The Devil Gives Sleigh Rides or I Think I’m Feeling Bad For Microsoft

by James R. Stoup Sep 22, 2008

I can't believe I'm typing this but . . . I am starting to feel embarrassed for Microsoft. The hatred has begun to fade, the comtempt is wanning and the awkward chagrin has move in and started putting up drapes. Their latest advertising attempt, campagin, thing, whatever is just sad. I don't know about you, but I just feel sorry for them. After all, what glory is there in defeating an opponent who is blind, mentally handicapped, crippled and dying of cancer? It just takes something out of your victory lap, know what I mean?

I have watched Microsoft for many years and have seen them do many things I thought unwise. But, generally speaking, while I didn't approve of these actions, they did produce benefits to the company. For example, I don't think integrating IE was a great idea, however, it was part of a strategy that made IE the number one web browser in the world. So clearly there was a benefit, even if you question the ethics of such a move.

Likewise their monopolistic practices were evil, but increased shareholder value. So there were benefits after a fashion. But now Microsoft seems to be moving in a new direction. Scratch that. Microsoft seems to be spinning in circles, flailing about in an attempt to look like they have direction. The Jerry Seinfield ads were just another example. The ads were actually funny. They didn't make a whole lot of sense, and I don't understand how they were designed to improve the sale of Vista (or any other MS product for that matter) but that didn't mean they should have been killed with nary an explanation as to why.

Now Microsoft has started a new set of ads that implicitly agrees with the criticism from Apple's ads. These commercials might as well start off with the voice over ". . .yeah we suck, but . . ." How does that help? Microsoft, what's going on? I won't even ask if you are asleep at the wheel because at this point I think that might be an improvement. Because who knows, maybe the captain will wake up someday. However a more accurate description is that the crew of an ocean liner is dead and every day a different tourist pretends to be the captain. On Monday the captain declares he loves Seinfeld reruns and on Tuesday the captain announces that she has always loved those "get a Mac" ads and can't we do something similar? Who knows what tomorrow may bring?

The only ray of light I've seen from Microsoft lately has been their Mohave commercials, and they are just a bunch of confused focus groups. When you have a commecial whose sole gimick is that people are willing to try your crap only when they don't know what it is they are getting into, and then you are in trouble. When you look at your new ads and realize the Mohave campagin looked brilliant in comparison, well, then you should start looking for a chaser to go with the cyanide.

Hard to imagine this is a company with a market. cap. of over 200 billion!


  • what glory is THERE in defeating

    gunshy had this to say on Sep 22, 2008 Posts: 2
  • You know, I have the opposite opinion about the latest ads, but I’ve already written a piece about why they are so good. So you’ll have to wait til Wednesday. smile

    Chris Howard had this to say on Sep 22, 2008 Posts: 1209
  • First you fix the product, then you fix the ads.

    Even if the ads were great, if the product sucks then people who were swayed by the ads to buy the product will be bitterly disappointed.  That’s how you lose a customer for good.

    Microsoft is still in denial that Windows built on the current gracelessly aged code base is a bloated, overly complex, resource-hogging OS.

    tundraboy had this to say on Sep 22, 2008 Posts: 132
  • Yeah, fix the product first, then the perception. Then again I haven’t used Vista so perhaps it is fixed… perhaps never broken… maybe for me it’s all about the perception.

    Anyway… I thought the Mojave experiment set a terrible tone for Vista. The Seinfeld ads may have gone somewhere useful, but I’m sure that cancelling after 2 ads removed any benefit. The latest “I’ve been stereotyped” I kinda like.

    On to Vista and it’s issues….

    The more I look at what Microsoft did with Vista, the more I understand what Apple has said about Snow Leopard. Microsoft wanted to break from the past with Vista with some fundamental underlying changes that built for the future - and they also wanted to redefine this amazing new system. So people jumped to the amazing new system and their software wasn’t ready, their hardware wasn’t supported, they didn’t have enough ram. All things that I’m assuming are fixed right about now.

    Perhaps Apple has been watching and learning. When Apple jumps to their new underlying system it will not look any different to Leopard. Apple won’t push anyone to change. People with appropriate hardware and software will change to get the 64bit speed increase. It’s a nice ‘soft’ release… and a year down the track can be the foundation for something far more functional.

    The only problem I have with my thoughts is that I’m not sure what substantial underlying rebuild could be big enough that Apple might prefer to hide it. New file system (distributed?/in the cloud?/object based?/database?/zfs?)? - perhaps an entirely online model? (or where our local machine is only ever a snapshot of our master online data).
    DRM’d apps? I run out of ideas.

    Greg Alexander had this to say on Sep 24, 2008 Posts: 228
  • The problem with MS vs. Apple is that MS is a software company while Apple is a solutions company, where a solution is hardware, software, and service.  The few times that MS tried to provide service, few were willing to become even more encumbered with a “walled garden” solution because MS did NOT provide the hardware, and did not control it—thus did not control the user experience.
    Apple, in contrast, controls the user experience completely, starting with the style (aka “sex appeal”) of the hardware, the usability of the software, and the reliability of the service. 
    No matter that Apple may have stumbled on their launch in the area of reliability (this stuff is hard, you know?), most consumers recognize when the solution is high-quality.
    So, ads won’t change the perception that MS sells parts and not solutions.  MS must change their approach to business in the modern software world—and sell solutions.  For a good model other than Apple, they should check out IBM.

    aks had this to say on Oct 03, 2008 Posts: 4
  • Oh.. I forgot to mention that when MS tried to provide their own HW, via Zune, they didn’t get the user experience right—which not only includes appearance, usability and content, but also includes import, export, and accessibility.

    All of these factors are related, and if you have superior delivery in most of them, the others can be less important.

    For example, Apple—now being the market leader in portable music players and online music downloads—does not need to focus on lots of export features—which is why they provide only a simple, not-very-easy-to-use conversion to MP3 feature in iTunes.

    MS, in contrast and with uncharacteristic position in the OS and office software market, does have to provide lots of import and export features, in order to make it easy for people to switch to their service, and to reassure them that they won’t be stuck.  It’s one thing to be “stuck” with the best service, but it’s altogether another thing to be stuck with an also-ran service.

    Until you are the best, you must try to outperform the competition in all areas.  Just like Avis used to say: “We’re #2—we try harder!”.  And, in the music download business, MS is not even #2..

    aks had this to say on Oct 03, 2008 Posts: 4
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