Rupert Goodwins' Diary

Wednesday 3/9/2003It's fun being Microsoft. You get to do things that would have lesser mortals slapped in irons, and you don't even have to say sorry.

Wednesday 3/9/2003
It's fun being Microsoft. You get to do things that would have lesser mortals slapped in irons, and you don't even have to say sorry. Take the case where Burst, a multimedia streaming company, is suing Microsoft because, Burst says, Microsoft ripped off their technology. Not out of the blue, of course: Microsoft first got into negotiations with the company, but then decided not to bother. Instead, they launched their own technology, which Burst says is theirs. Off to court with 'em, says Burst, where as part of the game both sides have to hand over all documents pertaining to the deal that never was.

Microsoft hands over a huge chunk of email, which strangely enough has nothing covering the period of their negotiations with Burst. "What email?" asks Microsoft when challenged. "Oh, that email. We deleted all that. Burst's technology was so rubbish, you see." Er, what? The judge is not impressed, and Microsoft has to come back when it's found the backups.

Still, it's not the first time Microsoft has presented evidence to a court that proved to be less than stellar. Remember the video that showed you couldn't remove Internet Explorer from Windows 98? Oops. But it doesn't seem to have done the company any harm -- any more than losing the court case against Stac. Who? Oh, a company that made disk compression software, called Stacker. Run it, and you apparently had much more disk space.

Microsoft thought this was a really good idea, so they promised to do the same thing. Only they couldn't -- so they "borrowed" Stac's patented ideas (alongside a whole host of other dirty tricks, outlined here) and the whole thing ended up in court. Eventually, Stac won -- but by then, it had been destroyed as a company.

Could MS have afforded to do the normal thing and just license the technology? Of course. But why should it?

Rupert's PR Masterclass - Wednesday
When you take 24 hours to get back to a journalist on a hot story, especially when that journalist has been trying since yesterday to find someone -- anyone -- who'll talk to him in your maze of PR companies spread across two continents, it's really good to start your email with:
"It’s disappointing that you did not make more of an effort to contact us to get our side of the story on this case before posting what, in essence, is an inaccurate account…"

Nice. Note how you've implied that the journalist is both lazy and careless, thus making them feel contrite and keen to do better before even hearing your side of the story. The perfect opening salvo to get them on-side. On no account, make sure any of your local PR companies are properly briefed and able to deal with this matter quickly: this ruins the effect.

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