Don Dodge was a happily loyal Microsoft employee until last week, when he got laid off with a group of around 5,000 other staffers in a broad reduction of staff. The well-known “Ambassador to Startups” was quickly poached by Google (within 90 minutes no less), where he is now set to work.

The move highlights the differences in culture at the two companies. And Dodge’s fairwell note serves another purpose for Google, as an ad for how loyal Microsoft devotees can switch to Google products.

Google has been steadily working to develop free software and products that compete Microsoft’s core business of paid services.

Dodge’s dismissal from Microsoft was generally panned, as he presented an innovative face for Microsoft and spent a good deal of time interacting with the tech community. Dodge posted a note on the job switch to his personal blog today and notes that the first thing he’s did was abandon Microsoft Office products for Google:

“I made the switch to Gmail last week and it has been awesome! Outlook
has been an old familiar friend for years, but it was getting kind of
tired. Gmail is new, fast, web based, and has all the features I need.
I especially like the way it threads conversations making it easy to
keep everything in context. And of course the search capabilities are
world class. One other subtle thing…no spam. I never realized how much
corporate spam invaded my Microsoft inbox.”

Of course, it makes sense that Dodge would sing the praises of his new employer. And his criticisms of the software giant — that it laid off 5,000 people while maintaining “$37 billion in cash and huge profits” — could be written off as the ramblings of a disgruntled former employee. 

But Dodge, aside from his skills that Google seems eager to tap into, is the quintessential consumer that Google wants to poach from Microsoft. And he’s written the pitch for why others should make the switch as well:

“Vic Gundotra at Google was the first one to contact me with an
opportunity…90 minutes after the news of the layoff hit. That fast
decisive action was refreshing, and such a contrast to the slow,
secretive, bureaucracy at Microsoft. That speed and decisiveness also
reflects different approaches to hiring great people, building great
products and serving customers well.”

Of course, Google doesn’t really need help getting people to use Gmail, but old habits die hard, and Microsoft makes more than a little money selling its Office suite. Google offers many of the same features for the low price of free, but getting people to make the switch isn’t easy. Here’s Dodge saying why they should do it:

“I have been experimenting with Google Docs and have been able to do
everything I did in Microsoft Office. I can’t think of a single feature
missing from what I need every day. There may be some edge cases…but I
haven’t bumped into any yet.”

Of course, Microsoft can’t be held accountable for every former employee who wants to spout off about the company. And there is no method to ensure that every employee stays 100% satisfied to avoid losing them to competitors. But this little move by Google’s Gundotra was more than just a quick hire, it was a subtly innovative PR move.

Image: Dan Dodge