Ask the Microsoft Employee

I have to confess - I’m a Microsoft employee. Based on some threads I’ve seen relentlessly bashing Microsoft, I’ve kept it a bit quiet but I’ve worked for Uncle Bill for over 8 years now. I’ve worked in both product development in Redmond (in the Windows 2000 days), took a break to work for a .COM before it imploded, and since then have been in Microsoft Services here in the UK and across Europe for the past 6 years, gradually moving into a non-technical-ish position.

So I figured, in the interests of fighting ignorance and all, that I’d open myself up to questions. Here’s the ground rules:

  1. I will answer any honest question about my employer or our software based on my experience. If I don’t know, I don’t know. If I won’t or can’t tell, I’ll say that. I won’t lie - you’ll just have to take my word for that one.
  2. I’m not a developer, so please don’t ask those sorts of questions. I may just have to point you to technet or some such if you’ve a hugely technical question about a particular feature or process.
  3. I will not divulge any confidential or proprietary information, so don’t even ask.
  4. I will not debate why Microsoft is evil, defend myself against Mac or other fanatics, and will not tolerate insults.

So game on. Any questions most welcome.

Did you make millions in stock options?

Are you a handsome man about age 35? And, very important, do you have a British accent?

If so, I’m available.

(the only serious question is the first)

Microsoft just took a big earnings hit on the XBox 360 due to poor quality controls. Do you believe this is more due to poor quality assurance at Microsoft, or poor vendor quality assurance after winning the Microsoft contract?

How excited are you about Microsoft’s prospects out there in the big, bad world? Is there anything that you can talk about and that’s impending that we should know about?

Rethinking things, perhaps my question was too personal. Maybe change it to:

Are there still people there who make millions in stock options; and of the people who were there when the co. started, who did get very rich at some point, are there still a lot there? What kind of positions do these people have? (I believe there were secretaries and receptionists as well as “higher-ups” (cough) who did make a lot of money this way but I’m not sure.)

What is “Microsoft Services”? Is that part of their “Live” division or what?

And yeah…what missbunny said :wink:

No, I was hired after the stock was pretty much useless or my options were underwater (i.e. strike price of options was less than the value of the stock). Most of the 'Microsoft Millionaires were hired before 1998.

I am 34, my mom thinks I’m handsome, and I don’t have a British Accent but I do use British slang a lot.

Does that help? :slight_smile:

D_Odds - I think it’s poor vendor QA, but not sure. To be honest, every Xbox platform we sell is sold at a loss of something like $100; we make more money on the games than on the platform.

Least Original User Name Ever - moderately optimistic. I work in Services, which means enterprise services. We’re still trying to achieve market share, so there’s tons of opportunity. It is a tougher market, and the part of the business I work in is a tricky place to work. We’ve made a few (IMO) bets that haven’t turned out so great, and IMHO we’re trying too hard to be ‘everything to everyone’ and have a presence in every market niche, but the Windows and Office divisions are going great, and Xbox / Home Entertainment likewise, and our Enterprise products keep getting better and better, so maybe the big bosses know more than I do.

ZipperJJ - Services is one of 4 main parts of Microsoft as a whole (the other 3 are Product Development, Sales, and Marketing) and has two parts - Premier Support and Microsoft Consulting. Prem is for companies who already bought a product and need help because of a bug or configuration issue. MCS is for people who want to buy a product or ‘do’ a certain thing with our software and we help them architect a solution. I like to think we’re the only honest-with-ourselves part of Microsoft as well, because we know for a fact that nobody in the business world is all Microsoft (or all anything else) so we spend a lot of time making ourselves fit.

missbunny - not too personal at all, and Microsoft made a lot of secretaries rich back in the golden days. Those days are long gone, though, as most of that wealth was paper wealth from stock options. We don’t get nearly as many, and they’re not worth nearly as much, as back then. I’m lucky if I make a 10% return on my stock options at all. It’s not a bad package, and I get to travel, so I’m not complaining. But it would be nice to be able to retire to own a small chain of islands when I’m 50 and I just don’t think that’s in the cards anymore.

Sure, but they’re generally execs, VPs, and the like. The run-of-the-mill blokes like me do OK but we’ll never buy personal jets.

Some, but not many. most have gone on to do other things. Paul Allen co-founded the company, and he now owns like half of Seattle or something. Others have done other things. Not too many are left from the beginning, but if they are they’re way up in the rarefied atmostphere where I rarely go.

Another question: What kind of software and hardware perks do Microsoft employees get? Does everyone get free or severely discounted Vista Ultimate when it comes out? Also, what version OS sits on most employees desktops? As an enterprise, has Microsoft moved to Vista?

do you honestly think that Microsoft developed Vista because the world needs a better operating system, or because Microsoft needs to make a profit?

Are the techies who write the software convinced that it is really good, improved software, or are they just trying to earn their salary and keep their bosses satisfied? What do they say when they go out to a bar together after work, and share their real feelings over a beer?–I’m sure that in 1995, they proudly wrote the new software and wanted their grandmothers to buy Windows 95 . But what about Vista? Do they honestly feel that they want their grandmother to buy it, or can they see why there is no real reason for the general public to mess with it?

