With the untimely passing of Steve Jobs this week, like many people, I reflected on how I've been impacted by his contributions. I never met Steve or even saw him in person, but Apple and Steve Jobs definitely played a big role in my life.
My first programming class was summer school after 7th grade (1981?). We had Apple II computers with black-and-white 9" monitors and 110 baud teletype terminals connected to MECC (Minnesota Educational Computing Consortium). The Apples would overheat, so we'd have to open them up and fan them with their lids, but I didn't care. They were pretty magical. Over the next few summers, I improved my Applesoft BASIC programming and learned 6502 Assembly. (I didn't realize the Applesoft BASIC came from Microsoft and was an amalgamation of the two names.)
We eventually bought an Apple II+ with 48K of RAM, two floppy drives, an Amdek color monitor, and an Epson dot matrix printer. (This was in addition to the TRS-80 Model III we had first; we were definitely the first house of anyone I knew with two computers at home.) My friends and I pirated a lot of software (LockSmith is your friend) and played a lot of games like Loderunner, Choplifter, Castle Wolfenstein, and especially Wizardry.
I moved on to teaching Apple programming at home for $25 for five one hour lessons (maybe it was five two hour lesson); this was big money at the time since I was in ninth grade or something. I also wrote an Apple II database program for my school district to keep track of all of the padlock combinations for the lockers; as a result, I could open pretty much any lock in our school district. I got paid in stacks of floppy disks for this. I also got to borrow the first hard drive I ever saw -- a VCR-sized 5MB Winchester (I think); it was partitioned as something like two hundred floppy drives since the OS couldn't support big volumes.
At Stanford, I was a diehard Mac guy, with my Mac Plus with two 800K floppy drives (I eventually upgraded to a Mac SE with a 40MB aftermarket hard drive -- hot stuff.) I also worked at MicroDisc, the computer department of the Stanford Bookstore. At the time, we were the largest Apple reseller in the world. Senior year, I would borrow the new Mac Portable from the store on weekends. I would work on my programming projects at Denny's, drinking their bottomless coffee for hours. Most people hadn't seen a portable computer before, so I was definitely a trendsetter for the now-ubiquitous laptop-in-coffee shop scene.
I took this Mac experience to my first job Microsoft where I worked on Works for Macintosh 3.0 and 4.0. (I think my name is on one of the mailing labels on the box shot to the right.) I had a nice Mac IIci on my desk, but our developers had the screaming-fast (then) Mac IIfx machines. (I remember being amazed that the MacIIfx basically had two Apple IIs inside just to monitor the ADB ports. We'd come a long way...)
My team also ran the Mac lab where we got to see all of the new Mac hardware before they released. Back then, we had a lot of Macs around Microsoft. Every printer room had Apple Laserwriters as well as HP printers, and a lot of people used Word and Excel for Mac instead of on Windows 3.0 since the Mac versions were better.
Of course, even when I wasn't working directly on Apple products, Apple affected me a great deal. There's no question in my mind that Apple helped make Microsoft better by providing a great competitor. They had (and have) a different approach to making products that we envied, even when they weren't making as much money as we were (things have changed).
So, thanks, Steve, for all you've done for me and my life over the last thirty years. RIP.
Like many of us, I think, it's hard to believe it's been ten years since the attacks of 9/11. We got a frantic wake-up call from our friend Steph to go turn on our TV and watch the news because some "crazy shit was going on". We saw the first tower billowing smoke and then watched in horror to see the second plane crash into the other tower. It's still stunning to think about.
I went into the office to make sure all of my team was accounted for (we had people travelling to the East Coast at the time). It was really scary since no one knew if there were other attacks coming, and Microsoft was a relatively high profile US target. Michelle didn't want me to go, and in introspect, I probably should have stayed home with my family. Fortunately, of course, we were OK, and all of the Microsoft employees were safe.
Security on campus changed after 9/11. We've always had cardkeys, but after 9/11 it was mandatory that we wear them visibly, and we stopped being able to receive personal packages at work. These have relaxed a little in the intervening years. However, we still have the required parking permits on our cars that started after 9/11.
Pretty quickly after 9/11, flags went up everywhere, including at our Redmond West campus. Hopefully, we never have occasion to fly the flag like this again.
The Bing for iPad app that my team built makes a cameo in a two music videos!
You'll be able to simply say a movie or TV show you want to watch, a song you want to hear, or a game you want to play, and Bing for Xbox will find it for you across different content providers like Hulu, Netflix, and Zune, bringing you all the results in one place; today you'd have to search each of the apps separately. (Of course, if you don't have a Kinect, you can type it out.) So, you just say "Xbox, Bing Batman" to find games, movies, TV shows, and music related to Batman.
Here's a sample of what the search results page might look like if you said, "Xbox, Bing X-Men".
Here's the video of Xbox Live VP Marc Whitten describing the functionality. I love all of the Bing logos everywhere!
If you have an Xbox at home today and log into Xbox Live, you may see an ad describing this upcoming service too. I was pleasantly surprised to see this.
If you select the panel, you get a little more info:
You can then click to see a video of the the feature in action. (I'll see if I can find and post a copy of that video).
I'm proud of the work we've done to get this far and looking forward to getting it out. It was exciting to do the announcement and finally be able to talk about our work a little more publicly!
Yesterday, my new team released Microsoft’s first major app for iPad – Bing for iPad. The response has been better than anything I can remember. Overnight, the app is already the #1 free app for iPad and the reviews have been insanely great. You can see my colleagues Zach (the dude who really lead our effort) and Stefan (our killer PR guy) demoing the product in this video.
I wish I could take credit for how great this app is, but it was already almost done when I joined the group. It’s perhaps a good reminder that often, the best thing a manager can do is stay out of the way…
Title: “Bing for iPad Rocks”
Best quote: “Bing for iPad is so delish I could lick the screen.”
Title:”Bing’s Beautiful iPad app blows Google’s out of the water”
Best quote: “We can quickly see this app becoming a go-to portal for the web on your iPad”
Title:”Bing launches a killer iPad App”
Best quote:”The user experience is highly intuitive”
Title: “Bing’s flair for visual search comes to the iPad”
Best quote:” The app amplifies Bing’s strengths, namely its visual and design aspects”
Title: ”Microsoft releases bing search app tailored specifically to the iPad”
Best quote:”brings an arsenal of goodies”
Title: “Bing for iPad arrives – Win for Microsoft”
Best quote: “The app’s trends page is most impressive”
Baidu, the largest search engine in China, has started an English language blog called Baidu Beat (beat.baidu.com) to comment on Internet trends in China, expanding on their top queries (top.baidu.com). Here’s a link to a good recent post on top internet phenomenon.
If you’re interested, other good English-language sites that comment on the Chinese internet industry and trends are chinaSmack, China Hush, and TechRice. TechRice has a good list of other China tech news sources too.
Today is my 20th anniversary at Microsoft. I never thought I'd be at one company so long (although my dad was a lifer at 3M.) Even during most of senior year, I had not really thought about Seattle a potential place to live or about Microsoft as a potential employer. I had, however, designed the perfect job in my mind so when I learned about the Program Manager role at Microsoft, I knew I wanted it.
I thought I blew it at the job fair though. After I left my resume with the guy at the table, I took two Microsoft pens they were giving away. He noted, "That's odd. Everyone is taking pens. These pencils are great too." I replied immediately, "We're Stanford students. We don't make mistakes." and walked off. I thought for sure my arrogance would kill the deal, but later that week I received an invitation to fly up to Seattle and interview. (It turns out that kind of "confidence" is a desirable trait at Microsoft.) The rest, of course, is history.
I feel very fortunate to have found a job I love so much right out of college. One of the many great things about Microsoft is that you can do very diverse things without having to switch companies. Among other things, I shipped perhaps the first really video intensive game for Windows 3.0 (Golf for Windows 1.0 -- I hit the only hole-in-one during testing), worked on the first new English dictionary in the last 20-30 years (Encarta World English Dictionary), was grilled by the US Department of Justice and the European Union anti-trust dudes -- on the same day, ran a very profitable $200mm business (Works), helped secure and revive Internet Explorer, spoken in front of huge crowds around the world on topics from digital imaging to computer security to internet standards to search, and now have the opportunity to live and work in China and deal with issues like Internet censorship. It's been exciting and challenging every step of the way.
More important, I've learned a ton from my managers, peers, and reports. It really is a privilege to be surrounded by some of the smartest, most creative, most passionate people in the world. There's no way this experience would have been even one-tenth as much fun without these people. I'm a bit surprised every day that the company pays me to do something I love so much.
Things have changed a lot in twenty years. Microsoft had just passed 5,000 employees and had its first year with revenues over $1 billion. (Today we have around 100,000 employees and earn around $60 billion in revenue - nice to see the 60x growth in revenue on 20x growth in headcount.) The first computers on my desk were an IBM PS/2 Model 30 (10 mhz 80286) and a Mac IIci (25 mhz 68030). Microsoft had just shipped Windows 3.0. There was no Internet (not really), mobile phones were just coming out (and were huge), and CD-ROMs were just on the horizon.
Sometimes people tell me how lucky I was to work in the "old Microsoft" and opine how much cooler it must have been then when everything in the industry was new. It was fun, to be sure, but I think today is even better. A lot of the great ideas we had back then were limited by the constraints of the hardware, memory, network, computing power, screen resolution, cost, etc. and even more by the readiness of people and companies to be a part of a digital world. Today, of course, we have computers in our pockets, nearly ubiquitous wireless connectivity, insane storage and computation available to us, and a population comfortable and reliant on technology. Today, virtually the only thing limiting what we can do is our imagination and ability to execute. Now is the time we can finally do really cool stuff.
