Scobleizer Weblog

Daily Permalink Tuesday, November 25, 2003

I'm suprised no one pointed out that the Microsoft Art Collection has a Web page and tons of pictures of art at Microsoft. My favorite piece? Daimler Benz gave Bill Gates a huge section of the Berlin Wall. If you ever visit our conference center, it dominates one corner of it.

Want to see "the best of the PDC" for free? The Washington Software Alliance is bringing the biggest stars out at an event December 16. These are THE guys. The big stars. For free. Just fly to Seattle. Thanks Jeremy for letting us know.

Loren Heiny follows up on the Tablet PC and retail points I made with some excellent feedback for the Tablet PC team.

Robert X. Cringley: "Microsoft's goal has always been to make Windows ubiquitous, but achieving that goal will ultimately be the company's doom."

Did he just say that we need to make sure that our competition gets more market share so that we can survive ourselves? Ahh, so that explains why we haven't done weblogging yet. Why Apple has done really cool stores, but we can't even get more than one Tablet PC displayed at Best Buy. Why we let the open source movement continue to gain in strength without really answering its main claims with anything better.

He goes on to ask a damning question: "How many people actually buy software from Microsoft because it's from Microsoft?" Actually, a lot more than you might think.

I totally disagree with his point that we want to kill off our consultants. One thing Cringley totally ignores (quite conventiently, I might add) is the webloggers. Guess who many of them are over at .NET Weblogs, or SQL Junkies, or Longhorn Blogs, or GotDotNetWeblogs? Consultants!!! Guess what? Those sites help Google even more. And, many of those sites aren't under control of Microsoft (Longhorn Blogs, for instance, is run by a kid in the community. He ain't gonna listen to me if I tell him to put in a robots.txt file that blocks Google).

Personally, I got TechNet for years and I rarely even loaded a single CD. Why? Cause everything I need is on the Net now.

He ends up with the usual "black helicopters are coming" stuff about digital rights management (DRM). He sees it as the ultimate lock in. OK, so we lock you in. Guess what? The "slippery slope" argument of DRM just doesn't hold water. Why? Because if it really does turn out to be evil like everyone is expecting it to, it'll keep adoption rates of Longhorn down and it'll increase the sales of Macs and Linux machines (or, just keep everyone on Windows XP).

The real truth about DRM is that it isn't all that evil. Heck, Apple's iTunes has DRM in it. Did the world end? Did the black helicopters take your first born away when you downloaded that?

I keep seeing the "DRM is evil" and "DRM is lockin" arguments everywhere, though. I guess if you repeat a point often enough everyone will believe it. "So, Scoble, can't DRM be used for evil purposes?" Of course it can. Just like a knife can either be used to carve a tomato, or can cut off your finger. I just tend to look at a tool and say "hey, that's a good tomato cutting device" rather than the more cynical "hey, that's a good finger cutting device" point of view everyone else takes here.

But, you all will need to make up your own minds on that one. Despite what you all think Microsoft doesn't have the power to get you to accept our DRM stuff. I think that idea is laughable. If it were true, there would be no need for a Longhorn evangelist and I'd be out of a job.

Charles Miller: "Microsoft has always been a pretty nasty piece of work, as far as companies go" ... "And all the talk from Scoble about how Microsoft employees all need to have a values statement now doesn’t wash with me."

He also says that we all go around asking ourselves "what would Bill Gates do?"

Funny, I don't go around asking that question. If anything, I go around asking the opposite question: how do I get people to listen to my readers?

And, I have some vigorous disagreements with how Bill has run the company over the years. Don't forget, I'm still on the record as saying I'd like to see Microsoft voluntarily broken up. I know Bill doesn't agree with me on that fundamental business question. I think Bill deserves a great deal of credit for allowing dissenting opinions to grow inside the company.

I've seen this from the inside too. If you think you have a good point to make that Bill (or, really ANYONE) inside Microsoft is making fundamental business mistakes, you are allowed to tell them off. Encouraged, even.

Last Friday I stood up in front of all my coworkers and at least four execs and told them "my readers are giving me crap because the execs here pop off their mouths. Anything I can do about that?" To a person all the execs said "write them, and if you are scared about doing that, write me, and I'll tell them off."

Another datapoint: behind the stage at the PDC, Gates, Allchin, and other executives were reading the weblogs. They do care about the perception of the company and they are trying to react to the demands made here and on other weblogs. The problem is this is a big company. Changing internal behavior takes time and even once that's done, changing perception takes a lot longer.

But, I'm here for the long road. What other company encourages open dissention in weblogs? (Or, did you miss that over the past few days I've told off the execs (particularly the ones involved in marketing and retail), I've told off the FrontPage team, and I've told off the Sharepoint team?

Do you see Steve Jobs' employees publicly pointing out what Apple could do better? How about Scott McNealy's? Larry Ellison's? How about Linus Torvalds? Oh, wait, Linus doesn't have employees. Why doesn't he have a weblog where he tells Linux developers what they are doing wrong and what they need to work on?

In fact, why is Microsoft the only company with more than 5000 employees that has a few hundred employees weblogging at all? Oh, and we keep doing it even after a contractor got fired?

Could it be that we care about this company? That we appreciate where it's going? That we've been empowered to change the company and make things better for our customers?

Nah, that's too optimistic a viewpoint for most people to consider.

Tim Bray links to my rant about retail in Palo Alto. You didn't miss that I pointed out that Apple's Steve Jobs lives about a mile from this particular store that we went in, did you? I'll bet that a couple of years ago he did the same exact thing we did and decided that retail was just not gonna be a good place to sell to end users and that he needed to change the equation from just buying space in warehouse stores that didn't care about his product. Today, just a few years after Apple opened its first store Apple is selling billions of dollars worth of stuff through its stores.

I'll be at the Apple store in Palo Alto on Friday at noon to meet someone for lunch. I was there on the day it opened too (I used to work just down the street from the first Apple store). It think Apple's stores are wonderful.

The comments I've been getting on retail are pretty interesting. When I worked at NEC we decided not to sell our products through retail at all. Why? We couldn't afford it. Getting on the shelf at Fry's costs money. Big money. Fry's charges tens of thousands of dollars just to get on the shelf, and can charge six figures for "prominent placement" in stores. NEC could never afford to do that cause our margins were too low to afford that (not to mention that selling into retail means taking back a pretty sizeable portion of your inventory because of return fraud -- there are a lot of people out there who'll buy a laptop, use it for 25 days, then return it. Those get returned to OEMs and they need to be sold at greatly reduced prices as refurbished goods.

Speaking of which: you know those advertisments that Fry's runs in newspapers? They cost about $40,000 per page (more or less -- depends on the newspaper and I'm sure Fry's gets pretty good discounts from most publishers because of the volume they run). But, Fry's doesn't pay for those -- the manufacturers do. When I ran my camera store, I never advertised unless the camera companies kicked in the coop dollars to pay for the ads.

I talked with Dave tonight. He ended up ordering an IBM. But, it took calling twice to get a decent salesperson on the phone.

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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; 3:21:07 AM.