Can Microsoft Save Itself, Or Is It Too Late?

Even as a self-confessed Microsoft fan boy, I have to admit that Windows Vista is one catastrophe that can’t be saved by a $300 million advertising campaign.

I’ve been following Microsoft’s $300 million dollar counter attack on Apple’s “Mac vs PC” campaign with interest. And whilst it’s taken some time, it’s good to finally see Microsoft on the front foot. Here’s a snippet of their ad creative.

The disappointing thing is that this new campaign has a snowflake’s chance in hell of actually working.

Here’s why …

5 Reasons Why This Vista Campaign Is Doomed

  1. The “Mac vs PC” Campaign Speaks Directly to its Demographic.

    Apple’s “Mac vs PC” campaign worked because it leveraged a sentiment that already existed — the appeal of being a little bit different, a lot more fun, and a lot less “suit and tie.” They (very cleverly) positioned a Mac as being a “PC for real people” and executed a stellar campaign consistent with their brand. The campaign spoke to us with a voice we’d expect from Apple, so when they told us why the Mac was better, in their own cheeky and humorous way, we believed them and people lapped it up.

    On the other hand, Microsoft has worn the grey suit-and-tie of corporatism for years now. Many people see Microsoft as a corporate giant, while Apple is viewed as a regular company. Like it or not, people generally don’t like being told what’s what by a big corporate, and amongst those people are a bunch of vocal influencers who will scream their disdain for Microsoft until they’re red in the face and can scream no more.

    So when Microsoft tries to tell us that Vista is great (and does so in a way that is unexpected from the corporate giant) those dissenters will be rebutted with cries of “We once believed the guy who told us the earth was flat! We’re not going to make the same mistake again!

  2. Tit-for-Tat Tactics Rarely Works for the Retaliator.

    Apple got in first with a great campaign — going into a tit-for-tat battle with them on their home turf will take a lot of money, a lot of time, and some seriously good technology to back them up. Whilst $300 million may sound like a lot for you and me, in the battle of big business it’s a drop in the ocean. As for the technology, well the jury’s still out …

  3. It’s Just Taken Too Long to Respond.

    The slow moving beast that is the Microsoft marketing department needs to realise that if they’re going to counter attack, they need to do it fast before their enemy has established a stronghold.

    Oh, to have been a fly on the wall during the raging debates at Microsoft over whether they should piss in Apple’s pond to beat them at their own game! But the hesitation they’ve shown in addressing “the Apple problem” will cost them …

  4. Microsoft Doesn’t Have the Brand Advocacy It Needs, and This Campaign Won’t Change That.

    I was born into a Microsoft world, as were many of my friends and colleagues. Perhaps you were too? Our first computers ran MS-DOS and Windows, as did our schools, and our offices. We embraced it as part of the personal computer revolution — we didn’t change because we were too ignorant to care, or too cash-strapped to seek alternatives. Over time, Microsoft products became part of our lives.

    Today, those of us who remain Microsoft users do so simply because it’s comfortable. Changing to another operating system seems like too much hard work.

    Translating this mindset into brand advocacy terms produces key influencers like “it’s in my comfort zone”, or “it’s forced on me through work” rather than “this product is something I really believe in”.

    But those who do make the switch to a Mac (or even to Linux), regardless of whether the decision was the result of marketing hype or because of thorough research, made that choice themselves. This is a key difference affecting how that user describes their operating system to others.

    For example, if you’ve switch from a PC to a Mac, but your Mac experience is actually much the same (or worse) than your experience on the PC, then you’re likely to keep your mouth shut. You wouldn’t want to admit that you made a poor choice and show everyone how wrong you were!

    If, however, you rate your Mac experience as the best you’ve ever had, then you’re going to tell anyone who will listen just how good that product is, to show them how smart you are.

    Once again, if we were to translate this into brand advocacy terms, you’re operating either out of fear of admitting a bad choice, or from an association of a shared experience of pure elation. So those who are unhappy people keep their mouth shut, and the people who are excited, make sure it’s known. No wonder we read so much good press about the Mac.

  5. The Product Just Isn’t Good Enough.

    I’m a simple PC user. I barely tap the surface of my computer’s potential. My satisfaction from an operating system is based on three simple things:

    1. Does it work when I need it?
    2. Does it help me complete the tasks I have today?
    3. Is it easy to learn how to complete new tasks that come my way?

