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Kurt Eichenwald  (Source: nymag.com)
Stack ranking and the inability to move up to new technologies were Microsoft's largest problems

Vanity Fair's contributing editor Kurt Eichenwald analyzed what he calls Microsoft's "lost decade," where a few bad management decisions led to the company's fall starting in the year 2000. Eichenwald used internal corporate records, interviews and emails between Microsoft executives to dictate his analysis.

From the information Eichenwald reviewed, he found that Microsoft made a couple of huge mistakes that led to its fall in the tech rankings: stack ranking and the inability to move up to new technologies.

After dozens of interviews with employees, Eichenwald discovered that Microsoft had been using a stack ranking management technique that put a lot of pressure on employees. Stack ranking means that each unit has a certain percentage of employees that are identified as top workers, good workers, average workers and poor workers. In other words, if there is a unit of 10 employees, it's understood that two people would be designated the top workers while seven employees would receive good or average reviews and the last one would get a poor review.

Using this stack ranking technique not only put a lot of pressure on employees, but also made employees want to compete with one another instead of other companies.

"It was always much less about how I could become a better engineer and much more about my need to improve my visibility among other managers," said Ed McCahill, a former Microsoft marketing manager for 16 years.

Microsoft also failed to take on new technological opportunities, such as the e-reader it developed back in 1998. A Microsoft team created the portable e-reader and presented it to Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, but Gates was not impressed. He said the user interface didn't look enough like Windows. The idea was scrapped, and the team was removed from the reporting line to Gates.

Amazon later introduced the Kindle e-reader in 2007, which turned out to be a hit. Amazon now has an entire line of Kindle e-readers as well as the Kindle Fire tablet, and other companies like Barnes & Noble have released their own tablets as well (NOOK). It wasn't until April of this year that Microsoft embraced e-readers by teaming up with Barnes & Noble to create an e-book subsidiary called Newco.

While Microsoft has seen tremendous success with other releases during the supposed "lost decade" -- such as Windows XP, Windows 7, Xbox 360 and Kinect -- it doesn't seem to be enough to pass competitors like Apple. In fact, the iPhone alone brings in more revenue than all of Microsoft's products combined.

But Microsoft is looking ahead to its upcoming Windows 8 operating system and Windows Phone 8 for a boost. The new Metro user interface is unlike any Microsoft Windows release to date, and has been a topic of debate. Some feel it strays too far from the original Windows theme while others praise the change. The 10.6-inch Surface tablet, which Microsoft announced last month, is also an anticipated addition to the company's family of gadgets.
 

Source: Vanity Fair



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They expect it to change now?
By 91TTZ on 7/9/2012 5:18:27 PM , Rating: 4
quote:
While Microsoft has seen tremendous success with other releases during the supposed "lost decade" -- such as Windows XP, Windows 7, Xbox 360 and Kinect -- it doesn't seem to be enough to pass competitors like Apple. In fact, the iPhone alone brings in more revenue than all of Microsoft's products combined.

But Microsoft is looking ahead to its upcoming Windows 8 operating system and Windows Phone 8 for a boost.


If well-regarded products such as Windows XP, Windows 7, Xbox 360 and Kinect can't change their fortunes, they think that a controversial OS that lacks the support of their previous products will?

Windows ME and Vista seemed to get a better reception than Windows 8 is getting. The only thing they're doing right with this launch is making is cheap.




RE: They expect it to change now?
By frozentundra123456 on 7/9/2012 5:28:34 PM , Rating: 1
I am trying to keep an open mind about Win 8, but I have to laugh at the ads about how you can buy a comp now and "upgrade" to win 8 for like 15.00 or something. I wonder if it will not soon turn into paying money to "downgrade" back to win7 after win8 comes out. (Much like people wanted to "downgrade" to XP when Vista first came out.) Win8 may be OK on tablets and other mobile devices, but I can believe they wont make a way to revert back to the traditional windows interface for desktops.

I am not sure I would say Microsoft has had a lost decade though. Maybe they have not made the kind of money and had stock growth like Apple, but basically our entire economy still runs on windows.


By DanNeely on 7/9/2012 6:33:42 PM , Rating: 2
They did something similar for both Vista and Win7 releases to defend against people saying "I don't want to buy a new PC now when it'll be obsolete in six more months". Dunno if they did the same for XP.


RE: They expect it to change now?
By spread on 7/9/2012 5:49:30 PM , Rating: 1
Windows 8 is fantastic... for a tablet. They are pissing off a lot of people by forcing a tablet interface on a desktop/laptop computer without a touch screen... so most computers this will be installed on.

The fallout is going to be hillarious.


RE: They expect it to change now?
By Mitch101 on 7/9/2012 10:40:18 PM , Rating: 3
Everything you need to know about the Windows 8 gui in 1:50
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tpTRCT2GHFk

I find Windows 8 gui now to be easier and more informative than Windows 7.


