It's not often that one compares Microsoft to Gordon Brown but that's the comparison that struck me this week.
Just as our beleaguered prime minister struggled with the task of reviving a government perceived as a lost cause by just about everybody, so are the marketing bods at Microsoft faced with the prospect of reviving Vista - seen as a lost cause by just about everybody.
The problem that Gordon Brown is facing is that there is little that he can do to correct people's impression that he is a dour, humourless Scot who has had a charisma by-pass. So, even in a week where he can present encouraging statistics on the fall of crime, he is savagely kicked between the legs by the voters in a solidly Labour seat - the equivalence of being butted in the bollocks by your favourite child.
Microsoft has a similar problem. The company can produce all the statistics it likes about how Vista has now been widely accepted, or that it’s the top operating system for security problems but the fact remains that, as Forrester analyst, Thomas Mendel says, users are treating Vista like new coke.
That’s how the Mojave Experiment came about: Microsoft took a selection of users and told them they were getting a hush-hush preview of the company’s newest version of Windows, after establishing that most of them rated Vista lower than Michael Vaughan’s current batting average.
Needless to say, after seeing Vista, all of them couldn’t think of enough nice things to say about it (you can bet that Microsoft would have kept quiet about it if they hadn’t - it would have been the company’s very own Roswell).
What’s really interesting about this experiment is the way that it almost reinforces the view that what matters is marketing. We may like to think that it’s about products, about features and about technology but the sizzle matters just as much as the sausage - as the advertising drones would have it. It’s clear that the there’s much more call for Vista than the sales figures would have us believe.
However, Microsoft can’t really take much comfort from this. Persuading a few people in a controlled experiment that Vista has much to offer is one thing, persuading thousands of enterprises is another. And no matter how many times Microsoft talks up the benefits of Vista, there’s always someone around to slag it off, as once the negative kicks in, there’s little that can be done to turn things around. Just ask Gordon Brown.
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