Tagged: microsoft

Anatomy of a Cover Up


Watching the Microsoft Surface Pro 3 event, the Fox was struck by how good companies are getting at copying the style, language and presentations of Apple, even down to the packaging used for their products. This Surface event was fairly well done, but still reminds me of this original post from June 26, 2012 when the original Surface tablet was unveiled.

By now, you’ve all seen the hugely circulated video that documents Microsoft’s blatant copying of Apple’s presentation style when unveiling their new Surface tablet.

But Michael Mulvey of Daily Exhaust picked up on something even more disturbing.

But the solid hardware isn’t what has me perplexed. It’s the complete lack of software demonstrations. It’s ironic, isn’t it? Here’s a company that has made billions of dollars selling software for over 30 years, and when it comes time to debut the device launching them into the future, they don’t bother to allocate even a few minutes to showing off how well software runs on it?

Nothing smells fishier at a technology presentation than not being able to see the technology work. Mat Honan at Gizmodo also noted as much.

At the Surface release, I saw an impressive demo, but didn’t get a good hands-on. My guess is that my total in-my-mitts time with the various tablets was somewhere between one-to-two minutes…and got no time at all using the keyboard—its killer feature.
The Surfaces that we got to examine that were turned on didn’t have SmartCovers attached, and the Surfaces with SmartCovers weren’t booted up. Microsoft was covering something, alright.

Reminds me a whole lot of the presentation given by the Palm team at CES in 2009 when they announced the new Palm Pre phone.

The demos at CES weren’t faked, but large swaths of critical functionality were still missing under the covers. “The emperor had no clothes,” one source told us. Palm made the controversial decision to prevent any members of the media from touching the phone after CES prior to launch, a move that raised eyebrows and led many to start asking questions about the company’s readiness.

Compare this to Apple’s unveiling of the iPhone where Steve Jobs setup 1-hour sessions with prominent tech writers, such as David Pogue from the NYTimes and gave them each an iPhone to play with directly.

Or the iPad unveiling where Steve sat down on a couch and used the device for nearly 20 minutes on stage. And after the keynote iPads were everywhere for reporters to touch and play with and use.

For all their copying of Apple’s presentation style, competitors still has a lot to learn about convincing consumers that it can actually make their fancy wares a reality. Until someone can get their hands on a Surface tablet, the jury is still out on this one.

Fox Tip: If it’s not ready, don’t pretend like it is and think no one will notice.

Satya Nadella Email to Microsoft Employees

As we look forward, we must zero in on what Microsoft can uniquely contribute to the world. The opportunity ahead will require us to reimagine a lot of what we have done in the past for a mobile and cloud-first world, and do new things.

There is definitely value in Microsoft discovering what they can “uniquely contribute to the world.” They have been playing catch-up for so long, it seems they’ve lost who they are.

Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/satya-nadella-email-to-microsoft-employees-2014-2

Microsoft Builds The Smartest City

Buildings have been built and run the same way for the last 30 to 50 years.

When Darrell Smith took over as Director of Facilities and Energy at Microsoft he had one very audacious goal in mind – to build the smartest corporate facility in the world.

Smith and his team have been working for more than three years to unify an incongruent network of sensors from different eras (think several decades of different sensor technology and dozens of manufacturers).

This would be a significant undertaking on just about any corporate campus, but this wasn’t just any campus. This was Microsoft’s huge 500 acre campus with 41,000 employees covering nearly 15 million square feet of office space in 125 buildings.

And to solidify the sheer impossibility of their mission, they had to build the technology themselves.

When Smith, Jay Pittenger (Smith’s boss), and others started exploring ways to manage buildings smartly, they realized it would cost upward of $60 million to “rip and replace” enough equipment to get those 30,000 sensors to whistle the same tune.

This would not only involve costly construction and equipment replacement, but it also would mean displacing employees and losing work while teams temporarily shut down labs. Smith and team knew there had to be a less pricey, less disruptive way to achieve data harmony, but after a whole lot of looking, they couldn’t find one.

So they invented one.

Buying complex software products off the shelf and integrating them is a path full of pot holes and dead ends. But venturing out to build their own software solution from scratch takes some serious guts, and some really smart people.