In commemoration of my service anniversary, Microsoft gave me a ridiculously huge crystal. It's the big brother of the five, ten, and fifteen year crystals (although I never got those since they introduced them after I reached those milestones.)
Here's the huge box on my conference table. That's a 19" monitor on the table for size reference.
The crystal comes well packed. There's a base in the box too plus some cards and other stuff.
Here are my five year (the clock), fifteen year (the stock certificate), and twenty year (the huge crystal) awards side-by-side, in order. (The ten year one looks just like the fifteen year one, so I don't keep it in my office.) Today, all of the awards are progressively larger crystals.
Included in the box is a card from Steve Ballmer thanking me for my service. It was kind of him to pen such a personal note after twenty years...
Someone sent me some screenshots that look like Google is trying out a new feature that allows users to customize their homepage background image. (Sites like Bing or Google often try features out with a % of their users before releasing them into general use. Because these trials are somewhat random, it's hard to force it to happen. As a result, I haven't actually seen these features in action and can't categorically state that these are real images, but the source is credible.)
Here you can see the "Change background image" link they added in the bottom-left corner. (n.b. I added the bigger version to make it easier to read.)
If you click the link, you get this dialog box asking if you want to upload from your computer, from Picasa Web, or a public gallery.
Here's what you see if you click "Public Gallery".
Here's the Google homepage with a custom background image. You can see the "Remove background image" link in the bottom-left.
Maybe I'm biased because I work on Bing for Microsoft, but I think this looks like a bad copy of our custom homepage images. While I'm sure some users would like to upload their own photos to be the background, I think the best part of the Bing homepage is getting a lovely surprise everyday with interesting questions and links about the image. I wonder if Google is a getting a little spooked by Bing; they seem to copying a lot of our features lately.
This is unbelievable.
Google and Baidu to form JV in China?
Apr 1, 2010 at 12:08am ET by Danny Sullivan
Apparently, Google’s recent semi-departure from China in reaction to Chinese censorship and hack attacks on its core infrastructure may not have really meant they wanted to ignore the huge-and-growing Chinese market. According to a blog post by a well-known Chinese tech blogger, Google and Baidu plan to form a joint-venture to bring the assets of the number 1 and 2 largest search engines in the world together.
They apparently plan to start first in China and other Asian markets including Japan and Korea. Unlike its relatively unimpeded success in other countries, Google has struggled to succeed in these markets where strong local competitors such as Yahoo! Japan and Naver have continued to dominate. Baidu has also previously shown ambitions to extend their business outside of China, most recently with the relaunch of their service in Japan two years ago. However, they too have failed to make significant inroads outside of their home market.
The post goes on to say that Google CEO Eric Schmidt and Baidu Chairman and CEO Robin Li have secretly met on several occasions to discuss the affair, choosing remote tropical or skiing destinations to avoid prying eyes. The two have apparently formed a close friendship over the course of the discussions. The post speculates that the new service will be named “Baidoogle”. For the record, I think the name is ridiculous and hope they reconsider. Even “Goodu” would be better.
The post by Chinese tech blogger Fuling Yu was originally published on Sina.com.cn but has since been removed, a process euphemistically referred to as “harmonizing” by Chinese netizens. I’m trying to find another full-text copy as well as more official information and will share with you when I do.
Danny Sullivan is editor-in-chief of Search Engine Land. He’s a widely cited authority on search engines and search marketing issues who has covered the space since 1996. Danny also oversees Search Engine Land’s SMX: Search Marketing Expo conference series. He maintains a personal blog called Daggle, can be found on Facebook, Google Buzz and microblogs on Twitter as @dannysullivan.
See more articles by Danny Sullivan >
I thought this was a fun nod to Halloween from our Visual Search team. Check it out!
Now that I'm working on search, I'm always trying queries in Bing and our competitors, and I hear a lot of funny results. Search is hard...
In Google, if you search for "search" you get Bing as the most relevant result. I love it! Even Google thinks Bing is the best choice when people are looking for "search"!
If you search for "french military victories" and click "I feel lucky", you get this:
This has to be a joke by the G guys. Pretty funny though.
[Updated 9/22/2009: OK, so if you look at the URL, for the bottom result, you'll see this is a joke page on a different domain. It's still pretty funny.]
One of the most unique and enjoyable features in Bing is the custom homepage image we have each day. The photos are usually beautiful and have hotspots that link to interesting web info. (You can check out some of the previous images on the Bing Image Archive.)
Recently, my team in Beijing and Tokyo started doing images and hotspots specific to the Chinese and Japanese markets. I'm especially proud of image we posted today. The school in this photo is in Sichuan province (home of spicy food); it was destroyed in the horrible earthquake last year and rebuilt with the help of MSN China's Rainbow Action effort. Over the next few days we'll use the Bing home page and a series of new photos to drive more attention the survivors of the Sichuan earthquake and encourage people to help them recover. (On a technical note, this is the first time we've commissioned a photo for the Bing homepage; we normally use stock photos.)
Anyway, I encourage you to check it out at cn.bing.com and to donate to this effort on the Rainbow Action site (available in English and donations can be made through PayPal.) I'm often proud of the work we do technically, but it makes me even more happy when I can be proud of what Microsoft does for the community.
[Update: 2009-09-01 Apparently the MSN/PayPal collections for this phase are closed for now. It's still worth donating via other means.]
[Update: 2009-09-06 Shrunk the image down to fit on more screens.]
Recently, Microsoft announced that we would be ending both the DVD and online editions of the Encarta products on October 31, 2009. I was part of that team when I worked on Bookshelf. I also was the program manager for the first version of Encarta Online.
While I understand why the company made this decision, I'm still sad. The Wikipedia and the broader internet are amazing resources of information, and I love both dearly. However, I think we're losing something with the disappearance of the consistent editorial voice and perspective that products like Encarta had vs. the crowd-sourced, mass view of something like Wikipedia.
What's more, I think kids are losing a huge asset in Encarta. A lot of articles in Wikipedia are simply not written in a way that is understandable to kids. Take for example, the first line of the the articles on carbon dating, which Andrew (11) just had to research.
Encarta Encyclopedia (Carbon Dating): "Carbon Dating, method for determining the approximate age of ancient objects by measuring the amount of carbon 14 they contain."
Wikipedia (Radiocarbon Dating): "Radiocarbon dating, or carbon dating, is a radiometric dating method that uses the naturally occurring radioisotope carbon-14 (14C) to determine the age of carbonaceous materials up to about 60,000 years."
Even I don't understand all of the words in the Wikipedia article. I'll have to go buy a copy of the last DVD version so the kids have something they can use.
It's also worth looking back at how innovative these reference products were back in the day. The old story about Encarta is that it was a second-rate grocery store encyclopedia (Funk & Wagnalls) dressed up with some multimedia assets. But, it was much more than that. Encarta really revolutionized encyclopedias and helped bring the end of print encyclopedias. It was the first encyclopedia to have comprehensive updates every year (and eventually monthly) and was freed from the constraints of print. (For print encyclopedias to add content to one article, they have to remove text from another one in that volume.)
The team also created different versions for different markets. The creation of local market versions of reference products is a fascinating and challenging topic; you can't just translate articles; different countries have different perspectives on history plus articles have different relative importance. For example, the baseball article in the US should be long and detailed, but it probably shouldn't be more detailed than the cricket article in the British version.
The user interface of Encarta starting in 1995 was also very innovative. It was the first major product to move away from the grey 3D Windows 3.x UI to the more sleek, flat look you see today. It was a huge pain-in-the-butt to develop for our programmers, but I think it was critical to Encarta's success and one of the few good models in Microsoft history of how to let design lead development (vs. the other way around, which is more typical at MS.)
I learned a lot during my time working on Encarta and Bookshelf and have nothing but respect and admiration for my colleagues and friends from that period. I'm proud of what we accomplished, and am sad to see these products fade into the sunset. I hope something else will fill the gap.
I haven't written too much about my new job in Live Search yet, so I thought I'd share a cool thing we just shipped. The time around Chinese New Year is called Spring Festival (春节 - chun1 jie2). For this year's festival, we've started showing custom background images on the Chinese Live Search home page. As you mouse over the image, little hotspots will appear linking to fun and useful information. This is similar to functionality we have on the US Live Search page, but it's really the first time we've done this kind of thing outside the US. I think the images are really beautiful and worth checking out every day. Here's the first image (click it to see a full sized version):
In addition, we've built a custom page that combines a lot of features we have to help users with their Spring Festival activities. For instance, lots of people travel home to be with their families (it's the largest human migration in the world), so we have a service to search for train tickets. We also have a fun activity built by our partners in Microsoft Research Asia that helps you compose and share couplets (对联 - dui4 lian4) -- traditional poems. OK, I'm told it's fun. Since I can't really read Chinese, I don't know. Anyway, if you can read Chinese, check out the page at http://chunjie.live.com/
These are the first of what I hope will many efforts by our team to really make Live Search feel and work like a service really built for Chinese users. I don't think that's the case today with a lot of products built by American companies.
