In “The Soul of Windows,” January 2003, http://www.winnetmag.com, InstantDoc ID 27392, I write that Microsoft has abandoned Windows administrators. I claim that the company is in danger of losing its support in the IT community because of the following problems:

  • Microsoft’s messages to the community are unclear. Concepts such as “One Degree of Separation” don’t mean anything to administrators.
  • Microsoft takes its enterprise customers for granted. The company assumes we'll all upgrade to the newest technology, regardless of related problems.
  • Microsoft lacks a clear vision for Windows administrators. (The company's direction for developers is clearer because of the Windows .NET Framework.)

Reader response to the article was overwhelming. One reader told me to get over it. (The reader said, “I agree with your premise, but the old days are gone. Can you name a company that has achieved phenomenal success and still retained its grassroots marketing efforts? I think MS should be applauded for moving forward and working on the next big thing.”) However, the majority of responses were along the lines of the following:

  • “I’m hoping Microsoft will pay attention. You hit the mark!”
  • “I was part of the Windows NT community. Today, I consider myself to be more part of the Linux community. I do not hate either Gates or Microsoft, but it seems to me that as Microsoft vanquished its competitors, now it's targeting its customers.”
  • “Hopefully, Microsoft will take notice. Meanwhile, I will continue to juggle my time between NT and Linux waiting to see who will come out on top.”
  • “I feel betrayed by Microsoft.” (This statement was from an administrator who oversees 3000 Windows 2000 desktops. The reader cited higher licensing fees and Product Activation as problems.)

Windows & .NET Magazine also solicited feedback from Windows enterprise user groups. In general, this feedback was similar to the comments I got from readers. In addition, the user groups had suggestions specifically targeting the role they could play in the Windows community. User groups want a real partnership with Microsoft's regional offices—a partnership that recognizes the groups’ role in developing the community. The groups want the regional offices to promote them, to provide top speakers and Microsoft enterprise software (for raffles), and to carry the groups' opinions to Microsoft headquarters. In exchange, the user groups will provide support within the Windows community. In essence, these groups could be Microsoft's third-party apostles within the IT community.

The article also garnered a lot of attention from Microsoft executives. In fact, the company invited me to Redmond to discuss the responses from readers and user groups. I went to Redmond, presented the feedback, and made several suggestions about how Microsoft could improve relationships with Windows administrators. The Microsoft executives acknowledged the problems that I outlined in the article and assured me that a cross-divisional group of Microsoft leaders is working on ways to improve the company's relationship with IT professionals. Many of the proposed initiatives I heard about will take time; others—such as a Microsoft-sponsored IT Community poster that will appear in Windows & .NET Magazine's April 2003 issue—are already beginning.

Time will tell whether these changes will make a real difference to the IT community. I plan to keep my healthy sense of skepticism. But after my visit to Microsoft headquarters, I'm encouraged by the company's level of interest in the Windows community, willingness to admit faults, and eagerness to work to improve relationships with Windows administrators.