Microsoft PR Chief Says Apple, Google And Amazon Might Not Always Be So Popular


Just because technology heavy hitters like Apple, Google and Amazon are in vogue today doesn't mean they're always going to be riding so high on the hog.

That's the response Frank Shaw, Microsoft's corporate vice president of communications, had on Friday to a recent piece from New York Times columnist Farhad Manjoo, in which he recommended products and services from Apple, Google, Amazon and Dropbox, but didn't mention Microsoft.

Manjoo's point was that it's risky for consumers to buy hardware, services and content from a single vendor because vendor ecosystems sometimes drift into irrelevancy, as Barnes & Noble appears to be doing after reportedly laying off its Nook hardware engineers last week. Consumers can protect themselves by diversifying the technologies they use, he said.

[Related: Microsoft's Latest Anti-Google Strategy: Training Partners To Sniff Out Unhappy Google Apps Customers]

Shaw, in an email to Manjoo published by Business Insider, said Microsoft is "innovating today" as opposed to Apple, Google and Amazon, which are "monetizing the products they invented 5 or 10 years ago."

Shaw also took issue with Manjoo's suggestion that buying products from Apple, Amazon and Google is a way to avoid lock-in. These vendors confine customers to "expensive hardware with fewer choices and to aggressive content screening and intrusive advertising," he said in the email.

"The best way to avoid extinction is betting on a commitment to evolution through innovation," Shaw said in the email.

Microsoft partners CRN spoke with found Shaw's comments ironic considering that Microsoft still focuses heavily on Windows and Office. And while Microsoft has made strides in supporting open standards, it's also famously resistant to technologies it didn't create, according to partners.

"Microsoft is going to have to finally [accept that] today, no one is the best at everything all the time," one longtime partner told CRN. "They’ve improved over the past five years, but they still have a long way to go."

Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer was no big fan of employees using iPhones and iPads. New CEO Satya Nadella, on the other hand, was the main architect for Windows Azure, an open platform that supports Linux, Java and a wide range of other technologies. At Microsoft's Build conference last year, Nadella surprised attendees by using a MacBook for an onstage demo.

Partners that are hoping for a more "open" Microsoft like what they’ve seen from Nadella so far. At the same time, they're puzzled to hear Microsoft's top communications executive re-hashing well-worn arguments that come straight from the Ballmer era.

"It’s very difficult to change the culture of a company," said one Microsoft partner, who didn't want to be named. "So it will take time for Satya to dig his way through, and get to all of his leaders, to start changing this kind of mindset."

PUBLISHED FEB. 14, 2014