After 21 Years: Goodbye Microsoft

Today I announced that after 21 years I am leaving Microsoft to build a new company.

I’m not yet ready to disclose details about the new venture but I can say I will be staying in the Seattle area to build it. It has to do with sports, advertising, mobile, social-networking, and, of course, the cloud. I’m insanely excited to get started. Subscribe here or follow me on twitter if you want to hear more about it when we’re ready to talk.

I sent the mail below to several thousand of old friends and colleagues at Microsoft. Lots of inside jokes, so don’t be surprised if you don’t understand all of it.

From: Charlie Kindel
Sent: Monday, August 08, 2011 9:00 AM
To: A gazillion old friends and colleagues
Subject: Goodbye Microsoft – After 21 Years It’s Time To Move On

July 2, 1990 was my first day at Microsoft and September 2, 2011 will be my last.

In the time honored tradition of “good-bye mails” this is mine.

My first Microsoft product was a Z-80 Softcard for my Apple ][+ in 1984. That amazing product enabled me to become a UCSD P-System, CP/M, and Turbo Pascal geek. I still remember opening the big clear plastic box for the first time.

In 1988 (my junior year at the University of Arizona) I decided I wanted to work for Microsoft when I discovered Windows programming (I conned my dad into buying me a copy of the Windows 2 SDK). Charles Petzold was my hero.

I got no-hired after my first interviews (a dev role in Languages; shouldn’t really surprise anyone).

I bribed my recruiter into getting me another set of interviews by sending her a Christmas card (clearly I was meant to be a PM).

The brightest memory I have of my first day at work was a Seattle Times sports page pinned to my manager’s (Ridge Ostling) cube: “Husky Women Beat Beavers”.

A few months later we threatened to quit because management kept turning the lights ON in Lincoln Plaza.

Arne Josefsberg: I feel bad about writing that tool that generated fake time tracking reports. But what did you expect? We were providing the best damn developer support possible and the number of minutes we spent doing it was totally irrelevant.

Curtis Palmer: I miss you. Our Bogus Software was the best. RIP.

Tunneling Todd Laney, one day I got so pissed that the Windows 8514a driver didn’t support “smallfonts” that I just fixed it and checked it in. I was still in PSS. My first “production code” at Microsoft and if you don’t count OLEView which was just a tool, my last.

I decided I wanted to be Chris Guzak. So I got out of PSS and into Developer Relations. I know, it doesn’t make sense to me either.

Vertical Developer Relations was an amazing group. Out of that group came: Jeff Teper, Satya Nadella, Joe Long, John Wilcox, Bret O’Rourke, and others.

After writing OLEView I woke up and I was no longer an evangelist but a PM on the OLE team. Initially I was given all the glamorous stuff like Mac OLE. Mario Goertzel scared the crap out of me. It was 3 months before he and the other devs would invite me to lunch.

I got to work with Bob Atkinson. He taught me the trick of taking people on walks during 1:1s. He also taught me everything I know.

We gave all PDC ’93 attendees a CD with the first DCOM bits. ole.h was missing. One (one!) customer noticed. We thought DCOM was hot-sh**. It wasn’t.

The first name for COM+ was COM3. Windows used to let you create directories named COM3. But you couldn’t delete them. The real reason I’m leaving Microsoft? COM is making a comeback.

Sweeper and December 7, 1995 were epic. How the name “ActiveX” was chosen was not.

Designing the HTML OBJECT tag with Tim Berners-Lee was mind blowing for me. Ben Slivka still owes my sister an airplane ticket.

Shipping IE 3.0 was my first taste of what it really meant to build a product that changed the world. I would have never joined the Windows Phone team if I had not had that prior experience of an impossible, come-from-behind, project.

Somewhere along the line I learned the word “mentor”. Bob Muglia and Chris Jones: Thank you. I learned everything I know from you.

In 1998 a bunch of us from the IIS team were in Paris for some conference. We went out to dinner and when we came out of the restaurant there was a literal riot going on around the Arc de Triomphe. France had won the world cup. We joined in. I rode around the Arc de Triomphe on the roof of a city bus chanting Viva-La-France! Microsoft enabled me to see the world and I’m grateful for that.

Someday we’re going to have a Project42 reunion party. Or not.

Tracy Sharpe once worked for me. One day his office was cleared out. I asked HR “Where’s Tracy?” “Oh, he moved to the Xbox team weeks ago.” Oh, that’s how that works.

Charlie: “Hey Chris (Jones) & David (Cole), we should build a Neptune Home Server! We’ll call it Ybox!”

Chris & David: “Charlie, shut the eff up and get back to work.”

Working on Windows Millennium is where I met Dave Alles.

