Tech-Ed Notes on Customer Perception of Microsoft

The Microsoft perception issue is something that came up in the discussions I had about our communities and role in the community. Here are my quotes and notes on how the few customers I talked to perceive us. 


  • “Developer perception of Microsoft has been hurt by the poor servicing story for .Net 1.0, 1.1 and Visual Studio tools.”
  • “Windows stopped work on longhorn to service XP with XPSP2. Where was the same effort from developer tools to stop work on Whidbey to fix pain points in 1.1/VS2003?” 
  • “It’s strange to say that windows has better servicing record than developer tools”
  • “You’ve done a poor job of patching with fixes only available on request”
  • “Why should my customers have to call PSS to get a fix that enables my application to work?”
  • “Shouldn’t I be able to include the fixes as part of my installer package if my tools depend on them?”
  • “Why do I have to upgrade my app if I want to develop it with the new tools?”
  • “There should be backwards compatibility with all versions of the framework”
  • “It would help if you got a servicing team out there to at least be more transparent about how you plan to service the product.”
  • “It would help the servicing story if real versions of VS came out more frequently”
  • “Adopt 6 month cycles with the tools like eclipse or release service packs through windows updates more frequently.”

There were a few people that ranted to me about our servicing story. :-) I thought the one perception of how the Windows team earned big kudos for delaying Longhorn to fix XP was particularly interesting.  If nothing else we need to be more transparent and upfront about what our plans in the servicing space are because I certainly came away with the idea that, if nothing else, we had failed to set proper expectations.


  • “The bad reputation Microsoft has is no longer deserved”
  • “People that say Outlook is insecure are wrong”
  • “I’ve been using outlook for the last few years and it has not been responsible for any harm on my computer”
  • “Once windows 2k was released the product quality had reached good enough and no longer deserved the legacy reputation”
  • “Slashdot is just humorous”

Maybe it’s because this was a Microsoft sponsored event, but people I talked to didn’t agree with the “evil empire” image.  The consensus seemed to be that those days are over for most customers that don’t include Slashdot posters.  The bigger image/reputation problem was seen as a lack of focus on innovation. 

On Innovation

  • “Existing products are good enough. Where are the cool innovations and reason to upgrade?”
  • “Microsoft needs to show off more of their innovation and stuff from research”
  • “Google uses a cool innovation + the open source community to effectively market their tools without an ad budget”
  • “Why does it feel like everything out of MSN is a clone of Google?”
  • “The virtual earth stuff just seemed poorly timed. If there had been work going on before google launched maps why didn’t we know about it and have a chance to give feedback?”
  • “I hope that we start seeing some cool products from the small companies that get to use some of those research patents. I would imagine some other companies might do a better job bringing those things to customers”

I missed writing down good chunks of this conversation but it seemed to boil down into two things.

First, we don’t do a good job of highlighting the innovations we do make. There was one customer that talked to me about the Office dinasour ads as a poor attempt to highlight innovations that (and I wish I had a closer quote) made him feel like we were trying to insult people into upgrading.  It just comes down to how we spread the message.

Second is that people felt we just weren’t leaders in several areas. Of course the G word came up several times.  They challenged us to make google or apple follow us into a new market and then make sure we tell people about it. 

There where also comments on how our employee blogging was innovative and has led to a perception change.  I tackled those in two previous entries.