://slashdot.org/~anonymous/journal) after completion of the tour.

      Please let us know what kind of caffeinated drinks you want during your tour.

      Sincerely,
      Media Relations Team
      Microsoft
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by mordors9 (665662)
      I would certainly feel friendlier toward them with an all expenses paid trip to Tahiti...
  • by Speare (84249) on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @03:27PM (#17212164) Homepage Journal

    I say this with experience: this is what Microsoft has pretty much *always* been, by design. Except for the guy with the lousy haircut, Microsoft intentionally divided into business units that were to behave as independent "companies." Each had their own vision, their own agenda, their own tactics on how to get there. Just trying to get an App's new feature melted into the System side of the house for anyone to use... it was like murder. Nevermind a Systems guy telling the Apps folks why they shouldn't rely on the broken older features like metafiles. And then as the antitrust issues were creeping in, everyone saw this Chinese Wall between the Apps and Systems divisions as a *good* thing. Of course, that meant that they couldn't turn and leverage new trends like modems and ftp and this newfangled http thing, but they figured that once it became ubiquitous, everyone would just naturally buy Microsoft products on inertia alone. We see how that's worked out...

    • this is what Microsoft has pretty much *always* been, by design. Except for the guy with the lousy haircut, Microsoft intentionally divided into business units that were to behave as independent "companies."

      Then Microsoft should be easy to be split up in a few independant companies?
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by jimicus (737525)
        Very likely. And the OS company would have still had a monopoly in operating systems, the Apps company would still have a monopoly in Office applications and the Server company would still be working very hard towards a monopoly in servers.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Blakey Rat (99501)
      Of course, that meant that they couldn't turn and leverage new trends like modems and ftp and this newfangled http thing,

      Ok, I keep seeing this claim that Microsoft was way behind the Internet curve... and I always wonder, "compared to WHAT?" MacOS at the time didn't even supply TCP/IP with the OS, you had to download a third-party control panel called MacTCP. God knows Linux hardly worked at all in that timeframe. Meanwhile, Windows 95 supported ethernet and modems all built-in and came with a browser.

      In w
  • by tiltowait (306189) on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @03:28PM (#17212170) Homepage Journal
    gj, you just described any large company (or organization for that matter, as large unis invariably have departments and units which operate akin to feudal baronies)
  • by 192939495969798999 (58312) <info.devinmoore@com> on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @03:28PM (#17212172) Homepage Journal
    "None of the Microsoft people I met had anything to say about their deal with Novell, working with the Open Document Format (ODF), acceptance of the GNU General Public License (GPL) as a legitimate software license, how DRM built into Vista may anger users, or other topics I thought might interest you."

    • by khasim (1285) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @03:51PM (#17212538)
      Yes, Microsoft does have a security program manager. His name is Michael Howard. ... Howard claimed IIS is now more secure than Apache (as witnessed by number of patches, a measure with which many might quarrel) and Vista is the most secure version of Windows ever, so secure that you may not even need antivirus software for it.

      When one of the top "security" guys at a company doesn't even know the basics of security, how can their products be "more secure"?

      It isn't how many patches are released. It is never about how many patches are released.

      It is about the severity of the vulnerabilities.

      One remote root vulnerability is worth 1,000+ local app crashing vulnerabilities.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Spaceman40 (565797)
      Truth. Glad that Rob put that in.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by businessnerd (1009815)
      This just strikes me as odd. You would think that someone might have something to say about any of those subjects, even if it was just spoonfed FUD from upper management. "What do you think about ODF?" -- "hsssss!! Heathen! May the power of Gates compel you!" Were all of the employees wearing muzzles that day, or is a lobotamy standard protocol when you join Microsoft?
  • ...it [Microsoft] has degenerated into a series of disconnected fiefdoms that aren't all moving in the same direction.

    The same statement can be made to apply to nearly any Fortune 500 company. It's not something unique to Microsoft, but rather a function of size.
  • Moo (Score:4, Funny)

    by Chacham (981) on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @03:33PM (#17212264) Homepage Journal
    Roblimo goes to Microsoft and there's no itsatrap [slashdot.org] tag? This is very unsettling.
  • It's true (Score:5, Interesting)

    by theworldisflat (1033868) on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @03:34PM (#17212284)
    Having worked for Microsoft's PSS team on-and-off several times, Microsoft truly has no idea where it's going. Even within its own ranks, guys who had been there for 15+ years could barely recognize the company as it is today. Internal wars, endless meetings/bureaucracy and loss of focus are the biggest hindrances. India, of course, is a 4-letter word as far as many are concerned ("It's not about the money...." - Yeah right). People who are truly gifted and could benefit the company are turned away, while politics and buddy-buddy rules bring people in who, honestly, have no clue. It's a downward spiral. I do hope that someday they will regain control of this frenzied beast, and put power back in the hands of the engineers. It's always been a truly education experience working for them, both on a technical and social level...something I wouldn't trade for the world.
  • Three steps (Score:4, Funny)

    by MaxPowerDJ (888947) on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @03:45PM (#17212448) Journal
    step 1. Start a Microsoft Hate blog
    step 2. Get famous
    step 3. Get invited to Redmond for a free weekend and a Zune
    step 4. Sell the Zune on ebay
    step 5. PROFIT!
  • by jcr (53032) <jcr.mac@com> on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @03:46PM (#17212466) Journal
    Yep, sounds more like IBM every day.

