A Tour of Microsoft’s Mac Lab

Today I’ll stop my 3rd person perspective. I’m going to write a little bit more about what I do to help MacBU ship great software and provide some color around what’s it’s like to work on Mac software at Microsoft. Often when we have press events or special visits from our MVPs I’ll give them a tour of the Mac Lab and explain what we do. They’ve always found it very interesting and so I thought I’d share a virtual tour of our Mac Lab. Let’s get started:

Lab Door

We start with the door. The Mac Lab is about 2000 square feet of solid computers. The calendars you see down the side of the wall we use to mark team birthdays as well as special events. The CD on the door is an old Apple Software Restore CD from the last beige Mac Apple produced, the Power Macintosh G3.

The “Sandbox” and Plasma display

The first area in the Mac Lab is what we call the Sandbox. This is where we keep all significant hardware configurations Apple has released that run our products. We’ll use the Plasma display to, watch DVDs and play games, uh er, I mean, do important training presentations. πŸ˜‰ It’s actually very useful because everyone can be in front of a computer and still see the main screen and follow along. Often other groups at Microsoft (the games group, hardware drivers group and even the Windows media group) will come and schedule time in the Mac Lab to test their software on the different hardware configurations.

Old iMacs and iBooks in the distance

More Macs

We have lots of Apple hardware. You can see here the old colorful iMacs along with some of the old iBooks. You can also see two of our Lab Technicians working on the backup systems, but more about that later. Up until a few months ago we had every significant hardware revision Apple has ever released since the dawn of time. We even had a section of the Lab we affectionately called the “Mac Nursery” where we kept all the older Macs going. We even had an old SE/30 and IIci and super expensive Mac II all connected via PhoneNet running Spectre, just for fun. It’s always super fun to boot Word 1.0 or Excel 1.0 on these old machines and see how much things have changed. Due to lack of space in the Lab we had to put all of these older machines into storage and recycled the following:

  • Macintosh (original)
  • Macintosh SE
  • Macintosh SE/30
  • Macintosh Classic
  • Macintosh Centris 610 <– I had this one in my room during high school
  • Macintosh IIci
  • Macintosh IIsi
  • Power Macintosh 7100/66
  • Power Macintosh 7100/80
  • Power Macintosh 7500/100
  • Quadra 650
  • Power Macintosh G3
  • Duo Dock with Powerbook Duo 2300c
  • Power Computing PowerCenter Pro 210

May they rest in peace.

ADIC Backup Robots

One of the realities of working with computers is that things fail. More often then you might think. We’ve used different backup robots, but ever since we moved to ADIC we’ve never had a robot failure. They just make great stuff. We have 3 robots and use Veritas Backup Exec. It works pretty well, as you can see:

Lots of backup tapes

We also do offsite backups just incase “The Big One” hits, but for regular use these tapes work just great, except when they don’t. Recently we had a failure and lost 400 GB of data! We restored it from the tapes and then discovered that the Mac version of the Backup Exec agent had a corruption bug causing the restores to be compromised! Veritas folk were super responsive and they should have a new Mac agent out soon. Backup software and file systems are in the class of software that simply must work, all the time. Alas, this is not always the case.

I’m going to skip the “Build Lab” section of our Lab since it’s very much in transition. Maybe I’ll post about that later. For now, on to our automation system!

Mac Office is one of those “software in the large” projects. There’s really no way a team of our size would be able to adequately test all of Office without the use of automated testing. Every day we get a new build of Office from the build machines, we copy it to our Xserve RAID connected to our dual G5 Xserve for access by our 249 automation machines. We then run thousands and thousands of tests on the new build. Typically we get 4 builds of Office each day: English Ship, English Debug, Japanese Ship and Japanese Debug. We run our entire battery of tests against all the builds and then report any failures to testers via email. The testers investigate the failures, log any bugs and then move on to their other duties as testers. This turns out to be very effective, if used properly, and over time it allows testers to focus on things humans do best, while letting computers verify the repetitious and mundane, but necessary, testing. It all started with our Blue and White G3s years ago. At first when testers would upgrade their test machines, instead of recycling the machines, “The Lab” would get them to add them to our automation machine pool. I think we had about 20 machines to begin with.

Venerable Old Bluies

After some time we started getting Gray G4s…

Speedy G4s

Then we upgraded to some dual proc machines…

Dual G5s

Then Apple give us a special gift. πŸ™‚ You’d be probably be very surprised at the cost of running all these machines. There’s the obvious electricity costs, but also cooling costs and even the physical space costs. Additionally, our system scales, not with CPU horsepower, but with quantity of machines. Most of the tests we run don’t run significantly faster on a dual G5 vs. a single G4. So when Apple announced the Mac mini it wasn’t minutes before we were considering how to use it for our automation system. The Mac mini has all the perfect qualifications:

  1. Low power
  2. Low heat
  3. Small
  4. Easy to pack together
  5. Inexpensive

So we got a few to test things out…

Mixed Automation Rack

And then we made the big purchase:

Rack A, B and C = 150 Mac minis!

