Nadella realized that Microsoft's actual market is Business Software, and is attacking the modern software categories in that market.
Azure is the biggest example. Using their customer base and channel to sell cloud computing. Github and LinkedIn as acquisitions fitting this strategy.
Lists seems to compete in some ways with Trello and JIRA, recognizing this as an important Business Software category Microsoft can compete in and leverage connections with other Microsoft software.
Corporate/business revenue skyrocketed under Ballmer's reign.
The fact that MS had its hands in so many markets causes people to focus on the failures and ignore the business/enterprise/corporate success he helped MS achieve.
That put Microsoft so far behind everyone in the industry that it forced the board to remove him...
He actually did a GREAT job in the enterprise space and efficiently maximizing profit in the other old school Microsoft sectors...
Put it another way... When Ballmer took over Microsoft owned +70% of computing OS market, when he left they owned something like 30% and were stuck on a trajectory where today they are at like 15%... Microsoft was primarily an OS company... He more or less sunk the company
Go look at the largest companies by market cap or look at the fact that MS apps are the most installed apps on iOS and Android.
Ballmer did amazing for MS and left a great company for Nadella.
But that's thanks to Nadella, not Ballmer.
Bing is firmly in the 2nd spot to google
MS apps are the most installed on iOS and Android.
People forget that Ballmer left in 2014.
Azure Boards (part of Azure DevOps) is the most equivalent. Despite the naming it doesn't require any use of Azure.
How do you upgrade the UX of a legacy product like Access without pissing off everyone? You can't. Old habits die hard. Modernizing or changing any fundamental UX in Access is probably a very unpopular choice within their current userbase and likely more expensive than starting from scratch.
It's simpler to go and copy Airtable which is already proven to be a successful model/UX and let that product cannibalize the market of your legacy products.
1) Modern UI's I didn't need to write myself
2) Automation with and transactional atomic write guarantees
3) An extensible and scalable sharing model
Although I didn't try dynamics. I'm guessing it's a suitable alternative.
Admittedly, in that last one they actually just upgraded Visual Studio Online to turn it into Azure Devops and added new features.
Make a new opt-in UX supporting the same backend features (meaning that you need new features to support both) and maintain both. But it's expensive, so eventually you hope to merge them or kill one, which is where the risk of people getting pissed off arises again.
GMail/Inbox, for example.
This is simply an issue of creating generational products that adapt to the new ways your demographics are using technology. You can incrementally change a product but you will never be able to use new interaction patterns in a product that is used by people who don't know them and don't want to learn them.
Generation Z and Generation Alpha kids are not going to use Access. They will be using this or whatever succeeds this. That's for sure.
This is the same reason why Apple is going full steam into making the iPad its core productivity and creativity device. Newer generations have way better dexterity when using touch as an input, than let's say my generation (millennials). They know Macbooks are products with a UX expiration date.
I learned to use a computer with a physical keyboard and mouse. My nephew’s first and main computing device was an iPad. That definitely makes a difference.
I already have enough trouble with a piano with clear groupings to help find notes. I don't think I would get far with one of these.
Carpet industry is infamous for this, employing kids for their 'nimble fingers' for manipulating delicate knots.
However, question is the same generation who are dexterous in editing TikTok video on mobile phone will grow up and loose dexterity. So, are we talking about new interface paradigm for only kids (and not any specific generation - X, Y or Z)?
Perhaps until you try them with tools like scissors, or manipulating objects like a piece of string?
I think Dexterity implies good skills with a wide range of affordances (not just with a touch interface).
I mean, flat out removing something, by definition, is not incremental.
Where they dropped the ball was the core engine and capabilities.
What people wanted was quick & easy way to produce HTML5 forms and tables, but with the power of a native GUI app.
Meanwhile, Microsoft was removing features from Access, such as the SQL Server based "Access Data Projects" (ADP) mode, which was much more scalable than the legacy Jet database mode.
Spot on. As with all things, Microsoft-of-the-time saw the web as a competitor to its products, not a new platform.
They actually could have built substantial portions of Office 365 (which is to say, cloud -first and -integrated Office) in the early 2000s, but tried to protect their legacy businesses.
It's nice to see them finally getting there, but Access-to-Web would still be a killer product for much of Enterprise, if they could solve the data source connectivity issues in a clean way for users.
Was hiding the file menu items behind a round logo that looked nothing like a button part of that improved UI?
Is the current file menu that looks like the rest of the menus but behaves totally different part of the improved UI?
