Most of the articles and blog posts I've read about the forced resignation of a Microsoft Windows Phone manager for tweeting confidential details about the upcoming Nokia WP7 device focus on the fairness of Redmond's actions.
But lost in the coverage of the abrupt departure from Microsoft of Joe Marini, principal program manager for the Windows Phone web platform, are the implications of his comments made over several tweets (which I'll get to in a minute).
Here's what Marini first tweeted on Sept. 7:
I just got a chance to try out one of the slickest looking #Nokia phones I have ever seen. Soon, you will too! #wp7
So far, so good. Typical corporate social media hype. He's merely touting the phone in a very general way. No details, no disclosures.
Then a guy who runs a Windows Phone fan site serves up a Twitter hanging curve ball, asking Marini, "how amazing was it? 1 - 10 ? 11?"
Marini, astoundingly, responds not with "9," "10," "11" or "12," but with:
Overall I would say an 8. Solid feel, good camera, responsive UI, and nice little touches on the body construction
Marini's Twitter set-up man is thrown off, responding, "What held it back from a 9 or 10? Was the camera as awesome as people are hoping?"
To which Marini replies:
Yeah, the camera was good, but I didn't have optimal lighting. I'd like a larger screen too.
Microsoft isn't commenting on the situation, other than to confirm that Marini no longer is working for the company. Redmond's social media and blogging policy, which can be viewed here, includes language prohibiting disclosure of confidential information via social media.
Of course, there's absolutely no confidential information in Marini's tweets. However, they do arguably violate this section of Microsoft's "blogging guidelines," which is bolded in the PDF:
Most importantly, to preserve Microsoft’s rights to protect its innovations through patents, do not disclose or describe any new features, functionalities, or innovations that have not been publicly disclosed or released without first checking with your business unit management or your LCA patent contact.
This probably is what they got Marini on. But that's not what got him fired, in my opinion. I think he got fired for rating the Nokia Wp7 an "8."
Again, it's not what Marini said on Twitter. It's the implications of what he said. Think about it: According to a person 1) in an excellent position to know (Marini), and 2) who has a vested interest in the success of the product he's discussing on Twitter (Marini), Nokia and Microsoft, after partnering for the better part of a year in a desperate bid to compete with Apple and Google's Android in the growing smartphone market, is going to come out with an "8."
What kind of market share will a Nokia WP7 "8" smartphone get against the iPhone 5 and the latest Android devices running Ice Cream Sandwich? That's putting a "decent" smartphone up against advanced devices with (certainly in Apple's case) loyal users.
Maybe I'm reading too much into Marini's rating. But he did give the phone an "8," which essentially is a "B." And for Microsoft and Nokia, a "B" in the smartphone market will be a failing grade.