Microsoft OS chief Myerson talks turkey on transparency, cadence and cross platform

Microsoft Executive Vice President of operating systems Terry Myerson talks about Windows' value proposition for a more cross-platform-committed Microsoft.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

Microsoft Executive Vice President of operating systems, Terry Myerson, is part of Microsoft's new senior leadership team. As part of his responsibilities, Myerson is carving out new ways of dealing with customers, partners and the press.

I had a chance to sit down with Myerson earlier this week to talk about how the Windows team is dealing with the new mobile first/cloud first world, where cross-platform doesn't mean across Windows only.

Here's Part 1 of my interview with Myerson. In this second part of our interview, I was somewhat surprised to learn Myerson, who runs Windows, is not fighting Microsoft's newfound cross-platform mission. He also seems keen to strike a balance, both in terms of transparency and delivery cadence, that will appease Microsoft's many diverse constituences.

Here's a transcript of Part 2 of my interview with Myerson, edited for length and clarity.

ZDNET: I'm curious about your philosophy regarding when your team is willing to share vs. when you need to shut up. What's your thinking about how to strike a balance? With your direct predecessor, there wasn't much of a balance.

MYERSON: We want to get feedback from our customers on our work. That feedback will make it better. We don't believe that we have all the perfect ideas inside the team. We want to be out there with our work to get feedback from our customers and iterate with them.

Getting the customer feedback and listening to the customers needs to be at the core of how we deliver really high quality products.

ZDNET: Does that mean Microsoft will be embracing more tester feedback, like it did in the "before times"? Or will you continue to rely primarily on telemetry data in developing products?

MYERSON: I do think that telemetry data is part of the feedback cycle. Getting the quantitative feedback of how people use your products is part of the feedback cycle.

So much has changed since the old days, you might say. We're dealing with a wider range of computing devices, different customers, different blend of customers. So it's hard to say we'll go back to the old days. It's just different. But we do want to iterate and develop these high quality solutions with the customers.

ZDNET: Could you explain in your own words what your strategy is with Windows 8 right now? There are so many headlines claiming it's a disaster, that Microsoft is reversing course. How would you characterize what's going on?

MYERSON: We are listening to feedback and responding to feedback.

We're trying to get to one program and platform that spans all kinds of devices, from the Internet of things to phones to tablets to game consoles to servers to whiteboards. We're trying to get that whole spectrum, and you get a whole bunch of different input modalities there. Now you get Kinect, you get mice, keyboard, touch, speech. What we've added in the update (Windows 8.1 Update) is more support for mouse and keyboard in some new ways, but we didn't take away anything on touch.

We're not stepping back. We totally believe in touch. Touch is just fantastic. But there are hundreds of millions of new PCs shipping every year without touch. We want to support those. We want our customers to love our products. If they come to us and say I'd love it more if it supported this, we want to be a company that listens and responds and responds quickly.

ZDNET: Speaking of quickly, what's your thinking about how often you update Windows? Is Windows 8.1 Update a one-off? Or will the team do what you did with Windows Phone 8 and release a number of near-quarterly interim updates for Windows?

MYERSON: From a platform perspective we need to make investments that take us years, and then there's things that we can do that take less time. For all of our customers, we're investing in those long term things, and we're also investing in the short term things. Our challenge is how do we schedule the delivery along the way where we actually get both done.

We're not constraining ourselves to saying we're only shipping three years. I think you've now seen that. But we're making investments that will take three years. Part of having a rich and ongoing relationship with your customers is not going dark for three years.


ZDNET: There are many who believe now that you -- the former head of Windows Phone engineering -- and your Windows Phone team are running the Windows show that you'll follow the same update course as you did with phone.

MYERSON: Honestly, my leadership team is very balanced across Xbox, Windows, Windows Phone, and embedded. We have people that have incredible experience in the core operating system. We have user experience people. We have enterprise people. We have consumer people. It's a well-balanced leadership team.

ZDNET: So we shouldn't just assume whatever you did in Windows Phone is going to be the policy throughout the Operating System Group?

MYERSON: No. There is a broader set of devices and a broader set of customers than Windows Phone reached. There's a common core of expectations but they also have their specific (needs). We're always open to more feedback, too.

ZDNET: Last year, during a financial-analyst conference, you made it seem as though there might be different cadences of deliverables for different customer sets. The idea was maybe not all customers -- especially those in the enterprise -- want and need regular, constant updates. Are you still thinking that way?

MYERSON: We are. It's too soon to like share what we'll actually do, but I think that's true. There is a mission critical deployment. There is a factory floor deployment of Windows. There is a my mother-in-law's PC. And then there's what satisfies my 12-year old son. He wants the latest and greatest and he'll tolerate things that are different.

Being able to satisfy (all those) customers, delight (all those) customers is something that we really want to do. So maybe it's not (a split along) consumer and enterprise but you could categorize it as consumer and enterprise in some ways. It's a simplification of the spectrum.

ZDNET: Let's talk Windows Phone. There have been rumors you are looking at ways to get Android apps on Windows Phone in order to gain marketshare. Is this the case?

MYERSON: We certainly are watching these various developments going on. There are third parties that are enabling (Android on Windows). We're always keeping our eyes and ears open to what people are using and talking about.

But for us it's all about the Windows platform and Windows developers and delighting end users with the work of our Windows developers.

ZDNET: What about those Nokia X phones running on Android? I know Microsoft is buying the part of Nokia's business that runs non-Microsoft software, alongside the part that runs Windows Phone. But will you keep those around once the Nokia transaction is final?

MYERSON: More users of our applications and services is fantastic. If someone is (using an iPad), I hope they really are using Office and OneDrive and Skype, on that iPad. That is a fantastic Microsoft customer. It's great for Microsoft. The same will be true of Nokia. I genuinely feel that way.

ZDNET: But you're a big advocate for Microsoft developers. Many of them hate Nokia X because it is Android and sends mixed messages about Microsoft's commitment to the Windows Phone OS.

MYERSON: I think that the thing to focus (on) is they are Microsoft customers of our apps and services. And we will win them back to Windows.

ZDNET: Now that there's Office on iPad and Android apps on Nokia phones, what is the value proposition for Windows?

MYERSON: The answer today is the best enterprise manageability is on Windows. The best security is on Windows. The best games are on Windows. The best Office is on Windows. All those things are true today. And we're investing into the future to maintain this place where the best applications and games are on Windows.

ZDNET: With CEO Satya Nadella talking up mobile first, cloud first -- and strongly emphasizing cross-platform -- does Microsoft's value proposition remain that these things will be first and best on Windows?

MYERSON: It's the right thing. I think it's great customers would be using Office and understanding how productive Office is. That's great for Microsoft.

The strategy is we want to win those users wherever they are. Windows is the best, so we're going to see the best version there.

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