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A moment of clarity

It’s going back a few years, but the company I was working for back then sent me to a Windows NT 4.0 launch event. A bunch of us went, though it didn’t really have a lot to do with us, but there were invitations, plus free food and swag at the venue.

A lesser Microsoft executive took the stage and did the spiel for a few minutes, and then the demo system went down at the first post with the Blue Screen of Death. What’s worse was that the Operating System had messed up somehow and wouldn’t boot anymore.

After a few minutes with a couple techs trying to get things going, the executive sighed and sat down on the edge of the podium and looked over the audience and toyed with the microphone. Then he said something like this:

“You’d think that for the biggest launch of the product’s lifecycle, we could have gotten the demo to work, right?”

The audience laughed a bit.

“Same old sort of rubbish we always make. That’s what we do,” he said. “But you’ll buy it anyway. You’ll make sure there are backups, and redundant systems, and procedures in case things go wrong, because that’s what you do.”

Silence, but lots of people were nodding.

“You’ll buy it anyway, deploy it, force it to work kind of the way you need and make it work well enough. We’ve wasted enough of your time with a pointless demo that isn’t working anyway. There’s food out the front. Let’s eat.”

And everyone applauded.

And right then, there was a moment of clarity. We actually felt like Microsoft really understood us all, our jobs, our businesses and what mattered to us and our organizations. We talked enthusiastically about that, and all shook his hand after.

Some form of that ebullience lasted right up until the release of Windows Millennium Edition.

Never heard of the fellow again. Probably got fired right after the event. Which is something of a pity – In a world full of hype, he could have sold us crap in a box by telling us honestly that it was a box full of crap.

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