The second Microsoft-Seinfeld ad was released Friday. It had a few funny moments, but once again left most people shaking their heads wondering exactly what Microsoft hopes to achieve. I'm not sure they know. Although they may have a game plan, it's hard for anyone to see exactly what it is.
We know this much. Microsoft has invested $300M on this new ad campaign to convince us that Microsoft (to paraphrase an old Animals song) is a soul whose intentions are good, but is simply misunderstood. Meanwhile the PR machines has sent out some big wigs to convince us that Vista is stable and in its current iteration is working fine. No really, it is.
Microsoft even went so far recently as to mask Vista as a new operating system called Mojave, and showed people's reaction on hidden camera. Apparently, people who claimed they wouldn't buy Vista were wowed by it when they saw it in action under a different name. The blind taste test might work for soft drinks, but there's more to an operating system than a quick taste. Let's let these people live with Vista for a few weeks, then record their reactions. Something tells me it wouldn't be very flattering.
It's gotten so bad in fact, that Business Week reported recently that mega PC maker HP "has quietly assembled a group of engineers to develop software that will let customers bypass certain features of Vista." The article also suggests that HP may even be working on its own OS. Meanwhile, Bill Gates' arch nemesis at Apple just keeps selling products at a blistering pace. AppleInsider reports that a new survey found that while people will be spending less on electronics in general, they will continue to buy Apple products. And one thing that stands out here is that the survey found that 17 percent people who bought an iPhone 3G are more likely to buy a Mac computer based on their experience with the phone. That's a large potential market for Apple computers and the OSX OS.
As though all that weren't enough, TechCrunch writes in an insightful analysis that Microsoft is failing in a big way to understand youth consumers, a market that's coming under the spell of Apple (which somehow remains hip and everything Microsoft aspires to be) and Web 2.0 companies such as Facebook and Google.
In spite of all these external factors, it's important to point out that Microsoft continues to be a tremendously successful software company and an industry force. That said, they are also clearly large and move slowly and the market has forced them back on their heels where they flail futility at the forces changing the face of the business. Seinfeld isn't going to change that. Fancy ad campaigns and PR onslaughts aren't either. In the end, dare I say it, it's still putting lip stick on a pig. To really recover from their malaise, Microsoft needs fundamental change, and for a large company on the defensive, while it's certainly not impossible, it will be very difficult to achieve.