When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. - Hunter S. Thompson

24 September 2005

WSJ: Microsoft tries to change its engineering culture

Thankfully, this isn't (at least for now) behind the Wall Street Journal's subscription firewall: Friday's edition had a great article on how Microsoft is changing the way they write software.

Battling Google, Microsoft Changes How It Builds Software

I bet this was a really uncomfortable conversation:

Jim Allchin, a senior Microsoft Corp. executive, walked into Bill Gates's office... one day in July last year to deliver a bombshell about the next generation of Microsoft Windows.

"It's not going to work," Mr. Allchin says he told the Microsoft chairman. The new version, code-named Longhorn, was so complex its writers would never be able to make it run properly.

The news got even worse: Longhorn was irredeemable because Microsoft engineers were building it just as they had always built software. Throughout its history, Microsoft had let thousands of programmers each produce their own piece of computer code, then stitched it together into one sprawling program. Now, Mr. Allchin argued, the jig was up. Microsoft needed to start over.
This is a really good piece, written by a reporter who "gets" both technology and organizational dynamics, about how hard it is to change the culture of an organization as large (and previously successful) as Microsoft.

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