Category Archives: Microsoft

iPhone announcement anniversary

Eight years ago today, the iPhone was officially unveiled.  Since I was working for Microsoft on Office:Mac at the time, I was at the Moscone Center.  We also officially announced Office:Mac 2008 (whose previous codename was Magnesium) that week, an announcement which got overshadowed by the iPhone announcement.

I remember that announcement.  Since we were going to announce Office:Mac 2008, several of us got to sit in the VIP section for the Stevenote.  Behind me in the VIP queue was the guitarist of Cheap Trick, which meant that I knew who the super-secret band was for the Macworld Blast party that night.  During the Stevenote, I sat next to my then-manager.  Just before it began, he told several of us that he was sick of seeing John Mayer at these things, and he swore he was going to storm the stage in protest if Mayer showed up again.  He didn’t, but we had a lot of fun coming up with what the headlines in the tech press would’ve been.

I also remember the announcement because that’s the time that I got blind-quoted by Cult of Mac.  I remember the calls that night to let the PR team know that it was me.  They told me that no-one else would notice this thing because nothing was going to get column inches if it wasn’t iPhone-related.  I was still freaked out.  They were, of course, right.  (It does mean that when I got approached a few months ago by the self-same writer of that story to do an interview, I laughed and laughed and laughed.)

Looking back at my blog post that considered what little we knew about the UX of the iPhone, it’s fun to see what I got right and what I didn’t.  I guess it’s a toss-up about whether I was right about scrolling behavior, since the iPhone and Mac scrolling behavior was divergent for awhile, but now has converged to the iPhone model, and scrollbars have mostly disappeared, too.  I was right about the apps that I can’t delete.  I still have a stock ticker that I never use, and there are even more apps that I can’t get rid of.  Tips?  Really, Apple?  Tips is like Clippy but even less useful.

My iPhone immediately replaced my iPod, and I effectively haven’t used one since.  Once my iPhone got Exchange support, and thus I could stop trying to use Exchange Web Access 2007 on my iPhone1, my iPhone became something that I didn’t let out of my sight.  And, ever since I got that launch-day no-subsidy iPhone, I don’t think I’ve let an iPhone out of my sight.  I’ve got an iPad to keep my iPhone company, too.  The iPhone replaced my flip phone, my Palm, and my iPod.  My iPad hasn’t replaced anything, although it has reduced my laptop usage some.  Perhaps when the iPad hits its eighth anniversary, it will have replaced more.

  1. Now that was a website not optimized for mobile!

this is what we face when we try to negotiate

One of the points that I discuss in “The Mid-Career Donut Hole” is that women are penalized for negotiating salary.  Women who attempt to negotiate are viewed as greedy, whereas there is no negative association for men who negotiate.  There have been many attempts at strategies for ameliorating this negative association, although the research is mixed about whether they are effective in doing so.

Today, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella gave another example of how difficult it is for women to negotiate.  When asked at GHC14 about his advice for women who are uncomfortable asking for a raise, he said this:

It’s not really about asking for the raise, but knowing and having faith that the system will actually give you the right raises as you go along.

According to Nadella, we can’t ask for a raise, we can’t negotiate our salary.  We just have to have faith in the system, which is the same system that has already given us a pay gap and an attrition rate more than twice that of men.

That answer is not sufficient.  As an industry, we have to do better.

Updated just after midnight: I see that, about the same time I posted this, Nadella sent an apology out to Microsoft employees.  I’m glad that Nadella, eight hours after saying such a thing and four hours after trying to pass off his original answer as “inarticulate”, apologized to his employees and acknowledged that his answer was “completely wrong”.  The apology is excellent.  

However, it doesn’t address the basic problem that women face when negotiating: the immediate gut response is “it’s not really about asking for a raise”.  It took the backlash  for it to be acknowledged that trusting the system is not the right answer.  In the vast majority of negotiations, there isn’t an audience watching and live-tweeting.  The gut reaction is the one that sticks, and results in women being penalized for trying to negotiate.  It’s still not enough for women to “just ask” for a raise.

And so, I say again: That answer is not sufficient.  As an industry, we have to do better.

BP and college students have something in common

When I was working at Microsoft, I had the opportunity to observe research that one of my colleagues conducted about how college students used Word.  During a focus group, while discussing writing papers, the students discussed methods that they used to get around a page-length requirement.  I’d heard of most of them: changing the font, changing the margins, changing the line spacing.1

I was amused to read that BP’s lawyers have resorted to the same methods.  This is quote from the judge’s ruling:

BP’s counsel filed a brief that, at first blush, appeared just within the 35-page limit. A closer study reveals that BP’s counsel abused the page limit by reducing the line spacing to slightly less than double-spaced. As a result, BP exceeded the (already enlarged) page limit by roughly six pages.

