Tuesday, August 8, 2006

Niall Sez Microsoft is Too Big and Paralyzed

Well, allow me to be the last blog to shout into the echo chamber about Niall Kennedy... doing what? Oh yeah: Leaving Microsoft. Lots of high profile folks have been leaving Microsoft lately and I haven't been making a big show out of many of them, but for some reason, Niall's short-time at Microsoft got my attention.

Two interesting snippets, one from Niall's entry and one from the luscious Valleywag (I so wish we had a Seattle version of Valleywag):

(1) Windows Live is under some heavy change, reorganization, pullback, and general paralysis and unfortunately my ability to perform, hire, and execute was completely frozen as well.

(2) Wag: Microsoft seems friendly toward people returning after leaving for their own startups. I've seen a few people leave for other companies and return with no problem. Do you see yourself ever doing that?

Niall: Not really, but perhaps if the company was split up first and there was some new project I was excited about that could only be done at a company such as Microsoft.

Wag: Split up?

Niall: Splitting the company into desktop, server, online, and possibly gaming divisions. It's just too big.

(from: Exclusive: Niall Kennedy's Microsoft exit interview: He'd only rejoin if Microsoft split up )

Lots of echoes in the chamber rolled up at TechMeme. Rumblings of cut-backs and paralysis and Microsoft being the new IBM. I certainly agree with the desire for Microsoft to be a way smaller company (though I think every time I say that, or ring a bell, 100 more people get hired). I'm not bought into the split-up, except for the sobering benefit of cutting off the cash-cow money flow that allows an abundance of waste and bad decisions elsewhere in the company.

What does it mean to try to hire a superstar today or to grow into a superstar? Can superstars actually get things done at Microsoft? And does this show a revealing shift that all that Live stuff we yanked out of the plucky start.com as a grand, confusing rebranding effort is taking a moment to pause and figure life out? Did we wake up from the Live-demo-bender, rub our face and shake our head, and ask, "What the hell was I thinking?"

A compelling vision would be great right about now. And not a dorky wired-up clipboard that has seemed to have dematerialized. A vision around making money and doing things that, if I told people sucking on a Frappuccino about, they'd say, "Oooh, that's cool. When can I do that?" And if someone is talented and motivated to get things done, how do you unblock them to make it so?

Update: the initial bunch of comments don't weep for Niall and are pretty much summarized as "good riddance and Live is doing super-fine." Maybe more progress will be more exit-door seekers. One can hope.

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