Windows Phone 7 – A brighter Future…maybe

I have been pretty hard on Microsoft Mobile and rightfully so as they have been a rather stagnant organization and as I posted in my earlier blog (A Microsoft Mobile Disaster) one that  has failed to listen to the market place.  It now seems with the launch of Windows Phone 7 that Microsoft has decided to compete.  Some at Microsoft would say they have always competed and others say they have never competed.   I side with the marketplace on this one.

When I look at Windows Phone 7 everything I read is this is a consumer phone.  It seems stupid when you hear it.  Why wouldn’t you have  been making a consumer mobile phone?  A little history may shed some light. I was on vacation for a couple of weeks and when I got back I received an email that SteveB had sent to the Windows Mobile  Team.  While I was away he had come to Bldg 117 and spoke to the Windows Mobile Team.  At the time Pieter Knook was Sr VP of Mobility.  During that time within te team they were focused on the business professional.  One of the least sexiest segments, if not the least sexiest, in the mobile industry.  It focused on the suits of the world, and frankly since they no longer do martini lunches they lack personality.  Steve told the audience in a moment of wisdom, “You can focus all you want on the business Pro, but unless you have a consumer play the numbers will never add up to greater market share”.  Unfortunately the email I received was not about that.  Apparently the troops were a little down trodden after his talk, so he apologized.  Steve…why!?!?!  For whatever reason Steve did not trust his instincts on this one. This set off another 5 years of sub par performance.

When the iPhone launched and Billg saw it he said, “We have set the bar too low..”.  The iPhone really ripped the Microsoft Mobile team to the core and with the latest quarterly results from Apple it may be a juggernaut too great to catch, but to my old companies credit a technical challenge is something that will never be shunned.  My old team had VP of Development Scott Guthrie present once.  Scott said it was painful to get the Windows Mobile team to scrap the old code base, but it was realistically the only way that Microsoft was even going to have a remote chance of catching up with Apple.  But it was interesting to hear how many opposed this idea.

Now that the phone is in the market (in Europe) a bigger challenge will be to get application developers to write cool apps for the phone.  The goal was to have 10,000 applications at launch.  To put this in perspective Android and the iPhone have over 100,000.  When you are asking internal people at Microsoft to write apps so you can make your number a certain amount of sadness comes over me to hear  that company needs to issue that directive.  If you cannot excite the developer then it is time to pack up and go home.

At the end of the day the market will decide and it is already a pretty crowded field so what does Microsoft Mobile 7 offer that separates it from the rest of the mobile crowd?  Having seen it and test driven a little, not a whole lot.  Don’t get me wrong the touch screen  UI is nice and responsive.  But as far as I can tell there is no “wow” moment.  Those type of moments are hard to come by.  Even Android does not have a “wow” moment but it was out way earlier than Windows Mobile 7 was, so it had a head start.  Plus i think the open source driven development model had a “sexy” appeal to developers.  The interesting change in mobile is  the need for application’s and both Google and Apple have high marks in getting developers to write these “cools” apps.   Getting back to the Ray Ozzie final memo it demonstrates the idea of technology as part of an appliance.  No longer is one chained to the desk, sitting and watching their waste line expand.  In todays new world everything is mobile. 

We have come along way in mobility and though Microsoft jumped on at the midway point it is just now starting to understand the battlefield.  Is it too late?  When you have $40 billion in the bank you have weapons that others don’t you have a chance.  The reviews so far has been mixed and Microsoft has been working hard to get developers to write Windows Phone apps.  The market was tough when Microsoft entered but now the landscape has completely changed.  It is no longer RIM they are after, but Apple and Android.  I will be honest I am really skeptical on this one, but maybe a catastrophic defeat is just what Microsoft needs, for a brighter future…maybe.

Good Night and Good Luck.

Hans Henrik Hoffmann Oct 27th, 2010

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Ray Ozzie Goodbye

Well I was already to complete a new blog post when Ray Ozzie decided to release a goodbye memo. A very timely release.   It is a monumental read and hopefully whomever reads my blog  will check it out.  A few comments and then I will let my blog rest and let everyone just read Ray.

  1. Microsoft has a lot of great assets and if they can rally and pull together those troops they can make a major impact. 
  2. The idea of the PC is undergoing fundamental change
  3. We are and will be always connected and this will drive change
  4. We are moving to appliance driven innovation both in the enterprise and for the consumer

Click on the link and enjoy.  As I started my last blog on Ray Ozzie – a Review, Ray Ozzie is a legend.  Tech legends deliver these type of  visionary memo’s.  Enjoy.

