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The Microsoft 'Mouthpiece Theatre' Starts the Vista 7 Marketing Blitz

The Meh starts now



Summary: Microsoft marketing goes totally shameless and the press utterly promiscuous a week before the extravagant release

THIS post looks at the latest examples of Microsoft's marketing for Vista 7 and the reality behind it.



As most people are probably aware, since Microsoft has ensured this did not escape the attention of a single publication, Vista 7 officially comes out at the end of the week in order to divert attention away from Microsoft's poor results. ThisIsLondon says that "Microsoft stakes all on new Windows."

Microsoft is releasing a new version of its Windows software that experts say could be make or break for the computer giant.


Jacqueline Emigh from IDG/BetaNews/Linux.com speaks about "the proverbial hype machine":

With the countdown now on for the official shipment of Windows 7 next Thursday, Microsoft and friends have been cranking up the proverbial hype machine, but not without a few clinks and clanks along the way.


The hype machine actually kicked into gear quite a while ago. See for example:



In the past week's news (we use Google News for this), we have found 6 strings of headlines about "Vista", most of which (4 out of 6) are just implicit adverts for Vista 7, namely articles that say everything will change when Vista 7 is released to replace Vista. These same talking points are easy to spot in the mainstream (and printed) press. Here are just two new examples and another which contains lots of quotes from Steve Ballmer and from Microsoft analysts.

"With Vista it was almost like they had a justifiable reason not to upgrade," says Michael Cherry, an analyst at independent research firm Directions on Microsoft.


An "independent research firm" called "Directions on Microsoft" is unlikely to be very independent when asked about Microsoft. It gets worse though. The same talking points are coming from AFP and the familiar Microsoft hires, such as President, Founder, Head, and "Principal analyst" (or whatever he chooses to call himself today) of the Enderle 'Group' (a one-man operation). We have done a lot to show just how closely connected to Microsoft Mr. "amazing numbers" really is. AFP ignores all this and lets him almost ghostwrite the article. Here are some portions:

"It's a big deal for Microsoft," analyst Rob Enderle of Enderle Group in Silicon Valley said of the Windows 7 launch. "Windows Vista was a train wreck."

[...]

"Microsoft is still a packaged software company," Enderle said. "If people don't buy their updated packages, they feel it."

[...]

"The fact that Microsoft is trying new things is actually pretty unique," Enderle said. "They are going to try to show that Microsoft and innovative marketing is not an oxymoron."


Is this coverage of Vista 7 all about Enderle? Not really. They also talk to Parri Munsell, director of consumer product management for the Windows client group. They also speak to Matt Rosoff of Directions On Microsoft, "a private firm focused on tracking the software firm." It's the same as above (Michael Cherry). What did they expect? That a consultancy/analysts group so focused on Microsoft will say something negative about the company on which it depends? This is not journalism, it's marketing. The reporter is to blame for approaching people from just one side of the story.

Here is another mixed review of Vista 7.

Bottom line: Windows 7 is mostly a cosmetic upgrade for Vista, but sometimes a hefty dose of Botox, a face-lift and a tummy tuck are just what the doctor ordered.


AP's review advises against an 'upgrade' to Vista 7.

Review: Windows 7 strong, but don't pay to upgrade



[...]

In weeks of testing the final version of Windows 7 on five computers, I encountered only one serious glitch. The backup function simply didn't work on one computer. The error message was obscure as always, and troubleshooting on Microsoft's Web site provided no solution. I ended up using third-party backup software. Given that regular backups are essential for a home computer, one can only hope that this will be an unusual problem that gets fixed promptly.

Another disappointment is that Windows 7 doesn't seem to improve boot-up times. In my tests, it took slightly longer to get going on Windows 7 than with XP or Vista on the same computer. I don't think this should be a major issue, though — instead of shutting your computer down, use "sleep mode" instead. This function has improved a lot since XP, and most computers take about 10 seconds to wake up.


The article above shows that the same issues from Vista persist in many areas. At Fortune (CNN), an attractive headline is used to gain attention, only to shower readers with lots of Microsoft praises for Vista 7. This a known technique of creating drama to get a message across.

Looking at Reuters, we find that Microsoft has financial events coming quite a long while after Vista 7's release. How come? As we stated at the start -- and it's really down to common sense -- bad results are to be concealed by the marketing blitz of Vista 7's launch. It's not an accident, it's deliberate. Even months ago Ballmer was using Vista 7 as a distraction for his company's poor performance (see video).

According to the Wall Street Journal, Ballmer still refuses to talk about positive results. More here:

"I am optimistic, but not as optimistic as the stock market," Ballmer, 53, said Friday at the Chief Executives' Club of Boston. Businesses will be slow to hire and invest, he said. "We are not through all the issues yet."


Well, Google has just posted positive results and its CEO was exceedingly happy, unlike Ballmer. Microsoft already knows that it will need to use "the economy" as an excuse for another terrible quarter. Without the "too big to fail" defense, Microsoft will lose business even faster.

“Without the "too big to fail" defense, Microsoft will lose business even faster.”Onwards goes Microsoft with heavy marketing and image control [1, 2], now employing another television phenomenon to market Windows. It previously tried this with Jackass, NASCAR, Bollywood stars, and Seinfled, who were not successful at making Vista a seller. "TV Extravaganza," as one site puts it, is what Microsoft looks to achieve when paying 'Family Guy' to sell out, just as it did with Seinfeld and others (even viral marketing in television shows that displayed Vista simply did not help). "'Family Guy' creator and Microsoft team up for Win 7 promotion," says another article and CRN's headline claims that "Microsoft Weaves Windows 7 Into 'Family Guy'," blurring the gap between advertisements (content from the broadcaster's point of view) and fill (the stuff that keeps people watching the ads every once in a while). They try to capture the trust of audience of the show and TechCrunch is outraged.

