A story on Silicon Alley Insider that caught the strategic part of my brain today reports that Microsoft will no longer pay for data plans on employee phones that do not run Windows Mobile. It’s part of the cost-cutting measures they enacted this year, and it certainly sounds prudent enough. However, I wonder if it’s worth the likely reduction in in-house, hands-on experience with competitors’ systems.
The old saying goes “keep your friends close and your enemies closer,” credited to Sun-Tzu, author of The Art of War. Basically, one should keep a closer eye on the opposition than on one’s allies. And let’s face it, there is a massive competition (some might, and are, saying “war”) going on in the smartphone arena with multiple entrants. I can see why Microsoft would want to deter their own employees from siding with the enemy.
On the other hand, they’re aiming to diminish their own built-in focus group to explain why people who are clearly pro-Microsoft (or at least pro-employment at Microsoft) would not use Windows Mobile phones. To me, that seems a more valuable resource than the $360 a year they’d save per person on data plans. Or maybe the big key will be to see who sticks with their non-Microsoft device even without the data plan compensation, and then figure out why it’s still worth it to them. Regardless, I hope they’re polling their pool of non-WM users for help in beefing up their mobile OS.