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Microsoft PR: Looking Under The Hood 389

mtr writes "An interesting article uncovering some embarassing and amusing PR practices of our friendly software giant had been recently published by Michael Zalewski. The author recovered change tracking information from all the DOCs published on, and came up with something to cheer you up. It's funny when it happens to others - but even better if it fires back on themselves. Read the full story here."
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Microsoft PR: Looking Under The Hood

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  • Cue Lawyers! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 29, 2004 @09:16PM (#8709818)
    I believe the analysis posted here meets the fair use criteria and does not disclose trade secrets - because it is a critical review of short excerpts of publicly available resources and data accessible with a click of a button in Microsoft Word - but I am not willing to dispute it too vigoriously if I receive a cease-and-desist letter. As such, enjoy it while it lasts.
    Hint, hint, save a copy. I wonder how long it will take Microsoft lawyers to smell blood. Wagers? I'll put five bucks on "yesterday".
  • Embarassing not (Score:5, Insightful)

    by EmbeddedJanitor ( 597831 ) on Monday March 29, 2004 @09:20PM (#8709846)
    By definition an effective PR person cannot be embarassed by the stuff that comes out of his/her mouth. The bastards lie -- err -- "manage the truth" with no shame at all.
  • Tool? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Joe5678 ( 135227 ) on Monday March 29, 2004 @09:21PM (#8709857)
    Odd... that tool linked to in the article and again in the post, links to a tool that removes all traces of office from the operating system, it has nothing to do with tracking changes or removing them from documents.
  • Mod Parent Up (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 29, 2004 @09:31PM (#8709929)
    This is just another example of slashdot scraping the bottom of the barrel for anti-Microsoft stories.

    It's not very interesting, and reveals almost no new information. It's just more tired old drivel designed to embarass Microsoft and generate another flame-war.

    Slashdot has long become a sad parody of itself nowadays.

  • Re:Cue Lawyers! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by AnotherFreakboy ( 730662 ) on Monday March 29, 2004 @09:35PM (#8709952)
    /. ran the link, so now millions of people who already hated microsoft know that microsoft is evil.

    To do anything about this site now would probably draw the attention of people who don't read /., harming the microsoft image more than doing nothing.

    However now that /. has run the link, it will probably be picked up by other news sites, with a less anit-MS audience.

    I bet they wait a few days until something more mainstream runs the link before they take any action. When they take action they will be firing all cannons though.
  • by syousef ( 465911 ) on Monday March 29, 2004 @09:43PM (#8710002) Journal
    Some of the conclusions are dubious. Most of this looks like fairly standard business practices.

    For example xxxx CEO of blah said yyyy
    may simply be the result of the employee drawing up the report not knowing the full name or title of the person who made the statement.

    As for exact facts and figures about a customer being included, this looks like they got asked not to include them, or decided against it, and complied.

    Where's the story here? There's plenty of more interesting things that go on. This is just pure MS bashing. Bashing any company you dislike for genuinely bad business practices this way is a fantastic way to come across as a lunatic with a chip on your shoulder, but not a good way to be taken seriously when pointing out a company's flaws.
  • by waynegoode ( 758645 ) * on Monday March 29, 2004 @09:45PM (#8710021) Homepage
    This is one of many reasons why you should publish documents in PDF format. But, Microsoft can't do this--it would be admitting the problem exists.

