Microsoft. Dave Matthews. Free Ham.
November 19, 2010
“NO WAY” was my reaction when Jake and Zach Barokas called me yesterday afternoon to inform me that my all time favorite musician, Dave Matthews, was playing at a mall for the opening of the Microsoft store. How could it be? How could these two worlds collide; the man who makes music that inspires me beyond words, playing for the software company responsible for causing me so much angst? What to do? Drop everything and haul-ass to Bellevue Square or in silent protest for Dave’s decision, stay at the office? I stayed at the office and thought about how the situation reminded me of a question a fellow Hebrew asked me shortly after my Bar Mitzvah years ago: What’s the definition of a Jewish dilemma? Free Ham. A Dave Matthews performance but at a mall, for Microsoft.
Despite all of the pain Microsoft has caused me, despite all the hours I’ve wasted looking at the hour-glass or blue screen, I do secretly have a soft spot for the 800-pound Gorilla. I truly believe the company’s best days could be in front of them but there are a few fundamental issues – I think – need to be addressed. First, and no surprise, their PR. Â Microsoft has relied on the same, big corporate machines (agencies) to help them shape messages, prep executives, and win win win at any cost. While the “we’re Microsoft” mentality worked for a long time, I don’t think that attitude helps the company now. I had lunch with a tech reporter last week and Microsoft PR came up. He said it’s not even “enjoyable or interesting” to chat with Microsoft folks because they are SO scripted and SO on-message; the conversations aren’t genuine. I’m sure this a byproduct of years and years of PR folks telling product managesr/spokespeople explicitly what to say, how to say it, what not to say, what to answer, when to deflect, and to always bring the conversation back to the Microsoft position. Â Then when an article comes out the PR folks tell the team whether it was positive/negative/neutral. I always found this fascinating since, one would assume, if the client was capable of doing the interview, they’d have the mental horsepower to determine if the article was good, right?
The other issue where me and Microsoft don’t see eye-to-eye is on some of the products. BPR recently abandoned our in-house Exchange server for MSFT’s new BPOS (Exchange in the cloud). The point of switching was to 1) eliminate the massive cost to manage Exchange and 2) ensure no downtime. I won’t bore you with our tech woes but Microsoft BPOS has not been 100% reliable and when it goes down, it’s down for a long time. Bad. How am I supposed to “Realize My Potential” without email?! And I won’t even get started on how terrible Entourage is – but in fairness at least there is a finally Outlook for the Mac.
Anyway – Microsoft bashing is so passe I realize, and karma must be working in their favor since literally one minute ago I received an SMS from a friend to tell me she “LOVES her new Windows Phone 7.” Maybe if I’m really lucky one day Microsoft will call BPR and ask us to help them realize their potential. One can only hope.
So there it is: my thoughts on Dave, the free ham dilemma and those “thought-leaders” with a new store in Bellevue Square mall. Â I still can’t believe Dave did it and maybe I wish I had two stepped my way to see him. Funny the way it is.