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Microsoft Rewarding Employees Who Phone It In 280

theodp writes "For developers who are all about the Benjamins, Microsoft has come up with an intriguing alternative to Google's vaunted 20% time. To boost the number of Windows Phone 7 apps, Microsoft has relaxed a strict rule and will let employees moonlight and keep the resulting intellectual property and 70% of the revenue, as long as that second job is writing apps for WP7-based devices. The rule change offers an option for employees who don't want to leave for the insecurity of a start-up, but still want a shot at recognition and rewards for their own ideas."
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Microsoft Rewarding Employees Who Phone It In

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  • Re:Wow! (Score:5, Informative)

    by Giometrix ( 932993 ) on Sunday February 27, 2011 @11:32AM (#35330580) Homepage

    Microsoft has relaxed a strict rule and will let employees moonlight and keep the resulting intellectual property

    A company letting their employees do what the want in their own free time. They deserve the Nobel peace price!

    Seriously, is it common (in the states) to "own" your employees even when they are not at work?

    This is absolutely the norm. Some places are worse than others, making you sign a "everything you do belongs to us" agreement (how enforceable that is I don't know, IANAL). Most places just don't want you to compete with them, so anything you do on your time related to their industry belongs to them. In this case we're talking software, so MS is relaxing that restriction for wp7 apps.

  • Re:Wow! (Score:5, Informative)

    by arkenian ( 1560563 ) on Sunday February 27, 2011 @12:12PM (#35330848)

    Seriously, is it common (in the states) to "own" your employees even when they are not at work?

    You would be surprised, but yes it is very common for companies to claim IP over things created even when an employee is doing them on their own free time. Companies argue that exposure to their policies arguably enabled the person to create the product, service or technology... which is wrong in my opinion but it still happens. I think that if you work for a company and there aren't explicit agreements in place you are protected in most states but you should definitely check first before starting up something awesome.

    This is bad for all of us because it slows down the invention of new things to the angular flow rate of cold molasses.

    To be fair, most employment contracts I've read are a little more specific than that. Specifically they own any IP on anything related to the work you do for them, fairly broadly defined. This tends to mean that, if you work at microsoft, any software you wrote would be covered. But if you wrote a novel, that would not be covered. Actually, the way I read the ones I've signed, they're more on the order of noncompete agreements than the company making any claims as to why you were able to do it. They don't care why, as part of your employment you agree not to compete with their products. The best way to PREVENT you from competing with them is that, if you do, they own it anyway. Likewise I'm forbidden from providing consulting services to competitors etc.

  • Re:Bribe (Score:3, Informative)

    by jeffgeno ( 737363 ) on Sunday February 27, 2011 @12:12PM (#35330852)
    The tools are free. You just have to pay to get your apps listed in the marketplace. $100 a year for up tp 100 apps. []

  • Re:Wow! (Score:5, Informative)

    by magical liopleurodon ( 1213826 ) on Sunday February 27, 2011 @12:59PM (#35331164)

    1)They find reading legal documents difficult
    2)They really want a job,and so are will to sacrifice for it,
    3) They aren't all that creative and don't have enough free time at home anyways.

    1) It's pretty obvious that you're signing your soul away. I signed one of these myself, but they're not valid in Minnesota. A number of states don't allow this. California is another one where even if you sign something like this, it cannot be enforced.

    And people actually sign this shit, that is the problem. It works against you because if you don't sign it, they throw you out. If EVERYONE refuses to sign it, the company is the one who is fucked.

    So many companies do this. If you're not in a state where it's unenforceable, the only leverage you have is starting your own company. Which I encourage, and when you all do do that, don't make your employees sign contracts like this.

  • Re:Bribe (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 27, 2011 @01:01PM (#35331176)
    Do not play games

    Visual Studio Express is a game MS plays to lure people into the barbed wired fenced and armed patrolled prison yard. Google does not play this game. It uses Eclipse which is a professional IDE that caters to professional development and integration, a consistent environment that a professional can use on many different platforms. Apple uses XCode, another full featured IDE without the $1000 subscription fee to access basic documentation. Blackberry seems to also provide Eclipse plug ins and free simulators.

    So it seems that MS is the only major smart phone that requires upfront payment for full development tools. This was good business in Windows with 90% market share and when IDE were a cool thing. Now, when the IDE is basic functionality, and MS mobile devices sell in the thousands, not millions, it seems like a bad idea.

  • Re:Wow! (Score:5, Informative)

    by VertigoAce ( 257771 ) on Sunday February 27, 2011 @04:13PM (#35332508)

    The 30% is the cut that Microsoft takes from every app on the WP7 marketplace (same as Apple does with their app store). Employees get the same 70% that third party developers get.

    The people I work with had the opposite reaction from what you suggest. The policy removed the uncertainty around moonlighting in this case and encouraged people to start developing apps. I don't think this would have been against policy in any case, but most employees aren't going to spend the time talking to their manager, legal, and HR just to get approval to release a $0.99 app.

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