Category Archives: Leadership

Once I was Afraid

Once I was afraid to ride a bike. Then I did it. Once I was afraid to program in BASIC. Then I did it. Once I was afraid of getting married. Then I married Julie. Once I was afraid of assembly language. Then I did it. Once I was afraid of printer drivers. Then I mastered them. Once I was afraid of having kids. Then I had two. Once I was afraid of network protocols. …Continue reading

Be Excellent At Saying No

Steven Sinofski has written another great post on his “Learning by Shipping” blog. In this one, titled “8 steps for engineering leaders to keep the peace” he focuses on things an engineering leader can do when his or her ‘manager’ asks for too much. Solid advice, but it only addresses half the problem (the engineering leader). #5 in his list of things is 1. As part of doing that, I’m going to sometimes feel like …Continue reading

Have a Plan

Yesterday someone asked me to share my thoughts on the secret to building excellent things. I summarized what I know as: “Put the customer first, have a plan, create a shared mission, get early victories, remove process, and make it fun.” – me, yesterday.   This was the formula my cohorts that built the Windows Phone app platform used. It worked. This is what the small team that created www.milelogr.com did. “No battle was ever …Continue reading

Businesses Buy Differently

My post on Why Nobody Can Copy Apple has become one of the most read posts I’ve ever written (thanks @gruber). Commenters are asking me “Can you describe more what the behaviors are that are different when building for business vs. consumers?” There are many, but central is the sales motion: the approach and process an organization uses to sell product. The sales motion for businesses is diametrically different than the sales motion for consumers. …Continue reading

"Write Once…" is Anti-Customer

Just as in the ’90s, there’s a bunch of hype these days around solving the cross-platform development problem. Mobile platform fragmentation is killing developers, and if only every device supported some common language or technology engine we could all Write Once and Run Anywhere. If only. WORA was, is, and always will be, a fallacy. WORA reminds me of the mole in whack-a-mole. It just keeps popping up and the realities of competing platform vendors …Continue reading

Why Nobody Can Copy Apple

Horace Dediu has written another brilliant piece titled “Why doesn’t anybody copy Apple?”. As he points out, Apple is fairly unique in its command of vertical integration and many people point to that as the “why”. However, Horace also admits this can’t be the sole reason and he is unable to explain what that reason could be. I think I know. Tim Cook refers to integration and a great team as unique Apple advantages (but …Continue reading

Don’t Make Your Team Say No To You

Leaders are often visionary “idea people”. The difference between success and failure is how good these leaders are at training their teams to say No. Idea People often forget they are disrupting their own teams by voicing their ideas. If leaders don’t learn and practice skills for controlling the flow of ideas, their teams will fail. When I was building home networking for Windows at Microsoft, I learned getting a team to a focused plan, …Continue reading

Be as Excellent at Saying No as Saying Yes

While in Amman Jordan last month, I had the opportunity to speak at Amman Tech Tuesdays, a local startup event held every month there. I was asked to talk about what I’ve learned in my career to an audience of about 500 geeks and entrepreneurs. I decided to talk about focus, a topic dear to my heart. The title of the talk is “Be as Excellent at Saying No as Saying Yes”. Below the video …Continue reading

Paying Developers is A Bad Idea

The companies that make the most profit are those who build virtuous platform cycles. There are no proof points in history of virtuous platform cycles being created when the platform provider incents developers to target the platform by paying them. Paying developers to target your platform is a sign of desperation. It means developers have no skin in the game. A platform where developers do not have skin in the game is artificially propped up …Continue reading

Retail Pricing, Markup, and Margins

Tom’s Hardware is generally really solid. But they should stay focused on technology because this post is seriously absurd: “More than two years after the introduction of the iPad, Samsung appears to be very confident in the tablet market and is shooting for margins that exceed Apple’s iPad levels.” – Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Has Bigger Profit Margin Than iPad, Aug 27, 2012 MSRP stands for Manufacturers Suggested Retail Price. It is the price a …Continue reading

