Metro: Typography trumps chrome–debunked.

Metro, is fast becoming this unclear, messy craptuclar retardation of modern interface design. In that, the current execution out there is getting out of control resulting in what originally started out as a Microsofts plagiarized edition of Dieter Rams “Ten Principles of Good Design” into what we have before us today.

I am actually ok with that, as if I ever looked back on the first year of my designs in the 90s I’d cringe at the sight of lots of Alienskin Bevels, Glows and Fire plugin driven pixel vomit.

The part though I’m a little nervous about is how fast the microsoftees of the world have somehow collectively agreed that Text is in Chrome is out – like somehow science is wrong, that what we really need to do is get back to basics of ASCII inspired typography design(s) of yesteryear.

Typography is ok, in short bursts.

Spatial Visualization is the key description you need to Google a bit more around. Let me save you a little google confusion and explain what I mean.

Humans are not normal, to assume that inside HCI we are all equal in our IQ levels is dangerous, it is quite the opposite and to be fair the human mental conditions that we often suffer from are still quite an the infancy of medicine – we have so much more to learn about genetic deformation/mutations that are ongoing.

The reality is that most humans hail from a different approach to the way in which we decipher patterns within our day-to-day lives as we aren’t getting smarter we’re just getting faster at developing habitual comprehension of patterns that we often create.

Let us for example assume I snapped someone from the 1960’s, and I sat him or her in a room and handed them a mobile device. I then asked them “turn it on” and measured the reaction time to navigating the device itself to switching it on.

You would most likely find a lot of accidental learning, trial and error but eventually they’d figure it out and now that information is recorded into their brain for two reasons. Firstly, pressure does that to humans we record data when under duress that is surprisingly accurate (thus bank robbers often figure out that their disguises aren’t as affective as once thought) and secondly we discovered fire for the first time – an event gave it meaning “this futuristic device!!”

What is my point, firstly, the brain capacity has not increased our ability to think and react visually is what I’d argue is the primary driver for our ability to decode what’s in front of us.  (point in case the usage of H1 tag breaks up the indexation of comprehending of what I’ve written).

How so?

Research in the early 80’s found that we are more likely to detect misspelled words than we are correctly spelled words. The research goes on to suggest that the reason for this is that we obtain shape information about a word via peripheral vision initially (we later narrow in on the said word and make a decision on true/false after we’ve slowed the reading down to a fixated position).

It doesn’t stop there, by now you the reader have probably fixated on a few mistakes in my paragraph structure or word usage as you’ve read this, but yet you’ve still persisted in comprehending the information – despite the flaws.

What’s important about this packet of information is that it hints at what I’m stating, that a reliance on typography is great but for initial bursts of information only. Should the density of data in front of you increase, your ability to decode and decipherer (scan / proof read) becomes more of a case of balancing peripheral vision and fixated selection(s).

Your CPU is maxed out is my point.

AS I AM INFERRING, THE HUMAN BEING IS NOW JUGGLING THE BASICS IN AND AROUND GETTING SPATIAL QUEUES FROM BOTH TEXT, IMAGERY AND TASK MATCHING – ALL CRAMMED INSIDE A SMALL DEVICE. THE PROBLEM HOWEVER WONT STOP THERE, IT GOES ON INTO A MORE DEEPER CYCLE OF STUPIDITY.
INSIDE METRO THE BALANCE BETWEEN UPPER AND LOWER CASE FLUCTUATES THAT IS TO SEE AT TIMES IT WILL BE PURE UPPERCASE, MIXED OR LOWERCASE.

Did you also notice what I just did? I put all that text in Uppercase, and what research has also gone onto suggest is that when we go full-upper in our usage our reading speed decreases as more and more words are added. That is to say, now inside metro we use a mixed edition of both and somehow this is a good thing or bad thing?

Apple has over-influenced Microsoft.

I’m all for new design patterns in pixel balancing, I’m definitely still hanging in there on Metro but what really annoys me the most is that the entire concept isn’t really about breaking way based on scientific data centered in around the an average humans ability to react to computer interfaces.

It simply is a competitive reaction to Apple primarily, had Apple not existed I highly doubt we would not be having this kind of discussion and it would probably be full glyph/charms/icon visual thinking friendly environment(s).

Instead what we are probably doing is grabbing what appears to be a great interruption in design status quo and declaring it “more easier” but the reality kicks in fast when you go beyond the initial short burst of information or screen composition into denser territory – even Microsoft are hard pressed to come up with a Metro inspired edition of Office.

Metro Reality Check – Typography style.

The reality is the current execution of Metro on Windows Phone 7 isn’t built or ready for dense information and I would argue that the rationale that typography replaces chrome is merely a case of being the opposite of a typical iPhone like experience – users are more in love with the unique anti-pattern then they are with the reality of what is actually happening.

Using typography as your spatial visualization go to pattern of choice simply flies in the face of what we actually do know in the small packets of research we have on HCI.

Furthermore, if you think about it, the iPhone itself when It first came out was more of a mainstream interruption to the way in which we interpret UI via mobile device, icons for example took on more of candy experience and the chrome itself become themed.

It became almost as if Disney had designed the user interface as being their digital mobile theme park, yet here is the thing – it works (notice when Metro UI adds pictures to the background it seems to fit?…there’s a reason for that).

Chrome isn’t a bad thing, it taps into what we are hard wired to do in our ability to process information, we think visually (with the minority being the exclusion).

Egyptians, Asian(s) and Aboriginals wrote their history on walls/paper using visual glyphs/symbols not typography. That is an important principle to grapple onto the most; historically speaking we have always shown evidence to gravitate towards a pictorial view of the world and less around complexity in glyphs around pattern(s) (text) (that’s why Data Visualization works better than text based reports).

We ignore this basic principle because our technology environment has gotten more advanced but we do not have extra brainpower as human race, our genome has not mutate or evolved! We have just gotten better at collectively deciphering the patterns in and in turn have built up better habitual usage of these patterns.

Software today has a lot of bad UI out there, I mean terrible experiences, yet we are still able to use and navigate them.

Metro is mostly marketing / anti-compete than it is about being the righteous path to HCI design, never forget that part. Metros tagline as being “digitally authentic” is probably one of Deiter Rams principles being mutated and broken at the same time.

Good design is honest.
It does not make a product more innovative, powerful, or valuable than it really is. It does not attempt to manipulate the consumer with promises that cannot be kept.

Should point out, these ten principles are what have inspired Apple and other brands in the industrial design space. Food for thought.

Lastly one more thing, what if your audience was 40% Autistic/Dyslexic how would your UI react differently to the current designs you have before you.

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Silverlight huh, bit of a …hot topic..wouldn’t you say?

So..

I did a bit of a video post on it; I think it was a balanced on what my thoughts where around how the current release was dumped in what West Wing used to call “Take out the Trash Day

It still leaves you wondering though, so what is it you are missing from this entire Silverlight story as surely by now you’ve read enough rants and blog posts that centre around the notion “..but you’re a .NET developer man…pull yourself together, you have skills, you have knowledge now get back out there and make something of this Windows 8 way of life…and don’t do it for me, don’t do it for your country, do it for that little orphan named Annie, the ginge, the one who dreamed about having a parent and sang that tear jerking song – the sun will come out tomorrow… Go get em tiger” *pant*

Ok, bit dramatic yes, but when I read these posts I can’t but help giggle at what I have dubbed the “orphan syndrome” whereby you have the author giving you similar speech above on how their father is going to come for them one day, you just wait and see.

The reality check.

Will you be able to take your skills to the new Windows way of life, sure, Microsoft are often lazy to execute if not at times paralyzed with fear of taking a risk – but they aren’t completely incompetent although I would favor mandatory drug testing on executives though.

