Microsoft's Sinofsky Lifts Cone of Silence (Sort Of)
Steven Sinofsky, Microsoft's reclusive senior vice president for the Windows
and Windows Live Engineering Group, finally decided
to talk to the outside world
earlier this week about what's going on with
Redmond's operating systems, most notably Windows 7.
But after reading the Q&A
he did with CNET, the outside world still isn't a heck of a lot smarter
about the upcoming operating system than it was before Sinofsky broke his self-imposed
About 10 months ago in
his blog, Sinofsky presented his reasons for not talking about upcoming
products, stating that "corporations are not really transparent" but
more like "translucent." He added that all organizations "have
things that are visible and things that are not." Well, in his first public
communication, Sinofsky was more opaque.
Just about every attempt to find out details about technical features that
might be included in Windows 7 -- including the kernel, the interface and device
driver model -- was stonewalled with some variation of "We are not ready
to talk about that yet" or "Let's stick to a higher level discussion."
About all Sinofsky would say is that Microsoft would deliver the next major
release of Windows three years after it delivered Vista, putting it some time
in January 2010. (So Microsoft misses another Christmas selling season like
it did with Vista?) "We're excited; the investments that we have are really
about producing a major and significant release at that time," he said
in the CNET interview.
Well, he's about the only one excited by the work going on with Windows 7,
and figures to be the only one for quite some time. Given the crashing disappointment
that is Vista, you'd think Sinofsky might want to generate some interest and
excitement -- hope, even -- by offering IT professionals, their users and third-party
developers just a few details about what to expect in an operating system still
20 months away. Or, at the very least, provide some information about what Microsoft
might be planning to do about enhancing Vista to give users of that beleaguered
operating system some encouragement.
As far as I can tell, Sinofsky apparently won't have anything to offer Vista
users except, we assume, another service pack at some point. With the indifference
he displayed toward the needs of its users and developers, Sinofsky didn't make
Microsoft any new friends -- something the company is going need plenty of heading
into the new age of software development. He might have been better off maintaining
his radio silence a little longer.
Bill and Steve's Road Show Rolls On
It seems Mr. Sinofsky's bosses can be just as, ah, "translucent" about
the future of their operating systems. Speaking at the "D: All Things Digital
Conference," Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer also talked about Windows 7 and
Vista, but shed
no more light on the subjects than did Chatterbox Sinofsky. Even the brief
demo of Windows
7's "multi-touch" interface didn't tell attendees much.
One interesting tidbit the Dynamic Duo dropped was that Windows 7 would ship
before the end of 2009. How much before, of course, Batman and Robin didn't
But what attendees likely found even more annoying was that neither gentleman
admitted to any deficiencies in Vista -- but instead were quick to point
out that Redmond has now shipped over 150 million copies of the product. Well,
Bill and Steve, shipping 150 million copies or even another 150 million
copies isn't going to assuage the disappointment over Vista.
Ballmer did admit that looking back, Microsoft might have done some things
differently with Vista (ya think?). He blamed "compatibility issues"
that have plagued the OS because of the inordinate amount of time the company
spent on beefing up its security shortcomings.
peek demo of Windows 7 showed off the multi-touch feature by having it work
with a paint program, as well as with a collection of photos and a mapping program.
The demo lasted less than five minutes, and showed off only the user interface
and none of the upcoming operating systems capabilities.
Ozzie Calls Microsoft's Culture One of Crisis
Speaking yesterday at the Sanford Bernstein Strategic Decisions Conference in
New York, Microsoft Chief Software Architect Ray Ozzie said his company has
created a "culture of crisis" over the past couple of decades, as
it has been forced to respond to one major competitive threat to its business
The good news about this, according to Ozzie, is that with each new challenge,
Microsoft has grown stronger as a result. (The bad new there, I guess, would
be that Microsoft apparently is always in crisis mode.)
And so this is why Redmond is treating its latest threat -- Google and its
growing raft of online software disciples -- as just one more battle in a very
long war. In fact, the current battle with Google isn't as big a deal as the
battle Microsoft waged against the open source community. While Ozzie described
Google as a "tremendously strong competitor," he said open source
competitors were "much
more potentially disruptive" to his company's overall business.
(Notice that he said "were" more potentially disruptive. Hmm. It
seems Ray assumes Redmond's wars with the open source world are a thing of the
past -- or that it has reached a new era of co-opetition.)
Ozzie also used the occasion to pull out his stump
speech on Live Mesh where he again underlined the importance of "meshing"
together people and devices.
Another interesting remark came during a question on the importance and role
of virtualization in the industry today. Showing that he's fully enveloped now
in the Microsoft culture, Ozzie said he thinks virtualization could easily be
though of as part or extension of the operating system. I'll bet you Diane Greene
at VMware and Mark Templeton at Citrix will sit up straight when they hear that.
Ed Scannell is the editor of Redmond magazine.