With so much of Windows clients future in flux at the moment, you can bet the guy in charge of Windows marketing, product management and product planning is busy. And, indeed, Tom Button — the corporate VP in charge of the Windows product management group — is a tough man to pin down. We recently got some quality e-mail time with this 16-year Microsoft veteran. Mary Jo Foley, editor of Microsoft Watch, asks the questions and Button provides the answers in this Q&A, edited for length.
Microsoft Watch: Why, after 13+ years working on the Microsoft tools business, did you decide to move to Windows? (Button moved into his new role on the Windows team on July 1, 2003.)
Button: In getting ready for Longhorn, I think Microsoft really wanted someone who had a deep conviction and commitment around rejuvenating Windows as a platform that third-party ISVs (independent software vendors), OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) and IHVs (independent hardware vendors) could target. Because so much of what happens in the developer division is about making Microsofts platform functionality popular among developers and their end users, Ive really been focusing on platform strategy for most of my 16-year career here.
Microsoft Watch: What do you do on a day-to-day basis in your new job?
Button: I oversee product management for Windows and manage marketing strategy. At Microsoft, product management is the discipline thats responsible for defining and championing the value proposition that describes both what Windows is in its current form and what it needs to be in the future, both internally to the development teams and externally to the customers and partners that depend on it. So for the last nine months Ive been spending a huge amount of time recruiting to build a new team and overseeing the groups that define Windows strategy for emerging markets and determine where the opportunities lie — where the customers are who need computing but dont have it, and how Windows can become a richer part of the lives of those who do.
I report to (Senior VP in charge of Windows client) Will Poole and I have several teams that think about how to bring to market the technology solutions that our R&D group builds.
Our group has teams that are focused on immediate and near-term efforts like Windows XP SP2, the consumer security CD we just released, and events like the Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (this week). We also have a significant number of people working on Longhorn, doing customer research, thinking about the scenarios, and doing core product management for the next release.
Microsoft Watch: Who else from tools did you bring with you? Are you trying to build a brand-new Windows client marketing/management team?
Button: Were more than doubling the size of the team. People here are excited about Longhorn and by the prospects of rejuvenating Windows as a platform. We have stars and highly talented people from all over the company joining us, including the developer space, people with backgrounds in Office and MSN, and senior people from lots of different businesses. Were getting Brad Goldberg, whos been instrumental in driving server product management; Craig Fiebig, from the security business unit whos also spent a lot of time with Office; Neil Charney and JB Williams, from the platform strategy group; Paul Sausville and Dee Dee Walsh, who came over with me from the developer area; and Mathew Price from MSN.
Microsoft Watch: Ive heard that a number of the veteran Windows client developers, product management and product marketing staff are interested in being back on the Windows client team because its "cool again" (with Longhorn, etc.). Do you agree? Whats changed, in terms of the attitude, morale, etc.?
Button: I think thats true of everyone thats come back to join the team — the great folks who were there as well as the people just coming in. Weve hired 16 people who are at the director level or higher just in the last seven months, and every one of them is joining for a combination of three things.
This group very much reflects Microsofts roots of not taking ourselves too seriously. Were open to change. Were very collaborative, relatively nonhierarchical, and not very process-oriented.
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