‘Pissy emails from billg’ – MS exec sinks teeth into Gates

The man who launched Win95 wasn't happy, apparently...


MS on Trial An astonishing email from former Microsoft top exec Brad Silverberg suggests that at least elements of the Microsoft High Command wanted the company to split off its OS and apps businesses more formally. And stranger still, the email was written in February 1999, when trial proceedings were already heating up.

Silverberg's emails were written to Ben Slivka, another one of Microsoft's most talented execs. Both have subsequently left the company, but from what Silverberg says there have been clear, major differences of opinion within Microsoft as to the direction it should take. And it looks rather like Silverberg is one of Bill Gates' victims. Get a load of this:

"i [Silverberg's trademark is that his keyboard doesn't have a caps shift] simply do not want to spend my life in meetings struggling with the internal issues, getting pissy mail from billg saying the portal should be windows online so i can check my available bug fixes 10x a day, or hearing from people who want time to do unnatural and losing things to do to protect windows."

Oops. Put that into the context of the time. Aside from the flames starting to emanate from the trial operation, at the beginning of last year Microsoft was in the run-up to the reorg that put Ballmer in charge. This came to some kind of conclusion a few months back when Ballmer assumed the presidency. Silverberg was the exec who did the Windows 95 rollout, but he went on extended leave, very extended leave, after that, and a little while before he formally left the company, we was having various carrots dangled in front of him, including the consumer group.

So we could infer from what he says that he's in violent disagreement with Bill over the use of Windows Update portals and similar to chain users to Microsoft, and that he has plenty of experience getting "pissy email" from Bill telling him that's precisely what should happen. The "unnatural and losing things" reference sounds horribly like the sort of thing that happened when IE got "integrated" into Windows.

We've noted in the past that Silverberg would have a tale to tell if he ever took the stand, because he was in charge of Win95 development during the period when Microsoft now says it was already planning to integrate. His contribution to the trial has been thin so far, but from this email it seems he didn't think integration was technologically valid.

Could it get worse? Well, yes. He goes on: " since the goal is to have a completely reinvented version of windows, it's clear the team has to be completely separate and independent from windows. because the windows team's goal is to make new thing completely unnecessary . . . . really needs to be a separate company within the company."

Steve Ballmer began the process of describing what Next Generation Windows Services (NGWS) would be shortly after taking over day to day running of the company last year. Again, in the context of the time, that indicates that Silverberg is talking about NGWS. As it's a set of services that will rely heavily on the apps division, he's surely arguing that these would be better organised separately from the OS operation. This is precisely the opposite of what Microsoft argued in its filings last week.

In the reorganisation scramble Silverberg didn't get the job, and left. This is what didn't happen: "steve needs to do something so that the company ends up with an org that essentially is a separate company within the company. it has to be free to do what it thinks best. it has to be so that its energy can be 95% focused externally. rather than 80% internally, as is the case today. the company is so wrapped up in its shorts that it can't get anything done. it has an incredible amount of iq yet is getting only pennies on the dollar -- so much iq is wasted. the best example i can think of of what can happen when people are motivated and externally focused is ie3... so much done is [in?] so little time by so few people." ®


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