iPhone a Forbidden Love for Microsoft Staff

Last Updated Mar 19, 2010 1:09 PM EDT

Healthy competition can sometimes tip over into obsessing about rivals, as a report about iPhones being banned for Microsoft employees illustrates.

It's natural that the software giant's managers should want staff to be loyal to its products. After all, if the people who are making and selling a product don't have any faith in it, or prefer to use a rival's product or service, why should their customers feel any different?

But not accepting the strengths of the competition - pretending it doesn't exist - smacks of an unhealthy mental despotism that borders on the dangerous.
Any company that refuses to acknowledge competition that beats it -- which lets face it, the iPhone does - will not be able to fight back.

It's surprising that Microsoft should take this stance, since it has had no problem in borrowing with pride in the past.

I have to make a confession here. I have been known to look at rival media producers' websites. I have to, to check what they are doing. It's one of the most meaningful ways I can think of to measure the quality of my own work. I would certainly be brought up by my managers if I wasn't doing this.

For Microsoft to insist that for its employees, the world begins and ends with Microsoft means they will have to deny certain business realities and leaves the company vulnerable to being left behind by nimbler, more open-minded competitors. There is a danger it will lose touch with customers who buy both it's products and Apple's and think nothing of it.

And for those of you who think that this sort of hot-headed partisanship is something that could only happen on the other side of the Atlantic, not in the UK, where we usually take a cooler attitude to the nasty business of competition, you would be wrong.

I understand from one of my sources that employees at Vodafone have been instructed that they may no longer refer to rival O2 by name, only as 'the problem network'.

Corporate paranoia respects no borders, it seems.

Do you have any examples where a rival's product is unmentionable in your workplace?