    -jcr

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Target Drone (546651)
      Yep, sounds more like IBM every day.

      I worked with a guy in his sixties who had a lot of experience in the business world. He told me companies are a lot like people. As children they're nibble, quick, and go through a lot of growing pains, then as they grow older they get hardening of the arteries.

      • by jcr (53032)
        There are some companies that remain highly competent for a very long time. 3M is the first example that springs to mind.
        -jcr

  • MVPs (Score:5, Informative)

    by Westley (99238) on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @03:48PM (#17212496) Homepage

    "There are people who love Microsoft. The company has an active Most Valuable Professional (MVP) program that encourages outside volunteers to help other users."

    Now, this doesn't specifically say that MVPs all love Microsoft, but I think that's the conclusion most people would draw from the above statements. As an MVP (C#) I'd just like to say that MVPs don't all love Microsoft. I'm more positive about MS than I used to be, partly as a result of meeting some great and really smart employees, partly due to some good technologies coming out of Redmond (along with not so great ones, certainly) - and no doubt freebies have a certain amount of influence.

    However, this doesn't make me a Microsoft shill, and it doesn't mean I dislike non-MS software where appropriate (for instance, I prefer Eclipse to Visual Studio, even though I prefer C# to Java). In the MVP community there's plenty of irritation with certain bits of Microsoft. MVPs are often valued within the community because they're not shills, and won't always say things are rosy. I'm not saying we're completely unbiased - MS treats us very nicely, and we'd have to be inhuman not to be swayed at all by that - but that's a long way from the implication of the quote above. I've certainly never had any pressure put on me to be "nicer" about MS in newsgroup/blog posts.

    Just thought I'd try to clarify things a bit.

  • by CODiNE (27417)
    I love that the video driving around the parking lot is all shot from the drivers side. :)
  • by Animats (122034) on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @03:58PM (#17212630) Homepage

    Microsoft is boring. Nobody is really excited by Vista, certainly not IT managers who have to pay for it. Nobody believes Microsoft's security pronouncements for Vista, since they said essentially the same thing about Windows 95, Windows 2000, and Windows XP. There are still many corporate IT installations quite happy with Windows 2000, the last version before Microsoft slaved the desktops to the mothership in Redmond.

    Customers don't really want Office N+1, either.

    Reminds me of General Motors in the early 1980s, right before the Japanese car makers started eating their lunch on quality.

  • by Opportunist (166417) on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @04:02PM (#17212672)
    Did you notice how the worst programmers usually end up in big companies? I'm not saying that MS did that in the past, but from what I've learned recently, they have fallen into the "save my job" trap recently as well. It's sad, but unfortunately a very normal trend if you start to let people hire their aides themselves.

    Imagine you're a programmer somewhere and are now told to hire 3 people to complete your team. What will you hire? Well, as a good programmer and a "honest" person trying to do the best for your company, you will hire the best people your budget can buy.

    The reality is very different, though. Especially in a dog-eat-dog company world, where your boss is monitoring your and your team's progress closely. You will never hire people who're better than you, because you could suddenly end up with one of them being your boss because he gets promoted ahead of you. So you will only hire people who are at max as good as you are.

    Even if you try to be "honest", you'll get a lot of pressure from the other teams who resort to this tactic because they want to save their job. Your team must not be better than theirs, which would be easy if you're hiring best material. Try it and you'll be the primary target for any company mobbing. You broke the rules.

    And why make yourself your life harder than essentially necessary?

    MS is also facing another problem a company faces when such changes set in. Meetings and bureaucracy weigh people down and wear them out who want to create and shape, who want to drive things forwards. The 9-5 guys mentioned above don't care, hey, a meeting is more or less time to let your mind wander and keep yourself busy with more important things (like, what color should your new car have?). But people who are there for the reason that they want to create and shape new and exciting things get bored. Also, MS isn't amongst the top payers in the biz anymore.

    So the movers and shakers start looking around for new grounds to play on. And companies like Google are more than happy to scoop them up.