There was no way that wasn't going to piss off a very vocal segment of users, and Microsoft, to their detriment, badly botched the messaging.
My go-to example is how the File menu was hidden behind a non-button that looked just like a fancy application logo.
Why would an actual, caring ux developer do that in a flagship product?
I like the ribbon today, and I complained when it was released. And I stand by that complaint, I think pushback against change serves an important role, and developers should feel pain when making UX changes.
It's not just a matter of some changes being bad, even when they're good there's a cost. My grandparents both had iPhones, loved them and loved learning to do different things on them. Whenever I'd visit they'd have a laundry list of things they wanted to learn to do. Over time, that list was slowly supplanted by relearning how to do things they once knew, but had changed. It was extremely frustrating because so much of it was near-pointless. Easy for me (and most of their test-base, I'm sure) to relearn, but very difficult for nonagenarians.
It's a very profitable strategy, though perhaps less charismatic.
Other companies do this too, but I've seen few tech companies as good at copy, defeat, repeat as Microsoft.
In this same vein, they rarely try to take an old product and radically update it (at least not with success).
Partially because it's harder to make an exact copy of a new software concept with an existing technology.
They prefer to abandon existing products. (Unless the computing industry at large still gives the space mindshare, or the profits are too delicious to let go of.)
As I think about it....
It's sort of like Fortune 500 level FOMO...
Disclosure: I used to work at Microsoft. Love the company. But get irritated that their strategy often seems capricious -- chasing the latest industry squirrel.
Alas. I'm still angry Microsoft reneged on the promised migration path from workgroup to client/server.
Like the people burned by Google's abandonment of beloved product & projects, I will never again trust Microsoft enough to actually use their stuff voluntarily. I'm fresh out of goodwill. (Much as I like SQL/Server, my projects have always had a Plan B.)
It's a weird one because on the one side, backwards compatibility is / has been keeping Microsoft behind for years. On the other, it's why so many companies trust them.
Joel jokes about it here.
Or maybe they were right to protect the enterprises with big legacy investments and will have relatively little trouble leveraging their entrenched position and vast resources to make a good-enough player in the new market once someone else has proven it to win by greater integration with Microsoft’s existing services.
I mean, that's been a fairly consistent (though not 100% so) recipe for success for Microsoft for quite a while.
Disclaimer: work there, but my views..
I don't know why all the comments here are so snide. I wish my company's product was validated by having TC announce the largest player in our domain was creating a direct competitor to our product. Because I know they can't beat us on price or performance, and creating an inferior product that does the same thing (with a product announcement on TC giving our f'ing name alongside it!) would make me a wealthier man. Money can't buy this kind of ad.
But, they rarely win on performance or features. Those are the verticals you need to hope are critical. In many product domains, actually, these doesn't matter. Microsoft wouldn't be in the dominant position they're in if performance mattered.
I'll say right now: some of the integration points they've shown here, where you can create line-of-business apps that embed directly into Teams, that is going to play so freakin well in sales conversations. Airtable has nothing like that. We don't run any Microsoft services at all at our company, and I want that specific thing; I'd rather it be Airtable inside of Slack, but there are way, way more companies out there who would rather it be Lists in Teams than anything to do with Airtable and Slack.
If Gsuite is significantly cheaper, has decent feature parity, and has the name of (one of) the biggest tech companies in the world behind it, it has already won 90% of the sales conversation for enterprise buyers.
Just like with Teams and Slack, the office product just has to be good enough, and it will succeed. Microsoft doesn’t need to make money off it, just protect their office subscriptions. Slack and AirTable need to make money.
This might make AirTable loose a pretty large customer even if the actual end users in the company prefers AirTable.
If a team in a mid-to-large company wants to use Airtable, they will have to spend a lot of time championing the process--audits, vetting, bidding, legal, data management, and on and on and on.
If they subscribe to Office365, they've already gone through this process. It will either be enabled by default, or be subject to a much less stringent review before IT flips the switch.
Put another way: money (at least the sums involved for most SaaS) is the least important objection a customer might have to adoption.
Side note: this is also part of the reason why Excel is so popular, even though many executives are aware of its short-commings and might wish for something more integrated. Even if they have the budget, it is excruciating trying to onboard a SaaS offering.
I didn’t mean replacements for Excel itself. I meant specific vertical applications that are meant to replace common excel use cases.
