DaveNet: Tuesday, August 12, 1997; by Dave Winer.

blue ribbon Ben Waldman on Customers

Ben Waldman, benw@microsoft.com, is the General Manager of the Macintosh Business Unit at Microsoft Corp, in response to High Roads & Big Pictures.

Ben Waldman on Customers

Hi Dave -- you (and many others) have asked why Microsoft made this agreement with Apple. If I had to answer that question in one word, that word would be "customers." More specifically, the significance of this agreement to us is that it is an affirmation and strengthening of our commitment to the Macintosh platform and the over 8 million customers who use our software on the Macintosh today.

I've been at Microsoft for 8 years, and the thing that was drummed into me since day one (and which I now drum into others) is that everything we do is done for our customers. When we design products, we visit customers and watch them use the product, trying to understand how they work and what they need to accomplish and then design new features (or modify old ones) to meet their needs (both existing ones and anticipated ones).

As we debate the specific details of a feature, the people debating it ask each other "how will this help the customer?" When we write code and make tradeoffs between different algorithms (or size/speed tradeoffs) we ask "what's the typical customer usage pattern going to be?" When we choose which bugs to fix at the very end of the development cycle, the questions are always "What's the customer scenario? How likely is it that a real customer will run into this problem?" If we've solved customer problems, and have helped customers be more productive or have more fun, then we've succeeded; otherwise, we've failed.

In the past year (or longer), many of our customers approached us expressing concern about the viability of the Mac platform. "Should we move to Windows?" they asked us. "Should we switch from Mac Office and Mac IE to Windows Office and Windows IE?" We told them that we would be there with Office and with IE for them whatever their platform choice was. Yet many of our customers remained concerned about the future of the Macintosh.

With this agreement, I think we've made our commitment to the Mac platform and to our Macintosh customers very clear.

* We'll continue to develop Microsoft Office for Macintosh for the next several years. The next version of Office (Office 98) will be the most significant release of Office we've ever done for the Macintosh. Since we formed my group, we've conducted extensive customer research, both with large corporate customers, and with small business, home, and education end-users (we did the end-user survey on the web, a first for Office) to make sure we were creating a great Macintosh product for our Macintosh customers.

This research led us to focus on performance, ease of use, communication/collaboration, and "Macness." To focus on performance, we created a special performance team, whose goal was to spend 100% of their time on performance -- no new features, no other bugs. With ease of use, we saw that people appreciated their Macs because they were easy to use, and so a key goal of Office had to be to ease of use -- if we could help people be more productive with their Macs, then we've made the "easy to use" computer even easier.

With collaboration, we saw (as you know) that many Mac users found it important to work with others, over an intranet as well as the Internet. So Office 98 for Macintosh will make it easy for several people to work on the same document at the same time, and will have far tighter integration with the Internet than we've ever had before. We'll support Apple technologies where they bring benefits to our end users, and we'll also do things differently in Mac Office than we do in Windows Office when that makes the product better. Of course, we'll also have some nice features in the Mac version that we don't have in the Windows version.

* We'll also be continuing the development of Microsoft Internet Explorer, and, as you know, Apple will be making IE the primary and default browser on every Macintosh computer. Again, I think the winners here are our customers. IE has been widely acknowledged to be the best Mac browser -- we're the smallest and fastest, and also the leaders in bringing Internet technologies to the Mac (the first Java just-in-time compiler for the Mac came from Microsoft, in Mac IE 3.0). We're very proud of what we've accomplished here, and we'll be continuing these traditions.

* We also, as you know, invested $150 million in Apple Computer. With this investment, I think we indicated how serious we were about our commitment to the Mac platform and our customers.

At Microsoft, we have literally hundreds of people focused on creating great Macintosh software for our Macintosh customers. I'm fairly certain that we have the largest Macintosh software teams outside of Apple Computer. We're working very hard, and are really looking forward to sharing our work with our customers.

I'm also really excited about working more closely with Apple; the way I look at it, every one of our Macintosh customers is also an Apple customer, so that to the extent we work together, our customers benefit. Just before Steve Jobs' keynote I spoke with him and Guy Kawasaki backstage, and they both told me how excited they were about the work we were doing on Mac applications at Microsoft, and how they were really looking forward to our upcoming products. Later, Fred Anderson told me the same thing. So I'm certainly looking forward to creating great products and working with Apple, and I think that our customers are thrilled at the prospect as well.

Ben Waldman

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