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Kurt Eichenwald  (Source:
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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RE: They expect it to change now?
By testerguy on 7/29/2012 8:00:48 PM , Rating: 2
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.

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