After 9-1/2 weeks, I have left my job as an Enthusiast Evangelist at Microsoft. So there you go. I'm just ripping off the band-aid. Ouchie! I know, “What happened?”
In a nutshell, I felt like Martha Stewart trying to fit in at the Star Trek convention. I wanted to play with style and they wanted to play with robots.
Okay seriously, it simply came down to
passion. I want to live my life with joy, meaning, and vibrance. Yes, vibrance,
my 2007 New Year’s theme. I am a
creative, right-brainer, and truly passionate lover of the web. I am so lucky
to live in Silicon Valley where all the web 2.0 action is happening. People are
literally creating great things out of nothing because, well, we can, with open
source, web-based apps, and community. Really all you need is some creativity,
love, and action, and watch the magic unfold. It’s thrilling. So, right there you can start seeing the conflict. Why did I go to Microsoft in the first place? I thought I could make a difference. I'm an idealist. In the long run, the price was too much. Lessons learned.
At Microsoft I met some
really talented people who were extremely warm and welcoming. Honestly, I was
taken aback by how inviting people were towards me. I left Microsoft with a better
impression of the company than when I came in because of the people I worked
with, albeit a short time.
I got to see Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer in person. Ballmer screams loudly like Chris Farley’s motivational speaker character Matt Foley. Gates is the richest person on the planet and he looks like he could be Harry Potter’s dad. Despite my funny anecdotes, there was something inspiring seeing thse guys in action. I got to go to Redmond and visit the mother ship. I got to be an insider at one of the most influential companies in the world. I am extremely grateful for the opportunity.
I never really got this before but what truly makes me excited about web 2.0 is that it is democratizing technology and making it accessible to anyone regardless of economic status, class, or means. If you have some kind of computer or handheld device with internet connection you can do amazing things like create a business for almost nothing, evoke social change through blogging/podcasting/vlogging, and teach people how to “fish.” (That old adage. It is better to teach people how to fish than to catch the fish for them.) Web 2.o apps may not be full of bells and whistles or be feature-rich like software from a CD, but it is good enough. It is good enough for people to get started when they have minimal or no resources or money.
I created my blog business for less than $100, and it costs me about the price of a pair of nice jeans a month to run beyond my time and energy. I cannot do this with the current MS products or services. And I tried. I am making money while helping to evoke change in the beauty industries. I can use CSS and be creative in my blog design, and control what is advertised on my space. You can’t do that in Live Spaces. To buy Office 2007 Home edition is $150, and Vista Home Premium is $240. (Buying Vista Basic is really kind of pointless.) With that $150 and $240, many people can use that for more pressing things like health insurance, car insurance, debt elimination, rent, food, or gas.
If you’re a sole proprietor just starting out, things like Google docs and spreadsheets or ZOHO apps can get the job done for fundamental business needs like business plans, correspondence, and basic financial reports, and it’s free or at the most some small fee. Again, maybe not feature rich, but good enough. Office Live is essentially the likes of Yahoo Small Business web hosting or GoDaddy Small Business, but the difference in price for the offerings you get is not even a comparison. Yahoo and GoDaddy gives you WAY much more for far less money, and it’s more fun.
Office Live feels like mini-Enterprise. On the emotional side, what MS has forgotten is that small business owners either left or despise the Enterprise culture. The last thing they want is something that makes them feel Enterprise-y especially the creative types. When I speak to a group of Pro level bloggers, my passion group, I had nothing much to sell them on.When MS develops something as robust and creative as TypePad, Blogger, or WordPress, then it will be interesting.
As a Pro blogger, the only tool I use that is MS made is my wireless mouse, which is fabulous but, for real, there needs to something meatier than that. And again, I tried real hard to find more MS tools to integrate into my uber blogging, and could find none that were more compelling, more productive, or easier than what I already use, so why change? Live Writer is okay, but you can virtually do the same things in Word 2007. This kind of stuff happens because of Silo mentality. I really struggle with the big company stepping on itself. But this is not a problem just at Microsoft. Any company who has reached behemoth size has this issue which is why I refer to it as Corpse-rate behaviour.
