To The Cloud…Or Not; Winning The Microsoft Way…Or Not

29 Nov

Many of you have likely seen Microsoft’s new “to the cloud” commercials and, if you’re even remotely aware of what’s been going on in the software/tech space, wonder how Mr. Softy expects novice home computer users to know what, exactly, “the cloud” is, what it does, and how it does it.  It’s one thing to advertise their enterprise solutions assuming the reader/viewer already knows whatsup, but it’s entirely different in the consumer market, where the average home PC users can’t even write a 1-term excel formula, let alone understand and use cloud computing.  I decided to do what I’d imagine many consumers would do when they see an interesting commercial, searched for it on the internet (via google, screw bing) for “Windows Cloud.”  There’s a nice little “To The Cloud: Get Started” button prominently displayed on Microsoft’s website, a nice start from a web-design standpoint, easily directing consumers to “the goods.”  Unfortunately, instead of the “Cloud computing for dummies” tutorial/introduction, I found this:

So, let’s just summarize:

  1. Microsoft tries to get home PC consumers to buy MSFT products by advertising the power of mysterious and all-powerful “cloud,”
  2. Microsoft does not, in any way, shape, or form, explain what this “cloud” is during their oft-repeated TV commercials,
  3. A visit to Microsoft’s website to learn more about what aforementioned “cloud” actually is tells one that in order to find out, one must first buy/download/install Windows 7.

Now this “trust us, buy now, don’t ask questions, you’ll figure out why and thank us later” sales strategy is not new, however it is seldom used to this degree (successfully, that is) in the software/tech space.  As a matter of fact, I can’t think of any other campaign of this scale made use of such a advertising/sales strategy, besides Apple, but their websites are always much better/more informative in my opinion.  (This is not to say there aren’t examples, just that I can’t recall any others  As always, if you can, be sure to let me know by email or in the comments).

In fairness to Microsoft, I played around on the website a little more and there are some more quick videos (~30 seconds +/-) showing what you can do with Windows 7, e.g. viewing a photo gallery on your computer and with a few clicks upload them directly to Facebook.  This may seem like magic to those with only the most basic level of computer literacy, but its hardly revolutionary, to put it nicely.

Perhaps Microsoft (and whoever did the ad campaign) decided that instead of showing/telling consumers what this new “cloud” technology/idea is, they’d just show consumers what they can do with it (putting aside for now/forever what, exactly, “it” is).  In the first version of this post, the above sentence was a question, but having taken some time to re-watch the ads and think about it, I’m convinced MSFT and their Ad agency partners must have simply decided there was no real way to explain what “the cloud” is to stupid consumers, so instead, they’d just show all the nifty things people can do with ease “in the cloud.”

If this is, in fact, the case (or something like it), I’m not so sure I agree.  If my Mom can figure out Facebook, it’s not exactly a leap of genius to understand the idea that when you, for instance, upload a picture to Facebook, it can be accessed from anywhere with an internet connection, as opposed to when you just had it on your home computer (drive), and could only access it from there.  Indeed, a 5 second google search (my time, not google’s, of course) brought me to this, from a book apparently called “20 Things I Learned About Browsers & the Web,” which succinctly (in an extremely simple manner) explains cloud computing in about a paragraph of “Curious George” size/style typeface.

Check it out:

"Rocket Science"

I don’t necessarily disagree with the cynical approach of pushing Windows “cloud” capabilities without explaining what they are, but I think a little education/knowledge could go a long way for Mr. Softy.  Especially true now, in the social media age, consumers do not want to be made to feel stupid or uninformed.  Introducing new terms to them without giving them a little information (like in the image above) may be a major faux pas; had they instead devoted some time/effort to educating the consumer, bringing them into the fold, making them feel like they’re part of the cloud computing phenomenon, I think the campaign would be FAR more effective.

All of 1 of my ~650 Facebook friends “likes” Windows 7, as do about 1.1 million others.  Impressive but I think extrapolating true adoption or even fan-dom from Facebook “likes” even as a proxy is a dangerous if not downright silly practice.

Microsoft has a long and storied history of pushing “technology” onto consumers, which you can read about on Wikipedia, Techcrunch, or several books I’m sure have been published on the topic, but most of this was done before Facebook, before Youtube, before Blogs (well, mainstream ones at least), and before Twitter.  I’ve studied social media failures, or, as it were, business strategy failures magnified by social media (mis-steps), and this, while not nearly as egregious as others I’ve seen, may very well be on one of my future list of FAIL.

This story is still being written, so, I may be proven wrong in my skepticism, but alas, only time will tell..

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One Response to “To The Cloud…Or Not; Winning The Microsoft Way…Or Not”

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  1. Cloud Computing and Business Integration Outlook for 2011 | Welcome To Marketing - December 17, 2010

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