Microsoft has a new star hire to head up its Longhorn project, Mike Sievert. And he brings a deeper and richer personal experience to the job than many of his marketing counterparts in the technology industry.
Sievert took up the post of Corporate VP for Windows Product Management, to give him his full title, at the start of the month. He joins from AT&T Wireless, which has just been acquired by Cingular, and before that he was at E-Trade. Nothing unusual there, you might think. But once upon a time, Sievert held one of the most important marketing posts in the nation: he was brand manager for the United States' favorite indigestion remedy, Pepto-Bismol®.
As the nation slept off its All-You-Can-Eat steak and lobster buffets, and 14 oz steaks, Sievert was the man responsible for making sure salvation was never more than a lurching trip to the bathroom away. By placing a bottle of Pepto-Bismol® at the heart of the American home, he single handedly saved many a celebration from turning into a drive-by projectile vomiting incident.
Strangely, Microsoft doesn't see fit to mention his achievements in Mike's official corporate biography. There, the copywriters refer only to "management positions in the Health Care Division of the Procter & Gamble Company." Procter & Gamble is the manufacturer of the runny pink saviour.
Perhaps they want to shield the competitive advantage that Sievert brings to Redmond a secret from the competition. We don't blame them. For Microsoft sure has an indigestion problem with its own software development processes, where infighting and indecision rule the day. Originally slated for a 2003 launch, ship dates slipped. Bill Gates' boast that Longhorn would take as much manpower as putting a man on the moon began to cut little ice with licensees when it became clear that neither manpower - nor even blogpower - was helping Microsoft get code out of the door.
Word of Longhorn delays became so frequent that even the conservative Gartner Group suggested that it might be 2008 until the death march bore fruit. In response, Microsoft scrambled to promise that it really, really would ship something in 2006. But the only way it has been able to meet this very public promise is the emetic route: hurling features such as Avalon and WinFS, and the 'managed code' overboard.
He doesn't have much experience of actually shipping software, but we think the industry's Duke of Dyspepsia is up to the stomach-churning task. If you can't be at the heart of the American Dream, the next best thing is to be close to the digestive tract - and we wish Mike the very best. ®
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