Open Letter to Microsoft and Steve Ballmer
I recently submitted this to the Contact Us page on microsoft.com
In a recent article on silicon.com*, Steve Ballmer is quoted as saying "The most common format of music on an iPod is 'stolen'."
I would like to ask Mr. Ballmer where he gets his facts from. You don't just go around accusing millions of people of theft without some facts, do you? If I were to publically accuse Ballmer of orchestrating a slate of recent bank robberies, I'd better have some evidence to back it up. Otherwise I would expect a lawsuit. Yet somehow Mr. Ballmer gets away with accusing the majority who get their music free from a Microsoft tax as being thieves.
Frankly, I'm nauseous at the thought of him sitting in his office dreaming up ways to slander the public in an attempt to swindle American business into Microsoft's pocket. Where are his ethics? How about a little less time playing politics and more time running a company. I've got a novel idea for you:
Instead of trying to bamboozle people with a lot of made-up facts and the biggest marketing budget this side of the Bush campaign, why don't you put some money into R&D? The reason iTunes and iPod is winning is because they work without assuming everyone is a criminal. Window Media on the other hand is a heavy-handed, overwrought, monstrosity of a format. I have over 1000 CDs that are rapidly deteriorating. If I want to rip those to MP3 and store them on my computer, then that is fair use, not theft as Mr. Ballmer and the RIAA would have us believe.
I am a technological agnostic. I have dozens of friends and family members who turn to me to influence their tech purchases. In the past I have recommended Windows PCs due to their low cost and general utility. However, I feel that Windows is continually being crippled in an attempt to maintain high profit margins while alternatives such as Mac OS and Linux are constantly improving. You may be able to fool some people in the short term with your incredible spin machine, but in the long term you're going to need technology that people want.
One thing you have to understand about your business is that you don't create the trends. Microsoft has been successful by surfing the wave of technology, not by changing the weather. You've been successful against Apple because they create a luxury product for a niche market. You've kept your head above water against Linux because they had to come a long way from scratch. But unless you get back to your roots of developing the technology people need, you are doomed! Mark my words, Microsoft will flounder without the technology. Please get back to doing something productive and maybe I will some day be able to buy your products again.
Update October 7th, Microsoft responds!
Thank you for contacting Microsoft.com Customer Support with your feedback.
We apologize for the delayed response. I realize that you are reacting on the article you saw in www.silicon.com and you are offended on a comment made about the music format in Apple's iPod.
We would like to assure you that when Steve Ballmer implied that most of the music on iPods were stolen, he absolutely did not intend to single out iPod owners for criticism. In fact, given that they have access to their very own - and very popular - online music store, they are likely among the most law-abiding consumers of digital music. But the reality is that piracy remains high in terms of illegal downloads of music, and while online music services are getting better and better and winning more customers, piracy is still a major problem both on the PC and on devices.
Microsoft Windows Media digital rights management (DRM) is a great way to limit piracy, and the main point Steve was trying to convey was that it requires a coordinated effort among many industry partners to do it right.
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Microsoft.com Customer Support