These work extraordinarily well. You might wonder how we control all these Macs. We use two methods: KVM switch box and Apple Remote Desktop. Thanks to our Lab Manager’s great relationship with the IOGear folk we have a very reliable solution these days. It seemed like it took for ever to find a USB KVM switch box that didn’t leave the machines “headless” after random reboots. The 8 port USB KVM from IOGear has been rock solid. So what does it look like to sit in front of 64 Mac minis? Like this:

64 Mac minis: 1 keyboard, monitor and mouse

This works very well when you must access the machines physically. Even so, just scanning each Mac for 1 second gets very old, very fast and Apple Remote Desktop comes to the rescue! When we need to see all the machines at once we just select them and BOOM! they’re there. It also gives us what I believe is the one true reason Apple invented the 30 inch Display. πŸ˜‰

The 30 Inch Display: Fulfilling the measure of its creation.

ARD displays 50 machines at a time and when you have a capable machine, it uses the “cube rotation” effect to move from one group of 50 to the next. I got a picture of the effect mid rotation below:

Rotates like butter!

So how does it all work? Like this: On each machine we have two volumes: ChangeOS and Mac OS X. The Mac OS X volume is where we install the different versions of the OS. We boot to the ChangeOS volume to free up the Mac OS X volume for modification. When we trigger an automation run we specify the OS version and language. Each machine then reboots to the ChangeOS partition, caches the OS .dmg locally and uses the asr command line tool to restore the image. The tool that does this work is one I wrote (in AppleScript Studio no less!) called Lab Assistant. We have images of the Mac OS from 8.1 all the way up to 10.4.6 in all the languages our products support. It’s a lot of data which brings me to the backbone of our automation system:

Our Xserve RAID and XSAN

1 TB

Right now we’ve just been testing out the XSAN stuff to see how we want to use it. That’s why you see all the Xserves. Just one side of the top Xserve RAID is 1 TB of data. For a fun comparison this whole rack which is about 7 ft tall is full of old RAID arrays is also 1 TB of data storage. We call it the Big Mac Daddy.

Big Mac Daddy

Other groups at Microsoft have hardware retention policies that force hardware upgrades every so often, but instead of just “recycling” these server machines, our Lab Manager intercepts them on the way out, and we use them for various things, storage, SQL server etc. We actually have some of the old MSN servers in our Mac Lab!


When you have so many machines to maintain, being able to get behind the machines is very important.

Lots o’ cables!

Top View

We like to pack in those Mac minis and the cords get pretty dense when we do. The hanging Mac mini box moves if the HVAC is working. If it’s not working, we’ve got to turn off the machines until it’s fixed.

Our main automation Xserve has a habit of failing in some serious way once a year, always around Christmas time. :/ For the last 2 years I’ve been in charge of fixing it and getting it back to operational. Most of our server racks are generic white enclosures, but we do have 1 black Dell rack. As punishment for bad behavior, we put the Xserve in the Dell rack. That’ll teach it. πŸ˜‰ This is what it looks like from the inside of the rack looking out on the world. Poor caged servers…

From the server’s perspective

Of course our iWork/iLife balance is just fine as you can see by the following:

Tornado Foosball Table

One of our team members bought this awesome Tornado foosball table which we use along with and XBox and XBox 360 to relax after a hard days work.


A while back the Seattle PI actually did a front page story on the Mac Business Unit and you can see from the picture in the Lab it was when we had only the G3s.

Gotta have the Mission Statement

As you enter the kitchen we have our MacBU mission statement to remind us what it’s all about. πŸ™‚

Free drinks of course!

Just like everywhere at Microsoft, we get all-you-can-drink beverages.

Fun Times!

Part of our team mantra is that we work hard, and play hard. So we do lots of fun morale events. We just take time off work and do stuff. We’re good friends and enjoy “just hanging out” together.

The Mac Library

This is just a pretty picture to represent what is really a much bigger collection of 3rd Party software we use to test with Office. Most if it is stored on file servers, but this gives you an idea. (There’s some old WWDC DVDs if you can find them!)

Printer Lab

More Printers

All connected for printer testing

They’re beautiful

A big part of Office functionality is printing, and we do loads of print testing. We work really closely with the printer vendors and make sure the printed page looks great. WYSIWYG is fundamental to Mac ethos. All these printers are connected via USB hubs and Ethernet to a Mac OS X Server 10.4 which is the printer server.

I hope that gives you a better idea about what the Mac Lab is like and what it’s like to work in the Macintosh Business Unit at Microsoft.

274 thoughts on “A Tour of Microsoft’s Mac Lab

  1. I’m curious as to why many of your automated tests don’t run faster on a G4 than on a G5. Is that because of the particular testing software used?

  2. That is freakin’ impressive! This lab is in Redmond, right? What does the CA team do? How long does it take to build Office with Xcode and now long did it take with CodeWarrior?Isaac

  3. “these tapes work just great, except when they don’t.”They always fail when you need them most.. You guys should get a SAN and dump your backups on there.Free Drinks? Man, that’s a dream job πŸ™‚Kiltak< HREF="http://geeksaresexy.blogspot.com" REL="nofollow">[Geeks Are Sexy] Tech. News<>

  4. That seems like a productive lab also sounds like a fun company to work for. I’m a PC freak myself last time I used a MAC was in grade 4. I’d like to learn more about the systems to add to my PC certifications. Can you recommend a good training facility in Ontario Canada?Network Administrator &Web/Graphic Designer/Developer

  5. Awesome post! So I have three questions…1) what is your electricity bill for all those Macs πŸ˜‰ 2) do you have any insider info on when MS going to release a universal binary for Office and 3) do you do have any Powerbooks, iBooks or Macbooks in the lab?

