Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Microsoft Company Meeting 2008

Alright, here we go! Company Meeting 2008! A chance to forget everything that went wrong last year?

Speaking of yesteryear, I've touched on The Company Meeting in 2004, 2005, 2006, and 2007. 2004 was fairly light because that was the special limited seating event that let everyone forget that it was actually the Company Meeting day and go-about their day as usual. 2005 was fun. 2006 was weird with the coordinated post-commenting frenzy here. And 2007 started with great potential and melted down with each mind-numbing demo.

Plus the burping game.

My main wish this year is that Ballmer's speech meets last year's quality, that he shows last year scorecard and where we are now, and that more than 1,000 people are around to hear the speech when it actually happens. Let's hear more about the idea of Many Microsofts. Or... was last year all throw away?

Okay, I'm off to pack some warm clothes and a few extra cups for all of the Microsoft Kool-aid I intend to guzzle. Sorry, all you folks who think it's a waste of money and effort. This is my opportunity to re-energize myself and see my peers and team re-energized. Oh, and do me a favor on Thursday: join me in letting out a joyful "Boo!" for any hiring statistics that show us throwing on more and more bodies we don't need in the ranks.

Post Company Meeting - some thoughts.

Well, it's days later but I still have that tangy fresh taste of Microsoft Kool-aid running around my mouth. I felt that the Company Meeting was really enjoyable. I appreciate it took a tremendous amount of effort into coordinating it and making amends for last year. Rainn Wilson I thought was a great host and, c'mon, who couldn't have loved his big finale before SteveB's entrance?!? A band, shooting flames, fireworks, exploding streamers, break dancers, and beach balls tumbling down on the crowd! Whoo! Why did it have to end?

And kudos to the planners for an innovative solution to the constant paper airplane harassment of year's past. I don't know if we broke a world record or not. Hopefully not. Hopefully every year we just miss it by that much and we try again the next year.

And the crowd held together. I always look around and see how people are doing and keep an ear out for distracted chatter. The crowd pretty much was engaged most of the time, except for Craig Mundie. It was a big crowd and everyone stayed put until the end, vs. the large-scale abandonment we had last year up to and through Mr. Ballmer's presentation.

Random notes from me:

It was nice that it started off with a big-reveal. Will Halo-fanboys be upset to know that Master Chief's face was revealed only to Microsofties? Keep the secret.

Our mission statement: "Create experiences that combine the magic of software with the power of Internet services across a world of devices." Ba-roo? Everytime I think of it, all I see is a grinning Doug Henning tossing a handful of confetti sparkles into the air, gasping, "...the magic of software!" and conjuring up a glittering world full of devices. Mr. Adam Barr works over the mission statement and comes up with something far more direct.

Demos: better than last year, if that's saying anything. There was a lot of stable-candy that could have been shown but that wasn't. I'm glad they went through Office 14 and Windows 7 scenarios, along with some of our other apps out there. The geek in me was indeed wow'd by the Excel demo and I felt proud that we had implemented something as geekily-groovy as that. I want to meet the people who did this and listen to their story of how it actually all works. I think I would learn something great. I can't say that the customer reaction will be as enthusiastic.

I'm disappointed that the teams that could have shown something really rah-rah cool didn't. I'm looking at you, Xbox. Oh, wait, there was the whole bust-a-move part...

You: over and over again it was pointed out that Microsoft employees are its biggest assets. And? I guess admission is the first step. I'm not looking for bread and circuses perks like dry cleaning and grocery drop-off but rather deep meaningful career development and a meritocracy in our compensation for people and teams. And, you know, having less assets around.

Speakers: better than last year, and no random Slick Willies from the country club. Yeah! Elop is a really good presenter. Ray was okay, as was most everyone. Sinofsky was a bit bumpy in getting the words out (he makes up for it in typing, trust me). Craig Mundie was a wall: a cold-stop wall that everyone used as a mental- and bio-break. Most folks in my section were asking, "Hey, who is this guy?"

And then there was Steve.

Last year's SteveB speech was much better and deeper and challenging. This year: not bad and not challenging at all. Yes, we had the five points to go over so I guess that replaces the scorecard from last year (too bad... what's the worth of having a scorecard if you're not keeping score?). No mention of the becoming many Microsofts. But, we have a discussion of The Stock.

Microsoft Stock: (SteveB slowly waves his a hand infront of the audience) These are not the droids you're looking for. You don't care about the Microsoft stock price. Move along. Move along. I'd like to say "Nice try." But it wasn't even that. Does anyone remember that brief moment of Microsoft stock flirting around $37? I don't know about you, but I started to see a new old-energy kick on around my team and the teams I worked with. Last year, Mr. Ballmer asked what had happened to our boldness. I know where it is, and it starts at around $37. You want to see super-boldness? That starts at $45.

Oh, and it also starts in NOT doing dumb knee-capping moves like the muddled acquisition attempt of Yahoo! The responsibility for causing that stock plunge and its aftermath was not even mentioned. Un-bold. Yahoo! was totally that terribly embarrassing family event - like a wedding that melted down at the altar - that no one brought up.

A lot of us have been at this company - and participating in the stock compensation program - already for the long-term. And have stock bupkis, along with our shareholders. So it was bold to bring up the stock issue, but the discussion was unsatisfying and lacked any sort of boldness explaining mistakes that have got us here (Yahoo!, surprising Wall Street with multi-billion dollar investments, etc).

At least we know a bargain when we see it: Microsoft Announces Share Repurchase Program and Increases Quarterly Dividend $40 billion authorized for share repurchase; Dividend increased 18 percent. That's good, and lord help us all if that doesn't put the final nail into the Yahoo! acquisition coffin. A curious development as part of this:

Microsoft also announced that its board of directors has authorized debt financings from time to time of up to $6 billion. Pursuant to the authorization, the company has established a $2 billion commercial paper program. Microsoft intends to use the net proceeds from any debt financings for general corporate purposes, which may include funding for working capital and repurchases of stock.

Curious to me given that Microsoft and Debt have never been two words I've put together in my mind.

Your Say: after the meeting, what are your impressions? You know, safe to share impressions.

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