Susan Hauser did not at first glance seem like an ideal candidate for a confidential mission to help Microsoft secure an intellectual property peace agreement with the open source software community.
For one thing, she didn't know a thing about intellectual property. Nor was she a lawyer, trained in the arts of confidential negotiation. Rather, the gregarious 46-year-old wife and mother of two high school–age sons had spent all of her 15 years at Microsoft working in sales, building and managing relationships with large customers. A psychology major in college, she had gotten her teaching credential and spent five years after graduation as a special education teacher in the South Bronx before pursuing her second love—technology—and hiring on at Microsoft, where she rose to the position of general manager of sales for New York and New Jersey.
But there was a reason that CEO Steve Ballmer, on one of his periodic visits to meet with East Coast customers, had called her into a private conference room at Microsoft's offices at 1290 Avenue of the Americas one day in April of 2004 and closed the door.
"Customers respect you," he told her. "And even more important, they trust you. And for this assignment, we're definitely going to need someone our customers trust."
Ballmer then revealed the broad outlines of "Project Summer," a high-level confidential initiative within Microsoft to forge the first intellectual property and technical collaboration agreement between ...