  6. Reall cool!So what do you guys actually use to “drive” the automated tests of Microsoft office. Applescript? Or something home-grown?

  7. Wow. I remember a story a while back about this being the one place where iPod usage isn’t frowned upon at Redmond. Apparently Balmer says no iPod or Google to his kids.

  8. How can I become a Office for Mac BETA Tester? I really would like test pre-release software, help you hunt some bugs and give you some feedback. Thank you for this awesome tour.

  9. Great post and thanks for sharing all of it with us. Is really great to see an MS employee being so happy around all those mac’s! Looks like a friendly place to work to!

  10. That place is heaven! A MacMini cluster is just about the coolest thing ever πŸ˜›Thanks so much for this great tour. I hope Microsoft support MacIntels officially for Vista as I’m currently running XP on my Macbook and it’s very good. Sadly, it’s a great shame that Windows Media Player was dropped. This is causing issues for intel mac owners. Could you not release just the codec on its own so that Mac users could continue to view WMV’s via Quicktime/VLC.

  11. Thank you for a great tour of your “Playground/Workplace”!! You have a much better free drink selection than we do our my place. Need a Help Desk Manager? LOL πŸ™‚ Thanks again!!!

  12. Great post, bro! In answer to Mike’s question above, I believe my brother helped program the “home grown” solution that “drives” this operation. Oh yeah. Uh huh.

  13. Awesome… I’m so jealous πŸ™‚If, some day, MacBU has to give-a-way a 17″ Studio Displays and a G4 PowerMacs, please recall me… πŸ™‚

  14. Where else have the Mac BU staff worked? Are most of them career ‘softies or have many of them come to the MacBU from other companies? If so, where else did they work?Thanks for the tour and thanks for Office.

  15. Thanks for the mini tour.Are most of the staff career ‘softies or are many from other software houses? If so, where have they worked before the Mac BU?

  16. Amazing! We users have no idea of how much work is done behind the curtains to make thigs like MS Office for Mac running. As a mac faithful I would like to thank you a lot for this trip.David (SΓ£o Paulo, Brazil)

  17. WOW, this was very informitive you guys must have great fun playing with macs. I liked the way you explained every pic. so everyone understands what ther looking at. Great JOB!!!!!

  18. WOW, This was a great ture. I Have a better Idea what you do in the MacBu side of microsoft. Your test benches are awsome the mac mini array is unreal. thanks Airgun25

  19. ?Due to lack of space in the Lab we had to put all of these older machines into storage and recycled the following: […]Macintosh (original)”Recycled? Those things are collector’s items!

  20. Yeah there are a few macs there. I feel so small time working my butt off just to be able to afford a single imac.Thanks for the tour

  21. wow got the odd GHertz at your fingers, lucky lot πŸ˜› Wouldn’t mind popping over, if im ever in the US, or even on that side of the planet

  22. I notice you don’t have an Apple ][ integer machine like the one I have. For a year and a half, from August ’77 til January ’79 the only way to load or store data was an audio cassette tape. If you wanted to do decimal numbers you had to buy a floating point card.

  23. That’s a sweet job – almost as cool as beta testing OSX.If Microsoft has that many Macs, i can only guess at how many Windows configurations they have :-/ oh well…I <3 Macs-Ian1.42ghz PowerPC MacMini + 2.16ghz Intel Macbook Pro

  24. Thanks for the tour, really nice to see it’s such serious (yes) bussiness. Also clever PR from you guys to the Mac-people and users (like me)Maarten Aerts, Netherlands

  25. Dear David Weiss,Will we ever see Microsoft Money for OS X? Please make it so! There is no worthy Personal Finance Manager (yet) for OS X and we really need one – one with a great UI and feature parity with the Windows version.Thanks,Zach

  26. That place looks like a heaven for Mac developers!to Kroc Camen: a plug-in to play WMV in QuickTime already exists, and it’s made in close cooperation with Microsoft, which is why they dropped the WM Player. Take a look at http://www.flip4mac.com/ It’s free!

  27. awsum read, its like being in the room, because you give a lot of pics from all perspectives, and your comments are not n00by and tell what people wanna read.thanks a lot dude, you saved me going there LOL joke, hope ill manage to see it in real some day πŸ˜€seeing mac-geeks working for microsoft (not that i ever doubted that they exist) gives ms a sympathic image ^^-fm

  28. I think you could do with some PowerBooks/MBPs in your setup. as well as iPods πŸ™‚Thanks for the tour though, very interesting!

