Microsoft’s PDC wrapped up here in Los Angeles. It was an interesting event which prompted lots of discussions, blogging (tons of it) on technology, Microsoft, this or that killer, etc, etc.
Here are some of my perspectives:
Content is free – Contact is priceless
I spoke to a number of people who complained that they didn’t need to show up, all the content was free and anything really important, Scoble was blogging it and doing a Channel 9 video. This is a big, big mistake. By far, one of important places to be was with the overflow crowds on popular sessions. In many cases, there were running commentary, groups coding variations on the examples, etc, etc. The conversations I witnessed were producing friends, code buddies and innovation, live, real time. Impossible to get from down loading power point slides. The BOF sessions, late night huddles around the munches, the labs, etc. All of it created a creative environment and an opportunity for you to get value far beyond the great content.
Watching people have a conversation with a program manager and, live, blogging the results is the free content. The interaction with those people is priceless. Save your coins, pick your technology platform and go to the show(s) of your choice.
Employee Pulse Check
It’s been a week of let’s dump on Microsoft with a Business Week article and Mini-Microsoft getting his time in the MSM spotlight. As a particular bad joke, instead of getting a speaker badge, I got a staff badge. Very funny, Joan. Not one to miss an opportunity, let me give you some observations from the staff rooms I hung out in as well as being in the prep rooms and other places attendees weren’t supposed to be.
There is very little “they” going on inside Microsoft from what I could see. Any company, large or small, has the us vs. them problem by the nature of the way things are. The split second you have an org chart or hierarchy, you start the process of us vs. them. Obviously, I didn’t probe deep else somebody with a pulse said, say are you actually with the company, so 90% of this is overheard conversations and observations. Over and over again, I heard “they liked it”, “did you see this kid’s idea for us”, “I’m going to the BOF, should be cool”, and lots more. More importantly, on the stupid stuff, people were feeling the pain and really making an attempt.
Without trying to go off sides here, let me give you one example. After a session on Visual Studio, somebody came up to the presenter and mentioned some little annoyance that, well is actually kinda dumb. Afterwards, the presenter started a conversation with another MSFT type and got the how’d it go. After the usual banter, this snippet was interesting:
Presenter: A customer came up and mentioned xxxxx. Shit, I gotta figure out how to fix this, like now.
Other MS: Dude that’s a super nit, don’t get so upset, it will get dealt with.
Presenter: Dude, trust me, this customer will blog the shit out of this nit because he is right. So, it’s a nit, I fix, and he blogs he got listened to. Beats the alternative.
They say Dude a lot. I think that’s some new code word. On a more serious note, they get it. You could wander all over and pulse check the place. Having done these events before and lived to tell the tale, it is a different place and, well, the line folks get it. Lots of biz cards were handed out and lots of MS people said, check out my blog for this or that to the customers.
They get it and while every company has, or probably needs a mini-microsoft, it is not the critical pulse check you should use for making many determinations about Microsoft and the employees.
Look around the corner
When Microsoft first started requiring online validation of product, did you watch the bashing they took? The screaming over privacy, hassles, etc, etc? Did you get caught up in all of it? Or did you look around the corner. Did you realize that MS, with all the research stats and resources you don’t have at your fingertips, had told you something vital about technology? Microsoft had just told you that software phoning home could be accomplished because the number of businesses and homes having an acceptable connection to the Internet had arrived. They gave you a road map for what you could do and what you should be planning for.
During the PDC, there were a number of things Microsoft said, did, and will do which will require you to look around the corner to see the real value and the real opportunities. RSS is one example. Are you in the camp fretting about Microsoft destroying RSS? Are you complaining about who did or didn’t get credit? Look around the corner because there are tons of opportunities, big and small, that have been created for you. Visual Studio. Did you catch the little extensions that were announced? Sparkle. Did you get caught up in the inane Flash killer debates or did you look around the corner see what that really meant, the opportunities you now have. Sharepoint. Not exactly taking the world by storm. Did you ignore it? Or did you look around the corner to see what, in a couple of changes, they now afford you the opportunity to do.
I could go on, but you get the point.
Let’s be careful out there
The Los Angeles Emergency Services Department and FEMA did an excellent job of treating the numerous cases of diabetic shock caused by the over indulgence in Microsoft Kool-Aid. Memo to geeks: The world does not need a 3D, high performance, totally immersive environment, to call GEICO and save 15% on their car insurance. Don’t let all this stuff cause you to forget the customer. Everything doesn’t have to be ‘cool’ when “it just works” will do.
From Brad: “if history is a guide – will result in a huge amount of money flowing to Microsoft and many of the members of the Microsoft ecosystem.”
From Fred: “I can see an IBM-like scenario for Microsoft in its fourth and possibly fifth life.”
Read both posts. In my opinion, both could be right and it won’t matter to you. So, keep your head down and love your customers.
That’s a wrap for the PDC. I have laundry to do as I spend my second week in the LA area. Enjoy your weekend.