The numbers rubbery, but approx. 6million .NET devs exist right now hitting “Tab dot Ship” via Visual Studio so that number is your army and for them to completely abandon them is out of the question. It’s not to say they won’t shelve them when it comes to marketing spend or evangelism efforts, but they won’t just cast them aside.

They will focus on HTML5, that IE 10 Metro crack needs addicts and they need to find them early and get them to double down on producing Glow in the Dark Twitter Applications that have Angry Birds built in for extra kudos. This needs to occur because this needs to entice the consumer to stop buying porn online with their credit card(s) and instead switch over to the Microsoft Windows 8 AppStore that works like ITunes AppStore but different (just like the phsycial stores but different, cause Microsoft use Oak wood instead of Birch).

C# skills transference though is never really be a dramatic issue, its akin to saying “Don’t worry guys, you know Winforms, here’s WPF, Go!” … oh wait, we did that to and yeah, didn’t quite work out that well.

We also tried ASP.NET with Silverlight, again, did not work out so well.

This time, though its different because you have more options to choose from and just for extra added confusion, Microsoft aren’t going to confirm or deny whether technologies you have today will be around – sure they show a few strong hints here and there but to actually come out and give a Caesar style “thumbs up” vs “thumbs down” death blow – no, forget about it.

Its not like they came out and formerly cancelled MIX either, the conference that let you all know what was coming out for the web and etc. etc. Sadly, Bob Mu former executive let it slip the last time that event was close by that “our strategy has changed” and then after that slip, he was never heard of again.

So what is all the fuss about?

Why is everyone getting all caught in knots about Silverlight being alive or dead, nobody’s really volunteered an exhaustive list of features that are missing right? Well maybe Uservoice but who listens to that stupid website anyway.. oops, did it again didn’t I.

I think real fuss is more about the concept of patronizing the developer base with yet another executive we probably care less about talking about a technology that we still haven’t figured out why it exists over the old whilst then asking the devleopers to “trust” them and yet not confirm or deny the pre-existing technology that they originally trusted them will continue to exist.

I think that’s the core fuss point, I think the PR folks are out to lunch most days and Microsoft probably need to rethink their relationship with WaggEd (the de-facto outsource PR firm) around how they are handling the messaging. In my experience, they can be quite conservative and treat the brand in many ways like it’s a Presidential campaign – cagey, artificial and lastly “good enough” but never quite “great”.

Windows team will eventually turn the lights out on the current permutation of Silverlight, specifically on the Windows Phone 7 as when there is a fairly high profile leadership change out, things aren’t good internally.

Something is going a miss and Andy Lee’s isn’t known internally imho for his brilliant strategic thinking, so for him to be swapped out and some other yet to be on stage for us all to ignore VP will now take his place.

That to me says one thing “We have a change in strategy..err I mean tactics..

Journos and bloggers will hold your hand and reassure you that Silverlight as you know it today will continue and sure, C# and XAML still has a future but its never really been about that its more and always has been about making applications, quickly and without performance or bugs.

What the fuss is all about now is do we have to re-pave an old road, where sure Silverlight/WPF have issues there’s no denying that but today, we all collectively have a fairly well rounded knowledge base in and around what they are and how to avoid them.

Does that all now have to be reset? Does that mean our Google searches for answers that often get a mix between Silverlight, WPF and CTP/Beta APIs that have breaking changes get that much more polluted resulting in extra hours of wading through rants to get answers?

Sadly yes.

I’m a programmer and designer, I have over 9 languages under my belt and can use majority of the 3D and 2D design tooling that the planet has managed to cough up. Personally my issue has never been around learning stuff, it’s always been about learning stuff to get stuff done. Nothing personally pisses me off more is having to go backwards when we should be going forwards.

Windows 8 going to HTML5.. really… that’s the answer? Does anyone not get the concept that if all browsers were equal then why make them? What’s the differentiation? Answer that question and now you are back in the game of circa late 90’s early 2000 where Browser wars an API forks were all the rage.

Oh wait most of the devs that use HTML today were probably dancing to Power Ranger Intros to notice.

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WP7 Developers! Developers! Devel…wtf is the designers?

I just noticed something about the overall Windows Phone 7 community outreach story. Well I’ve noticed a few things, but the main thing I noticed was the designer haven is non-existent. Looking at the Create.MSDN site which for me appears to be the front-door to “getting-started” with Windows Phone 7, there appears to be no upsell or solicitation in anyway for the “design” community to pay attention to Windows Phone 7.

Huge mistake firstly.

image

The reason this is not a bright start to the phone, is if you look at all the successful apps on the iPhone and even Android market-places, there actual apps clearly have someone with design muscle flexing their wares proactively. Inside the Windows Phone 7 ethos, it’s admittedly paint by numbers style design (Metro) but still there is potential vein of richness here should you but show some bread-crumbs.

The major selling point for Windows Phone 7 is metro, folks inside the WP7 marketing team can flog “apps” all they like, but in my opinion I’d declare the phone having apps as hygiene (i.e. Well? I expected you to have them so what? you want a high five?..what else you got?). Metro is the differentiator, despite my grievances with User Interface experience(s) I do recognize that pushing these bitter points aside, the phone needs to focus on this and this alone when it comes to the consumers?

Sitting down and having designed a UI for this phone for an upcoming (reveled later) I’m a little frustrated at the amount of Googling (Yes, I said Google, not Bing. Bing is an ass backwards Search engine imho) I’ve had to spend in finding vector icons, inspiration (design stealing) and lastly techniques / resources others have framed when it comes to handling design related issues.

For instance, I’m not a fan of accent colors inside the phone – in that I like certain amount of colors but Red, Green and Orange are imho off-limits. The reason being is most situations that call for “state” often rely on a stop-light palette. If you have your entire UI Green and you have “You’re now connected” green highlight somewhere, well..it gets lost in the accent theme.

On top of that the dark/light auto-inversing is a funny beast to tackle. I get that it inverses the color palette’s in a fairly smart way at the same time it catches you a little off guard when you sit down to design. As now you have to keep that in the forefront of your mind whilst designing and at the same time accommodating for foreground and accent color adjustments as they occur.

To a developer this is simply state flipping in and out but for an average designer that’s a lot of conscious palette planning / thinking going on there and not a lot of resources around hinting at that either (Try googling that now, tell me what you find!).

These are the typical scenarios you’re likely to face as a designer, the techniques that go beyond “Look mah, I used the default color palette and I managed to ship! gimme my $1million app store sales now mkay!” moments.  It goes deeper and you can’t rely on external blogging threads to carry this workload. As they also have a habit of becoming out dated mixed with spam sites re-gurgitating your blog feeds as their own in order to sucker punch you with Google ads.

My point is simple, the designers are clearly not part of the conversation here and whilst developers, developers  and developers is the normal mantra of Microsoft it’s also the major reason you’re failing at the products. If you want proof, go check out he MSDN metrics around Expression sales and uptake of Silverlight solutions that go beyond the default theme(s) created by either Microsoft or Telerik, ComponentOne, Infragistics etc.

Paint by numbers gets you the default positioning of your product and nothing is wrong with prescribed UI. That is until you scope out the iPhone AppStore reviews long enough to see that your application now needs to do something beyond Tip Calculators / FlashLights and Twitter feeds. If you come up short on Function then you better at least deliver on Form.

Microsoft’s AppStore is filled with overloaded function it now needs personality and it needs more design focused bloodlines to underpin the Metro differentiation. If Microsoft can’t factor this into the outbound marketing today, then at least make a start as this will also set Microsoft up for a stronger position for when Windows 8 arrives (given Metro seems to be full steam ahead).

Point and case. Try for giggles, re-create the Office UI inside Wp7 today without leaving Create.MSDN.com and using the default Icons out of the directory found buried inside Program Files (which somehow we’re supposed to inherently know)?

