Profits or patches? Take a wild guess at Microsoft's choice

Due to cost-cutting measures in Redmond, an eerily familiar crew may soon be responsible for testing bugs: You, me, and everyone we know

Man happily throwing money up in the air against green background
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I’m in turquoise hell, trapped in the back booth of a Kirkland, Wash., watering hole trying to calm a terrified software tester whom I’ve rescued from Microsoft while the entirety of blue-and-green-clad Washington dances in anticipation of a Seahawks back-to-back Super Bowl victory. They’re leaving us alone for the most part, and it’s good cover from our pursuers.

I’ve known this poor Microsoft simpleton for some years, and I’ve come on a secret rescue mission following his appeals to chopper him to safety from the Microsoft campus. Supposedly, after any meeting with his board of directors, CEO Satya Nadella runs screaming like a banshee across the company’s Redmond campus, tackling any employee who gets in his way. If you can’t run fast enough, you get axed.

Satya goes smash

Escape is not as easy as it sounds. My pal worked with the Microsoft software testing teams, apparently universally slow of foot, and claimed he’d gotten away by hiding beneath a pile of discarded Surface 2s until Nadella lumbered by. Then he squirreled himself away in the abandoned Internet Explorer offices, where he’s been holed up for the last two months, alternately dodging Microsoft security and his rampaging CEO, venturing out only at night to forage for food and Internet access.

When I received the email, I didn’t lend it much credence at first. The guy is a known boozehound -- hence our connection -- and the last time I’d seen him, his small talk left me fondly recalling my own bout with jaundice. But he was a friend and had saved my life on an infamous day in Cupertino, so I owed him one. Figuring he was merely on an epic bender, I hopped on a plane with a powdered dose of Cringely’s Alcohol Consequence Eradicator (ACE) stashed in my fanny pack meant expressly for him.

Long story short, he wasn’t on a bender, fire was exchanged, and Satya may have a new limp. But I got my bud out of there, and chased by squads of Taser-toting Microsoft minions, we fled to a dive bar in the bowels of suburban Kirkland. Now we're trapped by hordes of inebriated yuppies chanting, “Sea-HAWKS, Sea-HAWKS.”

I’m having trouble getting the story out of my pal, as the screaming Seahawks hordes send him wild-eyed and gibbering. We can’t leave with Nadella's armed drones searching for us, so I’m stuck debriefing him here until help arrives. If I've heard right, the need to trim Microsoft’s bottom line has driven Nadella over the edge. Constantly hounded by the board to goose the stock price, Nadella has been cutting every staff roster he can get his hands on -- sales, marketing, engineering -- but it’s never enough.

Microsoft puts the "you" in "user testing"

According to my whimpering source, Satya finally came upon the bold plan of axing a big chunk of his software QA staff and pinning the task of bug testing on the consumer-class customers of Windows 10 (code-named Project Snot Waffle). Then he went after my buddy’s team. Apparently, Satya figures folks like my mom will take the day-to-day punches and send him the bug reports he needs to smooth out fast-release rough patches, which means he saves money on staff and simultaneously makes it safer for enterprise customers when they install a couple of months down the line. Allegedly this is a long-term plan covering Windows whatever and beyond.

That sure sounds like Nadella, but I’m wondering how he figures IT pros are going to walk the risk-vs.-safer-install tightrope. Sure, you can get a Mom-tested rollup of updates every three months, but do you want to wait that long for a maybe-safer patch taco if it means leaving a bunch of potential root access flaws wide open in the interim? (Why does it always seem to be root access?)

Satya’s either diabolically brilliant or a complete fart sandwich. He’s killed Windows RT, which was probably the safest Windows edition due to sheer unpopularity. That should save more budget money, but it also means enterprise IT admins will face legions of executive road warriors running around with full-on Windows 8.1-cum-Windows 10 devices connected to the Internet of everywhere and waiting on Momma Bear, Poppa Bear, and Baby Bear for patch-health. There’s no way to know whether that’ll work, but my ulcer says no.

There has to be more to this story, if only I could get this trembling fawn to speak in coherent sentences. Scotch isn’t helping, and there’s never an acetylene torch handy when you need one.

Uh-oh, Russell Wilson threw an end zone interception with 20 seconds to go. The blue-green beasties are stunned. Now they’re getting angry, frenzied. We better --

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