Former Microsoft Exec – Infighting Caused Company Decline

/ 1 year ago

Former Microsoft Exec – Infighting Caused Company Decline

For all the company’s successes, there’s a host of abandoned projects and under-supported endeavours in Microsoft’s wake. For every Windows 7 (or Windows 10) and DirectX, there’s a Zune, a Silverlight, or a Windows Phone. Living in-between success and failure, of course, exist the likes of Internet Explorer and Windows 8. These missteps surely caused the Redmond company to lose ground – and a lot of money – to its competitors; Apple, in particular. Now, though, a former Microsoft Executive is giving us the inside scoop as to why so many Microsoft projects failed.

Tim Sneath, a 17 year Microsoft veteran is leaving Microsoft for Google; in his leaving announcement, though, he dishes the dirt about what went wrong behind the famous four-panelled Window. Sneath specifically points to Microsoft abandoning both Windows 7 users and developers as a huge mistake. However, he also takes aim at Silverlight and Internet Explorer as significant losing throws; their sad legacy becoming a loss of faith in long-term system reliability.

Former Microsoft Exec Reveals All

In a Medium post, Sneath reveals the “missteps” and “infighting” that led him to join Google. Incidentally, Sneath’s new Google job is developing new frameworks for mobile apps. He does, though, stress that “Microsoft is an amazing company”. First, Sneath discusses the company’s strengths:

“When I joined Microsoft in 2000, Windows and Internet Explorer had a monopoly, Visual Basic was in its heyday, and the shelves of Best Buy and Circuit City were filled with rows of boxed consumer software. For any client app developer at the time, Microsoft was at the epicenter.

The .NET Framework created an entire new ecosystem, particularly around Windows Forms and ASP.NET. Visual Studio became perhaps the most popular IDE of all time with a combination of power and flexibility. And technologies like “Avalon” (WPF) pointed the way to a new wave of applications that took advantage of DirectX and discrete GPUs to reach new heights of graphical app experiences.”

What Went Wrong

However, Sneath then bemoans the motivating factors behind Microsoft’s decline:

“But then came the missteps. Distracted by the engineering challenges of delivering [Vista], Microsoft failed to adjust rapidly to the new competitive threats posed by the rise of the standards-based web and the resurgence of Apple and the iPhone. Its rapid growth left it with the defender’s dilemma of being attacked by all sides, while also being unwilling to sacrifice existing businesses for new opportunities.

And so, Silverlight came and went — terminally injured by the imperative to preserve the Windows franchise. A renewed Internet Explorer made huge strides forward with hardware-accelerated graphics and a fast new JavaScript engine, but its deep integration with Windows 7 became its Achilles’ heel. The bones of Windows Phone have been picked clean by many others.

Meanwhile, infighting between different divisions left client developers in the Microsoft ecosystem caught in the crossfire, with little clarity for those who wanted to bet on something that would endure. Customers started to look elsewhere, attracted both by the new monetization opportunities of iPhone and the exploding ecosystem around the web. And so when “Metro” (UWP) was introduced as a reset for the Windows API, leaving behind the massive existing Windows XP and Windows 7 user base in pursuit of an unproven new touch-centric UI, developers largely shrugged and continued down the paths they had already chosen.”

Sneath goes into greater detail in his Medium post. In addition, he explains the details of his new Google position. His new job, though, is far from the most interesting part of his post. Indeed, Sneath’s full Microsoft critique makes for an interesting read. What do you think of Microsft? Has the company lost its way? Or have you always been a Microsoft sceptic?

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3 Responses to “Former Microsoft Exec – Infighting Caused Company Decline”
  1. Jayson P says:

    I am a developer and I have to say the biggest problem Microsoft has is a LOYALTY problem to it’s developer community. I have to agree with Sneath that it’s very confusing for us developers “caught in the crossfire” trying to figure out which product Microsoft is going to abandon next and which one it will stick with. Without feeling a sense of loyalty from Microsoft it’s very tempting to jump ship to Android or iOS development because Apple and Google seem committed to their platforms and their developers.

    While it may appear like a good business decision to investors to cut their losses on something like Windows mobile, it’s a shotgun blast to the gut to a developer who’s just spent a couple years of their life writing a UWP app targeting Windows mobile. And that very angry developer is like a woman scorned… there is no wrath comparable to it.

    The Microsoft Surface line is an excellent example of what they SHOULD be focusing on, however the lack of a mobile device undermines the entire product line. It undermines the promise of UWP. How can an app be “universal” if there are no phone-sized devices to run on. Wall street may cheer it. Web pundits may cheer it. But developers feel abandoned, and in return abandon Microsoft.

    We don’t expect Microsoft to compete with the iPhone or the Pixel 2, we just want Microsoft to stand their ground, and give us something to hope for in the platform. A Surface “Note”, a 5.8 inch device with LTE and a bundled Pen would be just such a device. Perhaps the device could come in a foldable form factor, unfoldable into a 8 to 10 inch tablet, even better!

    Developers both Consumer and Enterprise need a CLEAR message from Microsoft. And we need that message to be “we thank you developers for being loyal to us, and we want to show you OUR loyalty” by NOT abandoning our mobile ambitions, NOT abandoning UWP, NOT abandoning a pocket-able version of the Surface line.

    • Matt Booth says:

      The other issue is that everything they’ve put out is subpar. Windows Phone was a terrible OS. Metro was unwanted, ugly and unncessary. UWP might sound good to a phone developer, but any PC developer, especially videogames, would think twice about being tied to the Windows Store and lacking several essential features because they’re simply not available via that API.

      They had the XNA Game Studio, which I learnt C# through at University, which was unceremoniously ditched when it was in it’s prime.

      Microsoft needs to stop trying to compete on certain levels. Windows Store. Give it up. No-one wants it. No-one is buying from it. UWP on PC is pointless, restrictive and unnecessary. Stop trying to force people to use it.

      Just give us the Windows platform that has good driver support and plays nice with others. This is OUR PC, OUR hardware and OUR internet connection, so stop stealing data and trying to restrict things to force MS only products.

      Leave it, and just play nice.

  2. RDJ says:

    I disagree that Microsoft should abandon the Windows Store. On the contrary they should STOP ABANDONING things. That is the only way developers will ever start trusting them again. Store apps are safer, easier to install, and are an monetizable alternative for small developers to “freeware” sites, which are riddled with adware and other malware.

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