But what is it like to be acquired by Microsoft? It is not very pleasant.
Some of this is an artifact of being acquired by any big company, and the
rest is peculiar to Microsoft. "Almost everyone I know regrets the
acquisition," said an early Hotmail employee no longer with the company. "An
IPO would have been more fun."
Microsoft is not some big, stupid, screwed-up company. It is a big, smart
screwed-up company. Part of that screwiness has to do with the way Microsoft
manages the companies it acquires. This stems, I believe, from a bad
experience in the company's very first acquisition, when it bought
Powerpoint. Even though this late-80s purchase was of a company with fewer
than 50 employees, both Bill Gates and then-CEO Jon Shirley told me the
experience was horrific for Microsoft. It was a problem of trying to merge
corporate cultures that were very different. And the lesson learned was not
to even try for such a merger. For the sake of Microsoft, the new model says
that the corporate culture of the company being bought has to die.
Here's what any company that wants to be bought by Microsoft should know
about the boys and girls from Redmond. First, it is an adversarial culture
that makes progress only through constant infighting and bickering. "During
the technical due diligence, two Microsoft people got in an argument that we
thought might actually come to blows," said a Hotmail founder. "They were
fighting with each other in front of us. It was our first hint of what was
to come. Politeness is ignored and bitches are rewarded. Everything is about
Today Hotmail is primarily a way of shoveling new users into the MSN portal.
We had for a short time a feature called Centerpoint for communicating
directly with our users, but that was killed as a possible competitor with
the MSN portal. No new features could be added because the Outlook Express
team saw us as competition and sabotaged everything."
From: Nev Dull [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Thursday, September 09, 1999 1:05 PM
Subject: HTML O' The Day
What Hotmail learned is that at Microsoft almost anyone can say
'no,' but hardly anyone can say 'yes.'