It looks like Microsoft's Hailstorm (aka “Persona”, aka “My Services”) is turning into a light rain:

“We're sort of in the Hegelian synthesis of figuring out where the products go once they've encountered the reality of the marketplace.”
-- Charles Fitzgerald, Microsoft's general manager for platform strategy as quoted in the New York Times.

By ”Hegelian synthesis” Mr. Fitzgerald appears to mean that in developing the Persona concept Microsoft's management forgot something that they were tought in Econ 101: businesses are in competition with each other¹. In all the (quite justified) hoopla surrounding the use and potential abuse of customer information by businesses, we too sometimes forget that competition serves fairly well in protecting our interests as consumers.

Most of us were leery of of letting one company, especially Microsoft, control so much data about us. Potentially, given Microsoft's current ubiquity on the desktop and their aggressive business practices, forking our personal information over to Microsoft would become unavoidable as more and more businesses whose products or services we desired or required joined the Microsoft Persona “Partnership”.

A funny thing seems to have happened on the way to the party, though. It turns out that, we, as consumers, weren't alone in not wishing to allow some third entity control over our information. Since information about customers is a core business asset — the foundation of any business's competitive advantage gained through a better understanding of their customers — businesses themselves had no desire to let someone else control information about their customers. Chalk one up for the free market.