    I’m sad to say that so far my Vista experience has been a resounding “No” for all three of these questions. And I’m the fan boy.

    Given that I feel this negatively about Vista, and that the majority of people with whom I discuss this topic also seem to feel this way, I can only conclude that there is something very wrong with Vista.

First of a series? We’ll see…

This first round of ads looks like the emergence of a series of ”false-belief” analogies. I’d be very surprised to see them get to round two. Perhaps Apple will come up with its own marketing campaign to counter this approach, thus putting the nail in the coffin for Vista?

What do you think? Can Microsoft save itself, or is it too late?

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  • http://srirangan.net Srirangan

    Apple.com

    July 21, 2008—Apple® today announced financial results for its fiscal 2008 third quarter ended June 28, 2008. The Company posted revenue of $7.46 billion and net quarterly profit of $1.07 billion, or $1.19 per diluted share.

    Microsoft.com

    Microsoft Corp. today announced third-quarter revenue, operating income and diluted earnings per share of $14.45 billion, $4.41 billion and $0.47, respectively.

    Microsoft’s net revenue is double of Apple’s. Microsoft’s profits are more that four times that of Apple. These are earnings results dated July 2008.

    “Can Microsoft Save Itself, Or Is It Too Late?”

    Sitepoint really needs objective and neutral bloggers else it loses credibility.

  • http://www.sitepoint.com ShayneTilley

    did you just read the title and comment or did you read the post? I’m referring to a marketing campaign. But anyway year-on-year growth, Microsoft revenue (+18%) Apple (+38%). Diluted earnings per share year-on-year Microsoft (+32%) Apple (+40%), so yeah Microsoft’s overall revenue and earnings are higher, but the year-on-year % growth is not.

  • http://srirangan.net Srirangan

    did you just read the title and comment or did you read the post?

    I did read your post. But you are right, the title indeed has got nothing to do with the rest of the post.

    Percentages make no sense. Given the kind of volumes Microsoft operates with, nobody could do a 40% growth on that. Apple down 10 years can’t do the same growth figures, given that their volumes would be so much greater than what it is now.

    And. It is not too late. Microsoft doesn’t need to save itself because the figure you and I quoted show that it is doing rather well.

    – Sri

  • http://xslt2processor.sourceforge.net boen_robot

    Windows Vista != Microsoft

    People will keep using Windows XP until something better comes along their way. Even if Microsoft releases 5 new operating systems (1 every year), people will keep using XP until some of the following happens:

    1. Microsoft not only stops selling Windows XP, but also stops releasing updates for it. They won’t do that though. It would upset their customers way too much to motivate them getting out of their comfort zones, or at least it would upset *me* and all power users enough to do that. And once power users and IT personal are on the same page, getting non-power users to switch is actually a breeze (you won’t believe how sheep like a non-power user is). They must only terminate updates once another OS has reduced XP’s share to 5% or less.

    2. Microsoft bankrupts and thus the coast becomes clear for Apple and Linux. In this event, I’m guessing US will migrate to Apple first, but in my part of the world (Europe) and everything more eastern, I’m guessing Linux (Ubuntu mostly) would have higher dominance, at least at first. That seems unlikely to happen though. The amount of money the corporate giant has is too great to be defeated by a few failed products.

    3. The new OS is better (has “Vista like” features if you will) while still performing as well as XP, or at least as Vista SP1. At the same time, it runs ALL of the big and expensive software from the get go and the popular free software as well (in the case of a free software – including alternatives and promoting them is acceptable too).
    We’ll see how this goes with Windows 7.

  • KimWy66

    You clearly didn’t get the point of the article – it isn’t about saving Microsoft, it’s about saving Vista.

    No ad campaign can achieve the impossible though – Vista is simply awful. It irritates me every time I try and start an application by asking for my permission to continue – sorry, I thought I did that when I clicked on the application. It really gets me going when my wi-fi connection drops, but it tells me there is no need to repair it, so I have to reboot to get wi-fi working again.

    It just gets in the way continually, and that is something no operating system should do. Put it in the Window ME trash basket and get on with something that works please Microsoft.

  • http://www.wyhinfo.com mattcch2007

    “Sitepoint really needs objective and neutral bloggers else it loses credibility.”

