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Some Developers Leaving Google For Microsoft 685

recoiledsnake writes "We have heard about lots of talented developers jumping ship from Microsoft to Google, but is the trend beginning to turn? Dare Obasanjo (a Microsoft employee) writes about a few high-profile people picking Microsoft over Google — either making the jump directly, or choosing Microsoft after receiving offers at both. Sergey Solyanik is back to Microsoft and he primarily gripes about the culture and lack of career development at Google. He writes, 'Everything is pretty much run by [engineering] — PMs and testers are conspicuously absent from the process. Google as an organization is not geared — culturally — to delivering enterprise class reliability to its user applications.' Danny Thorpe, who was the key architect of Google Gears, is back at Microsoft for his second stint working on developer technologies related to Windows Live."
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Some Developers Leaving Google For Microsoft

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  • by actionbastard ( 1206160 ) on Monday June 30, 2008 @06:50PM (#24008733)
    "Google as an organization is not geared -- culturally -- to delivering enterprise class reliability to its user applications."
    You don't have to be, when the entire on-line world is your beta test laboratory.
  • by Locke2005 ( 849178 ) on Monday June 30, 2008 @07:00PM (#24008889)
    Everything is pretty much run by [engineering] -- PMs and testers are conspicuously absent from the process. Google as an organization is not geared -- culturally -- to delivering enterprise class reliability to its user applications. At Microsoft, everything is pretty much run by Marketing. Anybody who uses the marketing-speak phrase "delivering enterprise class reliability to its user applications" obviously has more of a marketing mindset than an Engineering mindset, and thus would be better off at Microsoft. If we are indeed seeing a migration of hard-core engineers from Microsoft to Google and of Marketing droids from Google to Microsoft, well than, I'd say the movement in both directions benefits Google! (I've seen many extremely talented software engineers go to work for Microsoft over the years, so if their software sucks, it's certainly not for lack of creative talent.)
  • by MavEtJu ( 241979 ) <slashdot.mavetju@org> on Monday June 30, 2008 @07:00PM (#24008893) Homepage

    but most of them primarily help people waste time online (blogger, youtube, orkut, etc)

    No, these are things to sell eyeballs for advertisers. That's what Google is about, making money with selling ads around easy to use and "fun" tools.

  • Re:Right.... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by H0p313ss ( 811249 ) on Monday June 30, 2008 @07:08PM (#24008985)

    Yeah... sounds funny from the perspective of those of us who have suffered through the microsoft monopoly. But given that most organizations can't tell their asses from their elbows they may well be right. Google seems to grow and progress by throwing lots of young smart people at the problem, but the problem seems to be a moving target from day to day. But microsoft has managed to hold down a monopoly for 20 years.

    Who are you going to take business process advice from? While microsoft's ethics are dubious at best it's very hard to argue with success.

    -- godwin filter removed reference to unethical but successful leader --

  • Re:Right.... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Penguinisto ( 415985 ) on Monday June 30, 2008 @07:17PM (#24009087) Journal

    Who are you going to take business process advice from? While microsoft's ethics are dubious at best it's very hard to argue with success.

    But why latch onto the tail end of a 20-year-old monopoly who by all rights is beginning to falter, and seems to have no vision at all for the next 20?

    That's what would worry me more. It's not what a company has already done, but what they're wanting to do.


  • I've worked at both (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 30, 2008 @07:21PM (#24009127)

    I've worked at both. In terms of working environment, I found them both to be good, though in different ways (better food, more excitement at Google; private office at Microsoft). In terms of quality of life, I prefer Seattle, but in terms of jobs and networking, the Bay Area wins. In terms of software development processes, Microsoft's may look better on paper, but Google's seems to be better at actually delivering. In terms of management... Ballmer makes me wince. So, so far, it's a toss up.

