But this clip from a Q&A between News.com’s Ina Fried and Ron Markezich, Microsoft’s CIO, strikes me as a bit shortsighted:
Do you use any Linux?
As a policy, I don’t run anything that competes with Microsoft. My goal is to make sure Microsoft products are the best products in the world. It’s an easy choice for me, in that sense–to run Microsoft technology. We don’t run Unix. We don’t run Linux. We don’t run Oracle. We’re 100 percent Windows, SQL Server.
We do, in areas on the client, have an open-source client running–just for competitive analysis. As an IT organization, I have no skills and no ability and no purchasing of those products. We don’t even run J2EE. Everything is .Net. (link)
A couple of qualifications. First, Ron is the CIO, meaning that his mission in life is making sure that Microsoft’s technology infrastructure supports its business, not (presumably) competitive intelligence or product testing. Second, even if he was inclined to entrust some of his technology purchasing to competing products, I’d hardly expect him to advertise the fact. Microsoft’s transparency is improving, thanks in no small part to the efforts of Scoble and the massive uptake of blogs within Microsoft, but he’s at a level where that language and external statements are important and tend to be magnified. All that said, however, it immediately reminded me of Sun Tzu’s famous quote:
“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.” (link)
I’m sure Microsoft’s competitive intelligence guys are running a lot of the competition’s stuff in the labs, but that’s different than running it in production. I think Microsoft might be better served by having its datacenter be a bit more heterogeneous – as virtually every one of its clients will be. The lessons gleaned from running competitive software in production, along with the acknowledgement that there are areas where Microsoft isn’t perfect, might bring surprising – not to mention counterintuitive – PR windfalls.
From where I sit, it’s clear that Microsoft knows itself. What’s not always clear is whether they actually know their enemy.
Update: Coté’s got a bit of a different take on it here.