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Iowa antitrust case: Microsoft exec called software developers 'pawns'

James Plamondon was a technical evangelist at the company for eight years

By Eric Lai
January 8, 2007 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - A Microsoft Corp. technical evangelist referred to independent software developers writing for Windows and the company's other software platforms as "pawns" and compared wooing them to convincing someone to have a one-night stand, according to testimony presented Friday against Microsoft in an ongoing antitrust case in Iowa.

"If you've ever tried to play chess with only the pieces in the back row, you've experienced losing, OK, because you've got to have those pawns," James Plamondon said in a Jan. 16, 1996, speech to members of Microsoft's developer relations group. His comments were part of a transcript presented as evidence in the Comes vs. Microsoft Inc. class-action lawsuit in Iowa.

"They're essential," he said about software developer pawns, according to a transcript of his remarks. "So you can't win without them, and you have to take good care of them. You can't let them feel like they're pawns in the struggle."

In the speech, entitled "Power evangelism and relationship evangelism," Plamondon continued: "I mean, all through this presentation previously, I talked about how you're using the pawns and you're going to screw them if they don't do what you want, and dah-dah-dah. You can't let them feel like that. If they feel like that, you've lost from the beginning.... So you can't let them feel like pawns, no matter how much they really are."

Plamondon a technical evangelist for eight years at Microsoft, did not return an e-mailed request for comment. A Microsoft spokesman dismissed the comments today, saying they don't represent the company's philosophy and never did.

"These were isolated, inappropriate comments made more than a decade ago and not a statement of Microsoft's policy at any time," said Jack Evans, a Microsoft spokesman. "The reality is that what's made Microsoft successful is that we provide an environment where ISVs can be very successful by supporting and taking advantage of the technology we expose in Windows."

The excerpt was presented during testimony by Ronald Alepin, an expert for the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, who allege that Microsoft charged higher prices to Iowa consumers as a result of illegal monopolistic behavior. The suit seeks $330 million in damages.

In other comments about developers, Plamondon equated working with them to taking someone out on a first date. "It's like you're going out with a girl; forgive me, it goes the other way also. You're going out with a girl, what you really want to do is have a deep, close and intimate relationship, at least for one night. And, you know, you just can't let her feel like that, because if you do, it ain't going to happen, right. So you have to talk long term and white picket fence and all these other wonderful things, or else you're never going to get what you're really looking for."

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