September 25, 2018

Stephen Elop: A Massive Presence in Technology

Stephen-Elop

 

This article is dedicated to my beloved engineer and extraordinary leader in technology: Stephen Elop.

 

Stephen Elop is leaving Microsoft. It’s not that I am surprised. I have predicted his leave at the time Microsoft had decided he is not the CEO. He had stayed longer than I thought he would.

This is a dark day in Micosoft history none the less.

I don’t know Stephen personally, unfortunately, but as a fan of technology, I think I know him quite well.

Because of my educational background, I have know of Stephen since his Macromedia days.

I started to watch Microsoft since early 2000s. Well, back to the DOS days, as a programmer I did MSC for many years before jumping on Visual Studio. Big events around Microsoft, I generally have a certain level of understanding. I have never been a fan of Bill Gates, gosh, does he ever need a fan at all. Who is a fan of Albert Einstein? He is in a different dimension. I really start closely following Microsoft technology since about 2006. Stephen joined Microsoft Business Division in 2008.

I wasn’t paying much attention to Business Division, especially MS Office, for one, it was not consumer oriented, for another, it was too successful.

 

Stephen Loves Nokia

Stephen started catching the media attention since his move to Nokia. That was obviously a friendly move between Microsoft and Nokia. There were countless media coverage, but you didn’t have to look too closely to know that move had the understanding of both Microsoft and Nokia’s directors.

If anyone at this time brings up the Trojan horse notion, please shut up, be shameful of yourself, because that shows childishness and stupidity.

Nokia needed someone of Elop’s caliber and a close relationship with Microsoft to turn around their mobile business. And more importantly, Microsoft’s collaboration and support. Stephen knew exactly what he was up to.

The first product under Stephen was Nokia Lumia 810, and the Lumia brand. I couldn’t hold my tears of excitement when I watched the first Lumia ad featuring Lumia 810, please check my post here: A Windows 8 Ad That Stands Out. Lumia 810 was an outstanding smartphone from Nokia. It combines Metro interface from Microsoft and Nokia’s hardware innovation and build quality in hardware. More importantly, Stephen had changed Nokia’s culture. People from Nokia loved him, Windows Phone fans loved him. Event some of Symbian fans, who hated the fact Windows Phone took over Symbian, started accepting him.

Before we go any further, I would like to bring up a story from New Times bestseller book: “The Art of Think Clearly”. The story is called “Success Monkeys”, it goes roughly like this: Putting a million monkeys in the stock market, let them buy and sell as they will. Monkeys, as you know, do it randomly. But regardless, at the end of the session, approximately half of them made money, the other half lost. Then the winners go to next round. After about 20 sessions (You can do the math, if you want), one outstanding monkeys get things figured out 20 consecutive times. That’s amazing, right? However if you know about monkeys, some may smarter than others, their intelligence don’t matter in the stock market. You can always find 1 million lowest intelligence monkeys, there is always one who does it right every time.

What the story tells us is attaching people’s excellence to success is wrong in many cases.  Before the burst of tech bubble in 2000, CISCO’s CEO was the god of everything in the media’s eyes, the same person became evil of anything after that. If Lumia 810, 910 and subsequent Lumia was a success, people would have written a different story about Stephen Elop, but they didn’t. I own a Lumia 920, it’s still in many aspects better than most smartphones today, let alone those icrap and Samsung garbage.

People questioned the strategy of choosing Windows as a sole platform. Lets make it clear, Nokia had chose the path before Stephen had the job in Nokia. The entire process including getting support (financially and technically, if you remember) from Microsoft was a package deal. There is no chance that Stephen Elop alone said, hey, lets go Windows Phone alone. They had chose Windows Phone, I am glad they did, otherwise there would be more garbage on the market.

 

Stephen Loves Microsoft

There are two people in Microsoft I like for a life time, this is one, the other being Steve Ballmer. They both love Microsoft, even more than I do. Regardless, Stephen’s back to Microsoft was a tragedy. It’s was a sad story in technology. I find out something was wrong after Steve Ballmer announced his leaving, and Stephen wasn’t named CEO, instead, the directors formed a committee to search for a new CEO. At the time, Stephen was already back to Microsoft. I thought Stephen Elop was the only one in technology who was qualified for the job: from understanding of all around Microsoft technologies, businesses to cultures of both Nokia and Microsoft. He was in a unique position to take on that job. No one, even today, has remotely the same qualification for that specific CEO job as Stephen does. Naturally, I thought bring Stephen back to Microsoft was by design, so did the entire media in the world. Instead, it ended up to be given to someone who almost no one knew about.  Stephen was given a small sum (15million). Talking about the money, Finnish people were very unhappy about it, but to be clear, there wasn’t 1 cent coming from Nokia. I suspect that had a lot to do with the settlement of CEO thing.

