Wednesday, September 3, 2008

(tap tap tap) Is This Thing On?

(tap tap tap... is this thing on?)

Review Season: well, just about everyone should have their reviews and numbers by now or very very soon - at least by the time you get your next automatic deposit! Given that address book updates went out the beginning of this week (for titles that are no longer opaque thanks to the CSPs) I've barged into more than one conversation of "Can you believe that <fill in the blank> was promoted to- oh! Hi."

Personally, while I still deeply appreciate not having to fork over sacrificial 3.0 reviews, I am still seeing, for all of my organization, okay compensation numbers for great work. And freaking-fantastic numbers for super-star work (salary schmalary for those people). That is how our system is set up and for those individual super-stars, it works out very very well. But by necessity, it requires great workers to get okay compensation in order to put the super in super-rewards.

And if it makes you angry, put that energy into networking around Microsoft for a new position or spiffing up that resume and seeing what other opportunities there are.

Company Meeting ahoy: not too long until the 2008 Microsoft Company Meeting. For any new readers: I absolutely love the Company Meeting, though last year's Company Meeting certainly tried my patience... like that Sweetheart that starts being a a real dick to make you break up with them. Things on my wish list for this year's Meeting, kind of echoing that old post:

  • Very few demos: at least, any demos there are should be short, fast, new vs. repackaged, and presented as if you were doing a power demo to the smartest people in the world. Cos you sorta are. And goodness, no calls for helps if your demo goes belly up.
  • Ballmer early: Ballmer gave a fantastic and interesting speech last year. Which most people didn't hear because their endurance gave out long before. I'd still expect him to be the end-of-day blood-rushing presenter. But I hope he can show up early to either kick things off or serve as a punch to keep things going.
  • Shaking Money Makers: time to show off Win7 and Office 14. Well, if you're like me you get to see them a lot everyday, but there needs to be a highly condensed so fast you miss half of what you see demo spurt of Win7 and O14, along with teasers of other emerging properties. They are our financial foundation and while most of the development work is done for them and we have at least a year before they surf through DCRs and stabilization, the employees deserve a peep show here.
  • New Blood: thanks to our great Town Halls, I kinda don't need to hear from our executive leadership team. I'd like to see some new, up-and-coming blood on stage vs. the same-old-same-old. And please, we're geeks, so make sure the new blood is geek-o-riffic like the rest of us vs. those country club shiny people that popped up so much last year. <<Shudder>> How about some Microspotting interludes?
  • Surprises: we come to this to be surprised and see things before (most) anyone else. Get CliffyB on stage to demo Gears of Wars 2 or something. Show us the new Halo stuff. The new 120GB Zune and interesting new Zune software features. Something. I won't blog about it. Cross my heart. Just please don't make the Xbox or Zune seem as lame and empty as they did last year. Here's Apple popping out another special event soon. Pop 'em back.
  • The Great Seinfield Reconciliation Paradox: or, time to show us the new ad campaign and how we have a coherent brand strategy that makes sense. There are a lot of fronts of our business with aggressive competitors that we're slipping in (mobile, gaming, television, OS, browsing, consumer). Time to see that not only do we realize this, we have a plan to meet and exceed. And goodness help you if your advertising solution to this involves some guy stuck in a big vat of orange goo in a barren landscape bragging how he can still check his Outlook email on his Windows Mobile Device. What?
  • Logistics: man, be on the first bus out of Redmond if you want to enjoy the Company Meeting. I usually leave as soon as I can but I'm still there after things have started. And I feel bad being into the third or fourth presentation and seeing a line of charter buses still making their way to Safeco Field. I do hope our buses figure different routes to get to the same point. And non-Microsofties: stay the heck away from Safeco field on 9/18/08.
  • No Paper: how about you sit down on the floor / first level and get pelted with poorly made paper airplanes for the whole meeting? That should be your penalty if you are involved in the least in distributing any paper to the Microsofties as they come in to Safeco.

Am I right in that they've dropped the whole best manager competition? Hmm. Guess after that one winner we exhausted all the candidates. What do you want to see at the Company Meeting or have the leadership talk about?

Old Business: it has been a while. The next thing I planned to write about was the Word from Wall Street with Charles Di Bona and Dylan Yolles from back near the end of July. Colleen, you crack me up, asking if Mr. DiBona was Mini-Microsoft. I wish! And Charlie, you could never disappoint me. Dividends. Buy back. Whatever.

Anyway, one interesting impression I got out of the vibe from the analysts: Microsoft leadership, time is up. Time is up to have us trust that you have a super secret plan that will really, truly work any year now. You went and convinced us that you have a huge vulnerability with respect to the online world by that totally confused and befuddled attempt to acquire Yahoo! and now you give us no specifics about what you're doing. Other than spending a whole hell of a lot of money (nice: You're telling us that there's a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Only, that rainbow is going to cost a lot of money to build to get us to that pot). Time's up.

I disagree with Mr. Yolles about the consumer market.vs. the enterprise market. If anything, we've suffered in doing so much for the enterprise market that most of the features are either user hostile (look, I can shut you out of using a USB drive) or just non-interesting. I think you can have both. There's a bunch of money walking around in the pockets of everyday people.

As for our huge cash reserve: now that we're not buying Yahoo! (right, right?) what to do? Not a dividend! But a big buyback of our stock. There was a rumor a couple of weeks ago that a buyback was under consideration, but nothing's come of it since.

An interesting observation was made that Google's Android has been created with 30 people at Google. That makes analysts look at how many people are responsible for Windows Mobile and ask, "Why? Why so many people? Why so much overhead? How do the results match up?" This feeds a desire now for some picking around in our overhead of our groups. Not a place our leadership wants to be, but a hard question that goes unanswered: what the hell do you need all these people for, anyway? Can you get by with less?

Yes. Of course we can. If you had to lose 10% of your group, not only would you get by, you'd receive a new sort of clarity about what was truly important vs. distracting. Our over abundance of people allows us to overwhelm our work with marginal, half-thought-out features to keep the mediocre C contributors busy and lets us go into the weeds pursuing edge cases. Ah, well, tired of listening to this same broken record?

Final take-away: Microsoft has to demonstrate that it is efficient and effective. What does that look like?

Administrivia: apologies for being away for an extended duration. It was a necessary departure and absence to be elsewhere with a situation that required my full attention. Best wishes to you to avoid such experiences for a long, long time. I'm about to go through... fifty pending comments. Whew. Where's that wine bottle?

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