How about Brandon  (Marketing Director for Wp7) take the $1k ransom for Scott Adams (Dilbert) and put that towards the funding for hiring a designer minded person to run the wp7 community outbound initiatives. There’s a lot of people who could lift that burden and if anyone in Microsoft want some recommendations, ping me, I’ve got a list of candidates.

Related Posts:

Please welcome the XAML platform team to Windows!

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I got word of a leaked email early yesterday that confirmed what I had been told in passing gossip – the XAML team being disbanded.

This morning I awoke to not just one email but five of them from my various sources all attached with mixed opinions on what it means. Here is my famous (internally in Microsoft, I would send these style of emails about Adobe and their competitive threats) "What Just Happened" response.

We’re pleased to announce the transition of the XAML
platform team from the Developer Division to the Windows team.  While the
team has been working side-by-side with the Windows team for the entire project,
this step brings them into our team formally. 

It is time to start moving the battleships into the attack formation. In that time to start the consolidation into the new ux platform we are about to remake again.

On the upside it means you have a consolidated outcome likely to hit our hard-drives in the next 2-3 years on the downside you have what I would call a technology freeze in effect. If the new iteration of WPF or Silverlight does not comply with the vNext vision, do not hold your breath for a new announcement anytime soon that does not involve Windows 8 future(s).

The team will continue their work on Windows 8 as planned
and will join our Developer Experience (DEVX) team. This transition allows us
to bring together our platform development team in a single-management
structure.

That doesn’t sound to bad, I mean on the surface its just a single management restructure. A day in the life of a Microsoftee where every fiscal year or often more than once you are given new managers because the strategy – scratch that – tactics have changed. That in itself is probably your biggest hint of all around the word commitment, this is not just a case of waiting for a restructure to occur once every 5 years – it happens often.

To clarify, do you keep swapping your generals around in war to the point where the troops effectively stop caring who they are reporting to? Probably not a smart idea but nonetheless.

The dev, test, and pm leaders who will be leading the
team reporting to AlesH, YvesN, and LindaAv are:

• Sujal Parikh, Development Manager 
• Eduardo Leal-Tostado, Test Manager 
• Joe Stegman, Group Program Manager

The leads and individuals joining our team are receiving
this mail and have received communication on next steps.

If most of you who have been involved in the Silverlight ethos are reading then the name, Joe Stegman will probably stand out the most. Joe’s background in the .NET space goes back a ways but in the end Joe’s really been one of the guys under the hierarchy crust of commitment pledges keeping things in the development side of things in check. Officiating his role further in this equation for me is a bit puzzling as it’s kind of the same thing different org tree?

These changes in leadership and organization are
effective today.  For the purposes of finishing out the fiscal year and
the performance review process the team will operate under the existing
management structure.

That is a swift maneuver. Nothing surprising though.

Now onto Soma’s email to the troops which kicked the previous email off (Notice how VP’s etc all pile on from one another with "what he said was.." like somehow being apart of the thread is being seen as a role of importance. Classic Microsoft Victory Email formula, just once I’d like them to send out just one email outlining the change. This is what I’m talking about when I say Microsoft Culture is retarded.

I digress.

MICROSOFT CONFIDENTIAL

Over the last couple of years, our Client and Mobile team
has done a fantastic job of building a number of XAML related technologies that
have been a huge value add to the Microsoft client platforms and an
instrumental part of delighting our developer customers.  The agility and
customer focus that the team has demonstrated over the years has been a
pleasure to watch.

Ooops. Btw this was supposed to be confidential. So do not tell anybody.

Over the last couple of years? From memory, I recall WPF being around for more than a couple of years? Never mind, I keep forgetting everyone internally has forgotten about WPF.

Soma is kind of saying, "thanks for the hard work troops, you managed to outpace most products in Microsoft with your constant brilliance around the word agility, which being said here comes the but to that placating statement.

Today, we are making some organization changes to bring
our platform technologies under a single management structure.  These
changes are centered around three focus areas:

• The team working on XAML technologies for Windows will
move to Windows.

• The team working on XAML technologies for Windows
Phone, Xbox and browser plugin will move to Windows Phone. 

• The Client and Mobile tools teams, including Windows
Phone tools and XAML tools, will stay in DevDiv.

These changes are all effective immediately.  From a
performance review perspective, we will do this year’s performance review under
the DevDiv organization model.

"Today marks a new day troops, for we storm a new beach" is kind of the response to that next piece.

Firstly you have parts of the XAML team(s) parked inside the Windows organization. First impressions on twitter are that "Way to go! Means XAML and Windows are finally going to get along and create awesome XAML experiences"

Have I not shown you the Annie video? Moreover, have I discussed the Orphan Syndrome? "My dad’s going to come for me, he’s rich you…you..you just wait and see"

To me that read as being a case of cherry picking parts of the team to socket into the windows division and their new coding charter will come next. If it involves XAML it will be based around what XAML vNext is likely to be – HTML5 meets Jupiter.

Same with the Phone team, it is what I would call "please standby for further orders" moments.

As for the tooling teams, well you got Cider and Expression Blend team is what that really comes back to. Given most of the Client employees have left, I am not sure what that means suffice to say I am not holding out for a new release for Sketchflow for starters and I am guessing that the Blend teams are not exactly getting high fives for poor sales and download rates to date. If I were in that team, I would be updating my LinkedIn account quickly.

I want to thank Kevin Gallo and the team for all the
great work that they have done over the years.  Moving forward, I’m very
excited to bring the client platform efforts closer to the platform
teams.  There is a lot of very exciting and critical work underway as part
of our next wave of platform releases and I am very eagerly looking forward to
seeing the team’s work in the hands of our developers and customers.

Remember when Mary Jo posted a while back on how Kevin Gallo would be taking over the reins of Scott Guthrie. That’s probably the quickest promotion and I’m not ready to say demotion but I’m not ready to say continuance either – that I’ve seen?

The positive part there is the "next wave of platform releases" that sounds a lot like a continuation of what we have in front of us. Make no mistake there will be a Silverlight 5 and a WPF vNext released next fiscal, its already got most of the code done and it would be foolish to not release those when they can – especially after MIX2011.

Releasing those two would also buy you time for the next 2 fiscals at most. As by doing this you create this calming effect around "see, we’re still working on it..honest" to placate the developer hordes.

That is up to you, you can buy into that sure, and it is hard to debunk given there is not much visibility behind what we are likely to see next – especially given this is tradition within the Microsoft roadmap(s).

For me personally, I’d like to corner Microsoft If I could into giving more concrete assurances that whatever the next wave of bets are that they are either backwards compliance or have parity around what we have today in terms of conceptual features today.

Features for me are not will I be able to still hit F5 without changing code. Features for me are the concepts that are on the table today, around how one manages the out of browser and in-browser functionality – everything from casual gaming through to enterprise ready features (printing, isolated storage, data binding etc).

Going forward.

I think what has happened in this email is the equivalent of me saying "I really like this car, now can we take the wheels and put them over there. In addition, can you take the steering wheel and dashboard and put it over there. Lastly, can you take the engine and well. Just leave it in place for second; I’ll get back to you later on where we can put that next"

It’s clear there is a consolidation happening that I think we can all agree on early. How will the consolidation impact the average .NET developer is likely to be dramatic enough to warrant some applications having to have code refactored down the track – you will not escape that sorry.

Does this mean .NET is dead? Who actually knows what .NET vNext will be so it is hard to simply say "yes" and it could very well be a reset of .NET to fix a lot of pent up frustration in the way it sticks together today.

What I am certain of is WPF is definitely officially done. The chance of WPF going beyond what it is today is slim. Some journalists etc. will gloss over this as its not news but let me be clear in saying at Microsoft we really had no clue just how deeply seeded this product became.

