go ahead, mac my day

a Macintosh girl in a Microsoft world

August, 2006

  • go ahead, mac my day

    meanwhile, back at the ranch ...


    For my adoring fans (hi, mom!) who want to read everything that I have to say, I've just posted my first post over in Mac Mojo: On being a Macintosh girl at Microsoft.

    The thing that I like about this new team blog is that I'm learning more about my co-workers. I didn't know that Brad, ex-VPC lead dev who's now working on our shared Office code, used to be a clown. I didn't know that Sheridan, one of our marketing people, used to be in the music biz. Now I'm waiting for Roz's first post to see what she'll reveal ...

  • go ahead, mac my day

    the Microsoft fallacy


    One thing that I've heard a lot of is the idea that Microsoft has a lot of money, so MacBU should be able to do anything: port a Windows app, add a feature to one of our existing apps, etc etc etc. I've come to think of this as the Microsoft fallacy.

    The Microsoft fallacy has the following components:

    • If a company has a lot of money, this means that they have sufficient resources to do anything.
    • If a company has a lot of money, every piece of that company has access to all of it.
    • Every large company acts as a single cohesive unit, and has one single goal.

    Most people take it for granted that money doesn't buy happiness. But those who subscribe to the Microsoft fallacy forget that there are many other things that money doesn't buy. Money doesn't buy more time. Money doesn't buy great developers with specific domain knowledge. (Money can assist with recruiting great developers, but it's not the only factor in that equation.)

    Those who forget that money doesn't buy a lot of things also forget that we might not have access to that money. Don't get me wrong, we're not pinching pennies over here, but we don't have access to an infinite amount of money. If money did buy everything that some people think it does, we might not be able to buy it anyway. I had an allowance when I was a kid. Today, as an adult, I have a budget instead.

    The Microsoft fallacy has one component that isn't exactly fiscally-related, although most of the supporting arguments that I see for it are fiscal ones. That's the assumption that Microsoft is, well, Borg: there's one central processing unit that makes all of the decisions, and everything is done to a single end. This is true, in that Microsoft as a publicly-owned corporation is attempting to make money. But this component never assumes that Microsoft is doing the same thing as every other publicly-owned company; instead, it is assumed that we have some big overarching nefarious purpose, usually with either Bill Gates or Steve Ballmer cackling somewhere. This component forgets that we compete with lots of companies, and competition has one great benefit for us as a company: innovation.

    MacBU is a small piece of Microsoft. We're ~180 people, out of a company of ~70,000. I'm reminded of this every time I meet a new person and they ask where I work, which often leads into a discussion of software that I don't use and know nothing about. The conspiracy theorists will tell you that MacBU is kept artifically small because Microsoft as an Empire wants you to buy WinOffice. Microsoft has lots of money, so MacBU could be a huge group if it weren't for the big mean Microsoft man keepin' us down. This argument forgets that, while MacBU is a nicely profitable business unit, we don't have as many users or we're not as profitable as as other parts of the business, so we simply don't get as many resources as other parts might.

    What surprises me about the Microsoft fallacy is that I haven't observed it being applied to other large technology companies that make a lot of money. Maybe it's simply that no other large technology company is quite as obviously ubiquituous, even if they are larger.

  • go ahead, mac my day

    I got my Mac mojo working


    Because I love you guys, I'm going to post a pre-announce. Tomorrow, we're launching a new MacBU team blog: Mac Mojo. Mac Mojo has a team of ~10 bloggers. Five of the bloggers are the existing MacBU bloggers (that's me, Brian Johnson, Rick Schaut, Erik Schwiebert, and David Weiss), and we signed up several other people who haven't blogged before. One of our new bloggers is Roz Ho, the General Manager of MacBU. I'll let the rest of the new bloggers out themselves on the new blog.

    Before anyone asks, my participation in the group blog shouldn't have an impact on this blog. I've been posting at least a couple of times per week here. Since the other blog is a team blog, I'm not going to run over the other guys with all that content! I'm undecided about whether I'll post content both here and in the team here.

    (And in case you're curious, the title of this blog post is shamelessly lifted from The Zombies.)

  • go ahead, mac my day

    the life and death of Virtual PC for Mac


    Most of the other MacBU folks have been talking about VBA while I've been gone, and I don't think that there's anything that I can really add to that discussion. VBA is much less of an impact on the apps that I focus on, and some of our other WWDC announcements were more near and dear to my heart anyway. Let's instead talk about my favourite team at Microsoft: the Virtual PC team. (Dear Entourage, PowerPoint, and Remote Desktop Connection: Yes, I still love you guys, and no parent is supposed to have a favourite child, but the VPC guys give me brandy.)

    The future of Virtual PC on the Mac had been in question for a year. The VPC team was happily working along on v8 (then code-named Oxygen), and an anvil dropped from the sky at the last WWDC. That anvil, of course, was the announcement of the move to Intel chips. VPC is an application that sits quite close to the metal. Any change in the operating system or the chip architecture has a huge impact on VPC. Throughout the history of VPC, any change to the OS had the potential to break VPC in new and interesting ways. Remember the introduction of the G5? It took the VPC guys quite awhile to get VPC to run on the G5. It wasn’t a lack of effort. It was the combination of needing very specific expertise (which is to say, we couldn’t just throw more bodies at the problem) and needing some assistance from the folks over at Apple.

