Timidly going where I’ve never gone before…


Have you read Robert Scoble and Shel Israel’s book “naked conversations”?  In the first chapter,  they talk about the two sides of communication  in companies today:  the bloggers and the folks whose job it is to reduce risk and control the corporate message.  I admit that after spending most of my career being one of the “corporate message cops” it is more than a bit intimidating to join the ranks of our MacBU team bloggers.  But here goes!

By way of introduction, I’m Mary Starman, and I am the group product manager for the MacBU.  I’ve recently celebrated by 10th anniversary at Microsoft, and have worked in several fascinating but somewhat unusual teams.  I have worked on everything from our ActiMates toys (remember Barney, Arthur and D.W, and the TeleTubbies toys?) to our hardware line (mice, keyboards, the SideWinder game devices) to an early incarnation of the  of Pocket PC.  I even worked on our SmartPhone technology back when it was still just a code name.  Then along the way I found myself  in another “unusual” group – the MacBU.  

Working in the MacBU is  interesting for a product manager at Microsoft. While I do have to help our management team run a smart business (after all, even at Microsoft, every business has to be responsibly run) there is also the freedom to be a little different from the rest of the company.  We get to be a little more fun in our packaging and branding, the way we talk about our products, etc.  And we get to take advantage of interesting stuff Apple does with their hardware and their OS.  But I think the biggest surprise for me was the first time I was at focus groups with Office for Mac customers.  They were so passionate about their computers, their applications  – – let’s be honest, we just didn’t see that kind of passion when we did focus groups about keyboards or mice.  Every time I meet with our larger corporate customers, I get excited again about the possibilities and the people we are developing our software for.  And seeing the responses to our blog so far, the passion continues.

After signing on to be part of the team of MacBU bloggers, I admit I had some doubts.  A lot of the work that I do doesn’t seem all that glamorous when you’re slogging through forecasting or trying to help shape the tiny details of a new feature.  But in reading the comments you all have been posting,  I realized that I’ve been involved in a lot of the decisions that you’re curious about.  Questions like “why don’t you do (fill in your favorite app)”?  So, questions noted, and in my upcoming posts I’ll try to explain more about our decision process, what goes in to choosing to do an app (or not do one) etc. 

I’m looking forward to this blog and the opportunity to give you my perspective on this great team we call MacBU.

Comments (17)

  1. Asam Bashir says:

    So when is mac:Office magnesium 12 wot’s it beta going to be released for testing? And does it work with iChat 4? Will MS give Apple it’s codex for MSN video so it can be added to iChat?

  2. Scott Rose says:

    Good questions from above. Why don’t you let Apple add MSN Messenger to iChat?

  3. shel israel says:

    Welcome to the blogosphere, Mary. It’s really quite easy, just talk to readers like you’d talk to a neighbor over a backyard fence.  Keep it conversational.  Over time you and your readers get to know each other.  Trust builds and phenomenal things start to happen.

  4. Jack says:

    I read this blog very often and I have found a lot of very cool posts (and comments)

    I think it gets easier to understand a lot of sad thing (like the death of VB in the Mac) when you read that the reason is that if you try to include it on the next release, the whole product may slip a year or more…

    But I do have a question:

    Why the MacBU is so secretive about betas or demos of the “to be released” products?? (Its not like somebody would just copy Messenger or Office)

    Apple is very much like that, they only show products that are final (except the OS), but all the apps and hardware are very secretly developed.

    But Microsoft its not like that, the have been releasing Betas of Vista forever, and the new WinOffice is available to download I think, so It’s a MacBU thing…

    I say that not thinking about a Beta of Office but more like thinking of Messenger, I mean, Its free, so I don’t think you would loose a sell if you release a Beta, and I don’t think you really have competition because the whole service is yours, so why the secrecy?

  5. Mary, you luck girl! What a blast, being welcomed to the blogosphere by Shel Israel :-). Shel, you should know Naked Conversations are happening in offices all over campus – your book is a fantastic resource and inspiration, and Scoble has been a great friend of the MacBU. Thank you for stopping by.

    To Jack – glad you’re here and finding the posts useful and interesting. To your point about our beta programs, it’s not really a secrecy issue but a resource issue. Running a very broad customer beta (e.g. everyone can participate) can be beneficial, but also does require significant program infrastructure and ongoing resources. On some releases, instead of a general marketing beta, we do by-invitation technical betas which, while not open to the general public, are still very representative of our customer base and which feed us solid and actionable data. Having said that, be sure and visit http://www.microsoft.com/mac on a regular basis – that’s where broad customer betas will be announced and where you can sign up to participate.

  6. Ged says:

    First of all welcome Mary. Your insight into working within a large project and or organisation is true whereever you are. Having worked from experience in a large Internet company I know what you mean. It is sometimes hard to see the big different that you make when your everyday stuff is the minutae.

