Archive of UserLand's first discussion group, started October 5, 1998.

If I were Microsoft's Marketing God

Author:Dave Winer
Posted:9/19/1999; 9:20:43 AM
Topic:If I were Microsoft's Marketing God
Msg #:11264
Prev/Next:11263 / 11265

Read this InfoWorld article and then think about how Microsoft launched SOAP, in the middle of a confusing array of buzzwords and market-jibberish. This in an incredible screw-up, the analysts are proclaiming DNA as a Windows-only thing, when SOAP, if it were at the core of Microsoft's plans (is it?), makes it completely non-Windows-centered. So much confusion!

What if?

If I were Microsoft's marketing god, playing with the hand they have right now, here's what I would have told the press.

"The Internet is held together with scripting. (List the different big names, Perl, Python, AppleScript, Tcl, etc.) But there's no way to connect different scripting environments on (list three non-Microsoft operating systems, then NT).

"By using existing standards of the Internet, HTTP and XML, Microsoft is leading the industry to a new high-growth market -- distributed cross-operating system script-based applications.

"'Developers have never been so powerful or had so many Microsoft-supported choices," said Tod Nielsen, Microsoft's Director of Developer Relations.

Think Megahertz!

Then I would present a white paper to show the analysts how, over time, CPU rates have increased the performance of scripted applications. Megahertz is something analysts understand. It makes a nice graph! Explain how every time there's a speed increase, scripting becomes a more attractive way to go.

It's been a virtually silent market, poorly understood by the press. I think they reward organizations for making the light bulb over their heads go on. Ahhhh. Scripting is what makes the web go round. As time goes by this is more and more true. I bet Tim O'Reilly would agree. (See if you can get Tim to write the white paper.)


Now it's time for a demo. Show a writer, Steve Ballmer probably, posting a review of Windows 2000 to a hypothetical PC magazine website. He opens Word. Type in a few words of high praise. (Look ma, no XML!) Choose Save from the File menu. Reload the web page. There's the article!

Remember how word processors got all the ink in the early days of the PC business? That was because writers understand word processors. A great XML demo has to involve writers somehow, if you want good press. And the XML has to be hidden if you want them to believe it has a chance. (I can prove this.)

For extra credit show how you can wire up Microsoft's instant messaging client to a web content management system. Transcripts of conversations that you can review and edit later by simply clicking on a checkbox. Focus the analysts on the opportunity of webbifying all kinds of desktop apps. Go into competition with Geocities and Tripod.

For even more extra credit, do the demo with a volunteer from the audience. After the demo, the analyst gets to grill the development team.

Bill giggles

Finally, a videotaped talk from Bill Gates saying how this is what he meant by Where do you want to go today?

Now the places you can go include (paste in the list of non-Microsoft OSes and scripting environments).

Bill giggles. Now you can build Linux apps on Windows. (You could before but the analysts probably don't know that.)


Feed the analysts lunch and send them on their way!

Next week

Headlines read "Microsoft attacks Internet scripting market."

Now I say that with my tongue in cheek. There's nothing that can stop them from reporting it as an attack. But at least then there would be an Internet scripting market. This is something, I think, we can all agree would be a good thing. Microsoft's OS has deep and powerful scripting support, so it's in their interest for the focus to be there. And the rest of us, hopefully, have a stake in building standards-based apps that can connect to apps running on Windows.

Watching what I can see of the Microsoft process, they try to anticipate the positioning of their moves as attacks, and attempt to deflect that. And they succeed, but in doing so send out a weak and watered-down message that's ineffective, that only succeeds in confusing people.

Last week was a case-study in this. The press people I talked with were befuddled. It didn't work. The rollout event certainly got their attention, but the message they repeat is one of confusion and wait-and-see.

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