    The end result, and so far MS is still far from this, is a company that is plagued by bureaucratic, fearful people who do anything to keep their job because they know themselves that they are unfit to fill the position they have, the position they got after the "good" people left and they were bumped up on the ladder. So they wrap everything up in so much red tape that it LOOKS like they're doing something useful, but essentially all that happens is them trying to protect their job.

    MS hasn't reached that point yet. But I can see them moving towards it if they don't find a way to get out of it. Momentum will certainly carry MS further for a while, like an oil tanker without its engines running they will keep rolling for a long while. Unfortunately, that momentum also works against them, inside the company. They'll have to restart that engine soon.
    • by gid-goo (52690) on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @04:55PM (#17213514)
      1. MS was never amongst the top payers. Their policy has been to underpay and let the stock pick up the rest. Back in the day the understanding was if you stuck around for 6-7 years at MS you'd clean up. As in retire early. Now the stock is shit and the option situation is changing across the industry.

      2. The problem at MS isn't some big corp mumbo-jumbo where folks don't want to see other people get ahead. It's the stack ranking combined with the requirement that the individual needs to demonstrate their successes. So as an engineer you need to sell what you've personally done to your boss so he can sell it to the the other bosses when your rank is being decided. Which is a shit ass system. Go read mini-msft for a bit.

      3. Generally speaking that 9-5er who is consistently working on the crap code that you're too good to write is the guy that pays the bills. The genius who's always spazzing out and showing up at noon because he was up all night checking in broken ass shit, fuck that guy.
  • by creimer (824291) on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @04:04PM (#17212694) Homepage
    ... has degenerated into a series of disconnected fiefdoms that aren't all moving in the same direction.

    The executive staff is playing too much Age of Empires, and everyone else is playing too much Gears of Wars. Microsoft was a better company when Minesweeper was the only game in town.
    • by Chris Burke (6130)
      Microsoft was a better company when Minesweeper was the only game in town.

      Screw you, Minesweeperite! Solitaire or death!
  • Fiefdoms (Score:2, Interesting)

    by awitod (453754)
    I've been doing business with Microsoft for years. I was an MVP for Microsoft Access in the 90's and these days I run a large .Net user group and work as a sales guy for one of the bigger consulting companies. That said...

    You could have said the same thing about them in 1997. I've often wondered, but I'm pretty sure it's that way on purpose.
  • That was a damn fine writeup ... someone with balls at Microsoft should send it up the chain all the way to Bill Gates with a "we have to change our culture" comment. I won't hold my breath.

    The repeated "I can't comment on that, I'm a product marketing guy" it totally weak and speaks volumes about their lack of accountability. I was surprised you didn't push Nick White ("Mr. Cut off the Conversation") to have their "lawyers who make all patent decisions" meet with you guys ... since it seems they are th
    • by Roblimo (357) on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @05:36PM (#17214194) Homepage Journal
      Well... if I'd pushed Nick and his crowd hard I would have been guilty of the meanness to mid-rank employees I'm being accused of anyway. I saw no point in badgering marketing people who are guilty of nothing but doing their jobs as well as they can. They don't run the company, and their job is to put a positive spin on everything.

      What some Slashdot readers seem to have missed (possibly because they read only part of the article, if any of it) is that the negative comments about Microsoft's corporate culture came from Microsoft employees. I said clearly that I asked questions of many "unauthorized" people. I didn't quote any of them by name because I was there to write a story, not to get some poor guy fired for being more open with me than he was supposed to be.

      I have never believed that all Microsoft employees are evil. Most of the ones I know personally are decent people. I have seen the company do a lot of bizarre things, and it's still threatening Linux users in an unseemly way, but I don't think Nick White or many of the other 70,000 Microsoft employees are behind any of that or even like it. That kind of behavior comes from top management, which *from what Microsoft employees have told me* may change before long. And almost of the Microsoft people I have talked to "informally" considered Ray Ozzie the most likely successor to Steve Ballmer, and told me they thought he'd be a better boss. I have no idea if any of this is true.

      We'll see.

      Or, to use the traditional cliche, "only time will tell."

      - Robin

         
  • We're listening (Score:3, Insightful)

    by overworked+underpaid (743766) on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @04:24PM (#17213054)
    Okay - I'm a Software Engineer at Microsoft. And yes, we're listening.

    In regards to Microsoft operating as a cluster of separate companies: I have worked in large companies before, and I believe that MS does better than average at working cohesively toward common goals. This is an incredibly hard thing to achieve in such a large organization and it's something we continually strive to improve.