In the Valley, the trendsetters are about webware. Software is not bad, it's just costly. What you can do on the web is just utterly interesting. People can also share much easier and faster. Companies must start looking at the web differently. Things are changing, rapidly. Adobe just announced that it will launch an online version of Photoshop before any of the smaller guys do it before them. I have no doubt that we will start to see more of the traditional software people do similar things. I kept asking why MS won’t just launch online versions of Office (word, excel, ppt) along with Office Live, and there was no answer that made sense to me. My only guess is that there is fear of letting go of the old ways of the bread and butter. Again, the web 2.0 stuff may not be as good as the Office stuff, but it is good enough for tons of people, and the web 2.0 folks are jumping ahead where MS is not, perhaps not in the Enterprsie but in individuals and small businesses. MS doesn’t think too much about the long tail which I think will hurt them in the long run. Some may disagree, but this is just my two cents.
Microsoft has a very strong focus on winning “behind the screen” meaning getting businesses, developers, and partners to buy/sell/promote MS products & services, basically “numbers” wins which is fine and one way to operate. I am from the school of holistic thinking, and would ask “Well what are we doing to win “in front of the screen?” Meaning what are we doing to win over end users, especially users who eat, breathe and sleep the web like bloggers, folks who mingle in online communities, and basically anyone who uses the web to help them live their best life, as Oprah would say. YouTube, MySpace, Flickr, etc. are big and popular because of the users, not the technology itself.
MS like many tech companies spends way too much obsessing on “robust features” and totally negates or minimizes the fashion/style factor. This is where Apple kicks butt, and Motorola got it with the cell phone. The RAZR is the most popular selling cell phone, not because it’s got the best technology but because it’s stylish, fashionable, and cool. Women LOVE it because it fits in the skinny pants, doesn’t make a big bulge in my work pants because women don’t do the belt buckle thing, the evening purse, and it came in colors including 3 shades of pink. The Dolce and Gabbana model was a hit with the fashionistas.
There was a run of some pink Zunes that were a result of a defective brown run. The pink Zunes are totally hot. I personally think they would have sold more than the brown ones because it really looked hot, but they went with brown. Hello! Women buy 52% of all consumer electronics. We buy for 3 generations at all times. We’re a fat wallet that none of the techies are diving into. I wanted to do that at MS since that is also one of my specialties, but that battle was going to be like fighting at the Alamo.
At the end of the day, my heart was not sold on the realities at Microsoft. That is not to say that MS isn’t a thriving place for someone else. In fact, for the right people, there is plenty of room to grow and expand, and they highly encourage growth both as an individual and as an employee. So based on passions, and out of respect for the company’s time and money and mine, since it takes forever to ramp up new people, I felt it best to let someone who is gung-ho and jumps for joy at the thought of MS stuff, take the role.
I am going back to web 2.0 and blogging, my true loves. Again, I am leaving on good terms and with a better impression of MS than when I came in mostly because of the people. In Norcal, the people I worked directly with are fabulous folk. I had a blast at our Enthusiast Evangelist Summit in Redmond! And although I didn’t agree with all the philosophies or course of actions, I have the utmost respect for everyone I worked with at Microsoft. And I like Vista especially the nifty Snipping Tool, my new best friend for blogging tools. Moviemaker is also a dream in ease and style for beginners and enthusiasts. It's not for Scorsese productions but it's good enough for YouTube or the family reunion.
So that’s it in a long nutshell. My spot is now open
and as of now, they are looking for someone fantastic to fill it. So, if any of
you really, really like MS stuff, live in the greater Silicon Valley/San Francisco area, blog (this is a must), like doing events, and
public speaking, let me know ;-)