Scoble: “Fingerprints of Sinofsky all over it”

Steven SinofskyIn response to a followup post by Steven Hodson at WinExtra regarding the recent job posting for “Director of Windows Disclosure“, the man the legend Robert Scoble also weighs in his thoughts on Microsoft’s changing attitude towards transparency.

Even though it’s been a while since he was at Microsoft, I think his comment would still be an accurate insight into why things are becoming the way they are.

Plus, the world would stop spinning if I didn’t put Sinofsky under the spotlight when opportunity arises.

This has the fingerprints of Steven Sinofsky all over it. The thing is that lots of Microsofties are jealous of the market success that Apple has gotten in recent years. So, they are working to emulate all pieces of Steve Jobs’ PR machinery — especially the controlling PR part.

Problem is: Microsoft has no clue why Steve Jobs is so successful. So, a silence campaign on Microsoft’s behalf will not provide the same results as it did at Apple. That won’t stop them from trying, though. It’s too bad because Microsoft could use its ability to be open and transparent against Apple. Especially as Apple’s shine starts to tarnish a bit (as it already is among people I hang out with).

One reason that Microsoft won’t be as successful: internal differences. At Apple everything is compartmentalized. At Microsoft my key card worked across the campus. At Apple your keycard will only work for your building. At Microsoft tons of teams share information. At Apple, you aren’t allowed to share information, even if you are working on the same mother board. At Microsoft they have hundreds of OEM partners who need to be briefed on what’s coming (so they will get excited, and also so they’ll work with Microsoft on new drivers and products). At Apple they rarely work with outsiders and, even like with the iPhone, they only work with one and work hard to control what that partner says. Intel, for instance, isn’t allowed to acknowledge that Apple exists as a customer and isn’t allowed to use Apple in its corporate statements in any way.

It is interesting watching Microsoft struggle in the post-Google era, though. And the fact that Apple got more market share with the iPhone in six months than Microsoft did after years of spending hundreds of millions of dollars on its mobile phone efforts demonstrates that Microsoft is being hurt by Apple and Microsoft is really struggling to deal with Apple’s success.

It’s too bad that Microsoft isn’t more creative in using its advantages against Apple. Being quiet just plays into Steve Jobs’ hands.

I still can’t figure out why Sinofsky won’t be my friend on Facebook. :(

Update: Scoble has posted a comment in which he explains Sinofsky has emailed telling him that this is not his doing. Even though I have no way of verifying if that is indeed Scoble and Sinofsky, but if that’s true, then I apologize in advance for the stereotype.

29 insightful thoughts

  1. who cares if Microsoft is becoming more transparent… they lost meaning a long time ago.

    Leopard is everything Vista will never be.
    Google’s web services danc web circles around them.
    The Zune will never be an iPod.
    Windows Mobile will never be an iPhone.
    … and Monkey boy will never be Steve Jobs.

    Don’t get me wrong. There are moments of brilliance: Xbox (yes the xbox!) and Office 2007 (yes it’s actually that good) just to name a few.

    But for most our friends in Redmond might be the richest kids on the block but certainly neither the most innovative nor the most progressive.

    Microsoft is good at one thing and one thing only: badly coping it’s competitors on all fronts.

    I couldn’t care less that they are becoming more transparent.

  2. Apple is popular because it also produces consumer software which Microsoft seems to have forgotten since the 9x days. Microsoft has a business-only attitude in the software division…they don’t really care about consumers..it’s a bonus for them if consumers also jump in.

  3. I think you and Scoble are taking this out of proportion and its a bit annoying. The reason why Apple is popular is simply because its a ‘cult’, its a ‘stick it to the man’ business.

    The root of this post I am sure has something to do with Windows ’7′. I remember when Scoble worked at Microsoft and was the public defender of everything Longhorn, the same guy who believed in transparency wasn’t transparent when the product was not going through its best moments. So if I were Scoble I would go easy on the hypocrisy.

    Scoble is the type of person I believe who just likes to be where its at, Apple is where its at now for him because its the darling of the press can do no wrong Company. If Microsoft starts something that no one has ever seen before I wouldn’t be surprised to see Scoble working at Microsoft again.

