Agency problem in MSFT product marketing

The Orphans of the Sky scenario at Microsoft is not limited to the engineering department. With no overarching plan to guide them, various hives of Microsoft product marketers buzz with pointless activity, endlessly renaming myriad half-finished products and services.

Sample paragraph from a recent .NET propaganda piece:

“At MIX07 in Las Vegas, Microsoft detailed planned .NET programming support for Silverlight, formerly known as Windows Presentation Foundation/Everywhere … also disclosed was the Dynamic Languages Platform, itself based on the Dynamic Language Runtime.”

In 2 sentences, two “initiatives” are renamed for no discernible reason.

Another good example is “Sender Score Certified,” the new name for “Bonded Sender,” which was itself the new name for “Return Path.” (This service lets spammers tunnel into Hotmail, with MSFT approval, for a fee of $1400).

What does this marketing sound and fury imply? High turnover. How’s that? Well, it works like this.

You’ve just graduated from a major business school. You want to get into tech, but have no experience. No problem: Microsoft will take you, based on your pedigree. But the only position open to you is entry-level product marketing.

You feel this job is beneath you. You are an ambitious Harvard MBA. You want out, as fast as possible. But how best to do it? Answer: put easy-to-identify accomplishments on your resume, purpose-designed talking points for a job interview.

Just one problem: you inherited “Windows Presentation Foundation/Anywhere,” a 3-year-old project, as your first gig. How can you turn this into a bullet point? Simply rename it. Suddenly your resume says “Founding project manager, Silverlight.” Fantastic! Call the recruiters! You land a COO position at a VC-backed startup, and you’re off to the races.

In business school, we call this the principal-agent problem.

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