I thought he would leave immediately, I don’t know if that’s part of the deal or anything, but there is no way in the world that someone like Stephen would be comfortably reporting to someone a lot junior than him. I haven’t heard of Julie Larson-Green for quite a bit, but if you ask Julie or Terry Myerson, or Qi Lu, I doubt any of them wants to. Given a comparable position, they would leave in a heart beat.

I don’t know how the decisions in Microsoft was made, it was sad story to tell for sure.

 

Stephen Is an Engineer

Stephen Elop started off as an engineer. As an engineer myself I love the profession more than others. His passion for engineering tracks back all the way to his college days in McMaster Unv. You can tell the way he is talking, the systematic style of organizing words, the honesty to technology. You don’t see anyone like Stephen.

Many had questioned his decision to release the famous “Burning Platform Memo”. As many media had to agree, he was just too honest. You can’t tell a 300 pound girl she is fat, you have to say she looks great. But as a CEO, his job was not to please anyone. There were too many Symbian people in Nokia, no one wanted to change. No surprise because the entire Nokia mobile was built for Symbian. Should the Lumia phones catch on in the market, everything he said would be gold, Finnish would love him the way they love their heroes, but it didn’t work like that, so there goes the Finns.

 

Stephen Is a Wonderfully Nice Person

I said I don’t know him personally, but I read a lot about him from a variety of sources, including a local publication from his home town Hamilton, Ontario. If those can be trusted, I think that’s a person I respect.

I remember he said this during an interview: “Assume best intention from the others”. I keep that in my heart. If everyone hold this as a rule for themselves, a half of world’s problem wouldn’t have existed. Many don’t even know what that means.

 

Stephen Is my Hero

I love technology, but I am not a fan of any single person in technology, not even Bill Gates, but there is one person I respect the most, who is Stephen Elop.

(Speaking of Bill Gates, what the hell are you thinking right now, Bill? You passed on a great leader, and got a junior you have to supervise to his work?  But that’s your company.)

Stephen Elop, you are my hero. I probably wouldn’t be writing this blog without your work in Nokia. This article and the website are dedicated to you.

 

 

HoloLens: Field of View (FOV) Collections

 

 

 

My Opinion on Strategic Acquisitions and More

 

microsoft-corporation

 

You may wonder why I am writing about M&A (Mergers & Acquisitions). Me too. I can’t even pretend I know anything about it. It’s safe to say, I will never be in the position to talk about it. But again, I happen to have some opinions and I want to share.

This post is sparked by recent talks about the rumors of Microsoft bid for Saleforce, Microsoft’s acquisition of Nokia Mobile, and the history of Microsoft’s bid for Yahoo.com.

I don’t want to get into details, but the conclusion always is: Steve Baller was wrong, everybody else is right. I want to say something when some popular opinions get it wrong, event intelligent people join in and say it is right.

The Nokia acquisition was strategically important. Anyone disagree? But when there is a quarterly write-down happens, almost everyone start shouting: Ballmer did that, and I told you that was wrong.

Yahoo acquisition didn’t go through. Years later, people look at Yahoo and say: I told you, Baller dodged the bullet by luck. I don’t know about that. I don’t care how many smart people there could predict the future, but at the time of the talking, Microsoft certainly should do what they did. You don’t look at the Yahoo today, comment on what happened many years ago. Because you don’t know how much momentum it would have turned in when that had happened. If that had happened, the history might have gone a different path.

The Saleforce thing is, in my opinion, very important strategically. If you really want to measure the success of strategic acquisition, you have to put it in the big picture. Dollar by dollar measurement doesn’t apply here.

Imagine what happens if Nokia acquisition didn’t go through, anyone?

The thing is, I am not the only one who doesn’t understand M&A, there are many journalists, and many executives too.

 

Developer’s Collection: Build 2015 Recorded Sessions

Windows 10 SKUs: The Most Concise List

HoloLens Hiring Acitivities Show Microsoft Is Serious About HoloLens

 

This is Microsoft Conference, iCraps May not Be Used Please

 

microsoft-build-2014-1

 

I didn’t pay too much attention in //BUILD/2015 keynote yesterday, but I know there was a striking scene in Windows event in January 21, where a bunch of journalists put their iCraps on display. You know, I was generally a technology fan. I wrote code for DOS, Unix, Linux, and IBM ASP400. Until this kind of stupidity spreads over North America, then other part of the world. I don’t maintain I am neutral in the technology, I don’t belong to a herd of sheep or a herd of anything.

