Microsoft: We won't be evil, either

Microsoft: We won't be evil, either

Summary: Microsoft has outlined a new corporate philosophy of competition that could be summed up in these familiar words: "Don't be evil". While speaking at the New America Foundation luncheon, Brad Smith, the general counsel of Microsoft outlined the "Windows Principles": Twelve tenets that will govern Microsoft's approach to competition in the future, even after the US anti-trust ruling expires next year.

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TOPICS: Microsoft
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Microsoft has outlined a new corporate philosophy of competition that could be summed up in these familiar words: "Don't be evil". While speaking at the New America Foundation luncheon, Brad Smith, the general counsel of Microsoft said Microsoft had learned several important lessons since the DOJ's anti-trust lawsuit in 1997:

"The first lesson is this. As creators of an operating system used so widely around the world, we recognize that we have a special responsibility, both to advance innovation and to help preserve competition in the information technology industry. We take this responsibility very seriously."

Smith outlined the "Windows Principles": twelve tenets that will govern Microsoft's approach to competition in the future, even after the US anti-trust ruling expires next year. These principles will be shared around the world and have been posted on their web site. They're not intended to take the place of any legal action or rulings, but instead provide some general guidelines about how Microsoft will conduct itself. Smith explained:

"We've learned that people care not only about what we do but about how we do it. So, our goal today is to be principled, transparent and accountable in our design of Windows as we go forward now and in the future. The principles that we're announcing today assure customers, our industry and regulators alike, that Microsoft is committed to developing Windows in ways that advance innovation for consumers and preserve important and robust opportunities for competition."

You can read the Windows Principles for yourself here. You may also want to compare them to Google's original "don't be evil" philosophy and code of conduct.

Topic: Microsoft

Ed Burnette

About Ed Burnette

Ed Burnette is a software industry veteran with more than 25 years of experience as a programmer, author, and speaker. He has written numerous technical articles and books, most recently "Hello, Android: Introducing Google's Mobile Development Platform" from the Pragmatic Programmers.

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16 comments
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  • Well, whoop-de-doo! That's a whole lot of nothing...

    Most of their 12 points just say that they are going to do what they should have been doing all along (but weren't). Big deal.

    And the "we will support developlers" comment is a load of hooey. Developers have been their bread and butter for a long time. If not for developers, their products go nowhere. Again, not much said there. Wasn't it Steve "monkey-boy" Ballmer that chanted "developers, developers, developers" at a conference a long time ago? I'm pretty sure it was someone from Microsoft at least.

    And finally, they forgot item #13 on the list...
    "We will strive to treat every user as a thief until they prove to us that they are not. We owe it to ourselves to insure, by any means necessary, spyware or otherwise, that every user proves to us, every day, that they paid us money."
    shawkins
  • I too, have decided to be "not evil"

    It was with a wave of emotion that I too renounced evil recently.
    Seeing these vendors make their pledges to their customers is
    moving and I wanted to be on the team. I can say with pride that
    for almost 3 weeks, I have not killed any puppies.
    Harry Bardal
    • I feel ya

      I read the Microsoft quotes and then I read how it is leading you
      to a better understanding of yourself and your relationship with
      others and I just wept. I'm still weeping and feeling the
      rapturous joy of truth and healing flowing into my soul!

      So I too take it upon myself to also be "not evil," yet I don't think
      I have your iron resolve to just go cold-turkey on this. So I'm
      pre-announcing my own Less Evil Personal 0.05(pre-beta)
      program. It's a phased approach to being less evil. The initial
      component of my system is the internal development of an
      integrated stack of "non-evil thoughts" which I will eventually tie
      to an array of appropriately "non-evil actions"

      Wish me luck.

      ----

      The problem with these boards is that we can't all group hug.
      Len Rooney
      • 9.9

        We wish you all the luck in the world.

        Perhaps you can get ahold of the Evil Substitute Pill. Side affects are limited to severe tooth decay.
        Dan__
        • Evil Substitute Pill

          Uh oh! Sounds like some serious competition! Looks like the
          release of my Less Evil Personal 0.05(pre-beta) program will
          have to be pushed back a few months or years and I'm going to
          have to drop some features. Turns out that having less evil
          thoughts might be a bit pie-in-the-sky at this point. I'm going
          to have to target "less evil thoughts" that trigger "illegal actions"
          ...
          crushCompetition = function() {
          for (var i = 0; i=evilthoughts.length; i++) {
          if(thougths.actions.result == "evil" &&
          thougths.actions.result == "illegal" ) {
          abortAction();
          } else {
          goforit();
          }
          }
          }

          Thanks for the heads up : ]E]
          Len Rooney
    • i'll go one better

      i have decided to not only be "not evil", i have gone so far as deciding to "be excellent" in accordance with the teachings of bill s. preston, esq.
      kill-9
  • Show Me

    I look at this way. Ten or so years ago, my initial attitude toward Microsoft was neutral. I assumed that they would behave more or less fairly and ethically in trying to win my business. In the ensuing ten years, they have behaved abusively, arrogantly, and deceitfully - completely erasing my original impression of them. If they now claim to have changed, fine. However, talk is cheap. I will wait for actions and deeds, and I expect that it will take another ten or so years to rebuild their reputation in my mind. See you in 2016, Microsoft.
    gmoseley
    • Okay

      Microsoft is a for-profit business. Are they supposed to not compete? Innovative software companies are succeeding (and growing), and many of these companies base their existence off of Microsoft products.

