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Microsoft Tops Corporate-Reputation Survey 452

Carl Bialik from WSJ writes "Microsoft beat out Johnson & Johnson for the top spot in the annual Wall Street Journal survey of the reputations of U.S. companies. Bill Gates's personal philanthropy boosted the public's opinion of Microsoft, helping to end J&J's seven-year run at No. 1. From the article: 'Mr. Gates demonstrates how much the reputation of a corporate leader can rub off on his company. Formerly chief executive officer and now chairman of Microsoft, he contributed to a marked improvement in the company's emotional appeal. Jeanie Cummins, a survey respondent and homemaker in Olive Hill, Ky., says Mr. Gates's philanthropy made her a much bigger fan of Microsoft. "He showed he cared more for people than all the money he made building Microsoft from the ground up," she says. "I wish all the other big shots could do something like this." To be sure, some respondents still complain that Microsoft bullies its competitors and unfairly monopolizes the software business. But such criticism is less biting and less pervasive than it was just a few years ago.'"
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Microsoft Tops Corporate-Reputation Survey

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  • About Time! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 31, 2007 @10:08AM (#17827582)
    It's about time this company was recognized for all the good they bring to our world.
  • Microsoftie (Score:3, Insightful)

    by orbitalia ( 470425 ) on Wednesday January 31, 2007 @10:10AM (#17827602) Homepage

    We all find it easy to bash Microsoft, their products, and their practices, and quite rightly so, but you can't really argue with Gates's way of using his riches. Even the most cynical would have to admit his heart is in the right place.
    • Re:Microsoftie (Score:5, Insightful)

      by kevin_conaway ( 585204 ) on Wednesday January 31, 2007 @10:16AM (#17827700) Homepage

      We all find it easy to bash Microsoft, their products, and their practices, and quite rightly so....

      So why are they ranked the top company in a reputation survey? Seems a little silly since although Gates made his money from Microsoft, his spending is not related to the company.

      • Re:Microsoftie (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Thansal ( 999464 ) on Wednesday January 31, 2007 @10:47AM (#17828100)
        Because Gates IS MS in most people's minds. Also most people are not familiar with why MS is 'evil' they just know that it is 'cool' to say so. However people are familiar with Warren Buffett's donation to the B&MG foundation, what that they have been doing in the past few years.

        How J&J has been at the top for the past 7 years confounds me in all honesty, unless the scorrign is bassed on something that looks like: (PeopleThatKnowTheName + 2*GoodDeedsDone) - 2*BadDeedsDone = Rating.

        J&J is a non-entitie on my radar (aside from a friend who works for a company that does contract work for them).
        • by hutchike ( 837402 ) on Wednesday January 31, 2007 @11:28AM (#17828732) Homepage Journal

          Re: (PeopleThatKnowTheName + 2*GoodDeedsDone) - 2*BadDeedsDone = Rating.

          You don't need those brackets. You could factor out the 2 like this:

          PeopleThatKnowTheName + 2*(GoodDeedsDone - BadDeedsDone) = Rating

          Damn I must be bored today!

          • by Thansal ( 999464 )
            100% correct, however it looks ugly nomatter how you put it up. I was considering ussing other variables and making a key or something, but descided enough peopel would get it this way and jsut left it (And I am lazy)
      • Re:Microsoftie (Score:5, Interesting)

        by thousandinone ( 918319 ) on Wednesday January 31, 2007 @10:58AM (#17828296) Journal
        Companies, nations, religious groups, and any form of organization for that matter, are often judged based off of their most prominent members, which in most cases are leaders, but in other cases are just simply those who stand out. Examples of this can be seen everywhere; Many people view citizens of the United States in a rather unflattering light, but that view is based largely off of impressions given off by our leadership and those people who stand out more, who really are not representative of everyone who lives here. Many people view certain religious groups rather poorly as well, but that judgment is based largely off of observations of the extremists in that group. Why then is it strange that many people would judge Microsoft based off of Bill Gates' actions? It doesn't necessarily make a viewpoint correct, but its just the way most people work.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      ...but you can't really argue with Gates's way of using his riches. Even the most cynical would have to admit his heart is in the right place.

