Should I Be Evil?

There's been a considerable amount of discussion lately about Apple, our image, and if Microsoft employees should buy Apple products.  There is no official policy that says I can't buy an iPod, iPhone or a Mac.

But how does this look to you?

Do you think more or less of me if I do?  Do you care what kind of phone I use?  What kind of message am I sending to you if I purchase the 3G iPhone 2?  I mean after all, I'm a paid Microsoft Evangelist not an Apple Evangelist.

What does evangelist mean exactly?  I always think it means I get to preach the Microsoft gospel.  Praise the Lord!!!  I like doing that.  I have high confidence in our products. But I grew up being a Consultant with one of the "Big Six" integrators where I was a trusted advisor and always recommended the best product or solution for the customer. 

I already have a Mac.  My MacBook Pro is a Microsoft asset and I use it to understand where we are strong and weak relative to the competition.  When I do reporting on that type of analysis, I really try to be fair in my judgements and trust me, the Windows group hasn't been pleased with everything I've said.  Neither have the Apple enthusiasts.

So, should I be evil and buy yet another Apple product or drive a stake in the ground and never buy again?

Comments (21)

  1. Ed Faulkner says:

    Evil/Good. It’s a matter of perspective if you try to assign those to products. Your JOB is to evalgelize, so you’re held to a different standard. Yes, different! But if you peel back the labels and allow a frank discussion of the products… well, that’s a different subject altogether! And probably not one to be agnostic about as an evangelist. "Don’t make me get up out of my chair, and get a dictionary!"  🙂

  2. Jimbo says:

    Buy the best product for the task you have, defined by your own standards.

    You can’t compromise on that.

  3. Jordan says:

    Is it really evil?

    While i don’t think it would be appropriate if you had the iphone out while specifically working as an MS representative at an event, there is no reason why you shouldnt/couldnt brandish it as a civilian.

    MS is great at a lot of things, and Apple is great at a few things. What Apple is great at, Microsoft isnt that good at. Having said that, MS could take a lot of cues from Apple on certain subjects, and such as you own a Macbook there is no way to compare it to windows without having one to work with.

    Sure, buy the Iphone. But i would also think it to be in good taste if you send the Windows Mobile team a fair and concise review of where they are missing the mark when it comes to the mobile phone OS market.

  4. Keith Combs says:

    Evil is a sensational word.  Grabs eyeballs.  I’m not really evil but some of the hard core Microsoft dia hards might think I am.

    I’m just really trying to figure out if anyone outside the Microsoft employee ranks really care about such matters.

  5. tom says:

    "But I grew up being a Consultant with one of the "Big Six" integrators where I was a trusted advisor and always recommended the best product or solution for the customer."

    End of story ….

  6. Lee... says:

    Keith, I believe you and everyone else should have a choice. If MSFT employees choose to buy competitors products for a particular reason, and this then drives them on to produce better MSFT products, then everyone is served well by their choice and actions.

    I’m always wary of representatives / evangelists / preachers who say that their companies products are all the best. The marketplace always tells us who’s in front, but the product in front, may not always be the best.

    The best product, like the truth, always bubbles to the surface, sometimes however it takes a little time.

  7. James ONeill says:

    " grew up being a Consultant with one of the "Big Six" integrators where I was a trusted advisor and always recommended the best product or solution for the customer."

    And long may you remain so. As a Microsoft shareholder I’d say you’re worth a lot to the company as an advisor customers trust, than as someone who gives the company line all the time: customers see through that.

    Owning an iPhone doesn’t mean you have to evangelize it over Windows mobile. Actually having some people with iPhones emphasizes that others *choose* Windows mobile and fosters a debate about what is best in the customers.

  8. jweston says:

    interesting discussion Keith.

    Last weekend I was in a social setting boating. I was in a motor boat with someone I had never met, watching our kids race sailboats (go figure).  He works for a large(guess which one) DFW area basied airline and is in the IT department. Work came up in casual conversation. After he found out I worked for MS he started with the Apple Bible story. How Macs are better than PC’s, etc. He pulled out his Iphone and I my windows Mobile Phone and we compared.  Mind you while we are on a 12 foot motor boat in the middle of the lake 🙂  He asked if I am taking off July 11th from work, he is. I asked why? Of course, the new iphone is out that day and he wants to be first in line. He doesn’t understand why I don’t want one.  Or that I wouldn’t take the day off in offical capacity. I am not sure I am suppose to be shopping or worring or what he really thought an MSer would do that day.  So go ahead Keith and buy one. You always do objective hardware reviews.   For now I am very happy with my Windows Mobile phone(HTC TILT) until I am convenced otherwise.

