Nazis Stomping Fluffy Kittens

Gregory Alan Bolcer (
Mon, 08 Dec 1997 08:27:59 -0800

Back when Rick Selby (UCI, computer scinece) and Michael Cusumano
(MIT, business) were thinking about naming their book, Selby came into a
software meeting here with a boyish grin. He proudly proclaimed:
'Microsoft Secrets, How the World's Most Powerful Company Creates
Technology, Shapes Markets, and Manages People'. He started
discussing why he took that title by asking the question, what other
company has been so successful in doing these things. To which I
responded without hesitation, DeBeer's Mining Corporation. 2 Weeks
later he changed the title to '...World's Most Powerful *Software*
Company'. He said that with the DOJ probe, they didn't want to add any
fuel to the fire.

Think about it. All the world loves diamonds. What is so special about
them? They have some industrial value. In fact, DeBeer's sold diamonds
to the Nazis during WWII and some say prolonged the war 2-3 more years
in Europe than it would have lasted and cost hundreds of
thousands of more lives Any new diamond mine anywhere in
the world is bought out immediately. Prices are kept artificially high,
but people love diamonds.

Another Microsoft book came out the next year by Randall Stross, a
business historian. 'The Microsoft Way: The Real Story of How the
Company Outsmarts its Competition'. Stross argues that most of
Microsoft's phenomenal success is due to it's hiring of the smartest
people. He goes on to say that much of Microsoft bashish is reflective
of anti-intellectualism. This burned me so much that I returned the
book and got my money back. To say that all criticism in the eyes of MS
employees stems from anti-intellecutalism or is morally equivalent to
bigotry is both elitist and arrogantly Orwellian.

I think Microsoft has some extremely bright people that do some very
excellent research (in fact some of my very close friends used to work
there). Also, I've tried to model my own group based on
the principles outlined C&S's book and along the same management
and organizational axes. ( )
I think Microsoft has some quality problems. I think this stems from
being too customer-feature oriented and not enough
architecture-infrastructure oriented. I think the development culture
(not the research culture) is too visual feature oriented and doesn't
believe in non-functional nor non-graphical attributes of software.

Anwyays, there is a difference between shaping a market and creating a
market. Perhaps they both take innovation, but one is more blueprintish
and the other visionish.