In Australia it’s used quite heavily and it’s something I personally noticed whenever I used to travel around the country meeting Microsoft customers (both as an Evangelist and Product Manager). I used to send emails internally stating "I think we underestimated is usage, as it definitely appears to have more devs using than Silverlight" which was later brushed aside as being "Not realistic".

I think post September the announcements that are to follow will give these warnings probably some second thoughts around what parking WPF in the retired bay is likely to mean for Microsoft when it comes to the words "trust" and "commitment"

The product and developer satisfaction surveys for the last few years haven’t been something you’d brag about internally which for me indicates a strong sense of "fatigue" within the ranks of our beloved .NET developer communities.

It’s now one thing to announce what the next version of .NET will be its entirely different thing to convince and sell these fatigue customers that this is defiantly the bet this time. Silverlight, WPF and WinForm are available today and millions are shipping software solutions using them.

Microsoft now has to figure out a way to convince the millions that the "Windows 8" wave of vNext will fix all of these problems and more – and – will not require a reduction in feature parity along with extra boost in tooling.

If I know, my Microsoft and I like to think I do, good luck J

Full email below:

From: Julie Larson-Green
Sent: Monday, June 20, 2011 9:35 AM
To: Grant George; Jon DeVaan; Julie Larson-Green; John
Cable; Yves Neyrand; Craig Fleischman; Bambo C. Sofola; Scott Herrboldt; Greg
Chapman; Julie Bennett; Jeff Johnson; Ales Holecek; Mohammed El-Gammal; Chuck
Chan; Michael Fortin; Eric Traut; Jensen Harris; Linda Averett; Alex Simons
(WINDOWS); Gabriel Aul; Dennis Flanagan; Iain McDonald; Samuel Moreau; Dean Hachamovitch;
Michael Angiulo; Antoine Leblond; Tami Reller; Chris Jones (WINDOWS LIVE);
Jonathan Wiedemann; Ulrike Irmler; Adrianna Burrows
Cc: XAML Team; Kevin Gallo; S. Somasegar; Terry Myerson;
Sharman Mailloux Sosa; Brad Fringer; Steven Sinofsky
Subject: Please welcome the XAML platform team to
Windows!

We're pleased to announce the transition of the XAML
platform team from the Developer Division to the Windows team.  While the
team has been working side-by-side with the Windows team for the entire project,
this step brings them into our team formally.  

The team will continue their work on Windows 8 as planned
and will join our Developer Experience (DEVX) team. This transition allows us
to bring together our platform development team in a single-management
structure. 
The dev, test, and pm leaders who will be leading the
team reporting to AlesH, YvesN, and LindaAv are:

• Sujal Parikh, Development Manager 
• Eduardo Leal-Tostado, Test Manager 
• Joe Stegman, Group Program Manager 
The leads and individuals joining our team are receiving
this mail and have received communication on next steps.
 
These changes in leadership and organization are
effective today.  For the purposes of finishing out the fiscal year and
the performance review process the team will operate under the existing
management structure.

There will be an informal Q&A session today to
welcome everyone and answer any questions that folks might have.
• XAML team welcome – 2:00-3:00 in building 37/1701

Please join me in welcoming these folks to our
organization!
Julie
 

 

From: S. Somasegar 
Sent: Monday, June 20, 2011 9:16 AM
To: Client and Mobile Team
Cc: Developer Division FTE; Steven Sinofsky; Julie
Larson-Green; Terry Myerson; David Treadwell
Subject: Bringing together client platform efforts

MICROSOFT CONFIDENTIAL

Over the last couple of years, our Client and Mobile team
has done a fantastic job of building a number of XAML related technologies that
have been a huge value add to the Microsoft client platforms and an
instrumental part of delighting our developer customers.  The agility and
customer focus that the team has demonstrated over the years has been a
pleasure to watch.  

Today, we are making some organization changes to bring
our platform technologies under a single management structure.  These
changes are centered around three focus areas:
• The team working on XAML technologies for Windows will
move to Windows.
• The team working on XAML technologies for Windows
Phone, Xbox and browser plugin will move to Windows Phone.  
• The Client and Mobile tools teams, including Windows
Phone tools and XAML tools, will stay in DevDiv. 

These changes are all effective immediately.  From a
performance review perspective, we will do this year’s performance review under
the DevDiv organization model.

I want to thank Kevin Gallo and the team for all the
great work that they have done over the years.  Moving forward, I'm very
excited to bring the client platform efforts closer to the platform
teams.  There is a lot of very exciting and critical work underway as part
of our next wave of platform releases and I am very eagerly looking forward to
seeing the team’s work in the hands of our developers and customers.  

The follow-up emails will provide more details on the
changes to those impacted.  Please join me in wishing Kevin and the team
all the very best as we move forward.  If you have any questions about
this change, please let your manager or me know.

-somasegar

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Is Adobe’s new HTML5 Edge tool Expression Blends replacement?

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In October 2010, Steve Ballmer met with the CEO of Adobe the apparent discussion was around how to compete with Apple head-on.

Having been an internal lead on Adobe competes within Microsoft, it got my wheels turning and I tried as much as I could to get some insight into what that meeting was actually about. It was a very weird meeting given the heated competition both Microsoft and Adobe have had over the past 5 years (almost as big as Apple competes).

Adobe have lost some staff to Microsoft so my first thoughts were that maybe the ex-employees are looking to patch a bridge and discuss some ways to work together in terms of how Flash and say XBOX etc. could work together (there’s a huge casual games market up for grabs that uses Adobe Flash).

Today however my spidey senses got all tingly when I saw the new Adobe HTML5 Edge tool sneak peak via Adobe Labs.

This tool is the missing piece in what I call the HTML5 all up story – i.e. it is fine to hack together add-ons to existing tools for HTML5 coding compliance but it needs a designer story.

The more I looked at the sneak the more I started to think about that meeting and how it could have possibly gone down.

If Microsoft wants to sacrifice Silverlight on the web to gain momentum in the mobile device market than overall, the threat matrix for Adobe drops quite significantly. In that, really the only threat to Adobe Flash is around how it sockets into a mobile device such as Android, Windows Phone 7 and so on.

If I was in a meeting with an executive again and I was talking about the SWOT for an Adobe, partnership I would lead in more with opportunities that lead to strengths rather than threats / weakness in this partnership.

Firstly Adobe Flash is likely to be the continues user experience platform for mobile devices – if and a big if – the company can fix performance issues on all.  Creating a universal user experience on all devices is no easy trick in HTML5/JavaScript and having the tooling and cross-compile functionality that Adobe’s been making waves about lately could be a very important technology intersection.

Flash has always thrived at being a parasite on many hosts so it is not as if this is new dangerous territory for it to take such technical dependencies on.  The product also as I stated before has a lot of already existing Casual Games / Widget Apps already made today that could be ported over.

Downside is they do not have the developer base – design yes, developers no.

Secondly, Microsoft has failed at attracting the design market. We spent millions and came up short every time as whilst I use Microsoft Expression Blend daily its one hard cumbersome tool that even most .NET developers won’t touch let alone designers. It just failed.

The Expression Blend team is now parked in the archive bay and I wager Silverlight 5 additions will likely be its last shipment for the product. If that being the case, sure the tool failed at its charter in attracting the devigner audience to the .NET codebase(s) of tomorrow but the problem didn’t go away – if anything it just got worse.

If you are going to then tell designers of tomorrow to build HTML5/JS or even Silverlight vNext solutions for Windows8 and beyond – how do you get them to combine design and development skills?

Adobe.

Adobe have the design audience locked, it’s the only company in the world where in every design agency there is a design tool owned by them either bought or pirated. They make a tidy profit from it as well.