  29. What do you use to test word ?autmate pushing all the buttons / keyboard combo’s ?because scripting via VBA would not be right would it ?regardsJohn Jones

  30. any macs going spare?any tours?religus pilgrimages?WORSHIP THE MACS!!!!just makes me want one even more…student in need of mac, will do almost anything! (lol)

  31. David, What does the Mac BU think about the ability to now run Windows on Intel Macs with Boot Camp or Parallels – in regards to the argument that says this will allow developers to abondon native OS X development and just run a Windows app on OS X through virtualization, etc. I hope you don’t see this as a valid speculation.. as I would like to see more and more OS X-native apps rather than virtualized apps. Any thoughts to share on that?

  32. Awsome!At home I have 4 Macs (and 2 PCs) and I was sure no one on Earth has more! Damn!!!πŸ˜‰ Keep the faith. Write a line or two about CodeWarrior transition… we need to know. Please!

  33. Very interesting tour of Mac BU @ MS. I’ve always wanted to read something like this since I first got my iBook a few years ago and bought my first copy of Office for it.

  34. Wonderful lab. Now when are you going to get to work on a lean, clean, and mean version of Vista that’s for Mac hardware only and knows how to live friendly with OS X?

  35. haha! I would give an arm and a leg to work with you guys…mac’s everywhere, free cokes?! how does it get any better?ps – i’ll take any of you guys on in a game of foosball.Robbie Watson

  36. Thanks a lot for this tour. I found it very interesting. It’s rare that you read anything interesting on blogs anymore these days…

  37. Great post.I am also quite interested in the general results of the testing. For example, do any/most issues you find just effect a certain version/language of OS X, or the issues are common across the lots of versions etc? (ie is the “test under every version of OS X” strategy uncover many issues, or just a couple here and there?)Have you considered using NetBoot instead of bringing the OS down onto the computer?Does Apple give MS access to OS X releases any earlier than other ADC members (I would guess not?).Have you had any cases where you have changed your testing methodology due to issues that _didn’t_ get picked up?PS: Since this has been shown on slashdot I am surprised (and glad) that the usual MS hating crowd hasn’t left a few comments

  38. Man, if you guys are every hiring let me know. I wish I could hangup my job as a system engineer doing mostly all pc networks. I am mac addict to the core. And I have to say, you have an awesome job. I am jealous.nate.whistler@techscaler.com

  39. I have wanted a mac for some time now and I love bugging the tech at school for information and he always pleeds ignorance. I am only 13 and I have grown up with microsoft. I got my first desktop at age 2. Right now I have a dell running xp pro and it just barly meats the memory requierments. If you are looking for a kid to do internship here’s my e-mail. nicholas.tehrani@gmail.com. If anneybodey reading this wants a gmail address just ask I am giving away invites.

  40. Hi,I’m a french user of your stuff, and really, it’s better than the PC’s soft ! ^-^Thanks a lot, and continue to make so cool stuff πŸ˜‰Naru Narusegawa, french body, japanese mind ;).

  41. I gotta say this is a very impressive setup of pictures. Thanks for the information and pictures about your lab. The one area of MS I respect really the most is the mac section of it – out of all the software released by MS, the mac software is by far the best in my opinion. Nice job testing, and please keep up the good work.

  42. Wow! Is this really Microsoft? It’s hard to believe you have all those macs! And, you’re blogging with Google’s blogger! Hell really has frozen over!cheers to you!

  43. Very nice. Now can you ask somebody there to fix Entourage so it really works with Exchange?Thanks.

  44. wow…i have almsot seen it all, but still i need to see apple’s version of your mac testing lab i wonder what they would do…brushed metal!

  45. Wow, great post! I’m really impressed with the MacBU, you guys make some pretty great software up there! Say, if some of you guys are up for a roadtrip/flight/whatever, it would be absolutely awesome to have a few of you guys come down to the Elk Grove Apple Campus (near Sacramento). I’m sure that we’d all love some insight as to what Microsoft is doing for it’s Mac users. If you guys are interested, email me at tf5_bassist@yahoo.com (i’d put my Apple address, but I’d rather not get spam there haha). Thanks!Lou

  46. In your research/testing/development, with free drinks on call… have any crearly superior drinks surfaced? πŸ™‚

  47. Have you guys ever tried Xgrid on all those systems? Specifically all those minis, wow, I bet you could do some monster number crunching with all that. <>Major thanks to you for this post!<>Does Bill ever go down there just for fun?Nski000


  49. You know, the absolute best thing about this article is the way your enthusiasm and spirit beams right through. It’s really great.FWIW, Mac Office is a great product, and I like it better than Office 2003 on XP (which I get annoyed with every week.)You do good work, and I’m glad you’re enjoying it.

  50. wow !!! this is just amazing … inside those coolers, do u have beers ?? in case u have, i’ll work inmediatly for microsoft πŸ™‚

  51. Thank you, I enjoyed the trip very, very much. I don’t like Microsoft, but the guys from the Mac Bussiness Unit are just great! Working for Microsoft and loving Macs… that’s just fantastic! πŸ™‚

  52. “Anonymous said… That’s a sweet job – almost as cool as beta testing OSX.“I interned for MacBU in Summer 2001 and we were convinced that Apple had us doing just that. I remember submitting tickets for about as many OS X problems as I did for Word, XL, PPT and Erage (Entourage).Good bunch of folks there.

