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.

Hell Has Frozen Over; Pigs Have Taken Flight

Apple … “I’d shut it down and give the money back to the shareholders.” – Michael Dell, October 6, 1997

“Apple is already dead.” – Microsoft CTO Nathan Myhrvold, June 6, 1997

May 26, 2010: Apple passes Microsoft to become the most valuable technology company in the United States – something completely unfathomable ten to fifteen years ago. The New York Times has called it “the end of an era and the beginning of the next one“.

Now to be fair, the valuations are calculated by Wall Street “market capitalization”, which can be considered a fairly arbitrary measure. Regardless, the symbolism of this event can not be missed: it is yet another sign that we are in a transition in the technology world. The “old world” of technology marked by companies such as Dell and Microsoft, is giving way to the new world of technology led by Apple. If you aren’t already preparing yourself for the new world of technology, let this be a wake up call!

Just for fun, let’s take a look at the market capitalization of the companies involved in the quotes above:

  • Dell : $26 Billion
  • Microsoft: $219 Billion
  • Apple: $222 Billion

In fact, Apple could purchase Dell outright with just the cash reserves it has on hand today – and still have about $20 billion left over!


Microsoft, really!? A security hole in Windows XP allows malicious hackers a way to compromise a computer when a user simply presses the F1 key. I mean, really – who was in charge of quality assurance at Microsoft? Dennis Nedry? Really? Really!

Look for this to become chain e-mail hoax material for the next 20 years – really.

Anti-Virus: EPIC FAIL

A few of years ago, by using a good anti-virus software, keeping it up to date, and avoiding “risky” behaviors online, I could confidently state to my clients that they would likely be virus-free. But in the last couple of years, I have perceived an increase in the number of malware infections. It has not mattered what brand of anti-malware software was being used. It seems none are completely effective all of the time. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but it just seemed like anti-malware software just wasn’t what it used to be.

Then I read this article, “Encryption and Anti-Virus are Failing,” and my suspicions were confirmed. A panel of experts at a security conference recently stated that current successful detection rates for popular anti-virus softwares are only between 70 and 90 percent. I remember when a detection rate below the high 90’s percentile was considered low! To me, detection rates like these are completely unacceptable. No wonder I’m seeing so many more malware cases. If anti-malware software leaves a 10 – 30% chance of letting an infection through, that’s a huge window of opportunity!

I’ve written before that the “elephant in the room” for Windows is its vulnerability to viruses and other malicious software. As much as Microsoft touts improved security in Windows 7, studies have shown that Windows 7 is just as susceptible to viruses as previous versions of Windows. If anti-virus software is only 70% effective, can you really call Windows secure at all? I’ve talked with a few people about this topic, stating that if this virus situation does not improve for Windows, at some point in the near future there will be a critical mass of users leaving Windows for operating systems that do not have a virus epidemic. News like this makes me think that this mass exodus may come a lot sooner than I first thought.

I Wonder Whose Idea This Was …


If you’ve been watching any TV in the last few weeks, you’ve most likely seen Microsoft’s ad campaign for Windows 7 – where supposedly real people claim that various features in Windows 7 were their idea. Cute, but I think that Microsoft would do better simply showcasing all those new features. Perhaps that speaks volumes in and of itself.

But I digress. A recent study shows that Windows 7 is practically just as susceptible to malicious software as previous versions of Windows. As I’ve said many times before, the “elephant in the room” for Microsoft is the ever-escalating issue of viruses, spyware, and all other forms of malicious software that all versions of Windows is vulnerable to. All the bells and whistles in the world won’t do much to change the growing perception among consumers that Windows is inherently insecure. But there’s not much Microsoft can do about it without drastically affecting backwards compatibility. Which is why Microsoft will continue to sidestep the issue – and why many of their users will continue to sidestep to other platforms.

Seventh Heaven?

Windows 7 is now officially available for purchase and should be pre-installed on any newly purchased Windows computers. So now is the time for reality to set in. Is Windows 7 going to restore Microsoft’s credibility, or will it be another failure like Vista?

For the record, I do not recommend that users attempt to upgrade to Windows 7 right away, at least on computers that are considered important (if you have spare machines or virtual machine software feel free to go for it!). It is prudent to allow the early adopters to unearth real-world issues and let Microsoft release their first wave of updates before attempting to migrate to Windows 7.

Windows 7 has been getting good reviews during its testing phase. However, so did Vista. But this time it seems that Microsoft has taken the time to properly and thoroughly test this release of Windows (you may or may not recall that Microsoft was under great pressure to release the long-delayed Vista). However, with relatively few perceptible feature improvements, there are many that feel Windows 7 is mostly just a bug-fix release for Vista.

So will Windows 7 triumph or bomb? I think that the end result will be somewhere in the middle. Windows 7 will likely be perceived as better than Vista (assuming no major catastrophes), so the extremely negative reputation of Microsoft’s shipping operating system will be lost. And since most new PCs will ship with Windows 7, it will not be hard for Microsoft to claim that Windows 7 is being adopted at a steady rate (just like they did with Vista – even if the customer downgraded to XP). However, the flip side will be that most users won’t really find anything all that great about Windows 7, so it won’t generate any great buzz as compared to other popular technologies. Basically, I believe Windows 7 will be adequate for most Windows users so it will do well enough in the market, but it won’t provide any breakthrough new features that will rank it high in the minds of the mainstream.