The Connected Home Business Unit had this guy who drove a black Hummer. One day we put a “Yes, my penis is small” bumper sticker on it. Sorry about that Kevin Eagan.

Bedrock and the bBox demonstrated that a group could have all the technology and a great user experience and still not know how to spell “business”. BXT folks. BXT!

CHBU begat eHome. The first version of Windows Media Center was to be called “Windows Remote View”. Really.

When I think about my time as BobMu’s TA I’m reminded of the scene in Blade Runner, where Roy says “I’ve seen things you people could only imagine.” Did I mention that I learned everything I know from Bob Muglia?

You know why Quattro was named Quattro? My fourth attempt at building a home server product at Microsoft. Best. Team. Ever.

I’ve had some great managers (and some not so great ones). Chris Phillips the best manager I ever had. I learned everything I know from Chris.

To the people that helped build Windows Home Server: Chuck Norris doesn’t leave Microsoft. Microsoft leaves with Chuck.

Yamanote! Istvan, Friedbert, Bob, Drew, Tudor, Kevin, Akhil, Ron, Scott, and a slew of others: They doubted, but we fraking did it. Together. 27,000 apps and counting. Someone once gave me the advice “The first rule of dependency management is to not have any dependencies.” I call BS on this and we proved that cross-group collaboration CAN work at Microsoft.

The real reason I’m leaving Microsoft: At the last partner meeting Dave Alles didn’t ask SteveB a question.

To the Windows Phone team: I may stop using some Microsoft products now that I’m out of here. But not Windows Phone. The BEST product Microsoft has ever built. Do not let up!

To my wife: Thank you for putting up with “Microsoft Time” (“Honey, I’ll be home in an hour.” Four hours later…). I’ve learned everything I know from Julie Kindel.

To my kids: No, just because I don’t work at Microsoft anymore you may not use Google. Remember, every time you use Google, a puppy dies.

Back in 1990 I assumed I’d work here for 3 or so years. I’m an entrepreneur at heart and every few years I’d lift up my head and look around. I never had the need to look outside Microsoft because I kept finding one challenging opportunity after another.

21 years later I have finally decided I need to do something different: I’m leaving to start a new company here in the Seattle area. I’m sure you’ll hear about it.

There has been one constant in every job I’ve had at Microsoft: People way smarter than me. Microsoft has always enabled me to “play up”. It has truly been an honor working with all of you. Thank you for helping me grow as an engineer, a manager, a businessman, and as a person.

Stay in touch and keep changing the world!

-cek

charlie (at) kindel (dot) com
http://ceklog.kindel.com
@ckindel on Twitter

P.S. Writing this, I had fun trying to remember everything I’ve worked on. Here’s what I came up with:

  • Windows 2.0 and 3.0 SDK Support
  • Windows 2.0 and 3.0 DDK Support
  • The Windows 8514A driver (smallfonts support FTW!)
  • Premier Developer Support
  • Vertical Developer Relations Group
  • WOSA/XRT, WOSA/XSF
  • OLE Industry Solutions
  • OLEView
  • COM
  • DCOM
  • COM3/COR/COM+
  • The earliest HTML DOM
  • W3C (<OBJECT> tag)
  • ActiveX (Sweeper!)
  • IE 3.0
  • The Java/COM Bridge
  • Windows NT 3.5
  • Windows NT 3.51
  • Windows NT 4.0
  • DRG (again)
  • IIS “Duct Tape”
  • Project42; Application Model (oops)
  • Consumer Windows Home Networking
  • Triton (yet another home server)
  • Windows Neptune
  • Windows Millennium
  • yBox (yet another home server)
  • The Connected Home Business Unit
  • Bedrock & bBox (yet another home server)
  • Softwire/SCP
  • Galaxy (yet another home server)
  • Mira
  • eHome
  • ServiceBus (the original one)
  • Bobsled (Media Center Extenders)
  • Freestyle (Windows Media Center) (yet another home server)
  • BobMu’s TA
  • Quattro
  • Q (Windows Home Server) (the only home server that matters)
  • Small Business Server
  • Yamanote! (WP7 App Platform)
  • WP7DEV (WP7 Developer Evangelism and Ecosystem)
© Charlie Kindel. All Rights Reserved.

54 comments


  1. “There has been one constant in every job I’ve had at Microsoft: People way smarter than me.”

    The best people I have ever worked for have all said this. You rock and will be missed. Have fun!

  2. Congratulations on the new venture Charlie. Seattle is a great city. I understand why you’d want to stay in the Seattle area. If you ever consider another place for a future startup, we’d love to have your company in Nebraska. Our Governor will be announcing a 40% refundable ANGEL tax credit (Nebraska residents) as well as several other Business Innovation Inititatives this Wednesday.