  53. Ok, beautifull place, very very nice indeed… but I bet that you also need to do some sort of reverse engineering…

  54. Great post. Thanx. I guess this is the best BU at Microsoft to work at. …150 MacMini’s… aaaahhhh lovely.Thanks for sharing this. You obviously love your work…!

  55. Hi, preety cool, I love the endless rows of the macminis. πŸ™‚But I found an issue in Word X for Mac:A dokument with a picture, created on a PC with office 2k, replaced this picture on a Mac, will be print sharp and clear on the PC, but unsharp and poor on the Mac.It’s the same dokument, from the same network drive printed on the same network-printer with the same ink and paper (photo-settings)!In a short sentence:Create with PCChange with MacPrint with PC: sharpPrint with Mac: unsharp (low Resolution – even in preview)Kind RegardsMichael

  56. Its that a pic of BMXer’s on the corkboard? (I have been riding since 1985 πŸ™‚ ) also: “Most of the tests we run don’t run significantly faster on a dual G5 vs. a single G4.” HELLO? -O3???πŸ™‚jcw

  57. Thank you very much for this highly interesting post, and enlightening us about your amazing and extremely interesting job. I hope you don’t mind that I have linked to you and your post on our blog.Thanks again.Ms. Baker

  58. A little harsh putting badly behaved macs in a dell rack!Thanks for the trip down memory lane. SE30 was a beast but my Mac Mini running XP Pro is cool.

  59. Nice setup. Though I’m having trouble finding the iBooks in the pictures. Did you perhaps mean iMac? Because those are right in the front. Then again, I didn’t see the two techs you mention working in the background, so maybe it’s my eyes.Thanks for sharing this with us!

  60. Well, the only time I was ever at Microsoft (for a Distance Learning standards group meeting), I was expecting a tour of the Halls of Darkness. Instead it was full of various flavors and colors of Apples, with lots of “think different” posters. Turns out our meeting was in a MacBU building (is there more than one?)So I felt right at home with my PowerBook… dave

  61. Great tour! Office is probably the single largest Mac application (and definitely <>one<> of the largest), and it’s interesting to see what-all you have to do to make it work.I’ll have to link this post on my blog. I like to tweak MS when they do silly things; it’s only fair to acknowledge it when y’all do something well.

  62. nice stuff πŸ™‚heh πŸ˜› i have free drink at my job too… and a Company cell phone with no usage restrictions! πŸ˜€

  63. You people at microsoft think you’re so cool with your fee soda’s. I work at an un-named tech company. We may not get free soda’s, but we get them for a quarter, but the trade off is free beer each and every friday.

  64. Can I buy a couple Mac Minis from you guys? I need a second hand PowerPC really bad and you might be able to get me one.Let me know please! Thank you!Jeremy

  65. That’s a pretty sweet lab! Thanks for the pics. We use the same philosphy at the company I work for, intercept the older Macs for large scale automation testing to burn in new apps, network gear and servers.Now if you guys could release a true MS Outlook client for OS X that uses MAPI like the old OS 9 client, then I will be truely impressed.

  66. That’s a pretty sweet lab! Thanks for the pics. We use the same philosphy at the company I work for, intercept the older Macs for large scale automation testing to burn in new apps, network gear and servers.Now if you guys could release a true MS Outlook client for OS X that uses MAPI like the old OS 9 client, then I will be truely impressed.

  67. Thats awesome!!!I love to see a bunch of G4s and G5s… boy those are good machines.Anyway thanks for all your photos. I am wondering why did they allow you to publish those images.Lasantha Kularatne< HREF="http://lasantha.blogspot.com/" REL="nofollow">lasantha.blogspot.com<>

  68. That’s great. But I can’t believe you never had a IICX? I’m in an office with one running a good part of the business behind me right now. The expressions people get when they see it sitting there with a old single page monitor on top of it is priceless.Great tour!

  69. Thanks for this post! It really made my day! πŸ™‚Very very nice pictures of endless rows of PowerMacs, Mac Minis and iMacs. πŸ™‚ Wonderful, wonderful!/HP

  70. What is the average life-span of that hardware and what happens to it when you are done with it? Does it get refurbished and resold? Does it get donated to low-income families or schools? Do you ever donate it to some unfortunate soul who is still running a 500Mhz G3 iBook with 256MB of RAM? Or is it so burnt-out by the time y’all are done with it that you just have to discard it?

  71. I am so jealous of your jobs. Any open positions? If not, can i just dust around, mop the floor, massage all your aching shoulders, sharpen pencils, keep the fridges company, fan you all, doorman?

  72. So, I’m guessing you didn’t keep the boxes? Seriously though, thanks for peek behind closed doors. I do have two questions. How large is the Mac Business Unit in terms of floor space and how many are employed by the unit? I’m trying to get an idea of scale relative to Microsoft as a whole.

  73. Sweet.Very sweet.I have always had the image in my mind of Bill Gates having a Mac on his desk, because he appreciates the elegance of the Mac experience.What I’m interested in is the progress of Virtual PC for MacIntel. I don’t want to reboot my Mac and have it taken over with XP. I want my Windows-on-MacIntel experience in virtualization, with Windows securely sandboxed away from any possible corruption of Mac OS X. Parallels for X is almost ready, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the Win 4 Lin folks are looking at doing a similar product for Mac OS X. And there’s always the 100% F/OSS QEMU project.MacBU had better get cracking on Virtual PC or their lunch will be eaten by a small competitor.

