This is the next blog in the continuing series of interviews with top-echelon and renowned professionals. In this blog, I interview Dharmesh Mehta: Director, Windows and Windows Live Division Microsoft Corporation.
As director of product management for the Windows Live business at Microsoft Corp., Dharmesh Mehta is responsible for driving business and product strategy, marketing, business development and evangelism for Windows Live – a suite of free software and services that help people communicate, share, and keep their lives in sync.
Dharmesh and his team are chartered with the goal of leading Windows Live as the world’s most engaged community of people across the PC, web and mobile phone. They drive the worldwide business strategy and the Windows Live value proposition including Hotmail, Messenger and Windows Live Essentials. They are also responsible for building lasting partnerships with network operators, PC manufacturers and leading web companies. And they are responsible for the direct and indirect monetization for these experiences.
Dharmesh has worked at Microsoft since 2005 in a variety of product management and strategy positions. Most recently, he oversaw product management for Windows Live Messenger, the world’s most popular IM service. Prior to that, he drove the strategy behind Microsoft’s entry into the enterprise hosted messaging and collaboration services industry as a part of Microsoft’s Corporate Strategy Group.
Dharmesh has dual Bachelor’s degrees in Electrical Engineering and Finance, a Masters of Engineering in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and a Masters of Business Administration from Harvard Business School. Dharmesh lives in Seattle with his wife where they enjoy travel and exploring the outdoors.
To listen to the interview, click on this MP3 file link
Interview Time Index (MM:SS) and Topic
Please share with our audience how you got into technology starting from your youth.
“….From the age of about six I was programming and it started with a love of computers and for the things you could build….”
For those pursuing higher education, what survival and growth tips would you provide from your experiences from MIT and Harvard?
“….Always know what you are trying to get out of your experiences….How you want to grow and what is the achievement you want to have?….And have that as your North star….”
Dharmesh talks about why he pursued education in electrical engineering, computer science and in finance which are very different domains.
“….How do I bridge between a deep understanding of how products work, how things are built, being able to code up software applications etc., and on the flipside, how do I make money out of that?…..”
Can you talk about your roles at Microsoft and what key lessons and success stories do you want to share with the audience?
“….Having this end-to-end thinking….That lesson and mentality continues to be really true as I moved from corporate strategy to the Windows Live division….”
What attributes are required to be successful at Microsoft?
“….You’ve got to have a great passion for technology….Have a medium to long-range orientation….Drive for huge results, huge amount of impact and end-customer value….Have great communication skills and be able to effectively communicate your ideas….Have the ability to work collaboratively….”
Outside of Microsoft, what are you passionate about?
“….family….traveling….volleyball….trying out new wines….”
What has Windows Live recently released and why is this cool and useful?
“….With Hotmail there has been a huge release…. Office Web Apps (fully web based and are fully integrated into Hotmail)….The notion of Active Views so that when you get links in your email you no longer have to click through 3 browsers screens to see this link and what’s there….With the new Hotmail, because you have this huge SkyDrive which can store up to 25 gigabytes of photos, you can send all your photos in one email….The big change in Messenger? Messenger has historically been the best way to have chat in real time. We’ve done a lot around that, like how do we add high definition video chat, how do you have video chat while you are playing a game, sharing photos or doing other things….In Photo Gallery a new thing called Photo Fuse….With Movie Maker (Automan)….Windows Live Sync…literally (up to a million files), that you can literally sync between your PC’s…That is a very quick summary of many of the things we have released over the last three months and a lot more coming in the next few…..”
What and why should we be excited about in the coming months with Windows Live?
“….If you look at Messenger there’s a lot of deep integration we are doing with the biggest social networks so Facebook is fully integrated in today….When you are sitting in Messenger, not only can you chat with the 300 million on Messenger, you can also chat with the 500 million who are on Facebook….On the Hotmail side, a couple of things:….Hotmail will go to full SSL encryption….Another thing I’m excited about is the Exchange ActiveSync…..”
Though targeted to PC, Web and Mobile consumers, how can enterprise and SMB workers employ Windows Live as a flexible environment at home, on the road and at work?
“….Some people have work contacts, work relationships, data and files, and then they have personal ones…..there’s a balance there on how you integrate them. The notion that we’ve taken is threefold…that you want communications to be able to flow across those networks….that things should look and feel the same….that you have a set of work emails and contacts and a set of personal emails and contacts and although you don’t want your work contact list and your personal contact list to become one unified thing, you’d like to use them as one thing….In your PC we do that in Outlook with Outlook Connector….with Exchange ActiveSync you can do the same thing on your smartphone….”
