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Let Them Eat Dogfood!

Fortune published a short interview with Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer that’s drawing some fire.  Titled "The Sleeping Giant Awakes" it’s a gushy little puff piece about how Microsoft is "taking the offensive".  The part that’s drawing the most comment?  The fact that Steve doesn’t let his kids have iPods.  Kedrosky writes: "…it is typical of Microsoft that it would find no embarassment in using edicts to dictate product use. It is, of course, reminiscent of certain declining North American auto makers that demand employees only drive their cars to work."

Ignoring the fact that Steve grew up in Detroit, his reaction is in the best time honoured Microsoft tradition.  It’s called eating your own dogfood.  If you don’t use your own products, if you don’t provide the engineering team with feedback on how to make them better, and if you don’t have the drive to want your products to be the best, well… you deserve to lose.  Steve knows that.  And so should all the industry folks who think he’s wrong. 

{ 3 comments… add one }

  • Larry Borsato March 29, 2006, 10:33 am

    “Eating your own dogfood”, which predates Microsoft, means using your own products for daily work, and using that experience to improve it. It does not mean ignoring any competition, because that can be very educational as well.

    Funny thing about Detroit automakers. The executives are typically driven around in chaufferred limousines. They don’t drive the cars their neighbors build.

  • Alec March 29, 2006, 11:04 am

    For sure, Larry.

    But if Microsoft really is ignoring the competition, then it’s a very different company from the one I left. I suspect that by now, the company has interviewed hundreds of iPod users, taken apart iPods, spoken to the component manufacturers, observed iPod users in social settings, collected feedback from Windows Media player users on what they like / dislike about Microsoft’s products, spoken to the WM Player OEM manufacturers, worked with industrial design houses, etc etc etc.

    And yeah, Apple builds a better product. They’re one company. Microsoft will try to mobilize an industry to take that lead away from them. I am not saying that can succeed. But it worked for PCs, and is working for Smartphones, and…

    If I was Steve Ballmer I’d be doing the same things. Employees should use the company’s products. Tell us why they suck. Invest with us in how to make them better. They’re all stockholders, you know. A runaway success for a Microsoft product affects everyone in the company.

  • Patrick Mullen March 31, 2006, 6:55 am

    Detroit executives may be driven around in limousines, but I bet they are not riding in a competitors vehicle. Most Detroit factories won't let non company cars in their parking lots.

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