Steve says “I shoulda been there”; gives me a “reality check”

Steve Gillmor says that if we wanted a really interesting conversation that he should have been at the Bill Gates lunch. Hey, that’s really selling the skills of Albert Lai, Mike Arrington, and Lynda Weinman short. If Bill Gates was so bored by the conversation, why did he not eat his lunch? Seriously. He was so engaged with the conversation that he couldn’t even get started on the steak that was put in front of him.

But, I’m not gonna get into a fight with Steve or any of my friends. There will be more of these events, though, so don’t be suprised if Steve gets invited to something.

One thing: I gave free tickets to any Mashup Camp attendee. In fact, Steve, if you had asked for a ticket I would have gotten you in. We did NOT pay for travel and food and entertainment, though (one of the news reports said that, which I thought was funny, if I had a budget like what most people think I do I could really have a killer event).

Another thing: the BillG lunch thing was planned just a few days earlier. In fact Albert was invited the day before and I had to choose from attendees of the conference (since Steve wasn’t an attendee, I couldn’t get him in — not to mention that I had to pass up everyone else too, when you are only given a few spots you have to make some tough choices and deal with those). And, yes, I do need to talk other people into approving these choices. Mr. Safe is definitely in control, but then there are lots of factors that go into these kinds of choices.

“When Mike reports Bill was bored, or that Bill doesn’t get the preoccupation with thin Office plays like Gmail, it’s not me who loses the opportunity to resonate with the audience, it’s Bill. The users are in charge, not Microsoft.”

Steve, I get this. But by saying it the way you did you denigrated the guy who is on your own show. Why did you pick Mike to be on your own show? I figured he’d be a great one to bring your message to Bill and he was.

But, I get the reality check. Is it just me or does that mean I have to pick up the check for the next dinner? 😉

Update: oh, and if you think this lunch was payback for “falling in line” consider that Mike Arrington was a lawyer on the Netscape account at Wilson Sonsini (famous law firm in Silicon Valley famous for kicking off the anti-trust action against Microsoft). Bill and Mike shared a laugh about that. Oh, and Lynda is the founder of the Flash Forward conferences (and an even bigger training company that mostly trains people on non-Microsoft technologies).

Update 2: Google’s Gmail never came up during the conversation that I remembered, but Hotmail did. Gates said it was one of his favorite acquisitions from the 1990s. The discussion was centered around all the hype that Writely was gonna make Microsoft Word obsolete. That’s ridiculous on the face of it (Writely doesn’t have close to as many features — making such a claim would be like saying Microsoft Notepad was going to make Word obsolete). But, either way, Gates’ love of Hotmail (which has 200 million unique users in the past 30 days) demonstrates that he understands thin clients very well and sure isn’t bored by them.

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53 thoughts on “Steve says “I shoulda been there”; gives me a “reality check”

  1. Hey, just for the record, I was extremely grateful for the chance to be at the lunch, my comment on being bored was taken out of context and I generally think I’m being used to further people’s personal agenda. All I have to say is, Thank You Robert.

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  2. Hey, just for the record, I was extremely grateful for the chance to be at the lunch, my comment on being bored was taken out of context and I generally think I’m being used to further people’s personal agenda. All I have to say is, Thank You Robert.

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  3. If Bill Gates was so bored by the conversation, why did he not eat his lunch?

    High-level people *never* eat with low-level co-workers in an informal setting. It’s like some kind of corporate culture rule that extends to academia and the government sector as well.

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  4. If Bill Gates was so bored by the conversation, why did he not eat his lunch?

    High-level people *never* eat with low-level co-workers in an informal setting. It’s like some kind of corporate culture rule that extends to academia and the government sector as well.

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  5. Anon: that’s absolutely not true in any circle I’ve ever been in. It sure isn’t true at Microsoft where top-level execs regularly eat with the employees.

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  6. Anon: that’s absolutely not true in any circle I’ve ever been in. It sure isn’t true at Microsoft where top-level execs regularly eat with the employees.

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  7. Robert, I don’t go to the extreme of equating Writely with Word… but let’s not forget a fact: most of us, users don’t need the myriad of Word features. In fact most of us would be quite happy with a Word Lite (a.k.a. Writely), and are only forced to use “big” Word for compatibility reasons with the companies who upgrade early.
    Oh, and as for Notepad, well, that’s probably as far from Writely as Writely is from Word.

