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Microsoft keeps their friends close and their enemies out of their pockets



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.

notupinhereThe 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.



  1. Hilton Locke

    06/15/2009 at 11:14 pm

    It’s about time this policy was enacted.
    There’s merit in the competitive analysis angle for the teams that are directly competing. However, it’s nonsensical for say, the Windows Live Photo Gallery guys to be charging off their iPhone data plans to Microsoft.

    Microsoft has long ago lost the edge that had General Managers backing up a truck to the local Egghead Software store and saying “fill ‘er up”. When the Zune was launched, why do you think the initial reaction was ‘meh’? Because the folks designing and marketing the Zune (J Allard and gang) were arrogantly trying to copy the iPod’s and iTunes’ success without having any compelling one-upmanship.

    Long ago, in a simpler time, product development teams at Microsoft ate their own dogfood. Today, due to differences in security, product validation, network segmentation, hardware availability, and sheer complexity of the testing matrix (see the troubles releasing Win XP SP3 for instance), Microsoft product teams rarely if ever see their product as endusers see it.

    RIMM and Apple eat Windows Mobile’s lunch. Where’s the Borg-like Microsoft response? “We are the Borg. You employees will use our product. Resistance is futile.”

    One of Microsoft’s single greatest failures in the 2000’s has been their workforce’s adoption of Google as their preferred search engine. Why was this allowed to happen? If the feedback loop was completed, (employees forced to use MS Search, file bugs, improve MS Search, repeat) would Microsoft Live Search have better than a single-digit share today?

    I say it’s about time that Microsoft stopped paying for the perks and expenses of an indifferent workforce.

  2. GoodThings2Life

    06/16/2009 at 4:36 am

    @Hilton… I completely agree… dogfooding your products and services is the best way to ensure that your product is genuinely usable outside of a compiler. I guarantee you won’t see Apple paying for WinMo and Blackberry devices!

  3. Clayton

    06/16/2009 at 9:56 am

    This makes sense. I’m astounded Microsoft paid for data plans on competitor products in the first place.

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