On November 8th at 8:30pm, viewers of Fox in the US will watch in horror as the network gives over thirty whole minutes of airtime to a Windows 7-sponsored episode of Family Guy.

Just take a moment to let the horror of that fact settle in your brain. Multi-millionaire Seth MacFarlane – who, by the way, uses a Mac – has decided to sell the soul of his flagship show to Redmond. For money.


According to the post above, Microsoft is corrupting television just as it corrupted bloggers and commenters in social networks by bribing them. Ironically, TechCrunch was among those blogs that Microsoft bribed. The Microsoft/Redmond press actually criticises Microsoft for the move, but not necessarily because of the negative impact on television. To some people, it's just a matter of how money gets spent.

That's why we were so disappointed this week to read that Microsoft has bought a whole 30-minute episode of the show -- not commercials during the episode, but the episode itself -- to promote Windows 7.


Rather than denouncing Microsoft for destroying this show (it was one of my personal favourites), people other than Lee Pender talk about the whole thing almost from a financial point of view (there are examples of that too).

Within the last year, Microsoft(MSFT Quote) has been Jerry Seinfeld's pal, a PC, a party planner and a 4-year-old girl. It has been a costly identity crisis.


At another Microsoft corner of the Web, Microsoft Nick parrots Gartner about Vista 7. We wrote about this some days ago, showing that Gartner said the same things about Windows Vista. Why do journalists still pay attention to Gartner?

Further, in the news from Ars Technica we discover that Microsoft gives away more copies of Vista 7 (our reader Oiaohm keeps stressing that never before did Microsoft hand out so many free gifts to create hype). But there is a condition:

Microsoft is giving away 777 copies of Windows 7 Ultimate to residents living in Zevenhuizen, the Netherlands. The catch is pretty straightforward: you can't be using Mac OS or Linux as your primary operating system.

[...]

In fact, one of the requirements is that you must be in possession of a PC with Windows as the primary OS; those using mainly Mac OS or Linux can't participate. Another requirement is that the PC gets a green light from the Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor.


How xenophobic, eh?

From Ars Technica we also learn that Microsoft extends its operations in Twitter.

Adding to the hundreds of Twitter accounts it already has, Microsoft has launched one just for Windows 7 information and support: @MicrosoftHelps.


We have been writing about what Microsoft does in Twitter under:

  1. More Microsoft AstroTurfing (aka 'Technical Evangelism') in Twitter
  2. User “Microsoft Incentives” Wants to be Your Friend, Too
  3. Microsoft's Twitter AstroTurf Continues
  4. Who is Pumping MSFT and Pimping Microsoft in Twitter?
  5. Microsoft Hires Federated Media for Twitter AstroTurfing
  6. Does Microsoft Still Create Twitter Accounts for Guerilla Marketing?
  7. Microsoft's AstroTurfing, Twitter, Waggener Edstrom, and Jonathan Zuck
  8. Microsoft Twitter Bots, FTC Blowback, and Paid-for Vista 7 Glorification


Based on this new survey, Microsoft is among the top exploiters of social media sites. It's AstroTurf. It's nothing to be proud of. Companies like Microsoft are pretending to be social beings, just as they demand human rights like freedom of speech. Intellectuals frequently denounce the moronic treatment of tyrannical (in structure) entities being treated like massive organisms with feelings. There is no reason for a company like Microsoft to run bot accounts in Twitter. It ruins the site for actual people.

Looking further at the news, Vista 7 has already 'leaked' into the black market in China, not so surprisingly.

At shops in Shanghai's bustling Xinyang market, fake Apple iPhones and Bose speakers sit neatly alongside bootleg copies of Microsoft's new Windows 7 operating system, a week before its official launch.


As we explained before, Microsoft won't mind counterfeiting as long as they don't sell XP or GNU/Linux. Microsoft capitalises on this for the 'network effect' to be sped up.

“...Microsoft won't mind counterfeiting as long as they don't sell XP or GNU/Linux.”An anti-GNU/Linux shop called Best Buy [1, 2, 3, 4, 5] provides Vista 7 boosting material for CNET, Microsoft's special Vista partner back in the days. CNET gives more Microsoft-oriented people some personal blogs there, just like in ZDNet. Their more official Microsoft blog is now doing damage control in response to the auctioning of Vista 7 party packs (showing that people with those packs are interested neither in Vista 7 nor in partying over it).

Microsoft employees indoctrinate the public in the middle east ahead of the release of Vista 7 while others are reciting the conventions Microsoft has 'injected' into the media with bribes, PR agencies, and partners.

Here is one last item from the Wall Street Journal.

Recently a Microsoft (MSFT) spokesman declined a journalist's request for comment, but sent along two links to employee blog posts. Professional sports teams have also been among the early adopters in leaning more heavily on player and employee blogs as a source of access for both the media and the public.


It does not say that Microsoft also uses those employee blogs to inject poison into Wikipedia, e.g. the article about ODF.

"I am currently testing the Beta of Win7 in a closed VM environment. I am considering deleting it. It's actually worse than Vista. Multiple program crashes, refusal to install any software, naff looks and many other complaints."

--Moog

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