Why Microsoft Won’t/Can’t/Shouldn’t Lead
That’s a rather sensationalistic headline, I admit, but it’s true and here’s why:
Any sufficiently large service-based organization is a pure reflection upon its constituency. That is, any sub-optimization, moral bankruptcy, intellectual dishonesty, etc — either perceived or real — is due to those qualities being present in equal or greater measure in group of individuals that that organization services.
Examples: Microsoft, [any large IT consulting firm — IBM, etc], U.S. Congress or the entire FedGov as a whole, etc.
If the constituency will not hold its servicing organization accountable and to a higher standard, they can and should only expect lower, inferior service.
If you are angry with the way Microsoft, for example, behaves or operates, the only effective way of changing them is to get their constituency to expect more from them. Currently, Microsoft delivers only what is expected of them and they have no reason to do otherwise. Sometimes this results in spectacular successes, sometimes spectacular failures, but usually mediocrity. Mediocrity, incidentally, is the norm for most human endeavors — I’m not picking on MS particularly here.
Please note, in all of these organizations (Microsoft, Congress, FedGov, etc) there are great people (heroes? champions?) trying to change things for the better and rally from within to change without but whatever victory they may achieve will be only marginally effective and short lived at best if the constituency as a whole does not take hold of that victory and demand it repeatedly.
If you want to affect real change, call attention to a specific problem, raise awareness of it, generate interest in getting it changed, appeal to the organization to change and hold them accountable for it. So far, almost every time I’ve seen this tried (including and especially at Microsoft) it has worked. It may take time, but it does work. Case in point? ASP.NET MVC. Microsoft heard complaints, responded to them, made efforts, took feedback, and is making repeated efforts to produce a quality product. Continued involvement by the constituency to hold Microsoft accountable has resulted in Microsoft putting some really bright people on the project and working through the issues publicly to satisfy the demands of her constituents.
Hopefully, this can be used as a model going forward for encouraging Microsoft to focus on the products and services that provide real value in an honest and open way that have real benefit to the community beyond just its feature set.