Microsoft’s Jim Allchin: ‘I would buy a Mac if I didn’t work for Microsoft’

Sorry, but I found two Apple/Microsoft snippets worth posting today.

This ComputerWorld article is amazing.

Jim Allchin is the long-time development chief for Windows at Microsoft. ComputerWorld is reporting that a 2004 e-mail from Allchin chastizes Microsoft for having lost focus on the user, and says that he would buy a Mac if he didn’t work for Microsoft.

“In my view, we lost our way,” Allchin, the co-president of Microsoft’s platform and services division, wrote in an e-mail dated Jan. 7, 2004. The e-mail was presented as evidence late last week in the Iowa antitrust trial, Comes v. Microsoft Corp.

“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.”

I haven’t read the email in detail, but as much of an Apple fan as I am, I think his tone represents more of your typical “wake-up call” email that gets sent from time-to-time as a senior executive in software.

Even great software teams and companies can easily get caught up in their own internal analysis, politics, and design cul-de-sacs.  Great UI designers can get caught up in their “frameworks”.  Great product managers can get caught up in their “strategies”.  Sometimes, the needs of the end user can get lost in the passion of pursuing the perfect model for your software application.

As a result, it’s hard as a leader as a software company to not be forced to remind your team periodically that it is the customer that matters.  Listen to them, focus on them, respect them, and delight them.  Not your competitors, not your frameworks, and not your strategies.  Sometimes, to be emphatic, you try to evoke a passionate response by invoking taboos.  I have to imagine that the head of Windows saying that he would buy a Mac is as taboo as it gets.

I don’t fault Allchin here, although these days you pretty much have to assume that any executive email at a large company can get circulated publicly.