  74. Thanks for giving everyone a brief glimpse in to our exciting life with the automation system and the lab David. Great post!!!

  75. i’m pretty sure that this lab is not in redmond. the mac business unit is off of 101 in the bay area (ca). i interviewed there a few years back.

  76. And I understand when His Arrogant Ippisismuss (aka Steve ‘Oh One More Thing’ Jobs) decided to shut down the ATG, most of the guys ended up at MacBU.Gee, what a shame.Oh, btw:> theLingoKid said…> Incredible! I knew there were some MAC junkies over there…Umm, it’s ‘Mac’. Short for ‘Macintosh’. An MAC is a Media Access Controller, and you’ll find one of those embedded in anything with an ethernet socket πŸ™‚(Yes, we’re fussy about such things)

  77. This is the best PR that MS has ever done! Many thanks. It’s good to see that MS *is* really serious about Macs. Now one wonders, if they do this for Macs – what on earth do they do for PCs!!! Great tour.

  78. MBU looks really cool. Thanks for the insight. wondering what does PCBU of apple looks like. think they torture and insult those PCs every step… kiddin

  79. For those of you who have been asking about open positions, we do have several open positions right now. Go to Microsoft Careers (http://www.microsoft.com/careers/), search for a job, and select ‘Mac Office’ from the products list.For those of you who have been suggesting features for our existing products or ports of other Microsoft applications, you can send us feedback through Mactopia (http://www.microsoft.com/mac/default.aspx?pid=feedback). For the guy who said that MacBU isn’t in Redmond, that’s not true. We’re split between Redmond and Mountain View, California. The rest of us are enjoying the sun down in the Bay Area. πŸ™‚

  80. Wow. Just Wow.I am in love with the Microsoft Mac BU. I want a job there now for the first time EVER. I thought Microsoft was mostly windows, and the MBU was just a small part on the side. Do you have any internships for high school students? I would love the experience. -Chrischwebb1 [AT] gmail [DOT] com

  81. i hate MAcs but it was an awesome tour. Thanks for showing me how the evil enemy snuck inside Microsoft. But I suppose it is useful to see what the enemy is up to. At least u r making some money off of them. At least you get free drinks, awesome!

  82. Bill Gates stroked a check years ago for $150 million to keep Apple afloat during some lean years. He stated that MS was the largest producer of software for the Mac. I wonder if it’s still true.

  83. I am amazed… I have always appreciated the MACBU. It is fun to put a visual for MACBU… I knew it should be a very fun place to be.We should grab a drink sometime… Cheers!MacDaddy.

  84. That’s the first time I’ve even remotely considered applying to work for Microsoft. (says the guy posting from an Ubuntu laptop)Seriously, that’s a pretty neat setup. If that’s just the Macs, what’s it like over on the windoze side?

  85. This just makes me respect microsoft a lot, and I typically spite microsoft.That has to be the biggest mac museum next to Apple itself.

  86. Thank you for writing this great article. I have a whole new respect for your team and what you do. There is so much testing to do just for the Mac. Does Microsoft have a stadium where they keep the PC’s they use to test the Windows OS?

  87. Very cool πŸ™‚ I only have an Mac LC (’92) and a broken PowerBook (98).. so.. it might be a very very cool job… hmm how to get such a job?

  88. Wow, thanks for the tour! I’ve always appreciated the software that the MacBU has released and now I see why!

  89. Ohh damn! I’ve never seen so many macs together, it must be heaven in there…BTW, does MS seels the computers? or just trow them in the garbage bin?I’m desperate for a mac, if you dont believe me, check my blog…

  90. awesome ! πŸ™‚check my photoblog out :< HREF="http://photoblog.dectus.com" REL="nofollow">photoblog.dectus.com<>

  91. <>Many Thanks<> for giving us this insight to testing at Microsoft. It was of special interest to me as I am about to start a 14month intership at your Dublin site in July, to do testing …Thanks once again πŸ˜‰

  92. Super cool… I love MS Office for Mac OS X; in fact I’ve convinced several folks to switch to Mac over the years after showing them how well Office/Mac works.Nice to learn about all the hard work that goes into it. Thanks —Will CateNashville, TN

  93. Hi! Nice tour πŸ™‚ but i have 1 question : How much current all that stuff “eat” ? πŸ™‚

  94. Free drinks!!At my school (I am 14 years old) we must pay €0,60 for 1 Liter Coca Cola…Very cool place to work at! I didin’t now that Microsoft had so much Macs :pThanks for the awesome tour!Greetz,Lucas (The Netherlands)PS Sorry for my bad English…

  95. w0w, wat a nice pictures!I wanted that i had this at home ;).Is this setup running 24/7 or do they have sometimes a little bit rest?Otherwise you maybe had time to run for fun a distributed-computing project, that score has to be extremely high!Congratz with your amazing setup, and that you may play with it…

  96. Wow!Does Bill Gates come and play late at night over there? [Maybe THAT’s why Vista looks soooooo much like OSX….]Ahhhhhh, but I digress. Thanks so very much for sharing all of this. VERY inspiring, lots of fun to contemplate (and be jealous of), and oddly CUTE. It sure took me back, seeing the lists of “retired Macs” (made me miss my original dual floppy Mac SE with no internal HD). And it has me appreciate all the Mac Gurus (some visible, some invisible) who make things possible for users like me!Thanks!!!!!Laurel Paley{digital} artist and art instructorLos Angeles

  97. Great job indeed! But what with the Mac plus (probably the most famous of all Mac’s!) and the “Pizza box”-Quadra 611?