Smith’s team enlisted the help of three vendors in the field of commercial building data systems and created a pilot program in 13 of the buildings on Microsoft’s Redmond campus. The team developed an “analytical blanket” to lie on top of the diverse systems used to manage the buildings. The blanket of software finally enabled equipment and buildings to talk to each other, and to provide a wealth of data to building managers.

And by a wealth of data, they’re talking thousands of sensors providing billions of data points each week.

smart Campus Infographic

And with Microsoft as his platform, Smith now wants to take the millions in savings and energy reduction technology to the world.

Buildings have been built and run the same way for the last 30 to 50 years,” Smith says. “This isn’t a Microsoft problem, it’s an industry problem.

Fox Tip: What skills are you using to change your job that may be useful to change the world?

Microsoft’s Lost Decade


As Microsoft announces Satya Nadella as the new CEO to right the ship, the fox can’t help but think of this original post from August 23, 2012 that outlines all the history and missed opportunities that the new CEO will be inheriting. It’s not just Steve Ballmer’s most recent organization changes that Nadella is inheriting, but decades of political jockeying, short-term goals, and lack of vision. Best of luck!


From Kurt Eichenwald’s expose on Microsoft’s ‘lost decade’.

For what began as a lean competition machine led by young visionaries of unparalleled talent has mutated into something bloated and bureaucracy-laden, with an internal culture that unintentionally rewards managers who strangle innovative ideas that might threaten the established order of things.

Doing something unintentionally often produces the same consequences as doing it on purpose.

Ideas about mobile computing with a user experience that was cleaner than with a P.C. were deemed unimportant by a few powerful people in that division.

A few powerful people have successfully derailed Microsoft for over a decade.

One Apple product, something that didn’t exist five years ago, has higher sales than everything Microsoft has to offer. More than Windows, Office, Xbox, Bing, Windows Phone, and every other product that Microsoft has created since 1975. In the quarter ended March 31, 2012, iPhone had sales of $22.7 billion; Microsoft Corporation, $17.4 billion.

This does paint an interesting picture, but is comparing any company with Apple really fair anymore? I mean it’s fun, but is it fair?

My favorite insight in the article…

[when the dotcom bubble burst in 1998] the strategy for success at Microsoft was turned on its head. Where once creating innovations was both the thrill of the job and the path to riches through stock options, guaranteed financial success could now be achieved only the way it was at stodgy old General Motors or IBM—through promotions.

“People realized they weren’t going to get wealthy,” one former senior executive said. “They turned into people trying to move up the ladder, rather than people trying to make a big contribution to the firm.”

And this started the precipitous increase in middle management positions and rampant infighting to get ahead at all costs. Microsoft’s decline in this decade can be tied to hiring people (a lot of people) in the early 90’s whose most important goal was to get rich, not create an amazing product, not caring about the customers, not making the world a better place through technology, but getting rich.

By contrast, the fox feels compelled to unleash one last unfair comparison with Apple:

When I got started I was 20 or 21, and my role models were semiconductor guys like Robert Noyce and Andy Grove of Intel, and of course Bill Hewlett and David Packard. They were out not so much to make money as to change the world and to build companies that could keep growing and changing. They left incredible legacies. […] the rewarding thing isn’t merely to start a company or to take it public.”
– Steve Jobs, Fortune January 24, 2000

In December 2000, Microsoft had a market cap of $510 billion to Apple’s $4.8 billion.
As of June 2012, Microsoft is down to $249 billion and Apple is up 11,000% to $541 billion.

A decade lost indeed.

Fox Tip: If my only reason for crawling out of my den every morning is to make money, I’m not going to succeed.

The Fallacy of No Compromises

John Gruber at Daring Fireball does a great roundup of Microsoft Surface reviews that call out the “compromises” that they’ve made.

It’s too hefty and cost­ly and power-hungry to best the lead­ing tablet, Apple’s full-size iPad. It is also too dif­fi­cult to use in your lap. It’s some­thing of a tween­er — a com­pro­mised tablet and a com­pro­mised lap­top.
– Walt Mossberg.

He also points out that all design decisions are the fruit of compromise. It’s choosing the best compromises that is the key.