Your job, our business
January 25, 2008 9:24 AM   Subscribe

Has anyone ever been fired for choosing Microsoft?

I'm old enough to remember when the saying was, "Nobody ever got fired for choosing IBM." But folklore keeps up with the times. For the past dozen years, it seems, nobody ever gets fired for choosing Microsoft. Even when maybe they should have.

So my question to you: Is there any evidence, in general news or the business press, that somebody really, truly got demoted or canned for spec'ing Microsoft products instead of a competing vendor's? Are there notable examples relevant to other major suppliers (Oracle, IBM, EDS, ...)?

And, since this is a hot button issue for many people, here's a Mandatory Disclaimer in fine print:
I'm curious about business history, not about which technological axe you wish to grind. I have spec'd Microsoft products for some jobs, and open-source for others. Threats to my job are not your concern.
posted by ardgedee to Work & Money (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Hmmm, I inherited a project that was written in ASP and the original authors were definitely canned. Hard to say if they were fired because of ASP or just because they were incompetent. Ditto an Exchange server I've had to deal with in the past. In both instances the clients are moving towards a non-MS solution but that's circumstantial at best.
posted by Skorgu at 9:56 AM on January 25, 2008

A decade ago I was hired by a startup who was building virtual reality arcade games. I was the only employee. Their intent was to the install Windows 95 on commodity hardware and charge people to play doom with 3-D glasses.

I was fired for failing to make the machine stable, which, as I know now, is impossible to do when they run Windows 95.

I didn't choose Microsoft myself, but I didn't choose away from it either.
posted by gmarceau at 10:10 AM on January 25, 2008

In the news or business press? None that I'm aware of. Running a story about a failed Microsoft product deployment is neither news nor likely to please a major advertiser.

I do know a guy who got canned for specifying MS Visual Test which contributed to the spectacular failure of a project. I personally wound up getting quasi-demoted (transferred to another department and placed in a position of less prestige) because I specced Vantive and Oracle on Sun for a project and my manager -- over considerable objection -- elected to buy Vantive and MSSQL on Windows instead, resulting in a very flimsy implementation that got killed off the day before deployment. Another guy I worked with wound up canned for selecting Microsoft SMS and because the product is pure garbage, he spent about a year and a half and quite a few dollars trying to get it in shape for implementation before he organization gave up on it and him.

Most recently, I'm inheriting partial responsibility for a brand new core business application that was written in C# ASP using development techniques straight out of the 90s. I am in the process of canning the contractor responsible for the design and coding -- all of which occurred before my time -- partially because of the choice of a technology with way too much mystery meat in it to meet my system availability goals.
posted by majick at 10:16 AM on January 25, 2008

I have let someone go because of an unreliable MS-Exchange and MS-SQL deployment that I inherited (well, I was hired to replace it with a more suitable (read: UNIX) solution...).

The choice of Microsoft products was probably just a symptom of this guy's overall incompetence, but he was canned because he couldn't maintain reliable systems (and that was really the only job he had). Had he specified a platform that didn't suck, perhaps he could've done his job.
posted by toxic at 10:33 AM on January 25, 2008

i have never heard of this happening, but i know the attitude of which you speak, exemplified in a favorite old new yorker cartoon from the 1960s. two executives are walking down a hall past an office with its door open. inside the office, a third executive is facing a firing squad. back out in the hall, one guy tells the other, approximately, "so ibm is no longer a guaranteed safe pick, huh?"
posted by bruce at 10:46 AM on January 25, 2008

Several school districts with which I'm familiar have a de facto policy that they will not under any circumstances buy anything but Apple products. So it's not that anyone would get fired, per se. It's just that no one would be hired that would do so.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:04 AM on January 25, 2008

The reason for this saying is that IBM and Microsoft were the dominant players in their respective markets. There are so many people using IBM mainframes successfully that your particular problems running the mainframe probably aren't because of IBM, otherwise everyone would be having the problem.

Likewise with Microsoft. There are literally millions of installed windows desktops, servers, etc. If manage the serve and it keeps crashing, you can't blame Microsoft, because that would imply it was crashing for everyone. So you can't be fired for choosing Microsoft, but you can be fired for not being able to get it to work like other people at other companies. The generalization is that you can't be fired for choosing the same solution as the majority of the rest of the market.

But I don't know that this is true in all markets now. If most webservers run Apache, you could be "fired" for choosing Microsoft's IIS, because you chose an unpopular vendor for that particular application. If there's some problem and the vendor is blamed, when the boss finds out that everyone else uses a common vendor different from yours, expect the next question to be "Then why don't we use that one?"
posted by Pastabagel at 11:27 AM on January 25, 2008

It's exceedingly rare, if not impossible, to get fired for making one single choice. "Nobody got fired for choosing IBM" was an advertising slogan, after all.
posted by rhizome at 1:05 PM on January 25, 2008

Not fired, but passed over.

I wanted to start a company (since soft launched) that was an online marketplace for (x). (Not saying it, because that would be self-promoting.)

Anyway, I interviewed a number of development firms, since I can't code - I'm a financial guy. I listened patiently to the firms that were .net shops, but in the end, I decided that I wanted to build on a LAMP stack. The reason for this was not philosophical - I'm really kind of indifferent - the reason I wanted to go LAMP was because of the type of person that knows LAMP stuff (at least here in Chicago).

The LAMP guys were younger, worked much longer hours, and were more connected to outside people. They also knew the market we are trying to serve well. I have no doubts that one can build a well-functioning online marketplace on a Microsoft platform. But I believe that I could get a better marketplace for my particular market by going with the LAMP stack.

(And then we went PHP over Perl and Python because we considered it a "lowest common denominator" language that any decent programmer could pick up, allowing us to go after best athletes when we hire in the future. That's just to further my point that there are non-technical reasons to go with a certain platform or solution.)

Oh, and Elon Musk was fired because he wanted to switch PayPal to a Microsoft stack after the PayPal/ merger. So, yeah, he got fired for trying to go Microsoft. But, again, it was a personality thing, not just the particular technical costs/benefits of the switch.
posted by sachinag at 2:02 PM on January 25, 2008

I used to work at an advertising agency where the CTO started speccing Windows workstations to replace the high-end Macs used by the creative and print production folks. Once word got out, enough senior staff threatened to walk out if forced to use Windows that he wisely scrapped the plan. Had he pushed the issue, it would have been a career-limiting move - in advertising, keeping the talent happy is a big deal.

On the other hand, the owner of our agency (and many others) decided to standardize everyone's email platforms on Lotus Notes - IN 2005 - so clearly pissing of the entire user base couldn't have been too much of a corporate concern. The guy might have been a hero!
posted by a young man in spats at 6:55 AM on January 26, 2008

« Older Trust for minor in event of parent's death.   |   Road trip along the South Carolina coast Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.