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  • Microsoft Resorts to Desperate Measures to Boost Vista

    August 21st, 2008

    Imagine if you were the CEO of the world’s largest software company, and that some of your products had shares of upwards of 90% in certain market segments. You are sitting at the top of the mountain, reasonably secure in your knowledge that there were no credible competitors out there, and that your place in the sun was assured.

    Then along comes an aging but still scrappy upstart, one whom you thought you’d defeated long ago, poised for battle all over again. Can you just use your marketing muscle and huge wad of cash to stomp out that tiny offender before they gain too much traction?

    That, of course, becomes complicated when the companies in question are Microsoft and Apple. Because of ongoing antitrust issues, and the fact that they earn plenty of high-profit cash from Macs, Microsoft has been pulling its punches. Some believe they could easily vanquish Apple if they wanted, or at least so they say.

    In the real world, Microsoft may have grown too fat and too confident, because they clearly believed that Windows Vista would conquer the operating system market as thoroughly as its predecessors. While they remain dominant, there are huge chinks in their considerably thick, overweight armor. Vista, alas, has proven to be one huge, bloated and expensive albatross.

    Many companies that might have migrated to Vista in the normal course of events, which includes periodic PC replacements, have opted to stick with Windows XP, which is pretty fast, pretty reliable and has been tested and proven in businesses both large and small. They’d rather stick with the devil they know than take a chance on the uncertainties of testing, hardening and deploying a new operating system that would, alas, also require some degree of employee retraining.

    Of course, Microsoft is trying to put forward its best spin on this holy disaster. They tell us about the huge number of sales recorded for Vista, ignoring the fact that these numbers are based on PCs that were licensed to include that operating system. They don’t really want to talk about the millions that were promptly downgraded to XP.

    Oh, sure, in the consumer space, the average Windows user will stick with the operating system that came on the new PC, except for a small number of power users. Chalk up another sale for Microsoft, even if its a forced purchase, more or less.

    After all this time, Microsoft is finally trying to reinvigorate Vista with a new advertising campaign. One particularly unfortunate scheme involves giving selected users a chance to work with the system, while giving them the false impression that it’s a brand new, unreleased version of Windows. It’s as if these people are so ignorant they can’t tell the difference, or maybe they are selected from a general consumer-oriented group that has only used XP.

    Of course, a canned demonstration of that sort wouldn’t reveal Vista’s severe system requirements, or the rampant application and driver compatibilities. The hardware would be powerful enough to allow Vista to perform at a pretty good clip, and you can bet any added peripherals would be tested, so there were no unexpected surprises.

    The latest Microsoft scheme involves a new set of ads featuring comedian Jerry Seinfeld and Bill Gates. Now I don’t begrudge Seinfeld’s choice to appear in those ads, since published reports indicate he’s getting a $10 million dpayday. For that amount of money, I’d probably prostitute myself and do a similar set of commercials if there was any demand for my services.

    I suppose Microsoft is hoping name recognition and some cute patter would be sufficient to gain traction and perhaps humanize the ever-geeky Gates. Or could it be that Seinfeld will be the Mac, and Gates the PC?

    In all, Microsoft plans to invest some $300 million into the various facets of this new campaign, and I wonder what good it might do. Certainly with Apple’s Mac versus PC ads, you don’t watch them because you recognize the participants. Although both John Hodgman (the PC) and Justin Long (the Mac) had generous show business backgrounds, they were not exactly household names. So it was possible to suspend your disbelief and accept them in their amusing takes on the infamous computer platform wars.

    The fact that both Hodgman and Long have the acting chops to make these performances work is a tribute to the careful selection process for the right actors, and the excellent scripts.

    However, the presence of Seinfeld, still quite famous despite the fact that his top-rated TV series went off the air some years back, and the most famous former CEO on the planet, may actually detract from the value of those new ads. Besides, since when has Gates been a credible on-air performer? He is not a reincarnation of Lee Iacocca, the former head of Chrysler, or any of the other famous CEO pitch men and women who have done believable ads for their own companies.

    Now maybe I’m wrong about all this. Maybe the onscreen collaboration between Seinfeld and Gates will prove magic. Maybe they will have the perfect chemistry to pull off this stunt.

    Or maybe, as I expect, we’ll forget about those new Microsoft ads seconds after they air, assuming most viewers don’t just fast forward their TiVOs and ignore them altogether.



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    16 Responses to “Microsoft Resorts to Desperate Measures to Boost Vista”

    1. Jim says:

      Para. 10, sentence 2: dpayday should be payday.

