Microsoft Mini blog has a lot of angst today with new round of layoffs at Microsoft.
I tried to comment, but the Blogger was broken and wouldn't accept it. Since I already typed it up, I am posting it here instead...
I worked at Microsoft for 10 years, then went to Google, then back to Microsoft.
All companies have problems. Apple. Google. Microsoft. They are just different problems, and they look bigger when you are closer to them.
Yes, Microsoft is failing in consumer markets, always have, maybe always will. We don't get consumer. Vista (AKA Abby & Toby platform), Windows Mobile, Kin... Even XBox - it is successful because it was built more for a typical Microsoft employee than for a regular person, it's just MS people love the same kind of videogames that 14 years old males do :-). But if you look at kids or family games on XBox - total failure.
The problem is that we target some mythical "dumb" customer, we don't really know who that is, and we overshoot the level of dumbness by a wide margin. I worked on the first version of Windows Home Server and we had people on the team - not developers, obviously - who seriously tried to argue that our customers don't know what a file share is. I kid you not.
However, just like Microsoft doesn't get consumers, Google and Apple don't get the enterprise. I have participated in creation of a business product at Google, and the people around me did not understand basic concepts like the need for customer service, a refund process, or the like. The entire Google internal system is antithetic to schedule predictability and release stability that is required for a corporate product. People who say that Gmail and Google Docs somehow threaten Exchange and Office have obviously never used these products in a work setting for an extended period of time.
One thing that is going for Microsoft is the plentitude of cultures. We have Xbox team, and an Office team, and Windows team, and Bing, and all these organizations are as unlike each others as they can be. My advice to people, especially developers, who complain about politics, poor managers, boring products, etc - check out the career site! Plenty of teams are hiring, and there are tons of really fun places which will match your preferred style, values, or culture. Just keep moving until you find the right place for YOU. Trust me, it does exist. (By the way, I am hiring, too! If you dream in code and can implement a semaphore if I woke you up at 3am, and like a blend of "old Microsoft" and "new Google" cultures, look me up on career site!)
Finally, it is true that often leaders make companies/armies/countries great. But not always, and never alone, and certainly not in democratic societies :-). I don't think that success of Microsoft in the 90's is directly attributable to BillG and BillG alone, and the steam somehow magically went out of the company the day he left the building. Yes, we have plenty of people at the high places that probably should not have been there. So does Google, so does Apple, so does Oracle, Intel, ..., ..., ... These aren't the people who (most of) you work with, they aren't the people who you meet every day, and I'll let you in on a secret - they aren't the people who make YOUR product a success or a failure. YOU do. They can't affect the stock price much - YOU can, by shipping great products, and by making environment around YOU better, so it attracts more people like YOU.
So don't get consumed by paranoia and politics, focus on your job and your team, and everything else will follow.
And if not, as long as you do the above, you will still be very employable. At Google, at Amazon, or in my team :-).