    Good words and agree!

    Biasd with profit backend as met mostly this few years!

    Best regards,
    Mattcch2007

  • http://www.jasonbatten.com NetNerd85

    “Sitepoint really needs objective and neutral bloggers else it loses credibility.”

    Never had any with me. This site is going down down down… forums are still okay though. Time for a change…

  • http://www.cemerson.co.uk Stormrider

    I’ve never had a single problem with Vista, everything works fine for me. People complain that windows isn’t secure enough, so they make it more secure, and now people complain that security is too annoying.

    If you don’t want to give permission all the time, turn UAC off and lose all the benefits it brings.

  • http://www.sitepoint.com ShayneTilley

    Thanks for your feedback Jason and Matt — although I’m not sure where the bias comes in. If anything I’m personally biased towards Microsoft and Vista (as I use it). But your both entitled to your opinion.

  • http://www.sitepoint.com ShayneTilley

    The permission based element doesn’t worry me at all to be honest. I only really question why, when it asks for permission on applications that are part of the Vista package, other than I understand why it exists. Out of the 5 reason I mention why this campaign won’t work, the product itself is probably going to be factor that has the least impact, but it still could be better.

  • http://www.tyssendesign.com.au Tyssen

    I’ve never had a single problem with Vista

    Me neither (well at least not since I turned the Aero effects off).

  • Phil

    Until recently I was very wary about Microsoft Vista. However, I needed to buy a new laptop and so had little choice (try getting a full suite of XP drivers for a new Sony laptop….) but to try Vista.

    Here’s the shocker: I love it!

    Honestly, I don’t see what the fuss is about. Yes, occasionally the UAC (requests for authorisation to run a program) can be tedious, but it does not ask for applications you have installed correctly, and if it’s that much of a nuisance to you, why haven’t you just turned it off?!

    The new start menu is great, I find I am more productive with Vista than any other OS I have previously used.

    Oh, and I haven’t run into any speed problems, my battery life is great, and my Wi-Fi is rock steady.

    Perhaps people should consider blaming their hardware before their software…..

    I run Vista Ultimate with the Aero effects.

    (and no, I don’t work for Microsoft.)

  • http://www.cemerson.co.uk Stormrider

    Yup, I run with Aero on as well, and it’s fantastic. Not only does it look nice, it improves usability in several areas, by giving live preview thumbnails of windows when switching tasks or hovering over the buttons, for example. The minimise/maximise/close animations make it very easy to see what is going on as well.

    I actually read somewhere that since Aero uses your GPU, it frees the CPU up more than leaving Aero turned off, so can result in a faster system providing your GPU can handle it (my laptop only has a 128MB graphics card, and handles it fine)

  • http://www.czaries.net Czaries

    I too am running Vista on a laptop due to little initial choice in the matter, and there really are a ton of things I like about it better than XP. I had a few issues after a clean reformat getting some drivers back on and working, but after that it’s been a breeze. I have never had any problems with my wireless connection or the other issues you describe, and I too find the new start menu and folder navigation designs to be a boon to my productivity. UAC is annoying at times when moving files around, but I have never had it come up when launching a program. Vista probably isn’t as good as it should be, and definitely uses more system resources than it should (especially RAM), but for modern computers it’s not really an issue.

  • Isquaretechnologies.com

    We are using Vista and we never had a single problem with them I don’t know why people is addicted so much. It’s a quite good OS

  • williamg

    macs blow

  • KCChiefs

    agree ^

  • KCChiefs

    Oh, and Linux sucks to. It’s been around forever and it’s still not mainstream. Nor will it ever be.

  • honeymonster

    A new OS that is delayed 3+ years is not a success project. A project which had to “reset” to using the Server 2003 as base is a failure. As a project.

    But even a delayed project can deliver a good product. Vista is that. It is easily the most advanced desktop OS around. That is why the competing camps (Linux and Mac) fear it so much that they have to spread FUD about it.

    There no denying that after 6-7 years (3+ years delayed) Vista is a dissapointment in terms of what you would expect. The rushed latter part of the project has also left some usability to be desired, especially when comparing to Macs. But under the hood Vista has nothing to be ashamed over.

