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Why aren’t tech firms funnier?

Me, on Techradar:

When David Webster, Microsoft’s general manager for brand marketing, slagged Apple by telling Newsweek that “not everyone wants a machine that’s been washed with unicorn tears”, tech journalists around the world rejoiced. At last, somebody in tech has said something funny.

There are some hilarious people working in technology, but in these days of corporate communications and twitchy shareholders they’re rarely let off the leash.

6 replies on “Why aren’t tech firms funnier?”

Even funnier is Newsweek describing Microsoft as an “engineering-driven company”. Uh, right. So Apple’s new laptops, built from a single block of alloy, are driven by what, exactly? Purple prose?

OK, not that this is funny, but no, Stephen, Apple aren’t engineering-driven. They usually use engineering to achieve what their designers want. If a designer has an idea that is impractical from an engineering point of view, Apple tell their engineers to damn well make it practical. Microsoft are engineering-driven, in that technical considerations tend to overrule design considerations for them.

I do think Newsweek missed the point, though. Microsoft are a committee-driven company, surely. Why else would Vista have four hundred different ways of switching the machine off?

I’m inclined to agree with S2 on that one: Jobs tells the engineers what they’re going to do, and kills them if they don’t do it. Whereas MS often over-engineers things, which is how you get software such as Word (which I like, but it’s far too powerful for 99% of users. Problem is, the features that matter are different for 99% of users).

> Microsoft are a committee-driven company, surely.

That’s one of the big changes Ray Ozzie made when he came in. Essentially he formed skunkworks rather than the traditionally, very large, development teams.

Microsoft’s size will always be its biggest problem, I think – the size of its customer base, I mean. That’s why IE still has the same rendering engine, for example: too many corporates and software firms use it for their apps, and they’d scream bloody murder if MS ditched it for a better engine. That’s how it seems to date, at least.

Suppose I could have been a bit clearer, but it just struck me that engineering is an odd point to choose as the distinguishing factor between Microsoft and Apple. The key to Apple is design, but some amazing engineering goes into making that fantastic design.

Also, Microsoft is not as engineering-driven as Google; you could do a much better article on design-driven v engineering-driven with Apple and Google.

> it just struck me that engineering is an odd point to choose as the distinguishing factor between Microsoft and Apple.

Engineering isn’t the distinguishing factor; the fact that Microsoft are engineering-driven is. It’s an observation about decision-making processes, not about the engineering itself.

(Or, at least, that’s how I understand the phrase “engineering-driven”. I’ve not read the Newsweek piece.)

I can’t now find the “engineering-driven” phrase! I may have paraphrased it. The article actually says “Microsoft has always been about the engineering”, and I suppose no-one would say that of Apple.

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