According to The Wall Street Journal, about 10% of Microsoft's employees are avid users of the iPhone. While it's not surprising that tech geeks like those who work for Microsoft would be interested in the iPhone, what is surprising is the lengths some Microsoft workers go to in order to hide their "forbidden love" for a competitor's device.
While workers openly use their iPhones around fellow employees, when senior executives walk by, iPhones mysteriously disappear. Some workers even try to disguise their iPhones with cases to make them look like any old smartphone.
While there's no official ban on iPhone use at Microsoft, Steve Ballmer has made his stance on the issue pretty clear, saying that when his father worked for Ford, his family always drove Fords. Since Microsoft makes its own competing phone OS, it has to be irksome for executives like Ballmer to see employees using competitors' hardware; the Journal compared it to seeing Coca-Cola workers sitting around drinking Pepsi.
Over at Apple, things are a bit different; most of its employees "eat their own dog food," so to speak. Almost all Apple employees, right down to the retail level, actually use the products their companies create, including the iPhone. Workers for Apple told the Journal they couldn't remember seeing workers using mobile phones other than the iPhone for quite some time. So when you flip back to Microsoft, it's kind of understandable that executives like Ballmer are less than hospitable toward employees' cavalier usage of competitors' products.
The way to get employees to use your own products, however, isn't by creating a culture of fear in the workplace, whether it's officially endorsed or not. Instead, build a better product that your employees actually want to use. If the only official way to convince workers to use your own phone OS instead of the iPhone is by reimbursing employees' service fees only for Windows phones, then how can you expect to attract more consumers to your brand?
If Windows Phone 7 Series turns out to be worthy of the frothing adulation some have heaped on it, perhaps a few of those iPhone-using Microsoft employees will be convinced to start drinking their company's own Kool-Aid instead of Apple's. Whether the public will follow suit is another story entirely.