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KIN Lessons #

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There’s been a lot of recent reporting on the complete failure of the KIN (and Microsoft in general). Of these, I think that this comment from a Danger employee posted on Mini-Microsoft both sums things up, and serves as an object lesson for anyone in tech, and is worth reposting in full:

To the person who talked about the unprofessional behavior of the Palo Alto Kin (former Danger team), I need to respond because I was one of them.

You are correct, the remaining Danger team was not professional nor did we show off the amazing stuff we had that made Danger such a great place. But the reason for that was our collective disbelief that we were working in such a screwed up place. Yes, we took long lunches and we sat in conference rooms and went on coffee breaks and the conversations always went something like this…”Can you believe that want us to do this?” Or “Did you hear that IM was cut, YouTube was cut? The App store was cut?” “Can you believe how mismanaged this place is?” “Why is this place to dysfunctional??”

Please understand that we went from being a high functioning, extremely passionate and driven organization to a dysfunctional organization where decisions were made by politics rather than logic.

Consider this, in less than 10 years with 1/10 of the budget Microsoft had for PMX, we created a fully multitasking operating system, a powerful service to support it, 12 different device models, and obsessed and supportive fans of our product. While I will grant that we did not shake up the entire wireless world (ala iPhone) we made a really good product and were rewarded by the incredible support of our userbase and our own feelings of accomplishment. If we had had more time and resources, we would of come out with newer versions, supporting touch screens and revamping our UI. But we ran out of time and were acquired and look at the results. A phone that was a complete and total failure. We all knew (Microsoft employees included) that is was a lackluster device, lacked the features the market wanted and was buggy with performance problems on top of it all.

When we were first acquired, we were not taking long lunches and coffee breaks. We were committed to help this Pink project out and show our stuff. But when our best ideas were knocked down over and over and it began to dawn on us that we were not going to have any real affect on the product, we gave up. We began counting down to the 2 year point so we could get our retention bonuses and get out.

I am sorry you had to witness that amazing group behave so poorly. Trust me, they were (and still are) the best group of people ever assembled to fight the cellular battle. But when the leaders are all incompetent, we just wanted out.

(On another note, every time I read the minimsft comments, I just can’t get over how fucked MSFT’s corporate culture is. There’s just so much wrong on every level, it’d pretty much be impossible to succeed.)

And an interesting follow-up comment from another insider on project particulars:

Microsoft is a large enough company that experience in one part of it may not be applicable to other parts. (Duh). In PMX, there was no backstabbing or people out to get people. There was only poor management, a poorly designed and implemented product, and an insane delivery schedule.

Some random thoughts:

PMX was said to be a risky project. You don’t fire people who fail at risky projects, because if you do, eventually nobody will be willing to take a risk. Nobody will get fired and whatever accountability there is will happen behind closed doors.

PMX was very poorly run. One HR manager involved with the Danger onboarding actually described the failure as a ‘cluster f***’. Danger was lied to about the reason for the purchase and that set the tone of the relationship between ex-Danger people and PMX. It would only get worse as the project continued. The onboarding was typical of the quality of management. The MS-Poll results, some of the worst on record, were accurate, even though they were written off as “influenced by disgruntled Danger people.”

The Verizon deal was made by business development folk before engineering had been consulted. There was no way a phone capable of selling in the marketplace could have been developed using Microsoft software management process in the time frame.

In addition, between inception and delivery, the market place changed dramatically but Microsoft was unable to move agilely enough to compensate.

The phone should never have gone to market. It is too poorly designed, too buggy, too incomplete, and too overpriced. When Microsoft became aware of the data plan pricing that Verizon proposed, the project should have been cancelled, saving a couple hundred million in development and advertising.

It did sell more than 500, but I doubt anyone is going to argue against the Wall Street Journal assessment that it sold fewer than 10,000.

The number ’2 billion’ is floating around as an estimate of the cost of PMX over its life. That number is too high, but ’1 billion’ is too low.

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  • uvince

    Bummer for the Danger guys. They used to go to the same Peet's I did and it was always fun to see what they were up to with the next rev of the device or the OS while waiting in line for morning Coffee.

    So sad: “But when the leaders are all incompetent, we just wanted out. “

    I always saw MSFT building some of the crap they built as a choice, like “we don't have to make it any better than this because it will still sell 10 Million copies” etc. Sounds like an awful corporate culture, though I have heard some good things about specific groups like Bing. Regardless acquisitions are almost always tough (as we know).