I’ve been part of efforts to evaluate tools like Wrike and Aha! as replacements for gnarly excel spreadsheets. A single meeting of the stakeholders (managers of affected teams, VPs, high level engineers) to consider some aspect of the purchase decision cost more in salary and opportunity cost than a year of the SaaS subscription. Actual adoption, implementation, and training turned the cost of the product into a rounding error.
A: "You're not compliant, what the hell were you thinking using this 'Trello' thingie ?!?"
B: "You're not compliant but it's fine, everyone uses Microsoft like you do so it's probably not possible to be fully OK, we are all in the same boat..."
Feedback B can easily go up the chain with no repercussions. Feedback A cannot. It's a sad world.
Near the top of the page there's those four screenshots in a grid and you get the "image zoom (+)" cursor when you hover on it. Clicking it brings up ... a smaller version of the image ???
About halfway down, a pop-up box gets in the way. I dismiss it, and get sent back to the top of the page.
I'm afraid MS is building an ecosystem where this kind of thing is seen as acceptable - anyone who's used sharepoint a lot knows what I mean. A pet peeve of mine there is my "groups" appear in a bar on the left, but a second or two after the page loads, my "favourites" appear there too pushing the original groups down. The number of times I've clicked on the wrong one because it changed under my moues cursor ... and I'm not even going to start on the broken scrolling on a long sharepoint page where it dynamically loads the content bit by bit.
Much as I don't want to be one more Microsoft-hater (I really liked the last non-cloud version of office), their current strategy seems to be take something popular and launch a business version with worse UX. Compare for example: Trello and MS planner.
I've had colleagues report (and seen it happen) similar behavior in Google search results.
Less seriously I'd expect this to be just lack of care in SharePoints case (anyone actually is ready to click the link as it shows up, haha...) and the result of a random mutation that created significantly higher ad click rate short term and was therefore selected in Googles case ;-)
But their "records-per-base" limit is a complete non-starter. The highest tier of service (before Enterprise) has 50k record cap, which disqualifies it for many reasonable use cases.
Apologists for Airtable hand-wave away this concern. They say Airtable has integrations with other systems and databases; that Airtable is meant for current data only; that its not meant to store complete histories; that larger databases would be too resource-consuming.
None of it is persuasive. The limit seems arbitrary and seems obviously intended to drive businesses into the Enterprise pricing.
I've even tried to contact them about it in the past, to get a larger limit. I was starting work on a non-fiction book and thought it would make a great writing support tool for gathering facts and evidence. But I never heard back.
One minor nitpick - you might want to adjust your comments and site copy to say "it will be open source" rather than "it is open source". Cheers.
I'm seeing DBs/groups from what I believe are other accounts.
Even simple stuff like asset tracking will go past the record limit and if I have to build something to dump and archive and then query both, I’d rather not bother as most systems I archive to have some UI and workflow option. So I’d rather have one mediocre system for the entire data than an awesome UI for part, and a mediocre system anyway.
The team seems smart, but I assume they have some technology architectural problems that make them not get big.
I would rather pay by data stored or I/o or something but charging the same for a user who adds 100 items per month as one who only reads or only adds one is hard to pay for.
Airtable is a great inspiration from the UI point of view but I am have a strong opinion of self-hosted. So Dwata will try best to stay self-hosted. It is open source (https://github.com/brainless/dwata) but I am surely planning to make money by selling license/support - have not reached there yet.
It was a spectacularly bad suggestion; Airtable seemed to require the same sorts of weird support columns and formulas as Excel in order to support multivariate queries. I came away thinking it was just a pretty browser-based spreadsheet toy, and not a thing useful for actual work.
I'm still baffled by the love.
(And I went on to use Pandas/Jupyter Notebooks/Python for my project.)
Suppose I'm thinking of using airtable to build something shared between all our staff. If I have 10 staff on the pro tier they can add 5000 items each.
But if I pay ten times as much for 100 staff they can only add 500 items each.
My guess is that it's more of a technical limit, and they had difficulty making it perform well for larger bases.
A great deal of the value of the Airtable comes from having multiple sheets in a single base. Put another way, the value comes from the ability to maintain relationships of data.
So those 10 or 100 staff aren't just entering individual items. They are, say, adding project information--ideas, bugs, tasks, managing the next sprint. Every additional bit of information you add to Airtable compounds the problem.
Airtable is the only data management tool I've ever seen that punishes users for storing more data.
Slack > Teams
Trello > Planner
PowerBi > Tableau, Looker, Mode
And by the quick looks of it:
Airtable > Lists
At the same time I'm looking at that $136 billion cash pile. Oh well, at least they acquired Github...
