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kottke.org posts about Microsoft

Microsoft/LinkedIn fan fiction

posted by Tim Carmody   Jun 13, 2016

Microsoft is buying LinkedIn, and I can’t think of anyone I’d rather read thinking through what that might mean more than Paul Ford.

Microsoft is a software company, sure, but it’s also a bit of a nation-state with an enormously broad mandate. LinkedIn is an unbelievable data-mining platform; it has the ground truth about the global economy, especially around the technology industry, and it has a lock on that data. Microsoft will know what’s going with Facebook before Zuckerberg does; it’ll know what skills are being added to Googlers’ resumes; it’ll know what kind of searches HR departments are doing across the world, and it can use that information to start marketing its own services to those companies…

It’s…terrifying. And we’ll never really know what’s going on. Which makes it kind of brilliant. But still terrifying.

Filled with straightforward observations (hey, Microsoft now has a huge, well-targeted advertising network to match Google’s and Amazon’s) to delightfully bizarre ones, like LinkedIn’s secret synergy with Minecraft (!), 9 Things Microsoft Could Do With LinkedIn blends consulting memo, standup routine, and Borgesian counterfiction. I’ve always aspired to this sort of thing, and Paul just rattles it off. Dang it.

We Work Remotely

Walt Disney’s corporate strategy chart

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 26, 2015

From 1957, this is a drawing of the synergistic strategy of Walt Disney Productions, or what Todd Zenger of Harvard Business Review calls “a corporate theory of sustained growth”.

Disney Synergy Chart

The boxes on the chart have changed, but since the appointment of Bob Iger as CEO, Disney has seemingly doubled down on Walt’s old strategy with their increased focus on franchises.

Disney’s dominance can be boiled down very simply to one word: franchises. Or rather, an “incessant focus on franchises” in the words of former Disney CFO Jay Rasulo.

“Everything we do is about brands and franchises,” Rasulo told a group of financial analysts last September. “Ten years ago we were more like other media companies, more broad-based, big movie slate, 20 something pictures, some franchise, some not franchise. If you look at our slate strategy now, our television strategy, almost every aspect of the company, we are oriented around brands and franchises.”

Franchises are well suited to extend across multiple parts of a big business like Disney, particularly because it’s a repeating virtuous cycle: movies drive merchandise sales and theme park visits, which in turn drives interest for sequels and spin-offs, rinse, repeat, reboot.

I wonder if more tech companies could be using this strategy more effectively. Apple does pretty well; their various hardware (iPhone, iPad, Mac), software (iOS, OS X), and services (iCloud, App Store, iTunes Store) work together effectively. Microsoft rode Office & Windows for quite awhile. Google seems a bit more all over the place — for instance, it’s unclear how their self-driving car helps their search business and Google+ largely failed to connect various offerings. Facebook seems to be headed in the right direction. Twitter? Not so much, but we’ll see how they do with new leadership. Or old leadership…I discovered Walt’s chart via interim Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey.

Microsoft buys Minecraft

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 15, 2014

Mojang’s popular game Minecraft has sold over 54 million copies. But that, and the $2.5 billion that Microsoft just paid to acquire the company, dramatically understates the impact that this game has had on [Dave Pell’s] third grader and his friends. They all wear Minecraft gear and watch Minecraft videos on YouTube. And several of them completed a week of Minecraft Camp over the summer. The way I see it, $2.5 billion just became the most anyone has ever spent on a babysitter.

The Verge: Why parents are raising their kids on Minecraft.

Markus Persson, the founder of Mojang (known as Notch), explains why he’s selling — and leaving — the company: “It’s not about the money. It’s about my sanity.”

The hyperlapse algorithm

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 11, 2014

Microsoft has developed software to transform shaky time lapse videos into impressively smooth hyperlapse movies. Take a look at a couple of examples.

Read more about the project on the Microsoft Research site.

Microsoft.com celebrates 20th anniversary

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 08, 2014

To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the first Microsoft home page, the company has recreated that old page here. More here, including screenshots of subsequent designs.

In terms of “Web design,” the notion, much less the phrase, didn’t really exist.

“There wasn’t much for authoring tools,” Ingalls says. “There was this thing called HTML that almost nobody knew.” Information that was submitted for the new Microsoft.com website often came to Ingalls via 3-1/2-inch floppy disks.

“Steve Heaney and I put together PERL scripts that handled a lot of these daily publishing duties for us,” he says. “For a while, we ran the site like a newspaper, where we published content twice a day. And if you missed the cutoff for the publishing deadline, you didn’t get it published until the next running of the presses, or however you want to term it.”