    Having said that, I believe it is important to allow our engineers some freedom to take slightly differernt approaches to the problems that they're working on - this encourages innovation. The down-side of this is that some products may not integrate as smoothly as others in the early stages, but seamless integration will come as the products mature. There are heaps of great examples of this - Messenger, DirectX, PowerPoint, PnP, Xbox, Media Center, IE... all of these technologies innovated in a way that may have seemed orthogonal to our other products, and didn't integrate terribly well in the early stages. As these products have matured, they have become more seamless and work better with other technologies.

    Bureaucracy? I have heard this comment before, but, to be honest, I don't see it. Microsoft has much less red tape than other companies I have worked for. That's one of the things I love about working here as an engineer - we just do our job and build cool stuff. It's almost like the rest of the company just exists to make that easier.

    I know that most of the people who have read this far are thinking "Holy Cow! Check out the Micro$oft fanboy! The PR department has him trained!". I'm the first to admit that we're not perfect - in fact we're a long way from it. But we're self-critical and we're always trying to improve.

    Keep the feeback coming. We're listening.

    • Re:We're listening (Score:5, Informative)

      by Daytona955i (448665) <flynnguy24@yahooREDHAT.com minus distro> on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @04:51PM (#17213468)
      First, I'm very biased against Microsoft, primarily for their underhanded business practices in trying to keep their monopoly. That said, I really don't think Microsoft is listening because they really care, they are starting to realize that Open Source is not going away and is really starting to hurt their bottom line. I had to laugh at this whole story because it is typical of Microsoft. When someone is critical of their business, they try to buy good press, be it by lobbying, seriously discounted software or other kickbacks. To me, this is just Microsoft trying to buy some good publicity.

      Unfortunately for Microsoft, Open Source advocates don't care about kickbacks, most of them are in it for the true advancement of technology. If Microsoft is really listening, play nicely! I think the biggest thing Microsoft could do to avoid the harsh criticisms from the open source community is to open up your protocols, work with standard groups to develop open standards so everyone can play nicely together.
  • by Zigurd (3528) on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @04:28PM (#17213108) Homepage
    Not too long ago, Apple failed to ship OS 8, and drifted sideways until their mindshare among developers was near zero. At roughly the same time, Microsoft shipped Win95 and some pretty decent developer tools. Believe it or not, for a while, many of the people who would have dreamed of working for Apple - and who now dream of working for Google, dreamed of Working for Microsoft.

    Microsoft was a bigger success than Apple. Microsoft still has nearly twice the market capitalization of Google. And yet, it is evident that Microsoft is no longer a "dream company" to work for.

    What is the moral of that story?

    When a Bad Idea, like favoring content publishers over your own paying customers, becomes ingrained in a company, it is incredibly difficult to excise that mistaken point of view. Bad ideas require smart people to develop intellectual blind spots, otherwise the Bad Idea glares too much. The Bad Idea becomes a kind of passive-aggressive ogre everyone tries to avoid talking about. So nobody does, until the company is in crisis.

    The really scary thing is that Microsoft is so big and so profitable, that to mention "crisis" and "Microsoft" in the same breath sounds a little incomprehensible. GM and Ford were destined to have a crisis from the moment they bought labor peace at the expense of future customers. But they didn't really feel it until, 20 years later, their customer were gone and they had to sell their finance divisions to buy a few quarters more time to find a solution. Microsoft could go on into what are now unforeseeable futures without figuring out that DRM and "Trusted" computing are antithetical to personal computing.
  • all-expenses-paid tour of the Microsoft campus because he is supposedly 'not friendly' to Microsoft.

    So all I have to do to get a paid trip to Seattle is to hate MS and write about it? In that case: Hey Bill, Wind0ze suxx0rs, L1nux 1337!

  • Reality Check (Score:5, Insightful)

    by januth (1000892) on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @05:31PM (#17214094)
    I got a kick out of this comment in the article, "This sort of corporate disorganization might be expected in a fast-moving startup with 50 employees, but in a mature company with more than 70,000 people on its payroll it is not acceptable."

    Um, have you ever worked for an organization this large? I have. Several times, unfortunately. It may not be acceptable, but it is , in fact, the norm. It's very easy to communicate a clear, concise corporate vision to 50 employees; it becomes exponentially more difficult as the number of employees rises. An organization of 50 is limber and agile, able to turn on a dime. 70,000 is a lumbering behemoth barreling forward under its own momentum heedless of the need to change direction.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @05:41PM (#17214300)
    In my short experience at Microsoft, everyone seemed very anti everything else. I couldn't say a competitors name without hearing about it. They insisted on saying "Live Search It" instead of "Google It".
  • closed mind (Score:3, Interesting)

    by job0 (134689) on Tuesday December 12, 2006 @08:32PM (#17216872)
    Poor article I don't think roblimo really went along with an open mind so he seems to have spent his tme nitpicking e.g. he states in his article that you need Internet Explorer to use virtual earth but it works fine in FireFox 2.0 .

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