The Likes & Dislikes of Microsoft in 2011

The calendar increments by 1 year now and as it does I think about the last year and ponder what I liked and disliked in my sandbox that I call the Microsoft ethos

Windows Phone 7

  • I liked Nokias approach to branding the product; they really took what they saw and made it the focal point of what the experience for consumers should be. That is, they did what I asked at the start of the year; make the metro design your familiar face in the crowd.

  • I liked the WP7 Design contest; I rarely ever give an endorsement to contests as they are a desperate response to bad marketing, in this case though the designs that came back were actually tidy and immediately wanted you to explore the apps. Now to see if they make it into the appstore.

  • I disliked WP7 marketing from Microsoft, it was chaotic, it lacked depth and $500million in marketing spent later, I still can’t put my finger on one message that you could hang your hat on. Compare Apple iPhone / Android marketing to Wp7 and it baffles me as to what is going on in that team – I think they just carpet bomb SeaTac / LAX airports with it knowing that Microsoft Execs travel through there and hope that’s enough to convince them they are “everywhere” – reality is, Bus shelter ads aren’t putting the wp7 logo on the bottom of their “get our apps” signage – which is a fail.

  • I disliked the WP7 app store pricing model, fact is they are charging the same rates as iPhone devs or there about and in the end you have a marketshare that Samsung is even beating. I agree with Laurence MoroneyReality check for two please and can we have that to go.
  • I disliked the compete b.s that came from Staffers at Microsoft around WP7, fight the internal metrics and rise above the whole “heh did you see that, Apple just copied us!” mentality. Its very weak and if you are to beat the competition then you need to stop watching their every move hoping and praying for a weakness to occur. If Apple copy you, great, internalize that victory but keep it internal and instead move the bar higher as the best way for people to absorb that reality is when someone who doesn’t have an MVP or Blue-badge says “Did Apple just copy Microsoft?”.

Windows 7 and 8

  • I liked the intent for Microsoft to bring balance to the UX force, which is a consistent looking brand / feel across all products from now on.
  • I disliked the execution of the consistent branding. I wished they would keep all design decisions in a central team, which is everything from website design to UI design(s) for products. Allowing individual teams within Microsoft to interpret Metro outside of the central team at this early critical stage is clearly not working. If you want to attract a design enriched audience that want to take inspiration from your work, stop farming it out to agencies who nickel/dime their way through design creation and instead double down on providing a central experience.

    Hate it when Microsoft gets a hold of a design concept..and then just sodomises it #badmetro #bldwin
  • I liked the energy that the Windows teams have around device development, we’ve asked for this way back in the days of Surface birth. I think that’s healthy for the industry and will put touch enabled devices into more and more people’s hands sooner rather than later.
  • I disliked the artificial inflation of the metrics (Windows and Wp7). Inside Microsoft you gauge success based on your ability to ignore qualitative data and instead focus on quantitative given it looks bigger. This often spills over into the marketing engine(s) at Microsoft resulting in just bad reality checks thus creating more distance between the ability to trust anything the brand states.

  • I disliked the development experience required to get access to the touch enabled world. A friend of mine sent me this break down of tag trends over at Stackoverlow, basically if you are working with Silverlight and/or WPF the chances of you not using Stackoverflow in some form of way is next to zero. WPF and Silverlight dead? Can I have an extra order of reality check for team Sinofsky please?


  • I liked the notion that Windows 7 is on the rise over Windows XP, the growth you have is great, and the sooner we can stomp on the neck of Windows XP the happier my development sandbox will be.
  • I disliked the fact that Windows 7 has a huge market share right now, today, that I can’t access and instead am told to “chill” until Windows 8 AppStore comes online via Windows 8. It’s like the Microsoft team decided “How else can I really fuck my customer base over” then some clown in the back puts his hand up and tells them of an idea to hold back AppStore whilst everyone just sits there nodding like he’s telling them that touch will be the future for Microsoft back in 2007 – oh wait… has anyone seen JJ Allard lately as that guys going places.

Silverlight / WPF.

