Posted by: kurtsh | January 13, 2006

COMMENTARY: “Why people sometimes get angry”

I’ve been in Redmond for the past week or so and I had the chance to hear from our company leaders, not the least of which being, Bill Gates & Steve Ballmer.

I found myself struck (once again) by the sudden realization that these guys are way, way, waaaaaaaaaay smarter than me, and Microsoft has some truly visionary & ingenius people leading it.  I know it sounds like I’m cheerleading for our company as I usually do, but I’m just sharing a feeling I’ve had over the past 5 days. 

I mean, these guys are damn smart.  And remember that I have a somewhat larger-than-normal ego.  I was truly humbled after hearing the recent "master plan" for successfully creating a richer software platform for our customer base that was revealed to us this week… or at least the little part of the master plan that they felt comfortable sharing with us.

This is the stuff that will make us & our partners successful with our customers, while competing against IBM, Linux, Google, Sony, Oracle, Firefox, Nokia,, Apple, and other competitors.

It also brought upon a fascinating epiphany that I was kinda getting at but did a lackluster job explaining a few weeks ago (in an a blog entry about IE):  "People who are fearful – in particular those that are fearful because they’re forced to cope with a serious lack of information – are often the most angry.  Not because they’ve been wronged in any way, but rather because they feel uncomfortably uninformed."

Yes, yes, yes.  I know it’s an Yoda-ism:  "Fear leads to anger.  Anger leads to hate.  Hate leads to suffering."  But it’s really true… and even applies to technology.

Take Microsoft and Internet Explorer for instance.

Nobody really knows why Microsoft had such a long period between IE6.0 and annoucing IE7.0.  People have been very angry over the fact that Microsoft has not updated the function set of Internet Explorer for a fairly long time.  This includes people within Microsoft – certain Microsoft employee blogs have written rather unkind and unwarranted things about our movements around IE, accusing our leadership of "resting on our laurels", going against our company principles and "choosing not to innovate" and "having a lack of vision".

Now, as I stated before in a previous blog entry, much of the time "all is often not what it seems".  Often times, things happen (like a delay in IE releases) and because we don’t know why, we make assumptions about the rationale behind these occurences.  Because we’re guessing, we often think the worst – that Microsoft "got lazy after beating Netscape".  I’ve noticed that this is very common amongst the young, new employees – usually hired within the last 3 years. 

The other day, Steve Ballmer spent a not-insignificant amount of time with us on this topic and made it crystal clear why it’s been such a while since anyone’s seen a new release of Internet Explorer and where we’re going with it – satisfying one of our biggest internal detractors I might add.  The explanation isn’t very fancy but it’s still not something I’m comfortable putting into text publicly so if you know me and you’re curious, stop me the next time you see me and I’ll be happy to explain the situation to you and what we have planned offline.

If you’re one of those "angry" folks, I think the explanation will "bring you back from the dark side".


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