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Microsoft is becoming... Agile??
October 4, 2005 2:09 AM   Subscribe

Microsoft retools processes in order to become more agile in their development processes. Yeah, it's probably just a big PR blowjob for Vista, but I was fascinated about the process they undertook to make their development work a more smoothly (and the amount of code that got thrown out). Like Microsoft or hate 'em, it's quite an interesting (though repetitive in parts) article.
posted by antifuse (35 comments total)

 
A co-worker and I have a conversation dealing with this every couple of months or so. The conclusion we always come to? Microsoft is, at this point, too large, too needy (something's gotta fund its seemingly endless loss-leaders), and too concerned with domination to be able to render any real structural change within.


I call bullshit PR on any actual, meaningful change.
posted by Mikey-San at 2:33 AM on October 4, 2005


I call bullshit PR anytime I hear Microsoft. Time to change brand Bill !
posted by elpapacito at 3:05 AM on October 4, 2005


So this article makes it sound like Microsoft have started with a totally clean slate with Longhorn, which i'm pretty sure is not the case.

Have they removed the half million lines of spaghetti code, which no-one really knows what it does, but breaks everything when it's deleted?

Windows is an awful, patched together with sticky tape mess, and until they start again from scratch i won't be touching it. It's not like they've not got the resources to do it.
posted by derbs at 3:25 AM on October 4, 2005


Microsoft's holy grail is a system that cranks out a new, generally bug-free version of basic Windows every few years

Well, I surely call bullshit on that.
posted by alumshubby at 4:40 AM on October 4, 2005


I hear that Starbucks is pretty evil as well.
posted by Artw at 5:15 AM on October 4, 2005



Well I'll be darned. I did find the article interesting.

And being reasonably un computer savvy, was probably a bit too quick to swallow the pitch, if that's what it indeed was. Interesting to read the comments immediately calling BS. They sounded awfully veracious.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 5:33 AM on October 4, 2005


If Microsoft became CMM level 5, would the universe implode?
posted by sandking at 5:33 AM on October 4, 2005


it's quite an interesting (though repetitive in parts) article

Yes, and repetitive. Very badly written in that respect.

Twice I found myself subconciously scrolling back up thinking "didn't I just read that?"
posted by uncanny hengeman at 5:53 AM on October 4, 2005


Twice I found myself subconciously scrolling back up thinking "didn't I just read that?"

Small wonder: you should scroll down if you want to read a new paragraph, you dummy ;)
posted by NekulturnY at 6:03 AM on October 4, 2005


Admitting that you couldn't get your software to work can hardly be called spin in any form.

Given the level of backward compatibility that MS tries to realize and the relatively long history of their codebase I guess that there are few projects in the world as challenging as developing a new version of Windows.

So in my view there's not a lot to be derisive about in the article.
posted by joost de vries at 6:15 AM on October 4, 2005


In 2001 Microsoft made a documentary film celebrating the creation of Windows XP, which remains the latest full update of Windows. When Mr. Allchin previewed the film, it confirmed some of his misgivings about the Windows culture. He saw the eleventh-hour heroics needed to finish the product and get it to customers. Mr. Allchin ordered the film to be burned.

Destroying the past? Condemned to repeat it.

Article was interesting. I really wonder how much of an overhaul they're undertaking. Are they sacrificing the backwards compatibility (finally)?
posted by fungible at 6:35 AM on October 4, 2005


"There was some angst by everybody," says Mr. Gates of the period. "It's obviously my role to ask people, 'Hey, let's not throw things out we shouldn't throw out. Let's keep things in that we can keep in.' "

What? Why obvious?

In late 2003, Mr. Allchin called on the help of two men. The first was one of Microsoft's best-known "shippers," people known for their ability to turn around troubled software projects. Windows veteran Brian Valentine had a reputation for booming motivational speeches, beer bashes and stunts like showing up to work functions as Elvis, the Easter Bunny or even once a hula girl with a coconut bra.


