Robert Scoble is to leave Microsoft to join a startup, for higher pay and a stock option upside.
I think this was very smart timing – the role of "humanizer" is great in a transitional period, but how much upside was left in this relationship? Scoble has co-written a book, become popular, and in the short run his departure seems a loss to Microsoft. In the long run, however, it is hard to see how his blogging at some point might not force a confrontation, either with corporate management or with his audience. If Microsoft had wanted to keep him, they could offer higher pay – but that would mean that his status would change from "regular employee talking about his work" to "semi-official spokesman with good salary" and undermine his legitimacy.
As it is, Scoble has parlayed his fame and skill into a new role to build – I, for one, look forward to his video interviews. Microsoft has gained a better image and can now figure out how to evolve their Channel 9 and other interactions with their developer network and general public, unencumbered by a dominant and ungovernable gatekeeper who would have experienced increasing difficulty in maintaining a very precarious balance. It will be interesting to see whether a new Scoble will show up (thus indicating that semi-corporate blogging is possible) in Microsoft or any other company, or whether it will turn out that he was a once-in-a-lifetime exception.
Hugh Macleod, as usual, has the right comment.