Jobs people had in my group: (1) Developer: Write code. (2) Test: Write automation to test the code developers write. (3) Program manager: Make sure everyone is coordinated and that there's a reliable, up-to-date spec for the product.
Microsoft doesn't have a strong tradition of product management or design, and I'd argue those are the two areas where they're weakest as a company. Is there someone who works at Microsoft with the title "Product Manager"? I know there were "product planners", and "program managers", but not PM in the Silicon Valley sense of the term.
They're especially good at partner management though, and I don't think they get enough credit for that.
I guess in one way there are still STEs, but now they're called "customers."
I'm in SV now and no way I'll go back to that. Too much consensus, discussion, meetings, not enough autonomy, action, or customer orientation.
1. I think a theme that comes up on HN often is "when do you ship?". You could always argue that "well, we should wait to ship in order to [fix this/add this feature/...]". At a certain point, you have to say that you're done and ship it. There will always be room for improvement and the good news is that you're actually able to improve it later on. You just need to set a "ship" bar that is acceptable.
2. Like others have said, the first point is made even more important as Microsoft was already late to market with a tablet friendly OS.
3. People could argue all day about whether it was acceptable or not for the Office team to have released Office 2013 without Metro style apps. Whether it was acceptable for Windows 8 to be released before the Office team made Metro style apps. After taking points 1 & 2 into consideration, you have to remember that you need to manage resources. I'm sure the Office team WANTED Metro apps, but it was probably impossible for them to ship Office 2013 and Metro Office at the same time and "on time" for Office 2013 desktop release. Like I said, you could argue all day whether you think they managed their time/resources properly but either way there is something to be learned from this. You simply can't do everything at once. I don't know what the reasons are here, but for some reason Microsoft must have deemed it more important to ship desktop Office before the Metro apps. I'd also bargain that the Metro apps will have something to do with Office 365 subscriptions and IIRC the desktop Office 2013 release is largely testing Office 365 out (the consumer version, anyways). Anyways: point here is you can't do everything at once.
4. The article talks about perception as if it was a permanent thing. I'd say that perception can change without having it to be some colossal task. I have to go soon and the first example that comes to mind is people made so, so, so much fun of the iPad when it first came out. I remember people making fun of the first person I know to have bought one. And now? "Everyone" has one. I don't think Apple necesarily did anything to make this perception change, but after people saw the benefits of it they changed their attitudes towards it themselves. The same thing can happen here (e.g. if I didn't like Windows 8 but then I see someone using Windows 8.x in some way I think is really cool, it might cross my mind that maybe now Windows is in a better state and my perception of the product will change).
disclosure: i interned at microsoft in 2011 and 2012
This models seems to hold more truth in recent years, however. I can't come up with a solid reason why this is, but it isn't an absolute truth.
The Xbox was also able to leverage the past ~5 years of DirectX development and PC gaming knowledge and built a OS that was very similar to Win32 minus the HAL.
This "can't get right on first try" happens to virtually EVERY company. We don't even have to look too far back to find examples. Just one example would be Apple releasing Maps, which was oh-so-perfect out the gate.
For Apple (in the last ~8 years at least) it seems to be the other way around, in that this behavior is the exception, not the rule.
They just wanted to take Google by suprise, so they wouldn't release their apps map on time and by this, they had upset their customers with a piece of crap product (Apple Maps :s)
Also, their duel release model (long term support and 6 month short term support) gives them a nice test bed where they can try out radical re-designs before forcing it onto the users, who can continue using the LTS release.
Sometimes chasing feature parity is a mistake.
And Microsoft don't really do that. They generally do best when they attack from a different angle.
von Clausewitz gave simple advice for winning battles: concentrate your strongest forces and attack at the enemy's weakest point.
How did Microsoft beat Borland? They attacked at the interface and ease-of-use, not on compiler speed.
How did they beat Apple on the desktop? They attacked on backwards compatibility, not on a better UI.
Honestly I think Windows Phone 7 was a case of blatantly copying Apple. It came out at the end of the iPhone 3GS' life which had exactly "No multitasking despite all competitors having it, no application fast resume" and "No front-facing camera". Windows Phone 7 even threw away the ability to sideload apps which was a staple of Windows Mobile in favor of an app store only approach.
I think Microsoft made the mistake of thinking that they could pull off what Apple did with iOS, which is silly as Apple spent years building this unique position through the iPod.
As a sort-of new entrant, Microsoft can't afford to start off with something that isn't ahead of the competition by a significant margin, no company in the mobile space other than Apple or Google can do this right now.
There also seems to be a lack in ubiquity across their products and platforms.
I remember when they had Windows Live Mesh, Windows Live SkyDrive and Windows Live Sync only to later merge them all into SkyDrive, then they had Silverlight for Windows, Mac and Moonlight for Linux along with Windows Phone 7's flavor of Silverlight and the XBox 360s flavor of Silverlight (used in ads) only later to can everything and now Windows 8, Windows Phone 8 and the XBox One all run the new Windows Runtime but don't have the same app store nor can they run the same apps for no apparent reason.
Um.. Active Directory run's pretty much every Enterprise and Corporation worldwide. From that, I'd say Microsoft "has got it right".
Cloud-based office productivity products are slowly chipping away at AD's necessity, but there's still a need out there for a cloud-based AAA solution that meets the needs of BigCos and SmallCos alike. Unfortunately it's going to be a while before we get there because it will have to emulate AD in the meantime.
From that, I'd say: so much for "we're a devices and services company now".
Microsoft is one of the few companies that literally define modern consumer computing. It makes me very happy every time I see them moving forward. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. When it doesn't, they grow and fix it.
Apple has the same cycle, but it's less immediately apparent.
Let's say that the front office (those doing the selling) start promising tons of features because they want to really sell this thing. Perhaps those features might be a little more complex than the "visionaries" first imagined. Now the expectations have been set.
The engineers try to meet those expectations. They try their best, but then it gets to QA. The people doing QA really care about their job, about the quality of what is being released, and they do a good job poking holes in things trying to get it to a quality that was promised. QA sends it back, but the developers have moved onto producing new features. Bug fixes are not cool. Sometimes doing it right is hard. Things start to slow down.
The end product is something that doesn't quite meet the expectations and is late...just a guess though.
It is until apple spoiled consumer with perfection and true use friendliness that made the contrast that Microsoft product along with the "beta" testing with paid product is no long bearable.
Still, Microsoft can afford this lossy strategy because they knoe nobody can really stop using office.
If you assume Microsoft has always been trying to achieve the 'best' product possible, then their development history looks like incredible incompetence. If you view it in the political context of Elites trying to cripple development of 'computing power to the people', it makes perfect sense and reveals a high degree of sophistication in the Microsoft inner management group.
Effectively their strategy is to steer development of their products in the most socially harmful direction possible, constantly pushing the boundary of what the market will reject as 'too stupid'. When they hit public resistance, they wait as long as possible then back off with a slightly less stupid product release. Once that version has become entrenched they then try again with something even more stupid. Windows 8 was just an example of MS pushing a little too hard.
That's insane, you're insane, and your philosophy is far and above more cynical than anyone's need be.
Nobody gets a product right on the first try. Full Stop.
The more interesting question here is this:
Why does Microsoft expose the first try to the public?
Win3 > Win3.1
Win95 > Win98
WinME > WinXP
Vista > Win7
Win8 > ? (unlikely to be 8.1)
There are probably some parallels to Longhorn/Vista. Except it seems like with Vista Microsoft bit off a lot more than they could chew, and had to massively scale things back for release.
Seems like they make gobs of money regardless.