    I guess Microsft thinks its better to ignore the problem than solve it, if the solution is not yours. What's the worst that could happen? ;)

  • by aralin ( 107264 ) on Monday March 29, 2004 @09:45PM (#8710022)
    ... and not separating data and metadata. If they would rather hold their document's metadata in database separate of the document, this would never happen. Nah, why would I care? At least its fun :)
  • by EmbeddedJanitor ( 597831 ) on Monday March 29, 2004 @09:47PM (#8710037)
    There is an element of truth in this. Microsoft don't make money out of their trimmed down offerings (WinME, 98, XP Home, Outlook Express,...) but they do/have on their professional stuff (Win2000/WinXP, Office). So while they want people to get sucked in to their lower end stuff, they'd like it to be nasty enough to prompt people to upgrade.
  • There is no spoon. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Kenneth Stephen ( 1950 ) on Monday March 29, 2004 @09:52PM (#8710051) Journal

    While it is certainly possible to ascribe less than pure motives to all the instances documented in the story, if one applies Occam's razor, one can come up with a simpler but not as interesting explanation : this is the way big business works. In a multi-national corporation, different people collaborate. They have different personalities, and some are more antagonistic than others. Some people are asked to produce marketing materials and others are asked to review them for factual accuracy. Ultimately, before a document is published, several reviewers will go through it, and it would be shocking if edits were not made.

    For example, the first example talks about changing the "deploying" to "evaluating". What exactly is damning about this? Perhaps when the marketing material was written, Aventis had plans to deploy and this got changed later. Or maybe, there are some reasons why Aventis, even though it is actually deploying, may not actually want their names used as a reference for the tablet PC. There are a million and one innocuous (sp?) reasons why the change was made, but yeah, they arent as fascinating as the interpretation made on the site.

    Another example - the Robbie Bach / Sandy Duncan mixup. Organizational chains are quite tangled in large corporations and can change quite frequently. The author might simply not have had the right information on who was actually in charge - especially if both were Senior Vice Presidents and connected with XBox.

  • Re:Cue Lawyers! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Xzzy ( 111297 ) <> on Monday March 29, 2004 @10:20PM (#8710208) Homepage
    Sanitized word documents will appear on microsoft's site quickly though, and all the links I looked at on this site pointed to microsoft's web site.

    So if you want THAT bit of history, best get it soon.
  • Re:Finally! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Xzzy ( 111297 ) <> on Monday March 29, 2004 @10:22PM (#8710226) Homepage
    He got the joke.

    You didn't get his. :)
  • This isn't journalism, this is a press release -- professional marketing people _always_ write quotes for people to "say" because they know what they want said. I don't know how many times marketing people have written quotes to attribute to me. They review it with the person they're "quoting" to make sure that it's OK, of course. So all we're seeing here is normal press release editing -- the marketing person comes up with something gushing and a rough idea of who ought to "say" it, and in the editing process it turns into an actual person saying something more reasonable. So while it's a certainly a bit embarassing seeing internal comments released to the public, there's nothing shocking or incriminating here.
  • by Pentagram ( 40862 ) on Monday March 29, 2004 @10:39PM (#8710316) Homepage
    Where's the story here?

    The fact that a company has been caught out fabricating quotes by its own insecure document formats. Is this proof that they are evil incarnate? Maybe not. Is it embarassing for them? Yes. Is it amusing? Yes.
  • by MorePower ( 581188 ) on Monday March 29, 2004 @10:41PM (#8710325)
    How the heck did this ever become accepted practice? IT'S A LIE! A factually correct quote would say "[Insert PR guy's name] said 'This product is the great!' and [insert executive's name] concured."
  • "a press release is journalism. They often end up printed verbatim in the newspaper."

    Then what the newspaper is doing isn't journalism, it's advertising.
  • Re:Why? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by spood ( 256582 ) on Monday March 29, 2004 @10:56PM (#8710411) Homepage Journal
    Not entirely true. An executive without innate oratory skills and limited ability to think on his feet or understand all facets of the business at hand (be it government or private business) would be well-advised to use speech writers.

    However, if he does possess all of these skills (i.e. is a natural leader), he would be well-advised to make use of them. Not only will his employees appreciate the honesty and ability, but clients, constituents, etc. will, too. Everyone responds better to candid PR than to packaged and polished lip service. Packaged PR carries a lower standard of truth.

