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Some comments about the Microsoft internal email stuff that's been coming out lately

There's been a lot made over nothing with the release of hundreds of pages of internal Microsoft emails related to the class action suit around the "Vista Capable" logo program. As I'm sure you know, since I was the person who first revealed Microsoft's plans for multiple Vista versions a year before the company announced it publicly, I've been a long-time (and thus, arguably, the longest-time) critic of this product bifurcation. It's the wrong thing to do. It just is.

But about these emails. Todd Bishop of the Seattle PI (a guy I consider a friend, incidentally, he's certainly a great guy) has made a mini-career lately out of blogging about these emails (examples here, here, here), which makes sense: Microsoft is his beat. And today, we've got Gregg Keizer at Computerworld muscling in on Todd's turf like he's afraid he just missed the boat. He's got his own revelation that Microsoft "dismissed enthusiasts in Vista marketing," in other internal emails.

No offense, guys. But "yawn."

What amazes me in all of this is that not a single person has come up with the obvious take-away from these emails. And that's this: Microsoft has been shown to have credibly debated these issues internally. They may not have always done the "right" thing from your perspective as a user, but they've arguably always done the right thing from the perspective of the company and thus for shareholders. You can disagree or agree, but there's ample evidence that smart people at Microsoft reacted in strong ways to things they thought should be debated. This should be lauded, not ridiculed.

I'm reminded of the similar internal email baloney that occurred during Microsoft's US antitrust trial, when a comment from a Microsoft executive wanting to "cut off Netscape's air supply" came up. Everyone jumped all over that like it was damning evidence of illegal behavior. But as my father, then an FDIC liaison with the FBI for interstate bank fraud, reminded me at the time, that's exactly the kind of language that shareholders should exact--and demand--from the executives running the business of their company. As long as Microsoft's behavior wasn't illegal--a different issue entirely, since it was the quote that got people most riled up--then this kind of talk is to be expected and required, even cheered.

So now we have other Microsoft emails. And you know what? I am reading and reading and all I see are people trying to do their jobs, people who actually care about the products. And if you want to talk specifics, the email about enthusiasts quotes in Computerworld shows a guy who understand the market:

"Less than 5% of customers typically upgrade OS," Windows general manager Brad Goldberg said. "Let's not confuse the masses for the sake of providing clarity to 'enthusiasts.'"


Instead of titling that story "Microsoft dismissed enthusiasts," maybe Computerworld could have called it, "Microsoft clarified Vista marketing for most of its users," since they did the right thing for over 95 percent of its user base. But then I guess that wouldn't be quite so sensational, now would it? 

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