In-Depth

The List Issue

Our staff picks out the best, the worst and the most unusual in this eclectic set of categories.

Everybody loves lists: Letterman's Top 10 list, Christmas lists, to-do lists. We're no different. And because we're always talking about our favorite execs among Microsoft's top echelon, what we think of various mergers and other rumblings in the industry, who said what, and how Microsoft's competitors stack up, we wanted to share those thoughts and conversations with you.

We've hit on a number of offbeat categories, weighing in on our favorite executive side gigs, favorite executives from other companies in the IT world, blogs we can't miss -- and those we would just as soon avoid. Let us know if you agree or disagree with us at editor@redmondmag.com. (For the full list, see Table 1.)

Most Influential Exec
1. Ray Ozzie: The intellectual heir apparent to Bill Gates who brings a kinder, gentler presence to the software juggernaut.

2. Bill Gates: It's his last year as a full-time exec, and his philanthropic efforts are nothing short of astonishing.

3. Steve Ballmer: Still outrageous, aggressive and sometimes obnoxious, but you end up liking him anyway (unless you compete with him).

4. J Allard: Changed Bill Gates' thinking about the Internet through his 1995 memo to the chairman, entitled: "Windows: The Next Killer Application on the Internet." By some accounts, he still has influence on Web-based matters. Currently, he oversees the company's Xbox and Zune product lines.

5. Craig Mundie: As Microsoft's chief research and strategy officer since June 2006, he assumed half of Bill Gates' duties when Gates announced his eventual retirement. Like Ozzie, who has the other half of Gates' job, Mundie offers a calming presence as he helps shape the company's research efforts and works with corporate lawyers to guide its technology policies.

6. Jeff Raikes: One of Microsoft's longest high-ranking executives now in charge of its sprawling but critical Unified Communications strategy. A true survivor. Could be an easy winner in a Bill Gates look-alike contest.

7. Eric Rudder: Has a clear view on how Microsoft's technology should work together.

8. Steve Sinofsky: Hasn't had much to say to the outside world in his first 18 months as head of the world's largest development organization (Windows). But we are guessing he will be one of our favorites once he begins to speak.

9. Tami Reller: She was a strong candidate to replace Satya Nadella has head of the Microsoft Business Solutions Group, but Kirill Tatarinov got the job instead. Nevertheless, she's been a passionate leader for the group and a solid Dynamics evangelist.

10. S. "Soma" Somasegar: Hates coffee, loves chocolate and keeps it relaxed as Microsoft rolls out an unprecedented amount of technology for the developer division.

Most Influential Exec Wildest Microsoft Executive Side Gig
Smartest Executive Hire Biggest Executive Departure
Coolest Hair Favorite Executive Quote
Favorite Non-Microsoft Executives Best Merger or Acquisition
Worst Merger or Acquisition Favorite Public Meltdown
Favorite Technology of the Future Sharpest Microsoft Competitor
Blogs We Read Blogs We Avoid
Best Legal Decision Favorite Technology Ad
Best High-Tech Movie Best Tech Slang
Favorite Public Meltdown (Literally) Favorite New Product That Flopped
Favorite "Oops" Moment Must-Have Bookmarks
Companies We Miss Smartest Product Name
Favorite Tech of the Past Favorite Product Ahead of Its Time
Most Creative Code Name Contributors

Wildest Microsoft Executive Side Gig
1. Charles Simonyi: He has a budding career as an amateur astronaut, dates Martha Stewart and runs Intentional Software Corp.

2. Paul Allen: He established the Experience Music Project | Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame, ran the X-prize space race and has a yacht the size of Florida -- he's truly living out his dreams.

3. Jeff Raikes: Along with some Microsoft counterparts, Raikes owns part of the Seattle Mariners.

4. Don Gagne: He's the former head of development for Microsoft Office, who spends his days racing Porsche 911s and blogging on racing.latestfiasco.com.

5. Bill Gates: Given his efforts to stamp out disease and poverty with the $60 billion Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, he somehow finds time to keep an eye on Microsoft's $51 billion operation.
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Smartest Executive Hire
1. Ray Ozzie coming to Microsoft as Bill Gates' ostensible replacement. Ozzie has invigorated the company like no other in the last decade.

2. Kevin Turner leaving Wal-Mart Stores Inc. to come to Microsoft as its new COO.

3. Brian McAndrews (former CEO at aQuantative Inc.) is going after Google and helping nab a stake in Facebook as the new head of Microsoft's online ad business.
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Biggest Executive Departure
1. Bill Gates: He hasn't stepped down yet, but has announced the end of his reign next spring. Remains to be seen just how far removed he'll be from strategic decision making.

2. Jim Allchin: Mr. Windows, a true gentleman, takes his leave.

3. Tim Chen: He left Microsoft China to head the NBA's Chinese operations.
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Coolest Hair
1. Ray Ozzie: The Silver Fox -- distinguished looking in that Microsoft upper management sort of way. Call it Chic Geek.

