As I sit in my hotel room recovering from my PDC Hangover and reflecting on the past week, the Day 2 keynote by Steven Sinofsky was the highlight for me.
You may be thinking, yea yea, lucky bastard, you got a free laptop. Sure that was awesome, but that is not what stuck out most in my head. The most important thing that Sinofsky did was to be brutally honest with the audience. This represents a new attitude from Microsoft.
Sinofsky admitted Vista’s flaws. To prove that he got it, he even showed some of the annoying dialogs and videos of customers doing useability testing with those annoying dialogs. (He did follow up with some of the changes Windows 7 made and some of customer useability tests.)
Then he moved to IE 9 development. I remember the Microsoft of the browser wars era. The one where Bill Gates would get on stage in front of 20,000 people at COMDEX and never say the words “Netscape” but rather “down level browser.” At the PDC keynote, Sinofsky said the words “Firefox” and “Google Chrome”. Not only did he say those words, he showed charts at how slow IE 8 is compared to Chrome, Safari, and Firefox. Of course he was also showing how IE9 will be just as fast, but he is openly admitting in front of 5,000 people and live on streaming video that IE 8 sucks.
He also talked about how IE 8 fails the ACID 3 Standards Test. I ran it here and IE 8 gets a pathetic 20 out of 100:
Then Sinofsky talked about IE9 and the Acid 3 test. IE 9 gets a pretty sad 32, but he showed it anyway and promised to get better.
I also like Sinofsky because he is accessible. When Win7 went RTM to MSDN last summer, I sent a message complaining about what I thought was a bug to an internal Microsoft email alias. Sinofsky replied to me personally with a solution (on a weekend), and it was soon clear to me that the problem was caused by something that I did, not Win 7. I followed up with some thanks for the solution and told him that the real problem was somewhere “between the chair and the keyboard.” He even replied back again saying no problem and we had a few more mails in the thread and a good laugh. This is a very busy VP in charge of one of the most widely used products in the world taking time out to talk and troubleshoot with a customer.
You may be thinking, sure Steve but you are an MVP and RD. Well at the PDC in the afternoon after they gave us the laptops, Sinofsky spend about an hour or two walking around looking for people in the cafe playing with their new laptops. He stopped and chatted with each person asking how they liked it, did the touch live up to their expectations, etc. Then he went to the expo hall and did a book signing (with free copies of his book) and even posed for photos with anyone who wanted as he signed the book.
This level of accessible and honesty is simply amazing. Keep it up Microsoft.