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Dvorak is Right, and Microsoft is Wrong

Industry pundit John Dvorak asks What happened to Microsoft? in a new commentary for MarketWatch. I have to sort of wonder if the question is rhetorical, because Microsoft is doing what they're doing on purpose, to their detriment. The problem for Microsoft, of course, is that it's strategy is flawed. This time at least, Dvorak is right. And Microsoft is wrong.

Microsoft earnings look to be back on track, but its once powerful public relations machine seems to have derailed. We hear very little from its outside agencies and almost nothing from the inside PR department. Where are the exciting news stories about what the company is doing?

The next generation cash cow would be Windows 8 and by now, if Microsoft was doing its job, we'd be given a pack of propaganda about what the new operating system would do, when it would be released and how much better it will be than anything ever released to computers users, ever.

So far, nothing.

The company has essentially turned over the buzz machine to Apple, a company that gets non-stop coverage for what amounts to a giant iPod Touch. [Exactly. --Paul]

The real cash cows for Microsoft are Windows and Office and for at least 15 years every pundit and prognosticator has been claiming that these two items were dead. Yet they keep selling like hotcakes.

But as things stand now, I have no idea what this company is doing or what they are up to. All anyone talks about is Apple, HP, Dell, and Google.

Microsoft is simply not in the conversation anymore. That can't be good for the company or for investors.

Exactly right. But the problem here is easily explained. In fact, I've explained it before. Windows 7, as a slice in time, was so successful for Microsoft that the company is now copying the Windows 7 to-market strategy across the board. That is, they're not communicating anything about a product until the feature set is written in stone. So we hear nothing about things like Windows Live, Windows Phone, Kin, whatever, until it's very close to release, too close for the company to have to scale back its plans and be embarrassed by feature cuts, as it was repeatedly with Windows Vista.

But that's the problem. Windows 7 was very much a particular product at a particular time. Windows 7 was so successful because Vista was perceived so poorly. And the Windows 7 strategy worked simply because the previous, Vista-era strategy of early and often disclosures didn't work at all. In that one case.

This doesn't mean that the Windows 7 strategy is the right strategy for every product, or even every Windows version. In fact, unless the previous version of those Microsoft products were as badly executed as Vista, one might make the argument that the Windows 7 strategy doesn't make any sense at all. I have said just this, and repeatedly.

So this cone of silence stuff is cute. And yes, Microsoft will make public statements about how its enterprise customers expect predictability. Whatever. They're not your biggest customer base anymore, Microsoft, and they're not exactly upgrading at a record pace anyway, so why are you bending over for those guys? Consumers, however, are. How about giving them some sizzle with that steak?

I know that, internally at Microsoft, many people do not agree with the direction the company is going. And all you have to do is read the tech press and, heck, the mainstream press, to see who's getting all the press these days.

It ain't you, Microsoft. And that is indeed bad news.

And if you're looking to copy Apple's success--and you are--then at least do it right. It's not about the products at all. What Apple does right is marketing. It's form over function, plain and simple. How else could the world be so excited over an unnecessary over-sized iPod touch? Because it's from Apple, that's how. And the press markets it for them, and makes people believe that this is somehow a big deal. It's a self-replicating back-patting, buddy system, plain and simple.

And you're not part of the circle, Microsoft. How else can you explain the ginormous Windows 7 sales that get no attention, and certainly no love from Wall Street? You've sold over 100 million licenses of this thing in record time and all anyone can talk about are lost iPhones and the iPad. I mean, give me a break.

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