iPhone-Loving Microsoft Employees Endure Unspeakable Hardship

The WSJ has a discussion today of the phenomenon of the iPhone-using Microsoft employee. Apparently that time Ballmer fake-stomped an iPhone is emblematic of some (barely) real anti-iPhone sentiment in Redmond.

Interestingly, it turns out that 10,000 iPhone users accessed Microsoft's employee email system last year—about 10% of the total company's workforce. But like a gay man in the army, iPhone users are not always free to be open with their love. In fact, this story is almost exactly like the saga of homosexuality in the armed forces, except in most ways.

Some Microsoft workers take pains to hide their iPhones. While rank-and-file workers tend to use the iPhone openly around peers, some conceal them within sight of more senior executives. One Microsoft worker said he knows several colleagues who try to disguise their iPhones with cases that make them look more like generic handsets.

"Maybe once a year I'm in a meeting with Steve Ballmer," said this employee. "It doesn't matter who's calling, I'm not answering my phone."

Early last year, Microsoft even changed its policy so that it would only cover service fees for employees using Windows Mobile, and not its competitors. And at one point, Robbie Bach explained employee iPhone use as a way to "better understand the competition" (um.).

Of course, this is almost exclusively bluster. J. Allard, the founding mastermind behind, well, everything we like at Microsoft (namely Xbox and Zune), is an avowed iPhone user, and the WSJ testifies that "Despite Mr. Ballmer's theatrics, iPhone users are in plain sight at Microsoft." But that doesn't mean it's not fun to imagine iPhone ostracization. [WSJ]