    The question to me is where each company is going. When Google release a new product, there is buzz and excitement, and usually something expensive and complicated gets cheaper and simpler. When Microsoft releases a new product, people either shrug or shudder and hold on to their wallets. Microsoft keeps trying to change things (Zune, Live, whatever), they keep buying companies (Danger, whatever), and it just doesn't seem to be working for them. Given the choice, I'd probably choose to work for Google; I just don't see Microsoft going anywhere.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 30, 2008 @07:22PM (#24009149)

    True, but of the following which would you prefer:

    a) Software is never released in any form
    b) Software is released and sold but is very buggy or unusable
    c) Software is released for free evaluation in a semi-stable state and gradually improves over time
    d) Software is released and sold bug free and very usable but often many years over due and over budget.

    Some companies do A. We call them 3d Realms. The rest are out of business or bought by bigger entities.

    A LOT of companies do B and it's almost the definition of what people hate about the software industry if not the definition of most of the industry.

    A small number of companies do C and while it is not their revenue source it is a significant source of good will and is surprisingly* stable and usable. Often the software is a supplementary tool to increase traffic, brand awareness, and ad revenue (which follows from increase traffic...)

    A handful of companies get away with this and they are often well rewarded for it. See: Blizzard.

    I think C) is a strong middle ground between D) and B) for companies that can function on that model. True, software might be in 'beta' for a significant period (indefinite?) but it is there and usable nonetheless.

    * - Well, surprising to some, at any rate.

    Obviously this is only a subset of possibilities, but it seems to be the vast majority.

  • Re:Cost of Living? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by buddyglass ( 925859 ) on Monday June 30, 2008 @07:22PM (#24009155)

    If you want cheap, you're looking at East Austin or Cedar Park. Unless you mean "cheap relative to the Bay Area", in which case all of Austin is bargain basement.

    As for the weather...I'm tempted to give the nod to Seattle as well. Unless you really like 3.5 months of 95+ heat. Like Austin, Seattle has mild winters, but it also has mild summers.

    Don't get me wrong, I like Austin. And I don't even mind that it's surrounded by Texas. But, objectively speaking, I'm not sure it's an automatic "win" when compared to Seattle/Redmond.

  • Re:Standing out (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Krater76 ( 810350 ) on Monday June 30, 2008 @07:27PM (#24009199) Journal

    Could not the "wiz kid" with a few freash ideas garner much more attention in such an envirnoment. And perhaps in doing so come more to the attention of the offer makers at google?

    From personal experience as an engineer within a top-heavy business (although not with Microsoft) is that really there's no way to shine. They want you to do the job they want you to do and if there's something wrong with the process, the app, or the architecture there's no recourse.

    If you want to learn a lot, be challenged and be a star, you need to be in a startup atmosphere. While I am sure there are many companies with that atmosphere, currently it seems as though the most public large company like that is Google.

    Don't look at anything outside of tech if you want that atmosphere either. Non-tech companies (insurance, credit card companies, etc.) are run by business people and programmers are always a red in their ledger, they don't have a clue on how to deal with them.

  • by Uzik2 ( 679490 ) on Monday June 30, 2008 @07:31PM (#24009237)

    Wow. What is Sergey Solyanik smoking? It's been very obvious for many years that Microsoft design decisions are made for financial reasons, not technical ones.

  • Re:Cost of Living? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by TheGratefulNet ( 143330 ) on Monday June 30, 2008 @07:34PM (#24009269)

    the bay area is VERY cool. I live here, so I know.

    but life at google is not life in the bay area. google is its own sub-culture in every way. note, I don't mean that in a good way.

    what good is being in sunny calif when you are slaved (peer pressure) to work till 9pm? driving home at dark kills a lot of the fun of sunny california...

    you want both weekends? to yourself? really? again, google is not the place for you.

    if you want to ENJOY the bay area, google is not the place. free food != 'good lifestyle'.

  • Here's why (Score:5, Interesting)

    by melted ( 227442 ) on Monday June 30, 2008 @07:51PM (#24009497) Homepage

    There's a system of levels at Microsoft, and the "interestingness" of work, range of influence and pay depend on the levels (within limits predetermined for each level).