      The most cynical certainly can argue against it, and I've seen many do just that. I've heard comments ranging from claims that it is part of a deal to bolster intellectual property law by keeping those issues from boiling over in the third world where patents make medicine too expensive for people; to simple comments that Melinda Gates is the driving force behind t

    • Wrong. (Score:3, Insightful)

      by twitter ( 104583 )

      you can't really argue with Gates's way of using his riches. Even the most cynical would have to admit his heart is in the right place.

      I can argue with the way he uses his riches. If you do more to know about it than listen to advertisements, you find Mr. Gate's heart is the same as it ever was. He has used foundation money to purchase newspapers critical of his company, the San Jose Mercury News and The Contra Costa Times, arguably to silence them. His spending on schools, as most of his deals are,

      • Funny thing (Score:4, Insightful)

        by WindBourne ( 631190 ) on Wednesday January 31, 2007 @10:45AM (#17828078) Journal
        This foundation is about his wife's work; She is a PR person. Basically, they are looking to buy ppl and it is working quite nicely. But even in the early days of the foundation, you could see how intertwined it was with MS. In Colorado, a few of the small town libraries obtained computers from MS. I went into one and asked them about it. At that time, it was the lowest end computer that would run MS. More importantly, when I suggested that they run Linux on it, they said that they were prohibited from doing so. In fact, they were prohibited from running anything except what they bought from a MS site. It was deeply discounted software, IIRC, the OS was something like 50 and top office package was 150. Now, I do not know if that is still the case, but, it was obvious back then that the foundation was tied directly to MS.
        • by twitter ( 104583 )

          [a public library] were prohibited from running anything except what they bought from a MS site. It was deeply discounted software, IIRC, the OS was something like 50 and top office package was 150.

          Wow, what a great gift, having to forever purchase their product and run it in a prominent public place. Given TCO, they probably lost money in the bargain.

    • by rssrss ( 686344 )
      OK count me as the most cynical. He is using his money in an apparently successful PR campaign. If it were all about virtue, the only information you could find about it would be the IRS forms.
    • by x2A ( 858210 )
      dunno... if I wanted to change the world, do the most good for the people at the bottom, i'd probably try and accumulate huge amounts of wealth first, then use it and the power it brings to change things. If I spent the money as I made it, I wouldn't be making such big changes, the total amount of 'change' I could make would be less. You can't make the difference in the world that the richest man in the world can make, without first becoming the richest man in the world.

      Not saying this was his reasons or re
    • "Even the most cynical would have to admit his heart is in the right place."

      Or, he wants to become the first world dictator and is clever enough to have a good PR.
    • We all find it easy to bash Microsoft, their products, and their practices, and quite rightly so, but you can't really argue with Gates's way of using his riches. Even the most cynical would have to admit his heart is in the right place.

      I'm nowhere near the most cynical, or the most paranoid, even on slashdot. And I believe that the Gates foundation is not about philanthropy, but about power.

      How can anyone actually doubt this in the face of the evidence? It was revealed that Microsoft is investing in com [slashdot.org]

    • Re:Microsoftie (Score:5, Insightful)

      by LuYu ( 519260 ) on Wednesday January 31, 2007 @11:04AM (#17828384) Homepage Journal

      I suppose you do not remember India and those Gates Foundation brib... *cough* ... donations that were given to ensure MS software was used instead of FOSS. They also paid the NYTimes to play the whole thing up in a series of sycophantic articles, if I recall correctly.

      I really do not understand how MS can be viewed in a good light. They have bribed public officials (how else could their monopoly trial have evaporated), bribed governments (India cannot be an isolated case), misrepresented advertising expenditures as donations (this is technically stealing tax money), supported bad laws (software patents anybody?), robbed schools (audits in Washington state and Licensing 6), and many other objectionable things which are much better documented elsewhere.

