Scobleizer Weblog

Daily Permalink Tuesday, September 24, 2002

My friend Carl Franklin (you might remember him as the guy who started the first Web site for Visual Basic programmers) has a new .NET site up with audio interviews from .NET luminaries. Latest one is with Juval Lowy.

Just a reminder. Anything I say here is my opinion only, not that of my employer, friends, family, or enemies.

By the way, the new Tablet PC is cool. It's just not going to be revolutionary for most people. The Macintosh was revolusionary. Even Windows 95 could be seen as revolutionary. However, there are a small number of people who will find the Tablet PC to be revolutionary. I was talking to someone who might buy a few hundred for doctors in hospitals. Doctors invariably stay away from computers, but that's changing. However, they need computers they can take with them on rounds. PocketPCs are OK for some things, but let's face it, Windows CE (er, PocketPC) just ain't as nice as having Windows XP for many things.

There's already good demand for Tablets from people who need to walk around in the course of doing their jobs. Or people who need to attend to lots of meetings.

The computer industry is looking for some good news, though, and the Tablet PC is some of the only good news I can see for PC manufacturers. I don't think it'll be enough, but I'm looking forward to having one to sell at NEC. Especially since the only call I've had today from someone looking to buy a couple of hundred of anything was looking to check out our new Tablet. By the way, I hear we'll know more in early November. Hey, maybe I'll have one at our Wedding (that's November 2). Since a few bloggers will be at my wedding, maybe it'd be fun to read our nupitals off of a Tablet. Hmmm.

Hey, I'm a geek. Shoot me.

Hmmm, is RageBoy getting "lucky"?

I wonder how anyone can blog and be getting good sex at the same time.

You do notice that my posting rate is way down from last year, don't you? ;-) last year I was going through a divorce and sleeping on the couch.

Thank God for 802.11. :-)

Oh, and Rage Boy: the mental image that you gave me of Dave Winer in drag is giving me nightmares.

Ahh, Microsoft wants to make a community with the MVP program CNET's reported today. I'm an MVP member, and have been for four years. Microsoft is certainly starting to treat the program with respect, which is a welcome change. However, you can't build community. You need to earn it.

The major reason I got excited about Microsoft is because it was doing things that improved my life. However, lately I'm just not that excited by much that Microsoft is doing.

Microsoft has slowed down in the past few years. Remember the days when we'd get a new Internet Explorer browser every six to nine months? We haven't seen real innovationin the browser for years.

Remember Windows 95? How different it was from Windows 3.11? We haven't seen that kind of change since Windows 95. Yeah, a new version of Windows is promised (code-named Longhorn) but that's at least two years away). Yeah, a new Tablet computer is coming this fall, but how revolutionary is that, really? Microsoft Office? How many radical new features have we seen in the last two versions?

Yeah, some of this is a good thing. My version of Windows XP works better than Windows has ever worked before. So, maybe by not changing things all that much Microsoft's engineers have been more able to focus on getting bugs out, but fewer bugs are just not the kinds of things that make evangelists gaga.

Now, it's nice that Ballmer and Gates show up to MVP gatherings and it looks like the program won't be killed anytime soon (they tried to kill the program due to legal reasons a few years back) but what will bring about a real sense of community to Microsoft's products?

1) Get rid of all NDAs and open Microsoft up. Tear down the shield of secrecy that's built up inside Microsoft. Every time I breathe the word Microsoft I'm in fear that I'm breaking one of my NDAs (in fact, to join the MVP program itself I have to sign an NDA). Mr. Gates, am I allowed to go to the bathroom now?

2) Don't use us for marketing and testing only. I'm still suspicious of how Microsoft is treating the MVP program -- articles like this make it sound like we're just another brick in Microsoft's marketing campaign. Microsoft doesn't need more marketing. It needs better products. One thing Microsoft should do is to incorporate MVPs into the design process of its new products. Hell, we signed the NDA anyway. Yeah, we're a pain in the ass, but we are hard-core users of Microsoft's products and have a vested interest in seeing them get better.

3) When Microsoft has a new product coming out, seed the MVP program with product so we can talk about it publicly. None of the MVPs that I know has been given one of the new Tablet computers. If you want us to hype up the market, we need to have our hands on early prototypes (and be freed of our NDAs so we can talk about them). The Linux folks don't have NDAs. If someone puts a new feature into Linux, you can be sure that they are freed to talk.

4) Don't compete with the MVPs. Help the MVPs build FAQs and resources that are exclusive. I saw how Microsoft came in and basically started competing with MVPs on its "GotDotNet?" website. Microsoft should focus on the software. Then help MVPs get the word out on how to use it properly.

Another thing that's keeping a "community" from being built up around Microsoft is just its rude behavior toward both its friends and enemies. I've personally had career troubles with people at Microsoft who felt I broke one of its rules (NDAs, sigh). If I'm in the Linux community and I figure out what Linus is up to, no one will come after me by talking to my boss. Microsoft is number one right now, and a few of its employees expect you to kowtow to their superiority. That's not the way to build a great community.

Funny enough, though, some of the people who I had a problem with at Microsoft are no longer in positions where they are allowed to deal with outside parties. Heh. Rude people are getting knocked out inside Microsoft and that's a sign that maybe Microsoft will improve in the future.

Well, now that I'm an MVP for yet another year (we're meeting with Gates next February) it'll be interesting to see how things go.

By the way, yeah, I understand the need for secrecy around new products coming out. The theory is that as soon as the marketplace finds out about a new product sales of the existing products drop to a low level. I guess there needs to be some sort of middle ground. Microsoft needs to have a conversation with the market without getting the market too hyped up about stuff that isn't out yet. That's a tough job.

Ahh, here's a SlashDot thread on the topic.

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Robert Scoble works at Microsoft. Everything here, though, is his personal opinion and is not read or approved before it is posted. No warranties or other guarantees will be offered as to the quality of the opinions or anything else offered here.

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© Copyright 2004 Robert Scoble Last updated: 1/3/2004; 1:45:51 AM.