Dharmesh shares some stories of how people are using specific components and features of Windows Live to make their lives more meaningful.
“….There are many, many applications for how people are using these features….There’s a broad spectrum here of what people are doing….”
How many people are using Windows Live today? Who is using Windows Live and why? How has this usage grown and for what reasons?
“….The two biggest products that people are using are Hotmail and Messenger. Messenger having about 300 million active users every month and Hotmail about 360 million, and some of our other products vary from 50 to 100 million….Not only are more and more people coming on-line but they are actually spending a lot more time on-line….”
How do you see usage growing in three years in the different regions of the world, for example: North America, Latin America, the European Union, and Asia? And as you indicated, you are seeing some growth in Russia, India and China. What does this mean in terms of growth in these various regions?
“….In an emerging market there is definitely more growth both in terms of the number of users and the amount of time and a much heavier skew towards mobiles….”
Why should someone using a different email service switch to a Hotmail account?
“….You have to get the spam out, get your performance up and have a user experience that people find easy to use, etc. Those are the basics and Hotmail does great there….A new capability called Sweep (provides users with a virtual broom that lets them easily “sweep” unwanted mail from the inbox into either folders or oblivion, leaving the inbox clean)….Hotmail Active Views….Exchange ActiveSync….Office Web Apps….”
There’s a lot of users of instant messaging but some say that in some countries like the US it just isn’t as popular as it should be. What’s the value of an app like Messenger in a country like the US?
“….The interesting pivot that Messenger has is that it isn’t just an IM app it’s really your people app, especially in countries like the US which there’s even greater numbers of different networks, different sites that all of us are using….You get real-time notification, you can see which views, you can take advantage of the graphics capabilities of the PC, beautiful slide shows, commenting etc. that you can’t do nearly as well on a browser today….”
What else are you most excited about?
“….There is another add-in we’ve created called Messenger Companion….”
Which resources would you recommend to support professionals in their work?
“….SkyDrive (gives you 25 gigabytes of online storage)….Windows Live Sync’s remote Desktop capability….Hotmail….Messenger….”
Can you comment on the need for IT professionalism [see: www.ipthree.org]?
“….Every profession is a little different, there are areas around this where I agree there should be some kind of code of conduct and more policies and principles that as an industry we are adopting. There are areas which are less relevant….. So whether you look at healthcare or accounting, where dealing with people’s personal and medical records goes to some extreme, but it’s probably not a far day from now when a lot of our medical records are sitting in some IT database. I think it is a very important area to make sure that we as an industry are doing a good job….”
Provide are your top five predictions for the future?
“….Crystal ball gazing, always a lot of fun….In the short-term (2 years) some things that are starting to pick up and are going to go gangbusters…..Social gaming…..Mobile location based and augmented reality experiences….PCs are going to diversify even more where a PC could be anything from literally my window, to the slate, tablet, remote control, to tons and tons of devices that will look very different from the traditional laptop or desktop….Longer term (3 to 5 years), a couple of things….The display and input technology will change….Robots…robotic devices in the home…..”
You talked about social gaming so do you see this Kinect product (formerly called Project Natal) from Microsoft contributing to this next evolution of that?
“….It’s a very different experience. When you think about how do you detect people, take their actions and insert them into a game, the fundamental concept of people, motion and face detection, emotions and then being able to place that into an alternate reality enables a bunch of possibilities. There will be a lot of different scenarios that come from there….With that product we very much started on the consumer and casual gaming side, but I definitely think that at some point we will bridge it over to the enterprise….”
What are the most interesting questions you get asked and what are your answers?
“….A lot of questions are about the size and scale of Windows Live….The second question I get asked a lot: The last job I had (before Microsoft) I had started a company with at most seven people at startup and then I moved to Microsoft with 90,000 people and whether that seemed like two opposite sides of the spectrum….”
Past, present, and future — name three (or more) who inspire you and why is this so?
“….My parents….Bill Gates….”
You choose the topic area. What do you see as the top challenges facing us today and how do you propose they be solved?
“….I think the PC and clouds are going to mesh together more and more and how do you bridge the best of both of those worlds….The possibilities of bridging those devices in the clouds is amazing and at the same time a lot of challenges on infrastructure, security and app models and development tools and all those types of things….”