Friday, June 27, 2003

Technical Evangelism

Technical Evangelism

Technical evangelism is the art and science of establishing new technologies as industry standards.

The mission of Technical Evangelism at Microsoft is:

To accelerate the creation of a critical mass of leveraged support for a platform until it gains unstoppable momentum.

What is a platform ?
Electricity, broadcast television, and the Win32 API are all platforms:

Electric appliance manufacturers assume the consumer has electricity

Television set manufacturers assume the presence of TV signals at the consumer’s home

Independent software vendors assume the presence of Windows on the consumer’s PC.

Microsoft’s experience with platforms started its first product: Microsoft BASIC. Licensed to manufacturers of mutually-incompatible computers, Microsoft BASIC provided a common platform (the BASIC interpreter) for applications written in the BASIC language. Applications written in Microsoft BASIC on one computer were very likely (but not certain) to run on computers from other vendors, if they too included Microsoft BASIC. This early experience with a platform that was only partially standard informed all of Microsoft’s subsequent platform efforts.

Over the years, Microsoft’s platforms have had many competitors. Digital Research’s CP/M, IBM’s OS/2, Apple’s Macintosh, Netscape’s Navigator, Sun’s Java, and the Open Source movement’s Linux have all attempted (with mixed success) to replace Microsoft’s platforms with their own, as industry standards.

Platform Support
A platform becomes successful when it becomes invisible. When product makers do not even think about what platform to use.

A product supports a platform if it operates only, best, or first on that platform.

An electric toaster supports the American electricity standard if
Its plug can fit into the American-standard electrical outlet, and
It operates properly when supplied with American-standard electricity at 110 volts and 60 Hertz, vs.
240v/50Hz in England
220v/50Hz in Germany, and

A television set supports the US television standard if it correctly displays TV signals presented in the NTSC format (vs. SECAM or PAL)

A software application supports Windows if it correctly uses the Win32 API (vs. the APIs of Linux, Mac OS, Palm OS, etc.)

This support is often an unconscious act. Most consumers do not know that other electricity and television standards exist. They purchase toasters and TVs without any concern for the platforms that they require, completely unaware that they have supported one platform over another.

An unconscious decision is ideal, from the platform vendor’s perspective. When ISVs support a Microsoft platform without even realizing that they have made a decision, and rejected any alternatives, then that platform battle if won.


Before starting to push his technology, the wise evangelist looks for leverage.

In technical evangelism, the mass being accelerated is platform support. Levers are people, companies, products, or channels of communication that allow you to accelerate the mass of support with less effort. Any effort you save working one lever, can be invested in working another. Leverage is one of the key concepts of technical evangelism.

All pawns are equal, but some are more equal than others. Being able to identify the pawns with the greatest leverage or even better, being able to recruit pawns that have the potential to gain leverage, and helping them to do so is what separates the great evangelists from the ordinary. Don’t just find leverage; create it.

Measuring the support for a Platform :

The mass of support for a given platform can be measured in a variety of ways. One simple way is to average, across all relevant markets, the market shares of all of the applications that support your technology, vs. those that support alternative technologies (or support no relevant technology). Another is to average the number of times the names of these products are mentioned in the trade press, on the Internet, etc., vs. their competitors (mind share).

Once a critical mass of support has been reached, a chain reaction will begin in which one ISV’s support will create additional support among other ISVs. The platform becomes self-evangelising.

Momentum :

A sufficient mass of applications delivering support for a platform over a sufficiently short time gives the platform enough momentum that it becomes, for all practical purposes, unstoppable. Unless unstoppable momentum is reached quickly, competitors will have the opportunity to gain a lead even if they start later.

Technical evangelists should not write books on new platforms. Technical evangelists should not write sample platform code for publication. Technical evangelists should not design courseware for teaching about a new platform.

Instead, technical evangelists should accelerate the creation of these materials by other authors, consultants, and teachers. Outsourcing the creation of these materials

- Leverages the skills, experience, and contacts of their creators

- Commits their creators to the platform, making them virtual evangelists.

- Creates both intellectual and human resources that can be leveraged later

- Frees the evangelist to accelerate the creation of even more materials

The Technical Evangelist

- Plans, initiates, and coordinates the actions of others

- Focusing on those whose participation will be most leveraged

- In accelerating the creation of a critical mass of support

- So that the platform becomes self-evangelising

- And the Technical Evangelist can start all over again with the Next Big Thing


Post a Comment

<< Home