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

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?
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

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.

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