On Microsoft, a few months out.

I’m a few months out from my time at Microsoft, and in a new gig in a new environment (GAEMS, in case you didn’t see.). It’s given me some perspective and time to think about the company in general, especially since I have read the Vanity Fair article summarized here.

While I can’t quibble with the accuracy of a lot of the points the article makes (now that I have some distance from it, I really now understand how damaging Microsoft’s performance review model is), I certainly feel the article is unfair in blaming Microsoft for a lot of mistakes while glossing over or minimizing its successes.

I don’t think you can call a decade “lost” when Windows 7 did so well, and Xbox, Kinect, and Halo are names known even to my mom. The excitement in the tech space alone over new devices like the Surface show me that while certainly Apple is perceived as “more cool” and Google, weirdly, is starting to be perceived as “more evil” I don’t see a place in there where Microsoft is perceived as “Dead.”

Microsoft is certainly executing on a variety of things now, and while organizationally it has some challenges, concepts like Smartglass and making that work on competing platforms like iOS and Android clearly shows the company is capable still of pivoting according to the realities of the market and doing so with cool technology that provides a real benefit. The Windows team is finishing up Windows 8, Office is looking to other platforms, and even the more staid stuff like Windows Server still innovates in ways that most people will not notice.

I may be an ex employee, but I’m still bullish on Microsoft. 

But that performance review model is a real hindrance and in my opinion has got to go.


  1. Like, agreed, right? It’s horrible and incentivizes tons of BS. But you see the same model at Amazon, and Apple, and Google, and basically every other huge tech company. Hard to blame failures at MS on the review model.

  2. I think part of the problem lies with the definition of “success”, particularly when it comes to XBox and the various associated products (Halo, Kinect, …) XBox has entered our collective consciousness. The brand recognition is there, the cool factor undeniable… but from a business standpoint I wouldn’t call it a success. And ultimately it’s all that matters for Microsoft’s shareholders. The company still hasn’t weaned itself off Windows and Office profits. A lot of the Microsoft products that have been launched in the past 10 years wouldn’t be able to survive without the cash from those 2 teams.

  3. tukachinchilla says:

    The ‘someone has to be bad’ review model has been in place for years. I was happy to have parted with my previous company because of their embracing of what was then called “The Jack Welsh Way”. I’m now in a ‘matrix’ of ‘virtual’ organization, where I have two managers, neither of which are in the same state. My day to day supervisor guides my activity but actually holds no more weight in reviews than a coworker. The point is, large companies, in trying to weigh performance across many sites, adopt a means of leveling that invariably turns into a template with no room for expansion; there’s no metric for thinking outside the box.

    On Microsoft, I know personally of a long term contractor in your ms games/xblive area. Couldn’t get info from the next office because there was no incentive to collaborate. As for innovation, you mention exciting new products – for XBox. Office should had been on tablets and phones years ago, Win8 will have a hard time in the enterprise, and VMWare is entrenched and has been running laps around ms’ cloud for forever.

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