Yesterday was my last day on the IE team (see this post for more details on what's next). It was a little emotional for me as people stopped by to chat or dropped me nice and sometimes touching emails. I definitely view my work as more than just a job; I've made a lot of good friends. I've known a lot of them for years, some since they were still in college. It's been very rewarding to see them grow and improve, to share their happiest moments like engagements or child births, and to grieve with them as they lost parents and other family members. I will miss seeing them every day very much.
There were a bunch of nice parting gestures from the team. The day before, my direct reports staged a faux meeting that was really an excuse to drink wine and eat cheese (not hard to get the team to drink). Then, yesterday, some folks on the team changed out one of the road signs we have up to help us navigate our maze of hallways, putting up a "Chor Street" sign. By our elevators, they also put up a life sized photo of me for everyone to sign. It was actually kind of creepy seeing such a huge photo of me. I haven't read the comments yet, but I'm looking forward to it.
Later that afternoon, we had a special edition of our normal "Triage Bar" (Friday afternoon drinks) and a quick bite and some beers at Daman's (a kind of divey tavern near work with surprisingly good food). We then headed out to a bar called Vessel in Seattle. Vessel has some of the best cocktails in Seattle including the Vessel 75 -- a bourbon, Peychaud bitters, and simple syrup number topped off with maple syrup foam -- yum. The Ginger Grapefruit Rickey (rum, fresh grapefruit juice, ginger syrup, and soda) was also tasty. We had a pretty big area upstairs to ourselves, and there was a nice (maybe 20+ people) turn out including some IE alumni.
We finished off the evening at the W Bar in the W Hotel where I gave Harel (one of the rising stars on the IE PM team) a quick hands-on lesson about whisky. (Even though he's new to whisky, he's a natural, preferring the more complex and peaty Ardbeg to the Macallan and Johnny Walker Black I had him try for comparison.) All in all, a very fun evening with great friends.
So, next week, I move offices to sit with the Search team in Redmond. I'll be there until mid-November or so when we move to Beijing finally.
Dear readers, I wanted to let everyone know I've accepted a new position as the Group Program Manager for Live Search in Beijing, China.
There are a lot of reasons for this change. Since we were first married, Michelle and I have wanted to live overseas. We both enjoy the broader perspective that working and traveling internationally brings and wanted to really experience that more fully. (Frankly, I think all Americans could benefit from a more worldly view.) I've also been eager to explore my heritage and speak/read Chinese more fluently, as I resolved in my new year's post. I'm also excited to have Andrew (11) and Michael (8) learn more about the world, their heritage, and another language well. I think it will be extra valuable for all of us to have more insight and skills with respect to China for the future.
Professionally, I think Search is a fascinating and important product to unlock the Internet. As good as Live and even Google are today, it's still too hard for most users to get what they're looking for in many cases. It's a critical business for Microsoft to get right; we're obviously way behind here.
I also think that Microsoft needs to master distributed development; there are simply not enough smart engineers who want to live near Redmond to do all of the cool things we want to do. I also think we'd benefit from more local development and more geographic diversity. In particular, I think Microsoft needs to really do a good job in China as that country now has the highest number of internet users and is set to surpass the US in PC users next year.
The combination of our desire, the kids' age, and the great opportunity with Search lead us to consider the move seriously. After our Japan trip this summer, we tacked on a few days to visit China to see houses and schools. I had been to Beijing many times before but had never seen how expats live; Michelle and the boys had never been to Beijing at all. What we saw was acceptable, so we decided to proceed. (In case you're wondering, I couldn't really talk about this stuff earlier and didn't have enough touristy photos of China since we were house hunting, so I didn't post about what we did in China.)
All that said, it's difficult to leave IE. I love the product and the team. I'm incredibly proud of how far we've come since restarting the team five years ago -- from a security nightmare to XPSP2 to IE7 and now the great reviews of IE8 beta 2. The team is more capable and more fun than ever. I definitely feel I'm leaving on a high note and am confident the team will do great things without me.
So, I'll be transitioning to the Live Search team in a few weeks. Then, once our paperwork and visas clear, we'll move to Beijing -- probably around November. This is a three year assignment -- longer if we like it and shorter if we don't, but we do plan to move back. We'll be keeping our house since Michelle and the boys will likely spend summers here, and I'll be back frequently. The kids aren't crazy about the idea yet (what kid wants to move?) but I'm sure they'll have a great time.
I'll blog more about what we're learning about China and how things proceed as we go along. It should be an exciting new experience!
You answer a few questions then they give you some tips on how to reduce your carbon emissions. You can then plant one of the beautiful trees Jenny designed and then watch it grow.
One of the cool things they did on the site is build a WebSlice that let's you easily watch your tree grow in IE8. (WebSlices are a new feature in Internet Explorer 8 beta 1 that allow you to subscribe to part of a web page.)
Here's my tree (named "Chortle"):
Check it out!
(Disclosure: my team helped sponsor this project.)
It's been a crazy week. On Wednesday, my team released the first beta of Internet Explorer 8.0, the next version of our web browser. There's always a flurry of activity leading up to a big event like this -- lots of details to get right, last minute fire drills when something doesn't work right, and so on. Because we were announcing the beta during the opening keynote at MIX08 (no, I didn't go this time, but you can read my backstage account from MIX06 here) we had to have everything ready to go by noon on Wednesday. This added to the pressure since we couldn't slip. There were a huge set of coordinated events that had to happen together. Fortunately, the team pulled it off and everything (mostly) went off without a hitch.
The countdown banner in the photo above hangs above the door to the elevators (you can see our nice neon IE logo too). It originally said "IE8 Beta 1 in n Days" but we had to change it because we were keeping the launch date under wraps and didn't want any visitors to see it (there's a press briefing room on our floor that's used by other teams as well).
Anyway, after the signoff, we started blogging about the release (finally!) starting with the announcement of the release. There was the predictable avalanche of blog comments, bugs, and newsgroup questions to respond to. I think it's pretty fun to interact with the community, although I admit I could do with fewer rude commenters. You'll see replies from me in spurts on the IE Blog posts; I try to jump in whenever I have a few free minutes.
Those of us who weren't at MIX watched the keynote in a conference room and had some sparkling wine. Later in the afternoon, we had a bigger shindig with bbq, drinks, IE8 t-shirts, and two Rock Band setups. The team has been crazy about Rock Band lately; we seem to have it at all of our events and even have had some late night office Rock Band action. It's actually a good way to get to know each other, and it's pretty fun seeing who the good singers and drummers are (harder to tell about the guitar/bass players.) Here's Jason, our Test Manager playing drums (he's actually a drummer but was new to Rock Band.) I love the IE team; we have a lot of fun together.
Anyway, it's great to finally be public about IE8 and start talking about it. It's definitely aimed at developers, so we're not showing a lot of cool new end user stuff yet. If you'd like to give it a whirl, you can download it here. On to Beta 2 and release! (And no, I'm not going to say when we're releasing, so don't ask...)
Here's what the IE team and I have been up to. Good times! (I love that we get press releases for our features...)
I just got back from Foo Camp. It's late, so I'll have to write more later, but sufficed to say I had a great time, learned a lot, met some amazing people, and made some good connections for work. I even met someone who went to my high school in Minnesota (albeit many years after I did).
I had a lovely drive back from Sebastopol too, going out to coast and then driving south to San Francisco down highway 1. (Click here for the route, just for reference). I met up with my college friend Connie at Town Hall for a fantastic dinner and then headed home.
I just came back from a very enjoyable dinner at Canlis with the Internet Explorer Program Management leads; these are basically the people who I work with who run the group that design the next versions of IE, organize the effort to ship it, and lead the work to take care of customers after we ship. Unfortunately, Chris Wilson couldn't make it, but he was off on some amazing SCUBA diving trip, so I don't feel too bad...
As with most teams, some of us have worked together for a while; some of the group came to IE more recently. We work together pretty well, but we haven't all gone out together and just had a fun meal; we were overdue.
Canlis is an old Seattle institution; it's the "dress up" restaurant in Seattle (one of the only ones with a dress code in town). We had a fun time telling stories, getting to know each other better, and generally not talking about work for a few hours. It was also fun to see everyone dressed up a bit.
The food was lovely, of course. I started with steak tartare to die for; easily the best I've ever had. We also had a few orders of truffle fries because the only thing better than fried food is fried food with truffle oil.
Then I had the Yukon River salmon. As I had blogged about earlier, I was looking forward to a chance to try it and had it tonight -- lovely. It was grilled simply (the best way for a fantastic piece of fish) with a little couscous on the side. Yum.
We also had some very nice wines -- some of my favorites
On top of the great food and wine, we got to see the Duck Dodge, a sailboat race in Lake Union and a Seattle tradition. I'm not sure anyone but I cared, but I liked it so there you go.
I had a great time; it's important to me to work with people I like. Tonight was a good reminder of why I love my job.
At Microsoft, we love to beat ourselves up, in some ways even more than others do (and that's saying something.) We focus so much on the clever things our competitors do (as if we're supposed to be the only ones with good ideas) or the successes they have that we sometimes lose track of the great things we've done.
I saw this article go by a few months ago and thought it was a good reminder of our success in one area at least: our financial success. I've been meaning to post this for a while now, but I think it's still relevant. Of course, we must never become complacent or too proud of what we've done, but it's good to have a little balance.