Flash now can produce iPhone and Android based solutions and it would not actually take much to get that solution into Windows Phone 7 given the Silverlight/XAML parity – in fact, some devs in Microsoft have shown that getting Silverlight to cross-compile to a swf isn’t farfetched, as it would seem.

Putting Adobe Flash or at the very least using the same iPhone cross-compile methodology for Windows Phone 7 is a massive win for both. You get a new developer audience on both sides for one and lastly the design audiences can also play their respective roles within the tools they feel the most comfortable with.

Winning as the Sheen would say.

That all being said there’s a flaw in this theory, it positions Adobe to be way to powerful in the device discussion and the last time Adobe/Macromedia held dominance in this space it took Silverlight to wake them up – you don’t want that again, trust me.

How do you keep Adobe in check whilst competing with Apple at the same time as if you create a universal app that works on all devices then this if anything can fuel iPhone’s appstore submissions more so.

The answer is you put your hopes on forking the API’s beyond the HTML5/JavaScript purity. You essentially embrace and extend (yay, it’s so fresh and new right?). Everyone can keep the entire tech on the same playing field initially but with Windows Phone 8 & Windows 8++ it sort of takes on a completely new adoption curve.

That is a good thing as it fuels competition for one and both Apple and Microsoft do not have to necessarily fund large amounts of dollars in both tooling and marketing. Adobe wins because it gets more hordes adopting its tooling but at the same time, it cannot survive unless there’s competition between Microsoft and Apple. Google is the cream on the cake, as it then has to dovetail into the same competition stream – thus a forcing function for their Android story.

All Microsoft has to do is sacrifice Silverlight for the web (video will always be a big problem for both to contend over just like QuickTime vs Windows Media Player) and Expression Blend.

Did I mention XAML team is disbanded and the Expression Blend team has been put in park?

If you can get developers & designers working in both HTML5/JavaScript as well as proprietary platform specific technologies universally its less investment in language / runtime research & development more in terms of differentiation of hardware specific features.

It rather works that way for the console market.

Note: I have no inside goss on this one so this is me just spit balling based of my own conspiracy theories.

Related Posts:

The mission to land a .NET developer on Jupiter.

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Ask not what Microsoft can do for you but what you can do for Microsoft. That’s really the inspiring quote that President of the new colonization group – aka Windows  – needs to say to the unwashed masses of tomorrow.

Microsoft is taking on a mission that looks to go beyond the moon, they want to land on Jupiter and it will be done with Apollo. Still confused?

If you’ve not paid attention to all the codenames flying about the place you’d be forgiven to be confused as there’s a space theme happening and with these code names its quite interesting to see how the objectives for the next generation of Microsoft is likely to shape up.

Jupiter is rumored to be the reset button to Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF) and Silverlight. A reset is the latest suspicion as just yesterday I found out that the XAML ethos within Microsoft has been disbanded and set to various corners of the company.  Some went to Internet Explorer team, some went to Windows teams and others went to Google, Amazon and Facebook.

Why disband the teams? It is time for pencils down folks, let us stop piling on code for the existing stuff but now let us set our sights for the future, let’s be bold. Let us be daring. Why land on the moon when you can land on Jupiter floating on a cloud of Azure? (Ok, I lost myself in that metaphor as well).

Ok fine, I have gone through the seven stages of Silverlight/WPF grief and I am at acceptance I think.

The Mission.

In order to better prepare for the mission ahead, let us think about the various things we need to account for prior to launch (September).

Replace Crew Members.

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Inside Microsoft there is a lot of toxic turmoil going due to internal re-orgs (which is fairly common) that fueled with how the Global Financial Crisis has affected employees etc. it’s no secret that Microsoft are losing some quite influential and dare I say, hard to replace staff to places like Google, Facebook, Amazon and so on. I personally know of three employees who have hated working for Microsoft for quite some time but have been stuck due to housing prices in Redmond etc not being ready enough for a resale – that is – until Google, Adobe, Facebook and soon Amazon have campuses of their own in Seattle.

Now the super geeks have alternative employment options. Microsoft is now on notice, treat me better or I will leave. The later choice has been winning in my opinion and the more the new found employees have sent me messages of "Omg, its way better over here than Microsoft" which has to be salt in some current employee’s wounds whom are likely staring down the barrel of uncertainty in the company given its end of year commitment scoring mixed with the demise of what we used to call the Silverlight/WPF & Blend ethos. What to do!.

Reaching Parity. 

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A gentleman and fellow .NET scholar Jose has done the best he could in reverse engineering Direct UI (rumored to be the leaked incarnation of Jupiter). He has some insights that are both great and disappointing at the same time. The great part is it could very well be the next iteration of what has to come in the landscape of C# and XAML for tomorrow’s UX Pioneers.

The downside is its 3-5 or maybe more steps backwards in the current feature parity you have all eagerly waited for over the past 4 years. There are some fundamentals in the room whilst there are concerns around some of the other features that may or may not make the cut for version one.

If I know Microsoft and I like to think I do, this is likely to be yet another one of those traditional "version 1" moments whereby the team(s) behind the product eventually stumble across the finish line, exhausted but barely breathing enough to shout "Give me feedback on what you want in version 2, it will be better I promise" followed by some metaphor about how it’s a marathon and not sprint to the finish line (We got great mileage out of that with Silverlight and I dare say you could get a few more products out of it yet).

The tooling is likely to be not in place during this version 1 lifecycle as my sources tell me that the Blend Team aren’t cranking out the vNext improved world of Microsoft. I know Steve Sinofsky has had a few ambitions about what the Tooling should look like in the perfect world of Windows vNext frontier and I am guessing he did not play well with others in the Devdiv team(s) to share such ambitions.

That being said, either there is a skunk works tooling team hidden in some random building in Microsoft that others do not know about or the tooling story behind this next frontier is unlikely to be in place before Sept or for whenever this next version of our beloved Silverlight/WPF ethos occurs.
What I mean to say is welcome all to Microsoft 2005. Hold onto your Winforms or ASP.NET MVC  for a little bit longer and for those of you in Silverlight/WPF investment land(s) – try to not focus on the future but the now (best to keep your code base as lean as possible and not to tightly wound in client-side logic).

Put vital organs into Escrow.

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Microsoft are quick to throw technology at a problem first and then ponder as to why the problem existed. I’ve often personally seen strategies – wait, that’s not correct, strategy requires forward thinking – tactical decisions (better) made around trying to grow developer audiences.

The assumption are

"ok, we’re not making our tech palatable enough, lets steal stuff from Ruby On Rails, Apple or Oracle to make it better".

The absolute harsh reality is often a lot of non-Microsoft customer(s) etc. just don’t like Microsoft (Ever liked a girl/guy and they don’t like you back? You try changing your clothes, hair, car etc. and still nothing. Welcome to the Microsoft Developer outreach program, you will fit right in).

The other side of this coin I guess is those of you who adore Microsoft for what they are. You spend thousands of your own dollars to go to various events to listen to Microsoft confuse the absolute crap out of you. The problem is lately, they seem to be a company you just cannot bet on for the future.

Grandiose plans to land on Jupiter may be bold, daring and exciting but is it dependable? Can this company commit to a master plan and is this a plan or just a tactical political brain dump mixed with a lot of Microsoft experimentation.

Is it a case now of not waiting for the next Service Pack but now waiting to see if a product can get past version 3 and 5 before you really consider it as a viable option of the future?

In order to prepare for this next mission, someone has to donate some good will to the fans of Microsoft technology. That means you cannot stick to the ye olde "need to know information" mentality. You got to bring your roadmap(s) for the future and you got to show us that you’re telling the truth that you want to aim for Jupiter and not some closer planet or worse – the unknown void beyond Jupiter.