  98. Wow, seems like a cool place to work.I’m an Apple freak since 1980 (started with an Apple ][+) and switched to Mac in 1990.At the moment I have an iBook G4, mac mini (G4) and a old dual G4 (AGP).At the moment I don’t use any MS software (don’t have the money to pay for Office).For most things Appleworks 6.0 is enough.I used to work for PcM.That’s a large Dutch newspaperpublisher (Volkskrant, Trouw, NRC, AD, etc.).They have around 335 mac’s which they use for layout.At the moment they are upgrading from G3’s and G4’s to G5’s.All with MacOS X.Sadly, my contract expired and I had to leave for another job.

  99. Your recount is a reminder to all that backup tapes must be read back on a regular basis and verified before a disaster occurs. And once your original is gone your backup becomes your new original. Back it up! Another great format is VXA, btw. Please, please, tell us that when you write “recycled” you really mean someone took the antiques home or gave them to a collector or a museum. Even to those who are not the biggest fans of Microsoft this stuff is true history. Sadly, those close to it don’t always understand it as such. An “original” Mac (whether it be a 128K Mac or a Mac XL) once owned by Microsoft would be very valuable indeed. The birth of Excel 1.0, not to mention its predecessor, Microsoft’s first GUI spreadsheet known as Multiplan, quite a significant milestone in human history if only because of the number of lives eventually touched. Oh, please, please say those antiques didn’t actually get recycled… That would be really bad Karma. Could have even auctioned them off for the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation. There must be a lot of readers out there just shuddering to think of the tragic waste.

  100. if You will have some off-working, or trash, Macs (like g3 or smtn) send them to Latvia. We have here our own Mac-Fan-community πŸ˜€

  101. You should tell other labs at microsoft to give us a tour of their respective labs. Its very interesting and maybe we will start liking microsoft a bit more. great tour

  102. WOW.thats just sooo fat. πŸ˜‰ just too cool.thanx for the tour, inspiring.keep up the good workin the world of mac/mic.grtz

  103. Very Nice Tour.It was fun to see so many Mac’s in a Microsoft Lab πŸ™‚( Can i have a copy of that mission statement πŸ™‚ … i love the text and design πŸ™‚ )

  104. Cool Photo’s… It only looks like nobody works there???!!? Where are all the people. Lunch break?

  105. Some have asked why there are so few people in the lab pictures I posted. There’s a couple of reasons: 1) Privacy: Some folks don’t want to have their pictures posted on the Internet 2) It’s not like we live in the Lab, each of us has our own offices in which we do our work. 3) We do have “bug bashes” when we order pizza and all gather in the Lab to bang on a product or feature together. These are fun, but unfortunately when I took these pictures, we were not having a bug bash. 4) Other than the Sandbox area, the purpose of most of the lab is to be <>automated<> or in other words require <>no human intervention!<> If we as a team have to spend lots of time in the Lab baby-sitting the servers and clients then in a very real way we don’t have an automated solution, and something needs to be fixed. 5) I’ve got ARD on my computer and so does everyone else that needs it. Why walk when you can sit? πŸ˜‰ I hope that helps.

  106. Great Lab pictures… fantastic insight into Microsoft – which is I am sure not the large evil corporation which everybody thinks it is.. Great Products produced by ordinary people. Looks like a cool place to work.Nick/

  107. Hey that was a great tour. Thanks for putting the time into it for us. ‘Been an Office user since the dozen 5 1/4″ version. Looking forward to your U-Binary version.

  108. Wow what an interesting read.How did you manage to wire all the mini macs to an 8 port KVM box?

  109. Wow what an interesting read.How did you manage to wire all the mini macs to an 8 port KVM box?

  110. “How did you manage to wire all the mini macs to an 8 port KVM box?”If you look carefully at the picture with the KVM in it, you can see there are actually 9 KVMs stacked upon one another. That’s 8 KVMs x 8 Mac minis = 64 computers, and one KVM to switch between whichever KVM has the computer you want to look at.I myself am using a similar system (albeit on a much smaller scale) in my room to hook up my various devices to my single monitor.