    It's a well known fact that the easiest way to get a level increase at the higher levels is to leave Microsoft and then come back. Some folks jump over two levels after just two years outside the mothership - this is simply not achievable if you're L63-64. Sergey returned as (at least) L65. Good for him. Skipping his blog drivel, let's not assume that he did it for anything but a bag of cash and a large signing stock grant.

    That said, Microsoft _is_ a great place to work, if you can ignore the bureaucracy. The pay is good, the benefits are second to none (no free lunches, tho), you get your own office (most of the time, anyway), and if you have a family, there's simply no better large tech company to work for.

  • by v(*_*)vvvv ( 233078 ) on Monday June 30, 2008 @07:56PM (#24009561)

    They are both huge huge corporations.

    They both have a ton of acquired businesses, products, and services that are buried in their rubble of bloat.

    And they both, to this day, only make money from selling what got them into the business in the first place. For google that would be Adsense, and for MS, Windows and Office.

    So whichever company you choose, you probably won't make a difference, just like all the failed developers before you.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 30, 2008 @07:57PM (#24009575)

    Exchange? Active Directory? Group policy? Try to find an open source replacement for those products? I have and I can't.... These are world class enterprise systems... SQL SErver 2008? Windows? A whole eco-system?
    Without Windows how many of you people would have ever gotten to try open source software? Would PC's have become so dominant? I doubt it.

  • You beat me to it (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 30, 2008 @08:00PM (#24009605)

    Everything microsoft does is geared towards department level computing. Their entire AD implementation is right out of 1986; Netware had better enterprise features. And somebody better tell Microsoft that had they simply used LDAP, they wouldn't have to blow billions on AD. Provisioning and employee lifecycle? They're the only major software company in the world with no solution there.

    Their products ooze of something designed for a company with 100-1000 employees. Imagine that you have apps that when installed force servers to reboot. Imagine your major subsystems run as services so it becomes problematic when you what process level isolation of app server. Imagine to get an app server, you *must* install IIS. Imagine that when you want multiple versions of .NET, it's not as simple as just having multiple directories for each instance, you actually have to *install* it on the server with admin privileges.

    My MS rep called the other day, and I said not interested since they have no enterprise architecture tools. He tried to sell me Sourcesafe and MS's IDE because "it has architecture tools in it". I pointed out that software engineering is not equal to enterprise architecture except in a most tangential way. He had no idea what I was talking about except to ask what "my definition" of Enterprise Architecture is. When a salesman has to challenge his customer that they don't understand, he/she is clearly not atuned to what's happening in the IT industry.

    It goes on and on. It's like the entire thing at MS was designed by CompSci students who are killer coders, but don't have any idea of how to do things like master data management. They have no concept of a TDS versus an ODS. Everything at MS is a hodge-podge of cute little features that break down as soon as you try to do something more complex than "write a killer web page that pulls inventory in real time from a data base". Mind you, that's a great app for a small company, but stuff that you can do faster/cheaper with free solutions like linux/apache/mysql. I don't need to actually pay a large company for software licenses for crap like that.

    Ironically, the scientists at MS have some great ideas and understand these concepts really well. The products, however, reflect none of that work. They're too busy locking in the OS with products. Like they're afraid their stuff won't sell on it's own, so you've got to buy the whole kit and kaboodle

    I see MS as headed for a cliff as fast as their sales will take them. They're doomed in the same way IBM was doomed back in the late 80's.

  • Re:Right.... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 30, 2008 @08:52PM (#24010075)

    The quote about Google being run by engineers immediately caught my eye too. I've been a Microsoft employee for 2 years after doing contract jobs there since 1990. My perspective is that it has shifted from a being highly dominated by engineers to one that is pretty much run by HR and PMs, in that order. There is more focus on career development than I've seen anywhere else. There is a highly detailed process of setting and evaluating commitments, which is designed to give the review process greater transparency, and I think also to make the system more objective and foolproof. But a lot of a person's review consequently hinges on skillfully setting commitments rather than being talented. Toward the end of the fiscal year when many projects are in a crunch, I hear people say things like, "I don't care, I've hit all my commitments."

