MiSFiT

Microsoft has lost it’s marketing mojo.

Perhaps I should not base this analysis so heavily on their mobile offering, but having just returned from the massive CTIA event and witnessed Gates’ Goombahs slake Microsoft shareholder wealth into oblivion, I’m none too charitable.  Sure, Microsoft continues to milk the desktop cow, and the garner some gaming coin by Xboxing, but the world is rushing toward mobile and Microsoft is nowhere to be found.

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Literally.  Microsoft was so artfully concealed behind the Sybase booth (Sybase for cryin’ out loud) they were all but unlocatable.  It did not help that Microsoft’s booth manager squandered precious vertical real estate, apparently choosing a black funeral shroud for their flying buttress.  The booth itself was the Japanese/Swedish version of death décor — white and hard, modern, lifeless lines.  For an event soaked in the radical, consumer-focused “joy” of being wirelessly wired at all waking hours, Microsoft appeared to be in mourning.

Keep in mind that with the exception of Apple — who deigns to sully their brand via industry participation — CTIA is one of the largest mobile madhouses.  Every vendor attends, and one can shop for cell phones, cell towers and antennas, developer software, and faux jewel cases for handsets.  Even CNBC, the 24X7 business news network, owned a healthy chunk of show-floor real estate and was broadcasting live. For Microsoft to exhibit and make such a sad showing was not a demonstration of calculated error but an admission that Microsoft has lost the mobile market so badly that even their marketing teams — people normally known for being colorful, loud and pushy — were bland, quiet and subservient.

It was a non-booth, for a non-contender.  Even their new-found partner Nokia did not display a Microsoft logo.

This combined with Apple’s absence accelerated Android’s dominance.  Walk into any handset booth, and the little green android icon was visible.  Talk to handset software vendors and they would say “We support Android, and of course Apple,” as if Apple were an afterthought.  There was even a surreal moment when CNBC’s Michelle Caruso-Cabrera was live on air and in the aisle behind her danced a tiny human wearing a rubber Android costume.

Talk about cost-effective product placement.

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The marketing lesson, such as it is, falls into near cliché. In any market, you have to lead, follow or fail. Microsoft had the chance to lead and didn’t.  They can’t follow because they are a software company and thus compete with Apple and Android.  That left them the option of failure.

The stench of failure now haunts both Microsoft mobile employees and Microsoft Mobile 7 (or whatever the Sam Hell it is called this week).  When I slid into the Microsoft booth, no human asked to help (unlike at HTC, Samsung, Sony, etc). So I played with Windows on cell phones solo, and was mightily unimpressed.  Whereas Apple innovated, and Android echoed Apple innovations without Apple rigidity, Microsoft only phoned it in (much like investors are calling in their sell orders).


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