Tag Archives: Mary Jo Foley

Impressions of “Beneath a Surface: The Inside Story of How Microsoft Overcame a $900 Write-down to Become the Hero of the PC Industry,” by Brad Sams

If you are unaware that Microsoft had a $900 million write-down related to the Surface tablet, this book is probably not to you. Rather, Beneath a Surface definitely is for the reader who wants an accurate, if partial, history of a Microsoft business unit.

It’s too high a praise to compare Beneath a Surface to God — even comparing author Brad Sams to the Divinity would be misplaced — but like the All-mighty, it is easier to say what Beneath a Surface is not than what it is. It is not a history of Panos Panay’s career at the company, or even Microsoft Hardware’s efforts (MS Hardware became MS Surface under Panay). It is not a history of the past few years of the company at the highest levels, or even like Hit Refresh a propagandist attempt to create a history from that level.

Rather, Beneath a Surface is a blow-by-blow account of the trials of the Surface project, told from the perspective of the group’s leadership. It resembles Renegades of the Empire in the sense of charting the successes and failures of a high-visibility project within Microsoft. Where it surpasses that book is in its journalistic focus. If you read Mary Jo Foley’s Microsoft 2.0 but wondered how the organizational tree she outlines would actually play out, this is the book for you.

The best part of the book was its the perspective on timing and tenor provided by Brad Sams. Given that Microsoft totally abandoned its mobile ambitions, the lateness with which phones were still being announced in tandem with new Surfaces. Panay was tasked with promoting phones built by a team he acquired but did not want, and the wording of his remarks shows it. Likewise, Sams confirms the extremely late decision to kill the Surface Mini — which was still being hinted at in the official press invitations sent out for a later-repurposed launch.

I read Beneath a Surface in the Kindle edition.

Short Review of “Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft Plans to Stay Relevant in the Post-Gates Era,” by Mary Jo Foley

I have mixed impressions of Microsoft 2.0 by Mary Jo Foley. I love Foley’s blog. But not this book.

This book is written by Mary Jo Foley, who maintains a wonderful blog about the software company from Redmond. Mary often receives leaks (seemingly officially) from Microsoft insiders that outline future product directions and organizational changes. For anyone who is interested in what Microsoft is actually up to, Mary’s blog is a must read.

Microsoft 2.0 is basically the same material one would have found on her blog, distilled, and current as of early 2008. As such the book is not a necessary read for anyone, as those “predictions” or “leaks” that are in the book have since been taken over by events. Unlike at the time of writing, Vista is now recognized for the disaster it was, Windows Mobile 7 was killed and replaced by Windows Phone 7, and “software + services” seems to be as important as ever.

If you are interested in this sort of material, then definitely Read the blog. But skip the book.