Let us imagine a company who has a target market, for the meantime, let's say "manufacturing." Company can then pay an external organization to go out and define the market in various terms. Let's say they want to target Oracle instances because they are a value-added reseller of DB2.
So the organization comes back to you and says, "there are 10,000 instances of Oracle out there in manufacturing." This is an important number. Let's say you charge $5,000 per instance of DB2, and you're trying to figure out what to set your sales quotas for. A particularly foolish idea is to say, "Well, ten thousand instances times five thousand dollars is $50,000,000. Assume that next year we need to grow 10%, we can thus say that the quota for next year is $55,000,000."
What's wrong with this picture? Well, it assumes a few things, and makes at least one impossible logical leap. The first assumption is that the external market research organization is right, and that it has 100% penetration into your target market. Second, you're assuming that 10% growth is, rather than 10% of what you sold last year, it is actually 10% more than the market can bear. Third, (and this is kind of silly) that you actually can eradicate 100% of the Oracle installs in a given year, and then find 10% more, and eliminate those too.
I use the verb eradicate on purpose. It's precisely the kind of effort I got sucked into. When I started at Microsoft, I was working for people who were sane. The real purpose for my being there was to describe the advantages and disadvantages of both Unix/Linux and Windows as well as interoperability issues, for Microsoft staff. I maintained from day one that there were some customers (for example, customers with fewer than twenty employees, or more than ten thousand) for whom Linux is actually a pretty good fit. I wasn't going out there to eliminate or eradicate Linux installations, I was going to talk to customers, standards bodies, The Company itself, and so on, about misconceptions about both products -- Linux and Windows.
It then became clear that some of the people I worked for were not going to make their quota for sales of a certain product. The education campaign quickly became a campaign of eradication, to find and eliminate all instances of a particular piece of competing software. This, to me, was an ethical problem. The more I brought this up as an ethical issue, the more I became part of the market I was being sympathetic to. Due to the intense polarization of a few people inside Microsoft (such as Martin Taylor's "When I wake up in the morning, all I want to do is kick Linux's ASS!" at MGB in 2005), there was of course some outright hostility. There were some re-orgs, and some people got promoted, others just "moved," and soon I was working for one of these polarized, hostile people. I've characterized this relationship as such: "So, you've seen Return of the Jedi, right? The great pit of Carkoon? Critter in there, the almighty Sarlacc? Yeah, I worked for him." This is generally met with knowing nods, so I'll just continue to use it.
Sarlacc was upset that I didn't see 110% eradication as a plausible goal. Sarlacc was upset that I made these opinions public (at least within The Company). Furthermore, Sarlacc was upset that I was not intimidated by italicized, 24-pt, blinking, red text, nor his sticky tentacles or tangled maw. There was also an instance where "paid leave" was mistaken by Sarlacc for "a good time to get some work done." The latter part, combined with the previous pieces, was something of a catalyst, and led to Sarlacc and myself arguing frequently.
So anyways. There was a mutual exchange of epithets, and I suppose you could say that my relationship with Microsoft subsequently dissolved. I find this rather unfortunate, as I actually enjoyed working at Microsoft. And, the other 59,999 people at the company are generally reasonable folks. I'm not sure how anyone would get the impression that I left Microsoft because I didn't like working for them or with them. It's really just a matter of me not getting along very well with the Sarlacc, and the broken sort of "sales arithmetic" I was asked to sign off on. I even talked to people about moving out to Redmond to work there. Eventually, I decided that I didn't want to uproot my wife's career, here in DC, for something that might turn out to be equally Sarlaccish, out there. Not that Seattle isn't pretty, but, well, there's a war on, and I'm sort of in the middle of the defense industry here. Er, I digress. The other thing I wanted to mention was that I'm not sure how the rumor got started, but I didn't leave Microsoft for Google (a notorious place for Microsoft Alumni to show up), nor for Apple (where my wife works). I left Microsoft for Mount Vernon, and subsequently Philadelphia and so on. Eventually bronchitis. I actually am still not working, and not really alarmed by this.
I think this should be sufficient to explain the whole situation. In particular (although no particular order), I will miss working with Javier Vasquez, Bill Solms, Sean Siler, Chris Niehaus, Patrick Svenburg, Wayne Plourde, and Rob Campbell. I will also miss dearly my trips to the Redmond area, if only because it was another chance to see James Livingston again. It will likely never happen, but I would also love a chance to see Penny Styles again. I can be reached, of course, at email@example.com.
For the rest of the story, you need to see Mini-Microsoft.