10 Reinvigorating Facts About Microsoft's Profits
Monday April 30, 5:57 am ET
Joe Panettieri (The VAR Guy) submits: I have written extensively about Microsoft's (NasdaqGS: MSFT) problems. But last week, I got a stunning reminder about the company's power. It takes Microsoft only 10 hours of business to exceed Red Hat's entire quarterly profit. Skeptical? Check out the math, and nine other facts about Microsoft's most recent earnings report.
Microsoft last week announced quarterly revenue of $14.4 billion and net income of $4.93 billion. In other words, Microsoft's daily net income is about $55 million. That's $55 million in pure profit every 24 hours. Do some quick math and you'll learn it takes Microsoft only about...
- 10 hours or so (yes, hours!) to exceed Red Hat's (NYSE: RHT - News) quarterly net income of $20.5 million.
- four days to exceed Research In Motion's (NasdaqGS: RIMM) quarterly net income of $187.9 million.
- four days to exceed Starbucks' (NasdaqGS: SBUX) quarterly net income of $205 million.
- one week to exceed Nike's (NYSE: NKE - News) quarterly net income of $350.8 million.
- two weeks to exceed McDonalds' (NYSE: MCD - News) quarterly net income of $762 million.
- two weeks to exceed Apple's (NasdaqGS: AAPL) quarterly net income of $770 million.
- 18 days to exceed Google's (NasdaqGS: GOOG) quarterly net income of $1 billion.
- 23 days to exceed Coca-Cola's (NYSE: KO - News) quarterly net income of $1.26 billion.
- five weeks to exceed IBM's (NYSE: IBM - News) quarterly net income of $1.85 billion.
- 10 weeks to exceed Wal-Mart's (NYSE: WMT - News) quarterly net income of $3.9 billion.
For a dead company, Microsoft's profits certainly look lively.
(Fixed character problems)
As a long time Microsoft employee, I am saddened and sometimes embarassed by the consistently, um, poor quality of our ads. It makes me very happy when I see a great ad coming out of the company. Invariably, it seems that they come out of our international subsidiaries and not Redmond.
Here's a very well done and funny ad from the Dutch sub. Here's the blog of the guy who did the ad.
Here's an old one from the New Zealand sub that was fantastic too. I think it was pulled though by the corporate police. Too bad.
While the discussion appears to be a debate, I actually find myself agreeing with what Adam says (or not disagreeing at least.)
Where we may disagree is whether this productivity gain offsets the additional costs of working cross platform. I suppose that depends on the product, how much additional work is required to work cross platform, and how good your team is.
Finally, Adam is correct to introduce what is, perhaps, the ultimate metric by which to determine whether a team should do cross platform work: which approach will allow the product to best succeed? Ultimately, this depends on the metrics of success for that product and the market they're in.
In particular, he raises the question of whether our decision to focus IE on a single platform was smart and whether that decision opened the door for Firefox. It's my belief that web browsing should be an integrated part of the overall computing experience, not simply a sandboxed TV-set on the Internet. The work we did on the RSS platform in IE7 and the availability of IE components as Windows platform elements are a reflection of that view. I don't know how efficiently we could further this model by working cross platform. Success for me and IE is how well we can deliver on this vision, so single-platform development makes sense for us. (We had Mac and Unix versions of IE in an earlier day when browser share was our only success metric. As our view changed, those versions made less sense, so we dropped them.)
I think Firefox was able to establish their share because they brought a solid browser to the market when we took our eye off the ball and had stopped investing in the browser; I don't think the fact they're cross platform helps them that much. The vast majority of their users are on Windows (I don't think they're even the most popular browser on the Mac). I really wonder if they'd be better off just focusing on Windows; looking at their bugs and work items, they certainly have a lot of work to do keeping FF running well on Macs, downlevel Windows, and Linux distros. Could they have delivered more of the stuff they had to cut from Firefox 2 if they only had to do Windows? Probably. Would it have mattered? Who knows.
At the end of the day, the market will decide which approach is best in each case. I wouldn't have it any other way.
Adam Nash, a very smart friend of mine from college who writes the great blog Psychohistory, recently mentioned that he thinks it's a great sign when a developer goes cross-platform almost immediately, citing the Joost beta for Mac OS X.
I started writing a comment in reply, but it started getting long enough to warrant a post and trackback.
As usual, Adam's reasoning is sound, especially considering his background in VC. He's right that a company that can build great cross platform apps simultaneously probably has a great development team. However, I'd argue that cross platform development rarely produces the best products.
First, the product often winds up representing the lowest common denominator of the capabilities of the OS' they serve. They are often not as polished or well-integrated as native apps. Firefox is a good example of this from a UI perspective. While it's certainly a pretty well-written app, it's not as native-looking on the Mac as Safari or on Windows Vista as IE7. In both cases, Firefox is a bit out of place. (Read this post on Coding Horror for a similar opinion.)
Also, in order to ease development, cross platform apps often have intermediate layers to factor out the underlying OS. These layers can impede performance and may prevent the app from taking advantage of native services like DirectX or Quartz. The resulting apps aren't usually as fast as their native counterparts. Microsoft's Mac apps certainly ran into this problem when writing cross platform "core code" apps on our Windows Layers for Macintosh (WLM) back in the mid '90s (anyone remember Mac Word 6?)
Finally, developing cross platform reduces the overall innovation a developer can provide. Building for multiple operating systems (or browsers) is never less work than building for one. The time spent architecting, coding, testing, and debugging for multiple platforms is time not spent adding new features, making the product more reliable or secure, or satisfying other user demands (or saving investors' money).
There are certainly no guarantees of a gorgeous, OS-exploitive, fast application when you target only one OS, but its's way harder when you are trying to serve multiple masters.
There's no doubt that teams that can execute cross platform consistently well over time are probably great, but just think what they could accomplish if they chose to focus all that talent and energy on one platform.
Anyway, go read Adam's blog. Lots of good stuff there, especially his financial posts.
The IE team let loose Friday night at the Fenix to celebrate Lunar New Year. Felicity, our brilliant group assistant (and the woman who really runs the team), figured that having a traditional end-of-year holiday party was a bad idea -- too many conflicts, hard to get a baby sitter, too expensive to get a venue, etc. In light of our bad weather in December, this was particularly lucky.
Anyway, aside from the pool tables and normal club stuff at the Fenix, Felicity had the Rockaraoke band there. As I've blogged about before, Rockaroake is like normal karaoke, except you sing with a live band. It's tons of fun, especially when you know everyone who is singing. There were some surprisingly talented people on the team and some whose willingness to please their significant others outweighed their singing talent. Perhaps not surprisingly, it seemed that the Program Managers (stereotypically the most extroverted/attention seeking of the job functions) did much of the singing, although there were clearly representatives from the other disciplines including Katya and her friend Stephanie in the photo above. (In the interest of full disclosure, I sang Margaritaville solo and Summer Nights with Kellie - and yes, Kellie, I will continue to link to that horrible photo of you until you start blogging or otherwise create a presence on the web.)
The event was also special because team members could bring a guest. It was great to meet the spouses and significant-others and to really thank them for their sacrifices. We focus a lot on how hard a team works to ship something like IE; it's easy to overlook the burden our long nights and weekends places on our families and friends.
Hurray! Windows Vista (and Office 2007) are finally available to real people (not that business people aren't real too...) Most people will get Vista with a new PC, but if you're dying to get it now, you can buy and download a copy from Windows Marketplace. This is the first time we've sold Windows or Office online via download. Pretty cool. Check it out!
Andrew (9): "Could I have an iPod? Maybe an iPod Nano?"
Us (two Microsoft employees): "Well, maybe for your birthday we can get you a Zune."
Andrew [confused]: "An iPod Zune?"
Um, I think we still have a long way to go on Zune awareness...
Yesterday I got mail from one of the zillion or so vice-presidents at Microsoft with Yet-Another-Idea-for-IE. He had a pretty complex idea to make it possible to use the keyboard to initiate a search and return the results in a new tab.
I replied with the keyboard shortcuts already in IE7 that do this (proving that not even Microsoft VPs - or especially VPs - don't read our docs. This also illustrates why we don't normally let VPs design stuff.). Anyway, here are the shortcuts:
I use this all the time.
While I'm at it, here are a few other favorites
This isn't rocket science, but it makes my daily browsing a lot more efficient. There are lots more here in the "IE7 Quick Reference Sheet" that Seth McLaughlin, one of our star interns, put together last summer.
After five long years, we had the Windows Vista ship party yesterday. It was in the parking garage under Building 27, which sounds like an odd venue, but there aren't many places at Microsoft that can hold so many people on a rainy afternoon. It was good fun to see everyone there; I'm surprised how many people I know from other teams. I was also surprised to see how emotional I was during Jim Allchin's talk as well as BillG's talk. (Jim in the outgoing President of the Windows division and the guy most associated with Vista). Everyone I talked to was happy, relieved, and strangely, a bit lost. We've all been so focused on Vista for so long, that it's odd to not have it ahead of us anymore.
Anyway, the party was fun. There was a mainstage band, a dueling piano bar, a red carpet/limonsene entrance to make everyone coming in feel special (complete with camera crew and velvet rope line entrace), billiards, fake tattoos, a dress-up photo booth (there's a funny one of me with my friends), and of course, food and drinks. We also all signed a few big Vista DVD replicas for the history books. I'm proud to have been part of it.
After five long years, we finally shipped Windows Vista. Whew.