  9. Matt Hester says:

    This is a great topic and we have had a great conversation around this internally, and I used the phrase of shill (in retrospect, probably the wrong choice of words) and how I enjoy being a shill for Microsoft.  In reality I am not a shill, but I do realize that Microsoft pays me to evangelize and use our products.  For me that provide me a sense of company and product loyalty that sets the tone for my evangelism for Microsoft.  I agree our customers will see through the marketing BS, and that is not my job.   My job is to be honest; tell them when the product does not meet their criteria.  Talk with them about the good, bad and ugly around our products.  In addition I also have the responsibility back to Microsoft and to the product groups, as Jordan put it to a “fair and concise review” and let them know where our products can/need to be improved.  However, does that mean I go out evangelize competitors products if our products do not meet the gap.  No, my job is to be honest with our customers about products and point them in the right direction.  Then let the Apple, Google, Suse evangelist do their job.  .  Thank goodness for being a technology guy.  To answer your question Keith, think about what you will need it for, and how would your review look like back to the mobile team?

  10. Jacob says:

    I’m not going to say if it is right or wrong but it does seem to make Microsoft look weak.

    I work at a healthcare facility and a lot of the know it all doctors continually spew "I’m a Mac" commercials at me all day long.  I think most of the IT people know a lot of those commercials are pure crap but the public believes it all.  The current perception of Microsoft right now is very weak and I doubt Microsoft employees using Apple things will help that perception.

    I know Microsoft is focused more on the enterprise than the home user but if upper management buys into those commercials, it may eventually hurt the enterprise products too.  I know Apple is a relatively small player but they are really doing some damage to the public opinion of Microsoft.

  11. I have to concur with Matt. As an agent of Microsoft, you are paid to evangelize Microsoft products. However, that doesn’t mean we fail to identify shortcomings or suggest 3rd party vendors that complement, but instead focus on how thes eproblems will solve customer issues. Obviously, our products may not address any/all concerns that customers may have, and we shoudl be quick to provide good alternatives, regardless of the manufacturer. I call this being a "trusted advisor".

    I do not feel that talking about the greatness of our competitors from Step 1 is the right thing to do. We are not "technology evangelists" working for some technical magazine. We are "Microsoft evangelists" and we should remember who signs the checks. If you want to evangelize Suse….go work for them. That being said, too foten I see speakers who like to leverage their position of noteriety to espouse their personal opinions, politcial statements, etc. Wrong answer. I didn’t come to a Microsoft event to hear about your thoughts on Global Warming nor to hear you talk about the iPhone. I come to hear you talk about Microsoft technologies and to get good honest answers from you as to their capabilities.

    IT Pros are smart. They don’t need to go to a MSFT event to hear about Apple or Suse. They know where to seek out those answers. Unfortunately, it’s always easy to get a crowd if/when you appear to be "controversial". Let’s not play to the lowest common denominator (or "Press") in order to get crowds. Let’s keep being honest about what it is Microsoft is good and not so good at, and allow the customers to make the decisions.

    – Kai

  12. Keith Combs says:

    So if I’m using an iPhone, it doesn’t send a subliminal message that Apple is better?

    What about if I start using my MacBook Pro even though I am using Windows Vista on it?  Is that the same as using a Lenovo ThinkPad with Windows Vista.

    Does that change your perception and buying habits?

  13. Ross'RosCo'Chronister says:

    Bro, you are honest and yet you still ride for the brand. That is called integrity and it is very rare these days, so stay the course and do not pay heed to zealots.

  14. I have 100 times more respect for Microsoft bloggers who are big enough to admit that they like or use some competitors’ products. I’m an IT Pro and I know a lot of other IT Pros, and the one thing we hate more than anything is marketing BS.

