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06.06.09

Microsoft Stalks Its Competitors, Offers Them Money to Defect

Posted in Antitrust, Finance, FUD, GNU/Linux, Microsoft at 7:19 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Last drink
Microsoft wants to buy you a drink

Summary: How Microsoft turned a GNU/Linux developer into a Microsoft employee

THE OTHER DAY we were made aware of this item from last year:

Normally, “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas”. But, I’ve been told it is ok to share this information. Last week, I was in Las Vegas. While at the bar in the Mirage, my friend and I were talking. He was asking how the my project was going and I was filling him in… Unbeknownst to either of us, our conversation was being listened to by the fellow next to us.

After a few minutes, the fellow sitting next to us introduced himself as Jeff Chaucer, Senior Manager of Windows Media Center Edition.

Jeff, goes on to tell us that he overheard what we were talking about and he is interested in learning more about KnoppMyth (I may not care for Microsoft, but my parents taught me not to be rude.). So, I tell him how I started the project, etc. “Interesting” he says.

Jeff then goes on to tell me that Microsoft is looking to make changes to MCE and if I’d be interested in joining the team. I tell him that I’m happy with my current employer and that if I were to be a Microsoft employee that I imagine my working on KnoppMyth would be frowned upon. He says “No, not at all. Microsoft is looking to change it’s image and there would be no issues with me continuing to work on an Open Source project. The only sipulation is that it doesn’t interfare with an employee’s day to day duties.”

Interesting I thought, but I declined. Jeff insisted I think about it and to contact him in a few days. We exchanged information and he paid our tab.

I got a call from Jeff yesterday and he has sweetened the deal. Not only will Microsoft double my income, I can work on KnoppMyth 30% of my time. In addition, I’ll have full access to their hardware labs to test KnoppMyth.

So, starting April 21st, I’ll be a full time Microsoft employee.

Let us see what we have here. A lot of this story is eerily familiar.

Remember how Microsoft Malaysia was stalking BRM attendants at the hotel's lobby? It’s always supposed to look like mere coincidence or remote chance that they show up in the very same place, even if it’s halfway across the globe.

“Microsoft’s PR department is stalking people, assembling dossiers about them in order to influence or trip them up.”Let it be remembered that Microsoft's PR department is stalking people, assembling dossiers about them in order to influence or trip them up. There is concrete evidence showing this. It leaked. In fact, Microsoft proudly describes this as part of its strategy.

So that’s all there is to know about ‘coincidental’ encounters. There are more examples though.

Moving on a little, we see the recurring theme which is that Microsoft pays the bills of other people, usually its rivals too. We saw Microsoft buying dinner for ODF people and we saw it flying people over to nice vacations if they were considered “Microsoft doubters”. The same goes for journalists whom Microsoft pampers (policing the news is vitally important when your products are inferior [1, 2]). Sometimes it’s just lunch, sometimes it’s drinks at the pub*, and sometimes it is a sponsorship. Whatever it is, Microsoft is trying to buy love. As those notorious laptop bribes show (just for practical example), Microsoft expects something in return. It usually gets it, even in exchange for slush funds. In other cases, Microsoft pays the (put_rival_name_here)-faithful as much as $15,000 to attack (put_rival_name_here). How typical a behaviour.

The last part worth addressing is ruinous defection of employees, which is intended to destroy rival companies or projects. Borland is an old example of this and a newer one suggests that Microsoft is poaching Adobe employees in India. It revolves around stalking and endowment, which makes one wonder about what lured Gentoo’s founder into Microsoft in the first place (he quit shortly afterwards).

Microsoft’s routines (modus operandi) of acquiring employees — including skeptics — are all too familiar. This should not change the fact that, as the following article states, “Microsoft [has] ‘Bad Karma’ with Developers.”

Postscript: Vembu says that Microsoft could take some basic steps to regain his trust—like supporting web standards for Internet Explorer.

Google is the latest company which tries forcing Microsoft to support SVG. Everyone supports it except Microsoft, to whom it’s a matter of profit which suppresses Web standards and thus stifles progress on the Web. Even the creator of the World Wide Web slammed Microsoft for it. Web developers are rightly pissed off and IE8 continues to annoy many of them because it breaks interoperability on the Web. One just needs to take a look at Comes vs Microsoft, for example, in order to get a taste of reasons for developer alienation. Why are some developers still selling out and helping the company which sues GNU/Linux and "sabotages" Free software even when it runs on Windows?
___
* To give another example, Dan Bricklin writes: “Microsoft is going to provide free food and drinks, as they did last month. Thank you! They’re adding something new: This month they’ll be giving away an XBox 360.

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7 Comments

  1. David Gerard said,

    June 6, 2009 at 9:09 am

    Gravatar

    So how has KnoppMyth ended up?

    Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    I’ve not been seeing many releases of it.

    Balrog Reply:

    KnoppMyth seems to be going strong. A preview release of the next version is out. Also, the developer is no longer an employee of Microsoft … see the blog for more.

    twitter Reply:

    How things ended is apparent from the referenced news page. He announced the end of his M$ job on April Fools day of this year and attributes it to “economic downturn.” About a month later, he released R6 as his birthday present to everyone. Welcome back to the free world!

    At the very least, M$ managed to disrupt the project for about a year. It is difficult to tell the total personal cost and how his previous employer managed without him. Would his previous employer have been able to keep him on for two years? Chair throwing Steve Ballmer knows how damaging it is to lose an employee, so the question can not be answered fairly based on what actually happened to his previous employer. How much did he spend relocating? What kind of NDAs, non compete clauses and other “IP” was he exposed to that M$ might threaten him with?

    In summary, this person is an excellent case of why people should refuse M$ bait. What seems like a lot of money to you is trivial to them. Regardless of promisses, M$’s intent it to damage the competition. They aim to create a hole in the free software world and they will quickly discard you once the damage is done, then they can threaten future employers with all sorts of legal bullshit for years to come.

    Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    The status of the founder of Gentoo was ruined after his short gig at Microsoft (people no longer trusted him). Even with Metro, he never quite re-established his status or the Gentoo Foundation he had created. In other words, Microsoft disrupted the Gentoo project with this job offer.

    There are some more recent stories of this kind, e.g. TellMe and aQuantive.

  2. whatever said,

    June 6, 2009 at 12:21 pm

    Gravatar

    Can we confirm he actually worked for MS? He announced the job on April Fool’s Day 2008 and renounced it a year later. My thought was “this was all a joke.”

    That doesn’t change the fact that Microsoft and Google both poach people from other projects (Microsoft certainly woos you more, in my experience, but they have to fight perception battles with new recruits that Google doesn’t), but it might be good to confirm, so that what is a valid point isn’t marred by an incorrect blog reading. That and Microsoft would totally require a non-compete. It’d be one thing if it were a Microsoft subsidiary, but if you work with the Windows team, you have a non-compete. Period.

    Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    Wow. I didn’t notice the dates. Neither did I nor the source of this pointer.

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