More retrenchment at big tech firms

(written by lawrence krubner, however indented passages are often quotes). You can contact lawrence at:

Microsoft is giving up on some of its products:

Microsoft appears to be killing off two of its key user-facing brands with the upcoming Consumer Preview release of Windows 8. Windows Live applications have been rolled into preinstalled apps that work as the core “Windows Communications” applications for Windows 8, and this lack of Windows Live branding is only the tip of the iceberg. “Microsoft Account” will replace Windows Live ID in Windows 8, and the software giant has also removed traces of Zune from its Windows Store, Music, and Video applications, although Zune Pass functionality remains.

Microsoft’s Xbox team is handling the creation and management of the Metro style Video and Music applications within Windows 8, and we previously heard that Windows 8 will move to “Xbox Live for Windows” as the entertainment brand for Windows 8 Music, Video and Games shortly before its release. The debranding of Zune has already taken effect in the final Windows 8 Consumer Preview, but the full transition away from Zune will take place over the summer. The move away from Zune is part of a broad effort to simplify and consolidate the company’s brands into a simple consumer message alongside Microsoft SkyDrive and Microsoft Hotmail. The branding will look like this in Windows 8:

Microsoft Account (Windows Live ID)

Mail (Windows Live Mail)

Calendar (Windows Live Calendar)

People (Windows Live Contacts)

Photos (Windows Live Photo Gallery)

Music (Zune Music Player)

Video (Zune Video Player)

I assume this is more of the “Put more wood behind fewer arrows” philosophy that draws upon a metaphor that makes no sense from the point of view of archery (archers usually want lighter arrows, and I can imagine in a fight I’d want more arrows, not less).

This comment is very good:

Microsoft makes decisions like this ALL the time, ones that 1) appear ridiculous to the casual observer; 2) turn out to actually be rational if you think very hard about it and have enough background information (which is almost never available to anyone but MS employees); and too often, 3) in the end have unforeseen consequences that make Microsoft end up looking foolish or incompetent.

Every day when I worked at Microsoft another “look how stupid MS is” story would come out, and there would invariably be a large thread on the internal mailing list about it. The first 50 posts would be by people saying “You idiots in division X, this was a stupid idea and anybody could have told you that for the following 6 obvious reasons!” Then the folks from the responsible division would reply to each post to explain why they did what they did. And almost without fail these turned out to be decisions made by smart people who had very defensible reasons for doing what they did.

In the end I think what frustrated me most was that there was nobody at the top, no Steve Jobs, to say, “I get that you’ve done a lot of detailed analysis on why having 14 editions of Windows is a good idea, but I’m the boss, and this feels wrong, and we’re not doing it.”