Something is Rotten in the State of Washington

In case you didn’t know – which really it appears most people didn’t know or cared – Microsoft killed their Kin phones after 6 weeks of shipping. And no that’s not a typo, it was in fact only 6 WEEKS after releasing the Kin that they cancelled these phones. Rumors abound that they only sold 500 Kin phones. Again, that’s not a typo – only five HUNDRED phones sold. At first that rumor seemed fantasy. But for Microsoft to kill this product so quickly makes that rumor seem credible. Wow. In today’s hot and heavy world of smartphones, this is a failure of unprecedented proportions. And the fallout may spread far and wide beyond the walls of the Kin team at Microsoft, as this article points out.

It seems that some of the leadership team responsible for the Kin debacle was either already on the Microsoft Windows Mobile team (recently renamed “Windows Phone”) or has been moved to that team now that the Kin team has been disbanded. Microsoft’s mobile strategy will live or die based on how well their completely redesigned Windows Phone 7 Series (yes, that’s a mouthful) does in the marketplace. Already they are behind the 8-ball as Microsoft has floundered under the iPhone assault and is now losing ground to Google Android devices. To make matters worse, the rumored release dates for Windows Phone 7 devices are in the fall or winter of this year. Because Windows Phone 7 is basically a “reboot” on Microsoft’s mobile devices, it is truly as if they are entering the smartphone market from scratch. This obviously has given Apple and Google a long headstart. If Microsoft fumbles Windows Phone 7 at all, this could completely kill their mobile business. And if they have no mobile business, one must start to seriously question if Microsoft has much of a future at all.

If it seems unplausible that a giant like Microsoft could fall, one only needs to look at history and see how giants like IBM fell before them. The disaster that was the Kin, similar to the disaster that was Vista, may be another symptom of a company that is in a state of complete disfunction. Again, history has shown that all great “empires” fall from within. This anonymous comment on the above linked article from an apparent Microsoft employee really sums it up well:

My morale has never been lower.

A billion dollars wasted on Kin, 500 phones sold and a huge amount of ground lost in the mobile space. Everything I hear about Windows Phone is negative. Leadership is shrugging its shoulders like this disaster is no big deal.

Enterprise Agreement renewals continue to trend downward, and at an alarming rate. Even major DoD deals can’t be landed. We position Microsoft for selling solutions and compensate the field for moving product. The disconnect is frustrating.

Windows 7 is a solid product, that we are marketing ineffectively. Office 2010 has launched with a quiet whimper. The CMG is as dysfunctional as a Cold War era gulag, and I can’t see any value from Mitch Matthews leadership.

I have no faith in our senior leadership (Ballmer, Turner, Ozzie, Brummel), but I don’t see any apparently leader that could step in and make the hard choices and forge a new, urgently needed direction, unless Bill Gates returns. Even then, I don’t know if the company can be steered off of the painful path it is now headed on.

The stock price is going in the wrong direction and poorly positioned if we move into a double dip recession. Our leadership team also shrugs this off as if it isn’t a major issue.

I remember Steve Ballmer promising to all at a company meeting four or five years ago, in response to an e-mail from an employee that complained about the stock price. The employee wrote to Ballmer that because of the languishing stock value he/she could not build an addition to their home. Steve B boomed that in two years he/she would be able to build a new home, never mind an addition, with where the stock price was going, and the crowd roared with thunderous applause. Where is the increased equity? What other company on the planet would have a flat lined stock price for a decade despite solid growth and not have the shareholders and board calling for the leadership heads on a platter?

Haven’t seen a promo in 3 years, got an E/110 last year and hear nothing but excuses (well promos are thin, budgets are tight). I don’t think anyone on my team has gotten a promo in two or three years.

Our budgets have been cut to the point that we can even support our commitments. When I follow the dollars I feel very insecure about my role and future. I’ve seen the overall organization get increasingly dysfunctional with each passing year.

The review process is completely broken. Calibration and compensation has already happened before employees even writes one word on how they felt they performed. How can I have any faith in the review process, where I’m told I have a voice, that peer feedback has impact, when none of it is even considered by the leadership team as they horse trade for compensation. It is a favoritism system that is riddled with inequity. I have seen incompetence rewarded and success punished. The process does a tremendous job of angering employees, who then quit and go to work for competitors with the single purpose of proving Microsoft wrong. Either that or they go to work as a vendor and get a 2X to 3X pay increase in the process.

I love Microsoft. Microsoft has clothed and fed my family, directly or indirectly for almost twenty years. I owe so much to this company. I come in, I give 110%, but I see no direction, I see no recognition, I see no future, I see no leadership.

Microsoft has become its own worst enemy, the leadership team is ineffective, and there is a huge need for house cleaning from the 64 to 68 level. I wish Bill Gates would come back. I wish a lot of bad decisions were never made. I feel that there is no way to change the negative course we are on, and Microsoft is incurably on a path to be only a shell of the company it once was.

Layoffs? Mercy killings comes more to mind.

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