GotDotNet vs. Internet Explorer

When I decided that it was time to move on from patterns & practices, I did a little playing of the field. After all, part of the reason I decided to work for Microsoft was the variety of opportunities that existed across the company. Whenever I speak to students about choosing Microsoft vs. any of the other companies out there, I usually point out that working for Microsoft is like working for many companies and whenever you get bored with one customer segment, you can move to another. You can go from Oracle (SQL) to AOL (MSN) to Red Hat (Windows Server) to Intuit (Money) to Sony (Xbox) without having to leave the company. There are many ways to learn about new jobs, including rumors from friends, asking potential bosses if they see anything on the horizon, or the internal website that holds all of the open job requisitions. On that site, I saw one opportunity that intrigued me more than any other: Internet Explorer (or IE, as it is affectionately known).

“Are you insane?” is probably the response many people would have. When I e-mailed the hiring manager to talk to him about the position, I described it as an impossible mission and told him that’s why I was interested. I believed IE can still be a vital component of Microsoft’s winning strategy and I wanted to help make that a reality.   We had a great conversation and I had a lot of fun telling him some of the things I would try to do if it were my job to turn things around. We shared a great brainstorming session and, by the end of it, I was very interested in taking that offer. However, the day-to-day responsibilities of the GDN job was more in line with what I wanted to do with the next stage of my career, so I declined the opportunity to pursue the IE job and here I am. But as I spend more and more time going out there and combing the net in pursuit of GDN sentiment, I am finding out that GDN is in a similar plight with its developer customers as IE is with its broader customer base. Let’s look at the facts:

  • They both have the perception of being deserted by Microsoft
  • They are both the objection of a lot of angry emotions.
  • They are both having negative impact on Microsoft’s image
  • They both have clear competitors (Firefox + SourceForge) that are drawing customers away, though market shares are inverted.

So, as it turns out, I am victim of the phrase: “be careful what you wish for”. We may have the developer’s IE here (of course, while Bill Gates is talking about a new version of Internet Explorer, he probably won’t be announcing a new version of Workspaces. Or maybe he will.J). So, I am back to the brainstorming sessions like the one I shared with the IE team a couple of months ago. There’s a lot at stake in mind and there are a lot of people who are very interested in where GDN (especially Workspaces) is headed. Without going into specifics at this point, I think my uber-goal at this point is to make sure the conversation that we are having a year from now goes from “Why does Workspaces suck so badly?” to “Great comeback. What are they going to do next?” I know there is a lot of venom out there from people who have been burned by past versions of Workspaces and have sworn off the site. I’m aware of the issues and I am not crazy enough to tell you to start using Workspaces right away. Like IE, things will not change overnight. The problems will take time to fix and I can’t, in good faith, ask you to put up with us if you’ve been burned. But again, as I’ve said before, things will change if I can help it. But I need constant input to know what/how to change. If you’ve been burned by Workspaces, tell me your story. If you have opinions about what features we need to add, keep, or toss, let me know. I’ve trolled the web looking for stories, but I am ready to get up close and personal with it. So whether it is feedback on this post or using the “Contact” link, let me hear and be brutal (no expletives please). There's also a great wiki that's been started up on Channel 9 (thanks Paul!). And if there is stuff you like, let me know that as well. While I’ll admit our task is still different, if we do this right, maybe we can be the model for what Microsoft should do with Internet Explorer.

{Living Color – Time’s Up}