      That is more or less the proverbial tip of the iceberg. The fact that these people voted MS as the corporation having the best reputation demonstrates one of two things: a) The corporations are right. People are a bunch or stupid sheep and the corporations can lie, cheat, and steal, and then use advertising to repair their image in the mind of the public. b) The survey is carried out on people who have no idea what is going on.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      Rich men who have gained their wealth by trodding on others often appease their consciences by acts of generousity. I see no reason to forgive Gates or Microsoft for their anti-competitive activities just because Gates has caught some sort of a donation bug.
  • by meosborne ( 8640 ) on Wednesday January 31, 2007 @10:10AM (#17827606)
    I guess this just proves that if you have enough money you can always buy yourself some respectability. People won't concern themselves with how you got your money.
    • QFT. (Score:3, Insightful)

      by FatSean ( 18753 )
      It's easy for the average clod to understand that the CEO gives millions to poor and hungry people. It's hard for that clod to understand the sneaky business practices, and upgrade cycle that brings little but costs lots.
    • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

      by keithmoore ( 106078 )
      bingo. Microsoft's willful negligence in making their email readers and web browsers insecure has cost consumers hundreds of billions of dollars, and they're doing their best to cripple their customers computers in order to extort more money from them. They still manage to effectively impose a significant tax on the vast majority of computers sold, even if the consumer never uses Windows.

      There seems to be something in American culture that causes many people here to reserve their greatest admiration for t
      • Unfortunately, it's not just an american problem. And I believe it is just an example of the human need for a divine figure (one way or another, we are looking for a higher being that would rule our life and give it a meaning).
      • by Afecks ( 899057 )
        There seems to be something in American culture that causes many people here to reserve their greatest admiration for the politicians and companies that abuse them the most.

        Ahh, So THAT is why Apple is getting so much more popular lately!
    • Winning at losing. (Score:3, Interesting)

      by twitter ( 104583 )

      No, most people still think M$ is sleaze. As the article put it.

      The corporate world's overall reputation remains dismal, with new scandals emerging, such as the improper dating of stock-option grants to business executives. About 69% of respondents graded corporate America's reputation as either "not good" or "terrible," just slightly lower than the 71% in 2005.

      It's disturbing that M$ could lead the pack, but overall people don't trust them. The lesson learned is that the bad behavior of some companies

    • by toby ( 759 ) *
      I call it reputation laundering.

      Microsoft is just a manifestation of profound human weakness and limitation. Presumably as long as we are defective, imperfect creatures, we will not be free of such destructive and criminal institutions. But we can continue to resist!
    • "It is morally as bad not to care whether a thing is true or not, so long as it makes you feel good, as it is not to care how you got your money as long as you have got it." - Edmund Way Teale
    • though from moderation its obvious the mentality at /. would believe it. If Jobs did the same would be ok? Does the fact he doesn't cause Apple any issues?

      Gates is associated with Microsoft and the halo effect of his charity will rub off. The big thing people here forget is most people don't care about what OS they use. They don't give a flip about the business issues. To them PCs are just another appliance, an aggravating one at times, but nothing more. Also, the majority will never have a problem wi
    • I guess this just proves that if you have enough money you can always buy yourself some respectability. People won't concern themselves with how you got your money.

      Or, another way to look at it, the Gates Foundation makes whatever minor annoyances* we've suffered from Microsoft worth it. The Gates Foundation is going to do a hell of a lot of good in the world. There are certain things that can only be done if you have an enormous pile of money in one place not beholden to elected leadership.

      *And they

  • .... by using the same methods it "corrects" [slashdot.org] Wikipedia entries.

  • WTF? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by M-G ( 44998 ) on Wednesday January 31, 2007 @10:11AM (#17827628)
    I'm sorry, but WTF does Gates spending his personal fortune on charitable causes have to do with the company? I would think that the typical WSJ reader wouldn't use that as part of their opinion of MS overall. I'd be more inclined to believe that the typical WSJ reader would have voted for them because of their ruthless nature and ability to make money hand over fist.
    • Re:WTF? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by mikelieman ( 35628 ) on Wednesday January 31, 2007 @10:19AM (#17827732) Homepage
      Typical WSJ reader is a MSFT fanboy, because they don't have a clue what REAL TECHNOLOGY is capable of.

