Friday, September 16, 2005

Microsoft's Midlife Crisis

The Forbes article Microsoft's Midlife Crisis had me rolling on the floor laughing. I don't doubt that MS is experiencing growing pains. What's funny is that the article uses IBM as an example of a company that has overcome the problems MS is currently facing. This particular paragraph had me near tears:

What has gone wrong? Microsoft, with $40 billion in sales and 60,000 employees, has grown musclebound and bureaucratic. Some current and former employees describe a stultifying world of 14-hour strategy sessions, endless business reviews and a preoccupation with PowerPoint slides; of laborious job evaluations, hundreds of e-mails a day and infighting among divisions so fierce that it hobbles design and delays product releases. In short, they describe precisely the behavior that humbled another tech giant: IBM (nyse: IBM - news - people ) in the late 1980s. Tellingly, IBM reached a point of crisis just over three decades after it started selling computers to commercial users.

The point about the preoccupation with PowerPoint slides hit really close to home. But then again, perhaps my division was an anachronism. Nah. The following is a great quote too.

"Microsoft has become what it used to mock," says Gabe Newell, a developer on the first three versions of Windows. At late-night rounds of poker with "Bill and Steve" in the mid-1980s, he says, "we laughed at IBM. They had all this process for monitoring productivity, and yet we knew they had spectacularly bad productivity. That's Microsoft now."

If my experience was close to typical, Gabe should still be laughing.

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