The Court should not have to waste its time policing such simple rules — particularly in a case as massive and complex as this. … Counsel’s tactic would not be appropriate for a college term paper. It certainly is not appropriate here.

It occurs to me that I hope that I haven’t given anyone any new ideas about how to get around page limits by writing this.

  1.  I recall one that was new to me: changing the font (or font size) of just the periods: professors who checked for correct fonts and font sizes usually wouldn’t bother checking to ensure that the correct font was used on every single character in the document, and the difference of a point or two of font size on a period wasn’t visually noticeable.  If you were close to, but not quite at, the minimum required page limit, increasing your period size could be enough to get you over the line.

herp derp

Oh, the herp derp of this story, courtesy of a “staff writer” at 9-5 Mac: No Microsoft products were reported stolen.  Yeah, yeah, tee-hee, someone broke into a Microsoft office and stole some iPads.  Tee-hee, Microsoft has iPads, tee-hee they didn’t steal any MS products.

Except, of course, you could bother to take advantage of the knowledge that SVC Building 5 is where the Apple Productivity Experiences team (that is, the team formerly known as the Macintosh Business Unit, my former team) lives.  And presuming that this was just a theft of opportunity, Building 5 is a good one for opportunity.  Its main entrance faces US-101, and doesn’t have a single external door that’s visible from La Avenida (which is its street address).  It’s immediately next to the VTA bus depot.  According to the article, the theft occurred during the holiday week, and that campus was probably all but deserted that week.  There’s no signs of a break-in, which means that it was probably either someone who has physical access to the building (anyone with a current MS badge, which includes employees, contractors, security guards, the catering staff, etc), or someone who tailgated someone with a badge.  So someone got into the building, saw small items that are very easy to walk off with, and did so.

In other words: if you’re gonna make Microsoft jokes, at least make sure that they’re not lame ones.  Breaking into a Microsoft building and having Apple products stolen is an easy joke to make, which means that it’s just lame.  Stop being lame, people.  Herp derp.

not everyone hates Clippy

I shall now share a dirty secret that I learnt during my time at Microsoft: not everyone hates Clippy.

People love to hate on the poor guy, including a crazy rumor that there was a child found in the Word:Mac code who was terrorized by Clippy. And check out the comments thread for the video for Again and Again, where Clippy is just dancing his little heart out, but haters gotta hate.  Microsoft tried to give him a new gig with Ribbon Hero 2.  I even stumbled upon a JavaScript implementation of Clippy today, calling the poor little guy a “failed Microsoft technology”.

But not everyone hates Clippy.  I learned this in a most unexpected manner.  You see, the Office:Mac website allows people to submit feedback.  When I worked there, I would go through that feedback every few weeks to see if there was anything in there that would be helpful to me as I was working on my research.  And one day, someone sent in a request for the return of Clippy.

That person gushed on about how useful Clippy was and how they truly missed Clippy.  Specifically, they wanted the cat version of Clippy which was (if I recall correctly) unique to the Mac version of Office.  They even offered to pay extra for a version of Office that included him.  I, of course, forwarded that message along to our marketing team to let them know that they were missing a huge opportunity to create Office:Mac Special Clippy Edition, but strangely that mail went unanswered.

So remember that, the next time you hate on Clippy.  You might just be talking to someone who wanted Clippy back so badly that they actually took the time to write to Microsoft to ask for his return.

Exchange Connections slides coming

Today, I presented two sessions with Bill Smith at Exchange Connections: Administering Macs in Exchange and Outlook:Mac 101. Once I get back to a better network connection, I’ll post my slides here. For those of you who attended the conference, the slides will get posted to the conference site as well.

I wasn’t sure what to expect out of the sessions, since this is my first time here.  We ended up with about 50 people in both sessions, with about half of those attending both.  So I was really pleased with it.  I’ll be waiting to see the conference evaluations to see if I’m the only one who was pleased.

Thriller flash mob

To take a teensy break from Office:Mac, here’s a video of a Thriller flash mob that took place in the cafeteria last Friday.  One of the zombies is someone I mentored (and you can read into that what you will!), and the eagle-eyed observer will see that I’m one of the people watching the zombies.

looking forward to Exchange Connections

Amongst everything else that’s going on in the past few weeks, I realise that I’ve completely forgotten to mention that I’m speaking at the Exchange Connections conference!  I roped Bill Smith, one of the Outlook:Mac MVPs, into giving two talks with me: Administering Macs in an Exchange Environment, and Outlook:Mac 101.  Both talks are on Thursday morning.

Sadly, this is a super-busy week for me, so I’m not going to be able to spend as much time at the conference as I had originally planned.  If you’re there, say hi!  Feel free to email me, or just catch me on twitter for my current whereabouts.