What 300mil can and cannot buy

August 26, 2008

I like Seinfeld.  Watch his re-runs all the time.  This does not necessarily mean that he may bias my opinions or anyone’s opinion on the merits of Vista.  Marketing has the odd concept of a testimonial.  “I’m famous and I use this deodorant.  You want to stay unfamous and lame and smelly?  Then keep using the deodorant you’re using.  Otherwise be like me and be awesome and smell awesome.”  Why this works is beyond me, but it does.  Apparently Sinbad was already busy.  Hint for MS:  Everyone who will fall in love with your Seinfeld commercials already uses your products and doesn’t need reinforcement.  The influential and desirable demographic is busy buying Apple hardware and then installing KDE on it.  They don’t care about 90’s comedians.  What does the Onion think?

In the months before Vista launched, I pointed out their missteps in needless product complexity, reduction of compelling purchase reasons, unrealistic price points and confusing/misleading hardware capability programs.  Now they’re at it again.  Is it that MS doesn’t understand how to run as a monopoly or that they simply don’t want to be viewed as one and act out as if they’re not?

Despite an incredible leverage in hardware pre-installation that KDE would love to have, MS still has questionable sales figures, that are getting worse as time goes on.  What to do?  Spend 300 million.  That’s genius.  Imagine how much better a product could become with an R&D investment of a third of a billion dollars.  Whoa, wait…they’re just going to spend that on marketing?  I’m reminded of the business (looking to improve their image) that spent $150,000 advertising that they donated $10,000.  MS is basically cutting a huge government stimulus check because they don’t know what else to do.

A site recently posted a commentary that is pretty close to my own sentiment.  The only difference is that the hired marketing firm is IMO pretty damn talented.  Rule #1:  A market leader never notes that a second place business exists.  You’re too busy leading.  You set the landscape, and force others in the sector to react and adapt.  They stood flatfooted while Apple had a free 24-month pass to insult them and double their market share.  Now they’re paying through the nose to try and undo that damage.  And how?  With the message that the consumers’ opinion and perception is wrong.  You can’t make this up.  Have you seen the initial proposed slogan “At one point, everyone thought the world was flat.”  I still question whether that was real simply because of the lunacy.  No wonder the MWG sucks.  We never even considered, “You’re wrong.  KDE 4.0 is totally awesome and full featured and stable and perfect.  You just don’t get it.  You will eventually.”

So what has MS been up to?  A failed takeover a Yahoo spoiled by Google.  Twice.  Customers begging to downgrade your OS en masse.  A gaming console that got beat badly by one competitor (Wii) and got the wrong HD format compared to your rival (PS3).  A sad media player (Zune) that’s on its swan song already.  A mobile platform that is inching toward irrelevance.  A bland Vista service pack.  A non-starter for a rich media alternative (Silverlight).  Bribing voters to adopt a stillborn office format as a stalling tactic.  Touting a main Windows 7 feature (multitouch), which is already commonplace.  And if continually losing the most important desktop battleground (browser) weren’t enough, their competitor has to drag them kicking and screaming forward. Oh yeah, and they’re trying to dis-incent a booming sub notebook market they can’t compete in.

And they’ve let Apple and Free Software alternatives have multiple version releases let alone multiple press releases.  But fear not: They have 9 women trying to make a baby in one month.  Yes, a team of 2,500 will use tenacity and brute force to make things right, in addition to 300mil of telling you your perceptions are wrong.  At some point, the metric of employees is like the metric of lines of code: in a vacuum, the statistic is meaningless.  Great news: They have roughly 100 employees working on “Core User Experience.”  I assume that team makes heavy use of aromatherapy and does detailed analyses of median user chakra values.  Another supposed 100 putting the fun and mental into “Fundamentals.”  Any potentially 300 on various networking teams?  How many does it take to write an NDISWapper?  You declare that your lessons are both to be more open and communicative during releases and to have shorter release cycles (both admirable – where’d they get those ideas?), but still tell consumers to buy Vista now and not listen to all the supposed cool mind boggling stuff coming out just around the corner?  Better get Cosby.  No one short of Cosby will help sell that contradiction.

Don’t for an instant underestimate a monopoly that knows it’s struggling and directionless.  But also don’t believe that 300mil can buy credibility.  In the game of perception being greater than reality, no one views MS as a thought leader or innovation leader.  And overspending to insult users with fading stars doesn’t change that fact, it reinforces it.  They should be thankful their stock price is even roughly the same as it was 24 months ago.

Rambling done.  Sleep time.


8 Responses to “What 300mil can and cannot buy”

  1. Ioannis Gyftos Says:

    Nicely written. Good work.

  2. GreenPeace Says:

    Man, I wish to say:
    You suck, You have never been involved in production organisation that work and serve many peoples and use windows on computers. If you would ever try to change MSOffice on OpenOffice in real serious organisation you’ll never say all those things.
    About “no innovation”: plasma visual design (borders around widget) that was at least not same as on 3 years old vista looks same since kde4.1 (kde artmakers, if you rip, then rip it good, vista borders still looks beter.)

    Innovative… do you ever know how hard is it to keep all the things stable and do such things as kde3-kde4 transition at the same time? It is impossible.

    So once more time, you just suck, not MS, not kde, not me, it’s you who shouldn’t exist.

  3. Ian Monroe Says:

    Seinfeld isn’t a sports star, they are hiring him since he is a subtle comedian, like the one they had before to advertise Vista.

    But yea I mostly agree with your ramble. 🙂

  4. maninalift Says:

    That’s awesome. I just hope that somehow they can pull together congruent vision.

    Perhaps we should have a sweepstake on how many gig this thing will take for an standard install.

  5. T. J. Brumfield Says:

    Absolutely great post.

    As for GreenPeace, I’ve had to work at major corporations, and each department/group ends up having their own budget, which means upgrades happen at different times. So we have people using Office 97 interacting with users using Office 2007, and trying to edit the same files. It doesn’t work so well.

    To that extent, and the massive cost of upgrading everyone to an Office 2007 license ($400 a pop, plus upgrading thousands of PCs to be able to run Office 2007) our company is now beginning to seriously consider OpenOffice.

  6. GreenPeace Says:

    Ok. sorry, I see you are not one of OOS religious, but see, from MSOffice97 to Office2007 ten years passed.
    You know, organisation always put some money every month to replace old software or hardware, so it is not 400$ at once for every workplace. It is 40$ per year for the work place. And any workplace gives more profit in one day or week.

  7. Padma Says:

    GreenPeace: Have you ever worked in the real world? Every place I’ve ever worked, it’s always been “upgrade everything at once”. And then they find out how much it costs, so they upgrade this group now, that group in a few months, etc. Until they get the last upgrade done, at which time they start upgrading the first group to the *next* big thing. So nothing is ever in sync.

    Where I work right now, I am blessed(?) by everyone running the same version of Windows (XP) and the same version of Office (2003). There are absolutely no plans to “upgrade” to Vista. Ever. My last job is *still* running Windows 2000 / Office 2000, trying to hold on for Windows 7. (And it’s a major organization – several thousand employees on site.) It’s either that, or they’ll throw up their hands and switch completely to UNIX/Linux. Everything important they do is already on there.

  8. leo_rockway Says:

    @GreenPeace: KDE and GNU/Linux are mostly done by voluntary work, Vista was done by the biggest, richest corporation on earth.

    Vista sucks (I’ve tried, it does suck) and GNU/Linux with KDE (the one people don’t pay for and was done with voluntary work) is a million times better… is there something weird in that picture or is it me?

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