Microsoft banning Mac, iPad purchases by its sales and marketing group?

Microsoft banning Mac, iPad purchases by its sales and marketing group?

Summary: An alleged internal Microsoft e-mail claims the company's marketing and sales organization is about to halt Mac and iPad purchases made with company funds. Smart or pointless?


Microsoft's Sales, Marketing, Services, IT, & Operations Group (SMSG) may be putting in place a policy to prevent employees from using corporate funds to buy Macs and iPads.

Based on an alleged internal e-mail passed on to me by one of my contacts, this edict just came down last week. SMSG encompasses 46,000 Microsoft employees worldwide, according to a Microsoft Careers page about the group, and includes Microsoft's front-line consumer and business sales, service and support people.

Here's that supposed e-mail, from Alain Crozier, the chief financial officer of SMSG:

From: Alain Crozier Sent: Wednesday, March 14, 2012 1:17 PM

Subject: Apple Purchases

Within SMSG we are putting in place a new policy that says that Apple products (Mac & iPad) should not be purchased with company funds.

In the US we will be turning off the Apple products from the Zones Catalog next week, which is the standard purchasing mechanism for these products.

Outside of the US -- we will work with your finance and procurement teams to send the right message and put the right processes in place.

The current purchase levels are low, however we recognize there will be a bit of transition work associated with this.  Details of historical purchases in the US are provided in the attachment to help understand the changes that will be needed.Thank you for your support and leadership on this.

Alain Crozier CFO  |  WW Sales, Marketing & Services Group WW SMSG Finance

I asked Microsoft for confirmation that the email was real. I was told by a spokesperson that the company had no comment. No confirmation; no denial.

It has been Microsoft's policy for years -- dating back to Windows Mobile in 2009 -- that iPhones, Blackberrys and Palm devices (and their respective data plans) cannot be expensed. Microsoft provided its own employees with free Windows Phones in 2010 (just like Apple did in 2007 when it gave its employees iPhones). Microsoft hasn't attempted to require its employees to use nothing but Windows Phones or Windows PCs, as is evident at any Microsoft conference and/or campus visit.

Some folks think moves like the alleged Mac and iPad ban make sense. Others find them overblown. If current purchase levels really are low, as the alleged memo says, why go so far as to ban them, asked one former Softie. And what about knowing your enemy?

What's your take? If it's really happening (which I believe it is, given where I got the e-mail), is this a smart or a pointless move on Microsoft's part? My vote is smart. In fact, I'm surprised this policy wasn't put in place before.

Topics: Collaboration, Apple, Enterprise Software, Hardware, iPad, Microsoft, Mobility


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • smart

    Smart. It creates plenty of fodder when people see Microsofties using Macs. I remember several tweets/jokes making the rounds about the DJ Microsoft had at their CES party using a Mac for gosh sakes. You can't have your sales and marketing people using Macs in front of customers. It just goes against the message the company is trying to send.
    • RE: smart

      [i]You can't have your sales and marketing people using Macs in front of customers.[/i]

      How about a MacBook Pro running SUSE Linux enterprise desktop (SLED) with Windows 7 virtualized? Stylish, powerful and immune to Duqu (assuming that one is using snapshots).
      Rabid Howler Monkey
      • Not useful

        Every one can see the Mac, no one can see what OS is running under it.
      • RE: Not useful

        Microsoft is a software company, operating systems and applications. If the client doesn't care about the software why are you talking to them? And it's 2012 for crying out loud.

        In addition, Microsoft and Attachmate (remember, they acquired Novell with a little help from Microsoft) are business partners and more than a few enterprises care a great deal about Windows and Linux interoperability. Alternatively, one could run Windows 7 on the MacBook Pro with SLED virtualized.
        Rabid Howler Monkey
    • Exactly...

      The story here isn't that Microsoft is banning company funds for the purchase of iPads, but that this policy wasn't in place to begin with.

      Sales and marketing showing up to a press conference with an iPad? Or being greeted by a MS PR person carrying an iPad? And this letter would be seen as unfair? If anyone argues that point, they should turn off their computer, back away, and give up the internets forever.

      Let's see if Apple allows their sales and marketing personnel to purchase W8 tablets on the company dime, and carry them around for day to day business.
      • Possibly

        It is very possible that Apple would not mind, if you purchased an Windows computer.. Thing is, if you ever used a Mac, you will hardly want anything else. Same goes for the iPhone and same (even more) goes for the iPad.

