Microsoft has never been a stranger to controversy, as I was reminded less than a month after beginning to work, when I found myself in the midst of a major one.
I had gone to Tokyo to meet with several Japanese companies. One evening, during a dinner with senior executives from a large Japanese consumer electronics company, one of their vice chairmen suddenly leaned forward with a decidedly unfriendly look on his face.
"Your NAP clause is monopolistic," he announced loudly. "It is unfair, and we will fight you over it."
I didn't answer at first—not least because I had no idea what the NAP clause was. Apparently he took my stunned silence as resistance, which angered him even more.
"How can a man like you work for such a monstrous company?" he shouted.
I looked around the table at the firm's other executives, expecting to see in their faces the same shock that I felt at this man's confrontational behavior. Instead, their eyes were fixed on me, waiting for a response to a question they clearly thought deserved an answer.
"I'm sorry," I finally stammered. "I am not familiar with this NAP clause you mention. But I promise you I will look into it immediately upon my return to the States."
And with that, dinner resumed as if nothing had happened. But I knew that whatever this NAP clause was, if it could make senior Japanese business executives this angry—and they are normally courteous and nonconfrontational to a fault—I had better look into it soon. ...