Which says something bout MS and the software industry in general. But ok, the guy's not risk adverse.

The second man Mr. Allchin tapped was Amitabh Srivastava, now 49, a fellow purist among computer scientists. A newcomer to the Windows group, Mr. Srivastava had his team draw up a map of how Windows' pieces fit together. It was 8 feet tall and 11 feet wide and looked like a haphazard train map with hundreds of tracks crisscrossing each other.

So this man has to reverse-engineer the thing in an attempt to figure out what's been going on for the last 20 years.

As Microsoft's chief software architect, Mr. Gates says that his role is "almost paradoxical" because he has to push for innovation while being the "ultimate realist" when problems arise on that quest. In this case, he says he and Mr. Ballmer needed to make sure that the recommendations from Mr. Allchin's group were sound.


Apparently Mr Gates is Chief Architect in name only, he's surrounded himself with smart people who've learned to step very carefully around the company founder while trying to make things work. The real paradox being that others are being the realists and making sure that what Mr Gates does is sound. Looks like Allchin finally put his career on the line over it.
posted by scheptech at 6:38 AM on October 4, 2005


Windows is an awful, patched together with sticky tape mess, and until they start again from scratch i won't be touching it. It's not like they've not got the resources to do it.

Reading Raymond Chen's blog gives a little insight into this. MS's fundamental rule is to not have OS upgrades break programs, and lots of programs do things wrong and have to be worked around. It's a kludge but a rewrite wouldn't solve it.
posted by smackfu at 6:48 AM on October 4, 2005


Does this mean they're going to retool their hiring process to stop recruiting project managers who will push their group to innovation at the cost of other groups in the company? I can remember Microsoft looking to recruit as many project leaders as actual programmers with an emphasis on doing something new at any cost, not working well with other teams. It's one thing to have a quick, agile programming team to implement cool stuff if you're a small company, but if you're working within Microsoft it might be a better approach to concentrate on the whole.

sandking, thanks for the laugh. CMM level 5, hah.
posted by mikeh at 6:54 AM on October 4, 2005


I just got through the first page of this article, and I was reaching for a red ped to mark up my computer screen. This article is terribly written. The topic sounds interesting, but the writer lost me with "Accordingly, according to the Journal".
posted by NemesisVex at 7:11 AM on October 4, 2005


What a pile of crap. Lauding Google's software development? Google never takes anything out of beta. Google hasn't had a real version upgrade of anything. Googles apps hardly do anything. Google isn't a rival for microsoft in the O.S. market.

Are they sacrificing the backwards compatibility (finally)?

That would be amazingly stupid if they did because it would destroy their entrenched advantage. Then they would have to compete.
posted by srboisvert at 7:11 AM on October 4, 2005


One thing which jumps out at me is the constant stressing of "innovation", as if it where a goal in itself. This goes to explain why you need to double your RAM with each new version of windows and all its new "features".
Can you imagine if carmakers had this same obsession with "innovation"? Each new model would use up twice as much gas as the previous years', and would come with things like automatic tire-detailers.
posted by signal at 8:06 AM on October 4, 2005


Google isn't a rival for microsoft in the O.S. market.

You may change your tune at 1:30 pm EST, when Google and Sun are expected to announce the availability of a web-based version of StarOffice that actually works well. I'm serious.

Are they sacrificing the backwards compatibility (finally)?

This is always the Catch-22 of long-term software development. I've lived through similar scenarios on a smaller scale. Basically, no matter how good your software is, technological innovation 10 years down the road will almost always harm you in ways you never expected. The more closed your system is, the more this hurts you. It's one of the reasons people love Linux- it's such a loose, open framework that you can conceivably plug anything into it or swap any part of it out.

Can you imagine if carmakers had this same obsession with "innovation"? Each new model would use up twice as much gas as the previous years', and would come with things like automatic tire-detailers.