        Then, this is apples and oranges comparison, because Apple actually do sell computers, phones and tablets --- while Microsoft does not sell computer, phones or tablets.
      • Android at Apple?

        Can you imagine Apple allowing salesmen to use Android tablets right now? Some will say that it would never happen, but that is not the point. They may not have to, but would they?
      • RE: Possibly

        It's not so much that Microsoft minds that someone purchases an Apple product, it's more that such purchases shouldn't be made with company money, which makes quite a bit of sense. Apple doesn't prevent an employee from buying a Windows computer (it's out of their power to dictate what employees use in their personal lives), but I'm not sure how many Windows machines you would see onsite.

        (Quick derail: I've used a Mac. I... very much disliked it, and always preferred Windows. I've also used an iPhone, hated it, and went straight to an Android device. Can't really say the same for the iPad, though - but an HP Touchpad dual-booting WebOS and ICS seems nicer than one from what I've seen so far)
      • Agreed

        If I was an executive at Ford and had a car allowance I'm pretty sure I would not be expected to use it for a GM or other non-Ford product.
      • Exactly... but

        To your point, I think that if someone at an Apple campus would be walking around with a W8 tablet, they would be considered as completely uncool or someone surely just engaged in a competitive analysis. On the other hand, to see someone walk around a Microsoft campus with an iPad, would probably be seen as somewhat bold but normal.
    • Coke vs. Pepsi

      It's like seeing a sales/marketing person who works for Cocacola drinking a Pepsi.
      • fersure

        I was reprimanded when I worked at Coke for having a bag of Doritos on my desk!
      • Coke

        I had a room mate some years ago that worked for Coke. I'm a Pepsi drinker and had Pepsi at home much to my roomies dismay. As long as the house was mine there wasn't much he could do. However he bought a house and and we moved in there. As soon as we move in he yanked my Pepsi out of the fridge and tossed it out the back door. He could not have Pepsi products at home.
    • Some day, you have to face the reality

      That the competitors product is that good, that you want to use it for your internal purposes as well.

      This doesn't stop Microsoft from using non-Windows platforms for their internal services though, as nobody ever sees them.
      • As that doesn't stop Apple Google, ect from using

        Windows platforms for their internal services though, as nobody ever sees them.
        William Farrel
      • Whatever do you mean?

        The business world is powered by Microsoft products and even many homes are running windows. Apple products are really nice, my favourite being the iPad, but they do not replace windows in many uses. The Sales guys at Microsoft can do all they need to on a windows machine so the company should not spend money on Apple products when it alread makes useful products that can powere internal computing.

        I certainly will doubt the amount of faith a Sales person has in his product if he is trying to win my business while showcasing a competitor's machine. Apple complements Windows machines not replace them. So it was smart to stop wasting money on ipads and macs when the company has enough capable machines. It would have been very very stupid of Microsoft if banned employees from buying 'Apples' with their own money, because that is none of their business.
    • " one can see what OS is running under it."

      @Kevintxu - That's true for MacBooks, but iPads can only run iOS.
  • Smart and sends the right message...

    I think it's smart too. There are plenty of people at Microsoft capable of doing competitive product analysis. The sales and marketing teams should be using the very products they are selling. The concept of "dog fooding" your products is a good one. Great feedback makes for better products.
    • The damage is done.

      When you have to ban iPad/Mac purchases with company money, you've basically admitted that the only way you can keep your employees off the other guy's stuff is to not pay for it. The secondary message is that the Mac, iPad, iPhones you see were paid for with personal money (i.e. they'd rather [i]pay[/i] to use that device then get a Windows device for free).

      As for Apple never using other vendor's hardware, back before iOS apps were available, Apple Store employees used WinCE-based hand-held POS terminals for check-out. Of course now they don't have to, but it shows you that the winning move is to build a better product, not ban the one your employees prefer.
      • Wrong interpretation

        "The secondary message is that the Mac, iPad, iPhones you see were paid for with personal money (i.e. they'd rather pay to use that device then get a Windows device for free)."

        Wrong interpretation.

        The right interpretation is: "Microsoft does not believe in enriching its competition, but we don't stop our employees from exercising their right of choice with their own money."