When I first started covering Microsoft for the trade press (Corporate Computing, then PC/Computing, then BYTE), they didn’t have a lot of standout personalities other than Bill and Steve. Borland had David I. Sun had Bill and James. Oracle had Larry, Larry, and more Larry. But Microsoft was the Borg: product managers came and went and few stood out. Those who did, like Dee Dee Walsh and Jon Roskill (both of whom are still here) developed good relationships with the press, but they didn’t come across as the architects of Microsoft’s vision: that was the job of Bill and Steve.
Now we have a host of personalities: J Allard and Anders Hejlsberg and Scott Guthrie and Robert Scoble and Brad Abrams and Bill Hilf and Dare Obasanjo and the list goes on. I’m quite sure this has gone a long way to helping dispel the notion that somehow Microsoft is a unified mass and we’ve certainly become more open to discussing our problems (see: mini-msft http://minimsft.blogspot.com/). And I know that customers appreciate having faces to associate with the company. But I guess I don’t know whether this is a “good” thing – we’ve replaced facelessness with a host of faces. What if one or several of the faces leaves the company – how will people interpret that? What if one of the faces decides to pick a really stupid fight? Is this just part of our new, more open way of interacting with customers?