So Microsoft actually at times has had multiple CTO's of their various divisions, which is not unusual for a large company. See my prior post on this subject here. What I'm discussing in this blog post is their lack of what in the past they have referred to as Chief Architect. That position to my knowledge has been held by only two people since Microsoft was formed. The first of course was Bill Gates, and the second was Ray Ozzie. Since Ray's departure the position has not been filled. Now in my opinion Microsoft has not quite been the same since Bill's departure, he was the Steve Jobs of Microsoft and they really need to find a replacement. Technology companies such as Microsoft need strong technology leadership, and Steve Ballmer does not fit that role, instead Microsoft now has more than a dozen Senior Vice Presidents of the various divisions, no doubt all vying for attention. So here are the eight things I would do if I were Chief Architect or CTO at Microsoft.
Dump Windows Workflow
Microsoft was 5 years late to the party when they started working on Windows Workflow, and from day one it has been clearly designed by programmers who didn't understand that, 1) real world workflow involves people, and 2) workflow describes business processes therefore you need to put tools in the hands of business people that actually let them build workflows. I wrote about this very topic almost 5 years ago in BPM.COM in an article titled "Business Agility at the Speed of Light". So my first act would be to stop development of Windows Workflow and acquire Bluespring BPM Suite 5, which I'm pretty sure can be had for a price Microsoft could afford. It is the most technically advanced, yet most user friendly workflow technology on the market. I should know I architected it just before leaving Bluespring Software in 2008.
OK, don't get me wrong BizTalk works. But you need a damn Phd to make it work. We are in the era of SaaS applications, and Microsoft needs a SaaS based integration platform. Boomi would have been a good acquisition had it not been written in Java, but even Boomi only has it about 70% right. Microsoft needs to do something in this arena fast via an acquisition or build something soon.
I'd buy Box.net and rename it SharePoint lite, or something like that (just kidding). Seriously Microsoft, you make some things way too complicated, and if you don't want to make me CTO, then make Aaron Levie CTO.
Make Visual Studio Free
I can't believe Microsoft really needs the revenue from this. I would make it free, end of story, and I would find a way to start providing TFS as a hosted service at a price companies can actually afford.
Make the Standard Windows 8 Certified Hardware Spec include a Touch Screen
I'm sure we have all seen the embarrassing videos on YouTube of people struggling with the new Metro UX. Now personally I love Metro on my Windows Phone. But I struggle with it on my sons XBox, and I don't find it too productive on my PC either, where I have basically ditched it and reverted to use of the Desktop view exclusively. It is a UX that basically demands a Touch Screen, so I would insist that to qualify for the Windows 8 Certified logo hardware vendors include a touch screen.
Forget the XBox 720, launch XBox 1080
I didn't buy a 1080p big screen TV to hook up a gaming device that only takes advantage of about 66% of it's available resolution. I would instruct the XBox designers to back and make it offer native 1080p resolution.
Stop waffling on Silverlight and get behind it.
Stop worrying about Google Apps.
Google apps suck. You have enough proof to show that lots of companies that switch to Google apps switch back after realizing their mistake. Office 365 and Office Web apps rule. I'd stop worrying about Google in any capacity other than search.
So that's the manifesto I would implement out of the gate at Microsoft. Now what possible qualifications do I possess to hold such a position, well of course probably not nearly enough (see below), but it's still fun to dream.
- While CTO of Bluespring Software we were members of the elite Managed ISV community.
- While CTO of Bluespring Software we we're almost winners of the Worldwide Partner Technology Innovation Award.
- Just like Bill Gates, I don't have a Bachelors Degree. (Of course the reality is you can't get past Microsoft HR for a Management job without a Masters Degree period, so I'm screwed).
- I have spoken on the big stage at the Microsoft Conference Center.
- I have been a lifelong supporter of Microsoft, starting with when I wrote a Client Server LIMS system in Visual Basic running on NT Server 3.0 back in 1995.
- I have Michael Dell as a LinkedIn connection.
Let me know what you would do as CTO of Microsoft.