Roger Ehrenberg has an exhaustive (and exhausting to read, because we don’t function before 8 am, though job constraints dictate otherwise) analysis on the debut of the Vista and, moreover, the Bill Gates-Steve Jobs celebrity death match ’07. Seems, in spite of questionable business ethics, Mock Turtleneck is beating Four-Eyes by a landslide. Why? Because Steve Jobs is young, fun, and marketable to law abiding and non-abiding citizens alike. Whereas Bill is behind the times, transparently resentful, and cranky (RE likens him to Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction, which we kind of get but don’t think is the part Bill’s playing so much as Jennifer Jason Leigh’s a la SWF). Take, for instance, last week’s interview with NewsWeek:
Are you bugged by the Apple commercial where John Hodgman is the PC, and he has to undergo surgery to get Vista?
I've never seen it. I don't think the over 90 percent of the [population] who use Windows PCs think of themselves as dullards, or the kind of klutzes that somebody is trying to say they are.
How about the implication that you need surgery to upgrade?
Well, certainly we've done a better job letting you upgrade on the hardware than our competitors have done. You can choose to buy a new machine, or you can choose to do an upgrade. And I don't know why [Apple is] acting like it’s superior. I don't even get it. What are they trying to say? Does honesty matter in these things, or if you're really cool, that means you get to be a lying person whenever you feel like it? There's not even the slightest shred of truth to it.
Does the entire tenor of that campaign bother you, that Mac is the cool guy and PC—
That’s for my customers to decide.
A few problems right off the bat that Gates will obviously need to overcome if he want to sell his product and “squash Jobs like the insect that he is” (BG’s words).
1. There’s nothing inherently wrong with being a nerd—some of our best friends our nerds! But there is a problem with your trying to deny this reality. First, it makes us question your ability to separate who you actually are—a nerd, through and through—from the ‘cool, valiant, tough’ guy character you’ve created for yourself for World of Warcraft role-playing. And secondly, it confuses your loyal customers, who are nerds themselves! They identify with you and how are they supposed to feel when you shy away from the common ground you share with them? Hurt and resentful and not in the mood to do any upgrades, is how they are supposed to feel.
2. Although you steadfastly deny having ever seen the ads, you can describe them with total accuracy. So we’re kind of wondering why you aren’t getting that these ads are working against Apple and in your favor! You don’t want to be considered a ‘dullard’ or a ‘klutze,’ fine. But are you watching the same commercials we’re watching? (The jig is up—you’ve seen them). Mac isn’t the ‘cool guy,’ PC is! The Mac is, for lack of a better word even though we think this one is just fine but might offend your sensibilities, a self-important hipster d-bag. Whereas PC is the adorably roly-poly ball of love that is John Hodgman. Whose trailer do you think is more fun to hang around in between takes? A guy who probably sulks about his character not being “real enough” while thumbing through the latest Urban Outfitters catalogue or, uh, anyone else? To put it in your terms-- let’s see, which computer do I want to buy—the one that is personified by an actor who got hit by a wrench in Dodge Ball or, um, I don’t know the one personified by The Daily Show’s Resident Expert?! You want some time to think it over? Time’s up—the latter, Gates. The answer is the latter. So stop getting all huffy about those ads. It’s bad for your skin and they’re advertising you don’t have to pay for.
3. This isn’t really Vista-centric but now seems like as good a time as any to mention it—don’t interrupt people during an interview. It’s just rude.
Anyway, back to Ehrenberg. He says a few more things about the situation that you might want to check out if you find yourself with an excessive amount of time on your hands because the guy, Luke Perry-obsessed as he is, knows what he’s talking about. For the four of you who have actual jobs, here’s the conclusion:
We may be witnessing an historic changing of the guard, which takes place in every generation. Remember IBM? They were invincible. How could they be beat? By a couple of geeks in a dorm room, that's how. Microsoft rises. And then another snot-nosed kid with a great idea and a dorm room made it happen in the box business, enter Dell. Then others got wise and squeezed their efficiency-based margins to nothing. Apple rose like a phoenix, crashed and rose once again, by virtue of innovation and a customer-centric ethos. Sony was like IBM. Now they've been bloodied by the customer-centric and community-oriented Nintendo. And now there's Google, the poster-child for the democratization of the Internet and the ever-flattening, increasingly frictionless world. When put in this context Microsoft just seems so big and slow and old, hidebound by 30 years of culture and organizational silos that seem impregnable. And it appears that Vista - the product, the PR, the marketing approach - is the result of such an organization. At times brilliant, very heavy, complicated and expensive. This is not a product for today. This is a product for an era when the desktop ruled. And that era is long gone.
Microsoft Revisited: Vista, Apple and the Sony/Nintendo Phenomenon [Information Arbitrage]