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  8. Robert, I don’t go to the extreme of equating Writely with Word… but let’s not forget a fact: most of us, users don’t need the myriad of Word features. In fact most of us would be quite happy with a Word Lite (a.k.a. Writely), and are only forced to use “big” Word for compatibility reasons with the companies who upgrade early.
    Oh, and as for Notepad, well, that’s probably as far from Writely as Writely is from Word.

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  9. Anon

    It has always been my experience that lunch was the place to connect across disciplines and titles.

    I can’t imagine an effective manager that would affect that sort of exclusivity. They couldn’t possibly be taken seriously. It’s too laughably pompous.

    In New Orleans, especially, I find that you look down on another person at your own peril. Everyone is connected. A slight towards one person will be felt by many, no matter where you may think they sit in a heirarchy.

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  10. Anon

    It has always been my experience that lunch was the place to connect across disciplines and titles.

    I can’t imagine an effective manager that would affect that sort of exclusivity. They couldn’t possibly be taken seriously. It’s too laughably pompous.

    In New Orleans, especially, I find that you look down on another person at your own peril. Everyone is connected. A slight towards one person will be felt by many, no matter where you may think they sit in a heirarchy.

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  11. Zoli: there is a reason why Office has never been replaced. Name the 10% of features you are willing to do without. Everyone has a different 10%.

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  12. Zoli: there is a reason why Office has never been replaced. Name the 10% of features you are willing to do without. Everyone has a different 10%.

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  13. Robert, I can’t name them, cause I have the feeling the over the years and releases my knowledge of Office deteriated to the point that I only know 10% 🙂 I do sometimes find myself struggling with autoformatting and all sorts of funny action Word wants to do on its own… and as for Excel, I think I am still using a sunset that’s perhaps the equivalent of Lutus 1-2-3. :-))

    But joke apart, I’ve always wondered why Works didn’t take off more: it had integration way back in the late 80’s, when the Office components did not really talk to each other, and was fairly easy to use.

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  14. Robert, I can’t name them, cause I have the feeling the over the years and releases my knowledge of Office deteriated to the point that I only know 10% 🙂 I do sometimes find myself struggling with autoformatting and all sorts of funny action Word wants to do on its own… and as for Excel, I think I am still using a sunset that’s perhaps the equivalent of Lutus 1-2-3. :-))

    But joke apart, I’ve always wondered why Works didn’t take off more: it had integration way back in the late 80’s, when the Office components did not really talk to each other, and was fairly easy to use.

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  15. I’d imagine the explanation is simpler than that – given the fact that WordPress.com likely has users in every time zone in the world, it makes sense to pick the “universal” time zone and let everyone work from there.

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  16. I’d imagine the explanation is simpler than that – given the fact that WordPress.com likely has users in every time zone in the world, it makes sense to pick the “universal” time zone and let everyone work from there.

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  17. Robert wrote: “We did NOT pay for travel and food and entertainment, though (one of the news reports said that, which I thought was funny, if I had a budget like what most people think I do I could really have a killer event).”

    Robert, could you qualify this so that it becomes a useful sentence? Microsoft obviously paid for staff attendence, and obviously paid for party food and entertainment, so we know the statement is on its face untrue (or, as I believe, just unconsidered).

    There were segments of staffers, speakers, partners, and none-of-the-above attendees. Non-speaking Flash influentials told me directly they were flown across the ocean all-expenses paid. Following up on the prior discussion, what’s the real scoop here?

    (btw, I feel that all these “i didnt get invited to lunch!” blogstorms are laughingly trivial… I hope I never get into the situation Bill’s in where people expect such things of me. I’ve got empathy for you in dealing with that one.)

    j “adobe paid my way” d

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  18. Robert wrote: “We did NOT pay for travel and food and entertainment, though (one of the news reports said that, which I thought was funny, if I had a budget like what most people think I do I could really have a killer event).”

    Robert, could you qualify this so that it becomes a useful sentence? Microsoft obviously paid for staff attendence, and obviously paid for party food and entertainment, so we know the statement is on its face untrue (or, as I believe, just unconsidered).

    There were segments of staffers, speakers, partners, and none-of-the-above attendees. Non-speaking Flash influentials told me directly they were flown across the ocean all-expenses paid. Following up on the prior discussion, what’s the real scoop here?

    (btw, I feel that all these “i didnt get invited to lunch!” blogstorms are laughingly trivial… I hope I never get into the situation Bill’s in where people expect such things of me. I’ve got empathy for you in dealing with that one.)

    j “adobe paid my way” d

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  19. “The discussion was centered around all the hype that Writely was gonna make Microsoft Word obsolete. That’s ridiculous on the face of it (Writely doesn’t have close to as many features — making such a claim would be like saying Microsoft Notepad was going to make Word obsolete).”

