Microsoft is doing the Silicon Valley shuffle

I laughed out loud when I heard that Microsoft failed to comply with an EU edict that required it to install a browser choice screen on all new copies of Windows sold in Europe. The Register wrote that:

Microsoft has reportedly agreed to comply with any sanctions laid down by competition officials in Brussels, who are currently probing the software giant's allegedly mistaken banishment of a "browser choice" screen, which would have allowed European customers to pick which browser they wanted to run on their Windows-based machines.

The EU's competition commissioner Joaquin Almunia told Reuters at an economic conference in Italy that he had met with Redmond's boss to discuss the issue, which MS labelled as a "technical error" that it had failed to spot for 17 months.

I find this hilarious. Why? Well, 17 months went by, which tells me that nobody actually thought this was important enough to act on within, say, six months, or even a year.

Of course, Microsoft never noticed because it was never nagged. So, what was it going to do? "Hey, we are getting away with something. These idiots do not even notice that we didn't do as they said."

When confronted, the company acted dumb, and trotted out the line blaming it on a "technical error." This is the classic Silicon Valley shuffle that high-tech companies have been pulling forever. It takes on a lot of different forms but it always boils down to the same truth: Whatever you really wanted us to do, we didn't do it, and we probably never will do it. But we are smiling!

This is the “dog ate my homework” excuse applied in a professional setting. Let's look at the top six types of Silicon Valley shuffle that I myself have actually witnessed:

1. Simple stalling tactic

Just keep putting off the request, hoping they'll forget. Tell them it is taking longer than expected or someone is on vacation and you are waiting for them to get back. In a pinch, say you are waiting for the requested documents. If they say they had no request then say there must have been a miscommunication and you'll look into it. Do nothing.

2. Joe quit

Agree to everything and do nothing. Hope they forget. If they call you on it, tell them it would have been done but the person responsible quit. Tell them you will hire a replacement. Then still don’t do anything. If you get called on it a second time, try the same excuse again or say you will look into it. But still don’t do it.

3. We had to fire Joe

Follow the same procedure as number two but this time investigate and report back that the person failed to do his job and you fired him. Say you are looking for a replacement. Do nothing.

4. Misunderstanding

When ordered to do something, just do something different instead and say you did what was requested. When it is shown that you did the wrong thing, say it must have been a mistake. You will fix it immediately. Then do nothing.

5. The missing report

Whatever is requested, tell them you will get right on it and you will submit a report detailing your plans. Then do nothing. If they ask you where the report is, tell them it was submitted and you were waiting for their approval. When they say they never got it, tell them you will look into it. Then do nothing.

6. The wrong report

A variation on number four and number five, submit a report for something completely different. When they figure out that this is not the correct report, tell them there was a mistake and you'll get right on it. Then do nothing or send in another bogus report.

This story with Microsoft and the European Union is funny since Ballmer himself says Microsoft will get right on it, no matter what the EU decides. This is also a classic move and it means the company will do nothing. We'll hear about this again in a year or two, and still nothing will be done. What fun.