They don't innovate much, which is too risky -- they buy/copy and they integrate into a single attractive package for businesses.
Customers (companies) don't want to have to spend months researching which separate word processor, spreadsheet, calendar, chat app, email, etc. to use. They want a single integrated choice.
Integration brings an insane amount of value to the table. When you include that, the competitors often become a clear second choice, even if they seem better when judged on their feature set alone.
Also, for people who haven't been involved in integrating products as part of a suite, the amount of work is close to unbelievable. Want to make a small improvement in Calendar, that seems like you should budget a single developer 2 weeks for? Guess what, it's a 3-person six-month-long project because now you have to update 20 other products and API's that interface with calendar, as well as handle interoperability between versions, independent rollouts and rollbacks, etc. But at MS Office scale, the improvement can still be worth it.
All of Microsoft tools work fine, sync really well with each other and integrate natively with existing workflows.
Power users even among devs are a rare breed.
PowerBI is also on another level when compared to other BI tools due to its data modeling capabilities.
I would expect to never miss a notification. I don’t in Slack, but Teams will delay notification for hours.
Search in Teams doesn’t find as well as slack. Won’t search across “teams” as opposed to multiple slack orgs.
Teams will freeze and require religion/restart but I won’t know it unless I try to use the tool. So it could have been frozen for minutes or hours without updating. Slack has never had this problem.
It’s weird how multiple times each day (I’ve used Teams for about six months) I scratch my head with some bonehead bug. Not in the free tier of Slack.
In which way? From what I have seen, teams functionality is so much worse than the native counterparts that I wouldn't call it integration. Even if it is better than Slack, it's obstructive to the point that I am wondering if the teams development team has ever used it to manage themselves.
Which makes the concept of "file sharing" moot because one just has to paste the new file and the entire team can start working on it without ever leaving the teams app.
The same story holds for integrating with the other 365 apps that MS has.
Additionally, the PowerBI integration is absolutely game changing for sharing performance reports seamlessly to everyone on the team.
A bette experience, I think, is post link to google doc in whatever chat, everyone clicks on link and edits doc in browser. I wish that worked well in Teams. Part of the problem is Word365 which seems to break under lots of collaborators and revisions. Track changes is practically unusable with lots of edits. Every time, someone ends up “starting over.” And it’s more hassle to try than to do any serious collabs. But for minor edits, it’s nice.
There’s no advantage to me to “never leave the teams app.”
And when it comes to file sharing: how do you copy the name of a file into the clipboard?
It’s a complete seamless experience for collaboration.
I use both multiple times a day. Teams is far from a carbon copy of Slack.
If anything, Slack needs to pay attention to Teams. They've already out-innovated Slack on several fronts. For example, Teams is a slick hybrid of industry-std channels (Slack) and industry-std video (Zoom). Slack doesn't offer that.
I haven't used either to an enormous extent - I've used both, but only to the extent that I've had to in recent weeks - anyone care to educate me?
Then again I bounced off Facebook in ~2011 because I didn't understand the UI (couldn't figure out where anything "went" or would appear for others when I posted it any of the various ways to post things—wall, others' walls, comments on things, statuses, and so on—or where they were coming from when I saw them) and Twitter's confused the hell out of me since a couple redesigns ago, so possibly I'm just dumb.
Slack -> Lync/Skype for Business/Whatever other name MSFT came up with
Trello -> MS Project
Tableau -> MS SSRS
Airtable -> SharePoint Lists & Workflow
Their new terminal emulator has potential, although I do find it a bit slow and fonts to be weird.
How can you possibly manage anything without hierarchy? No task list is worth anything if you cannot chunk it down.
If all you need is literally a list - just write them on a doc. The rest is all fluff.
I say that in a good way.
Lotus Notes was the first no-code system for developing networked/people/workgroup oriented systems.
Notes lost its way, but Airtable has extracted the essential essence of the Notes client and done an amazing job of making it work.
Airtable is worth checking out in detail because it's implemented extremely well with great attention to detail and beautiful solutions to thorny UI problems.
I suspect not because it looks like the founders are too young to have even used Notes - my guess is this is a clean reinvention.
People loved or hated Notes.
It was way, way ahead of its time. It was really the very first system that integrated the concept or networking, users, groups, a replicated database, nosql unstructured data, form building and in built security with a sophisticated GUI.
I think it was great if you had departmental developers building stuff, but I hated not being able to make my own forms. And I hated having to open up Notes in 2010 to click a procurement button or a timesheet button. If it was web-based (or had an api) I could have just scripted requests to do the same thing.
