I spotted this headline today:

Microsoft banning Mac, iPad purchases by its sales and marketing group?

It’s a great example of the way that the “rivalry” between Microsoft and Apple is, at times, pretty exaggerated. You can check out the full article for the alleged e-mail defining this new policy, but here is the gist.

Microsoft’s Sales, Marketing, Services, IT, & Operations Group (SMSG) may be putting in place a policy to prevent employees from using corporate funds to buy Macs and iPads.

Microsoft and Apple are competitors, let’s be clear about that. As such, I expect Microsoft to take steps to promote its own brand, and to strive for consistency in the message it delivers to its employees and its customers. On the careers page of Microsoft’s site, the SMSG is billed as being “on the customer frontline.” The responsibilities listed on this page include both internal and customer facing duties, which means these folks do a huge amount of company representation.

Do you think Pepsi wants its delivery truckers drinking Coke? I assure you, they don’t. A quick search will reveal some of the stories of how employees have even had their jobs threatened for drinking the competitor’s products.

So, really, what does this story tell us? A company may have enacted a policy to prevent employees from using a competitor’s products for business purposes. More importantly, to prevent employees who represent the company internally and externally on a daily basis from diluting its brand strength by showing up with a competitor’s technology in tow. If this story was about any two other companies, would this even be worth mentioning?