Windows fans may think Jim Allchin has gone over to the dark side — an email from 2004 just surfaced in which the Windows chief wrote “I would buy a Mac today if I was not working at Microsoft.”
The email was in part an extended rant by Allchin about all that was wrong with Microsoft. The email was made public this week as part of a lawsuit against Microsoft. In the email, Allchin says, “I think our teams lost sight of what bug-free means, what resilience means, what full scenarios mean, what security means, what performance means, how important current applications are, and really understanding what the most important problems our customers face are. I see lots of random features and some great vision, but that does not translate into great products.”
When he wrote that email, Allchin certainly didn’t expect it to see the light of day, and certainly not at a time when the next version of Windows was about to launch, especially when Vista is the most Mac-like interface Microsoft has yet created.
As you might imagine, Allchin has backed away from the memo. He writes on the Vista Team Blog that in his email, “I was being purposefully dramatic in order to drive home a point. The point being that we needed to change and change quickly.”
He says that the email served the intended effect, that Microsoft changed, and that the result is Vista, “a phenomenal product, better than any other OS we’ve ever built.”
I believe that Allchin was being purposely dramatic in his memo. But, in fact, the most damning thing in the memo wasn’t saying he wanted a Mac. It was, instead, his criticism of how Microsoft had in essence lost its way.
Like Allchin, I’m a big fan of Vista. But I’m not quite as sure that Microsoft has solved its problems. The company has gotten so large, with so many layers of middle management, and is headed in so many different directions, that it’s not clear yet whether it can regain the vision it once had. Vista is a step forward, as is Office 2007. But key will be whether the company can get a new version of Windows out the door in a shorter time than five years, and still make it a great operating system.
If it doesn’t, Allchin might not be the only one saying he wants a Mac.