  • I liked the fact we got some releases for these products, shows there is still someone within the company stoking that release fire.
  • I liked Silverlights new 3D capabilities, it hints at what could have been possible had we had it sooner. We back in the early days would often discuss how 3D would be our next frontier of innovation for the product and my hat goes off to the engineering efforts for pulling it off – they worked hard.
  • I dislike that Silverlight release was late and I especially disliked the way it was done. Microsoft phoned in the release, let it happen in the dark of night instead of the grandeur we’ve been used to in the past. That for me sent a clear signal to the developer base – it’s time to move on, finish up your creations and wait for next shiny object to come to a install near you.
  • I dislike WPF feature list, it was less than we were promised (technically it was more tease / flirt) and lastly the release itself was more of an internal upgrade spilled over onto external HDD’s – that is to say, the features were more derived from internal needs than external. MIC check, is this thing on, WPF is dead in the eyes of Microsoft but its far from dead in the eyes of your average .NET code jockey.
  • I dislike the energy spent on HTML5 is the future, I’m yet to meet a developer who uses Silverlight/WPF get excited at the idea of abandoning this for HTML5. It must be the other developers I don’t’ see who want it – well that’s what we may be assuming amongst each and everyone one of us “must be the other guy needs it” (ie “Pretty girl syndrome”).


  • I liked the SDK experiences that come with this ….product? … I think it is much easier at times than people give it credit for. I’ve used Amazon quite extensively this year and often will grow impatient that its not like Azure.
  • I dislike the pricing models for Azure. I’m a fairly intelligent guy but even today I’d not say I can for certain grasp the pricing model needed for me to respond to a work order request from some of my clients (mining companies who pay very large sums of money may I add).
  • I dislike the fact Scott Guthrie is running this only. In the short time he’s been the custodian of this product its gotten better, great, but Scott should be a higher power across all products. Steve Sinofsky you suck the life out of Microsoft development.
  • I liked the way Bizspark program is breaking down the pricing barrier of entry for Azure, I was skeptical of this program when it first started (My office was near the creator of this program back in the day, wand watched its birth). I think this program is what stands between adoption and non-adoption but at the same time it has really piss poor marketing behind it so unless you know someone who knows someone, it needs more help (See Catherine Eibner in Microsoft Australia, she’s got her head screwed on tight around how this should work going forward. Promote her to lead the charge here).

Internet Explorer.

I liked the fact IE6 is hated in a more formal fashion at Microsoft, but overall I just wish this product in its entirety would just die. Everyone else is embracing Webkit, stop fighting the obvious and bend over accept you lost proprietary way of life and jump into the stagnant waters of Webkit FTW.


  • WCF team can rot in hell. I think there is enough issues around this product to simply state, stop what your doing and think about its effects on your audience. Until then, rot in hell.
  • Entity Framework team, make a decision and stick with it or at least promote the reasons why you change APIs and their pro’s / con’s.
  • Zune. Great idea, pitty it never left Redmond zip code.
  • Surface 2 – Great idea, pitty it never left Redmond zip code.
  • Bing. I googled Bing, enough said but the fact you didn’t have a Santa Tracker at Christmas – you are dead to me.

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Windows Azure is still a science project *sad face*


I’ve been putting of an expedition to navigate the cloud for quite some time. I have done so as I’m the type of personality that likes to wait for technology to grow a little before jumping in feet first (call it lessons learnt from the school of bleeding edge knocks).

Recently however, I’ve come across a problem in my architectural design that required the use of a external gateway for publish/subscription messaging. The problem came about due to inbound firewall issues, in that tunneling out of a corporations network is fairly easy, tunneling back in is next to impossible as I’m really now putting the IT Department on notice – “I’m now going to try and crack a window open in your firewall, game on”.

Armed with this problem I decided to check out both Amazon and Azure. I have heard more positive things about Amazon but the seduction of being allowed to use my beloved .NET + VisualStudio crutch and talk directly to Azure via this is too much to pass up.

After spending a day or two waiting for Azure to give me access to an account, I ran straight into the Management Portal with a glint in my eye and a large amount of creative hope. I should also point out at this stage the login page for the portal was down for hours (Not reassuring I must say).

A Messaging Saga

I looked at the ServiceBus that comes in what I guess (at best) as the first release of Azure, but it didn’t have the messaging capabilities I needed. Scratching my head and remembering a presentation I saw recently around this very subject I kept wondering what I am missing.

After more googling I managed to find out the problem. I was looking at the wrong portal for ServiceBus when I should be looking at the AppFabric version of the ServiceBus. Confused? It gets better.


I then manage to crack open a CTP release of Azure and proceed to write a test harness to see how one can tunnel in and out of a firewall using port 80 and some weird science project that I don’t fully understand but is similar to MSMQ.

Success! I was grinning now, Azure saves the day. I can forgive the constant state of confusion I had in kick starting the journey because now I can get messages inbound/outbound to my networks via Azure. As I have to get two separate networks to react to events from one another (ones remote while the other is in HQ).

