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.