    • One of the founders. The public face of the company.
      • I'm sorry, but WTF does Gates spending his personal fortune on charitable causes have to do with the company?

        One of the founders. The public face of the company.

        I.e. something like "fuzzy loging" or "intuitive decisions" or "estimate" or whatever: great feature of our mental powers but also source of fataly wrong decisions in some cases.

        Links to follow: The Cerebral Symphony [williamcalvin.com], We're Only Human... [psychologicalscience.org], ...

        Those links may not be the best for this topic but I'm unable to quickly find the one I was wanting

    • I don't think the respondents were WSJ readers necessarily. They describe 5 people as: retired professor, homemaker, college student, person who gets free medicine from Merck (no bias there), and a sales rep for a medical photography company. It was just a phone survey, I think.
    • by Da Fokka ( 94074 )
      That's because it's easier to identify with people than with the companies they (are perceived to) represent. People dislike America because of Bush, people like Virgin because of Richard Branson and when the public perception of Bill Gates changes, so will the public perception of Microsoft.
  • then paint the company "less evil" because Bill G donates money. So, it is OK to bully your competitors, and engage in illegal activity, and be convicted of crimes as a company as long as your CEO gives the money to 'worthy causes". Welcome to U$A...culture of the buck....
  • He's just taking a page from the Andrew Carnagie [wikipedia.org] playbook...
  • how does that work? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Lxy ( 80823 ) on Wednesday January 31, 2007 @10:16AM (#17827702) Journal
    How does Bill Gates giving away his fortune turn Microsoft into a "good" company?

    Let's say I own company X. I have a personal wealth of $300 million. I decide that I should give away $150 million to various charities. I'm still bloody rich, but now look like a "good guy". How does comany X get any credit? No one else at the company is giving away money. The money I gave away was out of my personal bank account, not company X's. Company X is not any better perceptually becuase I gave away money. Why would Company X get put on the "good" list?

    Last I checked, there's still plenty of money grubbing rich folk at the top of the pyramid which is Microsoft. What Bill Gates does with his own money shouldn't have any bearing on the comany's status.

    And finally, please mod me up because this is my 1,000th post to Slashdot.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by dcskier ( 1039688 )
      bill gates and microsoft to the common person are one in the same. anything he does will reflect on the company and likewise, no matter if it's the case or not. even the slashdot microsoft icon is a picture of bill, err i mean borg bill. so yes him giving away his money will reflect on microsoft.
    • by kahei ( 466208 )
      How does Bill Gates giving away his fortune turn Microsoft into a "good" company?

      Let me remagnetize your moral compass there, buddy.

      Generic megacorp: Profits -> Higher stock price / dividends -> mainly sprawling McMansions
      Microsoft: Profits -> Higher stock price / dividends -> partly medical research

      See? The second one is nicer. More "good" if you will.

      Of course, winning the niceness prize among multinational corporations is a bit like winning the deliciousness prize among steaming lumps of f
      • Generic megacorp: Profits -> Higher stock price / dividends -> mainly sprawling McMansions Microsoft: Profits -> Higher stock price / dividends -> partly medical research See? The second one is nicer. More "good" if you will.

        Is it just me, or is the thought of Microsoft holding the patents to years of medical research particularly frightening? I went in for an operation and ended up with the blue spleen of death!

        I'm quite serious, though; Microsoft has invested very heavily in Biotech. Micro

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      "And finally, please mod me up because this is my 1,000th post to Slashdot."

      Will do... oh crap!
  • Give me a few billion dollars and I would be happy to give my monthly interest to the poor unfortunates. If I push the crumbs from my table and the dog eats, does that make me a hero?
    • I'm sure the dog is less concerned about your business practices and more interested in the food in its belly. So yes, it does make you a hero.