As you probably know, Vista was previously codenamed "Longhorn". It was named after the Longhorn Saloon up in Whistler, BC. The bar is halfway between the Whistler and Blackcomb ski mountains. The release was supposed to be the fast release between "Whistler" (Windows XP) and "Blackcomb" (the next great thing). Oops. Well, it took a little longer than we thought, but the result is actually pretty darn good.
The ending was a little anti-climatic for me since we had already shipped IE7 on XP. We didn't have a lot of drama at the end like I'm used to. This is actually good and the way you want it, but it still felt like an odd let down for something so big. It's a bit surreal to finally have it out though, like I can't quite believe we actually did it.
We're having a big ship party this afternoon. I think that will help make it feel real to me.
Look for Vista in stores and on PCs starting January 30, 2007. Really.
It's so funny that smart but apparently under-busy people keep looking for some hidden meaning in the cake. From the Boingboing article:
Update 2: Fred sez, "The IE-team cake looked suspicious, what with the irregular white and black marks. The conspiracy theorist in me made me think about Morse code. I saw in the comments on the original blog that some people had looked at it and that there is no obvious morse code there. I couldn't be bothered to write a perl script to parse it depending on the starting place and direction of the message (cw or ccw), but it sure looks like some kind of message. I see, starting top left going cw, 'S E S / A T / (D:N:B) (U:V:A) / T N' I assume that someone else could properly decode this, so I suggest sending this as a challenge to all the would-be cryptographers and lovers of codes. What message has the IE-team hidden in the icing on the Firefox cake?"
The poor Mozilla guy who blogged about the cake had his server bandwidth charges fly through the roof with all the traffic. Sorry about that.
The Mozilla guys released Firefox 2 today. I know that it's a ton of work to release something as big and complex as a browser, so I thought it would be nice if we sent them a cake congratulating them on this achievement.
Since I didn't know any bakeries near the Mozilla headquarters, Christopher Vaughan and I called on a friend, Liz, down in Microsoft's Silicon Valley campus to see if she could help us out. She immediately obliged and found a bakery that would make the cake and deliver it. Liz mentioned something about the bakery not using food coloring, so our "e" logo wouldn't be blue. Oh well. Best not to poison the FF guys with food coloring anyway. (For those who care, it was a chocolate rum cake from the Prolific Oven in Palo Alto. This is apparently one of their most popular styles. I hope it was good.)
As usual the comments on Fred's blog and Digg are hilarious.
I wonder if there's a message hidden in binary in the black frosting around the edge...
Whose blind toddler decorated it for them?
It's probably poison. Ever hear of the trojan horse?
Microsoft: eliminating competition the old fashion way.
Please, like the IE team would seriously sign it "Love,"...good prank
You should send them a cake back, include the recipe, and say you'll gladly accept suggestions for improvement.
Just hope it doesnt have a naked bill gates inside
Did anyone actually eat that cake? And how many were down with diarrhoea or intestinal worms after that?
Sometimes, a cigar is just a cigar. We just wanted to give the FF team a pat on the back. There's no personal animosity between the teams (I like the FF team members I've met so far).
Nothing to see here.
[2006-10-24: fixed a link and some typos]
Somewhat ironically, I'm probably the last person in the blogosphere to report that Internet Explorer 7 is finally done and available! Whew. (You can get it here.)
It always feels good to release a new product (I've shipped dozens of products at Microsoft starting with Golf 1.0 for Windows), but I'm especially proud of this one. We rebuilt the team from almost nothing, listened and learned, and worked our asses off for the past few years. It was an exciting ride full of ups and downs all the way to the end. It's not perfect of course, but I think it's pretty darn good. I'm lucky to work with an amazingly dedicated and talented group of people who made it happen. I was struck by how many people from around the company contributed to the product as I was writing the "we're done" mail. It was truly a monumental effort. (No, I won't say how many people worked on IE, so don't ask.)
After we went live on the web yesterday at 5:00pm, we had champagne, blew air horns in the building (an old, lost tradition that I think may have annoyed the other team in our building - oh well), and then went out for more drinks and pool later at The Garage. (Before we left the office, Alex, one of our developers, shared a lovely limited edition cask-strength single malt - Caol Ila. Wow.) We also did a little sidewalk chalking around Microsoft campus to mark the occasion.
Today, we had a slightly bigger party with everyone who helped with IE7. We had the requisite toasts by Dean (our General Manager) and Steven (our Senior VP), had some more champage, and then started throwing people into the fountain, starting with Dean (another old tradition). Of course, I wound up in the fountain as well. It's not as deep as one might think, resulting in a banged up elbow that bled nicely for a while (unfortunately, another old tradition). Fortunately, Jim, another one of our developers brought a nice 18-yo Caol Ila (quite by coincidence), which took the edge off the pain...
This was a big milestone for us. We still have lots of localized versions to ship plus that little Windows Vista thing to finish up. Plus, we've already started work on our next two versions. But, today (and yesterday) it was fun to savor the moment.
So, don't delay - go get it now!
As we mentioned in the IE Blog last week, we're getting close to finishing IE7 and shipping it out to the world; in fact, we hope to have it out sometime this month.
This is really a nerve wracking time for me in any ship cycle. We've done everything we think we can and are tying up the loose ends necessary to complete the release. At this point, if we find a bad bug, we have to reset the clock and maybe push out the date. There isn't much we can do to stop the one bad bug; in fact, if it's in there, we want to find it since it's better to find and fix them before we release, regardless of the disappointment to us.
It really reminds me of the feeling I had in the hospital waiting for the kids to be born. We had done our part and were then just waiting for nature to take its course. It's an odd combination of feeling like you've created something and yet being powerless.
I'm done at last.
My agenda originally had me finishing up mid afternoon on Friday at the local Microsoft office, but things ran long and I wound up having dinner with our MVPs (Microsoft's Most Valuable Professionals - enthusiast volunteers who help support our users) at Izzi Pizza, a local pizza chain that serves pizza with a spicier Indonesian twist - not bad). As usual, the MVPs are awesome. This group in particular all knew each other well and really seemed to enjoy each others' company, so it was fun.
Risman from the local office asked me to come in today (Saturday) to open a developer event he was having, so I dutifully showed up to talk to the 100+ mostly ASP.net developers who came. I guess there was some misunderstanding about my role. I thought I was just going to do some quick ceremonial bit, but Risman was hoping for an IE7 talk and demo. I hadn't prepared anything or even brought my computer, so I freestyled a fifteen minute talk with Q&A. I jetted out afterwards with six bottles and jars of local chilli sauce that Risman brought me after seeing how much I liked the sauces the day before. Pretty much everyone I've met in the various Microsoft offices has been great; they do so much for us and have so much energy and initiative. We're lucky to have them be our face to the customer.
So, now I'm back in the hotel room packing. I've got about an hour before I need to leave.
See you on the other side.
We made the RC1 build of IE7 available for download today. Yippee! This is the near final release of IE7 for XP class operating systems. At this point, we'll only fix big big bugs before we release (sometime between October and December, depending on feedback.)
Oh, please oh please install the security updates from Microsoft and any other vendor whose software you run. I've just been talking with a bunch of users who are experiencing problems with a major website. Looks like if you have the latest updates from Microsoft, there's no problem, but of course, these people weren't updating their computers.
It's so easy. Visit http://updates.microsoft.com and click the Express button. Even better, if you see a choice that says something about using "Microsoft Update" choose that; this will update most of your Microsoft software including Windows and Office. Pick all of the automatic options to make it even easier.
It's a dangerous world out there with lots of bad people who want to break into your computer. We fix tons of security issues as well as reliability problems in these updates. It's definitely worth keeping up-to-date.
I just finished making my travel arrangements to Jakarta (that's in Indonesia for the geographically challenged) where I'll be speaking at the Bellua Cyber Security conference August 30-31. Seems like most of my international travel lately has been to Southeast Asia/Oceania - not that I'm complaining. Maybe it's time for me to find a speaking gig in Spain or Italy next...
In any case, I've never been to Jakarta before -- any tips? If you're headed to Bellua, let me know!
I'm proud to announce that we released the beta 3 release of IE7. We fixed a ton of bugs, incorporated changes based on beta feedback, and continued to improve our security. You can read more about the release on the IE blog and get the new version here.
There's a bunch of news coming out about it already. I did an interview with CNET yesterday that was posted today as well. They didn't quote me out of context too much... :)
This week we had our traditional bbq at Bill Gates' home for our interns. As the company has grown, this event has become more exclusive. It used to be that all of the interns and mentors went plus senior managers, etc. Now, it's a subset of the interns (not exactly sure of which subset) plus VPs & general managers (not sure how I got invited; I think it's because our awesome recruiters like me...) Anyway, it's probably been 6-7 years since I"ve been to Bill's house for this event.
Boy, the interns look young. I'm almost twice their age, but they're still as smart as ever. If we get these guys to come full time, we'll be in good shape for the future. I really enjoyed talking to them, especially, the young woman who thought I was an intern too...
We didn't really spend time in the house. You come in and go down this long staircase to get from the entrance to the backyard where the event was. As everyone walked down the stairs, you could see them peeking into the rooms, theater, etc. to check out this famous home; it really is lovely. I understand this was the public side of the house, and that there is a more private area as well (which I haven't seen of course).
Bill came out and was chatting with the interns. As usual the "donut" formed around Bill with interns listening, some trying to sound smart, others just taking it all in. Smaller donuts formed around some of the better known execs as well, while other execs milled around talking to each other.