    Microsoft is still a good company with lots of smart colleagues, a nice work environment and great benefits, but it's also a very large company that has reached the stage of having a hell of a lot of people who don't seem to do a lot and get paid a lot more than engineers. I had to chuckle when the blogger said he couldn't tell what Google managers did, because I often have that feeling at Microsoft.

  • More: Note that Mr. Solyanik's profile [] has a link to MSFT needs an extreme makeover [].


    "It's sobering to realize that during Ballmer's term as CEO, MSFT has underperformed almost all of its top tech peers (including AAPL, IBM, HPQ, SAP, INTC, CSCO, SYMC, NOK, ORCL, ADBE, RIMM, QCOM, Ebay, and AMZN), and badly lagged the major averages. We may even see our third plunge to test the 2000 lows during his watch. Unbelievable. There may be another major technology CEO with an equivalent or worse track record who is still in power, but a name doesn't come readily to mind."

    In my opinion, Microsoft depends for much of its profit on adversarial behavior.
  • Re:Here's why (Score:3, Interesting)

    by El_Oscuro ( 1022477 ) on Monday June 30, 2008 @09:07PM (#24010193) Homepage
    It's a well known fact that the easiest way to get a level increase at the higher levels is to leave Microsoft and then come back. Some folks jump over two levels after just two years outside the mothership

    That works at Oracle too, and *not* just at the highest levels

  • by PPH ( 736903 ) on Monday June 30, 2008 @09:07PM (#24010203)

    I've worked at a number of big, slow, sclerotic corporations. Each time I've left, I've been told stories about how tough the world is on the outside and how others who have attempted to make a go of it have returned. When I look at the people who returned, it became clear that the big, cruel world is an excellent filter for the sorts of people who can take risks and produce results. Those who can't will return to the womb. These people returning make the 'mommy company' all that much slower and bloated.

    I've been approached to return, but if the company couldn't make it worth my while to get me to stick around, things have only gotten worse since I've left.

  • Re:Cost of Living? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by smittyoneeach ( 243267 ) * on Monday June 30, 2008 @09:58PM (#24010621) Homepage Journal
    On another plane, Emmett Watson smiles: []
  • Re:Cost of Living? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Mia'cova ( 691309 ) on Monday June 30, 2008 @10:09PM (#24010697)

    Then try to explain why Vancouver BC is constantly ranked near or at the top of the most livable cities in the world. The northwest is a great place to live. The weather contributes to the variety of activities we have. You have snowboarding and beaches all in one city. It keeps things fresh. Sure a little more sun in the summer would be nice but when I add it all up, there isn't really anywhere else I'd rather live geographically. Disclaimer: I've only lived in Vancouver and Seattle though I've certainly traveled to the bay area.

  • Re:Is that so? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by eric76 ( 679787 ) on Monday June 30, 2008 @10:10PM (#24010703)

    I'd much prefer working somewhere like NASA's JPL (Jet Propulsion Labratory) over either Google or Microsoft.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 30, 2008 @10:15PM (#24010727)

    At Microsoft, everything is pretty much run by Marketing.

    As a Microsoft developer, I can unequivocally state that you, sir, are full of shit.

  • Re:Right.... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Tablizer ( 95088 ) on Monday June 30, 2008 @10:19PM (#24010743) Journal

    Google throws a lot of things on the wall to see what sticks. If each blob only has a 10% chance of sticking, then lots of up-front QA doesn't make a lot of sense. If something starts to catch on, at that point then it makes sense to spend more resources on QA.

    It's true that good design up-front often prevents problems down the road, but the 10% rate may override that advantage.

    Perhaps it could be said that Microsoft uses sex (combinations of parts from existing products) to generate new products while Google uses mutations. (Come on, shoehorning such an analogy should at least get me one mod point ;-)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 30, 2008 @10:57PM (#24011069)

    In terms of quality of life, I prefer Seattle, but in terms of jobs and networking, the Bay Area wins.

    Google has a lot of offices in the Kirkland, WA area, as well. In fact, these are the offices where Google Maps got going.

