Redmond Cover: Blessing or Curse?

We've had a lot of executives on the cover of Redmond magazine, and sometimes our timing is perfect. Turns out the cover of Redmond is either a path to riches or the kiss of corporate death. We interviewed Ray Ozzie days after he joined Microsoft, and not long thereafter Ray took over Bill Gates' job as chief software architect. Then we put VMware's Diane Greene on the cover and, despite being a fine executive, she was deposed shortly thereafter.

Our latest cover features Microsoft's Bob Muglia. Just as the issue shipped, Mr. Muglia got himself promoted to president of the Servers and Tools Division. Bob has been around Microsoft for years, and was a guy I covered 15 or so years ago at InfoWorld. In my view, he's a tough, smart and eminently reasonable business and technology leader, and so I congratulate Bob on his new role.

Who's your favorite and least favorite high-tech exec? Ballots readily received at [email protected].

Microsoft To Shed Some Softies?
Over the holiday break, I came across an article from The Hindu news service about some Wall Streeters suggesting that Microsoft jettison nearly 10,000 employees. Why anyone would listen to Wall Street these days is beyond me. Shouldn't Wall Street listen to Microsoft, a company that has more than proven it knows how to run a business?

In any event, it didn't take long for layoff rumors to swirl. The rumor mills upped Wall Street numbers, and had as many as 15,000 pink slips (with Vista logos?) sent out (via Hotmail or Exchange, I wonder). Steve Ballmer himself contributed to the conflagration by telling shareholders that Microsoft was "looking to reduce head count." But now, some of these shoot-from-the-hip bloggers are backing away from their layoff predictions.

There are lots of ways for Redmond to shrink the workforce. It can let contractors go and not fill the jobs of all the retiring Microsoft millionaires. Layoffs? I'll believe it when I see it.

All I Want for Christmas Is a SQL Injection
The holidays were a bit strange this year. The economy was tough, malls were empty, and we in America awaited a new and very different presidential administration.

My own family here in North Central Massachusetts also had an odd time. Due to a massive ice storm and an inept power company, our electricity went out and I had no heat for 15 days. It didn't crank back up 'til the day after Christmas (though many, including the elderly and poor, had it far worse than I did, so no complaints here). My family huddled around a space heater on Christmas morning and were none the worse for wear.

But Christmas wasn't entirely without gifts. Wall Street had $700 billion to play with, our next president talked about an extra trillion dollars or so a year in federal spending (deficit, what deficit?) and hackers blessed the world with a new SQL injection attack.

Apparently, no systems were actually hit and no patch has been released. The news leaked out only because a security researcher let it out, leading experts to rightly criticize the disclosure.

Windows 7: Your Turn
Redmond Report readers have helped me write countless cover stories for Redmond magazine. Now I'm asking for assistance again. For March, I'm doing a cover story on Windows 7 and trying to draw my conclusions based on what IT pros think of the current beta. I've already heard from a handful of readers but as usual, I want more.

If you've been playing with the Windows 7 beta, drop me a line at [email protected]. I'll get back to you with a bunch of questions. Like the rest of these cover stories, this will be your story!

Mailbag: No Love for Pirates, Microsoft on the Ropes?
Yesterday, Doug wondered whether six-and-a-half years in a Chinese prison is too harsh a sentence for software piracy. But most of you think that sounds just about right:

As a founder in a software company and a former police officer, I have no sympathy for software counterfeiters or anyone who chooses to commit any kind of crime. They steal from people who put in the time and energy to create something of value. I wish we could give all counterfeiters/criminals what I hope is an absolutely miserable prison experience for those guys.

Frankly, 1.5 to 6.5 years in prison for piracy seems far too lenient. You have the lost tax revenue to the U.S. (gee, touchy subject right now), you have the lost revenue to the reseller channel (which in turn trickles down to the individual level), you have the time lost by companies and individuals who were gullible enough to purchase the counterfeit software (assuming they even know they are running illegal software; many counterfeit versions are hard to detect), and of course you have the lost revenue to Microsoft (which, much like the reseller channel, trickles down to individuals). And for all of this, 11 people got these short prison terms?

While admittedly I don't know the full details of the case, $2 billion lost and 11 individuals serving up to 6.5 years -- that's still about $30 million per individual per year served. I have to assume there is a financial fine that these individuals will need to pay, and they probably didn't charge full price for the software they sold...but still, that's hardly sending a tough message to counterfeiters!

There is more than one side of the "pirated software" story. Besides the loss of revenue that Microsoft experiences, what about all of the unsuspecting consumers who purchase software that cannot be supported or even patched? These pirates are making tons of money, and for every copy of a program that is sold, the impact is the same as if they walked into a store and stole it off of the shelf.

I have long thought that as long as the government continues to slap software pirates on the wrist, there will be no incentive for the behavior to stop. Knowing that they may face 6.5 years of incarceration may well deter the next pirate from embarking on an illegal career.

Given the value of human rights in China, they would've gotten sentenced to death if the Chinese were really serious about deterring counterfeiting. A man in the U.S. was sentenced to four years in jail for spamming. Granted, an American prison is a country club compared to a Chinese one, but this was just for spam -- an inconvenience.

Software counterfeiting is outright stealing and, when done on what sounds like a similar scale, should be considered worse, according to this armchair judge. I am by far not the biggest fan of China, Microsoft or intellectual property law, but in my opinion these 11 guys got lucky.

If the pirates didn't want to go to a Chinese jail for their crimes, they shouldn't have done it in China. They should have done it in France or Switzerland or somewhere where the jail doesn't force you to make 1,000 pairs of shoes a day.

These guys broke the golden rule that's well-established in kindergarten: Share! I have not heard of any fines levied. These guys will need to spend some of their bread on prison protection, which will hopefully balance out if they partnered with Microsoft and shared their slice of the pie. Now, that would be justice.

Seriously, don't cry for millionaires that will be treated like royalty, albeit in a nasty prison. They may finally appreciate an honest day's work.

And after reading a recent Wired article about Ray Ozzie titled "Saving Microsoft," Doug wondered if Microsoft really needs saving in the first place. One reader thinks Wired makes a good case:

Guess you missed the fourth paragraph of that Wired article:

"Not an easy job. Yes, Microsoft still rakes in the dollars from Windows and Office. But the stock has been flat for years. Microsoft used to be regarded with fear and respect -- Lord Voldemort with market share. Now people downgrade their computers to avoid Vista, tech luminaries write blog posts with titles like 'Microsoft Is Dead,' and the public face of the company is the hapless loser in the Apple ads. Oh, and this year, after a 25-month transition, Gates, the once-omnipresent cofounder, left the building."

Qualifies the title in my mind.

Tell us what you think! Leave a comment below or send an e-mail to [email protected].

About the Author

Doug Barney is editor in chief of Redmond magazine and the VP, editorial director of Redmond Media Group.


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