Saturday, August 28, 2004

Microsoft Inside Out

I have always wondered what it is like for those Microsoft programmers to be working on software that hundreds of novice users, grandmas and users in Timbuktu use regularly as their platform to communicate,compute and care as far as their information needs are concerned.

This is a company that recruits pretty smart fellas as such and their software has to be resilient enough that somebody speaking esperanto should be able to communicate to a polish guy.How do they value their work ethics and what keeps them driving to write software.

In the last 2 months I have read three books that concern the MS organization as such.In MS there are three kinds of cadres that comprise the core namely the Program Managers(PMs), Software Developers and Testers.Each of these books are supposed to provide a viewpoint(my classification so take it with a grain of salt) from the inside out as to what it is like to work for the world's richest company that ships bits of the OS which definitely affects our everday computing experience.

Let me cut the chase and get to the point.

1.Program Manager View :Almost a MUST for every software house.Ironically this guy is a developer in the MS-Excel team but has some wonderful insights about Software Management in general.His idea is to take the pain out of the managing part and also general view of his platforms makes his blog a thought provoking read.Anti-Dilbertish views that are fresh. He is very popular though his blog which has a cult status and very deservingly is one of the best places for UI design as such.

2.Software Developer's View : This is a excellent book on understanding the challenges of developing "ShrinkWrap" software.It provides a nice view of "breaking the build" which is pretty common to any software development house.People might say he is pro-MS but the reasons for that exactly makes this a very worthwhile read. The person who wrote this book is re-hired by MS to lead the Windows Shell development for the Longhorn version. Now think about it.I am excited to know there is a shell that lets me automate stuff by scripting instead of the boring WinRunner kind of testing (I come from a Unix background and hence this prejudice)
He also claims that the future of MS depends a great deal on Testers.The most interesting argument in this book is when he takes on Netscape and delivers a point home which explains why Mozilla is trying to fight back the weight created by IE.

3.Tester's View: This is an insightful novel about Tech. Sector in general and MS in particular.
It has more about culture than the above two books.Pretty Poignant to see the state of people but in general thats the way it is.Offers good hints as to the expectations of a modern hi tech society.Very Relevant for today's society as MS's software in this century depends so much on these guys.

One common theme to all the above books is the importance of Peopleware (That is Hiring right people) in the success of Microsoft.The continued success of MS depends a great deal on its current leadership and constantly coming up with ideas.

I hope you derive as much insight about MS reading these as much as I did.Like it or not these are the guys who develop software that the lawyers suing Microsoft will also use.

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