    It is indeed funny to read a post such as that of KimWy66 who claims that Vista asks him for permission every time he clicks on an application. It is quite obvious to anyone actually using Vista that he does *not* run Vista. He just read a rant somewhere and now repeats it as if its the truth.

    And that’s why such a campaign may indeed work. Microsoft PR completely dropped the ball on Vista. They were not prepared for massive misinformation campaign launched by their detractors. They’ve done nothing about it until now, allowing the misinformation to settle as “truth” with those who ever only heard one side.

    The myths are knee-high: Vista DRM is responsible for climate change, Vista DRM will not allow you to play your own context at full quality, Vista constantly asks for permissions, Vista is SLOW, Vista gobbles up memory and cannot be executed on anything below 2GB. All of which are lies and misconceptions.

    Vista doesn’t incur any measurable overhead for decrypting DRM protected content, more than any other device would. Vista DRM in only active when playing actually DRMed content. Vista UAC only asks for permission when a process needs elevated rights. Vista is on par or a little faster than XP on performance, also for gaming; Vista actually launches programs and boots faster. Vista runs fine on 1GB (I’m typing this from a Vista running on 1GB Virtual Machine (vmware), single processor on a dual core AMD x64 5000+.

    As is evidenced in this thread, Microsoft may actually also activate the satisfied Vista users. There are many. I myself have been running Vista x64 since around feb 2007. Initially I had Nvidia driver problems which prevented me from playing CS for a few months. Other than that it has been a pleasure. I am aware that pre-SP1 there were a few other bugs, such as the slow file-copy; but they never bit me.

  • http://www.studio-gecko.com/ XLCowBoy

    Amusing how the article talks about MS trying to save its Vista product, and a whole bunch of statisticians and doomsdayer’s jump in.

    We marketing guys don’t like statisticians. You suck the fun out of our jobs. Much like how Accountants suck the fun out of the jobs of operations managers (and they’re a pretty sorry bunch to start – imagine hanging out with them after an audit.)

    Anyhow, back on topic: It’s a $300M Waste. They should have used $300M to promote “Windows Alpha”, because anything with “Vista” on it is already viewed as negative by consumers.

    Heck, if you don’t believe me, try this out: Start a dotcom product, and name it Vista (e.g. Vista-blog), then post on Digg. I promise you that you will not receive encouraging responses.

  • http://srirangan.net Srirangan

    Anyhow, back on topic: It’s a $300M Waste. They should have used $300M to promote “Windows Alpha”, because anything with “Vista” on it is already viewed as negative by consumers.

    You might be a good marketer but you don’t know WHERE the market is.

    Do you think Microsoft’s revenues are driven by purchases by Digg.com users, recently graduated college wannabe hippies and still fall for the marketing hype that Apple Co. churns out every 6 months?

    Corporations worldwide, large and mid sized, buy licenses of Microsoft products in bulk every time there is a new Windows or an Office release. And they have no choice because most of their productivity software is developed for the Microsoft platform. Most of their business happens ON Microsoft based platforms.

    Which is why online RIA/productivity apps are the only real chance of dethroning Microsoft from its dominant position and that explains why Google is investing so heavily in this among others. But then Microsoft too is playing that game with Silverlight albeit far behind Adobe Flex 3 ATM.

    The Apple hype around its products might be great marketing gimmicks but it dies down and the actual consumer needs/demands plays out in the market and, like it or not, that results in driving Microsoft sales upwards.

  • G

    Whoever says Vista is a great operating system is not really a power user or has not seen other operating systems.

    Sure, turning off the Aero effects or the security features make it work a little bit better. But, PEOPLE!!! other operating systems work just fine with even more elaborate graphical displays, better security, and they are FREE!

    Why should we have to pay for mediocrity. As a developer, I would be ashamed of launching such a piece of junk.

    The point is: VISTA SUCKS!!!!!!!!

  • http://www.studio-gecko.com/ XLCowBoy

    You might be a good marketer but you don’t know WHERE the market is.

    Do you think Microsoft’s revenues are driven by purchases by Digg.com users, recently graduated college wannabe hippies and still fall for the marketing hype that Apple Co. churns out every 6 months?

    Corporations worldwide, large and mid sized, buy licenses of Microsoft products in bulk every time there is a new Windows or an Office release. And they have no choice because most of their productivity software is developed for the Microsoft platform. Most of their business happens ON Microsoft based platforms.