    A leader should always be held accountable for consequences. Some situations may call for delegation, but overall that leader must be intimately familiar with his domain. That's what management and leadership are all about, and that's why they get paid the big bucks.
  • Re:Mod Parent Up (Score:3, Insightful)

    by toasted_calamari ( 670180 ) <[burningsquid] [at] []> on Monday March 29, 2004 @10:59PM (#8710437) Homepage Journal
    Seems to me that this article is primarily interesting not because of what it reveals about microsoft, but because of what it reveals about office documents.

    I would hope that people who read about this think " I wonder if anything compromising is in my documents". Perhaps then they will begin to realize that for all it's abilities there are risks to using office. Perhaps they will seek out other options.

    So i guess what I am saying is that while this article is a silly anti-microsoft writeup on the surface, on closer inspection, it is still anti-microsoft, but adresses an extremely important privacy issue in a product which many people rely on daily.
  • by uradu ( 10768 ) on Monday March 29, 2004 @11:07PM (#8710489)
    > Did you actually think the pr people were interviewing the ceo for a press release?

    And did you actually think anyone reads those press releases? Given the realities of the process, a more productive use of time would be to count grains of sand at the beach with a boxing glove.
  • Re:Pining... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ConceptJunkie ( 24823 ) on Monday March 29, 2004 @11:24PM (#8710606) Homepage Journal
    I hearken back further to the days when uninstalling meant "del foobar.exe".

    This is, unless you are Microsoft, whose apps essentially become part of the OS when installed, it could still be almost that simple today. It's absurd that you need special apps to make up for the fact that uninstall programs often just fail (ORK? Norton Antivirus?)
  • by magores ( 208594 ) on Monday March 29, 2004 @11:28PM (#8710629) Journal
    ...Assuming they read the article.

    If someone reads the article, they would now know that:

    Home Depot uses/did use: "Windows for 8,200 Windows desktops, 42,000 Windows embedded for POS devices, 1,000 licenses of Visio, 1,000 licenses of Project, 200 Windows Servers"

    Metro C&C (major German retailer): uses/did use "8,000 Windows XP(e) clients, 8,000 SQL CALs, 8,000 Windows 2000 Server CALs, 320 SQL Servers and 320 Windows 2000 Servers"


    Ameritrade: "on 5 Windows 2000 servers. This deployment is scheduled to expand to hundreds of Windows 2000 servers."


    I'm not suggesting anything, of course. But I think CIOs, CTOs, etc need to THINK before they let anyone know what kind of installation base they have.

    Want to tell us what brand and version of firewall you have installed too? So... Are you using those fancy Cisco routers that this newly released program can fiddle with? How do you transfer data between locations?.. FTP?

  • Re:Mod Parent Up (Score:5, Insightful)

    by wo1verin3 ( 473094 ) on Tuesday March 30, 2004 @12:21AM (#8710942) Homepage
    >> It's not very interesting, and reveals almost
    >> no new information

    May not be interesting to you, but I enjoyed the read.

    Why do you complain about this, when it would take less effort to close the browser?

    It's like those people that complain about things they don't like but really don't affect them. Take the old^H^H^Hpeople who complain to the FCC about Howard Stern. If they're that offended, why do they continue to list? Turn the station.

    Tip to parent: Try the back button if you don't like what you see.
  • by DavidinAla ( 639952 ) on Tuesday March 30, 2004 @12:56AM (#8711150)
    I'm sorry, but this AC is just clueless. PR can be dishonest, just like most things can, but there is nothing dishonest in having someone write a quote for someone else. If that's dishonest, then it's dishonest anytime someone else writes another person's words. A person who gives a speech written by a speechwriter would be dishonest by that standard. What about an actor? He rarely writes his own words.

    Some CEOs ARE clueless and stupid about their own products, but the practice of having a writer show how to pitch an idea which is being sold to the public is not dishonest. To say it is shows a gross misunderstanding of how ideas are sold in EVERY part of life.
  • Re:Embarassing not (Score:4, Insightful)

    by stephanruby ( 542433 ) on Tuesday March 30, 2004 @03:43AM (#8711892)
    The majority of PR people, though, are paid to present the truth about their company as well, and factually, as they possibly can.