    What people still fail to realize, there is a definite need for non disclosures regarding future releases. Longhorn was the great example of this, there was just too much disclosures with no guarantees if everything was coming or not. Microsoft wants to avoid the get your hopes agenda for good reason, its a slap in the face of customers. Its better to be safe than sorry.

    Both Apple and Microsoft have invested millions into their mobile platforms. Its contradictory that Scoble would say Apple has invested little bit of money in the iPhones development when he is the same one who said Apple does not disclose information about how their products came to be. Windows Mobile is on over something like 30 – 40 million devices, the iPhone is proprietary and locked its on about 1.5 million devices, a stark contrast that cannot be compared. The iPhone is a premium device that lacks 3G, tactile keypad and most of all support in corporate environments where Windows Mobile is popular because of its tight integration with Office Outlook and Exchange Server.

    You say Microsoft does not have the control or excitement to attract consumers anymore, well I must disagree. Look at this blog, it was pouring out information about the Zune minute by minute when it was released and still is, check the previous post. That shows Microsoft just like Apple can pull attention to their products and services. Yes, we live in a Google search world, but I am not Google fan, I use one of their services and I happen to like it a lot. I am not using Google Docs, Google this and that. On the other hand, Microsoft seems to be a more successful services wise, over 300 million people use Messenger, over 100 million use Live Spaces, over 400 million persons use Microsoft Office regardless of all the alternatives, there are over 1 billion Windows users.

    Microsoft is just as influential as Apple both in the actual products and services and mind share. The again, Long could just be using reverse psychology here to in some way get Windows 7 information which again shows that Microsoft has mind share at least when it comes to Long.

  4. @Andre: Please stop accusing me of “Windows 7 information”. There is nothing Microsoft can possibly share about Windows 7 at the moment. And Microsoft has never told me anything about Windows, and never will. The chances of that are diminishing every time I write one of these posts. Everything I have done and will is the result of my own actions and discovery. I’m just concerned, but this won’t bring me down.

  5. @Andre: And as for the Zune news, this actually proves my point. None of the information I posted about the Zune was sourced from Microsoft, in fact I’d go as far as to say hardly anyone outside the Zune team knows about.

    Why is that so? They were positive publicity for the Zune, yet I had to dig through the source code myself to find them.

    That’s NOT transparency. The Zune team should have talked about the Iris UI framework, their exclusive Citron Zune and the design of their “now playing” visualization themselves.

  6. Andre. It shouldn’t be about those who scream the loudest… (but sadly it seems to be the rule)

    RE your comment about Microsoft doing something that no one has ever done before… give me one example of a sucessful product they have come up with which hadn’t been done better by a competitor before.

    Look at Beta vs. VHS. VHS won because it was cheaper for the corporate producers of content and the company behind VHS poured more advertising $$$’s into it.

    That’s pretty much the Microsoft philosphy. For as long as we can scream louder than our competitors we will win. To bad a little company near San Fran dropped a product called iPod… uhhh. how much this must have hurt… and now Leopard and the iPhone… uh how much more this must have hurt.

    RE your argument about iPhone vs. Windows Mobile. Win Mobile has been on the market in various incarnations for more than 5 years. The iPhone has been out for less than 6 months. Let’s compare again in 5 years and see where we are at then… (PS: I have both Win Mobile iMate 3G phone and a Nokia GSM phone and yes the both suck compared to the iPhone experience)

  7. It is absolutely hilarious that someone who claims MS “lost meaning a long time ago” is 2 out the (now) 7 posts!

    >Leopard is everything Vista will never be.

    Which isn’t much. Both are pale imitations of where desktop UI should be.

    I think the lack of transparency sucks BUT Sinofsky did deliver Office 2007 which is far more of an UI push forward than either the tepid Leopard or Vista are. Did you see that Bill G, in a meeting with bloggers, claimed he would ask Dean “what the hell is going on” about the lack of IE 8 info?

  8. Long, have you tried adding BillG and SteveB as friends on Facebook yet? I’ve seen them both floating around various groups I’ve joined.

    I’m not expecting any Windows Seven news for at least another few months (I’d guess WinHEC) and after Longhorn I can understand why they’re trying to keep quiet; they made us alot of promises they didnt keep (ex: WinFS and the ‘real’ Sidebar). Longhorn was kinda transparent but then again it kinda wasnt, alot of the news we got about Longhorn came from BT’s leaking info and the info going mainstream.