    Which is why online RIA/productivity apps are the only real chance of dethroning Microsoft from its dominant position and that explains why Google is investing so heavily in this among others. But then Microsoft too is playing that game with Silverlight albeit far behind Adobe Flex 3 ATM.

    The Apple hype around its products might be great marketing gimmicks but it dies down and the actual consumer needs/demands plays out in the market and, like it or not, that results in driving Microsoft sales upwards.

    So where is it that you and I disagree?

    Obviously, the companies have not been buying in bulk, mainly because of the way Microsoft marketed Vista. There were how many versions? Was it 6? (I can’t even recall).

    While I do not disagree that MS is definitely a major player, it does not void the fact that $300M could have been better spent elsewhere.

    Do you think a business will simply eat MS’s marketing campaign? They will still ask outside opinions if they should upgrade. Since Vista STILL has compatibility headaches, and anything attached to the word Vista is associated with negative productivity, 8/10 times, these opinions will go against Vista.

    $300M could have been better spent on helping companies upgrade, or giving Windows 7 the early push: get companies excited on how it utilizes modern tech, but maintains a VM platform for legacy software (for example).

    Apple won the OSX vs Vista battle. Their campaign was incredibly destructive for MS’s new OS in the eyes of the public – e.g. people (companies ARE made up of people y’know.)

    Spending $300M to resurrect a dead horse is a waste of money. The end.

    ———————————-

    O.T.

    You, dear sir, have a tendency of underestimating the competency of those who visit Sitepoint. I humbly suggest you curb your confrontational nature, lest you rather be dismissed as a nuisance, instead of somebody who obviously has some knowledge.

  • http://srirangan.net Srirangan

    Apple won the OSX vs Vista battle. Their campaign was incredibly destructive for MS’s new OS in the eyes of the public – e.g. people (companies ARE made up of people y’know.)

    Have they? Let’s see which sells more. I’m putting my money on Vista. :)

    PS: I’m sorry if I am coming off as “confrontational”. Not my intention.

  • ElvIsAlive

    the fun part is the real smart people are useing mac osx10 with there pc allready
    its known as a hackintosh – and as long as you purchase osx10 retail from apple – ya fully legal in my books
    intel wont upgrade to vista is the final nail in the coffin for msoft
    if you buy a ipod or iphone ya end up needed ox10

    why do you think bill gates run away from msoft, he not dumb or is he
    its steve jobs turn and he winning big time

    clever steve got the hackers working out the pc part driver problems for the last 4 years

    os x 10 go no virus problems and ya dont get hacked on the net – osx10 is sitting on top of unix and thats what the isp useing

    so expect ya internet to fly fast with osx10 and it does too

    apple must signed a agreement not to release osx10 to pc users for 5 years when msoft and ibm saved the company

    but that did not stop the hackers modding osx10 to work on ya pc perfect and fully able to now load osx10 cd orignal on a pc

    too funny hey what ya know and what ya dont know hahaha vista is real crap and osx10 is way way ahead.

    apple are going to kill them – to hackintosh ya pc goto and leo4all does it without any command line crap

    just remmber to buy a orignal osx10 cd from apple and enjoy .

  • Sargon

    Yes, this article should have been titled, “Can Microsoft Save Vista”. I was prepared to write a complete diatribe of how failed Microsoft could save itself – not just Vista, that is only a small fraction of a greater problem.

  • http://www.cemerson.co.uk Stormrider

    the fun part is the real smart people are useing mac osx10 with there pc allready
    its known as a hackintosh – and as long as you purchase osx10 retail from apple – ya fully legal in my books

    No, it still isn’t legal even if you buy OSX, you can only run it on Apple hardware. Macs are basically a dumbed down version of unix, with an awful and outdated filesystem. If you are a power user, its just a bit rubbish really, it is a watered down OS for people who don’t know how to use a computer.

    The rest of your post just shows how little you know about Vista, Microsoft and the state of various operating system in general.

  • http://www.cemerson.co.uk Stormrider

    Oh and as for secure, Apple are pretty awful at patching their products, far more than anyone else. OSX DOES have problems, as does unix (like the whole Debian random number generator fiasco a few months ago), and Apple customer service is amongst the worst I have ever used.