    So here comes the Intel chip, and Leopard too. VPC v8 would need the same move to Xcode that every other major Mac application has needed to make. On top of that effort (which is a huge effort, as any Mac developer on a big project can tell you), VPC would require a re-architecture of the bits of VPC that were PPC-specific. We could re-architect VPC v7, we could port code from VPC:Win, we could re-code it from the ground up, or some combination therein.

    We said that bringing VPC to the MacTels would be like doing a v1. That’s true, but it’s not the whole story. It’s not just that VPC v8 would be like doing a v1. It’s that VPC v9 could also be just like doing a v1, or maybe it would be VPC v10. There’s a huge engineering effort involved in making a v1 product. But when would we be able to focus our engineering efforts on improving performance or adding features instead of having to update the existing code to work on the latest OS release? What happens if there’s another major chip change?

    ’But what about Parallels? What about VMWare?’ I hear you ask. Parallels has got a v1 out there right now. VMWare is about to enter beta on their v1. One of the great things about a v1 is that you don’t have expectations. Your feature set is determined by what you can get working. It’s not determined by what you had working before. I think it’s v2 where life gets interesting. Can you build upon what you have? Can you get more people using it? It’s the early adopters who jump on a v1, and they’re not a big market (although they are a vocal one). In some respects, you get an easier job on v2: you get to add features, you get to fix bugs, you get to tweak performance. You get to make v2 a better product for your users.

    But v2 is generally where you pick up the average user. VPC:Mac already has the average user as a part of our user base. For the average VPC user (who isn’t a Mac expert, and definitely isn’t a Windows expert), imagine buying VPC v8 and having very few new features over v7. A savvy user is more willing to let that slide because they’re aware of the enormous engineering effort behind moving to the MacTels. The average user, who doesn’t know or care about the change in chip, is going to be upset.

    We made a hard decision. It wasn’t undertaken lightly. The team wasn’t happy about the decision. Ultimately, MacBU made the decision that Mac users would be better served if we focused our resources on making the next versions of our other offerings as strong as possible. The decision to move away from developing v8 made sense from a development and customer perspective, even if it was a hard decision to make. We spent months trying to come up with alternatives that made sense. While we were working through it, including working on the codebase, we gave the MacTel version of VPC its own code name: Lanai, for the place that we'd all like to go on holiday. (Roz wouldn't let us move our operations there, although we did ask.)

    So where is the Virtual PC for Mac team? We got a lot of people from Connectix when we bought out VPC three years ago, after all. One of them moved to Redmond to become the General Program Manager of the MacBU team there. One of them is the Development Manager here in SVC. Another one is a Development Lead for Entourage. The PowerPoint tester in the office next to mine was a VPC tester in the Connectix days, and one of the other VPC testers just moved to the PPT team as well. Recently, with the death of VPC, the several remaining team members in dev, test, and program management have formed a new team at SVC to focus on some of the code that is shared across all of our apps. VPC:Mac might be dead, but it lives on in the great people that we have from that team who are contributing to the rest of our apps.

  • go ahead, mac my day

    honey, I'm home!


    On the off-chance that you guys noticed that I haven't posted in a week, I'm popping in to say that I went on holiday right after WWDC, and now I have ~600 email messages that need some kind of attention from me.

  • go ahead, mac my day

    $100 laptop commentary


    I nearly fell out of my chair laughing when I read the commentary about the $100 laptop from the fake Steve Jobs blog. The whole blog is generally quite funny anyway, but this one's hysterical.

    Dear fake Steve: you're friggin' fantastic. Keep up the good work.

  • go ahead, mac my day

    more about our announcements


    In case you haven't seen it yet, some of the MacBU crew who aren't here at WWDC have written some things about some of our announcements this week. Check out their posts:

  • go ahead, mac my day

    A fool is born every minute ...


    ... and, according to the latest State of the Blogosphere update from Technorati, there's a blog born every half-second. There are 50 million blogs (including this one) that are tracked by Technorati. So far, the number of blogs is doubling about every six months. There's about 1.6 million legitimate blog posts every day. English-speaking folks seem to post between 10am and 2pm, and then again around 5pm (all times are Pacific, the one true time zone).

    I'd love to see some more work about when and where people blog, and how it differs across age, geography, income, education, blogging intent (diary-style versus news), etc. I also wonder about the impact of multiple blogs or mostly-abandoned blogs. There was an issue of Communications of the ACM that was devoted to blogging about a year ago, and some of those articles are still sitting in my to-read pile, so maybe I'll dig through those and see what's in there.

  • go ahead, mac my day

    Office:Mac update 11.2.6


    You might have missed it with everything else that's going on in the Apple world this week, but we released Office:Mac 11.2.6 today. It's a security update for some PowerPoint vulnerabilities. It's available via AutoUpdate or for download on Mactopia.

  • go ahead, mac my day

    announcement timing


    I learned something this week that I hadn't been able to articulate before. One excellent way to make an announcement is to do so when you know people are listening. That's why many Mac developers make their Mac-related announcements at the big events like MWSF and WWDC: the whole geek world looks to these events and expects to hear something. Of course, we don't only make announcements at these events, and we make sure that our announcements are appropriate for the event in question.

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