2. Steve Ballmer: Unlike many of the follicle-challenged, Ballmer has thus far resisted the urge to shave it all off.

3. Dan Bricklin: The co-creator of VisiCalc, Bricklin's hair and beard have changed little since the '70s. It still looks as if he stayed up all night coding.
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Favorite Executive Quote
"When the hype settles down, people have to settle in to the pragmatic reality, which is that [Microsoft's] product sucks."
-John W. Thompson, Symantec Corp. CEO on Microsoft Forefront
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Favorite Non-Microsoft Executives
1. Linus Torvalds: He's not the next Bill Gates, nor does he need to be. He's the first Linus Torvalds. His status as the most influential person in the open source community remains intact and figures to stay that way as open source products continue to chip away at Microsoft's market share.

2. Steve Jobs: Any number of high-level Microsoft executives talk about how important innovation is to the success of their products. Steve Jobs actually delivers it. The iPod vs. Zune? Leopard vs. Vista? We'll leave it at that.

3. John W. Thompson: Never one to back away from a fight against Microsoft, Thompson has done an admirable job during the last eight years of keeping Symantec competitive in a number of key markets, particularly security.
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Best Merger or Acquisition
1. Google buying DoubleClick (although the deal has not yet closed): Just remember, Google-use your powers for good, not evil.

2. Symantec buying Altiris: It made a lot of sense for both companies, and apparently the integration has been smooth (from the outside at least), with Altiris remaining as an independent brand.

3. Microsoft buying aQuantative: It may be too late to catch Google in Web advertising, but Microsoft is giving it a shot.

4. HP and Compaq: Hotly contested by the Hewlett family at first, the new company has surpassed IBM as the industry's largest high-tech company. Maybe Carly knew what she was doing after all.

5. Quest buying ScriptLogic: Makes for a nice, full set of Windows management tools, and Quest is doing its best to leave ScriptLogic alone.
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Worst Merger or Acquisition
1. Microsoft buying aQuantive: By trying to become an Internet ad agency, Microsoft may lose focus on its core businesses, which are under threat.We feel the same way about Google and Yahoo! buying into the ad world, which opens the floodgates for more obnoxious online advertising.

2. Oracle Corp.'s incredibly hostile takeover attempt of BEA Systems Inc. Messy.

3. Caldera International Inc. acquiring the Santa Cruz Operation: SCO then threatened Linux users and vendors over intellectual property rights, which a judge said SCO never had in the first place.
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Favorite Public Meltdown
Ballmer threw a chair at Mark Lucovsky (one of the keynote speakers for Web Builder 2.0) after he submitted his resignation to go to work for Google.
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Favorite Technology of the Future
Wireless Web everywhere and Unified Communications: With both you can live where you want.
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Sharpest Microsoft Competitor
1. Google Inc.: No one comes close.

2. VMware Inc.: The leading brand in a hot category -- a huge late-summer IPO didn't hurt, either.

3. Oracle Corp.: The battle rages on between Oracle and SQL Server, with one of Oracle's biggest weapons being the mouth of chairman Larry Ellison.

4. Novell Inc.: Has produced a strong Linux-based distribution and strategy, and managed to strike a deal with Microsoft. Ballmer has not used the words Novell and cancer in the same sentence -- yet.

5. Apple Inc.: The Zune hasn't dented iPod sales, and Leopard, the new Mac OS, is getting good reviews.

6. SAP AG: It is to Microsoft Dynamics what Microsoft is to the rest of the (non-ERP) software industry -- bloated, slow and behind the curve but still utterly dominant.

7. Intuit Inc.: No one keeps home and small business finances cooking like Scott Cook.

8. Salesforce.com Inc.: The company's Software as a Service model has enough sass to genuinely threaten Microsoft's Software plus Services.

9. Microsoft itself: Microsoft has met the enemy and it is ... Microsoft, especially as Windows XP gets pitted against Windows Vista.

10. Zimbra Inc.: One of the more inventive Web 2.0-based companies posing a threat to Microsoft's collaboration business. Hopefully Yahoo!, which scooped up Zimbra in September for $350 million, will continue that level of innovation.
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Blogs We Read
1. Joel Spolsky: Joelonsoftware is probably the top software blog today.

2. Fake Steve Jobs (The Secret Diary of Steve Jobs): Before he was "outed" by The New York Times.

3. David Pogue of The New York Times (Pogue's Pages): Not just a fine writer, but a darn good videographer as well (check out his Vista and iPhone videos).

4. Robert McLaws (Windows-Now.com): Did a superb job covering Vista through its long and bumpy road to GA code.

5. Mary Jo Foley (All About Microsoft): Always a sharp eye on Microsoft.
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Blogs We Avoid
1. Steve Gillmor (GestureLab): He's incomprehensible and prefers it that way.

2. John Dvorak (Dvorak Uncensored): Maybe we need a Dvorak keyboard to interpret his musings.

3. Joe Wilcox (Microsoft Watch): King of the conspiracy theory.
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Best Legal Decision
1. European Microsoft antitrust verdict.