Anyway, it was a beautiful night on the lawn on the shores of Lake Washington.
One of my group mates had to leave early from the business problems class I attended this week. He mentioned there was a big company announcement at 1:30pm that day he had to help set up (he is the head of our corporate events team), but he wouldn't tell us any details when asked. So, of course, two of us started IMing around to our contacts who might know something about it (Bill's speech writer, PR guys, etc.) but everyone was uncharacteristically tight-lipped. (We're not consistently good about keeping secrets, especially a few hours before an announcement.) So, we had a good time trying to guess what the deal was. We all took a break from the class to watch the webcast.
I can't say I'm surprised that Bill is leaving. We've known this day would come for a long time. I agree with Bill's statement that we're better positioned than ever for this from a leadership perspective. In particular Ray Ozzie has been a great addition to the company; I really like his insight and style so far. (Although I wish he kept his blog up to date...)
Honestly, despite all the amazing things I think Bill accomplished in technology, I suspect history will remember him for the work the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will do. He and Melinda have an unprecendented opportunity to really make a huge difference. I can't wait to see what they do. I'm glad Bill will be focusing his energy on the Foundation's great work.
Still, I found myself getting a bit emotional during the press conference. Microsoft really is Bill's company. I'm proud of what we've accomplished under him and am sad to see him go. Personally, obviously Microsoft has been one of the major influences on my life, forming the framework of my last sixteen years and shaping who I am. It's natural, I think for me to associate a lot of the goodness in my life with Bill and the work he's done. Steve Ballmer is great too, but I didn't really meet him until last week at Strategy Conference. I have "Bill stories" going back throughout my career. This change is even more poignant since I just saw Bill last week, so his presence is fairly immediate for me.
I'm glad that the transition will be an orderly, thoughtful exit. We'll be fine without Bill, but we won't be the same. Should be interesting to see...
I just finished another good three day class at work. This class was the final class in a set of three and was meant to be the application of the first two. My fellow students were other mid level managers who were identified by their management as having some potential for more development.
Like virtually every such gathering, we started with a "get to know each other" exercise, but this one was actually useful. We sat in a circle. The first person had to pick an adjective that sort of described them and started with the first letter of their first name, saying both together (i.e. 'Tea-drinking Tom" was the first person). The next person said "Tea-drinking Tom" and then said their own adjective and name, "Snow-shoeing Scott" and so on. (I was "Talisker Tony".) Unlike other intro drills, everyone paid rapt attention so they didn't screw up in front of the others (we're a little competitive too which helped.) As it turns out, it's very important to see the person's face when you hear the name (not sure why). Invariably, people ran into trouble remembering the names of the people near them, especially the one immediately before. Still, it was a great exercise and one that helped keep the names in our brains.
The class itself was a lot like the Strategy Conference I attended last week; we broke out into groups and discussed a business problem (what rules/guidance/limits should Microsoft place on Microsoft employees blogging, if any) and then presented it at the end. The topic was controversial and difficult because it's easy for a blogger to create a PR controversy or leak sensitive information, but they generate a lot of value for our customers and the company by their very free nature. I think we had a reasonable compromise solution and will try to get it implemented (I can't disclose the plan just yet.)
Anyway, like Strat Conference, it was good to work with other senior leaders from around the company. I liked my group and hope to stay in touch. It was a bit unusual to do two of these back-to-back though. I think I would have gotten more out of it if I had more time between them. It was just a fluke that this happened. Oh well.
Kathy Sierra, author of the fantastic "Creating Passionate Users" blog just wrote a post about how out-of-context surprises like the bud vase in the new VW Beetle can delight users. She listed a bunch of neat examples of this, so imagine my surprise when my talk at Webstock was one of the examples! Now, it's too bad that a nice Microsoft guy at a web conference is a surprise, but I appreciate the recognition.
Context: A Microsoft guy giving a conference presentation
Delightful Out-of-Context Surprise: He's a Really Nice Guy! With kids even!
Tony Chor was a highlight for many of us at Webstock, myself included, who weren't expecting someone quite so fun, down-to-earth, approachable, and, well, cute. Then again every employee of Microsoft I've actually talked to seems to be a Really Nice Person.
(For the record, Kathy was great in her talk. She was intelligent, witty, and charming, keeping the audience rapt even though she was the last speaker of the conference.)
Last week I had the privilege of attending one of the regular Microsoft Strategy Conferences. This three day classes/working session is meant for senior functional leaders/directors from across the company to get together, learn more about how to form strategy, discuss some of the big challenges facing Microsoft, and make contacts outside of their normal group.
The thing that makes Strategy Conference unique compared to other MS classes is the access to execs. We had half a dozen or so vice-presidents there, some who I interact with regularly like Christopher Payne (Windows Live Search) and others who I'd never met like Jane Boulware (Central Marketing Group). What's more, we got serious quality time with Steve Balmer and Bill Gates - rare for even our execs. It was great to have unstructured, very open conversations with Bill, Steve, and other execs and gave me new insights to the things that are on their minds (and things that they are less concerned about.)
I feel especially fortunate because my breakout group was super. We had attorneys, researcher from Microsoft Research, marketers, business managers, and other product people working well together and having fun. Blair Westlake was the VP assigned to our group; I'd never met him before. It was fascinating to learn about the economics of the TV industry (Blair runs our media partnership efforts and was the Chairman of Universal's TV and Networks group).
Although there were one or two people I met who make me wonder "Really? You're the best your team has to offer?" I was once again impressed with the talent and passion of my peers and leaders. I learned a ton about what's going on in the company, got new perspectives on problems I've been thinking about, and had a lot of fun.
While the three days were pretty packed, I really enjoyed it. I appreciate the fact the company really invests in our employees through training and access. The conference recharged my faith and commitment to Microsoft and gives me more optimism than ever that we have great people leading the company forward.
I just finished my talk at Webstock here in Wellington. I'm currently going through my typical post-talk adrenaline crash. I enjoyed the talk and am gratified that people laughed at my jokes and that the demo machine behaved well - never a sure thing when running beta software, projecting to a strange monitor, and running on a live internet connection. I understand the talk will be made available online soon. I'll post it when it does, and I'll write more about my Webstock experiences later.
Technorati tags: webstock
Today is my last day in Auckland. Grandhi and I have a few meetings with customers, partners, and the MS New Zealand guys before we head down to Wellington this afternoon. It'll be a bit of a hectic day I think.
Yesterday was pretty calm by comparison. We didn't have much in the way of meetings, so we checked out the New Zealand National Maritime Museum. I love maritime museums (surprise, surprise) and Grandhi was nice enough to indulge me. The museum was quite good and much larger that outward appearances might suggest.
Afterwards, we had a nice lunch at the Loaded Hog by the Viaduct Basin (where the Americas Cup boats sortied out from). I didn't love the beers they brewed onsite, but the food was good. the local mussels are well-known and tasty, although I still think Penn Cove mussels in Seattle are better. Too bad it was raining all day; otherwise sitting out on the sidewalk would have been great.
We worked all afternoon trying to get ready for our upcoming talks and keep up with work at home. We then headed out to Parnell, a cute neighborhood in Auckland full of art galleries and shops, all of which close early to spite us. Fortunately, we found a nice restaurant called Igaucu for dinner. Pretty cool place. I finally got some lamb here in New Zealand. Everything you've heard about lamb in NZ is true -- fantastic. The one thing I've noticed is that every restaurant we've eaten in so far has under salted the food relative to my tastes. Grandhi and I both have been adding copious amounts of salt to everything. Given that Grandhi lives in India, I don't think this is just an American taste thing. Anyway, just an observation.
OK, time to pack up and head out. Talk to you from Wellington...
Hurray! We finally shipped Windows Vista beta 2! We have a lot of work to do before final release, but this is a big step. Too bad I'll miss the beta 2 party in Redmond today.
Yesterday, I kicked off my working time in Auckland with an IE7 demo in the keynote at Microsoft Connect, a Microsoft-sponsored conference for IT Pros and Developers. Despite my normal pre-show jitters, the demo went fine with people even giggling at my jokes and applauding for features (the new printing stuff always brings down the house, even though it's just a bug fix really.) The guys from MS New Zealand did a great job with the conference. They really have to cover a lot of ground since Microsoft has so many products; as a result, in many ways, I think they have a better view of our entire line than we do in Redmond.
I also had an interview with Juha Saarinen, a writer for ComputerWorld and PC World. Fortunately, I had some advanced warning of what he was going to ask (ain't blogs great?) He seemed like a good guy with fair questions. We'll see how the reports turn out.
Grandhi and I hung out with partners and the guys from the Microsoft New Zealand sub later in the day and had a surprisingly good Mexican dinner at Mexican Cafe (clever name...). Gotta watch out for the Agavero (tequilla liqueur) though. It goes down pretty smoothly. (Sean, you're evil.)
I'm off to New Zealand today. I'll be speaking at WebStock, a web conference in Wellington, as well as doing some Microsoft internal events and meeting with press. I've never been to New Zealand or even the Southern Hemisphere. I plan to flush a toilet as soon as I get there just to watch the water go down the other way.
See you on the other side!
Technorati tags: webstock
I had the pleasure of going down to San Francisco Monday to have dinner with a bunch of well-known bloggers and writers before the launch of IE 7 beta 2. Dean (my boss), Chris Wilson (Group Program Manager of IE platform stuff), Sean Lyndersay (Lead Program Manager of our RSS work), Gary Schare (uber IE Marketing poobah), and I hosted the dinner at Frisson, (a swank restaurant opened and run by the very nice Andrew McCormack, formerly of Yahoo, PayPal, and eBay as I learned from him later over drinks).
