I read an interesting, albeit quite old, post by a guy called kstaken called “Has Microsoft lost its Marketing Touch?” about Microsoft’s track record of failure to capitalise on its own marketing hype. I found it interesting because it talks particularly about the Tablet PC.
Back in the day, I was actually quite involved with the marketing of the Tablet PC when I was working with Microsoft Australia’s case study program. As a technical writer it was my job to write business case studies on how Microsoft technologies were being implemented for success in the corporate and educational arenas. Just before the tablets were released I had the job of getting all the rapid deployment program (pre-release) stories together, writing all the case studies, and even travelling with the film crew as they made short promo pieces about the tablet technology. When the day arrived for the release it was with much fanfare, a big press event in Sydney, and then… nothing.
Well very little anyway. The technology was promising, so much so that I bought a Tablet PC myself. As it turns out, the build quality was crap and, despite having a couple of years of use out of the machine, it was a reasonable concept executed in a mediocre way and marketed even more poorly. As a teacher, I saw great potential for tablet technology, in lots of really interesting ways, but thanks to an almost total lack of promotion by one of the world’s biggest companies, there are still very few people who have even heard of tablets. Even among schoolage kids, usually a pretty switched on bunch when it comes to technology and gadgets; most of my students are amazed when I show them my tablet PC and usually have the same response… “I want one!”… but of course nobody actually gets one, because the marketing is so abysmally poor. It always starts out big and bold, but then just dribbles into nothing.
Where do these much hyped products go? What DID happen to the Tablet PC, the PocketPC phone, SmartDisplays, Windows XP Media Center, the “top secret” Origami Project? What about Sharepoint or, heaven forbid, .NET? Why do they always amount to 4/5’s of bugger all? Already it seems that future products such as Vista are running out of steam before they even get off the ground. What on earth is Microsoft doing wrong? Surely a cashed up company like Bill’s can afford to get some of their marketing right?
I met a lot of bright, well meaning people at Microsoft who believe that the products they market are good stuff, and who genuinely want those products to be a success. They must get incredibly frustrated by the failure of the marketing machine to follow through.
I don’t much care for Microsoft’s products these days, and have abandoned Windows in favour of another more mature (dare I say, real) operating system. But I just can’t figure out why Microsoft has so much trouble following up on those products that it goes to so much trouble to develop.
It just doesn’t make sense.