As I've mentioned over the last couple of days I'm at Tech-Ready - it's the event Microsoft runs twice a year in Seattle for it's technical field staff. On Monday we had the keynotes with Steve Ballmer and Kevin Turner. We have tradition of one-off videos which star executives is parodies of recent films; some have been dire, but this years went over well, and included Lisa Brummel making the first appearance by an HR person that anyone can remember.

Ballmer when he's on good form is inspirational. He was on Monday: you could sense the excitement in the man. He mentioned Bill Gates' change of role, and said something to the effect of everybody leaves a company sooner or later "Well, maybe not me. They might have to take me out on a stretcher.", So maybe he's not planning to retire at 55 as I suggested.

Kevin Turner - came to us a year ago from Wal-Mart and that made me a bit doubtful of him. He's spent a lot of his time getting to understand Microsoft, and I went away from his talk thinking better of him. You can feel the excitement among the people here - and Turner put his finger on why: we've got the results of $20 billion worth of Research and Development about to hit the Market. We have New Windows, New Exchange, New Office, new Live Communications server - going into new territory, and Ballmer made brief mention of the Zune. With that line-up anyone who doesn't feel a bit excited probably shouldn't work in this business.

Ballmer said - in so many words - that for him job #1 is to nurture innovation: I think seeing products come to market does make him feel he can go on for ever. He talks about setting bold goals, and making big bets. Innovators have to have the optimism to make those bets, and, he said, they must also not be afraid to be second to market and to come from behind (e.g. Xbox, Zune). It's not a short term game: Word, Excel, Windows itself were not overnight successes. BUT our goals were too optimistic when we set out on the road that led to Vista. It didn't serve us or our customers well to have such big gaps between releases.

This morning it was Jim Alchin's turn. No slides, no videos, nothing flash, just the man in charge of Vista sharing his thoughts.

1. He's said that Vista won't release until the quality is good enough, but he still has a good level of confidence in the dates we've quoted.

2. Jim gave some details on bug counts which were confidential, so I didn't write them down :-) But the gist was this: His confidence in the ship date is because existing bugs are getting fixed faster than new bugs are being logged.Incidentally, anything which someone thinks is wrong is logged as a bug, some don't need to be fixed. I filed a bug for the lack of drag and drop in IE: that will still be there when the product ships. Now sometimes this leaks out as "this OS has X number of bugs still in it". These aren't things that will bring your system down.

3. Top of Jim's list of worries is driver coverage. We're talking to manufacturers and it's their concern too, together with various applets they have breaking under the new OS. Some computer makers don't like the rating tool in Vista because it sets particular store by having a balanced system: a machine with a headline grabbing CPU speed and lousy graphics will get a poor score.

Nothing very surprising, which is actually good news.

Jim called out some of his favourite features and I'll be writing more about those over the coming days...

   

Tagged as Microsoft Vista