    Who knows, maybe if someone asks BillG what’s going on with Seven we’ll get another “I have no idea why they’re not talking” response. Then again, maybe we’ll get some preview on C9 one of these days…

    But then you have IE and as a web developer it makes no damn sense why they’re keeping us in the dark. It’s not like IE8 is going to have the same killer features that Windows Seven will that they’re trying to keep quiet about so ‘other’ OS devs might not copy it, it’s a bloody web browser, give us some information! It’s my job to built applications for your web browser so why are you keeping me in the dark?
    *sigh*

  9. Long, I am not ‘accusing’ you of Windows 7 information its just the truth. Why do I need to know the details of the Iris UI framework, Citron Zune? Is this critical to making the product successful to the average consumer? Does the average consumer who buys an iPhone or iPod Touch need to know which font is used on the desktop or how many inches for each icon or pixel or the very details of how the multi-touch technology works?

    Please! You guys think you know how Company’s like Apple, Microsoft and how people like Steve Jobs and the folks who work on products like Windows and user interfaces work. But the reality is none of you really don’t have a clue and thats why you are digging around source code and non trivial things for information that is other wise useless.

    We need to get back to fundamentals of what an enthusiast really is. Its appreciation of technology in its general sense. Windows Vista is on the market for over a year now and we still have yet to really understand the OS, Long I still appreciate your efforts to focus on Vista, but the blog seems to be at a level of I have all the information but I still want more. Instead of treating Steve Sinofsky like a villain and making him the root of all your post to lead to Windows 7, why not focus on the products that are out there in the hands of consumers right now which this blog at first seemed like what it was intended for.

    If I need to read information about the negativity associated with Microsoft’s Corporate policies Slash Dot is only a URL away.

  10. It’s kinda true though; not knowing about certain Zune details made the news a lot more exciting when we found out. Had we known about the UI, custom Zunes, and other things, it would not have made as big a splash in blogs and forums because the people running those same information sources would have been over the excitement, and when known officially, it would have just been covering it as an official press release, without the initial excitement and vigor. If the Zune team loses that, then what Microsoft has closest to Apple’s product-release-excitement-creating-machine, will be gone.

  11. @Mario:
    I agree with you about the Zune launch. We knew pretty much what was coming from the iPod line-up this fall. iPod touch, the iPod nano, the split-screen UI: They were all leaked long ago, so no one was all too excited when they arrived (though it was cool to see the iPod Touch actually come to light).

    On the other hand, the Zune 2′s launch was shrouded in quite a bit of secrecy and it paid off – especially the news that 1st-gen Zunes would get all the new features and the Zune Originals. Zune and XBox seems to be very much closed about sharing their info on upcoming products and, honestly, I like it that way! In my opinion, the ZUne launched upstaged the iPod launch in lots of ways.

    I’m honestly not sure how Microsoft can translate that into their OS releases, though.

  12. @Tom, lets see how I could best dissect your statement.
    Point 1: http://marketshare.hitslink.com/report.aspx?qprid=11
    Month XP Vista MacIntel MacOS 2000 98 Other
    January, 2007 85.02% 0.18% 1.88% 4.34% 4.93% 1.63% 2.02%
    ….
    September, 2007 79.66% 7.41% 3.24% 3.39% 3.33% 0.90% 2.07%
    October, 2007 79.41% 7.94% 3.43% 3.16% 3.17% 0.82% 2.07%
    November, 2007 78.37% 9.19% 3.59% 3.22% 2.97% 0.76% 1.90%

    The numbers should speak for themselves, however looking at your first post seems to indicate you have the mindset of a zealot and whatever I say cannot make the slightest impact upon you, but I wish you make sure the other readers of this blog do in fact know the truth.

    Anyway, let me proceed. These numbers indicate that XP’s market share is dropping — to Vista. They also indicate that Apple’s market share has risen by about 0.59%; this is just excellent and completely backs up the statements that people are moving to Mac in drones.

    When Steve Jobs says millions of people are buying Macs and the number grows more and more each month, that is not a lie. However he conveniently forgets to mention that the number of PCs being sold each month is increasing at a dramatically faster rate.

