Fog Creek Software
Discussion Board




A book about Microsoft

Here's another one like Microserfs, but this time a book that describes the management style at MSFT. Got this review while browsing the Web.

http://www.fool.com/portfolios/rulemaker/1999/rulemaker991220.htm

Sathyaish Chakravarthy
Monday, December 22, 2003

It's a pretty old review (1999) and seems like a bit of a MS lovein. My thoughts:

"In the early 1990s, Bill Gates bet the company on Windows. In 1996, Bill bet the company on the Internet. "

When did he bet the company on these? He missed the boat on both and caught up using illegal tactics.

"managers of marketing teams are great marketers; managers of sales teams are excellent sales people; and, managers of programming teams are expert programmers. This principle applies all the way up to Bill Gates, who is an expert at programming -- Microsoft's core competency. "

When did Bill last start up Visual Studio and pound out some code? Never I'm guessing because Visual Studio didn't exist when he last wrote code.

"at Microsoft, failure is expected"
"Microsoft performs like a champion sports team."

Most champions dont expect to fail. These two sections contradict themselves.

Craig
Monday, December 22, 2003

Interesting that you found this, Sathyaish, it's my uncle's book.  Dave's another one of those former Microsofties running an ISV today.

Craig, what does practical experience with Visual Studio have to do with being an "expert programmer"?  Is it required?  I think that your comment about sports teams is also screwy (it's a pedantic point anyway).  Any coach who didn't expect loss would be silly, since the odds are obviously against him.  I think that what my uncle meant (not that I speak for him) is that the competence of the team and the general direction of their project is more important than particular failures.  Plus if you're doing something new, you're going to fail several times along the way (Edison didn't invent the perfect light bulb on his first try, after all).

You ought to read Feynman's "What do you care what other people think?" for more on this thread.  His experience at NASA covers many of these same management issues (and probably many more) that my uncle brought up in this book.

K
Monday, December 22, 2003

That is amazing, K! Just another proof of how many intelligent people we have here. And so I love this place.

Sathyaish Chakravarthy
Monday, December 22, 2003

My point was not really about Visual Studio. Bill Gates obviously once was an expert programmer, after all he developed many of MS early products. But I dont think he is any more. You cant do no developement for 20 years and still expect to be called an expert. He is now an expert manager, CEO, evangalist, all the things he does every day.

My point about the champion sports team is they expect to win. If they dont they are very disappointed. Of course you know that over a period of time you will occasionally lose, thats reality. Saying failure is expected is a bad attitude. It should be failure is accepted if they put in the effort.

Craig
Monday, December 22, 2003

The point about failure is that, when you are searching for the Next Big Thing, you are bound to run into many also-rans that *seem* like the Next Big Thing but aren't. Many times there is no way to know what are the good ideas and what are the close-but-no-cigar ideas other than to pursue them; therefore, you cannot blame seemingly smart people for failing at times. However, you would like to minimize the amount of time spent working on ideas that are dead ends.

Therefore, Microsoft (and some other smart companies) have created a culture where people are encouraged to "fail fast" - there is no penalty for failure, you're just expected to do it fast and figure out what the winning idea is. Failure is just part of the process of creating the Next Big Thing. If you're company punishes failure, you might be inclined to take whatever catastrophe you're working on and *force* it to be the Next Big Thing; this is rarely a good idea.


Monday, December 22, 2003

For all this nonsense about smart people and accepting failure, they sure seems to steal an awful lot of their winning ideas.

Microsoft are smarter when it comes to knocking out the competition. Considering the size and reach of the company they have a poor track record of REAL innovation.


Tuesday, December 23, 2003

Craig,
Bill Gates never developed any software.
There was nice movie about the early years of MS,
where even he cofessed "best software is stolen software".

Hairy Monkey
Tuesday, December 23, 2003

Was it <MOVIE>Pirates of Sillicon Valley</MOVIE>?

Sathyaish Chakravarthy
Tuesday, December 23, 2003

I liked "Pirates of Sillicon Valley". I've heard Anthony Michael Hall was dead-on as Bill Gates. (Hall was certainly unrecognizable as himself.)

Beware the power of my stinky feet!
Tuesday, December 23, 2003

Gates definitely did write code back in the seventies and possibly later, and the general consensus among those who had seen it was that it was pretty good.

Stephen Jones
Tuesday, December 23, 2003

Does it matter if Bill Gates can write code or not?

Given the choice between being able to write neat code or being able to build one of the most successful companies in the world, I'd go for the latter.

Ged Byrne
Tuesday, December 23, 2003

IIRC, he wrote a boot loader for DOS on the plane to a client demo, which became production code. I'd definitely call that a "top 1%'er"

Philo

Philo
Tuesday, December 23, 2003

Okay, so he's Smart ... but does he Get Things Done?

Zahid
Tuesday, December 23, 2003

?

"IIRC he wrote a boot loader for DOS on the plane to a client demo"

That's not getting things done? How about if I ended it with

"...which resulted in a sale"?

- wrote production code
- which finished the application
- made a sale

Very, very, very few of us can claim all three of those in one day's work. ;-)

Philo

Philo
Tuesday, December 23, 2003

>> IIRC, he wrote a boot loader for DOS on the plane to a client demo, which became production code.
<<

Any links to this fact? There were no laptops back then, so he might've written it on the piece of paper. With almost no chance of testing, he put it to run at the client's demo and made it production code later. Sounds like an urban legend to me.

Floridian
Tuesday, December 23, 2003

Writing a boot sector isn't exactly rocket science and any competant programmer can do it.  I'm sure Mr. Gates had studied the processor articheture and probably wrote and read similar code well before he wrote that code on the plane.  Ever disassemble a boot sector?  512 bytes.  On x86 you load X number of sectors from disk to memory at the address specified in the manual (7600? can't remember myself but easily looked up), then you jump to that address to begin execution...


Tuesday, December 23, 2003

Philo,

It wasn't for DOS it was for BASIC for the Altair. At that time, you didn't need a laptop to write code, it was hand written in assembly that was entered by toggle switches.

They (he and Paul Allen) realized they didn't have  a loader when the were flying to ABQ to meet with Ed Roberts of MITS.

pdq
Tuesday, December 23, 2003

*  Recent Topics

*  Fog Creek Home