Commit and stop being assclowns.

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Commit to us so that we may commit to you. No more lies, No more "I’ve got a secret, can you guess!" and lastly no more internal political child play spilling over and into the blogosphere. It’s time to be a big boy company and use big boy strategies with big boy plans mixed with a lot of big girl personality (somehow that did the ladies no favors).

If we are to take on this mission, it’s time for a smarter playbook around transparency and if Steve Sinofsky is willing to bring the "come to Jesus" moment for the company around consolidating the entire product lines into a consistent continuous experience across all devices with a developer/designer experience to boot. Great, I personally will print out a t-shirt that says "I’m back in team Steve" (heh my old team inside Microsoft was called Team Steve…Steve the manager though was a arrogant jerk, different story, different time).

Right now its just a case of me holding up a really sick puppy that others have kicked and telling you all about the neglect its owners have given it. (If I quote that metaphor I was given last night by a friend).

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Windows Phone 7 – Can we get 200k signatures to highlight the marketing teams’ fail?

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Frustrating point needs to be made. I personally love the fact that a fan – yes there is one or two out there – of Windows Phone 7 took the time to create what I would call a fresh perspective on what the phone has to offer via  what I call a delicious amount of pixel candy.

Watch these video(s).

Original – What kicked all this off.

Follow-up – MIX11 Version (I’m guessing someone in Microsoft said “more app focus!!!” – DUMBASS!!).

It simply is punchy and simply zeroes in on the Metro User Interface that I hate, but at the same time am willing to live with provided it has seeded to the audience differently than it has today.

The current media in play around the world for the Windows Phone 7 is all over the place. Just last night I saw a new show in Australia that is sponsored by Windows Phone 7, the advertisement that accompanied the TV show was lack luster at best. It did little to draw out the selling points on the phone and more to the point, it had no personality.

I can honestly say that about all the commercials I’ve seen for the Windows Phone 7 they simply lack personality and are more along the lines of an Adult version of Barney & Friends (everyone is smiling, everyone looks plastic and it represents unreal situations that maybe if you’re in Upper Suburbia it would make sense?)

The author of the above video has to audition for a spot in today’s TV advertisement. He’s got to get around 200k hits on this video before the wisdom of that which is Windows Phone 7 marketing agree to put that into your local TV station (assuming they’d agree to let it go beyond the online advertising where its much lower risk).

Here is why it is stupid to do that:

  • Free PR. If when they first saw it simply grabbed it, did some minor editing and then put it out into online campaigns it would have been a Lotto style good work story. If you had the right PR ingredients, you could have spun a bit of good will in most art magazine / websites etc. – headlines like "Single Intern designs Microsoft’s biggest TV Ad". It is a fresh interruption for one, it is NOT Microsoft’s style and lastly it is something you can get media agency style talent worldwide to read about (Designers are the future people remember that).
  • Better Differentiation. I am on record for my dislike for WP7 version of "metro" that aside, if that is the selling point on why this phone is different from the iPhone or Android. Then freaking sells others on it and I am not talking about a single screen with the usual tiles. Provide an audience a visual inspection in the comfort of their own homes on the said UI, highlight that its different – the phone hardware looks like an iPhone rip off but the UI is different. That is realistically the main differentiator and focusing in on features or apps the phone has in this early stage of the game is not going to get your users hooked.  Reason – They expected that anyway!!
  • Avoid Metrics. I feel like slapping the WP7 Marketing Team upside the head. You have a phone that is new and I want you to learn a harsh lesson from the entire Silverlight vs Flash experience. STAY AWAY FROM NUMBERS – that is to say, until you have a large mass of people adopting your product keep the hell away from any mention of any numbers.

    The last time the team put out the numbers around adoption of the phone, it didn’t take guys like me long to do the basic math and come to the conclusion that while the numbers initially look impressive the reality is the adoption rate from downloading the SDK to selling an application is significantly quite low.

    Asking for around 200k in visitors to click "I heart Ad" for Wp7 is stupid as it is clear that the video will not get the hits in time and lastly it just told the market "not that many people care". The only people that are likely to know about this audition are developers firstly (thanks to MIX11 etc). So now you have just told us all that approx. there are less than 150k developers out there who care about Wp7. It’s a loose number yes, but it’s another piece in the establishing a baseline of what the sizing of the mindshare is around this phone.

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    (Note: Notice the personal response vs. “You’re wrong, the math means blah”.. focus on the point not the person!)

If the video had gotten 500k+ in the first two weeks, boom you have a great story and the bet paid off. The reality is the original video has more hits than the follow-up, which is when it is likely at its interest peak.

Brandon has unique eye for the phone and in my opinion, this video should have gotten legs from day one. Microsoft failed and the moment has passed.

My frustration is this is a constant theme with Microsoft – they are given these rare opportunities and they constantly ignore the obvious signs of success.

I am looking at you Courier Tablet.

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Mad Product Management.

I almost always am asked "What does a Product Manager do?" whenever people read my previous title.  It is one of these titles within the industry that depending on which brand you belong to has different meanings.

The industry way.

Inside Microsoft it varies, you could be the source of power or you could simply be a reactive title that is less Management and more Marketing. What I mean to say is, inside Microsoft a Product Manager can often simply be a Product Marketer whereby they wait until the Program Manager’s decide the features and then the Product Management / Marketing team go to work in communicating the features to the masses.

It takes on a somewhat reactive role as in the end the Product Manager’s main priority is to convince the Program Manager(s) to add xyz features to their engineering "things I need to build list". If that can’t succeed then you try alternate routes by going to concepts like Product Unit Managers, Vice Presidents or General Manager(s) – basically from my own experience inside Microsoft it can be a game of "Lord of the Flies" – figure out who has the conch and do as much as you can in terms of convincing them with data / opinion sooner rather than later.

Outside Microsoft, I have found that to be different, for example recently I have had some chats with Apple around how they do product management and it was interesting to hear that the person(s) in that role (kind of) are the one-stop shop of the power seat. Engineering don’t do a thing unless there is a market to sell the features to in that the Product Manager(s) role is to figure out what’s basically a sellable feature based on market data (need vs. want, differentiation and so on). I have also heard rumors that this is how Adobe does things as well (be curious to see how Google run the show, but given their strong DNA of ex-Microsofties me thinks the Microsoft way of life may propagate upstream).

I am yet to really pin down specifically how the correct formula works here as again, each brand has their own unique perspective on the role. My thinking, mainly because I am arrogant – you are doing it wrong.

The Barnes / Mad Men way.

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A colleague of mine had this brilliant way of explaining how he’d setup a team for his start-up and he called it "Mike’s Eleven"  (aka Ocean’s Eleven). Each person brings a unique attribute to the team that helps you rob people. You do not bring in a person to the team unless they can really contribute. I like to think of this in much the way of my favorite TV show – Mad Men.

The Don Drapper (aka Director)

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This person is like Mad Men’s Don Draper, smooth talking has brilliant insights into the way marketing engines work and lastly knows how to keep a steady but calming influence over the others. I’d highly recommend this person at least have an MBA – whilst as douche as that sounds – but this degree isn’t as easy as people think to get and lastly it brings a lot of Wikipedia of marketing to the table (whilst mostly theory based). If this person is marketing your product as if it was Soup and not Software, you may get some left field thinking into the equation. Hiring an ex-engineer to be your Don Draper is useless, as they cannot think creatively / laterally most of the time – given the OCD / problem solving skills they have already tuned.

The Roger Sterling (aka Community / Client Liaison)

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This character in Mad Men has a famous quote in the TV series – "Let me put it in account terms, do you know how many hand jobs I have to give to fix what you’ve just done?"