    Would you mind telling me what it is that Leopard has that Vista does not, besides eye candy? And if Leopard is everything Vista is not, why do the sales not reflect this claim?

    Point 2: Google’s web services dance circles around Microsoft? Really? Which one? Their map program without the aerial view and that has the bland and boring buildings in the 3d view? Or their instant messaging service that seems to be used by literally — thousands? Or is it their web based office suite with its many many dozens of subscribers that dances around Microsoft? That statement has me very confused, would you please mind explaining it to me? I mean, Microsoft’s Live Maps is a superior service. If you look at their IM client, it is used by people at every corner of the globe, more so than Google’s pitiful IM client.

    Maybe you are referring to their SINGLE service that out does Microsoft’s, search.

    Point 4: The Zune will never be an iPod? Obviously, that would violate so many trademarks and patents on so many different levels… However, Microsoft is trying to knock the iPod off its throne and I think it will start to get closer and closer to the top by NEXT holiday season, only time can tell on this one.

    Point 4: Windows Mobile will never be an iPhone? I’m pretty sure you mean the iPhone will never be an iPod. Despite what recent statistics have said, there are still MILLIONS of Windows Mobile devices out there and only what, 2 million iPhones out there…

    So please Tom I welcome any response you may have to my points and would be glad to debate your skewed statements.

  13. Well, I think there are two different things when we talk about transparency: the lack of information about upcoming products and the bad marketing of current products.

    I can understand why Microsoft wouldn’t talk about Windows 7 and IE8 now (hmm, did they talk about Longhorn in 2001?) but I can’t understand why bloggers have to discover and publish cool information and usefull features of Microsoft’s products!? What was the most advertised feature of Vista? It was “Flip 3D” in every ad, on every website… BUT it isn’t a feature! It’s a (maybe cool for kids) addition to Flip. Just in 3D.

  14. @dwright:
    Well said. The Xbox team’s charm must have rubbed off in the last Zune 2 launch. The key is to under promise and over deliver; something that the Windows team has reversely done; they over promise and under deliver. Or, when too much is already known and expected of a product, it’s harder to make something that cool to get any cooler when it’s in the customer’s hands, unless there’s that little excitement and surprise quality to it.

  15. I forgot to say, that of course, I think that holding strict agreements like Apple does is not anything Microsoft should even consider doing with Windows’ development. Because Windows is such an impacting technology, certain core concepts need to be well expressed and communicated to allow partners, who make Windows’ success further possible, to complete their part of the deal. But what Microsoft should try to less do is promise so much, especially when it’s very “iffy”.

  16. @Andre:”Please! You guys think you know how Company’s like Apple, Microsoft and how people like Steve Jobs and the folks who work on products like Windows and user interfaces work. But the reality is none of you really don’t have a clue.”

    Why don’t we have a clue?

  17. @Mario: But “under promise and over deliver” won’t necessarily work for every Microsoft product, and in this case I don’t think it will for Windows. Office 2007, XBOX 360 and the Zune are not products that depend on thousands of third party vendors (except in few cases of Office 07 plugins).

    Windows on the other hand, for it to even work, needs the most basic drivers to support millions of devices. Plus, programmers also need to plan out their release cycles and what sort of new innovation they should and can build into their products for the next releases of Windows.

  18. No matter what Microsoft does, millions of fanboys and journalists will digg their claws into anything they can, just to ahve *yet another* reason why Windows, the most popular OS in the world, is inferior to the like of Mac OS or Linux.

    Puh-lease.

    Due to Microsoft’s ginormous size, they will never be able to keep a tight grip on everything they are working on. Leaks are everywhere and at Apple where Jobs rules like the Master of the Universe, everyone is too scared to say anything – good or bad, for fear of losing their jobs.

    It really doesn’t bother me whether Microsoft is talking about a product/service 24/7 or just once every few weeks. It’s not like there’s any “OMG-Did You HEAR ABout This!?!” news anyways. Apple’s announcements are always about updated crap we’ve been looking at for years, usually with 2 or 3 extra features and a shiny new case and pricetag. Whoop-de-fricken-do.

