In a recent post in his weblog, Microsoft's Robert Scoble writes about how it's unfair to Microsoft that WaSP didn't contact them about the Acid2 test before going to the media. He starts off explaining how they could have talked to him, and how he doesn't like being ignored. He then enters speculation mode, and concludes that "WaSP [looks like] a marketing department for Opera".
Interestingly enough, much of Microsoft's success can be attributed to marketing, but I guess it doesn't feel good when you are on the receiving end. Linux has been the target of massive FUD campaigns by Microsoft, and Bill Gates has proudly proclaimed MSIE as the most secure browser available, simply because it has had more security holes than anything else… Why shouldn't WaSP take the opportunity to raise perfectly valid issues in the media, when Microsoft has in fact been known to base its own marketing on nothing but FUD and poor excuses at times? But I digress…
This is one of the most telling sentences in Scoble's blog post:
"If all the browsers have the same underlying features, and they should only add things that are standards, what differentiation are you offering your customers and investors?"
Ignoring, for a moment, the fact that just because different browsers support the same standards doesn't mean that they can't differentiate themselves with other types of features (the car analogy is getting old, but cars do have to follow certain basic rules. According to Scoble, car manufacturers can not differentiate themselves just because they have certain standards they have to follow, apparently), it seems that Microsoft is eager to please its major corporate customers and investors. But what about everyone else? What about us, the end-users? Why does the company keep ignoring us? The sentence says a lot about the kind of attitude I suspect dominate the management in Microsoft: As long as investors and major corporate customers are happy, Microsoft is happy. If end-users happen to suffer, then so be it?
But there's more: Is Scoble really saying that to differentiate itself, Microsoft needs to ignore standards and go its own way? This says a lot about Microsoft's business practices, then. If the company can't survive by playing by the same rules as everyone else, then something is indeed "rotten in the state of Redmond". The valued investors that Scoble is so concerned about offering differentiation might want to learn about these things. If Microsoft loses its monopoly, it will die? Now, that is a terrible business strategy if I ever saw one.
I don't know why WaSP didn't contact Microsoft first, but judging by Microsoft's past performance in delivering on its promises regarding Web standards perhaps this was the right way to do it. Wium Lie points out that "Microsoft has a long history of promising interoperability, while failing to deliver". Perhaps it is time that Microsoft is cornered and forced to perform, rather than letting the company spin everything to make it sound like they are doing the right thing? On the other hand, if Microsoft does deliver on its promises, the company might lose its grip on the market and die.
I don't think their investors would like that.
(I'll take this opportunity to remind everyone that these journal posts only reflect my personal opinions – my personal thoughts on various matters.)