Microsoft threw its annual partner conference in Toronto this week, and our recycled, environmentally-friendly reporter Andrew Donoghue was sent out to bring back the Canadian bacon. He duly schmoozed and scribbled, but it wasn't all muffins and Mounties. There was a fair amount of pain, too: the code name for the conference was Velocity, which was bearable, but the soft rock band that opened each day of the conference with The Velocity Song was not. Donoghue was not alone in hoping that the Steve Ballmer's threatened billion-dollar expenditure cut would swiftly find its way to such fripperies and strangle them in their cots.
Yet the pain was shared. A grumpy MS UK bloke revealed that while nobody was exactly looking forward to the Ballmer Billion being sliced off their various comfy benefits, some of the economies were all the more annoying for being dressed up as advances. The MS UK campus used to have a nice-enough coffee shop doling out the all-important caffeine, but it's been shut down and the franchise sold to Starbucks. Great leap forward, right? But even with a company discount, the java on offer is still twice as expensive as before. Now, a technology company can do many things to its employees in the name of Shareholder Value -- tech people hang on in there, mostly because they know full well that they'd never thrive in the real world. But hitting the herds by upping the cost of their major addiction is a sure sign of trouble to come.
On the other hand, you can go too far the other way: a sensible notion of my own survival and future employability forbids me from revealing which UK publishing house used to buy cocaine on expenses for its overworked production staff. Yet you can't help but wonder whether Steve Ballmer had had one double espresso too many when he came up with this high Velocity quote: "With my every fabric I want to make sure that we keep a culture that allows us to continue to be passionate and innovative and, in a certain way, a little weird, a little unique. I think that's very important."