What’s up, Mac? Focus on Quality, Support for Tiger

REDMOND, Wash., Jan. 12, 2005 — Microsoft has delivered world-class technology products for the Macintosh platform for more than 20 years. Founded in 1997, Microsoft’s Macintosh Business Unit (Mac BU) is a leading developer of software products for Macintosh customers. The group is comprised of nearly 200 fulltime Mac product experts who are dedicated to creating innovative software for Mac customers worldwide. Created by Mac users for Mac users, products include Microsoft Office 2004 for Mac, a productivity suite that includes the e-mail application and personal information manager Entourage 2004, Word 2004, Excel 2004, PowerPoint 2004 and MSN Messenger for Mac, and Microsoft Virtual PC for Mac Version 7.

Roz Ho, General Manager, Macintosh Business Unit, Microsoft

PressPass spoke with Roz Ho , general manager for the Macintosh Business Unit, about her role within the group, its successes and goals, as well as announcements at Macworld 2005 and beyond.

Q: Can you describe the Mac BU’s role within Microsoft, as well as your current role?

Ho: We develop productivity software that addresses the needs of our customers who are on the Macintosh platform. As general manager, I manage the marketing and development teams and drive initiatives around quality of software. Our focus on quality helped make Microsoft Office 2004 for Mac an exceptionally reliable product–the number of support calls is down half from what it was previously. We’re very happy with that. Seems like a small thing, but when I took over, I really focused on quality and building a reliable product.

Q: What do you consider your biggest accomplishment during your past two years with the Mac BU?

Ho: Our accomplishments around quality are probably my biggest source of pride. One of the first things I did when I started was to create a mission statement–one of the key themes is quality. Our quality commitment doesn’t stop there. We added the error reporting feature to Microsoft Office 2004 for Mac, and we used the data it generated to address real-life problem areas. This new feature gives us a snapshot of the processes that were happening when the error occurred, so we can pinpoint the problem and fix it. We responded to the anonymous data provided by our customers in our recent Service Pack 1.

The other side of our commitment to providing quality is around engineering improvements. In the past we thought about one release at a time. This time, instead of just writing new code on top of old code to make features, we looked at re-engineering it. For example, after the release of Microsoft Office 2004 for Mac, I asked our team to look at our core processes and determine how to re-architect the product for long-term maintainability. We’re in it for the long haul.

Q: What else is critical besides quality?

Ho: We’re very focused on delivering software that meets customer needs, whether it’s getting work done or taking care of personal tasks. We add features that solve specific problems and add real value, not just because they’re cool. In order to do that, we need continuous customer communication, and we conduct lots of research. We listen intently to our Mac customers and build our products to meet their needs.

Q: How do you make changes now to impact the product many releases later?

Ho: If you compare building a product to a home remodel, you can do it the right way or the wrong way. You can just add one thing and when someone sees it they say, “Nice addition.” Or you can take a look at the whole house from the ground up and make sure everything is integrated, so the addition works in synch with the original house–and just looks like part of the house. I’m emphasizing to the team that code needs to be easy to maintain and easy to add to, so you end up with a house that looks like it was designed with all those features in mind.

Q: How would you describe Microsoft’s position within the Mac community?

Ho: We provide software that customers really want on their platform of choice. They tell us what they want from a productivity suite, and 92 percent want cross-platform compatibility. Combine that with quality and dependability, and you’ve got Microsoft’s products for the Mac.

Q: How is the relationship between Microsoft and Apple?

Ho: We work closely with Apple, and we’re committed to that relationship for the long run. We’ve been talking for the past year about the next OS, Tiger, and figuring out how we’ll take advantage of the new technologies it will bring. We worked closely with Apple and the Windows team to address reliability and performance in Virtual PC, and the results show.

Q: What does the arrival of Tiger mean for future development of Mac BU products?

Ho: We’re looking forward to taking advantage of several new features of Tiger. We’re working with Apple and planning to support the technology in some major ways. There are a number of new technologies coming in Tiger, such as sync services and Spotlight, that will allow us to address some long-standing customer needs. We’ll be announcing these new features in the near future.

Q: What have you announced at Macworld 2005? What will these announcements mean for customers?

Ho: We’ve announced our support for the new Tiger OS, as well as a group of enhancements that will benefit our Mac customers, especially those working in an enterprise environment. We’re always looking for new ways to help Mac users work smarter, and upcoming improvements will continue that focus.

Q: What is unique about the Mac BU team?

Ho: First of all, we’re a group of Mac users within Microsoft. But more than that, we really strive to understand what Mac customers need and want to work best on their preferred platform. We have very talented people in our group, and they’re all 100-percent dedicated to making the absolute best productivity software on the Mac platform.

Q: Where do you see Microsoft’s Macintosh Business Unit in five years?

Ho: We’re doing five-year planning right now. I see us continuing to ship the best productivity suite on the Mac. Always pushing the envelope, always above the quality bar, and always surprising and delighting our customers.

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