Apr 12, 2021Liked by Steven Sinofsky

>> It might be extreme, but the general view could be distilled down to the belief that Systems was truly difficult engineering work and Apps were mostly trivial.

My favorite example of this - sorry I'm jumping ahead a couple years - was Sun Microsystem's purchase of StarOffice, rebadged to OpenOffice, to compete with MS Office. McNealy and Co thought 'hey, we write operating systems, the toughest thing going - how hard could apps be?' We (Microsoft Office) then proceeded to grind them into powder. I enjoyed that.

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Apr 29, 2021Liked by Steven Sinofsky

Novell tried the same thing later, talk about learning from others' failures

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It may have been worse than that. While interviewing there to start a database management system that could compete with dBase, they told me that they intended to create spreadsheets, word processors... everything. I asked how they'd know how to do it if they didn't use them on a daily basis. I asked because there were no PCs, just Sun Workstations with terminal windows on everyone's desk.

They explained that they had PCs to refer to for this. They took me to an air-conditioned closet and sure enough, there were Macs and PCs in there that people could run apps on.

Clueless. I left and ended up at Borland creating Paradox for the Mac by creating a Windows API emulator that could run the Paradox for Windows that we had in development (neither were released).

One of my funniest memories was to have our VP of Engineering come in my office, get a demo of my work, and exclaim how inefficient event-driven programming was.

Brad would think differently about this later LOL

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Apr 13, 2021Liked by Steven Sinofsky

The most insightful chapter of the book to date, in my opinion! I'm sure the story will keep getting more hardcore from now on!

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Jun 20, 2022·edited Jun 20, 2022Liked by Steven Sinofsky

Steven, I love the blog. Reading about the stuff prior to my tenure and reading all the comments from other employees during this period is great.

I love this post and the talk about BillG reviews. It prompted several memories for me, each one of them reinforces your line, "The smartest, most thoughtful, and hardest working people freeze up or talk gibberish at meetings."

My first BillG review was after I'd been asked to work with Karen Jensen from MSR. She and her team were a part of those Natural Language folks from IBM that came over at the founding of MSR. Blue, Pete Pathe, head of Word, asked me to work with Karen to create a proposal for productizing her group's research so that we could improve our spelling and grammar technology. I was too junior and not remotely technical enough for this project and should have admitted as much. But I didn't. We made a pitch to BillG and many other execs (Pete Higgins, Chris Peters, Nathan Myhrvold and others I can't remember). I was so scared to present that I could barely get my opening statements out and hand things off to Karen. Shockingly the proposal was approved, all the credit went to Karen and her amazing team.

My second BillG review was during Office 2007 development. There were two things that amazed me at this meeting. The OneNote, InfoPath and Word teams were presenting in the same meeting. Despite the different technologies and business for each of these teams, BillG dug into all the details switching from one product to the other without skipping a beat. It was so impressive to me. The other thing that stood out was watching BillG dig in when it was clear one of the teams didn't have their shit together. The very smart and experienced GPM of that product couldn't recover, and the presentation went down in flames. It was rough to watch.

My final BillG review was in the early days of Office 2010 when we were proposing to create full-fledged web versions of Word, OneNote, PowerPoint and Excel. BillG had a lot of concerns about this proposal, and everyone expected the meeting to be rough. I wasn't presenting but had finagled an invite to sit in the outer circle and was told to keep my mouth shut. At one point, BillG got on his soapbox about code reuse/duplication. Somehow during the presentation he'd gotten the idea that we were creating multiple variations of the Word codebase. The surprising thing was that no one at the big conference table (including my boss and many other Office leaders) who all should have known this wasn't correct bothered to interrupt and correct him. He kept explaining how bad this was until I couldn't take it anymore, so I interrupted and explained how this wasn't accurate. I got an unpleasant look from my boss, but the meeting got back on track. To this day I'm still not sure if what I did was brave or stupid. ¯\_(ツ)_/

Working with you on Office 2007 was a highlight of my career. Keep up the magnificent work on your Microsoft history.

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What a fun series of recollections. Thank you for sharing. And thank you for the kind words on Hardcore Software.

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