A computer in every home: How a crazy ‘shared mission’ drove Microsoft’s early days

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  1. TechInAsia

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    The following is an edited excerpt from Microsoft Secrets: An Insider’s View of the Rocket Ride from Worst to First and Lessons Learned on the Journey, a book written by former executive Dave Jaworski. He offers an insider’s view of how the tech titan went from worst to best. The excerpt was provided by Jaico Books. You can buy a copy here.

    Bill Gates had just turned thirty when I first met him. He was super smart and had great vision. To this Canadian boy, he was the Wayne Gretzky of technology. Wayne’s famous saying was: “A good hockey player plays where the puck is. A great hockey player plays where the puck is going to be.” Bill Gates led the company to where the technology puck was going. He did that for Microsoft and the technology world in general.

    Bill articulated the Microsoft Vision as “A microcomputer on every desk and in every home running Microsoft software.” The Microsoft Vision drove the entire company forward. Virtually everyone you met in the company could articulate it. It was a shared vision.

    Author Jim Collins talks about having your “BHAG”— Big Hairy Audacious Goal. “A microcomputer on every desk and in every home running Microsoft software” was our BHAG. At that time few people in the general public had used a computer. They had heard of them, yet many had not even seen one in person.

    When you have a vision, not everyone will get it. That’s okay. Go forward with it anyway.

    A computer in every home

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    Bill Gates, co-founder of Microsoft and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation / Photo credit: Sam Churchill


    Today, of course, the idea of a microcomputer on every desk and in every home is easy to visualize. Even young children know how to operate iPhones and iPads, swiping and touching to navigate. Our three-year-old grandson Elijah looks puzzled when an adult cannot find and start Spotify to play music. He motions for the iPad or iPhone and moves quickly through the icons and folders to locate the familiar icon, start the program, and navigate to the music he wants to play.

    But when I began with Microsoft, today’s reality was just a dream. Apple, Tandy, Commodore, Kaypro, and others had computers for hobbyists. IBM joined in with its personal computer in 1981, introducing the IBM PC. Th e graphical user interface was first released by Xerox with the “Star” and then made more affordable by Apple with the release of the “Lisa” in January 1983 and then the Macintosh in 1984. These were the pioneering days of personal computing.

    Within a few years, what then was considered “portable” computers were available. When flying across the country, almost every person who passed me on the way to use the bathroom would stop and ask, “What is that?” pointing at my portable, luggable computer. (These computers were very heavy and awkward in their earliest implementations.)

    Today, your phone has more power than those early computers had, and almost every person on the plane has one or more computing devices with them, including smartphones, tablets, and smaller, light-weight computers.

    Even devices like Mice were not commonly understood. In fact, as Microsoft Canada started to bring product into Canada, our Microsoft Mouse shipment was quarantined by the Canadian Department of Agriculture.

    After the shipment’s four weeks in solitary confinement, Rich MacIntosh received a call stating that he could retrieve his mice.

    The power of a shared vision cannot be emphasized enough. I believe this truly differentiated Microsoft from most of our competitors. We knew where we were going. We all knew the vision. And Bill ensured the vision, and the ways in which we would advance it were kept in front of us all. We would even be tested on the vision and other product strategies at our national sales meetings. It was not an accident that we all knew the Microsoft Vision.

    My personal mission statement has been a powerful guide for me on life’s journey. It brings me back to a focal point. It clarifies my “why” when life gets busy. It helps me prioritize decisions and action steps. A business mission statement does the same thing. A well-defined mission statement will help you make decisions. It will ensure everyone is on the same page. When business life gets busy, it can bring much needed clarity.

    • Do you have a clear and concise vision for your team?

    • Does everyone on the team know it? (I mean every single person at any level in your organization.)

    • Do they understand it? How do you know?

    • Do you have a personal mission statement?

    • Take the time to give yourself this wonderful gift.

    Email Address on a Business Card

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    Photo credit: Pixabay.


    From the beginning of my days at Microsoft Canada, I included an email address on my business card. (The Envoy ID was the email address.)

    I soon included multiple email addresses, because the systems in operation could not yet cross-communicate. In this later business card, Compuserve, AppleLink, and Prodigy addresses all enabled people to send electronic mail to me.

    As you can see, business cards then included Telex addresses for communication. Today, most people have not even heard of Telex machines. Telex systems used a different communication system for sending messages. Much like a fax message is different than an email message, Telex machines were dedicated and yet another unique communication tool.

    It was a radical idea to use computers as communication tools. That was a big part of the vision that captured me for the use of technology.

    And to me, it made great sense. Yet even in 1993, having your email address on your Microsoft business card was still not standard for all employees as evidenced by the “standard issue” Microsoft University card I received at MSU.

    Today, your email address is probably more important than your physical mailing address. In fact, many business cards include just the person’s name, phone, and email address. Some add social media like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, even before they add a physical address. This shows how that early radical idea has become the new norm. Communicating with computers? Absolutely!

    It happens every day, in every country, at virtually every level of society, and in every sphere imaginable—to name just a few, academia, business, personal, family, military, politics, government, utility companies, and even the recreation industry. Computers have changed our lives and have become indispensable communication tools.

    This post A computer in every home: How a crazy ‘shared mission’ drove Microsoft’s early days appeared first on Tech in Asia.

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