Yesterday, an anti-Drupal ad by Microsoft was spotted in the wild; see the image on the right. The news spread on Twitter like wildfire. I said this was "interesting", not because Microsoft isn't allowed to compete with Drupal but because Microsoft is also promoting Drupal. In fact, I was flattered by the idea that Microsoft considered Drupal worthy of competition. However, it left many of us confused about the fact that Microsoft decided to both partner with Drupal and compete against it.
For me, the interesting part is not whether Microsoft is allowed to compete or not -- of course they are allowed to compete. What is interesting to me is the way Microsoft reacted. Within hours, Microsoft had noticed the small Twitter-tsunami, picked up the phone to talk about it, pulled down the ad and publicly apologized for confusing the Drupal community.
This means a lot. It is hard proof that social media like Twitter works, and that Microsoft can be great at listening and responding. It is proof that the web has changed to be more humanized, and that Microsoft understands how to build relationships online. By being transparent and human, and by publicly apologizing, they built some trust with the Drupal community (as reflected in the comments of Mark Brown's blog post), and that might actually influence people's experience with Microsoft. Plus it looks like, at least for now, Microsoft decided to promote Drupal rather than compete with it.
At the end of the day, this was the act of one Microsoft employee in India who was out of sync with the rest of Microsoft. This inevitably happens in big companies. All is good now.