Microsoft is pretty shrewd, isn't it?
Pretty, pretty shrewd.
Instead of devising a low-key, low-profile, anyone way of getting rid of its CIO, the formerly obscure but now wildly infamous Stuart Scott, Microsoft abruptly, and loudly, fired him early this week, publicly and provocatively citing an "investigation" and a mysterious "violation of company policies."
Microsoft could have said that Scott was "leaving to pursue other opportunities." It might have said that he was leaving "to spend more time with his family." (That's always a good one. No one ever believes it but who's going to criticize someone for wanting to attend to the wife and kiddies? Anyone questioning such a thing would be a churl.) And if whatever it was that Scott did was sufficiently heinous that he had to be shown the door immediately or sooner, Microsoft could just have come out and told everyone what it was. After all, it conducted an "investigation." It must be pretty sure that he did what it thinks he did, whatever it may be.
And certainly Microsoft must know that the details, the truth, will eventually come out. It always does.
You or I, confronted with the necessity (and you've got to think it was pretty, pretty necessary to warrant such haste) of axing a high level executive would do something along those lines. You or I would think that encouraging wild speculation and rumor-mongering ("He had an affair!" "He divulged company secrets!" "He wouldn't give up his iPhone!") about the activities of a high-level corporate executive would be something we as a public company would want to avoid, not invite. But we'd think that because we're not as smart as the wizards of Redmond.
Microsoft knows that right now it's in a life-or-death struggle with Google and in our Web 2.0 world visibility is everything. If you're not visible, you don't exist. Microsoft was at risk of appearing dull. A fuddy-duddy company. Totally yesterday. Your father's Web combined with your grandfather's OS. But now, after brilliantly managing Stuart Scott's firing to generate maximum interest, Microsoft's Google ranking, always high, is soaring into the stratosphere. Suddenly, Microsoft is sexy, thereby capturing the attention of Gen Y--which loves a good soap opera--and what could be more important than that? It's MTV. It's "Real World: Remond."
So don't think that Microsoft has bungled this affair. Don't think it's damaged its reputation and appears before the world as a gang of incompetents who couldn't manage a corner convenience store let alone a giant corporate enterprise. Don't think that Gates, Ballmer, Turner and the rest of the Redmond brain trust don't know what the hell they're doing.
These are a bunch of pretty smart guys. Pretty, pretty smart.
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