That is a quote worth remembering when it comes to your Community liaison person(s). These people have one goal and that is to figure out what the client(s) or customer(s) want the most. They play a game of contact sport, whereby they are rarely in the office and are constantly out in the field getting insights into how the product is shaping up each version you produce.  This role is expensive, but worth it provided they are steered in the right direction (it’s not all about hotels and bar tabs).

The goals for this person is to firstly create rock stars, do not be the one in the room on stage find others to put on stage to evangelize your product(s).  They also need to avoid conferences as much as they can and instead meat businesses at their front door.  You do not learn a lot from meeting the same people repeatedly at the same conferences but you do learn a lot when you sit in on a technology decision-making meeting inside a random mining, finance, medical or start-up company in blah country.

They are your socialite and spy in one.

The Lane Pryce / Paul Kinsey (aka Domain Experts).

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You need someone in the room who is your in-house engineer. This person will work with your non-technical minds to come up with a simplified way of approaching the set of features you want to build. Let us face it some features in most software are left field in either complexity or mickey mouse go no-where thinking. The Technical side kicks figures out ways to make the feature work kind of your early prototype but more so they are looking at it from a pragmatic perspective.

Say the Don Draper & Roger Sterling want to build a concept whereby the software can do facial recognition to avoid Security logins for PC’s of tomorrow. Now their job is to determine if there is a market for it and you trust that they have done their homework. The technical sidekick now needs to look at the feature from the developers perspective, they need to sit down and dream up the idle way a developer should approach this (so it’s kind of part User Experience Imaginer as well). They look at it from the angle of setting goals for the engineering team to meet the marketing team half way on.

No more over complicated API that go nowhere and lastly no more tooling that makes you want to scream at the product(s) and you soon forget the benefits of the feature (I’m looking at you Deep Zoom, WCF and a whole heap more).

Having this equation also stops science projects spilling over online, where everyone is looking confused and thinking "oh must be for someone else as I so don’t need that feature at all" from occurring. It’s a balance struck much like rock paper scissors (each role trumps the other).

The Salvatore "Sal" Romano (ak Artist).

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This person should have a portfolio of design that makes you dreamy eyed with envy. The point is this person is your polish to the spin you put out and it’s their job to figure out what looks good and what isn’t. Once you figure out what you want to build and how you want to market it, you need a person in the room who can manage your media / design agency vendors and with an attention to detail the goes beyond color preferences.

Most of Microsoft’s "viral videos" look cheesy, over worked, over bought and under delivered. The reason being is you rarely have someone in the room who thinks creatively. This person goes to art galleries because they want to see art or they like the Apple iPhone because of its Industrial Design characteristics and not because it has Angry birds.

This person keeps your presentation skills in check and through the guidance of the team will make sure you come off looking polished.

Look at World of Warcraft’s website; this is a amazingly well designed site for a game. Now look at other game websites, the difference is the experience.  The point here is someone in the room is keeping a close eye on design decisions being made and ensuring the brand is putting best foot forward.

The same can be said for Apple vs. Microsoft. Apple have a centralized polished look to the way their make products online – Microsoft looks like someone figured out how to remake Geocities but for corporate reasons.

Just like in Mad Men, Sal is the person who knows good design when he sees it.

The Peggy Olsen (aka PR / Copywriter).

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This can be an important but healthy addition to the team(s). If you are going to manage a product, make sure you have someone in the room who can write a sentence that does not look like my blog – full of spelling and grammar errors.

This person’s job is to make sure you do not screw up online and say stupid stuff – especially when dealing with your competitors. They also handle your press and announcements with keen focus on what needs to be said and when/how. They work closely with Art & Technical to ensure the message they position is correct and is not full of fluff / waffle that goes nowhere.

They also need to be edited as much as they can by the Don Draper’s & Roger Sterling’s to ensure that the message / copy they produce is not talking at the audience(s) but with them.

Recently Microsoft said Windows 8 and HTML5 in the same breathe which lead to a lot of questions around .NET’s future. Had a Peggy been in the room this would of not happened, as letting a VP go on stage like that solo is just showing off. You need to get that person on stage, do their message drops but also have an entire campaign of media ready to drop in behind it to underpin the messages and points you want made across the globe.

Steve Jobs gets on stage does his thing but the moment he drops announcements there is media everywhere to support it at the same time in parallel.

Having a good PR person working closely with press is important as well and they need to be devoted and focused to a product (not someone you bring in on/off again).  They are also your lawyer in a room full of press as you let them figure out the ways to handle aggressive and passive journalists (News flash, sometimes Journalists are so lazy you can almost write the story for them whilst some are the ones you try as best you can to play a game of high stakes poker with).

In conclusion.

That is my thinking of how Product Management should work, it is not really one person it is a team of entities all working in a tight unit much like a game of rock paper scissors. You need to market a product to the masses but you also need to figure out what the masses need vs. want whilst at the same time coming up with features and ideas that they aren’t expecting.

There is no such thing as a separation between Inbound and Outbound marketing, its bulls**t.  It is both directions at the same time and engineering need to listen up and listen well. Your jobs are to take the bright crazy dumbass ideas and figure out ways to make it happen, as you now need to reverse engineer the imagination it took to think up.

Related Posts:

Windows 8 : Making new friends, Ratcheting Momentum and influencing anger.

After just having a discussion with a journalist today, a question was put to me that I felt I should share some more information around – Why do you think the developers appear to be angry with Windows 8?

It is not that I think developers are angry about code name "Windows 8" being well HTML5/JavaScript friendly in fact it is probably one of those situations where you would easily go "great, not for me but hey who knows how things turn out down the road". It is also not the fact that Microsoft have come out and hinted strongly at the idea of dropping marketing support for .NET going forward in favor of HTML5/JavaScript cocktail of weirdness.

I think what’s happening is developers across the globe in what appears to be millions now (currently on Silverlight.net forums there’s a few threads ratcheting around 11million views – which is 11x the traffic per month that site gets) all basically releasing a lot of pent-up annoyance at the communication blackout – yet again.

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I think this is a case of "the last straw" and it has been lurking for quite some time about Microsoft and a consistent amount of failings around corporate communication 101. To some this appears on the surface to be some idiot in PR being asleep at the helm again (keep in mind often Microsoft outsources its PR to companies like Waggener Edstrom) and so it could be a case of a room full of people pointing at one another for the "what do we say" moment(s). I highly doubt that, I’d wager this is an executive decision and its likely driven by the concept of ratcheting customer momentum for a final reveal in September.

Note: I recently had the VP of Corporate Communications for Microsoft follow me on Twitter post the Windows 8 Fallout(s)…. Why?

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Creating a disruption in the market with the sole intended purpose of getting people around the world to talk more about you in mixed emotions isn’t a brilliant new tactic – it was done in the Windows 7 launch with the Jerry Seinfiled ads that Microsoft bet around $300million on.   Realistically this strategy can often work (we’ve used this formula a few times with Silverlight in the early days) but at the same time it’s what I’d class as a high risk strategy given you could scare people too much.

This is of course speculation as at the end of the day the more Microsoft staffs I talk to internally about this the more I get the growing sense that majority of the staff internally are also in a complete blackout as well. Insiders within Microsoft are telling me that they are both concerned and frustrated at the lack of information coming from Team Sinofsky to the point where they are not interested in whether or not .NET lives or dies but how the heck they are going to clean up after this reveal occurs.

I probed further and asked what kind of convincing points are needed in order to illustrate to the presidential overlords that having 11million+ views all seeing the words ".NET" and "Dead" is probably not a smart play here and short of announcing .NET 5.0 at //BUILD/ you’re digging a very large hole. The response that I later got forwarded to me was one from an executive that stated that unless they see major accounts being withdrawn all that really is happening is interest and group of developers getting emotional about it all.

