Windows 8 Interview – a chat with Marc LeShay

As part of the ongoing Windows 8 interview series, this week I did an interview with Marc LeShay.

I had the pleasure of working with Marc at a large entertainment company a few lifetimes ago and came to respect his ability to manage large, complex, technology solutions.

He has over 20 years of enterprise technology, runs his own business and has been a technology executive at the highest levels. You can read more from his bio here

He was gracious enough to spend an hour with me chopping it up about Windows 8.

My thanks to Marc for his time.

Onuora: Marc, thanks for making the time. Could you tell us a bit about your background?

Marc: For the past 20+ years, I’ve been an IT professional. I’ve worked as both a consultant and employee in several Fortune 100 companies. Most recently, I served as the Vice President of Enterprise Architecture for one of the world’s largest entertainment companies. Additionally, I occasionally work as an adjunct professor at Pepperdine and mentor several entrepreneurs.

Onuora: In your opinion, what’s the role of an enterprise architect?

Marc: When you release yourself from the academic constraints, I believe enterprise architecture is highly variable. Depending upon the environment, at the broadest stroke, I posit it follows two very divergent paths:

  1. For organizations with highly mature central IT teams (people, process, and technology), enterprise architecture can serve as a strong governance body over technology strategy, frameworks, patters, standards, etc.
  2. For organizations where centralized IT is still emerging and forming (which is the majority in my opinion), enterprise architecture is a more powerful tool when deployed to partner with the business to address specific revenue-impacting opportunities.

Onuora: What skills do you look for in the architects that work for you?

Marc: The role of an enterprise architect has very broad range. This is one of the great challenges in building an architecture team.

Having said this, I subscribe to a simple axiom: Smart people (IQ + EQ) make good employees. I look for the smartest people I can find. It’s not sexy, but it’s the truth.

Onuora: I assume you’ve had a chance to see and play with Windows 8, what were your first impressions?

Marc: I recently had the opportunity to attend a two-day executive briefing at Microsoft’s headquarters.

As you can imagine, a great deal of time was spent on Windows 8. While I appreciate the positive advancements of the product, my response to them, which I’ll share with you is two-fold:

  1. I am disappointed that with the resources Microsoft has at their disposal, they settled for a product that I believe is just catching up to the competition. I was hoping for greater innovation that would propel and advance the industry. I just don’t see that in Windows 8.
  2. At the time, with my organization was still completing our Windows 7 implementation, I didn’t and still don’t see a compelling business case to migrate to Windows 8.

I predict Windows 8 will suffer the same fate as ME and Vista, with some market penetration resulting from new home-consumer PC sales but corporations electing to defer to a later version of OS.

Onuora: What do you think of the Windows 8 Metro interface?

Marc: I hate it! I’m sorry to be so blunt, but I am baffled by this interface. Microsoft’s strategy revolves around delivering a consistent user interface across all platforms. For this, I applaud them.

However, they took this too literally, directly porting their phone interface to the larger screen platform on a PC. As is too often the case, Microsoft missed the mark on the user interface.

I believe there was a more elegant approach, one where Microsoft could have maintained the “feel” of the Metro interface but enhanced it to take advantage of the larger interface – in the same way that many iPhone apps were adapted to the iPad.

Onuora: What do you think of the overall Windows 8 vision?

Marc: I don’t see the innovation. It’s that simple. I see Windows 7+. I’m very unexcited.

Onuora: Have you had a chance to check out the development tools – Visual Studio etc?

Marc: No, I have not.

Onuora: What do you think about the development tools Microsoft have made available?

Marc: I’m not familiar enough with the tools to speak with any authority.

Onuora: What role do you see Windows 8 playing in the enterprise?

Marc: As I said above, as a rule, I believe enterprises will skip this OS. Too many are still buttoning up their Windows 7 implementation and there’s not enough of a value proposition to justify another large desktop upgrade project, especially in this economy.

Having said this, of course some enterprises will upgrade.

Onuora: What do you think about having Windows XP, Vista, 7 and 8 on the market at the same time?

Marc: There seems to be a pattern. XP is too good a product to die. Vista was too bad a product to take life and replace XP. So, XP remains.

Windows 7 is too good a product to die but there are too many older machines that can’t handle it. So, XP remains alive.

Windows 8 will not be good enough to replace Windows 7. So, Windows 7 will be around for a long time to come.

Ultimately, this is good for the consumer but terrible for the Microsoft boardroom. Since I don’t hold Microsoft stock . . .

Onuora: What would you change about Windows 8 if you had the chance?

Marc: If I had that answer, I’d be sitting in a big office in Redmond, WA.

I’m not sure. What I know is that Microsoft is in a two-front dog fight. On the server side, they’re battling against Linux. On the desktop, handheld, and mobile side, they’re battling against Apple, a company that continues to innovate.

I believe Microsoft needed to introduce something truly innovative into Windows 8. They didn’t. Frankly, I’m not sure what can be done at this point.

My recommendation is to hit the ground running and drive some significant innovation into Windows 9 and get something dazzling to the market by next year.

Onuora: Do you feel that you and your peers have had enough opportunities to give feedback about Windows 8?

Marc: Sure. Microsoft is always terrific about making early releases available to the market. However, providing input does not equate to changing the product. I don’t believe (and understandably so), that Microsoft can alter the strategic direction or function set of Windows 8.

The value in the feedback process is more amplified in the form of input into the next generation OS. I think my peers and I recognize this reality and participate accordingly.

Onuora: Assuming Windows 8 came out in October, when would you recommend use and deployment?

Marc: No. There’s not enough of a value proposition to drive the business case. Who knows what the home-user reaction will be. Assuming they accept it, they’ll just accept new PCs with it and the product will have decent market penetration.

On the corporate side, however; I think I’ve already covered my pessimism in the broad adoption of Windows 8.

Onuora: What is your view on the use and deployment of tablets in the enterprise?

Marc: All for it and, as bring your own device (BYOD) strategies continue to evolve and mature, I see the use continuing to grow exponentially.

Onuora: Do you own an iPad?

Marc: Absolutely.

Onuora: What do you think of the iPad as an enterprise level device?

Marc: Again, as bring your own device strategies continue to emerge, I see them being increasingly used. The greatest challenge I see is that, despite the use of keyboards, etc, the iPad remains a far better consumption device than content creation platform.

What I predict is either Apple overcoming this gap or more likely, employees leveraging a combination of standardize thin-client computing devices for content creation and iPad (tablets) for consumption.

Onuora: What do you think about the Azure platform?

Marc: It’s too early to say. What I will say is the decision to make the Azure platform truly open really impresses me. This is place where I believe Microsoft squarely hit the mark. I was so pleased to see Linux logos all over the Azure presentations.

Having said this, there have been some early hiccups with the platform (all to be expected). I think we’ll have to wait and see if and how it takes off and whether or not it can compete with Amazon and the other large players.

Onuora: Thanks for your time.

Marc: My pleasure. It was fun.

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