I’m not a Microsoftie, but isn’t the answer to this painfully obvious? Microsoft needs to release new OS for revenue flow. Same goes with upgrades on other software. If they don’t, two things will happen. First, revenue will plummet. Second, if Microsoft allows their software to stagnate, it will give competitors a chance to take a bite out of MSFT’s installed user base. Releasing, and requiring purchase of, new software and OS versions is simply good business sense. The trick is getting buyers to believe they are getting their money’s worth (and I’m not sure people do when purchasing Vista, but that’s another thread).

We get software at manufacturing cost, so I can get pretty much anything in the store for pennies on the dollar. I’ve had Vista Ultimate on my home machine (which I paid for - both the machine and the Vista) for about 6 months now. Harware we get cheap if it’s made by Microsoft, but this is usually based out of Redmond only so it don’t do me much good here in London for Xboxes and the like because of region coding and voltage requirements. I bought Vista for $20, but it doesn’t do me much good because if I re-sell at retail and get caught, I get fired.

About the software - everybody at Microsoft is considered a beta tester. We’re all strongly encouraged to start running new software around the Beta 2 timeframe, and required to start running the software when it hits Release Candidate status. This applies to both our work machines (i.e. my laptop) as well as our supporting servers (like Exchange servers and the like). We’re 80k employees spread across nearly every country in the world. We make a great test bed for enterprise software. Everybody is running Vista, from Bill on down. I also get a mobile phone given to me for business, and it’s an Orange E650 running Windows Mobile 6.

You asked before about new and cool - if you’re a developer or sys admin, we’ve tons of cool stuff coming up. System Center Configuration Manager, Windows Server Longhorn, Visual Studio upgrades. Tons of cool stuff. For consumers, we’ve got some neat stuff coming out of the Windows Live division (and about damn time too, me thinks - they’re a costly bunch and don’t give us much back) including some web-based tools and such. Home and Entertainment has some cool gadgets coming out for home use, but by far the neatest IMO is the table-top Surface PC.

I think both. Vista has some significant improvements over XPSP2, but they’re not where joe-blogs the user can necessarily see them. A lot of them are targeted at large-scale business users, as well. I do think it was important. I think it will be eventually seen on the same order of magnitude as the Windows 95 days, it’s just that the changes are subtle.

I also think it was rushed a bit, and we forced it out the door before it was fully cooked, but there were strong business reasons for that and of course revenue / stock price was one of those. What you have to keep in mind, however, is that a bad release will be much worse for us and our stock price than a late one.

Any idea what any of the 235 Microsoft patents that Linux violates are? I’m semi-serious with that.

Going back to what you said earlier about consulting at a multi-vendor shop, do you work under any kind of corporate directive to push MS solutions in areas where the customer requirements may make them inappropriate?

I’m asking because I’ve run in to some of it at my employer. Y’all just got your foot in the door with Exchange, and some of the MS folks are already trying to push stuff in other areas that plainly doesn’t fit.

On a semi-related note, does Redmond sincerely give a crap about interoperability, or is the latest talk about open standards a lot of hot air? I know that’s a loaded question, but stuff like OOXML vs. ODF makes me wonder if there’s been an actual change in culture, subject to a few missteps, or if this is one more example of EEE.

I’ll be watching this thread, GomiBoy. I just started working for Uncle Bill about six weeks ago. Figures I wouldn’t be the only one.

You should have been at the Dopefest on Wednesday. Blimey.

We’ve got another MS employee on the boards, I think he changed his screenname, lemme see…

::quick perusal::

formerly Dooku, now Morbo.
Anyway, he’s in the MacBU division and does PowerPoint development IIRC.

Today’s question for Microsoft would be: How is it that you folks totally dropped the ball on the Mac version of VirtualPC? I see why the original (PowerPC) codebase was rather useless, but you could have pretty much ported the Windows version of VPC back to the Mac to run on Intel Macs. The Connectix folks y’all bought out would not have sat by and let Parallels take away their Mac-based business.

Now there are all these folks who are buying Macs specifically to run both platforms, and they’re buying up copies of XP Pro (and Vista) and they’re also in large part buying up copies of Parallels to run it on. They could be buying VirtualPC 8, from you, instead.

Y’all put out some very decent software from time to time, so I know it’s not from lack of good developers (and to be sure, all those PPC G5 owners do appreciate the work MS did on VirtualPC 7). What’s the story?

I got into a mild amount of trouble for posting too close to home, as it were, and therefore cannot comment in threads such as these, especially about our VPC decision, which is in my group. The trouble is kinda why I changed my username. Fat lot of good it did me, thanks AHunter3. Kidding. :slight_smile:

GomiBoy, you may want to double-check whether this is OK or not. I’ve been at MS for 15 years and I still got slapped.

No question, just waving hello from Microsoft Licensing here in Reno! Worked here for five years.

Have you ever met Bill Gates in person? If not, have you at least seen him live, in the flesh? What is he like personality-wise?

I’d really like to know if you know about any of the behind-the-scenes decisions regarding the Office 2007 setup.

Microsoft made a decision to completely change the interface that had become standard over the past 10-15 years, and I know as an old-time user that the new interface has caused me innumerable problems.

Do you know of any of the designers involved in it, or what their reasoning was? I have to believe that the users at Microsoft have encountered the same problems that I have…

(I’m not trying to sound sarcastic or anything. I apologize if I do)