Vanity Fair: Poor Management is Behind Microsoft's "Lost Decade"
July 9, 2012 1:10 PM
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Stack ranking and the inability to move up to new technologies were Microsoft's largest problems
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,
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.
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RE: They expect it to change now?
7/10/2012 1:11:45 PM
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?
7/10/2012 2:33:47 PM
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.
RE: They expect it to change now?
7/11/2012 3:17:39 AM
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?
7/13/2012 1:33:29 PM
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?
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.
"And boy have we patented it!" -- Steve Jobs, Macworld 2007
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