Honestly, I wasn't sure what to expect since we've never done an event like this before. It turned out to be very enjoyable for me (and I hope for our guests). It was a friendly dinner among geeks with the conversation ranging from people we knew in the blogosphere, random technology, whisky (guess who started that conversation), and other interesting topics. We didn't pitch hard, and they were fair and listening.
I'm sure I'll miss some of the names/blogs, but here are a few people I spoke with and what they wrote:
Michael Arrington, TechCrunch
Martin McKeay, Network Security and Podcast Roundtable
Jeremiah Owyang, Web Strategy and Podcast Roundtable
Robert Scoble, Microsoft's Chief Blogging Officer
Tantek Celik, Technorati
Niall Kennedy (I know he's a Microsoft guy now, but it was his first day!)
Steve Gillmor, ZDNet and Gillmor Gang
Om Malik, GigaOm
Victor Loh, ExtremeTech
Anne Chen, eWeek
We've posted some photos up on FlickR too under the keyword IE7b2.
I'm happy to announce that we shipping IE7 Beta 2 today for Windows XP SP2, Windows Server 2003 SP1, and our x64 editions.
My boss, Dean, blogged about the details on the IE blog, so I won't repeat those here.
You can get the new bits on http://www.microsoft.com/ie/. If you have a previous build of IE7 installed, you need to uninstall it first.
Check it out!
MIX06 (a Microsoft web development conference at the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas) was the first time I’ve worked on a keynote speech at a major Microsoft event. In this case, I was helping my boss, Dean, with his keynote. The scale of the set up is really amazing, so I thought I’d share how it worked.
Normally, when I do a presentation and demo, both the demos and the presentation are on the same machine. I advance the slides and do the demo myself. Sometimes, for a big talk like my keynote at Hack-in-the-Box, we separate out the slides and demo onto separate machines (especially when the demos have pre-release bits like Windows Vista or IE7) and maybe I’ll have someone help me with the demos/slides to keep things running more smoothly.
Well, MIX took that to a whole new level. First, the demo machine was backstage, connected to a monitor, keyboard, and mouse via a switch. We also had a backup demo machine hooked up. Then, there was a machine with Dean’s slides. The day before the presentation, I also learned that Dean could have notes slides on the monitors in front of him; those, of course, were on separate machines still. Finally, there was a big flat panel (called “the 16:9” by the stage managers) behind the speaker on stage running slides with the key points. OK, so four machines (plus a backup) for one talk. (Actually there were more because we had other speakers/demos on stage during the keynote, but I’ll leave those out.)
During the keynote, Dean held a remote clicker that advanced his notes. I sat backstage and advanced the slides. Laurel (a Program Manager on my team) advanced the 16:9, and Scott (another PM on my team) kept the backup demo machine in sync with the main demo machine. This way, if we had to switch over to the demo machine, it would be in the same state as the demo machine, and Dean could pick up right where he left off. The folks running the show handled all of the switching between demo machines and slide machines on the huge screens out front.
To choreograph everything, I met with the production manager (who is the most patient angel I’ve ever met) and walked through the whole keynote. We sequenced the whole thing, indicating transitions between speakers, slides, and demos. I also wrote up cue sheets for Laurel and Scott so they knew when to do what.
We did a rehearsal the night before that went OK well. It was the first time we had run through the entire keynote with all the speakers and demos, the first time we had to sync all those machines, and the first time we got the see the blocking on the stage (that I had worked out earlier with Dean.) There were a few rough spots including the ending demo/talk. Around midnight the night before the keynote, we worked out the ending, but never got to practice it. We’d do that in one take live the next day.
The day of, everything went great. We went backstage before Bill Gates’ keynote and waited. At this point, there was nothing to do but joke around, grimace as Bill butchered Dean’s last name (Hachamovitch, pronounced “ha-calm-o-vitch”), and wait for our turn. Dean went on and nailed his talk. Laurel, Scott, and I did our part. The demo machines (running Windows Vista) didn’t crash or misbehave (somewhat miraculous, given Murphy’s Law). All in all, I couldn’t have been more happy. You should be able to see the keynote here soon.
The whole backstage setup was slick, as you can see from the photos (mouse over them to get descriptions). We had four huge screens with triply redundant projectors on huge scaffolding behind them. There was also a huge lab with zillions of cables for all of our demo machines for the three day event, a speaker’s lounge, a hard walled green room, and a bunch of technical spaces we didn’t look into. In the front of the house, there was a big sound booth in the middle of the floor with camera stations, and then in the very front, was a control booth of sorts, up on a platform. I guess after they started setting up, the fire marshal came in and told them to move the whole thing five more feet away from the wall. Amazing.
Microsoft’s Events Team and the Trade Show Group (TSG) are a super professional lot. They were very patient as we asked dumb questions, made last minute changes, and stood around underfoot. They’re ready for anything. When we were hooking up our demo machines, we needed a USB to PS/2 keyboard/mouse adapter. They had one. When that one didn’t work, they had another brand to try; I think they had four different brands of these adapters. They also had a designer backstage making our slides look nice, prettying up our graphics, and generally keeping our procrastination from making us look dumb (you can see her working here, behind one of the big screens.)
As I mentioned I didn’t sleep much in the week leading up to MIX, but it was all worth it. The keynote was great as was the rest of the conference. It was the first MIX; I’m already looking forward to the next one.
[Post edited 4/6/2006 to correct an error. There are two Microsoft groups responsible for shows like this. The Corporate Events Team does the stage/sound, etc. and the Trade Show Group handles machines and demos.]
Someone sent me a link to this site. It's a good read. The Mozilla guys have done a very nice job with Firefox, no doubt, but the mythology around the thing has become epic. The Mozilla guys have been been mostly good about not spreading these too much from what I can tell, so it's really the fanboys and the press.
I haven't verified everything on the site nor have I read it completely even, but a quick pass seems consistent with things I know.
Anyway, read it and judge for yourself.
Links to the various IE7 pages on microsoft.com are three of the top five "Latest Buzz" entries on Newsgator (an online RSS aggregator).
According to their definition:
What is "The Latest Buzz" all about?
The Latest Buzz box provides links to the most talked-about articles tracked by NewsGator. The top 5 most linked articles are listed as links to provide you with easy, "one-click" access to today's hottest articles.
While we've certainly had a range of opinions expressed about the Beta 2 Preview build so far, it's great that there is so much interest.
The only thing worse than being hated is being irrelevant.
Wahoo! I'm super excited to announce that the beta 2 preview release of IE7 is now available on Microsoft.com. We'll also have lots of info over the next few days on the IE Blog. You can also see a video of my boss talking about what's new in IE7 on Channel 9.
Check it out and let us know what you think!
The IE Program Management team (my merry band) took a little break yesterday to learn about coffee at the Zoka Coffee headquarters. First, we learned all about the different kinds of coffee and how it goes from seed to cup. We then learned how to really smell and taste coffee, doing our own cupping. We did similar things with tea. We also learned what it takes to make an amazing latte (this was easily the best latte I've ever had.) Finally, we learned about roasting and the intricacies of getting that right.
It was a very nice break, and the folks at Zoka were very hospitable. (I won't say it was relaxing; we were all buzzing from caffeine the rest of the day.) If you're ever in Seattle, stop by one of their stores. You won't be disappointed.
More photos of our day.
One of the things I like least about IE (and am least happy that we're not addressing in IE7) is the use of Notepad to view HTML source code. While many fantastic web pages have been built in Notepad, it wasn't a state of the art editor in 1995 let alone 2005.
There are a lot of text editors out there that are better than Notepad (I like Notepad2, a very slick, free editor with extensive syntax highlighting, regex searches, and a small package). But, none of these is as useful if it's not integrated with IE's View Source command. Fear not, intrepid reader, you can point IE to use another editor pretty easily, if you don't mind using RegEdit.
Honestly, I found this on the web (sometimes it's faster than asking the IE developers, especially since they're busy on IE7.) I got this from Thea Burger's blog and copied and pasted the clear instructions. He even likes Notepad2 also. (I did make one small change, fixing some terminology.)
Run REGEDIT, follow the following directions to the proper key.
|--- Internet Explorer
|---- View Source Editor
|----- Editor Name (Default) = C:\windows\notepad.exe
If this doesnt exist (but it should) then create the Key "View Source Editor".
Then create a Key within that named "Editor Name". Modify the "(Default)" value to make it point towards any program on your computer using "D:\Tools\Notepad2\Notepad2.exe" (without the quotes).
It's been a while since I've posted any tips on IE, so I thought it was time.
I commonly want to print just part of a web page, say directions to a friend's house, without all the extra junk on the page like the ads or copyright info. For a long time, I either sucked it up and accepted the extra stuff, or I'd copy/paste the page into Word and edit the content to get my desired form. This was something I wanted to fix in IE7.
Well, it turns out that IE already can print selections. To do this:
One of my colleagues, Markus Mielke, mentioned this feature in the IE team blog as well as some other tips for printing in IE6. He also talked about the numerous printing improvements we have in the works for IE7, including fixes for the dreaded chopped off right edge that plagues IE6. I swear, of all the features I show in IE7 during the countless demos I've done, the printing fixes generate the most applause.