2. DOJ's decision against Microsoft (which competitors think should have gone further).

3. Judge Kimball ruling that Novell owns the Unix SVR3 copyright, putting an end to SCO lawsuits.
(Back to Table)

Favorite Technology Ad
Any of the Apple Mac Guy and PC Guy ads, especially the one where PC Guy is "going in for surgery," meaning a major upgrade.
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Best High-Tech Movie
1. Sneakers: Redford, Poitier, Aykroyd, Kingsley and Phoenix still rock 15 years later.

2. Enemy of the State: Gene Hackman: "I blew up the building." Will Smith: "Why?" Hackman: "Because you made a phone call!"

3. Tron: You can't beat that action with the glowing Frisbee.

4. Minority Report: Uber-nerd Steven Spielberg took pains to make virtual reality and image manipulation ring true.

5. Matrix: We are all virtual.

6. Blade Runner: The best movie by just about any criteria.

7. Terminator: Hopefully when Microsoft rules the world, they'll be kinder than the machines.

8. Weird Science: A bizarre mix of futuristic science and teen angst.

9. Hackers: A young kid is apprehended by the Secret Service for writing a computer virus and can't use his system until he's 18. Realistic and accurate high-tech dialog, and it also has a young Angelina Jolie. What more could you want?

10. Mission Impossible: Non-stop action scenes have rarely made computers seem so exciting.
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Favorite Tech Slang
PEBKAC (Problem Exists Between Keyboard and Chair).
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Favorite Public Meltdown (Literally)
Atlanta news station WSB-TV reported that a man claimed his iPod nano exploded in his pocket as he was wearing it. Danny Williams, who works at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, allegedly looked down and saw flames coming from the burning iPod. The fire is believed to have originated in the lithium ion battery, which is similar to the batteries recalled for setting laptops on fire.
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Favorite New Product That Flopped
1. Microsoft Zune: And to think we once wanted one.

2. Windows Vista: We hear of 88 million licenses sold, but do you know anyone who actually uses it?

3. Office 2007's Ribbon interface: Common functions hidden in plain view.
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Favorite "Oops" Moment
Steve Ballmer's keynote speech at Convergence in San Diego was late in the afternoon on the last day. If Microsoft hoped to keep people for the duration of the show by sticking Ballmer at the end, the plan backfired. The huge hall in the convention center where Ballmer spoke was two-thirds empty when he took the stage.
(Back to Table)

Must-Have Bookmarks
1. Google: It's like an onion. The more layers you peel off, the more you find.

2. TheOnion.com: Speaking of onions, nothing else comes close for intelligent satire.

3. Dictionary.com: The everyday cure for the common word.

4. Newyorktimes.com: This is the way all online versions of newspapers should look and feel.

5. Slashdot.org: Both entertaining and thought provoking, this site helps keep you up-to-date not only on Microsoft happenings, but technology news you might otherwise overlook.
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Companies We Miss
1. DEC: Solid computers, a company engineers and MIS directors couldn't help but love.

2. Netscape: Invented the browser, but wasn't willing to give it away free and couldn't bundle it with Windows.

3. Ansa: The Paradox DBMS is still a great work of software art.
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Smartest Product Name
1. Sunbelt Messaging Ninja: It references ancient assassins in context of what it does -- it assassinates spam.

2. Symantec Ghost Solution Suite: Imaging, migration, deployment and much more

3. ScriptLogic Desktop Authority: Conveys its command over Windows systems.

4. Lucid8 GOExchange: Just the right level of Exchange maintenance.

5. Time Machine: Apple's new backup program in Leopard. H.G. Wells would have been proud.
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Favorite Tech of the Past
Windows XP: Truly a better Windows than Vista. Faster, cleaner and every bit as safe.
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Favorite Product Ahead of Its Time
The iPhone: Compare the Zune -- which only sold a handful-to the iPhone -- which sold 1 million in 74 days. Wait ... there is no comparison.
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Most Creative Code Name
1. Katmai (SQL Server 2008): Why would you name a product after the greatest volcanic implosion of the 20th century, in which the volcanic peak collapsed upon itself and magma drained out to create another volcano a few miles away?

2. Longhorn: This code name is so cool, Microsoft should have named the product after it, but which one? Longhorn once referred to both Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008.

3. Avalon: Sweet-sounding code name for Windows Presentation Foundation.

4. Microsoft's Data Dude (Visual Studio Team Edition for Database Professionals): It's hip, and way easier to use in conversation than the actual product name.

5. Visual Studio Team System: The features were named after lighthouses in North Carolina: Hatteras (Source Control System), Ocracoke (load testing suite), Currituck (work item tracking), and Bodie (Team Foundation Server SDK).
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Contributors to "The List Issue" include Doug Barney, Ed Scannell, Lafe Low, Peter Varhol, Michael Desmond, Kate Richards, Keith Ward, Scott Bekker, Lee Pender, Guy Wright, Greg Shields, Josh Jones, Bill Heldman and J. Peter Bruzzese.

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