RE: They expect it to change now?
By SlyNine on 7/10/2012 2:27:57 AM , Rating: 2
I find I feel completely at home with Windows. The Metro Gui looks ugly and I hate the idea of looking at that when I boot to my desktop, or listening to music at my desk.

All they have to do is leave Aero in and give people the option to boot to the desktop explorer.


RE: They expect it to change now?
By Mitch101 on 7/10/2012 8:15:36 AM , Rating: 3
I dont disagree they could give you a classic view but people are blowing the Windows 8 tile menu hatred too far. I think the video itself shows your getting more with the Windows 8 gui and pretty much explains 99% of what people do daily to get to their apps and information. In 1 minute and 50 seconds you now know how to navigate Windows 8 just as easily as Windows 7 and learn a few of the new features of the interface.

The Tiles are nothing more than the start menu expanded and you can resize the tiles and those tiles can provide information. To get to it you hover in the lower left corner where start used to be located and that opens the start tile menu.

There is always Right-Click - My Apps - thats in the video its pretty much sorted start menu of all your apps.

Third you can just type what your looking for and it will provide you with a list of apps your looking for.

Most everyone shouldn't be using start its where all your old programs are that are rarely used I have all my needed apps Pinned to the desktop. Even then I have three ways to get to that rarely used program easily.

Once you know how to navigate Windows 8 its a breeze and the Windows 8 live tiles grow on you like having RSS feeds to various items which Im a big fan of getting information in a glance.


RE: They expect it to change now?
By dsumanik on 7/10/2012 11:50:03 AM , Rating: 3
lol, why would any system admin deploy this nonsense in a work environment?

Could you imagine the nonstop phone calls the day after launch:

how do I open...
i can't find my email..
where is...word/outlook/excel etc
I cant see the desktop...
how do i get to google?
I like the old windows can i go back.

The amount of stress it would cause, the downtime in productivity for the organization would put you in threat of losing your job.

If me as it professional has to think, look for, or learn how to do something in any environment be it linux osx or windows....then it is already too much.

Mark my words there are going to have to be training sessions PRIOR to upgrading to win 8.

Simple fix...microsoft...just let us turn it off....why force a touch screen ui on non touchscreen systems.

Big mistake, the tablets will be great...but this is a major risk and a foolhardy endeavour to begin with....

OMG imagine the accounting department on payday when they are trying to get a cheque run done.

YOU WILL BE THE MOST HATED MAN AT YOUR COMPANY IN 24 SHORT HOURS!!!!


RE: They expect it to change now?
By Mitch101 on 7/10/2012 12:10:29 PM , Rating: 3
You didn't watch the video where the corporate apps were grouped together and as said before users should be pinning their most used applications since Vista. Pin outlook done.

If there is one thing about Daily Tech I hate is the negative reactions about change that you can clearly tell they never tried it or after 10 seconds of trying to figure something out they start complaining instead of say Google it. God forbid someone read the short story about the guy named Manuel that came with the product or watch the demonstration video that occurs when you first installed the product.

Most users are lazy and stupid.

Windows 8 Gui is not rocket science its damn simple and easily just as productive as Windows 7. Its actually easier than Windows 7.

If you watch the Video you will be able to navigate Windows 8 gui just fine and work in the desktop as you should be currently since Vista and Windows 7.

If there is one thing Im discovering about Windows 8 its who the stupid users are.

If you cant figure out the Windows 8 Gui that's your sign.


RE: They expect it to change now?
By bah12 on 7/10/2012 1:11:45 PM , Rating: 4
If your people are so brain dead that they can't figure this out, your company is doomed. Here let me show you in the most BASIC way, even if you had NO tiles at all.

how do I open...
You type exc... and excel shows up to click on and or pin.
i can't find my email..
You type mai... and mail/outlook shows up to click on and or pin.
where is...word/outlook/excel etc
You type xxx... and xxx shows up to click on and or pin.
I cant see the desktop...
There is none get over it.
how do i get to google?
You type google.com...and hit enter
I like the old windows can i go back.
No you're fired!
I bet every one of your users can open a browser and search for what they want, they just aren't used to doing it on an OS. How is an email saying.. If you can't find what you want try typing the name, then pinning it as a favorite... hard to comprehend?

Seriously the entire wealth of the internet's data has been indexed and searchable for decades, and google has proven how search done right is vastly superior than maintaining a list of all web addresses via favorites.

Why can't it work on an OS? Why do you want to FIND and organize your programs, when a indexed search is FAR more effective. I suppose you still think clicking on windows control panel > 3 more steps > power > power profile to change the power settings is an efficient way of changing the power profile WHY???? Even in Win7 it is WAY WAY WAY faster to just type pow press down to power settings, and hit enter. Why click control panel at all? Any setting there can be gotten to far quicker with search.

