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Those of us who have been using Vista pretty much since the start already knew this, but there has been so much bad publicity around it that it’s hard to separate myth from reality anymore. Well, Microsoft recently decided to try a little experiment to see if Vista haters and skeptics really, truly didn’t like Vista, or if they were just being dragged along by the anti-Vista bandwagon. (Thanks in great part to Apple’s brilliantly executed Mac vs. PC ad campaign.)

The experiment was simple: Invite a group of Vista skeptics to test drive a new OS code-named “mojave,” without telling them that mojave was actually… you guessed it: Vista.

As it turns out, over 90% of the testers (who thought Vista sucked before coming in for their mojave sneak peek) LOVED Mojave. You can check out their reactions when they are told that Mojave was in fact Vista.

Wow! Vista actually rocks! Who knew.  ;D

The blind test is nothing new in marketing circles, but what sets this apart from the old Coke vs. Pepsi blind test ad campaigns is that the question here isn’t one of preference. Coke isn’t better than Pepsi, and Pepsi isn’t better than Coke. People prefer one over the other because of their taste buds, mostly. As powerful an ad campaign as it may be, you might as well have folks do blind tests comparing Methodist and Presbyterian doctrine. Which do you LIKE better? Which do you PREFER? The “Mojave” experiment doesn’t address preference or taste: It addresses perception vs. reality. Vista had (and to some extent still has) a pretty poor image in the marketplace because very few . This is in part due to a) driver incompatibility issues early on in the OS’ release, b) the fact that many “legacy” PCs aren’t powerful enough to run the OS, and c) a very aggressive campaign to discredit microsoft by its longtime rival Apple.

Fact: The driver compatibility issue is pretty-much ancient history.

Fact: Computers are pretty cheap these days, so while some businesses may not want to allocate the funds to upgrade their hardware or consider virtualizing their PCs, consumers should be able to upgrade their laptops and home PCs to a Vista system without too much trouble.

Fact: The Mac vs. PC campaign may have been fresh and cool and based in truth a year ago, but it has now slipped into the realm of disinformation. In addition, many of the so-called “crapware” that bogs down new computers has nothing to do with Microsoft or Vista. (If your new Vista PC is loaded with stuff you don’t want, the system builder installed it on your machine, not Microsoft.) Sony recently released a crapware-free PC that actually allows users to enjoy a pure vista experience right out of the box, and it pretty much rocks.

Anyhoo. The Mojave experiment is clever, honest, simple and effective. It is what it is: A series of videos showing real people being blown away with how great Vista actually is, after having so brainwashed by 21 months of negative messaging.

Kudos to Microsoft for having taken this approach to bringing the reality of Vista forward with people like you and me rather than an expensive round of corporate messaging. Very clever. You can check it out for yourself here. Hat tip to Steve Clayton for the link. Other articles on the subject at Microsoft Sherpa here, here and here.

have a great Tuesday, everyone. 😉

 

Transparency: I manage US Microsoft distribution for SYNNEX, a global distributor of IT and Business processes. Though the job doesn’t skew my opinion of Vista one bit, it’s worth mentioning.

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Two things:

1. Is it me, or does Steve Jobs look ill? I don’t remember ever seeing him look so skinny. He’s skin and bones. What gives?

2. I don’t know if Steve Jobs even uses Powerpoint*, but whatever. He knows how to convey his message in one slide without getting into a buttload of tables and graphs and bullets. Look how simple his slide is. I love that.

* Thanks to cdmwebs, I now know that Apple’s answer to Powerpoint is called Keynote. How did I not know that? Um… I’m a Microsoft guy. Give me a break already. See? I learned something on Twitter today.

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Excellent little opinion about success (among other things) over at Seen Creative:
“You don’t have the skeleton key. There are no rules, there are no templates, there are no secret ingredients. Everything is unique and everything is dependent on its own circumstance. You can write all the books, magazine articles, or blog posts you want, but someone will always be able to prove the exception. Something will always contradict.
One reason these businesses are successful is probably because their founders didn’t take advice from stupid articles in Wired, or try to ride the latest meme sweeping the blogosphere. They understood that every situation is unique, and they needed to approach it as such. What’s right is what works, not what previously worked.”
Right. In case you didn’t already know it, cookie-cutter solutions don’t generate true success. Companies that stifle innovation, rule-breaking, and re-imagining doom themselves to being indistinguishable from their competitors… or worse yet, barely relevant in increasingly competitive markets.
Don’t ever underestimate the role that visionary leadership plays in a company’s propensity to be a game changer (and by default a culture changer). If a company’s leadership doesn’t have a healthy mix of ambitious, obsessive and a clear vision, what is driving it, exactly? Where is it going? How will it get there?
If you haven’t already added Seen to yout blogroll, now might be a good time to correct that frightening oversight.
Have a great Thursday, everyone. 🙂
photo by Christopher Wray-McCann

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Following the iPhone saga (yes, still), here is what happens when a company backs itself into a corner:

From Gizmodo:

“According to Apple, “no software developer kit is required for the iPhone.” However, the truth is that the lack of an SDK means that there won’t be a killer application for the iPhone. It also means the iPhone’s potential as an amazing computing and communication platform will never be realized. And because of this I don’t think the iPhone will be as revolutionary as it could be. That’s a real heart breaker.

“Steve Jobs initially sold the iPhone as the Next Big Thing from Apple, just like the Macintosh was. The Macintosh really broke the mold. While not as groundbreaking, the iPhone is an intelligent and clean implementation of existing things. Really intelligent, really clean, like the Mac. Unlike the original Mac, however, developers won’t have full access to its core features. Without them there won’t be the equivalent of PageMaker, Photoshop, Word or Premiere in the iPhone, powerful applications taking full advantage of the unique capabilities of the hardware, the operating system and its frameworks.

