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Windows Chief Allchin In ‘04: I’d Buy A Mac

An exhibit in an Iowa antitrust case against Microsoft had this tidbit about Jim Allchin, the longtime chief of Windows development:

Exhibit 7264. Almost three years ago, on January 7, 2004, Jim Allchin, the senior executive at Microsoft, sent an E-mail to Microsoft’s top two executives, Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer, and the subject was losing our way.

Mr. Allchin says, I’m not sure how the company lost sight of what matters to our customers, both business and home, the most, but in my view we lost our way. I think our teams lost sight of what bug-free means, what resilience means, what full scenarios mean, what security means, what performance means, how important current applications are, and really understanding what the most important problems our customers face are. I see lots of random features and some great vision, but that does not translate into great products. He goes on to say, I would buy a Mac today if I was not working at Microsoft.

Now, its obvious that Jim was trying to make a point using strong terms, as he explains on the Vista team blog:

  • This email is nearly 3 years old, and I was being purposefully dramatic in order to drive home a point. The point being that we needed to change and change quickly. We did: We changed dramatically the development process that was being used and we reset the Windows Vista development project in mid-2004, essentially starting over.
  • 2-and-½ years later, Windows Vista has turned into a phenomenal product, better than any other OS we’ve ever built and far, far better than any other software available today, in my opinion. It’s going to be available to customers on Jan 30, and I suggest everyone go out and get it as soon as you can. It’s that good.

The fact is, Allchin shouldn’t be ashamed of that quote, he should be proud of it. Longhorn at that point was becoming a disaster, and the decision later that year to reset development was spurred on by emails like this very one, and most likely saved the company.

If you don’t reset Longhorn in mid-2004, there might not even be a Vista today. Right now, arguements around Vista center on design issues, battery issues, and graphics issues. If we were still dealing with the old Longhorn, the discussion would center on buggy code, incomplete and broken features, abysmal performance and awfully inconsistent interface and design issues. The only way Microsoft would have had Longhorn out when it actually got Vista out, would be by rushing it out the door, and not getting all the stabilizations and bug-fixing we’ve seen over the last year.

Coverage:
TechMeme
Thomas Hawk
Todd Bishop
Information Week
Computer World

December 12th, 2006 Posted by Nathan Weinberg | General, Windows, Longhorn, Vista | no comments

Microsoft Files DVR Advertising Patent

Microsoft has filed for a patent involving ads on Digital Video Recorders. Now, don’t worry, they won’t be inserting ads over your shows; rather, this patent involves ensuring the ads you see are relevant when you see them. The patent applies to shows watched on a DVR days, weeks and even months later, where the ads recorded may be for sales that have passed and movies that have left theatres, with the system replacing the expired ads with newer ads.

Frankly, its a brilliant patent, and could represent the long tail of network TV advertising finally having a means of existing. Because television always has been a broadcast medium, ads are always seen by the entire audience, making ads during highly-watched programming enormously expensive, and inaccessible to smaller companies and ad budgets. With this system, all the ads can be server locally, by the DVR, letting the entire audience see different ads, and thus let advertisers bid on a portion of the audience.

Even live programming could use this patent, replacing the regular ads with bidded, targeted, long-tail ads. Early adopters could see ads for internet startups that would normally never buy TV ads; kids would see ads for toys and junk food; soccer moms would see ads for food and clothing sales; lawyer dad could see ads for suits; teenage boy would see ads for video games. Split up the audience, and you could save TV advertising.

Why do users skip TV ads? Because most of them are useless, broadcast to everybody and reaching nobody! I don’t like car commercials (unless they have cool music), or yeast infection cream, or Tickle Me Elmo, or makeup; and every time I see those ads I want to skip commercials entirely. If I knew that Microsoft was serving me ads, and that those ads would be targeted to me every damn time, I’d want to see what was going on.

Broadcast ads used to work, but the audience is getting more savvy and technology is skipping ahead. Fix the ad system, or the $60 billion+ industry will dissapear. Google is working hard to solve this problem, but Microsoft already has the technology and infrastructure to roll this out to Media Center users. Get the system running and successful, get the networks on board, and you can expand it to the other companies.

The money is in the platform. Use Media Center for testing, but own the ad platform on your competitors as well. Nail this one down, and Microsoft will finally be going somewhere in the ad world.
(via SEW)

December 12th, 2006 Posted by Nathan Weinberg | General, Windows, Media Center | 4 comments

Microsoft Releases XNA Game Studio Express and Creators Club

Microsoft has announced the final release of XNA Game Studio Express, letting anyone (who can code) create games that will be playable on both Windows and the Xbox 360 Live Arcade. They also opened up the XNA Creators Club, for which developers can drop $50 for a four-month subscription, or $100 for a whole year, and get:

Both subscriptions provide aspiring game developers with access to thousands of game assets from Microsoft and key supporters such as Turbo Squid Inc., as well as white papers, specialized starter kits, samples and technical product support to help turn Your World, Your Game into a reality.

Without the Creators Club subscription, you won’t be able to move the games to your Xbox 360 and play them there. There will be a contest, with winners getting their games on Xbox Live Arcade.

UPDATE: TDavid explains how easy it is to transfer games from his PC. If I can find at least ten decent games, I might pick up the subscription.

December 12th, 2006 Posted by Nathan Weinberg | General | 2 comments

Vista To Generate $70 Billion And Create 100,000 Jobs, And It Does The Dishes Too!

Microsoft has released the results of a study they commissioned from the International Data Corporation that says Windows Vista is going to have a major positive impact on the economy. They do a lot of these, and we can only assume they only release the results of the studies that say happy things about Microsoft products.

This study says Windows Vista will create 100,000 new jobs in the United States and drive $70 billion in revenues for Microsoft partners and the tech industry in its first 12 months. They say that for every dollar Microsoft makes on Vista, the tech industry makes $18.

All interesting stuff, but here’s the brass tacks: Windows Me was a failure, and Windows 2000 didn’t do so great. Microsoft released three operating systems in quick succession after Windows 98, and didn’t get it right until Windows XP. The only thing that matters is if they can avoid that disaster this time around. I’m banking they will.

December 12th, 2006 Posted by Nathan Weinberg | General, Windows, Vista | one comment