    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/08/01/osx_still_vulnerable/

  • faramarz

    For years, I have tried to switch from Microsoft to another OS. I tried many different OSes. Linux was the best but not for a desktop PC, I prefer to use it on a server and access it through my trusty putty terminal on my good old gateway laptop running windows XP. I have tried vista, I liked it but still there are not enough reasons to make me switch. I have seen Mac OS and liked it very much, i think my new laptop would be a mac, not because mac is cooler, or has more features or because microsoft is corrupted and evil, simply because it would runs vista and linux too, so I won’t have a problem to switch if I ever wanted to.
    Apple has the eye candy and is using it against microsoft. But I don’t think that microsoft is going to be in trouble for that.
    No matter how many ad campaigns apple organises, Microsoft will be dominating the desktop and laptop operating system market for years to come, because major pc manufacturers almost don’t have any other choice for choosing their OS from. The only other choice they have is Linux. Linux is admirable on servers, but desktop is a very different battleground.
    Microsoft has a big bonus, it is the devil you know!

  • http://www.cemerson.co.uk Stormrider

    Consumer Reports lists “thinking your Mac shields you from all risks” as one of the seven biggest online blunders that expose surfers to risk online.

    Says it all :D

  • http://www.geobop.org/ geosite

    Public relations is vital to any corporation’s sucess, and Microsoft has created one of the biggest public relations nightmares in history. Like a chicken with its head cut off, Microsoft runs frome one gaffe or disaster to another – Vista, Zune, a failed attempt to assimilate Yahoo, that bizarre “Earth is flat” ad and on and on.

    Billysoft has invested so much in convincing the world that Bill Gates is a philanthropist, which is supposed to somehow make us forget all his past — uh, “transgressions.” But if the general public learns the truth about the Gates Foundation, then I suspect we’re going to hear the gnashing of teeth at Microsoft headquarters.

    In the meantime, the Mac’s market share has reportedly reached 8.5% – nearly a three-fold increase from over just a few years ago. Once it reaches 10%, it’s going to make even bigger, bolder headlines. And with Apple’s reputation for innovation (and a relative lack of scandal), that’s going to add up to sales curve that could increase sharply.

  • http://www.mangiaphoto.com mangiaphoto

    Very nice post but think about next couple things.

    – Vista is installed on almost 99% new computers in America or Canada.
    – All manufacturer buy the license for you and you pay for it.
    – In next 2-3 years we will replace our computers with the new ones and here we go. We will have Vista and we don’t need it.

    Over and out

  • Rob Whiter

    Whow some remarkably emotional perspectives here, for my part I have been closely associated with the rise of Microsoft from the mid 80’s and you know I think that Vista is the tipping point for them. That by the way is not handing the baton to Mac or anyone else for that matter BUT MS has missed the mark with Vista. It is simple really when I look at Windows the reason it prospered in the formative days was simple its gave us what we needed to do our work easier and faster at an affordable price. Today ALL products pass the affordable price test … not so in the days of Windows 3.x Mac for example was 3 times or more the cost.

    Now three years ago I invested in one of the early iMacs mainly for the children and as a bit of an experiment to see if this thing really offers a practical computer… 3 years later I have no Win32 PC’s left only one old Windows 2000 Server sits in my office “in case” of an emergency ..

    I have not even tested Vista and probably now never will why … simple I dont need it my company supports Mac OS and Win32 equally and I tell you my Macs are better than my last PC a Dell laptop

    They let me do my work with less fuss and less cost … yes cost even tho up front they still carry a small premium they cost less in time lost and time spent in maintaining them

    MS has massive momentum in the market and any decline will be slow and there is still time for them to reverse the problems with Vista BUT in my 20 odd years of watching our industry from the inside I have noticed that once a Corporate Culture gets in place in a company it is rare than it can be extracted .. and for MS to “let go” of the Win32 ethos … well I don’t know if they can

    Lets face it when was the last time you upgraded you PC and on starting to use it said to yourself “Man thats huge now I can do……”

    I remember mine : …. it was Windows 3.1 and Excel and Word 2.0a in 1989 ish …. OLE its still to my mind Microsoft’s greatest contribution to desktop productivity to date.

    Hey on a lighter note any Zimbra users here … ?