Will Microsoft’s “Oprah moment” come back to haunt them?


A few days ago, news broke that Microsoft was going to offer WP7 devices to all their employees worldwide. The act in itself will give WP7 a huge boost and exposure as it tries to claw its way back to relevance in the smartphone market. Brandon Watson, head of the developer experience team, then upped the ante by stating that not only would the employees be getting free phones, they will also be encouraged to write apps for the OS. Microsoft then changed their policies that now allows the aforementioned employees, to profit from such endeavors. On the surface, the idea is excellent, and there is already even a RSS reader created by Microsoft interns, but when you dig deeper, there is an issue, or two that I hope MS thought through about.

Firstly, say for example  an employee creates an app that eventually becomes very popular, is approached and offered a lot of money by Google or Apple for the app and Intellectual  property, is there anything MS can do to stop it? Do they get the right of first refusal? (they’d better have that clause in there!) in order to avoid the debacle like they have in Japan where Yahoo went with Google for search instead of Bing.

Secondly, will some employees now save their good ideas and try to commercialize through apps instead of contributing to the company?

Thirdly, does this mean that we are going to see more apps coming from the Microsoft Research? I sure hope so. There have been so many great projects that have been demoed by this division over the years that unfortunately never saw the light of day. My fingers are crossed that this policy change will bring some of these applications to the mass market.

I have no qualms with MS offering the phones to their workers, heck I wish I was getting one! I just hope their lawyers took care of the fine print before signing off on the deal.

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