    Wow.

    Robert, you seriously do not understand how existing solutions get disrupted by upstart replacements that are inferior by established measures.

    Whether Writely is the product that will do it or not, it is a virtual certainty that whatever new product or service eventually obsoletes Word will *not* in fact match Word feature for feature.

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  20. John: I was told that the Mix team (which I was a part of) didn’t pay for flights for non-speaking attendees. I certainly didn’t get the ability to pay for anyone to fly. Maybe someone else paid for someone to come, I’ll check into that, but it was the exception rather than the rule. I got dozens of people in for free (most attendees paid their own way, by the way) but none of them got T&E. Yeah, lunches were included with a ticket, but they didn’t get anything above what other attendees got.

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  21. “The discussion was centered around all the hype that Writely was gonna make Microsoft Word obsolete. That’s ridiculous on the face of it (Writely doesn’t have close to as many features — making such a claim would be like saying Microsoft Notepad was going to make Word obsolete).”

    Wow.

    Robert, you seriously do not understand how existing solutions get disrupted by upstart replacements that are inferior by established measures.

    Whether Writely is the product that will do it or not, it is a virtual certainty that whatever new product or service eventually obsoletes Word will *not* in fact match Word feature for feature.

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  22. John: I was told that the Mix team (which I was a part of) didn’t pay for flights for non-speaking attendees. I certainly didn’t get the ability to pay for anyone to fly. Maybe someone else paid for someone to come, I’ll check into that, but it was the exception rather than the rule. I got dozens of people in for free (most attendees paid their own way, by the way) but none of them got T&E. Yeah, lunches were included with a ticket, but they didn’t get anything above what other attendees got.

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  23. Michael: I understand disruptive technologies very well. Writely isn’t it. Now, will the Writely team participate in something disruptive? We’ll see. That’s not what we were talking about, though.

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  24. Michael: I understand disruptive technologies very well. Writely isn’t it. Now, will the Writely team participate in something disruptive? We’ll see. That’s not what we were talking about, though.

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  25. John, cool, if you can find out which group funded this, it’d help me find out more too. It’s quite possible another group brought people they were trying to woo. But, like I said, it was the exception, not the rule, even if that did happen.

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  26. John, cool, if you can find out which group funded this, it’d help me find out more too. It’s quite possible another group brought people they were trying to woo. But, like I said, it was the exception, not the rule, even if that did happen.

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  27. Pingback: Lack of Love
  28. I’ve gotten along fine without Word too. I used OpenOffice for two years in an environment that “mandated” use of MS Office. I just didn’t tell anyone that I was opening, and in some cases, modifying and sending back their Word documents with another product (it’s detectable, but nobody bothered to check). I also rescued a couple of documents that people had somehow mangled beyond recognition in Word by simply opening and re-saving them in OO.

    Word, and the rest of Office, will probably become obsolete in the same gradual way that fax machines are. Staples still sells quite a range of fax machines, and people in business almost without exception feel the need to have one, but most people would rather actually communicate by other means. We are still in a generation of people who think that a document “signed” and faxed back represents a secure authenticated proof of another party’s intent. We have to wait for a good majority of these people to die off before better forms of authentication take hold, and replace the good old fax machine.

    Word will, and to a large extent already HAS gone that route, with fewer and fewer people composing their e-mail messages with the Word editor turned on, communicating internally with CMS (Content Management Systems) that are mostly web-based, blogging out replacements for newspaper articles, and so on. At some point people will look back in an effort to pinpoint when Office died and will have difficulty picking an exact date. But the handwriting is on the wall Oh King, Live Forever.

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  29. I’ve gotten along fine without Word too. I used OpenOffice for two years in an environment that “mandated” use of MS Office. I just didn’t tell anyone that I was opening, and in some cases, modifying and sending back their Word documents with another product (it’s detectable, but nobody bothered to check). I also rescued a couple of documents that people had somehow mangled beyond recognition in Word by simply opening and re-saving them in OO.

    Word, and the rest of Office, will probably become obsolete in the same gradual way that fax machines are. Staples still sells quite a range of fax machines, and people in business almost without exception feel the need to have one, but most people would rather actually communicate by other means. We are still in a generation of people who think that a document “signed” and faxed back represents a secure authenticated proof of another party’s intent. We have to wait for a good majority of these people to die off before better forms of authentication take hold, and replace the good old fax machine.