  • Re:Cost of Living? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by shadowofwind ( 1209890 ) on Monday June 30, 2008 @11:01PM (#24011091)

    OK, I'm in Ohio now, but I'm from Oregon and Idaho, so I have to pile on. Yes, lots of things in Oregon are stupid, but they're not much trouble to you if you stay out of Oregon. Californians are disliked because they and their money don't stay in California, and wreck life for other westerners. In Idaho, they buy up formerly open riverfront property, and block access for other people who actually live in Idaho (and not just visit a few times a year). Or they buy up rental properties and hike up rents in areas that were previously quite affordable. When I moved to Boise in 1992, before there was as much speculation, a classmate was able to buy a decent house for $60K, and I rented a decent apartment for about $300/month. The culture Californians bring with them is objectionable also, with lots of fences, private sidewalks, and vicious dogs, where before there was a sense of community. No, none of this is your fault personally. And many things in Idaho are screwed up without the help of Californians. (Though if you think the place is filled with white separatists or potato farmers, you obviously haven't been there. Boise is quite liberal, and I think most 'Idaho' Potatos are actually grown in Oregon.)

  • Re:Is that so? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Merusdraconis ( 730732 ) on Monday June 30, 2008 @11:36PM (#24011377) Homepage

    It's the same place where nothing ever gets to ship because the coders won't let it go until it's perfect. Witness Gmail, being in beta for years as a perfectly fine 1.0.

  • Re:Cost of Living? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by statemachine ( 840641 ) on Monday June 30, 2008 @11:53PM (#24011493)

    If you put down enough capital and have good credit you can easily get a mortgage payment less than monthly rent, at least in a metropolitan area.

    A house costs $700K+. Banks want 20% down right now, which works out to at least $140,000. Once you get past the "Who has that kind of money laying around?" you're now getting a loan on $560,000.

    Seriously, good luck with that. I'm not being sarcastic.

    Or, you can drive 2 hours each way M-F, for a place out in the middle of nowhere which still costs $350K. Now you definitely need a car because you're probably not too near other people who work in the same company for carpooling. If you're not burning $5/gal fuel and getting ulcers from the bad commute, then you're spending all your time on a train. Either way, that's 4 hours a day wasted on commute. Note that I haven't mentioned, until now, a spouse and kids. Forget being around for your family during the week. I know people who've done it (single and married w/ kids) but they have all burned out. I couldn't do that.

    Once again, none of this is sarcasm or exaggeration. In fact, it may be somewhat conservative, even with this current blip in the housing market.

  • Re:You beat me to it (Score:4, Interesting)

    by the_womble ( 580291 ) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @01:14AM (#24012021) Homepage Journal

    They're doomed in the same way IBM was doomed back in the late 80's

    In the late 80's IBM stock was in the mid $20s. Now it is 6X higher at $120. As a Microsoft stockholder, I sure hope you are right!

    And how did IBM's price do from say May 1987 to August 1993? From a high of 41.9 to a low of 10.5.

    IBM then changed its business drastically, going heavily into services, getting out of a lot of businesses (I can think of printers and PCs off-hand, but there were more) and turned around.

    Even with the turnaround, IBM never really made up for the under performance. The price is up 685% since January 1980, but the S P 500 is up 1164% over the same period.

    You are not going to be a very happy MS shareholder if it follows that path, are you?

  • Re:Is that so? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by speedtux ( 1307149 ) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @03:49AM (#24012851)

    Seriously, have you tried to manage a gmail account with several hundred of labels?

    No. Granted, I only have about 300k messages, so I still get by with a few dozen labels...

    Maybe you should start to figure out combinatorial uses of labels. That is, make each path component a label and then search by multiple components.

    With a real hierarchical organization (read folder) it can be done

    Well, then you'll be happy to hear about "Folders4Gmail"... []

  • Re:Is that so? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by chthon ( 580889 ) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @05:13AM (#24013253) Homepage Journal

    A former boss of mine (which was responsible for implementing CMM at our place) used to say that Microsoft was the prime example of a CMM Level 1 organisation.

Never say you know a man until you have divided an inheritance with him.