Cool is what tech consumers want. Exhibit A: today the iPhone brings in more revenue than the entirety of Microsoft.The author chalks it all up to bad management of epic proportions:
One Apple product, something that didn’t exist five years ago, has higher sales than everything Microsoft has to offer. More than Windows, Office, Xbox, Bing, Windows Phone, and every other product that Microsoft has created since 1975. In the quarter ended March 31, 2012, iPhone had sales of $22.7 billion; Microsoft Corporation, $17.4 billion.
At the center of the cultural problems was a management system called “stack ranking.” Every current and former Microsoft employee I interviewed—every one—cited stack ranking as the most destructive process inside of Microsoft, something that drove out untold numbers of employees. The system—also referred to as “the performance model,” “the bell curve,” or just “the employee review”—has, with certain variations over the years, worked like this: every unit was forced to declare a certain percentage of employees as top performers, then good performers, then average, then below average, then poor.I interviewed there in 2001, and quite frankly was turned off by the arrogance on display. I wasn't interested, and it seems that the feeling was mutual. Instead, I went to a startup that actually solved some of Windows' horrible security problems. This article is an interesting insight as to why Microsoft wasn't able to do that.
“If you were on a team of 10 people, you walked in the first day knowing that, no matter how good everyone was, two people were going to get a great review, seven were going to get mediocre reviews, and one was going to get a terrible review,” said a former software developer. “It leads to employees focusing on competing with each other rather than competing with other companies.”
Interestingly, when Cisco was negotiating to acquire us, Microsoft was, too. That same arrogance was still on display, and while it didn't queer the deal it almost certainly led to a low ball offer. Funniest of all, the Microsofties stayed at the hotel near our office where we would regularly go for a beer after work. We knew a number of the bartenders who would give us the low down of the discussion the Microsofties had the previous evening. Not smart enough to realize that treating everyone like you're God's Gift to the world doesn't pay.
The entire article rings true, from my own experience. It's a train wreck, but a cautionary tale.