Microsoft has just launched a program called OnMyWay, by which Microsoft will offer training and financial help to young people. It has begun dispensing help in Europe already, but more largesse is to come.
If you look at the How We Help page, it says "Microsoft may provide help in the form of finance, educational materials or equipment." I'm told the ads are seen in four countries so far, Germany, France, the UK, and Australia.
They say the only requirement is "that their future career prospects will really benefit from participation in and completion of their chosen training programme." If you note, the home page says, "Microsoft aims to provide financial or material sponsorship that will help such people to achieve their goals in their chosen subject and so gain a foothold on the ladder to success in their career." So sweet. So like Microsoft to want to give away money and equipment just because.
Here's why they say they want to help:
Microsoft wants to promote the development of expertise in the ever expanding IT market - and employment in general - in large parts of Europe. It is clear that there is a need to provide appropriate training programmes and to motivate people to join such schemes and realise their true potential.
Thatís why Microsoft developed the initiative to form partnerships with specialist training organisations and generate the necessary support for people who might not otherwise have the opportunity or incentive to consider a course that would take them on an upward career path.
OK. What's this really all about? I have a working theory for your consideration. I noticed something striking. While the ads are being run so far only in those four countries, and it's supposed to be a global branding campaign, if you look at who is on the list of those who have gotten help from the program already, you see groups from the UK, the Czech Republic, Sweden, Germany, Denmark, Spain, Finland and Italy. I took a look at how each country on this list voted on OOXML in March.
The Czech Republic, the UK, Germany, Denmark, Finland and Norway all voted to approve OOXML.
This was a change for each of them. In September, the Czech Republic, the UK, Denmark, and Norway had voted to disapprove, so this was a change in Microsoft's favor. Finland abstained in September, and it voted to approve in March as well.
They all changed to approve, in other words, and now they are on the opening list of beneficiaries of Microsoft's beneficence, for which it is so well-known.
Spain and Italy remained the same as in September, abstaining, which, under the ISO rules can also be helpful. You'll recall Italy was where the members of the committee suddenly grew from 6 to 83 before the September vote. If you look at the composition of the original 6, the outcome seems to me unlikely to have been to abstain, minus the stacking of the committee. And we remember the highjinks in Spain, before the September vote as well. But they can't hold a candle to what happened in France, which suddenly reversed its No vote to Abstain. Australia also famously abstained.
So. What do you think of my theory? There's an article in Shoot's May edition, page 14, about the new branding campaign, and it calls it a "global" campaign, with "viral videos playing in four countries" already, the UK, Germany, France and Australia, showing young people who have benefited from the "Microsoft Learning Center". Other such mini documentaries also show young people and "how Microsoft helps them in crucial moments of their lives with free classes and access to technology," this according to Matthew Winks, VP/exec producer at McCann Worldgroup, which produced the videos. Perfect name, I think.
So who isn't on the list of recipients? I see no young people from India, which voted against OOXML and criticized the process but where young people could probably use some help. Where's New Zealand, which voted no? South Africa, which not only voted no but filed an official appeal of the OOXML approval? They don't need help for young people there? The other countries that voted No, like China, Venezuela, Canada, Ecuador? Don't get me wrong. I'm not hoping Microsoft spreads its technology to young people anywhere. I'm just saying.
They'll probably show up, after this article. Maybe that was already the eventual plan, but I can't help noticing who got the first bite of the apple. It is at least a remarkable coincidence.