      “For that amount of money, I’d probably prostitute myself and do a similar set of commercials if there was any demand for my services.” Of course you wouldn’t, you are a paragon of honor and sense. That’s why we love you.

    2. Para. 10, sentence 2: dpayday should be payday.

      “For that amount of money, I’d probably prostitute myself and do a similar set of commercials if there was any demand for my services.” Of course you wouldn’t, you are a paragon of honor and sense. That’s why we love you.

      Well, perhaps. But doesn’t everyone have a price? 🙂

      Peace,
      Gene

    3. MichaelT says:

      I don’t know…I think this will give the I’m a Mac campaign another opportunity. Imagine PC coming out dressed like Mac, saying something like, “I’m just like you, Mac.” “Oh, you can run Leopard with its iLife suite as well as running Windows?” “Well, no, but look—I’m dressed like you. I’m cool now.” Or whatever. I’ll leave it to the pros, and they’ll do much better than that, but you get the idea.

      I imagine the Vista ads will be creative, memorable, and well-done—worthy of Crispin Porter, and I believe they will change some minds about Vista. But I also think it will be gold for Apple.

    4. Microsoft still has to approve the ads, and they have problems with such concepts as “creative, memorable, and well-done…”

      😀

      Peace,
      Gene

    5. Louis Wheeler says:

      Gene said:
      “Well, perhaps. But doesn’t everyone have a price?”

      No, Gene, some people don’t have a price.

      Rudy Gulliani returned the 10 million dollars that a Saudi Arabian Prince tried to give him after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York City.

      It was guilt money, Gene, so Rudy couldn’t keep it. Fourteen of the nineteen 9/11 terrorists were subjects of Saudi Arabia. There was some question, at the time, whether the Saudi government was involved. He had to return the money to keep his self respect.

      Some people have principles, Gene. They have moral or ethical qualms. But, that means they must have morals or ethics to start with. Someone who is a Relativist, and most people on the Left qualify for that, is driven by expediency. What they said in the 1960s was “If it feels good–do it!”

      A mature person might know that a bargain with the Devil– that is, a moral or ethical compromise– never pays off. The Devil always wins, so it is best not to play. But… you have to believe that there IS a devil– First.

      Lou

    6. Or some consequence for the things you do.

      Remember, also, what Gulliani did was an act of ethics, and conscience and certainly a recognition of the political realities. That’s not the same thing as an individual being offered an awesome amount of money do perform a task they might otherwise object to.

      Peace,
      Gene

    7. auramac says:

      Is it possible Gulliani returned the money to avoid political fallout while simultaneously scoring points? Rudy “911” Gulliani, the Great Calculator. “A noun, a verb, and 911.”

      What if by some accident the ads are great? Would they be effective- or not?….

    8. Louis Wheeler says:

      Having morals and ethics make us do what is good for our long term interest. It is usually better to give up our short term selfish interests, which are the result of emotions: anger, fear or greed.

      Yes, Guiliani bowed to the political realities. If he had taken the money, it would have been thrown in his face constantly. There is no conflict between this and what was moral. A moral life is usually more peaceful.

      Gene said,
      “That’s not the same thing as an individual being offered an awesome amount of money do perform a task they might otherwise object to.”

      We are all tempted by life, Gene. We are all sinners. What your phrase, “Doesn’t everyone have a price?” does is to assume that everyone is weak and gives into temptation. This is not so. Some people have been weak and learned that weakness causes later pain.

      It is dangerous to excuse our sins. That way, we constantly repeat them until our sins destroy us.

    9. Is it possible Gulliani returned the money to avoid political fallout while simultaneously scoring points? Rudy “911” Gulliani, the Great Calculator. “A noun, a verb, and 911.”

      What if by some accident the ads are great? Would they be effective- or not?….

      And it still didn’t get him the presidential nomination. Oh well. 🙂

      In any case, even if the ads are great, they would have to contain a core element of truth to be effective. You can say that Apple’s own Mac versus PC ads are simplistic, and perhaps they, as ads do, exaggerate some basic truths and move them into some gray areas. In the end, though, if the Windows Vista ads make erroneous or just basically misleading claims, people will know from their own experiences whether to fast forward through them or not when they come on again.

      Peace,
      Gene

    10. Louis Wheeler says:

      auramac said:
      “Is it possible Gulliani returned the money to avoid political fallout while simultaneously scoring points? ”

      Yes, but some people will call him a fool for NOT taking the money.

      “Rudy “911? Gulliani, the Great Calculator. “A noun, a verb, and 911.”