Yeah, my first impression was "what a jackass" but having sat in similar meetings like this when Adobe AIR was first considered a major threat to Microsoft, all I can say is that’s exactly how the company thinks at a higher level. It’s a numbers game, and hearing stories like "my friend just told me they are moving away because of this" small stories don’t add up to situations like the US Govt calling Microsoft to say "Yeah, the whole .NET confusion thing is something we aren’t happy with and so we’ll be moving to Java/Oracle – thanks bye" moments aren’t flowing just yet or likely to.Measuring account losses due to an event is somewhat hard as deep at your core you can see that the potential is definitely there despite the deafening "the sky is falling!!" emotions running high.

The reality is its unlikely to create havoc for at least a few years should they come out and say tomorrow ".NET is dead, thx" as looking at Windows XP & Internet Explorer 6 its obvious that Microsoft technology is very hard to kill of even with official announcements.

What is the TAX then? What is the one thing you can beat Microsoft around the head with that will send some sense to Redmond?

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Developers, Developers, Developers is that answer.

Microsoft are losing a battle in replenishing the .NET developer share, it’s alleged that for every 1x .NET developer that departs the Microsoft ecosystem there should be at least 2x more to fill their shoes. The reality it’s the opposite – allegedly.

Ok, so we highlight the depletion of the ranks and state "..if you continue scare the kids with the comms blackout that number will increase! And so you be able to control the depletion rates.."

That will not work either, as HTML5 and JavaScript is a nice big juicy cake to sink ones potential teeth into. As the big bet is that if you can convince the world’s developer base – the ones NOT using .NET today – to jump onboard with the new Windows8 concoction called Metro meets HTML5/JavaScript across all screens. Bing! (No pun intended) you just got a completely new market share you did not have yesterday.

That is the bet at the moment, win hearts and minds with a unified platform the world has agreed upon across all languages – HTML and JavaScript.  Sadly, the .NET developer base is being used right now as collateral damage and is considered acceptable loses.

This is dangerous game being played and all the years I’ve been involved in Microsoft this is by far the most interesting and distracting time for the company. In under 48hrs in my opinion Team-Steve managed to undermined and undo a total of three years work by the various people within the Silverlight teams so should the reveal in September be a case of "Look we were just kidding, here’s our roadmaps going forward.." it would still set Silverlight back quite a lot in terms of regaining what marketing momentum is left for the product.

The reality is Silverlight’s marketing & evangelism has been severely reduced from where it once was and the products are now in auto-pilot mode (aka "they are now matured" which is code word for being bored with it).

Evangelism efforts are going to have to dig deep post reveal on September and to be openly honest their record lately for influencing the influencers has been murky if not non-existent. It’s a contact sport Evangelism and I’ve noticed in the past 2-3 years more so that the steam it once had has diminished quite significantly (due to budget cut-backs and basically VP of DPE – Walid Abu-Hadba driving the entire practice into the ground).

It is not that people are angry, they are confused and disappointed.

Let’s hope this bet pays of Team-Steve as the guy before you made a big bet as well. The last we heard of him now is that he’s trying to make it into the music scene so one hopes you’ve learnt to play guitar Mr Sinofsky 😉

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Understanding “Why would Microsoft do that?”

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There is a consistent theme that I often see when I have been invited into conversation(s) regarding Windows 8 and the whole HTML5 saga. The main undercurrent is "Why would they do that?" and it is a perfectly valid question that often gets lost in the whole opinion / news pieces that are floating around.

Understand the metrics first.

Inside Microsoft you are really goaled around a metric that involves the words "market share" in that somewhere along those lines your entire reason for drawing a pay cheque distills down to that. You have to help Microsoft grow its market share across all battlefields and there are multiple battlefields in play.

Battles are what are happening in today’s software industry. It is quite competitive and cutthroat in many places and often mercy is for the weak.  Companies on both sides often play by the rules governing ethics but often more so than ever it is not the case under the covers or behind closed doors. There are often many tactics at work that the audience(s) and customer(s) do not always see.

For instance, when Silverlight/Expression was heating up in the early days the battle between Adobe and Microsoft was quite intense (I myself was caught up in it quit easily). You’d have situations where Adobe would threaten to shut down a conference if Microsoft Staff showed or you’d have Adobe specifically target Microsoft showcase wins the next year and spend large amounts of $$ to win the customers back to create the perception that these customers had buyer’s remorse.

Apple, Google, IBM and Oracle all suffer from the same somewhat software industry driven guerrilla warfare style tactics. It is a competitive sport and staff within get quite emotional and aggressive at times about it – like a thunder dome of super geeks.

Tactical approaches and competitive aggression is what fuels Microsoft often. It has also to answer the question you have around "Why would they do that" simply put; it is about building an army primarily.

Understand the Tactical Programs

You have programs in play like BizSpark – an idea to give the software away for free in order to seed start-ups into adopting the Microsoft technology stack. It is the old heroin addiction formula at work, in that the first hits free but the second and third will cost you. Ensure an addiction takes place then the monetization will follow.

HTML5 + Windows 8 are no different. The prospect of enticing never before heard of developer hordes – also known as the Alternatives to .NET development into adopting Windows 8 platform(s) via the HTML5/JavaScript route is worth the risk to Microsoft.  It is about socketing these peeps in early, get them acclimatized to the Microsoft technology stack and from there you can bleed the monetization models outwards into channels that you can declare internal victory over.

Understand the Compete motions

The thing though is this playbook or this strategy is in no way different to the days when .NET was first created and it is again a rinse/repeat formula being played out.

The motivation is growth around developer share (that is an obvious objective around winning) the other objectives are also around competing head to head with Google & Apple. Google is the main focus though, this company is taking bodies from Microsoft staff lines often and if you were to look at the past two years around who’s left the .NET development teams as well as the Internet Explorer teams for Google it’s almost alarming.

Google don’t need to compete with Microsoft, they just need to re-hire their staff and I often giggle about this as I once wrote an internal memo regarding Adobe compete whereby I said "We should make a $300k a year offer to their entire evangelism staff to work for us, we say here’s $300k now go sit in the park and enjoy life for the next 2 years as it would be cheaper than what we spending on compete for Adobe".

Google are kind of doing that in many ways.

Understanding the gullibility.

Google are also provoking Microsoft into adopting their tactics and more importantly forcing the companies hand into moving Internet Explorer closer towards a HTML5 Future(s) than before. For instance they punk’d Microsoft into fixing the JavaScript engine within Internet Explorer because they had the company convinced that this was their biggest fear around how Microsoft could beat Google. Microsoft took the bait and the funny part is the person who worked on that engine is now working at Google today.

Google played Microsoft and it is this small random pocket of competitive insights that often go unnoticed in the industry. These small little gems of "hah that was funny" all add up to the situation we see before us today around why Windows 8 looks and is likely to act in the way it is.

There is no real strategy here, just tactical competitive reactions played out that do not often give pause to the massive impacts it places on the hordes of developers who wear the Microsoft logo on their blogs / resumes etc. with pride.

Microsoft is doing a terrible job at corporate communication(s) and the most frustrating part of all is that it is the actual fans of the brand that are noticing the most.

That is probably a small glimpse at how a competitive situation can motive product lines into making snap decisions the way they have been in the past five years.  The reality is you the customer out there who use the technology actually play somewhat a smaller role than you do think around feature selection and roadmaps for product designs.

It’s often a competitive influence that drives the most decisions and sure compete leads to innovation right and that’s something we should all embrace – except if the tax is instability.

Summary.

For a deeper insight into this topic around “Why” Listen to a podcast I did list week titled “Windows 8 Round Table” via TalkingShop DownUnder.

http://www.talkingshopdownunder.com/2011/06/episode-58-windows-8-round-table.html

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