    Correction: The majority of PR people are paid to present the positive side of the truth regarding their company. PR people are not paid to present the negative side of the story unless the press has already found out about it.

  • by vrt3 ( 62368 ) on Tuesday March 30, 2004 @05:54AM (#8712273) Homepage
    Indeed. If the CEO is too busy to say something good about his company, that's his choice. Then the press release should contain no quotes from him. If the PR-firm is better at writing quotes, well let them do it. They just should admit they wrote it.

    This probably sounds naive to most of you, but I really think such practices are deceiving. Many people know that this is happening, and for those it doesn't help anyway, since they see right through it. Other people are not aware of those practices, and for them it's just lying.
  • by zero_offset ( 200586 ) on Tuesday March 30, 2004 @07:04AM (#8712457) Homepage
    A total cost of ownership (TCO) study at XO, comparing the annualized TCO of comparably configured servers built on Linux and the Microsoft solution for Windows Web hosting, (is this a fair comparison, i.e. apples to apples?) reveals that a Linux system costs nearly $1,550 more per server per year than its Windows 2000-based counterpart. The key difference lies not in the cost of hardware or operating system software but in the annual cost of engineering, administration, and security support. (detailed support on file for this claim?)

    Linux-based systems are much more subject to hacker attacks than systems built on the Microsoft solution for Windows Web hosting(support on file?)

    The point you Linux fanboys are missing in your frenzy to publicly jerk off over relatively boring internal discussions is that they're at least interested in important questions like whether they're making apples-to-apples comparisons and whether they have supporting documentation on file.

    You may disagree with their message and methods, or with their conclusions, and you probably won't even concede the validity of their definition of "apples-to-apples", but this is far more responsible than a great deal of the raw bullshit which is accepted as fact 24x7 here on slashdot, and certainly more responsible than Microsoft is ever given credit for around here.

  • What is important is not that someone at Microsoft is interested in fact-checking. That's obvious; they don't want to get fired.

    What is important is that these examples show clearly how Microsoft's evaluation of itself comes into being. First, someone who knows nothing about technical matters, and absolutely does not care about technical matters, quickly writes a complete fantasy. Then the fantasy is sent to some people who have a clue, who eventually eliminate the worst of the inventions.

    The examples show that the fantasy writers have very little contact with anyone with technical knowledge. Otherwise they would start the fantasies a little closer to the truth, and save some editing cycles.

  • This is a very serious issue. Companies that employ enough people who actually understand the business of the company have a chance to survive and prosper. Companies who try to use cheaper, poorly educated employees, die. The death may happen slowly, and is usually difficult to see because of energetic attempts to hide the truth, but the death occurs. (Novell - now apparently rebuilding -, Harvard Graphics, Word Perfect Corporation, Corel, PowerSoft and many, many others are examples.)

    Microsoft's numerous recent public relations mistakes, like its stupid attack on Open Office, show it is dying.

    I am not intending to be anti-Microsoft when I say this. It would be best for me personally if Microsoft were a strong, healthy company. I and many, many people suffer when Microsoft is abusive or sloppy.

    Don't overlook the complexities of this. It is possible for healthy processes and sick processes to be operating at the same time in the same company. It is impossible for a company on the way down to remake itself.
  • by vrt3 ( 62368 ) on Wednesday March 31, 2004 @03:34AM (#8723148) Homepage
    In the press release, you make it appear as if the CEO took the time and effort to say some things, and you quoted some frome that.

    In my view, there is very much difference. And why? What is really the point of doing that? Is it really so much better to write 'The CEO was quoted saying this new product will leverage blah blah blah' instead of just 'This new product will leverage blah blah blah'? Especially if everybody who reads it knows there is no difference between the two?

All laws are simulations of reality. -- John C. Lilly