Headline April 01, 2015/ ''' MICROSOFT : [ OH! THIS ODD COUPLE! ] '''



My high school in Seattle, Lakeside, seemed conservative on the surface, but it was educationally progressive. 

We had few rules and lots of opportunities, and all my schoolmates seemed passionate about something. But the school was also cliquish. There were golfers and tennis players, who carried their rackets wherever they went, and in the winter most everyone went skiing.

I'd never done any of these things, and my friends were the boys who didn't fit into the established groups. Then, in the fall of of my 10th-grade year,  my passion found me.

But for now, lets move on to Microsoft's growing problems

I SAW THIS HAPPEN AGAIN AND again. If you made a strong case and were fierce about it, and you had the data behind you, Bill would react like a bluffer with a pair of threes.

He'd looked down and mutter, ''O.K., I see what you mean,'' then try to make up. Bill never wanted to loose talented people. ''If this guy leaves,'' he'd say to me, ''we'll lose all our momentum.''

Some disagreements came down to Bill and me, one-on-one, late at night. According to one theory, we'd installed real doors in all the offices to keep our arguments private.

If that was true, it didn't work; you could hear our voices up and down the eighth floor. As a longtime partners, we had a unique dynamic. Bill couldn't intimidate me intellectually. He knew I was on top of technical issues-

Often better informed than he, because research was my bailiwick. And unlike the programmers, I could challenge Bill on broader strategic points. I'd hear him out for 10 minutes, look him straight in the eye, and say, '' Bill, that doesn't make sense. You haven't considered x and y and z.''

Bill craved closure, and he would hammer away until he got there; on principle, I refused to yield if I didn't agree. And so we'd go at it for hours at a stretch, until I became nearly as loud and wound up as Bill. I hated that feeling.

While I wouldn't give in unless convinced on the merits, I sometimes had to stop from sheer fatigue. I remember one heated debate that lasted forever, until I said,''Bill this isn't going anywhere. I'm going home.''

And Bill said, ''You can't stop now  -we haven't agreed on anything yet!''
''No, Bill, you don't understand. I'm so upset that I can't speak anymore. I need to calm down. I'm leaving,''

Bill trailed me out of his office, into the corridor, out to the elevator bank. He was still getting in the last word   -''But we haven't resolved anything!''   -as the elevator door closed between us.

I was Mr. Slow Burn, like Walter Matthau to Bill's Jack Lemmon. When i got mad, I stayed mad for weeks. I don't know if Bill noticed the strain on me, but everyone else did. Some said Bill's management style was a key ingredient to Microsoft's early success, but that made no sense to me.

Why wouldn't it be more effective to have civil and rational discourse? Why did we need knock-down, drag-out fights? Why not just solve the problem logically and move on?

As we grew, our need for more help became glaring. Neither Bill nor I had a lot of experience as managers, and both us had other areas of responsibility  -Bill in sales, I in software development. 

Steve wood had filled in admirably, as general manager, but he, too, was a programmer by background. Bill came to see that we needed someone to help him run the business side of things, just as I ran technology.

He chose Steve Ballmer, a Harvard classmate who'd worked in marketing at Procter & Gamble and was not studying at Stanford's business school, Bill sold him hard to me. ''Steve is a super-smart guy, and he's got loads of energy. He'll help us build the business, and I really trust him.''

I had run into Steve a few times at Harvard, where he and Bill were close. The first time we met face-to-face, I thought, This guy looks like an operative of the .N.K.V.D. 

He had piercing blue eyes and a genuine toughness  -though as I got to know him better, I found a gentler side as well-  Steve was someone who wouldn't back down easily, a necessity for working well with Bill.

In April, 1980, shortly before leaving town on a business trip, I agreed that we should offer him up to  5 percent of the company, because Bill felt certain that Steve wouldn't leave Stanford unless he got equity.

A few days later, after returning from my trip, I got a copy of Bill's letter to Steve. Someone had apparently found it in the office's Datapoint word processing system, and made the rounds.

Programmers like Gordon Letwin were furious that Bill was giving a piece of the company to someone without a technical background. I was angry for another reason.

Bill had offered Steve 8.75 percent of the company, -considerably more than what I had agreed to.

It was bad enough that Bill had chosen to override me in a partnership issue we'd specifically discussed. It was worse that he had waited till I was away to send the letter.

I wrote him to set out what I had learned, and concluded,'' As a result of discovering those facts I am no longer interested in employing Mr. Ballmer, and I consider the above points a breach of faith on your part.''

Bill knew that he'd been caught and couldn't bluster his way out of it. Unable to meet my eyes, he said, ''Look, we've get to have Steve. I'll make up the extra points from my share.''

I said O.K., and that's what he did.

The Honour and Serving of the  ''operational research''  continues. Thank you for reading, and maybe, learning something. See Ya on the following one.

With respectful dedication to all the Students-Technologists of the world. See Ya all on !WOW!   -the World Students Society Computers-Internet-Wireless:

''' The Technology Revolution '''

'''Good Night and God Bless

SAM Daily Times - the Voice of the Voiceless


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