Tips for Mr Steve Ballmer at Microsoft

Mr. Steve Ballmer,

For the last 12 and something years I worked for one your ISV partners. I recently quit to explore some other opportunities, but for now I'm sharing some of my knowledge and experience with anyone who is willing to listen. It's a pity we never had the opportunity to meet, because I would have loved to challenge you a bit. However I understand you are a busy person and of course have to make choices. Instead I will just write down some advise for you to take into consideration.

The years working with Microsoft have been very interesting, educational and mostly fun. An highlight was probably the creation of a Windows 7 recommendation movie. However I've also, at times, been very skeptical towards Microsoft, but in 2010 I've seen change in Microsoft and you do deserve a compliment for this. Let me explain:
  1. In the beginning of the year you introduced Windows Phone 7 and just before the introduction I was impressed by the under NDA presentation by Charlie Kindle. It was for the very first time I heard Microsoft speaking about a central role of the actual user and not about technology. Wow, it seemed that Microsoft is really going to embed and change toward user centric design methods. It was also the moment I gave you a very fair chance to fight back in the Mobile war. However by now you have delivered the first generation of a fine operating system, but that is not enough. Nobody buys a phone based on the operating system, but based on the sexy hardware. Here comes one of my tips: Go and talk to your hardware vendors and tell them to stop talking about the technical specifications and get creative. Tell them to hire some Italian designers and experiment with new materials such as stainless steal, titanium, magnesium, carbon, leather, Swarovski crystals... anything that makes a sexy and desirable phone, because right now all we are getting are ugly, thirteen in a dozen, black plastic boxes. 
  2. You finally embraced the web and the HTML 5 standard. The work you are doing with Internet Explorer 9 is a good start. I notice enthusiasm in the developer scene and it will help you win back some market share. However it's not all about the browser, it's about sexy and innovative web applications. You could get a lot more out of your web properties as if you open up and adopt open interoperability standards. 
  3. Office 365, the most exciting announcement of 2010. For years I was already asking myself when Microsoft was going to put productivity in the cloud, and I mean really in the cloud, zero install, zero hassles and always up to date. BPOS was an understandable first step, but still very dependent on the Office client install, pretty complex and not yet hassle free. With Office 365 I believe you finally understand it's all about maximum convenience. However I also have concerns when you talk about the needs of a small business. The 10+ years I worked with Microsoft I learned you are predominantly enterprise focused and do not really understand small businesses. You continue to talk about increased productivity, depth of services, enterprise class software. Well a small business doesn't want enterprise class software because it's a synonym for complex and expensive, instead they want convenience over sophistication. Just a few tips:
    1. A small business prefers collaboration between companies over collaboration between people. Single sign-on is key for convenience and thus federated identity with business partners is crucial for success.
    2. People want to share a document, not store a document in a place where others have access.
    3. Coauthoring, nice in the enterprise, not relevant in a small business, except when you can author with people from another company. 
    4. My many years experience with small businesses have taught me that a 'one size fits all' doesn't really work. I suggest to really differentiate, including the messaging.
Of course you did a lot more in 2010, but that was just more of the same and business as usual. I complement you again with the fresh and changed Microsoft I've seen in 2010. However I also think you can still do a lot better. You just need to bring in some fresh new master minds into Microsoft.

Best regards


Agreed. Bring in fresh new master minds into Microsoft.

Case in point. Microsoft won't replace Chief Software Architect. Meanwhile Salesforce hires J.P. Rangaswami as Chief Scientist.

My advice to Mr Ballmer, Hire a Chief responsible for cross pollinating experiences between products.

How about it Steve...

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