Inside the Insiders is (going to be) a series of interviews with some of the most recognized and outspoken Microsoft influentials, journalists and enthusiasts I know. I plan to go around interviewing as many of these peers as possible to find out more about their background, life outside of Microsoft and their darkest Apple fetishes. At least that’s what I tell them. Little did they know their answers will help me annihilate them and my other competitors. They say to keep your friends close, and enemies closer.
Robert threatens to blow his head off after Apple’s iPhone announcement
The first of those to fall for my inconspicuous trap is Robert McLaws, from the formerly LonghornBlogs.com fame and now the leader of the Windows-Now clan, consisting mostly of himself. Not only did I have the pleasure of meeting Robert at this year’s CES event in Las Vegas, but also listen to his peaceful snore. What happens in Vegas, makes great jokes later on. Personal details aside, Robert is a great questioner and interviewer himself – always setting the benchmark for heated discussions and topical issues at questions time. Here’s what he had to say from the other side.
Long: Hey Robert. Thanks for falling for my cunning plan.
If you were on a dating site, how would you describe yourself?
My name is Robert Wayne McLaws, and I am a 25 year old guy from Mesa, Arizona. Though I own my own software company, I’m probably the coolest nerd you’ll ever meet.
I’m currently living with Nicole, my wonderful girlfriend of 2 1/2 years. I have a twin sister, two younger biological sisters, 4 step sisters, and two stepbrothers. Three of my siblings are Hispanic, one is gay, and I have 4 black step-cousins.
The modern American family 😉 (And I already have the rights to the sitcom, so don’t even try it.)
Long: Looking forward to “Everybody hates Robert”.
So what did you study in college or university?
I didn’t want to go just because “that’s what you do after high school.” Most of my peers stumbled their way through college and came out on the other side with a piece of paper certifying their competence as worker drones. I wanted to go on my own time, when I could dedicate the time to broadening my horizons in areas that interest me, like psychology. But the tech industry provides a relatively unique opportunity in this day in age to move ahead based on experience, not education.
But I did miss out on some of the college experiences that would have been nice to be a part of. Some days my lack of higher education is a painful hindrance, but I stand by my decision. Someday I’ll go back when I feel the time is right.
Long: Hey I’ve got some undeniably cheap college degree offers. Want them?
What was the first time you came across computers? And why were you interested in computing technologies?
After that, I started taking an interest in programming. In our whole school library, there was only one programming book, for BASIC. So I used it to build simple programs, like a program to help quiz students on word definitions. After that, I learned QBasic, and then WordBasic. When I was in 10th grade (1997) I built an application to manage the Logistics department at my Air Force Junior ROTC unit. At the time, my goal was to build a business to sell the software to the Air Force. That’s how my company (Interscape Technologies) was born.
To be honest with you, I wasn’t well liked as a kid. I could never understand why kids reacted the way they did. I liked computers because they couldn’t make fun of me, or put me down. Little did I know they could still make me feel stupid, but every time it misbehaved there was a logical explanation, it just needed to be found. There is a thrill in that pursuit that I still love to this day.
What was the first time you used a Microsoft product? Was it pirated?
Long: I don’t know anyone wouldn’t love themselves. Seriously.
How did you come to affiliate with Microsoft? What was your first interaction with Microsoft?
Would you call yourself a Microsoft fanboy?
Apple is in business for themselves. They could give a damn about building a rich ecosystem of other companies, all they care about is having total domination over their products. Practically since Day 1, Microsoft has wanted to enable others to take advantage of their success. Even a 12 year old kid could build on a Microsoft product and add value to customers, and that’s an amazing thing to me.
I think you’d be hard-pressed to find any other company on the planet that cares for their partners as much as Microsoft. And that’s why I love the company.
Long: Powders? Damn. I’m still on the liquid stuff. Guess I’m old-school.
How did you start blogging? Why do you continue to blog?
But I started talking more about my opinion after being egged on by other bloggers, notably Robert Scoble. I started LonghornBlogs because Scoble said there should be a place to talk only about Longhorn, as his readers were tired of hearing about it. A couple weeks later, Jim Allchin featured it in his PDC ’03 keynote. After that, I knew what I wanted to do.
How does it feel to be an ‘influential’? What does being ‘influential’ mean to you?
I always get a kick out of hearing who reads my stuff. My kid sister works at a McDonalds in central Colorado. One day, a guy came in for lunch, and saw my sister’s name badge. He asked “is your brother’s name Robert?” to which my sister, totally stunned, replied “How much does he owe you?” The guy said “No, I read his website all the time.” I never stop being amazed at stuff like that. I found out that my graph tracking Vista feedback was used in an executive briefing once, so it’s nice knowing that at least someone derives value out of some of the things that come out of my mouth.
What was the most interesting or exciting time during your interactions with Microsoft?
If you came across some information which might critically damage Microsoft’s reputation or financial value, would you still write about it?
I mean, look at what happened with Apple and Engadget the other day. Engadget is arguably an Apple fanboy site, and their posting rumors as fact cost Apple’s shareholders a ton of money. That probably ruined Engadget’s relationship with Apple, and I guarantee Microsoft will think twice before giving them another Bill Gates interview.
So I’m conscious of the fact that what I have to say carries weight, and I’d rather be right than first. Of course I’ve made mistakes, but I like being able to sit back and read a situation, and then present a thoughtful commentary that takes into account the bigger picture. Rather than chasing the latest news.
Do you ever want to work for Microsoft?
As a beta tester, I get to see my feedback have an effect on the products I test. As a blogger, I can defend Microsoft when I feel it’s warranted, or call them out on a bad decision when it’s also warranted. I’d want to be able to have that kind of power on the inside.
I think it would be fun to work for Greg Sullivan’s team – he’s a great guy, and I’d get to talk about a product that I love all the time. There are definitely things that I would like to do if I was marketing Windows.
Do you think you will ever stop writing about Microsoft? What will they have to screw up to lose your interest?
Thanks Robert for sharing with me all your trade secrets, I mean wonderful stories.