I then deploy my test app to Windows XP Service Pack 3. As majority of the laptops that corporation uses is still Windows XP – may I also add 60% of the world’s PC’s .

It broke. Problem?


Framework Version: v4.0.30319
Description: The process was terminated due to an unhandled exception.
Exception Info: System.PlatformNotSupportedException
   at System.Diagnostics.Eventing.EventProvider.EtwRegister()
   at System.Diagnostics.Eventing.EventProvider..ctor(System.Guid)
   at Microsoft.ServiceBus.Tracing.MessagingEtwProvider..ctor()
   at Microsoft.ServiceBus.Tracing.MessagingEtwProvider.get_Provider()
   at Microsoft.ServiceBus.Messaging.Sbmp.SbmpMessageSender.TraceSend(System.Collections.Generic.IEnumerable`1<Microsoft.ServiceBus.Messaging.BrokeredMessage>)
   at Microsoft.ServiceBus.Messaging.Sbmp.SbmpMessageSender.OnSend(System.Collections.Generic.IEnumerable`1<Microsoft.ServiceBus.Messaging.BrokeredMessage>, System.TimeSpan)
   at Microsoft.ServiceBus.Messaging.MessageSender.Send(System.Collections.Generic.IEnumerable`1<Microsoft.ServiceBus.Messaging.BrokeredMessage>, System.TimeSpan)
   at Microsoft.ServiceBus.Messaging.MessageSender.Send(Microsoft.ServiceBus.Messaging.BrokeredMessage)
   at AzureQueue.Demo.Common.AzureServiceBus.Send(System.String, AzureQueue.Demo.Common.Messages.IMessage)
   at AzureQueue.Demo.Server.Program.Main(System.String[])

Sadly, the team who wrote ServiceBus relies on this ball of code to handle its AppFabric event tracking (I can see the upside as you get a healthy amount of data via AppFabric on how things are flowing in and out).

My point here however is simple. The cloud isn’t supposed to be platform specific it’s supposed to be agnostic enough to deal with these issues. If you now impose a Windows Vista and above release matrix, you are not really convincing people to go to the cloud?

Furthermore Azure doesn’t have access to Virtual Machines in the cloud as whilst one could sit there and stare at how Roles work within the Azure hosted service offerings and achieve a cloud like nosebleed, in the end I’d rather get a VM up and running and then start to break down the habitual tendencies of an organization slowly, piece by piece via the cloud vs. having to hit a magical reset button on brown-field projects which later turn into greenfield?

Furthermore, how does Azure team anticipate breaking in and out of firewalls securely? As it’s one thing to say “Store you stuff in the cloud” but it’s entirely different matter to not only swallow that bitter pill but tunnel in and out of networks to achieve this?

Answer was Azure Connect.

Awesome, when can I get a copy? Answer is below. I’m “Pending” I’m not sure what that means or where I am in the approval process or what the approval process is?


The more I use the Azure services, the more I get the feeling it’s still in science project mode. There’s a lot missing and the stuff you have in front of you just doesn’t add value to existing problems that I can foresee in most organizations (not just my immediate pain points but as I cast my mind back to previous roles or when as a Microsoft Evangelist I’d visit large partners and hear their pain points often, I just can’t simply see an upside to running full speed into the Azure camp).

Amazon or bust??

Looking at Amazon and its services it’s clearly a front runner when it comes to maturity. All of the above is done today and I get instant access. I’ve got access to Amazon VPC through to its own version of Service Bus which doesn’t impose platform limitations my way. I also can provision a Virtual Instance in minutes and not have to apply for access?

I could sit here and tell you how a large gold partner of Microsoft’s just walked away from Azure with contempt and disappointment but that’s kind of a shallow blow given it’s going to fall on deaf ears anyway.

I don’t care about that, what I am wondering is what is the Azure team actually thinking about when it comes to this product line? Do they have a plan? Are they close to delivering this plan? Are they really going to impose Platform limitations upfront given the whole point of the cloud is to shift organizations from legacy into the new?

Is the ticket entry to Azure a case of “you must be a greenfield site” before you can begin?

Are they paying attention to Amazon?

Azure ecosystem reminds me of a cartoon I once saw where these group of people were all rushing towards a cliff but they couldn’t see the cliff coming because the dust they were kicking up created the cloud. One character asked “Where are we going?” and the other responds “I don’t know, something about the cloud. That’s not important, I just want to be first!”

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