updated 05:15 pm EDT, Fri October 28, 2011
Microsoft may have forced staffer out of Apple
Microsoft may have blackballed Apple's choice of datacenter head in the moves that ultimately led to Apple hiring from Yahoo, according an unusually detailed rumor. After fighting opposition from his immediate management on his way out, Kevin Timmons was supposedly met by CEO Steve Ballmer, SAI heard. Timmons may have had an "attitude" during the meeting that led to Ballmer reaching Apple directly, threatening legal action if Apple completed the hire.
Apple backed off, leading Timmons to switch over to CyrusOne and Apple to replace him with Yahoo's Scott Noteboom. He had reportedly made a proposal that would lower the costs of datacenters like that in North Carolina for iCloud.
Timmons hadn't responded to comments, while Microsoft was preparing an answer but hadn't yet confirmed or commented on the details.
While it's possible that Timmons may have done something to unnecessarily provoke Ballmer, the CEO may have been spurred on by attempts to thwart competition. Although it's not clear how much Microsoft would have known when Apple hired Timmons in April, iCloud, iTunes in the Cloud, and iTunes Match roughly compete with Microsoft technologies like SkyDrive, the Zune Music Marketplace, and Zune Pass. Microsoft continues to lose hundreds of millions of dollars each quarter trying to compete with Google in the cloud, and Ballmer would likely object to Timmons helping open a third front at Apple.
Ballmer may have wielded a non-compete clause to prevent Timmons from going directly to Apple. Most such clauses are illegal in California, but not in Washington state.