Be Microsoft

July 20th, 2007

Antagonizing Microsoft and its admirers has long been a part of my professional work culture. It’s easy to get a tinge of excitement when I see the giant stumble (ironic, given that I actually own some stock in the beast). But as I’ve matured (heh, heh, he said “matured”), I’ve come to know many people from Microsoft’s past, present, and I’m sure, future. And these people are passionate. They want to change the world for the better.

Microsoft is just a company, and yet its significance in the history of computing is so great, and its power over operating systems so daunting, that it’s far from being just a company. The company is a giant, figuratively and literally.

In his article, Be Microsoft, David Weiss expresses simultaneous love and disdain for the company he works for. In not so many words, it’s depressing to David that the giant lumbers around, fearful of all the smaller creatures surrounding it. So concerned is Microsoft with the competition, that it’s forgotten how to be itself.

I find David’s analysis to ring true. Grippingly true. It’s coming from the heart of Microsoft. The figurative heart, that is: straight from its precious employees. David’s blog is a perfect example of the thoughtful, well-intentioned self-criticism that I wish Apple would allow its employees to engage in more often.

The fear of anti-employee-blogging companies like Apple is that such off-the-cuff self-reflection might bode ill for the company’s public image. But posts like David’s only strengthen my impression of Microsoft as a company with character. A damaged character, perhaps. But one that is worthy of my consideration.

David draws parallels between Apple’s downturn several years ago, and Microsoft’s situation now. While David suggests that Apple’s recovery should instruct Microsoft about the value of “Being Microsoft,” perhaps Microsoft’s pro-blogging policies could teach Apple to “Be Human.”

6 Responses to “Be Microsoft”

  1. vineetb Says:

    Don’t you think that because of Apple’s culture of “surprising” its customers with new/innovative products?

  2. Christopher Humphries Says:

    Leaks will happen. The threat of losing your job and legal action due to a leak would help with blogs postings, too.

    Employees blogging and company secrets are not directly related.

    Of course, it’s much easier to just not allow something versus managing/policing something.

    ps -> save fake steve jobs!

  3. Chris Says:

    Yeah, that’ll happen — when Steve Jobs dies.

    David’s evaluation is wrong, I believe. Subsets (even large subsets) of Microsoft may care about customers, but Microsoft’s soul is historically based on being competitive to the exclusion of anything else. What’s happening now, what I believe has actually changed, is that they’re having some difficulty doing that, and this is becoming noticeable inside Microsoft. Like it or not, what he’s seeing IS Microsoft, just laid a little more bare.

  4. ssp Says:

    While personally I don’t think that it would hurt Apple to be more open or have more outspoken employees, Apple obviously think otherwise.

    And I see a big difference between Apple and Microsoft. Apple is a lot about being cool/blasé/whatever-you-want-to-call-it. And I can see how they think that having outspoken employees may ruin that illusion. Just imagine the heresy of someone from Apple actually admitting that anything leaving the company is less than perfect/amazing/restoring-that-sense-of-childlike-wonder.

    On the other hand Microsoft is more about business. They don’t have to care too much about what people say because of their handy monopoly. And they don’t have an illusion that people could accidentally destroy.

    So it seems – to me at least – that for Microsoft essentially all writing/blogging that is done improves their image and perceived coolness. It brings out the ‘human side’ of the corporate behemoth. It gives you the impression that the company is actually made up of people who are at least one of reasonable, smart and friendly.

    For Apple, on the other hand, anything an employee says can actually stain their image. They might become ‘common’, touchable, imperfect. Or at least their corporate PR people think so. So to them more outspoken employees look like a danger and they take a more Soviet approach.

    Let’s wait a few more years or buy Apple some drinks. Perhaps they’ll ease up a little ;)

  5. Iain Says:

    Nothing really new there. Bill Gates, and by extension Microsoft as a whole, has always been paranoid about ‘the other guy’ and ‘the next big thing’. There are stories of them conducting industrial espionage and sabotage against WordPerfect and Lotus in the late eighties and early nineties.
    I’ll paraphrase somebody-or-other by saying, “If Microsoft did not have an enemy, it would be necessary for them to invent one.” Such is their culture.

  6. grrrr Says:

    I think it is good that apple employees do not blog. The difference is that despite the common conception Microsoft is really a cult and apple is just a company make good products. Apple just shows what they can offer their customers on the other hand Microsoft says using vista is going to transform you in a beautiful smiling happy person and a lot more unbelievable stuff.

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