    So for now, I say Microsoft is doing a fine job. It no longer has to beat itself into consumers’ brains. They ARE what consumers instantly think about when it comes to technology. Apple, on the other hand, has to always justify WHY you should switch to this or that…Microsoft only has to not screw over people enough to change their tunes.

    And regardless of what all you Vista haters think, Vista is NOT a bad product. For the majority of consumers out there who buy new computers with Vista pre-loaded, they’ll love it. People may not flock to upgrade to it, but so what? No one I know personally ever “upgraded” to XP….it was preloaded whenever they bought their new computers. So all this junk about upgrading rate distasters and whatnot, give it a rest.

    *Whew*

  19. @Long: Windows on the other hand, for it to even work, needs the most basic drivers to support millions of devices. Plus, programmers also need to plan out their release cycles and what sort of new innovation they should and can build into their products for the next releases of Windows.

    And thats why we have WinHEC and PDC ’08, you are acting like Microsoft have never held such shows in the past. These are the same shows Microsoft utilizes to inform the industry and partners about upcoming technologies. With the next client release not expected until late ’09 or sometime in 2010, its more than ample time to get developers ready. Longhorn pre-beta 1 build 5048 was distributed to hardware developers at WinHEC 2005 to start preparing their device drivers followed by the subsequent Beta 1 and Beta 2 releases.

    Long, Microsoft is always having an ongoing relationship with hardware partners and they are constantly working together to define future technologies and standards, so you don’t need to make it sound like Microsoft is gonna drop a bomb on them at the last minute. Long, again, another piece looking for Windows 7.

  20. @Long:
    That’s why I added the second comment; so I agree with most of what you said in response. But for sure, Microsoft needs to certainly promise less (publicly at least). For example, Office 2007 didn’t need much hype and all that hoopla Longhorn was getting. It was the fact that the new UI stayed pretty much under wraps until it was ready for launch that made it a huge success (in terms of being innovative and such; getting good press = “cooler” product). I understand Windows needs all of the communication with developers and hardware partners (like I said in my third comment), but Microsoft needs to promise less because if the high internal goals (which are good to have) are made public, people will expect a lot, and if something unplanned occurs (like what did with Vista), then it’s a huge disappointment and the product already starts with bad press.

  21. Iteresting to see how people who do not work at Microsoft have a vision of who things there work. Scoble’s comments are even more interesting how much he thinks he knows about the company after what, only working there a few years.

    Amazing for people who watch the company and claim it hard to keep a secret no one has blogged about the reorg that started a few months back. PR should dribble out next week.

  22. @I work there
    it kind of has come out that the company has been reorged to a certain degree. It is kind of a known fact that after each OS you guys reorg…

  23. Steven emailed me after this article came out and told me that he isn’t in charge of the disclosure position, nor is he in charge of the communication goals, etc.

    So, I tagged his name to something that someone else is driving. Will do more homework on this and get back to you.

    Sorry to Sinofsky for giving him credit.

  24. @Sinofsky (if you’re reading this):
    It seems like you have been taking allot of flack. Everyone blames Microsoft’s lack of transparency in Windows on you, why have you put up with it for so long? Why don’t you let the person who is actuall building the brick walls tell us why they are doing what they are? Why should YOU have to take the beating from the online community when it isn’t you making these poor disclosure decissions? Just my .02

  25. @Cullen — Windows Vista shipped in Nov 06 and was released to the public in Jan 07. Reoging in Feb 07 was done. Another reorg based on a VP leaving is not something that happens predictbly. But then again you know lots so what could I share with you…
    >>group hug<<

  26. @I work there
    Didn’t mean to be rude or anything. I am assuming you were talking about Valentine (was he a VP?) leaving. Wasn’t that somewhere between august and october? Or is there another VP that I am not thinking of?

  27. Apple is good & successfull alike Google…that doesnt mean that Microsoft isnt innovating enough..Vista is good..but unfortunately some of the info showed in PDC didnt comeup well…some features came very good..some didnt make it.

    Longhorn features where shown over even before the base functional framework fully built..
    Obviously this time, Microsoft wont be *that* much transparent, either in Zune, or next version of Windows mobile, Live, office or even xbox & the Windows 7..they wont let us any major features or UI or functionality until few months before its in beta or RTM.

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