Good Night and Good Luck

Hans Hoffmann Oct 25th,, 2010

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Ray Ozzie at Microsoft – A review

With the announcement of Ray Ozzie’s pending departure i t seemed to be a good time to finish a blog I had started many months ago.  Partly with this announcement in mind. It seemed apparent for some time while at Microsoft and after I was gone that Ray had become very silent. It was also pretty clear that the rumors that Ray and SteveB never talked were true.  It ended with Ray not even participating in Microsoft’s company meeting recently held at the hollowed venue: Safeco Field.  It’s good to look back on Ray’s time at Microsoft and what to expect moving forward.

To start let me be clear: In the tech industry Ray Ozzie is a legend.  When Microsoft acquired his company Groove Networks, what really happened was Microsoft acquired Ray Ozzie.  The happiest person on campus was probably also his biggest fan, Bill Gates.  It was like two kids in a candy store.  Two men who were software guys who had helped create the tech industry now together talking about the power and impact that software could have on day-to-day lives, what could be better?  As time would move and Bill Gates would move on it was apparent that Ray would be the new Chief Software Architect.

Early on Ray would send an important memo around the company called the “Internet Services Disruption”.  It as important at the time because this was the type of memo that BillG would send which would have great impact in mobilizing the forces at Microsoft as to what the new company imperative should be.  When I read it it was what I viewed as a brilliant piece of work.  Not just because of what he viewed the challenges would be moving forward, but some of the great technologies we already had to meet these challenges.  In some cases they were things that maybe had lost their pizzaz but when Ray took a fresh look at them he saw value. An example was technologies like AJAX and DHTML which were created at Microsoft and fueled a lot of growth on the internet (AJAX was more evangelized by Google, but invented by MS). It was those set of fresh eyes on our assets that impressed me so much.  It was a brilliant memo and one that seemed to lay the ground work for who would be fueling the vision post Bill Gates.

Where did  it then go wrong?  I can point to a number of instances.  I will start with my own Ray Ozzie experience.  He was speaking in Silicon Valley and the topic of Bill Gates “Think Week” came up.  BillG had done this for years.  Anyone could submit a paper to BillG’s “Think Week”.  He  would then accept papers and go to his compound in Hood Canal and armed with just a personal chef read and review all the papers submitted.  When he got back he would post all the papers so we as employees could see what was on his mind.  Some papers were about the future, others about internal Microsoft technology challenges.  It was a fascinating read.  When asked if he as going to do one, Ray as blunt, “No that was really a Bill thing”.   I was not impressed.  In fact I was so upset about it I sent him an email.  It was pretty simple, but my point was firm.  Microsoft is a technical company, with very technical people.  These people crave this type of peer review.  Especially from some one like Ray Ozzie.  I said in the email “don’t sell your self short, people really do want to hear your opinions”.  Ray did reply to me saying thank you and being very gracious.  I guess in the end it was something he did not want to do.

A second area was just Ray’s personality.  He was not a comfortable speaker.  I am not saying he was bad.  When Ray spoke people listened.  Anyone in the tech industry wanted to hear hat he had to say.  But everything about Ray was about a guy who was most comfortable in a meeting room with a whiteboard.  Everything I heard internally was when he was doing this he usually wowed the people in the room.  He was a classic wingman.  Loved operating behind the scenes and influencing those around him.  Front and center was just not a big driver for Ray.

Finally there was the cult of Steve and Bill.  I was once told by someone at Microsoft that the company suffered from a cult of personality.  It was personified in Steve and Bill.  Ray was Bill’s choice to replace him.  That however does mean that Steve had to accept it, despite the title bestowed upon Ray of Chief Software Architect.  The relationship between Steve and Bill was very close, forged over 30 years,  I would also say it was not one of pure peers.  Steve would often say it is “Bill’s Company”, much to the annoyance of other execs.  My impression was despite the outside perception they worked in tandem, Steve deferred and I think to a degree was in awe of Bill.  When Bill left it would be a void no one could fill.  Ray was put in a position to fail.

With Ray’s departure it raises the question “Who will provide the technical leadership, the technical vision for Microsoft?”.  Yet another tech legend is leaving Microsoft.  It is paramount that someone is there to anticipate the tidal wave changes that impact the industry, because when they come, they come fast, furious, and with no remorse.  Are there candidates?  Hard to say at this point.  In his announcement SteveB said there would be no new Chief Software Architect.  No one to set the internal trends for future software development.  Oh well I guess it is not really that important to have a visionary at the worlds largest software company.  All I can add is pathetic.

Good Night and Good Luck

Hans Henrik Hoffmann Oct 19, 2010