October 17, 2004

Downside to Microsoft's New Openness

I, for one, am extremely happy that Microsoft is now being more open with their customers. Through blogging, Microsoft employees are letting people see and participate in the decision making process. Through Ladybug, customers can request features and bug fixes that matter to them. Through the ISV Buddy program, customers get one-on-one contact with a Microsoft employee who works on the same technologies that affect them.

However, there is one downside to Microsoft's new openness. Information that Microsoft did its best to keep hidden regarding product and staffing changes now has an avenue to get out.

For example, layoffs are one item that Microsoft does a wonderful job of hiding. For example, the layoffs in Salt Lake City were never publicly announced. The only public notice about those layoffs was a leak to Penny Arcade.

But these personal channels into Microsoft expose the inner truths of Microsoft. Things like my old studio getting sold off about a month ago, but since everyone down there is still under NDA, they can't say anything. Things like layoffs on the the WMI team. Things like the multitudes of seperate test departments in Microsoft Game Studios getting eliminated later this year to create a central test organization with a publisher-model focus. Things like this occur on a regular basis within Microsoft, but normally there are no external indicators of this happening.

Fact of the matter is that this information getting out isn't a bad thing, but the risk is there that having this information more transparent to the people who pay attention may result in people second-guessing Microsoft due to internal business moves rather than the quality of their products. While there have been several downsides to having all information get scrubbed by the marketing side of Microsoft, at least there was a consistent message coming from all of Microsoft...that Microsoft internally is one healthy company, not thousands of small companies vying for market share.

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