    Best Regards,

    -Eric

  3. Nicole Way

    Most awesomest goodbye letter I have ever seen! Good luck to you in your future endeavors!

  4. Pingback: Windows Phone Exec Charlie Kindel Hanging It Up at Microsoft After 21 Years - Ina Fried - Mobile - AllThingsD

  5. Pingback: Microsoft Windows Phone boss Charlie Kindel is leaving |

  6. Josh Thomspon

    “There has been one constant in every job I’ve had at Microsoft: People way smarter than I am.”

  7. Josh Thomspon

    Cool gun in your picture.

  8. Pingback: Charlie Kindel is Leaving Microsoft | Windows Phone Secrets

  9. Pingback: 21 Years Ought to be Enough for Anybody (or, Bon Voyage, Charlie Kindel!) — Global Nerdy

  10. As another long-time ‘softie, I wish you the very best for your new life back to the “real world”! :)

    Oh … and I love your comments for your kids – I told mine much the same when I left last year ;)

  11. Pingback: Windows Phone exec Charlie Kindel Hanging It Up at Microsoft After 21 Years | Windows Updates

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  13. Pingback: Microsoft's Charlie Kindel bids farewell after 21 years | ZDNet

  14. I certainly did notice about the missing header file. I got my OLE2 SDK at the 1993 european OLE2 conference (London or Brussels – not sure right now) and built COM/DCOM/MTS/COM+ stuff ever since then – and still do today! Reporting the missing file through CompuServe was not as easy a writing a blog post’s comment!

  15. Steve Banfield

    Congrats on leaving the mothership and best wishes in your new venture. Can’t wait to hear what it will be.

  16. Now all we need is for Ballmer to go.

    Look at Microsoft’s falling mobile figures. It can’t be denied that Windows Phone has failed. Ballmer must be next to go.

    • Luiz Felipe

      Just because WP dont have total owning of market share. In this way, Linux has failed in desktop also.

      • member msx

        Haha, you don’t really have the minimal idea what you’re talkin about!!

        GNOME 3 Shell (check out Linux Mint implementation), KDE SC (again check out Linux Mint implementation, openSUSE one, Arch’s one, totally rocks!)
        Awesome WM, DWM, Musca, Enlightenment, Ubuntu’s Unity…

        Core technology: GNU/Linux, BSD
        On top of that: whatever you want *the way you want*
        F/LOSS: the future.

        Realmente no tenés idea de lo que decís fanboy, lamentable lo tuyo :D
        You really have no idea fanboy, ridiculous at least…

        • Luiz Felipe

          I am not a fanboy, i communication skills are not great. But i dont think WP is doing bad, its not only the iPhone. I dont sayed that linux has failed. I sayed the oposite, linux hasnt failed in desktop, same as WP hasnt failed yet, just because they have low market share.
          By the way, The desktop computing is over, linux is desktop was poor, but now, doest matter anymore. linux has taken more than 50% of server market. No one cares abou Gnome, little Linux “fanboy”.

          • member msx

            Time goes by and it showed I was right and you were _absolutely_ wrong =D
            If you have a look at WP sales you will likely see they’re sinking, not only in the States but in the rest of the world Android phones and mobile gadgets are overtaking the markets with Windows Powered Crap going down the drain – even Apple’s products are slowly losing their market share against Android powered devices.

            Now regarding your absolutely lack of knowledge about GNU+Linux desktop scene you should look at latest developments that, as I said, are today even better and healthier than never ever before.

            So if we were to take your word as something worth then Valve are a bunch of idiots because they’re are investing in GNU+Linux, right? Same as Intel with their fast-paced GPU development and integration with the penguin’s OS.

            Please, in the future try to talk of anything you actually know about – else just shut your mouth.
            “It is better to keep your mouth shut and be thought a fool than to open it and remove all doubt. (Mark Twain)”

          • Luiz Felipe

            Valve are a bunch of idiots because they are a company that sells games for windows, windows RT has own store, xbox same, play4 will have they also. Only if they convince all the game developers on the world to change to Linux they can compete on this business. And you has to throw all your owned games on dump, because no retro-compatibility there will be.
            I know what I am saying, I just had a different vision of Linux desktop, besides the last development, it is a under dog.
            Also , I don’t think intel are wrong with gpu development on Linux, linus kernel is great, and for a videogame, will can make your own dashboard and throws away that shit desktop, videogames don’t need desktop interfaces. If valve goes this way, perhaps they have a future, I don’t think they are idiots. They haven’t another way, because of vertical integration.
            And for WP, i don’t see the market shrinking, just opposite, they will be strong third player, or second, before Android. android is like windows, it has to much inertia to sink now. Android and Linux kernel are ok, my problem are with desktop only.

