Microsoft to retire, refocus Windows Phone MVP program

Microsoft is making some big changes to one of its Windows Phone programs that is resulting in some unhappy former advocates.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

Microsoft is making some big changes to one of its Windows Phone programs that is resulting in some unhappy former advocates.

A number of Windows Phone Most Valuable Professionals (MVPs) -- the volunteer army that has helped Microsoft with its mobile phone charge -- are being notified this week that Microsoft is dropping them from its program.

I've heard that Microsoft earlier this week sent e-mail this week to a number of MVPs on its Windows Phone team notifying them that they are not going to be renewed at the end of their existing terms. This isn't just the usual phase out that happens when MVP renewals occur. This is a bigger and more concerted effort, according to individuals I've heard from, but who asked not to be named.

"They are creating a new more consumer-focused group at some point in the future. Speculation is end of year or early 2012," said one former MVP who asked for anonymity. The email wording "was very specific -- Windows phone MVP award expertise is being retired. They are not awarding or re-awarding for this area."

However, "we've always considered this group to be consumer focused," the former MVP said. "The general feeling is that they are cleaning house - hitting the reset button and starting over with this group. What I've been told from someone on the inside, is that they are going to focus on people that are contributing in the MS Answers forums. But those in the existing group that are leaders in the answers forums have also been cut."

That explanation seems to be verified by a posting on Quora, in response to a question "How do you become a Windows Phone MVP?" The answer:

"I was told 'The Windows Phone product group have recently decided that, in the new financial year, they will re-structure the way they engage with MVPs .... they have announced a freeze on awarding new Windows Phone MVPs. They will be opening up to new Windows Phone MVP nominations late this year or early next year....

(Thanks to Windows Phone MVP @toddogasawara for his tweet pointing me to the Quora posting.)

Another contact who asked not to be named claimed that Microsoft notified all of its Windows Phones MVPs (about 85 in total, according to the contact) that they were being phased out and not renewed.

"They were told the 'Windows Phone expertise' was being discontinued and replaced by a 'Windows Phone Consumer'  expertise, and that when their respective one year term was up, they would no longer be Windows Phone MVPs. Effective the first week of July, at least a dozen (possibly two) will be culled from the ranks around the world, and come October another couple of dozen will go. This will continue until next year when all the Windows Phone MVPs will be gone," the contact said.

The contact also said that the existing Windows Phone MVPs were told they will be considered for the new program, but no details were given about the qualifications Microsoft will be seeking.

"What's particularly baffling is that all the MVPs are already helping Windows Phone consumers...so Microsoft's stated rationale is particularly galling," s/he added.

I've asked Microsoft what's going on, but have not received a response from anyone on the Windows Phone team.

Update: One MVP told me that the Windows Phone Development MVPs are not part of this MVP "house-cleaning."

The MVP move comes during the same week that Microsoft released the Mango Windows Phone operating system beta bits to developers. Microsoft is subjecting the devs to NDA terms, even though these are the same beta bits Microsoft made available to the press for review (and which the press who got them are no longer required to keep secret). I've also asked the Softies for the reasoning there but still have yet to hear back....

Update: This just in from a Microsoft spokesperson, re: the Mango dev bits:

“This is a standard practice when pre-release code is distributed to a mass audience. Permission to publish content, screenshots or comments based on this pre-release code can be obtained from Microsoft on a case-by-case basis.”

Updated again (July 1): It looks like the NDA terms are even looser than the spokesperson suggested. Microsoft is only restricting images, the distribution of the actual Mango bits and the application updater. More here.

Editorial standards