    Word will, and to a large extent already HAS gone that route, with fewer and fewer people composing their e-mail messages with the Word editor turned on, communicating internally with CMS (Content Management Systems) that are mostly web-based, blogging out replacements for newspaper articles, and so on. At some point people will look back in an effort to pinpoint when Office died and will have difficulty picking an exact date. But the handwriting is on the wall Oh King, Live Forever.

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  30. Why would BillG want to meet Steve Gillmor? I couldn’t see any possible reason that BillG would gain from that conversation. Steve wouldn’t have anything interesting or new to say to him.

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  31. Why would BillG want to meet Steve Gillmor? I couldn’t see any possible reason that BillG would gain from that conversation. Steve wouldn’t have anything interesting or new to say to him.

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  32. Mac Beach: Saying you’re switching out Word for OpenOffice, which is effectively just a Word clone in the first place, isn’t the same as saying you’re switching out for Writely.

    Now, ajaxWrite I could see you doing that with. But not Writely. Not anytime in the next 2 years. There are just too many “features” that anyone above a grandma uses. You won’t realize you’re missing them until you try and use them.

    Btw, OpenOffice is fantastic. I use it on my lappy while travelling (portable OO even). It’s come a long way in the last 5 years. But it’s taken it that long to go from a “word processor” to anywhere near a “Word competitor”. And, really, it’s not even a Word competitor yet in terms of ease of use or many of the features… But it’s damned close.

    Imagine how long it’ll take a pure web-app to get to that point. Even if it takes 2-3 years, which’d be amazing, who says that’s what users’ll want in that period? Plus, it’ll be nearly time for a new version of Office by then. One that’ll, apparently, allow for far more portability anyways.

    O12 is really an enterprise release. O13’ll be a far more mobile-aware release, because that’s where the market’s heading.

    Sorry for the tangent. Late. Must sleep 😉

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  33. Mac Beach: Saying you’re switching out Word for OpenOffice, which is effectively just a Word clone in the first place, isn’t the same as saying you’re switching out for Writely.

    Now, ajaxWrite I could see you doing that with. But not Writely. Not anytime in the next 2 years. There are just too many “features” that anyone above a grandma uses. You won’t realize you’re missing them until you try and use them.

    Btw, OpenOffice is fantastic. I use it on my lappy while travelling (portable OO even). It’s come a long way in the last 5 years. But it’s taken it that long to go from a “word processor” to anywhere near a “Word competitor”. And, really, it’s not even a Word competitor yet in terms of ease of use or many of the features… But it’s damned close.

    Imagine how long it’ll take a pure web-app to get to that point. Even if it takes 2-3 years, which’d be amazing, who says that’s what users’ll want in that period? Plus, it’ll be nearly time for a new version of Office by then. One that’ll, apparently, allow for far more portability anyways.

    O12 is really an enterprise release. O13’ll be a far more mobile-aware release, because that’s where the market’s heading.

    Sorry for the tangent. Late. Must sleep 😉

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  34. Steve needs to get over himself. What makes him so sure he’ll tell Bill things he hasn’t already heard/read and that Bill will be more convinced by him? I’d be more impressed if Steve had written about some of the big software projects he’d managed and brought to market.

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  35. Steve needs to get over himself. What makes him so sure he’ll tell Bill things he hasn’t already heard/read and that Bill will be more convinced by him? I’d be more impressed if Steve had written about some of the big software projects he’d managed and brought to market.

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  36. Bill and Mike shared a laugh about that.

    Somehow I can’t see Gates laughing about that. Not after all that getting raked over the coals (wrongly I feel) by the ‘make-a-name spotlight-hound’ lawyers. IE and DOJ cost your company more than a billion plus, (and more since you went abandonware, allowing spyware to become a cottage industry) shrug off with just a laugh? I dunno, that’s the type of thing that would make one eternally bitter. It would me.

    Steve wouldn’t have anything interesting or new to say to him.

    The world would miss out on a multi-volume book’s worth of new meaningless buzzwords. But geesh Steve, cut back your jealous envy. Gates is an automatic micromanage robot anyways, spoken in PR’ese for so long, it’s his natural dialect. Understandable under the circumstances, but a robot all the same.

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  37. Bill and Mike shared a laugh about that.

    Somehow I can’t see Gates laughing about that. Not after all that getting raked over the coals (wrongly I feel) by the ‘make-a-name spotlight-hound’ lawyers. IE and DOJ cost your company more than a billion plus, (and more since you went abandonware, allowing spyware to become a cottage industry) shrug off with just a laugh? I dunno, that’s the type of thing that would make one eternally bitter. It would me.

