Robert Scoble’s whine that all these horrible bloggers are cuddling up to Google whilst ignoring poor old Microsoft has to be the ultimate irony, doesn’t it?
Having worked as a tech journalist for many years I’ve heard a million times, competitors to Microsoft incessantly bitching about how the press only ever covers Microsoft products while ignoring their alternatives. Kinda sucks when the shoe is on the other foot, hey?
That simple reversal would be ironic enough were it not for the fact that Microsoft very deliberatly and expertly dined out on this marketing advantage that it enjoyed. We used to call it the FUD factor, FUD referring to Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt.
Back when it was the only game in town, Microsoft was famous for pre-announcing products. As soon as someone at Microsoft got back to the office with a new product idea scrawled on the back of a napkin, Microsoft would announce it. Often, not only did it used to talk about the coming release, but also the one after that.
The reason for doing this is that if Microsoft was talking about a feature or capability that it was working on, it worked as a disuader to purchase rival software. So yes, maybe NetWare could do this and this and this, but why would you buy it when Microsoft says that its next version of NT will do exactly the same thing. Of course, Microsoft was infamous for missing its ship dates but that hardly mattered, because it had thrown enough FUD into the air to stop people from genuinely considering alternatives.
The problem for Microsoft is not only is it’s no longer the only choice on the block. It’s no longer the one that has the media entranced. That’s clearly Google. The fact is people can’t get enough of Google so journalists and bloggers will continue to write about them because it rates. It’s just how media works.
Yet, Microsoft hasn’t updated its marketing strategy, to fit with its new place in the world. Let’s take the Office Live announcement that Scoble is talking about. Microsoft announces Office Live with absolutely nothing behind it, except a landing page and a couple of snippets like the Domain Management capability. It promises that it will be able to do this and that when Office Live launches sometime next year.
It made headlines for a day or so, but because there was very little substance to what it had to say, few journalists or bloggers got enraptured with what it had to say.
Microsoft doesn’t have FUD power anymore. Pre-announcing products without even opening up to beta these days only achieves SAD – scepticism, ambivalence and disinterest.
By pre-announcing Office Live, though, it did achieve one thing. It publicised its roadmap to Google and every other competitor in this space. It handed Google over what should be top-secret, classified intelligence about what it’s going to announce and approximately when. The Google marketing team would have then had the opportunity to go away and draw up a counter-marketing strategy to effectively blunt anything Microsoft is likely to come up with when Office Live does launch.
I have no doubt that this latest announcement from Google is absolutely a part of that Office Live counter-strategy. The difference being when Google chose to talk about it, it had something real, even if its just a closed beta program and a single reference customer.
The blog bleating of Robert Scoble and also Reeves here would have had Google’s marketing team giving high-fives all round. They amount to nothing more than an admission that Google is out-marketing Microsoft, as well as further re-inforcement of the fact that Microsoft is just not sexy anymore.
Microsoft, your FUD days are over. It’s time to tear up your marketing manuals and start again from scratch. We’ve all moved on, it’s about time you guys did as well.