      D
  • Education (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pubjames ( 468013 ) on Wednesday January 31, 2007 @10:25AM (#17827810)

    The one thing that I'm afraid I really can't forgive Gates for is the way they have targeted schools IT budgets in the UK (and I'm sure in the rest of the world). They basically have used every trick in the book to make sure they always get the lions share of schools IT budgets, and the schools haven't actually got very much in return. And Microsoft has never actually shown much concern about actually helping educate the children - it's all just about turning the kids into Microsoft zombies.

    So Gates' generosity with his money doesn't impress me, take money that should be going to children's education and you're forever a scumbag in my view.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      So Microsoft is like the tobacco companies, going after children in order to gain a customer for life. An interesting strategy to be sure, but certainly not one of a "good" company in the terms of morally good and not in the good for making money sense.
      • by stubear ( 130454 )
        So the OLPC project is the Devil incarnate then? Not only are they targeting children, they are targeting children in third wold countries who likely need running water more than they need a laptop computer with a poorly designed Microsoft Bob rip-off UI.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Obviously, the Wall Street Journal (and apparently many other readers) haven't seen this:

    http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la- na-gatesx07jan07,0,6827615.story [latimes.com]

    or this, for another example (and many others):

    http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la- na-gates8jan08,0,7911824.story [latimes.com]
  • Bill Gates have become insanely rich from illegal and immoral business practises. Even if he gives away some of his money, he has still benefitted personally from these practises. He is quoted as saying he wants to give away almost all of his fortunes before he dies, but the money is useless for him when dead anyway.

    If I was to steal $1 million, I would not suddenly be a moral person if I gave away half to charity, and I would not be in the clear just because I decided to give away all of the remainder to c
  • by romit_icarus ( 613431 ) on Wednesday January 31, 2007 @10:34AM (#17827934) Journal
    I know this is /. and MS bashing is de rigeur, but let that not detract from the fact that what Bill Gates is doing is admirable to say the least.

    Why is it admirable? It's not that he is rich and has a lot of money etc. It's the fact that he's getting into global developmental issues and spending a majority time working on that than on IT. I live in India and I've seen the positive work that his foundation is doing in HIV prevention. Also on a personal front, he's moving away from IT where he has leadership position to an area where he is new. Yes we know that money can buy you leverage but then you could argue that way with anything he does..

    He could have just retired to the carribean, bought out an island and enjoyed his wealth. But he didn't and so let's give him a cheer just for that.

  • by zerofoo ( 262795 ) on Wednesday January 31, 2007 @10:37AM (#17827970)
    Those guys used to give big-time money to their church.....and then go "whack" some guys as a matter of business.

    The leaders of an organization do not necessarily reflect the true nature of their organization.

    Bill and Melinda are probably very nice people, and they do very nice things with their money, but their company is a ruthless and brutal company. Microsoft has demonstrated, time and time again, that they will do anything to maintain their monopoly and stranglehold on their market. They have put the screws to their "partners" and customers, and have caused much ill will between those parties.

    No amount of gift-giving, by a few at the top, will change that.

    -ted
    • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

      by drinkypoo ( 153816 )

      Bill and Melinda are probably very nice people, and they do very nice things with their money

      What makes you think they're nice people? We already know beyond the shadow of a doubt that Billy Boy is not. Hell, he lied, cheated, and stole his way to the top and fucked customers over from the very beginning. If you got a defective paper tape of their Altair BASIC software, Bill would not replace it. And yes, in those days, you dealt directly with him.