But I am irritated by those scenes. You wonder what those people were doing there. You go to a Microsoft event, you bring this kind of stuff, are you protesting or just want to annoy the speakers of the event.  Those are, I assume, educated people, because they call themselves journalists. I don’t see educated people without any common sense.

That’s not the reason I am writing this post. Let me get this straight, I am writing this because I know the majority of those journalists don’t deserve the title “journalist”. Journalist means professionalism, means respect the matters they are reporting, means attaining to certain level of standard, means pride. As one journalist once said in 2008: there is no secret that every journalist has a iCrap. This is one knew exact what was going on. Lets ask ourselves a question: 90% of the tech population on earth are using Windows, what is so specially with those people. There is no surprise when you look at their reviews of any Microsoft product. They have the conclusion done before they even start looking at the product. Some people try to hide their irrationality in their review, some people display that in full glory.

When they write about the iCraps, everything is a revolution.

Sad thing is the technology audience believe in those names. Like one psychologist used to say, thinking is hard, it takes a lot of energy. That’s why many people defer this task to those so-called journalist.

I would like to have this sign in the front door of the BUILD conference, or any Microsoft events in the future,

This is Micrsoft Event, iCraps may not be used please!

Because no report is better than reports from those “journalists”. I would also send an email to those journalists: I am sorry, but please don’t review our products.

 

 

 

 

What to Expect from //BUILD/ 2015 (Updated)

 

Build

 

Microsoft’s long-awaited, developer focused //BUILD/ conference, //BUILD/2015 will be staged in San Francisco next Wednesday 29th. BUILD happens annually, but this year is very special. Not only because it is the year of new Windows release, but also because of the changes made to this version comparing to the past. I would put Windows 10 in the similar magnitude of Windows 95. They are similar in amount of changes, but Windows 10 focuses on unification, or like what they say, convergence. Traditionally, it’s supposed be a developer event, but it affects general consumers more than developers. The one app runs on everything will be told and demoed again and again, but the star of the show will be Windows Holograhic and Hololens, and I don’t have to tell you why.

In anticipating of the big event, I am trying to put my thought in the past together, look at what will be showing, shinning and dazzling. I am quite confident about a few things, not sure about others. I will tell you when I am not.

 

Build Universal App: Why and How

Since Universal Application Platform (UAP) is the centerpiece of Windows 10, I am expecting the story of the convergence of Windows eco-system, and how things come together. Important thing is what happens if all device from 80″ screen to 0″ screen run exact the same application. I would expect a number of first party universal apps and a few third party universal apps demoed on stage. To developers, we will be shown how to work the magic ourselves.

 

Availability of Windows 10

I have a strong feeling, and a credible logic, that Windows 10 RTM date will be announced on the first day, 29th. It was reported that Microsoft had planned on June RTM (see the following link), but formal announcement and exact date would be nice. Also, I think there is strong likelihood that GA(General Availability) date will be announced too. It is said GA will be end of July, but not yet official.

Windows 10 to Release at the End of July

 

Availability of Visual Studio 2015

Microsoft already confirmed Visual Studio 2015 will be released in the summer. The exact date is not known. Common sense is availability of Visual Studio 2015 is tied to that of Windows 10. So, they are likely to be announced together. The date is likely end of July. Before that, developers can use Visual Studio 2015 CTP6 and Windows 10 tech preview SDK on Windows 10 tech preview.

 

Gamming on Windows 10

Starting from Windows 10, gamming is no longer just Xbox and PCs, a game that runs on Xbox should theoretically run on any device, resource permits and developer allows. So there will be certain number of games running across board.

 

Devices

I don’t expect major announcement around devices, like flagship Lumia, Surface Pro 4. It’s not clear when those two will be released, but there is a important timeline: before back-to-school or after. Both are possible.

Edit: There are rumors regarding Surface Pro 4 to be announced at BUILD. I am not sure how to take it. On one hand, the sources are not really credible, on the other, I feel they can be right. Surface Pro 3 was released in June last year, it’s about a year now. If SP4 is stopped by Windows 10, then there is no reason to hold off after July. Also we have seen SP3 price cut recently, but again, BUILD is software centered. If they announce it now and available in August? Unlikely. So I still vote no to that. We will have to wait and see.

 

Windows Hologram and HoloLens

microsoft_hololensGamesOnNet

I anticipate that the most exciting demonstration and announcement will be around the Windows Holograhic and HoloLens.

First off, the Windows Holographic API and SDK will be announced and available immediately! Remember Windows Holographic is not just HoloLens, it’s crazy thinking but I won’t be surprised if something else other than HoloLens based on Windows Holographic is announced: first party or second party. I have something in mind, but I rather not say, because I am afraid to be wrong. Anyway, I think something is definite there, I am just not sure if it will be unveiled this time.

