Inside Steve Ballmer's inbox
Few people will ever know what it’s like to run one of the world’s biggest companies, but for the past few months I’ve had the briefest of glimpses of what it’s like to read the top man's emails.
No, this isn’t another case of journalists hacking email accounts. As regular PC Pro readers may remember, when Microsoft launched its Outlook.com webmail service a few months ago, I jumped in and quickly grabbed the SteveBallmer@Outlook.com address that Microsoft had somewhat carelessly left vacant.
The overwhelming majority of email landing in my pseudo Steve Ballmer account is, of course, spam. I have no idea if Mr B is interested in the health of his horse, or the latest celebrity scandal courtesy of Now Magazine, but there’s plenty of it waiting in his inbox if he is.
Just occasionally, however, my fake Steve receives a genuine email from a Microsoft customer – or even a prospective employee – usually copied into every conceivable email address for the Microsoft CEO, presumably in the hope of getting lucky with one of them.
To be clear: I’ve never posed as Ballmer or responded to any of these emails to elicit a further response. What’s published below are all unsolicited emails sent to SteveBallmer@Outlook.com. I offered to return the address to Microsoft when I first registered it, and that offer remains open.
So, what kind of email does Mr Ballmer receive?
Windows 8 complaint
Three out of the four genuine emails I’ve received for Mr Ballmer could be classified as complaints, or “constructive feedback” if you’re being generous. These emails are typically copied into all and sundry at Microsoft, including Bill Gates in one case, who hasn’t had any day-to-day involvement with software since 2008. You’ve got to feel sorry for the guy, at times…
Steve’s first correspondent is a big fan of the Windows 8 UI… except for the way the live tiles scroll. He claims that when you “hit start and scroll immediately, only the first 2-3 group of tiles gracefully animate into position while the other groups are already in position and ready to roll” – something we’ve not noticed on any of our machines, but he included a screenshot to illustrate his point.
“This makes the UI look somewhat fake and the animation looks unnecessary,” the correspondent writes. “The OS loos [sic] masked rather than being a native natural beauty (which it is).”
He also makes a complaint we’ve made many times, about the absence of a Windows 8 tutorial. “The majority of the people who start using Windows 8 go in search of familiarity of the desktop but instead of just pointing at the corner during the first boot there could be a beautiful Windows 8 Application style APP which has video tutorials for everything and has some sample environment to learn everything and thus familiarizing the UI by a greater extent,” he suggests. Take note, Mr B.
Server product key woes
Another familiar complaint arises from a Windows Server 2008 customer, who having suffered a hardware failure reinstalled his OS on a new machine, only to be told that the product key had been used too many times.
“I called MS Support and they said that my Product Key had been abused and used 10 times,” vents the angry customer. “I said to the rep that there is no way because I haven't installed this 10 times. They refused to assist me and told me that I need to return it to the place of purchase. I said, ‘yeah, that will work out really well for me to try and return something that I purchased 3 years ago, it's open software, and no receipt. What retail manager in the world would allow this?’”
After another few paragraphs of increasingly irate pleading with Ballmer, our correspondent warns:
“I hate to be like this but I feel like I have no choice and haven't gotten anywhere with anyone. I can't tell you how many days and hours I have spent on getting a resolution for this. It's to the point where it has literally driven me crazy. My next method of action is to send an e-mail to literally every employee at Microsoft and every domain that Microsoft owns, and trust me I do know how.”
Judging by the fact he sent this to the wrong address, I wouldn’t bank on it.
The final complaint is more of a suggestion from someone who’s clearly a Microsoft fan. Here, we print his email in its entirety:
“First, I love my Windows Phone. It is brilliant, But I have found that I can only set an event on my calendar for every Day, Week, Weekend, Month, and Year. I was unable to set my paycheck as an event efficiently. I just let it be hoping for an update. Windows 8 came, I love it! But again, I could only set an event in my calendar app to reoccur every Day, Week, Weekend, Ect. Not every other week.
Given the state of the US economy, perhaps he should just be thankful that paycheck keeps coming.
The final email is a complaint of an entirely different kind, from someone who went for a job at a Microsoft Store but doesn’t feel he was given a fair crack of the whip.
“I do appreciate the chance to interview with Microsoft store,” begins the email. “I didn't mention that I am an African American male and I don't think that the manager was comfortable with that. When I entered the store I was introduced to her and upon my greeting, I noticed that she didn't give me any eye contact which gave me the assumption that she wasn't interested.”
“I am certain that this was not a decision based on my experience or my being presentable, but sole [sic] based on my color. I am a 6 foot tall 38 year old educated black man who speaks fluent Spanish, I don't know that I fit the criteria but I am certain that I make a good candidate. I am confused as to why I didn't even receive any feedback from anyone so I decided to write you.”
We, of course, have no evidence that Mr Ballmer’s correspondent was treated unfairly because of the colour of his skin. But it just goes to show the variety of messages a CEO has to deal with during the course of the day. Or, at least, the messages his PA has to deal with…