    Just the other day I read a TechNet blogger who blogged about being given a VMware USB key to try out the new ESX components, and instead he bragged about how the first thing he did was to format all the VMware crap off it and use it with his Vista computer. I don’t want to dwell on one particular incident but it’s typical of the type of MS bloggers that lower my opinion of Microsoft.

    On the other hand, I often read MS bloggers who are testing out a new Apple notebook, or trying the latest Linux distro, or posting info on how to get PHP running on IIS. These bloggers keep my faith up that Microsoft has some cool geeks working for them that enjoy technology as much as I do.

    As for you getting an iPhone… in my opinion Apple have revolutionised the smartphone/PDA market with a brand-new GUI and excellent design. Windows Mobile is still good for corporates and has a massive number of apps available for it, so has some advantages over the iPhone too. But now that the iPhone has built-in ActiveSync, you can use an iPhone and still evangelise how good Exchange Server is.

    "So if I’m using an iPhone, it doesn’t send a subliminal message that Apple is better?" – what this means is that Apple make a better smartphone than Microsoft – and that’s true because MS doesn’t make their own smartphones. I’m sure that MS have been pleading with their hardware vendors to come up with better phones for years.

  15. Keith Combs says:

    Formatted the USB stick?  I wanted that copy of ESXi but they ran out by the time I visited the VMWare boothe at TechEd.  I was sad because I am setting up some pretty killer VMs right now.  SCVMM managing ESX, Hyper-V and Virtual Server on my laptops!

    I’m starting to get the message that you guys would prefer I just stick with what I’ve been doing for years and keep it coming.  Fine with me.

  16. Stephen Spence says:

    Lead by example. Evaluate MS products as well as those of your competitors to give you perspective overall and encourage others to do the same.

  17. Hey Keith – you should read the latest post from Seth Godin. He talks about this exact same topic:

  18. Keith Combs says:

    Yea, Seth’s post is right on.  I could be the lawyer or statesman.  After being at Microsoft for 12 years, a significant portion of me wants to be the lawyer.  I mean I have an investment here so you can hardly blame me for wanting to be hard core.

    On the other hand, it’s also my job to be smart about our products so that really means both their strengths and weaknesses.  The only way to do that is to live on the other side of the fence and try to understand the world you live in.  The world that isn’t pure Microsoft.

    I’m planning on writing about purity since it comes up in focus groups all of the time.  

  19. Krupo says:

    Taking a step back from IT for a moment, as a student newspaper editor I would consistently pick up the "competition"’s newspapers to see what they were doing, to compare their work to mine and to get new ideas.

    It’d be beyond silly – speaking as an "outside user" now, to have some silly "religious war crusade" metaphor in place to prevent you from doing the same thing with tech.

    It’s just a circuit board with moulded plastic, not a Sacred Ark of the Covenant. Buy it, play with it, report back to us with findings. 🙂

  20. Keith Combs says:

    Thanks Krupo.  But consider this… Millions of people read this blog. And I normally see and talk to ten’s of thousands to 100’s of thousands of people each year via live events, webcasts, conferences, etc.

    So the decision to use a competitors product isn’t something to be taken lightly.  I do have to consider the pros and cons.  So do other employees.

    We have lots of people tha waited in line yesterday for the iPhone.  I didn’t.  It was 101 freaking degress here so I wasn’t about to deal with a heat stroke over it.  I’ll wait for all of the other folks to deal with figuring out the ins and outs of the apps, connectivity, etc.

    I’m hopeful I can get a contract free deal on one in the not too distant future.  I really don’t want to lock myself to at&t for the next couple of years.

    I also have a line on some other kewl devices coming so with any luck I’ll do some reviews in the next few months.

  21. Chris Haaker says:

    I agree with Kai’s view – I come to you and your peersteam for information on MS and after that technology in general. However, if, with your MS hat off, you think the iPhone or other tech is kick-butt cool, you should be able to sport it without being forbidden or blacklisted. You shouldn’t have to carry a wm6 device by day and an iPhone at night. It certainly doesn’t reduce my respect for you or MS, quite the opposite in fact. Having gone to TechEd for many years, I went to my first Apple WWDC this year and was very disappointed. They were closed, guarded, secretive and unsupportive. In contrast, MS events and their employees are open, transparent, sharing and willing to discuss almost any internal or external situation or topic. Keep up the great work!

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