Unfortunately it's part of a successful marketing strategy in which you 1) announce you _will_ release, 2) announce you _are_ releasing, and 3) announce you _did_ release.
At least always provide a "notify me" email option.
Now there’s preview and dev versions of every single major product. It’s awesome.
In the days leading up to Microsoft's antitrust case, Microsoft would routinely pre-announce competing products, or announce they would be adding functionality from other competing products into Windows or Office.
Even without releasing anything, just these announcements would create Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt in their competitors and customers considering investing in their products.
Funnily enough, this looks like it's capable of replacing JIRA and Airtables in one swoop. If you're already hooked into Teams, it's an easy integration. Slack needs to play catch up before Teams steals all their candy.
It may steal a lot, but there's a large number of companies which neither run office/exchange nor are they interested to start doing it. Slack will rule there.
I’ve run into many weird List workflows made by non developers to try to save money on developers and they just end up creating all these manual steps and wonky forms with horrible UX to do simple things like “add a document in a specific category.”
I wish they would make “cloud access” as it would be bette than all these half web, half excel macro spatchcock solutions.
I think the forms+workflow with data in the cloud is done well with airtable and also pretty close with appian, Salesforce and others.
And what are they going to do with PowerApps? It was always missing a really good data grid.
MAKRO | Microsoft Excel Stream Highlights 3/19
MAKRO | XLOOKUP: META BREAKER? | Microsoft Excel Stream Highlights 10/19
I am thinking of using it to track daily habit of my family but the UI seemed too complex.
Their UI and interface isn't that bad but their APIs are VERY BASIC.
For example, there is no way to retrieve metadata about an Airtable base (sheetnames, columns etc). Or, there is no way to tell whether a link between sheets is a singular link or list of links. No way to connect different bases together.
Many of feature requests that were opened 3-4 years back still have no closure despite popular demand.
In my opinion Airtable is alright for basic usage (like yours). But nothing advance.
I know all this because I created an open-source library to dynamically create postgres database from multiple Airtable bases. (In case anyone is interested)
Some things about it are awesome, and with Zapier integrations you could do a lot of fun stuff (1). Like attaching files to a row is something obviously very useful.
But OTOH simple analysis using pivot tables, like I do in Google Sheets, is a pro feture (blocks) which a free user can't even evaluate.
(1) Something like: everytime I generate a new sw build, add file to Airtable and start a draft email to client linking about the new version.
I've now built 2 companies on Airtable - thank you for building wonderful software! Right there next to Figma for me.
BTW Airtable is a great product. I used it to create a database system for a local charity and it has been transformative for them.
That is a lot like Airtable too and has been out for a number of years.
I've built an Airtable-like product that lives inside your inbox and is directly linked to your email conversations.
To the people at large companies working on replicating small company products. How do you motivate yourself?
Apart from this playbook feeling unfair and resulting in undeserved success for these companies, I think it is also a danger for innovation. It signals to would-be investors that backing a startup may result in them having thrown away capital just to have a big behemoth brute force their way into that startup's niche later on. It tells founders that they might throw away years of their life for a return that isn't what they would otherwise expect. And it undermines society by continuing massive aggregation and control of the digital world under a few big players.
To me, all of this is a sign that we need renewed antitrust laws to split up Microsoft, Google, Amazon, Facebook, Twitter, and other players that have too much control.
And often they kill a small competitor this way and then let the product die slowly so the end it’s a negative.
They use the "Embrace, Extend, and Extinguish" line that apparently came out of internal MS emails, but as they say, not quite the same in the Google Reader case: no intent to extinguish presumably -- but the same effect.
Agree. No intent but the same result.
Microsoft, Apple, Amazon, Google, Facebook, or any other company that has the resources to do so. They're all the same in that regard.
I think this phenomena is an artifact of how well they enter a market. Pre-iPhone smartphones were really bad. They all instantly felt 10 years old the day the iPhone released. That's probably the most extreme example, though.
1 Threaten the shared clients (when one of the giants tried to push out mellanox, it specifically sent a message to all enterprise customers to stop using the small competition, or else they'll loss benefits)
2 (Almost ?) Every startup is violating some IBM/broadcomm/Google/etc patents, those are playing cards that can be used to shut them down or buy at a fraction of the value.
Competitiveness doesn't only belong to the small company, sadly. Also, they pay very well.
I'm assuming you weren't around for the 90s?
The purpose of this announcement seems only to stop enterprise people from starting to use AirTable.