A Mouse and Keyboard Don’t Make a Hardware Company

Microsoft is not, and never will be, a hardware company. Please don’t go off saying “what about Xbox or mice & keyboards?” Microsoft does not really want to build & sell hardware. Surface is akin to Google’s Nexus; a ‘north star’ product intended to lead OEMs in the right direction. “With Surface we wanted to make sure that no stone is left unturned, in terms of really showing Windows 8 in its most innovative form. …Continue reading

Apps Must Be Cross Platform

This is a copy of a guest post I wrote for GeekWire. View the original here. Maybe there are a few Robert Scobles out there who still believe that a significant number of successful apps in the future will be unique to any one client platform. Connected experiences across all devices is where the growth is and it would be insane for anyone, from a major brand to an early-stage startup to believe they don’t …Continue reading

Wanna Compete with Apple? Focus on Experiences.

TL;DR Apple’s insane profitability has the other big guys jealous and freaked out. None are stupid enough to try to compete with Apple on Apple’s terms. The way to beat Apple is to redefine the game by making apps irrelevant and by making mobile just a piece of the equation. The “Experience = Stuff / Time” model is a great way break the conversation down to really understand what is going to happen. In 1999 …Continue reading

The Job Decision Matrix

Thinking clearly about what is important to you can be hard, but without clarity on what is important to you making a job, the decision is fraught with danger. As I have traveled along my personal career trajectory I created a tool that has helped me with this. I call it the Job Decision Matrix. The Job Decision Matrix will help identify what is actually important to you at this point in your career. Gaining …Continue reading

Don’t Build APIs…

My first job at Microsoft was providing developer support for the early Windows SDKs. To do my job well, I spent hours studying the Windows SDK documentation, the Windows source code, and writing sample applications. I then spent hours poring over customers’ (such as Lotus, WordPerfect, and Computer Associates) code helping them figure out what was not working. This gave me a deep appreciation for API design early in my career. I saw clear examples …Continue reading

The Five Big Guys

I’m working on writing up my thesis on the future of the consumer technology business and have convinced myself that there are 5 companies that stand to dominate. I call them The Five Big Guys. This post lays the ground work for that thesis by discussing these 5 companies. In 1989 I read the tea-leaves and made the call that Windows was going to dominate and OS/2 was going to fail. I felt I was …Continue reading

You are Thinking of Your Career Trajectory Wrong

Most people think about their career trajectory as being like a bell-curve or that of a cannon ball fired from a cannon. Something like this: For 99% of all successful people, this is completely the wrong way to think about it. For that other 1% (the Bill Gates & Mark Zuckerbergs of the world) it might work. For the rest of us, there’s a mental model that will help keep you sane, help you appreciate …Continue reading

Experience = Stuff / Time

The real value in creating new businesses is in delivering customer experiences. The ubiquitous nature of the web, devices, and social networks means successful companies in the future will understand this. The question is “what do people mean when they say ‘experience’”? This post provides an answer. Over the years, I’ve developed a mental model that helps me and my teams think about new businesses from a very customer focused perspective. I refer to it …Continue reading

Brand is a Critical Part of the End-to-End Experience

A commenter on another of my posts asked me to explain further why I think “brand is as much a part of the end-to-end experience as the user interface, device, OS, apps, and services.” I took it as a challenge to actually get my thoughts on the subject down in writing. So here we go… I use the following mental model when thinking through end-to-end user experiences: Or, since this is not real math, in words: …Continue reading

Seattle Startup Internship Opportunities

When I was in college I did an internship with a big company (IBM; working on submarine sonar systems) and learned amazing things (including that I didn’t want to work for IBM <g>). I also did a short internship for a professor writing Fast Fourier Transforms in FORTRAN. In addition to running my own little software company that I had started in high school, these internships were hugely valuable to me later in my career. …Continue reading