What would a Microsoft antitrust case be without disclosures of embarrassing internal documents? The latest instance occurred on Friday in the ongoing Iowa antitrust trial where testimony of expert witness Ronald Alepin revealed, shall we say, a rather callous Microsoft view of developers – Microsoft exec called software developers ‘pawns’:
A Microsoft Corp. technical evangelist referred to independent software developers writing for Windows and the company’s other software platforms as “pawns” and compared wooing them to convincing someone to have a one-night stand, according to testimony presented Friday against Microsoft in an ongoing antitrust case in Iowa.
In the speech, entitled “Power evangelism and relationship evangelism,” Plamondon continued: “I mean, all through this presentation previously, I talked about how you’re using the pawns and you’re going to screw them if they don’t do what you want, and dah-dah-dah. You can’t let them feel like that. If they feel like that, you’ve lost from the beginning…. So you can’t let them feel like pawns, no matter how much they really are.”
In other comments about developers, Plamondon equated working with them to taking someone out on a first date. “It’s like you’re going out with a girl; forgive me, it goes the other way also. You’re going out with a girl, what you really want to do is have a deep, close and intimate relationship, at least for one night. And, you know, you just can’t let her feel like that, because if you do, it ain’t going to happen, right. So you have to talk long term and white picket fence and all these other wonderful things, or else you’re never going to get what you’re really looking for.”
Not particularly classy, but hardly a big surprise.
“These were isolated, inappropriate comments made more than a decade ago and not a statement of Microsoft’s policy at any time,” said Jack Evans, a Microsoft spokesman.
The exhibit in question was presented at a Microsoft Development Relations Group Summit in 1996.
The plaintiffs have been permitted by the court to set up a website (http://www.iowaconsumercase.com/) where they are posting each day’s trial transcript and there’s a variety of interesting reading there as well as some occasional comedy like the big icon argument that started off Friday’s proceedings. By the time the judge had settled the dispute about which icons were permissible in the expert witness’ slides, the PowerPoint meister who was showing them had already changed them accordingly, much to the amazement of the court. I also thought it was interesting that the plaintiffs were using PowerPoint.