If I Were Microsoft

Bill’s baby has been struggling recently to figure out how to sell itself to consumers. The company has come to realize that they’re slowly (very, very slowly) starting to lose a battle they didn’t know they were in, and which they thought they had won, with their only real competitor in the operating system business.

Linux, of course, is out there and readily available in a number of different forms, but whose mom or dad is considering switching from Windows to Linux? They don’t need to worry about that in the hearts and minds of the average consumer. They need to worry about Apple.
So the first thing they did was attempt to make some weird, nonsense, “funny” ads starring Jerry Seinfeld and Bill Gates as Jerry Seinfeld and Bill Gates. The two ads I saw pointed out that neither Jerry Seinfeld nor Bill Gates has any idea what it’s like to be human. They’re so rich, so famous and so removed from anything the rest of us deal with that they need to comically insert themselves into the lives of “average Americans” to get back in touch with what it means to be white, middle class and suburban.

How this, in any way, endears them or Microsoft to the buying public eludes me entirely. It’s awkward, it’s embarrassing, and it does more to point out how out of touch they are in their little bullet-proof glass cage than it does to show us all how they know who we are, what we do, and how they can make life and leisure easier and more fun.

I am now an Apple user for one main reason: Windows Vista sucks. You cannot convince me that it doesn’t suck. I’ve used it, or tried to, and I hated it. Because it sucks. It’s a bloated, candy-coated operating system that tries to anticipate me rather than let me rule my own computer use. It’s not a teacher taking me by the hand and showing me a better way, it’s a 4-year-old stumbling around and shouting and it gets in my way a lot more often than it acts cute.

Prior to the Seinfeld failure, Microsoft had an online viral campaign that attempted to show that Vista isn’t bad, that it’s really, really good and that they can fool people into thinking it’s something it’s not by showing them pieces of it without letting them touch it. Those of us who have actually tried to use it know better.

It sucks.

Digging out of that hole is impossible. I’m sure their ad agency has told them the only way to fight this fire is by ignoring it and going in another direction, so now we have them actively trying to counteract Apple’s on-going and successful “I’m a Mac” campaign with their own “I’m a PC” campaign, attempting to show that PC users don’t all look like John Hodgman and they do things like grow beards, support John McCain, build houses out of shrubs and wear glasses.

Wow. So entirely wrong. Again!

Microsoft, if you’re listening, here’s what you want to do: You know all those cool things you were showing people in that viral campaign that we couldn’t see? The things that they all thought were so cool? The things, apparently, you’re doing such an awful job of explaining to us all in simple, clear, easy to understand terms?

Show them to us. In simple, clear, easy to understand terms. Don’t compare yourself to Apple. That’s a dumb way to go. Apple needs to compare themselves to you because they’re the underdog. You’re not the underdog, but now you’re acting like you’ve already lost. Frankly, you’re not going to get me — or people like me — back. You already did lose us. But if you’re trying to convince other people you’re cool, you have to walk the walk. What did those people actually see? Show that to us, rather than their reaction to it. One bite-sized chunk at a time. “Look at this! This is cool!” And show us what that is.

Stop with the parade of faces and the weird “we’re normal” campaigns. Get back to the product. If you stand behind Vista, then sell it to us based on its merits.

And by the way? This doesn’t help. If you’re not going to use your own software, at least use your own OS.

September 19, 2008

One response to If I Were Microsoft

  1. Y’know, part of me thinks that this is, in fact, a very subtle effort on the part of MS’s ad agency to actually promote Apple on MS’s dime. And if so, I think they’re succeeding.

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