And best of the bests, you already know it, is Hololens, so, be excited. There will be more demos, but I think this time there will be real applications and games. I expect third party apps and games on stage. There will be demos of how HoloLens work with other devices: like PC and Xbox. I am really excited about this.

Developers will get HoloLens right on the meeting. It will not be final product, but close to final, with all the functions ready.

Finally the biggest questions everyone is asking: HoloLens Release Date, and Price. Here is my low confidence guess: there is a chance HoloLens release date will be announced on 29th, and price will be kept secret, but we will certainly get a hint of both. The media will ask them those two questions any way.

 

Edit: I have misspelled Windows Holographic as Windows Hologram, just corrected.

 

 

 

 

Super-affordable Lumia Is a Good Play for Microsoft

How-much_feat

 

Microsoft have teased through Lumia Conversations about super-affordable Lumia Windows Phone(s), via post titled: The Lumia story continues.

Intrigued? Come back tomorrow, March 19th, at 8am UK time to find out more.

I have been an advocate for low cost Windows Phone all along. With high end phones are skipped all together last holiday season. There hasn’t been a flagship phone since Lumia 930. However, lower end devices continue: Lumia 63x, Lumia 53x, Lumia 435.

Microsoft has insisted same experience from low end to flagship. My opinion is there are some flaws in this kind of thinking. The market is like everything else: There is a balance between user experience and affordability. There are more people in the world are willing to sacrifice user experience for money than the ones who are willing to sacrifice money for user experience. It is not just developing world. It’s the same thing in developed countries. I have applauded the release of Lumia 435, but lets go lower, how about this:

Lumia 340!

We will know tomorrow afternoon.

Two Important Questions About HoloLens

HoloLens: Future Is Months Away

 

Why Microsoft Should Cover the VR Ground?

game1
Since the announcement of HoloLens in Jan. 21st, augmented reality(AR) and virtual reality(VR) has been the talk in technology world. Since then many VR vendors have announced their plans. Many analysts believe the AR/VR is upon us starting this year, certainly next year.

Taking a closer look at the AR/VR play field, notice there are interesting patterns: 1. There are more players in VR. 2. VR products (or projects) are more mature, more ready for the market. They generally have real stuff to show the press, even some estimated release dates. AR are more quiet. There are fewer players, and most of them don’t have a solid time table for release. Some AR products, like the one from ODG, are already on sale, but those are very limited in functions, not full featured AR devices.

Many put HoloLens in AR category, I honestly hesitate to do that. HoloLens is certainly most advanced AR device to be released this year, but did Microsoft just missed the VR? Lets take a look.

Market wise, VR is more of niche. Because of nature of technology, the chance of the headset getting much smaller is low, I have wrote about this before. Its target users would likely be hardcore gamers, who value immersive-ness over the look and style. Unfortunately, that’s the main market for Xbox console. If Sony comes up with VR device that works with PS4. Valve/HTC come up with VR headset work with their game titles, Microsoft stands to loose hardcore gamers. I wouldn’t simply say, Microsoft don’t know or don’t understand this. I also wouldn’t say that Microsoft was caught by surprise, because Sony and other VR vendor’s VR plan are highly visible for a couple years now. The question remains: what is Microsoft’s plan for VR. Let me say it again, they can’t ignore it. They probably haven’t. So, what is it?

At the GDC 2015 early this month, Phil Spencer talked with Eurogamer.  When asked if Microsoft has locked itself out of VR, he replies,

I don’t think we’ve locked ourselves out, We’ve looked at a mixed reality space that we could do with Hololens and think about it as a unique set of features and technologies to enable, that doesn’t preclude us from doing anything in the VR space either from a first-party or partnership perspective. I’ve used Morpheus, I’ve used Oculus, I’m going to see more of the demos here.

I am trying to make sense out of his comments. This is probably the only time someone from Microsoft talks about VR and answers the exact question. Do I have an answer from that? Not really, but he did give us something to chew on. Microsoft develop a separate headset for VR is unlikely, and doesn’t make much sense. Partnership with VR headset makers is highly possible, but I wonder how that works with Windows Holographic framework. The third option is for HoloLens to cover VR functions instead of just AR. Microsoft have always called HoloLens and Windows Holographic mixed reality. I think it is possible that the strategic play lies in this. Technically, the only thing stop HoloLens from being a VR headset is its field of view. Field of view, from my understanding is mainly limited by processing power in the case of HoloLens, so that can change over time. I tend to think options 2 and 3 are both very likely. I think it’ll be clearer after the BUILD conference next month.