I got word from someone on the inside that they are running a query inside Microsoft, that emails are flying around trying to figure out who put the picture in there. That pretty much means this wasn’t known until now, this wasn’t approved, and there’s some level of concern internally.
Microsoft doesn’t like easter eggs in its products, doesn’t like surprises that could make it look unprofessional or just be embaressing. Larry Osterman said, “Nowadays, adding an easter egg to a Microsoft OS is immediate grounds for termination”. Jeremy Mazner has more:
Leading up the release of Windows 2000, Microsoft starting getting a lot more serious about selling servers into the government and large enterprise markets. These guys saw NT 4 as the first really credible enterprise-class product from MS, and were evaluating Win2k to see how things were progressing.
The story, as I recall it, is that one of these customers had some strong words for our easter eggs, suggesting that any company that could let such things frivolous things into their products wasn’t doing a very good software engineering job, and thus couldn’t be trusted to run an enterprise-scale business.
The argument never made much sense to me. Easter eggs, at least on teams I worked on, were never anywhere near critical-path code. And they often seem to have been pretty well tested by every member of the product team who wanted to verify their name showed up. Maybe there’s some story I don’t know about how an Easter egg caused a perf hit, or crash or something (I bet if such a story existed, Raymond would know it.). In any event, it seemed like we one day got this email that said “no more Easter eggs ever again”, and that was pretty much the end of it.
Wikipedia has a whole article on Microsoft easter eggs, starting with a note that there have been few easter eggs since 2002.
So, if your company has a policy against easter eggs, to the point where many consider it a fireable offence, is this something someone could get fired for? Yeah, probably. The fact that it took five months for this to get caught shows the problem: There could have been anything there. Whoever stuck in that photo could have stuck in a penis, and Microsoft will probably feel the need to go with overkill to prevent that ever happening.
It really depends on who did it. If a senior exec and a number of others conspired on this, they might get away with a public reprimand, while if a small designer did it, he might get canned. It’s a shame, but those are the breaks when you work at a $287 billion company. Fun is for smaller companies, I guess.
UPDATE: Aw man, there are multiple images! Not good.
UPDATE 2: Bink has some good closeups.