Shorting Microsoft?

Are you short selling Microsoft?

Technology entrepreneur and academic Vivek Wadhwa asks, Can Microsoft be saved?

Wadhwa’s PBS article offers a glimmer of hope for Microsoft in its wealth of great people.

“But there is still hope for Microsoft. It has a wealth of great people and great technologies in its labs. They need to be untethered from the central bureaucracy and set free to compete and take big risks. I am not too optimistic, though, that this will happen. I worry that Microsoft will go the way of Kodak, RIM and Nokia — or even the former Soviet Union — all of which tanked because they were busy protecting old turf.”
Vivek Wadhwa

As one who has used Microsoft’s software development products extensively and almost exclusively in years past, my opinions about Microsoft align with Vivek Wadha’s critique of Microsoft’s fate.

Perhaps Microsoft will be saved, but it will be a tough row to hoe.

Culture-Changing & Product Focused

Yahoo! CEO Mayer

We all thought Yahoo! was dead, but against all odds, Marissa Mayer is reviving Yahoo! Microsoft sorely needs a culture-changing & product-focused CEO like Mayer.

Microsoft has a busted culture that historically pitted one division against another. Microsoft is also burdened with a shitty stable of over-priced, sever-centric products.

Windows 8? Fahgettaboutit!

Not only has Microsoft been late on just about everything the last decade, they’ve also lost the software development community. Losing the software development community is one big, sloppy kiss of death. For today’s software developer, having too much Microsoft on your LinkedIn profile is a liability that says,

“I’m old school & unmotivated to learn new stuff”.

No software product start-up worth its salt builds on the Microsoft tech stack. The price of entry is too high, the tools are insular, and the ecosystems around the tools are anemic when compared to competing tech stacks.

Nuke & Pave?

Microsoft needs the Marissa Mayer playbook. Microsoft’s new CEO will have to nuke and pave the culture, then put a laser focus on products. Borrowing from Steve Jobs, the Microsoft product line must be trimmed and profoundly simplified.

Make it Cool?

You don’t see many hipsters booting Windows 8 in your local coffee shop do you?

Creating, sustaining, or turning-around a company usually boils down to people and buzz. Underlying and buttressing the buzz are kick-ass products that aid and delight.

One of the questions the new CEO should address is,

How do we win back the software development community?

Somehow the new CEO needs to make it cool to have Microsoft chops again.

Launch Early and Learn

Launch early and iterate is a rule-of-thumb perfected by Google and practiced by wildly successful companies like Facebook. Among agilists, the notion of iterating is a given.

I am adopting a new-found mantra of

Launch early and learn

I credit Marissa Mayer. She is Google’s first female engineer, Money’s #21 in 40 under 40, and Glamour’s Woman of the Year 2009.

Marissa gave a compelling talk to Stanford students on Google heuristics and innovation. I recommend viewing Marissa Mayer at Stanford University for 49 minutes of insight into the thought repository of an unusually smart company. Marissa gives her Top 9 slogans, joking that presenting a Top 9 is marginally more innovative than a Top 10.

I’d been brain-casting how to create a UX-Driven-Development (UDD) platform for software, when Marissa’s Stanford talk introduced me to the Google slogan

Launch Early and Iterate

In front of a slide declaring innovation not instant perfection, she shared personal narratives about the early – some would say premature – launches of Google News and Google Video. I have already mused that Google Wave is an immature product (see The Missing Link in Google Wave – UI For Primates).

Five days removed from my Missing Link in Google Wave post, I finally understand the Google modus operandi.

True Confessions – Google News

The Google News team was nearing their targeted first release. Six engineers respectfully disagreed over which feature they had time to include in their debut release. Three engineers vehemently supported Search-by-Date. Three engineers passionately supported Search-by-Location. Deadlocked.

Google made the decision to polish up existing functionality and not add new functionality. They released Google News without Search-by-Date or Search-by-Location! Shortly after the roll-out, they were bombarded with emails

How come I can’t Search-by-Date?

Email requests were running about 100 to 1 for Search-by-Date over Search-by-Location. Guess which feature had top priority for the next iteration?

The preview of Google Wave occurred while the ink on the Wave federation spec and the Wave API was not only still wet, but still being pushed around the page.

When I attended the Google Wave hackathon last June, Google engineers had finally stabilized their Wave Server the night before the public arrived to start banging on it. That’s early.

Google Mail was in beta for so long for a reason. It is a way of working that keeps development cooperatively linked to the community. This lends itself to critical adaptations and unforeseen customization.

Whether your mantra is launch early and iterate, or launch early and learn,

Mistakes seed improvement

in software product development.

That mistakes seed improvement is particularly true, and conspicuous, if your team is geared to

Turn feedback into function

within an iterative cycle, or two.

Further Reading

  • Agile Release Strategies – A wiki initiated by by Niklas Bjørnerstedt and Johannes Brodwall. The premise of the wiki is that a software product unable to release to production at least once every three months is problematic. That is, the longer the release cycle, the bigger the risk of partial or complete failure. Wiki includes principles and patterns. The wiki helps a Product Owner determine a Minimal Releasable Product.
  • Facebook encourages developers to push code quickly. Code pushes are never delayed and are applied directly to parts of the infrastructure. The strategy is to smoke out issues, and their impact, as soon as possible. (See Extreme Agility at Facebook).
For Italophiles…
English Italian
Release often and learn Rilascia spesso e apprendi
Release often and iterate Rilascia spesso e ripetutamente