So much for letting the best product win. According to the Wall Street Journal, 13-14 March 2010, Microsoft is forcing their employees to “choose” Microsoft phones for personal use and to push those who don’t into hiding.
Is this a joke or a genuine throwback to the Middle Ages?
Apparently this is real: “Last September, at an all-company meeting in a Seattle sports stadium, one hapless employees used his iPhone to snap photos of Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer. Mr. Ballmer snatched the iPhone out of the employee’s hands, placed it on the ground, and pretended to stomp on it in front of thousands of Microsoft workers.” That sends a pretty clear message!
I guess the employee can consider himself lucky that Mr. Ballmer didn’t put him (instead of the iPhone) on the ground underneath his foot or perhaps maybe even just burn him at the stake for heresy against Microsoft.
Further, in 2009, Microsoft “modified its corporate cellphone policy to only reimburse service fees for employees using phones that run on Windows.”
While many workers at Microsoft can evidently be seen with iPhones, others are feeling far from safe and comfortable doing this. According to the article, one employee told of how when he meets with Mr. Ballmer (although infrequently), he does not answer his iPhone no matter who is calling! Another executive that was hired into Microsoft in 2008 told of how he renounced and “placed his personal iPhone into an industrial strength blender and destroyed it.”
Apparently, Mr. Ballmer told executives that his father worked for Ford Motor Co. and so they always drove Ford cars. While that may be a nice preference and we can respect that, certainly we are “big boys and girls” and can let people pick and choose which IT products they select for their own personal use.
While many employees at Microsoft have gone underground with their iPhones, “nearly 10,000 iPhone users were accessing the Microsoft employees email systems last year,” roughly 10% of their global workforce.
My suggestion would be that instead of scaring the employees into personally using only Microsoft-compatible phones, they can learn from their employees who choose the iPhone—which happens to have a dominant market share at 25.1% to Microsoft 15.7%—in terms why they have this preference and use this understanding to update and grow the Microsoft product line accordingly. In fact, why isn’t Microsoft leveraging to the max the extremely talented workforce they have to learn everything they can about the success of the iPhone?
It’s one thing to set architecture standards for corporate use, and it’s quite another to tell employees what to do personally. It seems like there is a definite line being crossed explicitly and implicitly in doing this.
What’s really concerning is that organizations think that forcing their products usage by decree to their employees somehow negates their losing the broader product wars out in the consumer market.
Obviously, IT products don’t win by decree but by the strength of their offering, and as long as Microsoft continues to play medieval, they will continue to go the way of the horse and buggy.