  111. This is very strange. But how could Microsoft develop their applications without testing them on other platforms? However, why so many Mac Minis, G5s and G4s? It looks more like Microsoft has a little (sweet mac user) devil inside, and the only place to have fun in Greyland-PC is your Mac Lab. I wish I had at least one of each Mac. Can’t you give some away?…

  112. This is very strange. But how could Microsoft develop their applications without testing them on other platforms? However, why so many Mac Minis, G5s and G4s? It looks more like Microsoft has a little (sweet mac user) devil inside, and the only place to have fun in Greyland-PC is your Mac Lab. I wish I had at least one of each Mac. Can’t you give some away?…

  113. nice, that looks fantastic. These sorts of things always interest me. I used to run an old 20Mhz powermac as the webserver for my website photogabble.co.uk up until late last year infact. had no problems with it whatsoever, now with the new p4 server that was given to me it crashes about three times a year – not a software issue either, somthing on the motherboard keeps dieing…

  114. Nice…though I was wondering how you manage the power these. Cause if you just do a sizing for the 150 minis you need something around 50kva if you estimate the power supply is 200watts/mini. If you add switches, servers and so on, how can you manage the all structure? And also how you deal with the cooling issue?

  115. Thanks for the inisght into MS Mac Unit. You have my undying thanks for making my life easier. without you, people would bring me word files that I couldn’t view, etc. Thank you.

  116. David – Did the Mac BU get any of the G5s that the gaming division is selling off now that they are done with the XBox 360 initial developemnt? If so, how are you using them, and if not, why?Thanks – great look behind the scenes.Rob

  117. You made my day. You inspire me to go to university and become a computer developer. πŸ™‚ What education and how did you get involved there?

  118. When you ‘recycle’ them, do you guys actually throw them out or send them somewhere..? or do you guys just store them in a storage facility? Next time your recycling any old macs, could you guys contact me? I would be more than willing to pay for shipping and handling if you guys would recycle one to me πŸ˜€< HREF="http://tomtothevendetta.blogspot.com" REL="nofollow">Tom<>

  119. This is awesome! Do you guys have any Powermac G4 Cubes? If you do, would you be willing to share some info about the ones you have? Cubes are pretty cool!Ditto to Tom, lemme know if you guys are “recycling” any!Thanks,Michael

  120. I looked at the photos (then I didn’t read the screes of comments) – thanks for the tour.I have to say it is sad to see such a boring uninspired work environment. Also sad to see that one of the richest companies in the world offers “all you can drink” total rubbish for your body.I came to look hoping to see something radically different that would somehow go to explain such a “successful” company, what I see is just a boring average everyday kinda office like the majority of others.

  121. Your expectations were off, Shine. Maybe the MacBU is the coolest part of Microsoft, but Microsoft is no longer a special organization overall and that is going to bleed into the MacBU. The culture of Microsoft is the culture mediocrity, of least common denominator. Look at all their weak products. The fact that the MacBU is the only group with any innovation doesn’t mean they have control over their workspace.Microsoft all think they are special but that’s because they all share this self-righteous Kool-Aid amongst themselves and tell each other how much better they are than everyone. I have to always point that out because I am sick of the snotty attitudes from everyone who works there, who are so difficult as a client to us, and who are so condescendingly “nice” outside of work.As you described, there’s nothing special going on in there. No cool interior design, nothing modern, just mediocrity. And a ghetto poster of the mission statement tacked to a wall. Sad.Funny enough, I love the MacBU and really appreciate all the work they’ve done for Mac. They have turned around my attitude towards Microsoft as evil. Now I just think the MacBU is great and the rest of the company has potential but is mired in ineptitude, committees, fear, stupidity, arrogance, and a lack of talent, not in engineering (except security), but in product development/marketing, and oh yeah, ape-man Ballmer who keeps making bold proclamations about greatness and great products but delivers nothing.

  122. Hey hola, soy de ecuador, increible todo lo que has mostrado en este tour, deberas trabajan bastante estos muchachos, muchas gracias, si puedes publica mΓ‘s πŸ™‚

  123. Hey hola, soy de ecuador, increible todo lo que has mostrado en este tour, deberas trabajan bastante estos muchachos, muchas gracias, si puedes publica mΓ‘s πŸ™‚

  124. One of the rare interesting stories accompanied with the pictures on Interent. Thank you!Yes, blog should have meaing!I would offer you more advanced technology for virtual tours – right up your street, sorry, lab. Look what I have: http://www.virtuar.com/click.htm– < HREF="http://www.virtuar.com/click.htm" REL="nofollow">San Francisco, Las Vegas<> just as examples. Also many other small placed including Stereo pictures. No glasses needed.Igor Polk

  125. the power consumption must be huge, even with the mac minis. makes me glad to see microsoft with all the alternative energy sources like solar panels. such energy efficiency is something i’d expect to see at a place like… well…. apple. haha.

  126. Did I spy a “MS Office 2001 for Dummies” book on the bottom shelf of the MacBU lab bookcase? Tsk, Tsk. Seems there would be the MS support you’d ever need just down the hallway. Anyway, great fun. Thanks for the post.

  127. Thank you for posting this blog on work at the Mac BU unit for Microsoft. I learned a lot about the working atmosphere of a mac unit in Microsoft and I appreciate that you did this.Tracey C

  128. Wow.. I am jealous of u now πŸ˜‰I have been working on mac since last 3 years. But i never imagined a mac lab of this size. ( 240 machines to test automation for Office!!!! )I will see if i ever get to work for a great product like MS-Office + my Fav Mac OS on lovely apple hardware.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s