  17. Pingback: Windows Phone GM Charlie Kindel leaves Microsoft for mystery startup | VentureBeat

  18. Congratulations on the new venture Charlie. Microsoft missing one valuable engineer, manager, businessman, and person. It seems, you always supports Microsoft in future too (than other)…

  19. I see you’re using WordPress–welcome to the future. Linux.

    • Luiz Felipe

      Future is Cloud Computing and Software as a service. Operational Systems is part of infraestructure now, noone cares anymore.

  20. PeterPla

    Always remember, the “X” is silent in “ActiveX”, Cornelius said so. Best wishes in your new venture.

  21. TWW

    Oh, look. A dickhead with a gun is leaving the world’s worst software company where, apparently, he was surrounded by people smarter than he is.

    Not even enough brains to leave out his involvement in IE3 – a piece of badly written, badly designed garbage that a company with pride in its work would never have let out the door.

    People like Kindel are the reason so much software is so disappointing.

  22. Robyn

    Nothing says developer at heart like this:

    “I feel bad about writing that tool that generated fake time tracking reports. But what did you expect? We were providing the best damn developer support possible and the number of minutes we spent doing it was totally irrelevant. ”

    I really wish someone’d had the nerve to do it at my company. This post made me really miss working in tech. Oh what fun the people are.

  23. There really is no need for a long letter like that.
    Simple “I quit” would be fine; after all, there you are in the picture with a gun in your hand.

  24. Henk de Koning

    Good luck at your new venture, Charlie. I still have fond memories of the DCOM and COM+ time frame. At least the things that are supposed to be hard, were hard in COM (makes sense, everything was hard in COM).

    It’s a bit sad to see so many good people leave da house, but most good things come to an end. Plus, nothing beats doing what you love most in a shop that built yourself ground up.

    Take care.

    PS: I still have your most wonderful training video on COM and OLE hanging around in my closet, next to mr Bunny. You and mr Bunny seem to get along just fine, BTW. For the record, I consider mr Bunny and your video to be the only two things in the land of COM that actually made me laugh out loud. I’m not sure your video was meant that way, but boy the way you say “COM is a binary standard” still makes me wet my pants :-).

  25. Thomas

    Thanks for the idea!

  26. Good Luck ! Charlie Kindel

  27. Felipe

    Very nice, taking a new breath…
    Best wishes with the new challenge …. talking about it, I’ve a gr8 idea and I’d like to discuss with you about , this idea is related “with sports, advertising, mobile, social-networking, and, of course, the cloud.” and another areas too.. contact me if you want…

  28. Akah

    Classy, man, just classy!

  29. Woahhh….. great adventure you have been. Good luck with your next adventure! Opportunity awaits!!! :D

  30. piks Oznatsoc

    Good for you! Good luck. Did the same thing 20 years ago – went broke made a mint went broke came back and loved every minute. The entrepreneurial spirit keeps America great. Godspeed!

  31. Pingback: Microsoft loses Windows Phone’s Charlie Kindel | A3RN.com

  32. I thought your site would be using a Windows Server. :D

  33. Thank you for Windows Home Server version 1. It was a wonderful product. I’m sorry that the reorganised team dropped the ball on WHS 2011 and effectively tore up your guiding principles for the design of the storage in WHS v1. It has clearly shown that the focus on “Home” in “Windows Home Server” has been lost for ever. Good luck in your new venture.

  34. I met you yyyeeeeaaarrrsssss ago at several of the conferences and knew you would go far. Congratulations on sticking with a gig so long and making it so far! I look forward with great anticipation to whatever idea sparked the need to make a move!

    Thanks for all you have done that makes what I do possible!

  35. Asad Iqbal

    Wish you all the best.

  36. Iqbal

    congratulations. Have a good start of your new company.

  37. Pingback: Microsoft : le « monsieur application » de Windows Phone s’en va | Gadgets a Puce

  38. Guess you weren’t joking about the COM comeback. Thought for sure you weren’t serious about that. Lol

  39. Arash Motamedi

    Hello Charlie. What an inspiration you are. My name is Arash and I’ve recently got a job offer from Microsoft as a PM for the Windows Phone team. I am sad that you will not be around when I start my job, but I am delighted I’ll be working on a legendary project of a Microsoft legend like yourself. I only hope I will be able to live up to the example that you have set. Wishing you all the best, and best of luck on your new venture.

  40. Fall '88 - Az Alpha

    Tigger sure had a lot of hair back when that badge picture was taken.

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  42. Pingback: Charlie Kindel, Microsoft, Windows Phone 7, GadgetNomics | GadgetNomics

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