    As a general rule (though every rule has its breaks) Mac users do tend to be excited about what they can do. Unlike other enthusiasts though who like to poke underneath the hood most of them like to drive instead (if you forgive the clumsy analogy).

    One of the biggest frustrations that I have as a Mac user and an Office user is that with each new iteration of products comes less feature parity with other MS software users despite the fact that we are a profitable marketplace and that the key value of using MS Office for the Mac is interoperability at a deep level.

    Often those features that are added don’t add that much value to user productivity.

    My company has a deal with Microsoft to allow us to purchase MS software at a discount, however it only covers XP compatiable titles, anything you can do to integrate into those kind of marketing deals would be appreciated.

    To end on a positive note during the times that I have used Windows XP, the user experience particularly in Excel is superior in Office 2004.

  7. gr33n says:

    i was thinking, is it "Macintosh BUSINESS UNIT" or "MACINTOSH B USINESS Unit"?

  8. Genemaster says:

    So, are you going to give us some answer?

    When will we get MSN messenger for Mac with video and audio capabilities?

    or

    When will you allow iChat to operate with MSN?

    Sorry but despite MacBU claims, it looks like mac apps are getting more and more stripped of features found on the Windows side. In addition to crappy MSN messenger, no more media player and explorer, I’ve read the next version of Office for Mac will not support VisualBasic, sounds to me Office for Mac is taking the same road than messenger, mediaplayer and explorer.

  9. MSDNArchive says:

    Hi Ged – thanks for your post.  WRT the agreement your company has to purchase titles at a discount, that is usually part of a licensing program called Home Use Rights.  Office for Mac is available thru that program as well.  Check with your IT administrator – he or she may not be aware that the Office for Mac product is part of the program.

    Our Excel team will be thrilled to hear that you like it!!

    Sherjo – you really need to get some sleep, girl! 😉

    Shel – thanks for your guidance, and I’m honored that you’re reading our blog!

  10. Mary,

    Just keep in mind that many times when people start a question with "why" they are not really interested in listening to the reason. They want things to be different than they are – and even though they have used the word "why" – an understanding of the other party’s rationale is not really what they are interested in.

    This is, of course, not true of everyone, but it is true of enough people to make a person in your capacity sometimes feel frustrated when you are attempting what you thought was an open-minded two-way conversation.

    But be optimistic. Because there are also a lot of open-minded people out here, also.

  11. opensourcefan says:

    This blog post just came up “new” in my RSS reader. I see nothing marked as updated or corrected.

    Is it the policy of this blog to make post-publication changes and not strike-out the changed text and leave it for the readers to see what has changed?

    Or for some reason did this post accidentally get republished?

  12. Office for Mac says:

    Our apologies that this post showed up again in your RSS. We had changed the font of this post to be consistent with the other posts. No content was changed. Again, our apologies for this confusion.

  13. Aaron Priven says:

    I’m really grateful to Microsoft for starting this blog. So many of us use products every day and we hear almost nothing of the reasons or rationale why anything is done the way it is. Microsoft Office is an important tool for so many people and yet we have little direct control over what happens with it.  As much as many of us love Apple products, there’s hardly anything at Apple the company anywhere near as open as this. (I guess there is Dave Hyatt’s "Surfin’ Safari" blog, but that’s about it.)

    It really helps to know that while Microsoft is *as a whole* may be the evil spawn of Satan, there are parts of Microsoft that are at worst merely the adoptive step-spawn of Satan.

    Thanks again!

  14. Ross says:

    Thanks for taking part, it is quite a good idea to keep all the MacBU team posting on the same blog.

    So, just to keep things nice and easy, when can we expect any product announcements from Mac BU that doesn’t revolve around Office? 😉

    I have to add my voice to those asking for an A/V version of MSN on the Mac, I’ve filled in the feedback form but you know – it’d be nice to know you guys have received (what must now be a hundreds of requests for MSN A/V) the feedback 🙂

  15. eponymous coward says:

    Hey, Mary…

    Any reason why this:

    http://www.apcstart.com/site/dflynn/2006/09/1511/exclusive-first-details-of-office-2007-for-mac-all-new-ui

    couldn’t have been announced or covered on your blog?

    Especially since the content on here for the past week is basically is posts linking to other sites?

    I know it’s hard using a blog as a communication channel directly to customers instead of the press… but I think you’ll be rewarded for the "naked conversation".

    Too bad- I think you missed an opportunity to show that this place isn’t just feel-good, "yay, we love Macs" fluff. Hopefuly, we’ll see some meat on the bones as we go along, like at <A HREF="http://blogs.msdn.com/jensenh/">Jensen‘s site</A>. Not that having friendly, get to know you and casual stuff isn’t bad, exactly…it jusrt makes it less interesting. 😉

  16. Suresh Kumar says:

    Mary,

    on a completely different note, can you tell me how the port of Groove 2007 is going with regards to the Mac Office 2007 work?

    thanks

  17. jon honeyball says:

    strange how that article *completely* omits to mention the removal of VBA.