Have you seen the new commercial for that car (BMW? Mercedes?) where the car calls HQ to let them know it needs an oil change? You know what, cars already tell you when they need an oil change. It's not "progress" when your car starts talking directly to the salespeople.
posted by mkultra at 9:11 AM on October 4, 2005


Not too far from the truth.....
posted by IronLizard at 9:14 AM on October 4, 2005


Argh, what I meant to say: Car makers ARE doing the same thing.
posted by IronLizard at 9:16 AM on October 4, 2005


"Innovation" happens when your product has matured and pretty much does everything anyone really wants it to do.

"Innovation" is developers and marketing people humping to save their jobs.
posted by Thorzdad at 9:38 AM on October 4, 2005


Can you ever expect honest business form a company that began on a lie?
posted by HTuttle at 9:44 AM on October 4, 2005


Most of the information in the smartofficenews link comes from "Battling Google, Microsoft Changes How It Builds Software" (R Guth in the Sept. 23, 2005 WSJ; subscription reqd.). Get the full text from Google's cache or from net127. Also see The Inquirer's take on this article.
posted by mrflip at 9:58 AM on October 4, 2005


This article is just a poor rehash of a wall street journal article covering the same pr bullshit.
posted by andendau at 10:00 AM on October 4, 2005


I can't wait for the day when Google replaces Microsoft as the Evil Empire We Love to Hate...

What was it before Microsoft?
posted by paddbear at 10:00 AM on October 4, 2005


Before M$ it was IBM.

Does anybody know how much of MacOS 9.x was pulled forward into OS X? Granted, OS X wasn't built purely from scratch, but I wonder if it would be possible (not probable, but possible) for Windows development to take a corner like that.
posted by aaronetc at 10:36 AM on October 4, 2005


Wow, now mefi is posting stories even Slashdot rejects...

This is a rehash of news from like 3 years ago with a bunch of mumbo-jumbo added about google. As far as I can tell, its not even a real news site. They're just trying to boost there pagerating or something.
posted by gus at 10:38 AM on October 4, 2005


Q. What was it before Microsoft?
A. Ze Germans.
posted by Joeforking at 10:48 AM on October 4, 2005


Man, I'd like a PR blowjob. Really kinky.
posted by Smedleyman at 11:37 AM on October 4, 2005


Gus - Well, theres the "classic" mode. Actually let's not go there...
posted by Artw at 11:50 AM on October 4, 2005


I can't wait for the day when Google replaces Microsoft as the Evil Empire We Love to Hate...

Too late.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 7:21 PM on October 4, 2005


I can't wait for the day when Google replaces Microsoft as the Evil Empire We Love to Hate...
Too late.

speak for yourself. when google offers brain implants, i will be in line.
posted by Tryptophan-5ht at 7:32 PM on October 4, 2005


You may change your tune at 1:30 pm EST, when Google and Sun are expected to announce the availability of a web-based version of StarOffice that actually works well. I'm serious.

Gong! Looks like your great expectations were not met. I'll stick to my tune for now.
posted by srboisvert at 4:12 AM on October 5, 2005


Google killed off your company stavros? Sold your use patterns to a telemarketer? Supplanted standard committees? Campaigned against the GPL because it can't steal others' work that way?

For every action Microsoft takes that antagonizes me, I can name a thing Google does that makes me trust them more. Scholar, Froogle, News, Summer of Code, the book scanning project, their corporate culture - which matters for more than just the atmosphere on their campus... I've heard Brin, Page, and Gates in person, and all I can say is that so far I trust the "Don't be evil" motto 100%, while Gates gave an impression of a mediocre manager, excited about the concepts but out of touch with how they will work.
posted by azazello at 8:40 AM on October 7, 2005


That's a little like saying murdering 10 people is worse than murdering just one. In a way, it is, perhaps, but it's still murder.

†Not an accusation of murder.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 8:39 PM on October 7, 2005


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