That’s the question offered up by Mary-Jo Foley, in her column on ZDNet this morning.
While she speaks of all the people who work there of different ages, and later answers her own question with a somewhat firm negative, I think that the article shows as much about her own thought processes as anything else. It gives the reader the opinion that she has been very affected by her years of covering Microsoft, and that hers might not be he most unbiased opinion.
As we enter the 10s, the majority of top leaders at Microsoft are in their 40s and 50s. Are they too old to keep Microsoft at the cutting edge in our Tweet-happy, Foursquare-obsessed world? Is Microsoft a place where Generation Y/Millennials will want to join and stay in the coming years?
I’m not the only one pondering these questions. Microsoft’s top brass are, too. Among this past fall’s batch of ThinkWeek papers (employee-authored papers on various cultural, technical and other topics important to Microsoft’s future) was one entitled “Are You Ready for Generation Y?: Motivating and retaining Generation Y through managerial paradigm shift and the adoption of Enterprise Social Media tools.” I had a chance to read the 14-page “External Version” (i.e., approved for non-Microsoft employees) of this paper, courtesy of its author, Prem Kumar, Operations Manager with Microsoft’s Online Systems Division.
Mary-Jo speaks about the possibility that older people are incapable of delivering new ideas, that will make the company continue to lead.
I would ask another question entirely.
I don’t think Microsoft has been at the forefront of ideas, other than marketing ones, for quite some time. This is not my own world view, it is the objective view of many.
What I find so objectionable about Microsoft, and any other business construct that thinks similarly, is that it has the idea that it can (or should try to) be, all things to all people. Trying to expand into realms where they clearly have no idea what is going on is simply stupid. It is like the successful accountant deciding on a whim that after a two month study period, brain surgery is a new vocation in the realm of possibility.
The article notes some good ideas that the people at Microsoft have too, not that they are all about bad ideas. A system of mentoring is one in which I find huge merit.
Mary-Jo also asks if the people of the “ruling class” at Microsoft are open to new ideas. Clearly they seem to be, but only if they are struck that the idea is appealing to them.
I may seem to be like some that are “stuck in the mud” but that is not the case. I don’t mind change. I welcome change for good, but change so that someone can note that there was some change is ludicrous.
I would like to see some previews from Microsoft showing that they recognize that there should be something beyond Windows. By that, I don’t mean Windows 8, or Windows 9. I mean something that moves away from many of the bad things that Windows has brought to our lives; user laziness, trying to dumb down computing to still another level, and pushing the idea that the only way to do things is the Windows way.
Wouldn’t it be great to see things that we only hear of more often? The extended Windows 7 preview was nice, but let us not pretend it was done as anything other than a prelude to a huge commercial push. No, I refer to something like Gazelle, the supposed working browser that was never leaked (further supporting the fact that when things are “leaked” from Microsoft, it is part of a plan, and happens with Steve B’s blessing). I’d like to see a completely new browser from Microsoft, because nothing else will make me believe that I should use a Microsoft browser again, except when forced. Internet Exploder was Microsoft “borrowing ” or usurping Mosaic code, and the trend was all downhill from there. Before Firefox, before privacy concerns, I hated Internet Exploder. Netscape was always better, more comfortable, more intuitive. It has never been hard for some entity to surpass Internet Exploder. Why does Microsoft not simply say that browsers are not their bag?
I’d like to see some acknowledgement from the powers at Microsoft that they don’t always have the best ideas, and then hear some kudos being given to other projects from other companies or persons.
And I would like to see all of these things without the outcry of a thousand paid fanboys taking to the usual places defending the status quo at Microsoft.
Wow, as look at this now, I see it has been transformed into a “what I would like the New Year’s resolutions for Microsoft to be” . I did not mean it that way, the spirit moved me.
If you’ve gotten this far and haven’t read Mary-Jo’s piece, you should. It is informative and thought provoking…it provoked mine!