  • Bill Gates is the same greedy powerhungry man he was when he started Microsoft. This just shows you can buy reputation without really doing anything good. Microsoft is the exact same evil company as before, theyve just bought enough magazines now.
  • Their software has gotten a lot better since the Windows 95 days. Since 2000, Windows has been stable. It has also been secure if you take simple precautions (run automatic updates, don't click "Yes!" to everything you see on the internet). No wonder people are happier with Microsoft these days.
  • Thankfully the tagging dropdown helped me to spell "antitrust", though I had to manage "coercive monopoly" all by myself.
  • by El Cabri ( 13930 ) on Wednesday January 31, 2007 @11:02AM (#17828362) Journal
    As a former red-blooded MS basher, I really cannot say that I've become a Microsoft fanboy either. I mostly don't care, and consider that PC OS technology has become a very boring field anyway. Here's a take at a list of things that have cooled me off :
    • Windows XP is a fairly stable operating system, with no serious architectural flaw for office use, software development, workstation or hobbyist use.
    • William H Gates III has stepped away from the company's spotlight and is leveraging his wealth in a remarkably, socially responsible way, making this accumulation truly beneficial to the world that has created it.
    • Desktop Operating System peculiarities are growing more irrelevant every year in most domains. The general indifference around the release of Vista is the best proof of this.
    • No true credible alternative OS has emerged after fifteen years of trying in each and every way : free software, commercial OS companies (Be), alternative OSs pushed by proprietary hardware vendors (Apple, Sun), etc.
    • In the domain of software development, MS's contributions with .NET and C# are objectively superior to most of their predecessors (I'm talking mainstream environments, not niche or academic ones like Scheme, Haskell or SmallTalk). These are probably the best contribution to mainstream application and system development environment, since Kernighan tried system programming in a high level language and made C. They also have some of the best advanced research in that domain.
    • By experience, I have found out that it is easier to tweak XP to behave as a Hobbyist's or developper's UNIX box, than it os to tweak Linux into doing properly all that XP does. Install Cygwin, a proper text editor, MS's free command line compiler suite, and learn how to configure the Terminal, and you're done.
    • I mostly don't care, and consider that PC OS technology has become a very boring field anyway.

      I think you're a bit confused as to cause and effect. Remember the term "stifling innovation?" What did you think it meant? The current stagnation and glacial pace of change in the desktop OS market is not indicative that MS's monopoly does not matter, it is indicative that MS's monopoly has slowed innovation in the market.

      Windows XP is a fairly stable operating system, with no serious architectural flaw for o

  • by sulfur_lad ( 964486 ) on Wednesday January 31, 2007 @11:03AM (#17828370) Homepage

    Oh, the sweet teenage angst on here whenever someone says something nice about Microsoft.

    Welcome to running a business, you want to make sure you stay on top. Addressing an earlier post, MS does not try to create MS Zombies in schools, good teachers (whom I observe weekly) leverage whatever technology they have to enable content that helps them to instruct. Then there are other teachers who tell their students that the phases of the moon are caused by the shadow of the earth on the moon. I saw this being taught on a Mac, so obviously that's Apple's fault.

    Honestly about 5 years ago I would have jumped on the "obviously this is false" slashdot bandwagon, but the honest to goodness truth is that things have gotten better. I have friends who are currently dedicating two years of their lives to travel around the world to various Global Giving [globalgiving.com] projects. I've been trying to look at my life and figure out how I could do something like that and make it work. That Bill Gates has the resources to do it is one thing, the fact that he does do it - no matter what people here describe as a small percentage of what he's worth - is excellent. The halo effect means that whatever the boss does reflects on the company. To most people on the planet MS is Bill Gates, and so the impression is now good. You can add that XP has been an awesome product with an excellent run (that's not over) that has elevated the company (compared to previous offerings), and you get a much better impression.

    And anyways, for the haters and the teen angst-kids here, if you don't use Windows then who cares, don't whine. They're not forcing you to just like they're not forcing me to run Windows Server instead of Linux (which is running) on my server.

  • lying with numbers (Score:3, Insightful)

    by oohshiny ( 998054 ) on Wednesday January 31, 2007 @12:44PM (#17829826)
    respondents gave Microsoft very high marks for leadership and financial results. But Mr. Gates's personal philanthropy also boosted the public's opinion of Microsoft.

    So do the mafia and the Cali drug cartel. The reputation of a company shouldn't be measured by how ruthless or financially successful it is, or how much money their founders give away, it should be measured by whether they comply with the law, innovate, are socially responsible in their business activities, and produce high-quality products.

Statistics are no substitute for judgement. -- Henry Clay

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