Anyway, there's lot more info on the IE Blog, so check it out.
Wired had an interesting article recently, titled "Who's Afraid of Google. Everyone." They describe how lots of companies, both tech and non-tech, fear Google. This parallels a phenomenon I've seen at Microsoft where each team is concerned about Google for different reasons. Certainly, the rumors of a "Gbrowser" got our attention in IE; similarly other teams throughout the company considered what it might mean for Google to get into their spaces.
I've begun to view Google as a boggart from the Harry Potter world. As defined by Wikipedia: "A boggart in the Harry Potter fictional books is a shape-shifter that takes on the form of its intended victim's worst fear." Similarly, Google can take the shape of whatever a team or company most fears. For the IE team, it's a browser maker and so on.
I find it interested that Google has been assigned the role of the heavy in the industry; this was the role Microsoft played for many years (and maybe still does). I heard stories that every high tech business plan had to include how the company would compete, partner, and/or co-exist with Microsoft. Now, it looks everyone has Google on their radar. Maybe that will take some of the boogey man pressure off of us.
(As a side note, I'm amazed that there's an entry in Wikipedia for boggart. Definitely useful for me, but not your traditional reference topic.)
Aside from the fact that I would have gone to Andersen Consulting after college, left after a few years of living out of motel rooms, and then gone to business school only to jump from one failed dot-com to another, I'm sure the world would have been different in other ways without Microsoft.
Yesterday was a big day. We shipped betas for both Vista (the next gen Windows formerly known as Longhorn) and IE7 on XP. These events were a long time coming, so the party felt pretty good. Robert Scoble, Microsoft evangelist and Chief Blogging Officer (my title for him, not his), covered the event in his blog. I even managed to wind up in a photo being geeky.
More information on the IE team blog.
Between the new Harry Potter book and Andrew's birthday party, I totally forgot that yesterday was the 15th anniversary of my start at Microsoft. It truly has been a great fifteen years; I've made a lot of friends, learned tons, and shipped some great software (and a few dogs.) I feel totally lucky to have stumbled into Microsoft senior year of college and to have been offered a job. I'm definitely one of the few people I know who is still at the same company they started with right after college (actually, the others are also at MS.)
The company has certainly grown a lot. The summer I joined, we crossed $1B in revenues for the first time and had around 5500 employees. Last fiscal year (we announce FY05 earnings later this week), we were over $36.8B in revenue and somewhere around 55000-60000 employees. Crazy. (It is, however, nice to see revenue growth dramatically outpacing headcount/cost growth.)
We've also grown up in a lot of other ways, I think. We care more deeply about taking care of our existing customers in addition to driving ahead for the next release. We're definitely more serious about quality and security than ever. I also think we're becoming a better partner, vendor, and citizen.
We are, of course, a little more bureaucratic these days. Nothing like IBM or 3M, two places I interned, but there are definitely a few more hoops. I understand that some of the hoops are necessary, but I do miss the lighter Microsoft. (If I have to chase down stragglers on my team to watch one more mandatory HR video, I'm going to scream.) A blog written by an anonymous MS employee talks about this topic further. MiniMsft. I don't agree with everything he/she says, but much of it rings true.
I'm also a little tired of everyone attributing our actions to some nefarious plot. Get over it. We're not that smart or coordinated. If you have to choose between incompetence or evil to explain a Microsoft action, 99.9% of the time, incompetence is the reason. (Actually, this is true for many things in life.) We really are trying to do good things. I liked it better when were just incompetent. This evil thing gets me down.
Fortunately, many important things have not changed. We still hire smart, creative, passionate people who love helping customers with technology. We still have a strong merit-based system that recognizes and nurtures talent. And we still have free soft drinks.
It's been a fun ride so far. I'm curious where it will take me, but I'm up for it.
I did an IE 7 in Longhorn (the next version of Windows) and RSS demo today to the entire Windows Client division. There were a few hundred people in the room plus we were webcasting to people in their offices, so potentially thousands.
I had no problems with the machines in the days leading up to the demo, and the demo was running well in rehearsal. Everything looked great.
Showtime. It's my turn. I get introduced. I hop up on stage and look at the monitor and see the machine is hung. Dead. I can't get any response. I start tap dancing with jokes (e.g. "If it were perfect, we'd be shipping it." or "Web browsing is the most common activity for PC users, except me, apparently.")while I feverishly think about what to do and say. My face, meanwhile, is up on two huge screens behind me and streaming out over the our corporate network. I'm sure I had a look of sheer panic on my face. (I'm afraid to look at the recordings.)
I finally decide I need to hard reboot the box. Chris Jones, our VP and an old friend who is on stage with me, suggests that someone else go while my machine gets reset. I return to my seat, grab my laptop, and consider remoting into the machine to get the demo reset.
Now I have a conundrum. I had used Remote Desktop Connection (sometimes referred to by its old name, Terminal Server) to reset the machine after the rehearsals, but I hadn't done this in my office. Was TS causing the problem? I opted to give it a try. I logged in, reset the demo, and prayed. Everything looked OK.
My turn again. I went up, logged into the machine, unsure of what I'd see, talking and joking all the while to keep the thousands of people from suffering from dead air.
Thank, God. The machine was working. My heart started beating again. I looked down at my notes and saw the "Smile" and "SLOW" reminders I had scribbled all over my crib sheet to remind myself to do those things. I proceeded with my demo and managed to get through it without much more drama.
I'm told I did OK recovering from my machine meltdown. These problems are common when showing off pre-release code (hell, it happens with release code too), but knowing that didn't make me feel any better as I looked out on the audience over my dead machine.
Ah, the joys of live performance. A lot of good wine eased the pain afterwards.
Back in the day, there was a great game called Lemmings. On each level, your poor lemmings faced a myriad of challenges, but fortunately, they had certain skills that you could control. For instance, some could dig, some could build, and others could blow things up. Your job was to get a set of lemmings home by utilizing their skills.
Anyway, some guy pseudonamed "crisp" has done a brilliant version in DHTML (Dynamic HTML). It's true to the game I remember and is just as fun. I'm constantly amazed at the great stuff people can build in DHTML. Check out DHTML Asteroids too. It's an old demonstration of IE's abilities by Michael Wallent (former Product Unit Manager of Internet Explorer and now the General Manager of our Avalon effort.) It runs a bit fast on modern hardware, but it's still cool.
(Note, the screenshot above has been scaled down a bit to fit here. The real thing looks better.)
Every so often, product teams at Microsoft have a review with Bill. We had ours last week. Unlike my last meeting with Bill, there were no near-disasters preceeding the meeting other than a last minute time change that got us there a half-hour early.
My boss showed off his Jedi Master skills in keeping the meeting flowing (not always easy with Bill and half-a-dozen VPs in the room). Bill seemed super pleased (even pleasantly surprised) with our plans for the next version of Internet Explorer. My part went fine with little drama.
Bill had his usual assortment of insightful comments and notes on who else we needed to talk to in the company. He seemed upset only three times; fortunately, only one was aimed at us (this is something of a record, I think). In my 14.5 years at Microsoft, it was easily the best Bill review I've been in.
Now, we just need to go ship it...
Here's another nifty trick in IE. If you hold the SHIFT key down while you roll the mouse wheel, IE will scroll back and forward through your history very quickly. It's a great way to get to the page you're looking for.
I'm surprised not everyone knows this trick, but even at Microsoft I occasionally run into people who haven't seen it.
Type a domain name in the address bar like, "tonychor" and hit "Ctrl-Enter". IE will add the "http://www." on the front and ".com" on the end. Lovely.
It's so important to how I work that I can't use browsers that don't, even otherwise great ones like iRider.
I just learned a little trick in IE that I thought I'd share. When you're reading a web page, you can hit the space bar to get IE to scroll the page down. It's basically the same as hitting the Page Down key.
It's just a little thing, but I like it, especially when I'm using my laptop that doesn't have an especially well-placed Page Down key.
Heck, even a German game website picked up my posts. It's funny how quickly this stuff spreads.
Of course, my fifteen minutes is nothing compared to the incredible noise that Dave Massy has generated now that he's joined our team. I'm, of course, very excited that he's aboard. He, not surprisingly if you know Dave, is a little embarrassed by the attention. The web is a powerful and unpredictable thing. I think that's what I like about it.
In the last two weeks, I had reviews/meetings with my entire management chain from my immediate boss through three levels of VPs plus Bill Gates. I only missed Steve Ballmer. Damn. I've never gotten so close before. (Not sure this is a really good goal or not, actually.)
The meeting with Bill was almost a disaster. I was preparing to show Bill some of our competitors; I had arrived early and was all set to go. Then thirty minutes before the meeting, I lose network connectivity; my computer cannot see the Internet. This is a very bad way to demo web browsers. A little panicked computer magic and everything is OK again. Whew.
Then twenty minutes before the demo, my boss asks if he can borrow a pen to take notes. No problem, I hand him mine. He uncaps my nice new rollerball pen to discover it's leaking blue ink everywhere; it's all over his hands. Just as I'm about to start laughing I notice my hands are covered in blue ink too. Lovely.
We were a sight. The guy demoing before us is brilliant; he invented the laser printer and was showing off some cool very futuristic display technology he whipped up. By comparison, my boss and I are covered in ink and barely able to surf the web; not a great way to establish credibility with the richest man in the world.
Fortunately, we were able to clean up, pull our shit together, and give a good demo. Dodged another bullet...