Take this analogy. Back in they day you had to know every web sites address, and on the OS you would have to know every exe's path. Then they made favorites to store the ones you used, and the OS created shortcuts and then the shortcut group called the Start Menu.

That is ALL the start menu is a group of shortcuts, period, no arguing that.

What Win8 haters are saying is that they want a dumb less capable list of shortcuts that only take up a small section of the screen, instead of one that provides immense feedback via live tiles and is full screen.

In a nut shell that is what we are arguing about. Is a full screen highly capable start menu better than a limited one in the bottom left hand corner?

Both of them are nothing more than groups of shortcuts. So ask yourself which group of shortcuts is more customize-able, provides more information, and scales better with a large number of apps?

If your answer is still the old start menu group of shortcuts, then there is no need to argue because you clearly have not even tried Windows 8. When taken for what they both are, a group of shortcuts, Win8 is FAR more capable. Add to that the extremely easy search, and there just isn't an argument for the old menu, other than you don't like change.


RE: They expect it to change now?
By 3minence on 7/10/2012 2:33:47 PM , Rating: 1
I don't think your getting it. Change for improvement is good and necessary for survival. Change for change sakes is not good because it makes me relearn what I already know without any gain. Win8 on the desktop is change without benefit (at best). I am looking forward to Win8 on a tablet, but on the desktop it sucks. I have used Win8, I learned the shortcut keys, and I still don't like it.

I am paid to produce results, not paid to use a computer. I use a PC purely to produce work and anything that makes that harder is bad. Win8 on the desktop makes me slower without giving me benefit to offset that slowness. Therefore, it is bad.


By TakinYourPoints on 7/11/2012 3:17:39 AM , Rating: 2
All of this with using text to launch applications, assets, or preference panes via indexed search has been in OS X for the last seven years via Spotlight. Clean, simple, and still the best OS-integrated indexing around.

The thing that burns me most about Windows 8 isn't Metro, perhaps I was well prepared for disappointment with that, it is the new Windows Explorer. Adding a ribbon is just the worst idea.

People like the new IE, you know why? It's because Microsoft copied the excellent Chrome and stripped away all of the BS in the user interface. What do they do in Windows Explorer? Add more crap

Totally inconsistent, unnecessary, and inefficient design, it is ridiculous.


RE: They expect it to change now?
By dsumanik on 7/13/2012 1:33:29 PM , Rating: 2
Congratulations, you just provided excellent tech support for the first call.

Only 500 more to go, and the repeat offenders who just can't seem to get it.

How do you suppose you handle this one, coming from the exec office:

" why was this rollout of the new windows done without proper training, and warning before hand it causing major headaches and i still can't find my email"

and thats just it:

HOW is the new metro GUI A GOOD PRODUCTIVITY BOOSTING UPGRADE for non touchscreen systems?

ANSWER:

Its not.

It just add extra clicks, confusion and another useless layer that people are just repeatedly going to "skip" over just to get to the old desktop so they can get their work done.

Its gonna be years before this sinks in and people finally "get it"

Even apple, the control freak corporation of the universe hasn't forced a touch UI on their users...they enable the gestures for the ones that want it

...but they don't force it....

unless you are on a touch device!!!!

Just give an option to turn it off, its so simple...painless, and it silences all the naysayers in one fell swoop.


RE: They expect it to change now?
By tayb on 7/9/12, Rating: 0
RE: They expect it to change now?
By frozentundra123456 on 7/9/2012 9:57:13 PM , Rating: 2
Well, I still really hate the Ribbon. Now it takes multiple clicks to accomplish the simplest of tasks that used to require only one. I guess that is the definition of progress to Microsoft.


By Mitch101 on 7/9/2012 10:22:49 PM , Rating: 3
I found the complete opposite with the ribbon once I figured out where some of the items are it makes much more sense.

To those who complain about losing too much of the screen to the ribbon CTRL+F1 or in the upper right corner there is a little up arrow next to the ? where you can minimize it then work in a similar fashion with the ribbon as a drop down.


By woofersus on 7/9/2012 10:35:38 PM , Rating: 2
You can customize the ribbon to put your frequently used commands where you want. The ribbon switches tabs automatically based on context. There are pop-up menus that show when you highlight text with commands that are frequently used for that type of content. On top of that you can automatically preview changes just by mousing over some items on the ribbon. (no click at all)

What is it that you do that is so much harder to get to now that half the functionality isn't buried in menus?

As soon as I saw it I thought that the ribbon was one of the best UI advances in a piece of productivity software since ditching the keyboard overlay.


RE: They expect it to change now?
By drlumen on 7/9/2012 11:38:37 PM , Rating: 2
Agreed. I was forced into an upgrade to Win7 and MSO2010 about a year ago and I still have to hunt for the correct ribbon and then hunt the icons or for options in the drop downs to find what I need.

