So, like a lot of folks, I read Robert Scoble's Blog. Now, before someone feels the need to remind me, yes, he's a Microsoft employee. Specifically, he's a Microsoft evangelist. "Evangelist", in the computer industry sense of the term, is a cheerleader. Not the hot kind that you had bad thoughts about in high school. It's more like a chance for the nebbishy nerds to be cheerleaders. Only without the uniforms. That's a good thing, by the way.
Yes, I read Scoble's posts. I comment on some of them. I'm pretty sure I'm a pain in the ass too, since I tend to be, well, pointed in my comments. This is not to say that I think Robert's a total tool, corporate or otherwise. He's actually a pretty smart guy, although I think he's a complete myna bird about technology, and I have yet to see any sign that the Tablet PC will ever be more than a (very good) vertical market solution. Robert, from what I can tell, is rather shocked that they aren't available in boxes of Tide yet.
But sometimes, he also seems to have an extremely selective memory about his employer. Now, if he were a PR hack, this would be a "No Kidding" kind of thing. But he has these odd rules on his site, and they are at odds with this selectiveness.
As an example, this post. Robert seems to be truly hurt that Microsoft is still viewed with a certain amount of, shall we say, venom. He doesn't get it. Why, after all,
I know you all don't believe my pro-Microsoft hype, but I have seen a TON of changes internally here at Microsoft. We have hundreds of ISV buddies now (I'm helping a group of companies myself). We have Dan'l Lewin, co-founder of NeXT helping partner with companies in Silicon Valley. Among other things. And, even I have gotten a bunch of training on how to deal with our partners, competitors, and customers to avoid both legal trouble, and to make Microsoft a better entity to deal with. More than 1,000 employees are now blogging, and I haven't heard complaints that these employees are hard to deal with. If I'm wrong, please do let us know.
You're right Robert, we don't believe you. I have no doubt that the internal mantra is a Teletubby-ish chant of "Sharing is caring". But that's internal. I can tell you that from the outside, Microsoft is still a damned pain in the ass. I recently spent three days recoding my son's school's home page into something that I could use, because thanks to the "New Microsoft", Front Page helpfully generated code that was only useable in IE 6 on Windows. Luckily, Adobe and Bare Bones have a more correct definition of what proper HTML is.
Of course there's the even more amusing "Plays For Sure" marketing movement. This is fascinating, because it's the perfect example of Microsoft's agenda, which has never changed, no matter what Robert believes. This agenda boils down to, "Everything must run on Windows".
Here's the best example, from Dave Fester, General Manager for Microsoft's Windows Media Division:
Unless Apple decides to make radical changes to their service model, a Windows-based version of iTunes will still remain a closed system, where iPod owners cannot access content from other services.
Unlike the amazingly open model of Windows Media 10, which only functions on Windows. Because according to the new Microsoft, other systems are "closed" and Windows is "open". Windows is "open" because Microsoft says so. Yes Virginia, if Microsoft says it, it's so.
Dave also can't resist the temptation to blatantly hand out false information:
Additionally, users of iTunes are limited to music from Apple's Music Store
Really Dave? So I don't have my free Audible.com downloads in iTunes? So I don't have a bunch of MP3s I ripped from my own CDs in iTunes? I'm not listening to that when I play them on my iPod? Apple magically replaces them with files from the iTMS? That's pretty cool considering that the iTMS doesn't have any Led Zeppelin, and I have more than they ever will anyway. Wow, the iTMS isn't just closed, it's magic.
But as Ron Popeil says, "Wait! There's More!"
Uncle Dave, (no, I'm NOT going after the obvious, this is as close as I'm getting, deal) says:
When I'm paying for music, I want to know that I have choices today and in the future.
Well, that's a valid point. However, is this Apple's fault? Dave, and Microsoft would like you to believe it is. But, the truth points that finger back at Redmond. The fact is, DRM-9 and DRM-10 don't work on any platform other than Windows. Period. No Linux, no Mac OS X, they don't even work on the majorly crippled Windows Media Player 9 for Mac OS X. Windows Media 10 is a Windows only paradise.
See Robert, that's what Microsoft is to the outside world. A mixture of false statements, and misleading half truths. When the most recent IE vulnerability was revealed, what was Microsoft's reaction? Was it "God, we're so sorry. This is simply inexcusable."
Was it "Jesus, we thought we had that one fixed, guess we were wrong, but while we're working on it, please, please install XP SP2, it fixes this."
Was it "We think it's horrid that this vulnerability was released before we could patch our most excellent product, and that's just so irresponsible?"
And Robert wonders why no one trusts Microsoft. It's actually worse than that. We, as an industry, have gotten so used to Microsoft not just spinning the truth, but squatting over it and emptying their corporate bowels upon the truth, that at this point, nothing Microsoft does surprises us, in any way. As a friend of mine said:
If I saw Steve Ballmer dressed in a tutu roasting cheerleaders on a Foreman grill for lunch, I wouldn't bat an eye. I'd have to go home and claw at them until the image of Ballmer in tights was gone, but I wouldn't be surprised in the least..
But then, he has this post, and it just made me laugh. Oh my gosh, Robert is just so saddened by the bunker mentality of people. He doesn't even like to criticize Apple or Linux because of all the vitriol and shouting it causes, and because "People have already made up their minds".
Robert, you're working for the company that raised "We rule, burn the heretics" to an art form. Oh IBM started it, and Apple may have dabbled with it a bit (corporately. The MacMacs are their own world, and if they didn't have Macs, they'd have Fords.), but Microsoft, oh god, Microsoft has made Us vs. Them into their own personal playground. Their disinformation campaign against the iTMS and the iPod is only the latest example. To be a Microsoft evangelist and wonder "Why can't we all just get along" is doublethink writ large. In fact, even recently, your Great Leader, The Ballmer said, in public, and on the record, "The most common format of music on an iPod is 'stolen'". Wow, that's some change Robert. The head of Microsoft called everyone who uses an iPod a thief. Tell me again about the "New Microsoft".
Of course, Robert does try to point out that Steve was probably joking. That may be true, that may not be true. Having seen a couple of Ballmer's better performances over the years, I'm inclined to think it was a non-joke. You know, the really stupid, offensive, untrue statement, but with a chuckle added, so it's all "just a joke.". Kinda like the troll who uses a smiley to make it all better. Sorry Steve, we in the biz have dealt with you for too long. We don't trust a damned thing you say. We all remember your furious spinning on Licensing 6.0, and we aren't buying it anymore.
I don't think Robert is clueless, at least not that clueless. I think he's more like a child with a bad sibling. He knows his sibling does wrong, but to admit the level of wrong is disturbing to him. It bothers him, so he mitigates the sibling's errors, and points out that everyone else does it. Which is true, but not to the degree Microsoft does. However, that's not a pass on Microsoft's behavior.
When Microsoft goes out and spins its PR web of falsehoods and, well, bullshit, it's perpetuating the behavior that disturbs Robert so. Maybe if he got the beam out of his eye, people would point and laugh less when he complained about the mote in someone else's eye.
I like Robert's blog a lot, but damn, that grain of salt I need when I read it is really big, and inconvenient to carry with me. Clean up your house first Robert, then complain about ours.
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