The other factor that will drag on Windows 7 is the ever present threat of viruses and spyware. Windows 7 is virtually just as vulnerable to these threats as the previous few versions of Windows were. As adequate as Windows 7 may be, malware infections will continue to cause users frustrations. In my observation, malware is the most visible reason that users switch to other operating systems. Yes, Vista was bad, but many users will just put up with bad. However, malware is intrusive and dealing with it is time-consuming and expensive. Unless Microsoft can address this issue, it will continue to be the elephant in the room that will cost them mind and market-share in the long run.

Head in the Clouds

A lot has been written in the last few months about “cloud computing”. Basically, cloud computing is the generic term for computing services and applications that are hosted over the Internet. They can be as simple as web-based e-mail services such as Yahoo Mail or Gmail. Or they can be more complex and full featured services such as Google Apps, which provide on-line word processing or spreadsheet software. Other companies such as Microsoft and Apple are taking steps to offer cloud computing services and applications.

If one were to read all that was being written about cloud computing, it wouldn’t be difficult to draw the conclusion that the future of computing is in the clouds – and that future is right around the corner. However, before taking that viewpoint, I have a few things for you to consider.

The reality is that “cloud computing” isn’t really a new concept. It has existed for years in various forms and names. Companies called Application Service Providers (ASP’s for short) have been around a long time providing hosted applications. Another name for cloud computing is Software as a Service (SaaS for short). Whatever it is called, the bottom line is that your software is hosted somewhere on the Internet, and not on your own servers or computers. This can be great if you or your employees are highly mobile. As long as they have an Internet connection they can access their software and data, virtually from any computer available. However, the fact that access to applications and data is completely dependent on an Internet connection can be a huge liability. It should be pretty obvious that if your Internet connection goes down or is not reliable, then you can’t access your software and data. Or if the service you are dependent on has problems, as both Google Apps and Gmail have done this year, you are out of luck as well.

In my mind, cloud computing will have its fit with highly mobile workers and some large organizations, but it will not filter down into the mainstream or small business until Internet services become a lot more reliable or redundant Internet services become extremely cost effective. As well, not all applications, such as digital media, are yet a good fit for cloud computing. So I foresee that while that the future may indeed be at least partially in the clouds, this future is going to take some time to get here.

The Bing is Dead. Long Live the Bing.

It is being reported that the new search engine (excuse me, “decision” engine) from Microsoft, Bing, lost one point of search market share in the month of September. This was the first time Bing has lost market share since it was introduced in June. Also noteworthy is that Yahoo also lost a point in September.

Bing’s share went from 9.64 to 8.51 percent while Yahoo’s went from 10.5 to 9.4. One way to look at these numbers is that Bing is right up there with Yahoo. Another way to look at these numbers is that Google had 90% of the share in September.

So depending on your viewpoint, this could be really bad for Bing or no big deal at all. Supporters of one side or another will spin this as they see fit. To me this also seems to correlate with the amount of advertising Microsoft does for Bing. It seems that I’ve not seen as many Bing commercials lately, so it’s probably not surprising that less publicity equals less market share.

Windows 7 Bug Revisited

My previous article on a recently discovered Windows 7 bug evoked a few comments regarding the severity of the bug and if it is really a big deal or not. I thought I’d follow up on that article to make sure I got my point across.

The severity of the bug isn’t really an issue at this point. The real issue is how the industry and the public react to this news. It seems the whole world is watching with a very keen eye how Windows 7 turns out. Microsoft is very vulnerable to bad publicity at this point. They desperately want to distance themselves from Vista. The worst thing that could happen to them is for Windows 7 to develop a bad reputation at launch.

It won’t take too many more reports of problems like this – justified or not – to give Windows 7 a black eye. So again, we’ll all wait and see how it all shakes out. This fall should be very interesting to say the least.

Critical Windows 7 Bug Discovered

A critical Windows 7 bug has been uncovered that can cause a complete “blue screen” crash when triggered. You can read more about it at InfoWorld’s site.

The bug is triggered during the use of a disk checking utility that is part of the Windows OS. While the use of this utility is not too common by average users, it is definitely heavily used by power users and IT professionals. The real problem is that this bug may be rooted in the file system code, which is causing a great deal of worry in the IT industry. As quoted in the InfoWorld article:

The bottom line: A file system-level bug, at this late stage in the development cycle, should be considered a showstopper by most IT organizations.

A recent survey showed that only 16% of companies plan to deploy Windows 7 within a year. With the economy straining IT resources already, news like this may only serve to make companies put off Windows 7 even longer. The longer it takes for Windows 7 to gain significant traction in the business market, the longer the “Vista hangover” effect will haunt Microsoft, allowing competitors to continue to gain marketshare. Microsoft really needs to hit a home run with Windows 7, so this discovery is certainly unwelcome news to them.

Pin It on Pinterest