“Those applications spawned two revolutions: desktop publishing (including photo editing) and desktop video. It was the Mac and its third-party apps that brought radical changes that have deeply affected us, not the Mac alone.

“On the iPhone, however, developers will be limited to developing Web applications based on AJAX, a set of Internet standards that make software like GMail, Google Maps or FaceBook possible. The iPhone is the real thing, a complete UNIX-to-go with stunning graphic classes, and developers will be limited to do stuff like this.

(…)

“So no SDK = no access to iPhone’s cool frameworks = no revolutionary apps, no real new concepts coming from third-parties, no eye candy available for anyone but Apple and no possibility for some really crazy games that will fully exploit the graphic and multi-touch power of the iPhone.”

And this, of course, follows Apple’s rabid blitzkrieg against unlocked iPhones and 3rd party applications usage last week.

If you didn’t gather from the first part of this post, this isn’t a story of corporate legalities. It is simply a story of disappointment, out here in the real world. In what most business execs might call “the market.” We all bought into the promise of the iPhone: Beautiful design, killer features, gorgeous screen, etc. But then Apple blocked us from making the iPhone ours, and things started getting sour fast.

At this point, Apple might as well lease the damn things instead of selling them… which actually may not be a bad idea if we aren’t going to be allowed to customize or load applications on them them as needed.

Here’s the thing: When most of us buy something, we don’t like to be told what we can and can’t do with it. Most other manufacturers, distributors and marketers know this: This is why even though speed limits never exceed 75mph in the USA, most cars sold in all 50 states can at least go to 120mph. This is why cans of soup, jars of mayonnaise, cups of yogurt and bags of nuts now come with clever little recipe ideas on the package. This is why Burger King lets you “have it your way,” and why Starbucks will brew up just about any type of coffee drink you ask for: This is America and for better or for worse, people here want to have the freedom to use products they pay for as they see fit. A shovel. A pen. A grill. A laptop. This should be no different.

What Steve Jobs and his minions don’t seem to get is that we are already using tons of these aps on our laptops and desktops. All we want to do is transfer their functionality to our smartphones. That’s it. Is that really too much to ask? Of course not… Yet here we are.

Not to get too Biblical here, but giving mankind the coolest phone ever designed and then ordering us to only use a fraction of its features is not unlike God showing Adam around the garden of Eden, taking him to the super exciting and mysterious tree of life, talking it up as the coolest, most powerful plant ever, and then ordering him not to ever, ever, ever taste its fruit. Not under any circumstances. We all know how that turned out.

Not that Steve Jobs is God nor iPhone the tree of life… but you get the point.

It doesn’t take a genius to realize that Apple should have seen the backlash coming. More importantly, Apple should have given more thought to how to make sure the brand and the product might avoid backing themselves into an impossible corner with their myopic and monopolistic outlook.

And POW! Faster than you can sa ruh-roh, Apple’s decision not to open iPhone to customization and third party applications (yet) gave a major player in the mobile phone market the platform it needed to earn back some much needed limelight. Enter Nokia and its “Open To Anything” campaign, which essentially promises complete freedom to users: “Open to all applications. Open to all widgets. Open to anything. What it does is up to you.”

Of course.

Apple: No Freedom. Nokia: Complete Freedom.


Marketing Commandment #9: “When you don’t like where the conversation is going, change the conversation.”

Up until now, iPhone was about design and cool and wow. Nokia couldn’t compete against design and cool and wow. (iPhone and Nokia’s phones weren’t even in the same orbit.) But these days, the conversation has shifted away from design and cool and wow. All people are talking about now are locked phones, bricked phones, blocked 3rd party applications, and how iPhone and Apple don’t let users do what they want with their gimped phones.

If you were Nokia, what would you do?

Exactly. You would let the world know that your phones aren’t locked. That they won’t get bricked. That they will not block 3rd party applications. That users will be free to customize and use their phones as they see fit.

Easy as pie.

I suspect that other mobile phone manufacturers will follow suit and position themselves against Apple’s monopolistic attitude pronto. As a matter of fact, those weird little busy sounds you’ve been hearing in the distance all week, those are the sounds being made by mobilephone providers’ marketing departments and ad agencies all over the US, scrambling to follow Nokia’s example.

As well they should.

These last two weeks, Apple has become its worst enemy: After a brilliant release this spring and a healthy outlook for its iPhone, it has managed to single-handedly antagonize a significant portion of its early adopters, permanently scare away a gaggle of potential iPhone users, and give all of its fiercest competitors a tangible and fiercely effective anti-iPhone/anti-Apple strategy.

That’s some accomplishment.

The lesson here is tenfold:

1) Don’t ever blow off your most passionate or vocal customers/users.
2) Don’t ever try to control whom uses your products, or how, or why.
3) Don’t be inflexible when it comes to possibly having to make strategic adjustments along the way.
4) When it comes to your relationship with your customers/users/fans, don’t ever switch from dialog to monologue.
5) Don’t open yourself to easy attacks by your competitors.
6) Don’t ever allow yourself to become one of the black hats.
7) Don’t ever make easy assumptions about how “the market” will react to your brilliant strategy.
8) Don’t punish your early adopters.
9) Don’t punish your users, especially if all they did was customize your products to fit their needs.
10) Just because you are the coolest company in the world doesn’t mean you can’t screw up from time to time.

Watching competitors react to Apple’s embattled position is going to be a beautiful case study in market dynamics.

Have a great Tuesday, everyone. 🙂

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