    Steve wouldn’t have anything interesting or new to say to him.

    The world would miss out on a multi-volume book’s worth of new meaningless buzzwords. But geesh Steve, cut back your jealous envy. Gates is an automatic micromanage robot anyways, spoken in PR’ese for so long, it’s his natural dialect. Understandable under the circumstances, but a robot all the same.

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  38. I can’t see BillG getting bitter about that, Christopher. So he lost a billion. Larry and Sergey lost a couple of billion on paper last week, it’s not that big a deal when you have enough billions to spare. Microsoft ended up smashifying Netscape into thin paste, so he had the last laugh there.

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  39. I can’t see BillG getting bitter about that, Christopher. So he lost a billion. Larry and Sergey lost a couple of billion on paper last week, it’s not that big a deal when you have enough billions to spare. Microsoft ended up smashifying Netscape into thin paste, so he had the last laugh there.

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  40. Microsoft ended up smashifying Netscape into thin paste

    Well half the blame is Netscape itself’s, the web as platform bubble talk and the horrid code and then AOL hell. Microsoft has greatly benefited from inept competitors, more than so than stealing the show themselves. Just they are the only ones left when dust settles. But DOJ changed the Microsoft culture, good in some ways, bad in other. And the final end price tag is much much more than just Netscape. Maybe he takes it more lightly, but you forget he went nervous breakdown and took himself off the CEO role. Not something to easily laugh off.

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  41. Microsoft ended up smashifying Netscape into thin paste

    Well half the blame is Netscape itself’s, the web as platform bubble talk and the horrid code and then AOL hell. Microsoft has greatly benefited from inept competitors, more than so than stealing the show themselves. Just they are the only ones left when dust settles. But DOJ changed the Microsoft culture, good in some ways, bad in other. And the final end price tag is much much more than just Netscape. Maybe he takes it more lightly, but you forget he went nervous breakdown and took himself off the CEO role. Not something to easily laugh off.

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  42. I missed this thread earlier. But I have to also say again a huge thank you to Robert. Lynda and Michael and many of the other attendees at the show I’m sure were far more “qualified” to be sitting at the table. But I thought it was nice of Robert to give this kid (me) a break. 😉

    I thought it was quite ironic that I was probably the most MS aligned person at the table — even though up until very recently, we have never shipped anything on MS tech (we’re a Ruby on Rails shop). Esp. when you consider Mike was a WSGR attorney for Netscape (vs. MSFT), and Lynda is a very influential Flash supporter.

    I don’t know if this was purposely done, if I were looking in from the outside, Robert is setting a great example of how MS’s culture is willing to “mix” it up with outsiders — young and old, “jr.” and “sr.,” pro-MS or not, etc.

    Another great example I thought of this theme I think was seen when we all saw a public, unscripted, Q&A with Tim O’Reilly.

    Sure, skeptics can say all they want about the “Master PR strategy” of MSFT to put lipstick on the pig that is Microsoft. But there’s no question in anyone’s mind that in order for MSFT to survive and thrive in this new world, they will have to open up, and I think Robert and Bill and friends seems to be doing many of the right things towards moving in that direction.

    Again, thanks for the opportunity Robert.

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  43. I missed this thread earlier. But I have to also say again a huge thank you to Robert. Lynda and Michael and many of the other attendees at the show I’m sure were far more “qualified” to be sitting at the table. But I thought it was nice of Robert to give this kid (me) a break. 😉

    I thought it was quite ironic that I was probably the most MS aligned person at the table — even though up until very recently, we have never shipped anything on MS tech (we’re a Ruby on Rails shop). Esp. when you consider Mike was a WSGR attorney for Netscape (vs. MSFT), and Lynda is a very influential Flash supporter.

    I don’t know if this was purposely done, if I were looking in from the outside, Robert is setting a great example of how MS’s culture is willing to “mix” it up with outsiders — young and old, “jr.” and “sr.,” pro-MS or not, etc.

    Another great example I thought of this theme I think was seen when we all saw a public, unscripted, Q&A with Tim O’Reilly.

    Sure, skeptics can say all they want about the “Master PR strategy” of MSFT to put lipstick on the pig that is Microsoft. But there’s no question in anyone’s mind that in order for MSFT to survive and thrive in this new world, they will have to open up, and I think Robert and Bill and friends seems to be doing many of the right things towards moving in that direction.

    Again, thanks for the opportunity Robert.

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