      Accepting the money would have tarnished any political image that Guiliani might have had from performing well during 9/11.

      Was the act of returning the money the result of morality or of enlightened self interest? What if it was both? They do not necessarily conflict. It may be your prejudices that cause you to assume one cause over another.

      “What if by some accident the ads are great? Would they be effective-or not?….”

      Great, in ads, usually means effective. Truth in ads is often by accident.

      But, all jokes must have an “element of perceived truth” to be funny. I use the phrase “perceived truth,” because that could be no more than a long term prejudice. The “Big Lie” technique does work. If you tell a lie big enough and long enough, some fools will come to believe it.

    11. Louis Wheeler says:

      Gene said:
      “You can say that Apple’s own Mac versus PC ads are simplistic, and perhaps they, as ads do, exaggerate some basic truths and move them into some gray areas. In the end, though, if the Windows Vista ads make erroneous or just basically misleading claims, people will know from their own experiences whether to fast forward through them or not when they come on again.”

      Advertisements are designed to be simplistic. They present an image of a company or product; one that many people, their opponents, especially, can quibble with.

      The ads must contain some element of truth or people will sarcastically turn against them. Campbell’s soup has used “Mmmm Mmmm Good” for forty years. The advertising people try, in vain, to get Campbell’s to change it, because it is so boring. What Campbell’s advertisement does is to reinforce the good feelings that people already have for the product.

      What Apple’s “Get a mac” ads do is strike back at the FUD that Microsoft and its pundit allies have promoted over the years. It does so light heartedly, so any exaggerations do not rebound on Apple. All Apple’s ads do is attempt to remind the people already disgusted by Wintel that there is an alternative. The people who are mentally flexible, usually the young, will respond to the ads. But, this is for nought unless Apple delivers a better system than Wintel. It does. And that is why Apple is growing so quickly on campus’.

      Microsoft has some real problems here. Its Brand has been seriously damaged by Vista. Knocking Apple will not work any more. Bitter, bitting humor will backlash.

      I will reserve judgement until I see Microsoft’s ads, but they have an uphill battle here. Money may not necessarily do it. Ford spent $50 million to advertise the Edsel and it became a joke.

    12. auramac says:

      Could be the people most affected by the ad campaign would be those convinced to finally switch from XP to Vista and the consequent fallout from entering that nightmare. The Apple Mac-PC commercials would take on a whole new resonance.

    13. Andrew says:

      My guess is that the ads will be very good, after Jerry Seinfeld is an extremely funny guy. John Hodgeman is a terrific comedian as well, and he absolutely makes Apple’s campaign work.

      Of course the real question isn’t how good the ads will be, but whether those ads will really change people’s minds. Some people likely do fall for advertising and buy what the commercial tells them to buy. Others already know what they want and no amount of advertising or even logic will change their minds.

    14. Ilgaz says:

      There is a horrible mistake on using Mr. Seinfeld as the star as everyone watching Seinfeld knows Seinfeld (the virtual one) is a die hard Mac user buying the latest model every year. For people who would say “It must be put there by Apple”, no it is not. First of all, Apple was in edge of disaster let alone paying a top rated show for product placement.

      I assume Seinfeld himself is a Mac user too, he has that kind of life to begin with. Of course in the light of $50M, it can’t be proven 🙂

      These people are “less BS, more work” guys. I don’t think Seinfeld is a guy to upgrade to Vista to get latest DirectX 10 🙂 Even if he uses Windows, it would be classic interface which (rumoured) doesn’t exist in Vista. I am still suspecting/hoping it is a false rumour, even MS can’t make such a bigot mistake of not keeping Classic theme.

      BTW Apple’s ads claiming too much saying people: I have heard “It just works” in turkish from turkish people who never cared to watch Apple ads and they happily paid the Apple 30% more which they say (after 1 months usage), it totally deserves and they wasted years with Microsoft. I think it could be a nice info for you. Especially considering Apple Turkey which is famous for translating exact dollar price to Euro and selling macs that way.

    15. Andrew says:

      I use classic interface in Vista and it works great.

      By the way, Apple most definitely WAS paying for product placement even in the dark days. Look at movies from the time like “Independance Day” and the very prominent placement of a PowerBook 5300.

    16. I use classic interface in Vista and it works great.

      By the way, Apple most definitely WAS paying for product placement even in the dark days. Look at movies from the time like “Independance Day” and the very prominent placement of a PowerBook 5300.

      Yes, that’s when a PowerBook saved the planet. 🙂

      Peace,
      Gene

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