Big load of crap. I despise it!


RE: They expect it to change now?
By testerguy on 7/10/2012 4:09:46 AM , Rating: 2
Absolutely agree.

For anyone familiar with using older versions of Office, specifically in Excel, the ribbon is simply a backward step, functionality wise, for the sake of looking more modern.

I find myself using Excel more often than I would like but even after years I'm still not familiar with the ribbon interface. It was most definitely a backward step.

People defending the ribbon have argued you can customise it or hide it. Is that really a defence? To make it not suck you either have to hide it or waste time customising it on each pc you use? Come on..


RE: They expect it to change now?
By woofersus on 7/10/2012 4:34:02 PM , Rating: 2
The point to customizing it is that it's possible some people have obscure usage patterns, not that it should have been organized differently. (which would actually be a valid argument if that's what people were saying, rather than "AAARRRGGGGG, IT'S SO AWFUL! I WANT MY OLD FASHIONED MENU TREASURE HUNTS BACK!!)

Seriously, how does the ribbon require more hunting around than the old File/Edit/Tools/View menus when you couldn't see any commands? What commands do you use that are so hard to find? Some of them even pop up automatically when you highlight. Are you generally against visual interfaces? You can still use keyboard shortcuts as much as ever.

I see all these comments from people saying after years they still aren't familiar or comfortable with the new interface, but apparently they were comfortable with the old interface where you opened a menu, brought up a separate box with multiple tabs (in some cases on two axis) and found your command in one of those combinations, then closed the box and opened a different one for another command. Either you're not getting it out of stubbornness, or you really aren't capable of adjusting to interface changes in general.

I get that people had learned the old versions and were comfortable with it. That doesn't mean something new can't be better, at least for the majority of people. If that were the case we wouldn't have GUI's at all.


RE: They expect it to change now?
By testerguy on 7/29/2012 8:00:48 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Seriously, how does the ribbon require more hunting around than the old File/Edit/Tools/View menus when you couldn't see any commands? What commands do you use that are so hard to find? Some of them even pop up automatically when you highlight. Are you generally against visual interfaces? You can still use keyboard shortcuts as much as ever. I see all these comments from people saying after years they still aren't familiar or comfortable with the new interface, but apparently they were comfortable with the old interface where you opened a menu, brought up a separate box with multiple tabs (in some cases on two axis) and found your command in one of those combinations, then closed the box and opened a different one for another command. Either you're not getting it out of stubbornness, or you really aren't capable of adjusting to interface changes in general. I get that people had learned the old versions and were comfortable with it. That doesn't mean something new can't be better, at least for the majority of people. If that were the case we wouldn't have GUI's at all.


I know what you mean, but no. I've used the new Excel for years now, and I'm still not used to it.

The old GUI, and that's what it was, a GUI - was more intuitive, in my honest opinion. If you didn't know where something was, you knew where to look for it - where it was likely to be, generally it only took 2 clicks.

On the new Excel you have to faff around with different tabs, not really certain which tab which command is in.

I am a GUI man - I use GUI's almost exclusively and I definitely enjoy progress visually - but the Excel ribbon just moved so many things around to counter-intuitive places.


RE: They expect it to change now?
By tayb on 7/10/2012 11:18:23 AM , Rating: 2
Thank you for perfectly illustrating my point. The ribbon has been hugely successful and the ONLY point who don't like it are people who can't handle change. Take any NEW user to excel, show them the OLD interface, and then show them the NEW interface, and ask them which one they prefer. It's not even a question, the ribbon will win every time. Menu's are clunky, annoying, and static. The ribbon was a HUGE upgrade.

Some people just can't handle change. Do you really think Microsoft gives a crap about the teeny minority of people who don't want their UI to EVER change?? Seriously??


By dark matter on 7/10/2012 2:59:45 PM , Rating: 2
You make an excellent point. If you just "show" them the ribbon they will chose that over the menus.

However when it comes to using the product the ribbon gets in the way.

Don't forget, the ribbon was designed to help people discover things. And it is good, for new users.

However as a business I don't employ "new users", I employ people with experience at doing a job.

Likewise Windows 8, why would I train my users (at my expense) to do things differently, just for the sake of difference itself. The new start screen does nothing for productivity, all it does is introduce costs.

Likewise the ribbon over the menu. Sure, it's great to look at, but when you're using it day in day out for years, it's worse than the menu.


RE: They expect it to change now?
By Flunk on 7/10/2012 11:53:01 AM , Rating: 2
The same could easily be said about Apple in 1995 and look at them now. Microsoft is actually in a much better position than Apple was back then. There is plenty of opportunity for them to turn their fortunes around.


RE: They expect it to change now?
By Jeffk464 on 7/10/2012 12:49:03 PM , Rating: 2
Once you take over the world the only way to go from there is down.


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