Microsoft says Best of Times are ahead which means the past and present are the worst

Microsoft corporate PR has a response to the media coverage of Steve Ballmer's retirement.  Part of what Microsoft says is there are different ways to see the facts of the situation, referencing Tales of Two Cities and Rashomon.  The ending line is where the point is trying to be made.

So when people see the “worst of times” while we see the best still ahead of us, we know it’s simply because we’re not looking through the same frame or the same time horizon.

So, if the best of times are ahead it means that at the present and/or the past is the "worst of times."  And part of what the media has had is an uncontrolled response is pointing out the worst of times at Microsoft during Steve Ballmer's CEO time.

One of the worst times at Microsoft which was before my time at the company. When Microsoft was totally behind OS/2.  Here is the history of David Weise, the god father of Windows 3.0 and savior of Microsoft going down the path of partnering with IBM.

 You see, at this time, Microsoft's systems division was 100% focused on OS/2 1.1.  All of the efforts of the systems division were totally invested in OS/2 development.  We had invested literally tens of millions of dollars on OS/2, because we knew that it was the future for Microsoft. 

Yes Microsoft was committed with hundreds of people developing OS/2.  Windows was not a priority.  Windows was less important than the future bet on OS/2. What saved Microsoft from these dark and worst times of the company was David Weise.  It was sad to see DavidW leave in 2005, but I, DaveO left one year later in 2006.  (One of the geeky left overs from the early days of Microsoft is we called each other by our e-mail aliases.)

DavidW with a small team built Windows 3.0 and beat a team much bigger who was using IBM's software development process.

And here was this little skunkworks project in building three that was sitting on what was clearly the most explosive product Microsoft had ever produced.  It was blindingly obvious, even at that early date - Windows 3.0 ran multiple DOS applications in virtual x86 machines.  It ran Windows applications in protected mode, breaking the 640K memory barrier.  It had a device driver model that allowed for development of true 32bit device drivers.  It supported modern displays with color depths greater than had been available on PC operating systems. 

There was just no comparison between the two platforms - if they had to compete head-to-head, Windows 3.0 would win hands down.


The rest was history.  At its release, Windows 3.0 was the most successful software project in history, selling more than 10 million copies a month, and it's directly responsible for Microsoft being where it is today.

And, as I mentioned above, David is responsible for most of that success - if Windows 3.0 hadn't run Windows apps in protected mode, then it wouldn't have been the unmitigated success it was.

David's spent the last several years working in linguistics - speech generation, etc.  He was made a distinguished engineer back in 2002, in recognition of his contribution to the industry. The title of Distinguished Engineer is the title to which all Microsoft developers aspire, it is literally the pinnacle of a developers career at Microsoft when they're named DE - other DE's include Dave Cutler, Butler Lampson, Jim Gray, Anders Hejlsberg.  This is unbelievably rarified company - these are the people who have literally changed the world.

From the worst of Microsoft's times came a heroic brilliant effort to invest in Windows 3.0.  The story of what DavidW did is knows amongst the old time Microsoft and probably remembered as some of the darkest times when the company was young and a servant of IBM to develop a future OS.  If you tried to do what DavidW did it would get you fired at most companies.

It is interesting to see how some of the most innovative products come from those who don't follow the direction of executive leadership.  One way to view how innovative companies are is whether the smart people can survive within the official corporate heirarchy.  If you look at many of the companies like Apple, Google, Facebook, Amazon there is a separate innovative ecosystem that works across boundaries.  Most executives will squash this innovative ecosystem.  If Steve Ballmer and Bill Gates had they would have killed Windows 3.0 to support the development of OS/2.