Re: [NYT] Microsoft Relies Again on Inner Circle

From: Stephen D. Williams (
Date: Sat Apr 21 2001 - 20:05:30 PDT

Adam Rifkin wrote:
> Not long ago, the company videotaped ordinary users as they tried to set up
> their new computer systems. Mr. Allchin watched the videos, and recalled
> being alarmed and embarrassed by some of the confusing situations in which
> nontechnical owners of PC's found themselves.
> "I wanted to crawl underneath my desk," he said.

Just as I suspected: It's obvious MS hasn't done any, or at least enough
focus groups. Gee, they finally decided to try it.

AOL has always lived on focus groups.

> Installing Quality Control
> Paul Flessner is one of the best examples of "adult supervision" at
> Microsoft. Before he joined the company in 1994, he managed large corporate
> computing systems for many years - and was often an unhappy Microsoft
> customer.
> "I was very vocal about saying their software was just not bulletproof," he
> said.
> Since then, he has tried to change the company culture to focus first on
> quality and to worry less about the time it takes to get a product to market
> or how many new features are included. He did this first in building the
> company's database- software business and more recently as part of
> Microsoft's push into .Net Web services.
> The strategy has paid off handsomely. Microsoft's database business, once
> worth about $50 million a year, has grown to more than $1 billion since Mr.
> Flessner took it over. That is one reason that he has become a respected
> voice inside the company's leadership council.
> "It used to be that quality at Microsoft was a second- or third-order
> value," said Barry Goffe, a group manager who has worked for Mr. Flessner
> since coming to Microsoft six years ago. "Paul really changed the ethos of
> how we develop products."
> Other groups at Microsoft, including the one that developed the Windows 2000
> operating system, have since adopted many of Mr. Flessner's ideas. Customers
> and reviewers have praised Windows 2000 for being more stable than previous
> products.
> Mr. Flessner supervises about 2,500 people, including developers who left
> I.B.M. and Tandem Computers specifically to work with him.

This guy sounds pretty valuable...

> "Good managers in general are a rare thing," Mr. Goffe said, "and good
> managers capable of overseeing a vast collection of rocket scientists and
> who have egos and opinions are even rarer."
> A Quieter Approach
> Some veteran Microsoft software developers have expressed reservations about
> Kai-Fu Lee's being put in charge of advising Mr. Gates on radically changing
> the way people use computers. His qualifications are not at issue, but his
> approach is. They note that Mr. Lee is reserved and academic, which are not
> the typically combative characteristics of a Microsoft executive.
> The Trekkie Researcher
> When it comes to vision, few people at Microsoft can rival Richard F.
> Rashid. He was recruited from Carnegie Mellon University a decade ago by Mr.
> Myhrvold specifically to start a research laboratory for the software
> company.
> After considering his future at Carnegie Mellon, where he was next in line
> to become dean of the computer science department, Dr. Rashid moved to
> Redmond and what eventually became Microsoft Research. That group, with
> laboratories in four countries, has projects ranging from new approaches to
> distributed computing to voice recognition and mathematical theory.



Stephen D. Williams
43392 Wayside Cir,Ashburn,VA 20147-4622 703-724-0118W 703-995-0407Fax 

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