      With that being said, please explain how they have behaved "abusively, arrogantly, and deceitfully".

      It'd be better to say that, with their R&D budget, they could do better. However, as a business, there is something called NPV (net present value), where different investments are looked at in how they can generate extra revenue beyond the return that is required. Perhaps, in the past, it was not an NPV-positive decision to allow more integration, etc. Today, perhaps the company is seeing competition and is forced to change despite the consequences.

      In terms of businesses behaving ethically, since when has that ever happened? Maybe for small-town Ma-and-Pop shops 50 years ago. Today, corporations strive to appease investors, and many companies have to defend themselves against many things (hostile takeovers, etc.). Ethics and business do not run together. What does run together with business is ROA, ROE, NPV, market share, etc.
      roguepriest
      • You've got to be kidding.

        > With that being said, please explain how they
        > have behaved "abusively, arrogantly, and deceitfully".

        I suppose just one example of each will suffice.

        Abusively: Microsoft has been convicted of monopolistic business practices. It's not a crime to BE a monopoly. To be convicted you have to abuse that position. Without further ado, we can consider this "abusive" behavior to be proven in a court of law.

        Arrogantly: Refusal to support standards such as ODF (claiming inferiority of the format, even though Office supports clearly inferior formats such as HTML, Rich Text and plain text). The arrogance is in denouncing and denigrating international standards and the customers' requirements because they're not Microsoft 'standards'. This is changing only due to extreme pressure from high-profile customers.

        Deceitfully: The WGA is not a critical update, but that's the channel used to deliver it. Microsoft's FUD tactics, well known and documented, have depended largely on deceit. Those of use with long memories remember the lie, "Win95 won't run on DR-DOS". They've been practicing institutionalized deceit for a very long time now.

        So no, it's not "better" to say that "with their R&D budget they could do better" when in fact they HAVE behaved "abusively, arrogantly, and deceitfully". Their R&D budget has nothing to do with their ethics. Despite your cynicism, ethics and business DO mix, which is precisely why we have criminal proceedings when they're separated. Ask Martha Stewart and all those Enron executives.

        Of course Microsoft is supposed to compete. But unethical behavior isn't competition, it's cheating. Or don't you believe they can survive a fair competition?
        dave.leigh9
      • Windows vs. Office

        Competition is fine but Microsoft could (*cough*) easily leverage their monopoly with Windows to try and boost their other projects like Office and Sql Server. A few undocumented calls here, a few special fixes there, maybe a roadblock or two thrown at competitors (remember "it ain't ready until XX doesn't work"? who said that?), and so forth.

        Monopolists have special responsibilities, like utilities, that others don't have, in order to assure a fair market. They're talking the talk like they understand this now, which I consider a step in the right direction. But like another poster said, actions are what's important.

        It's really too bad that the DOJ didn't force MS to be broken up into separate companies. While it might have been less profitable for BillG, the baby-MS's would have been more nimble and customer choice would have improved (real MS office on Linux anyone?).
        Ed Burnette
  • Um...yeah... I think the definitions are the key...

    How Microsoft defines "advance innovation" and "preserve competition" is what really makes the difference.
    el1jones
  • Yeah

    and Shrubya will admit he started the war in Irag for oil... not to give something (democracy) that can be given.

    I won't believe Microsoft, nor will many millions of others, until they start doing what they say. A good place to start would be say... the EU. ]:)
    Linux User 147560
  • No evil?

    Sounds pretty lofty. Will they fire all the "evil" people? Will there be an "evil aptitude" test?
    cschatz9
  • Kim Jung, Adolf Hitler, Sadam Heussein, the "president" of Iran ...

    They also promised they won't be evil either.
    :p
    Mr. Roboto
    • Evil is as Evil does!

      Welcome to the dark side of the force my friends.
      MacGeek2121
  • Evil? And all this time I thought they were being nice

    Always have I been able to run whatever, whenever, and wherever just had to know that it could be done and how to do it, Microsoft has always been that way, I agreed when other companies complained of this gigantic monopoly, of global proportion, but I also think that if you can create such a beast it should be able to be self sufficent, not relying on other companies software drivers components etc., but on the other hand as I have said the beast will play with others if you hold your tongue right and learn the handshake.
    snowb9