Interestingly, Microsoft doesn’t seem to know exactly when the page first went live:

Based on the findings, it appears the website was launched during the time between HTML/1.0 (June 1993) and HTML/2.0 (Dec 1994).

I made a brief search of the NCSA What’s New Archive, where a web site for Microsoft should have been noted, and found nothing between June 1993 and September 1994. This piece written in 1999 about the beginnings of Microsoft’s site says the page launched in April 1994. I searched some early Usenet groups to no avail. Anyone have a more accurate date? (via waxy)

Something only Apple can do

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 16, 2014

An instant classic John Gruber post about the sort of company Apple is right now and how it compares in that regard to its four main competitors: Google, Samsung, Microsoft, and Amazon. The post is also about how Apple is now firmly a Tim Cook joint, and the company is better for it.

When Cook succeeded Jobs, the question we all asked was more or less binary: Would Apple decline without Steve Jobs? What seems to have gone largely unconsidered is whether Apple would thrive with Cook at the helm, achieving things the company wasn’t able to do under the leadership of the autocratic and mercurial Jobs.

Jobs was a great CEO for leading Apple to become big. But Cook is a great CEO for leading Apple now that it is big, to allow the company to take advantage of its size and success. Matt Drance said it, and so will I: What we saw last week at WWDC 2014 would not have happened under Steve Jobs.

This is not to say Apple is better off without Steve Jobs. But I do think it’s becoming clear that the company, today, might be better off with Tim Cook as CEO. If Jobs were still with us, his ideal role today might be that of an eminence grise, muse and partner to Jony Ive in the design of new products, and of course public presenter extraordinaire. Chairman of the board, with Cook as CEO, running the company much as he actually is today.

This bit on the commoditization of hardware, and Apple’s spectacularly successful fight against it, got me thinking about current events. Here’s Gruber again:

Apple’s device-centric approach provides them with control. There’s a long-standing and perhaps everlasting belief in the computer industry that hardware is destined for commoditization. At their cores, Microsoft and Google were founded on that belief - and they succeeded handsomely. Microsoft’s Windows empire was built atop commodity PC hardware. Google’s search empire was built atop web browsers running on any and all computers. (Google also made a huge bet on commodity hardware for their incredible back-end infrastructure. Google’s infrastructure is both massive and massively redundant - thousands and thousands of cheap hardware servers running custom software designed such that failure of individual machines is completely expected.)

This is probably the central axiom of the Church of Market Share - if hardware is destined for commoditization, then the only thing that matters is maximizing the share of devices running your OS (Microsoft) or using your online services (Google).

The entirety of Apple’s post-NeXT reunification success has been in defiance of that belief - that commoditization is inevitable, but won’t necessarily consume the entire market. It started with the iMac, and the notion that the design of computer hardware mattered. It carried through to the iPod, which faced predictions of imminent decline in the face of commodity music players all the way until it was cannibalized by the iPhone.

And here’s David Galbraith tweeting about the seemingly unrelated training that London taxi drivers receive, a comment no doubt spurred by the European taxi strikes last week, protesting Uber’s move into Europe:

Didn’t realize London taxi drivers still have to spend years learning routes. That’s just asking to be disrupted http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taxicabs_of_the_United_Kingdom#The_Knowledge

Here’s the relevant bit from Wikipedia about The Knowledge:

It is the world’s most demanding training course for taxicab drivers, and applicants will usually need at least twelve ‘appearances’ (attempts at the final test), after preparation averaging 34 months, to pass the examination.

Uber, in this scenario, is attempting to be Microsoft in the 1980s and early 90s. They’re implementing their software layer (the Uber service) on commodity hardware, which includes not only iPhones & Android phones, mass-produced cars of any type, and GPS systems but also, and crucially, the drivers themselves. Uber is betting that a bunch of off-the-shelf hardware, “ordinary” drivers, and their self-service easy-pay dispatch system will provide similar (or even better) results than a fleet of taxi drivers each with three years of training and years of experience. It is unclear to me what the taxi drivers can do in this situation to emulate the Apple of 1997 in making that commoditization irrelevant to their business prospects. Although when it comes to London in particular, Uber may have miscalculated: in a recent comparison at rush hour, an Uber cab took almost three times as long and was 64% more expensive than a black cab.

Microsoft: new CEO, new company?

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 05, 2014

Microsoft has a new CEO, Satya Nadella — birthplace: Hyderabad, India; hobbies: cricket, poetry. Here’s a nice succinct piece by John Gruber on Microsoft’s past, present, and future.

“A computer on every desk and in every home” was incredible foresight for 1977. It carried Microsoft for 25 years of growth. But once that goal was achieved, I don’t think they knew where to go. They were like the dog that caught the car. They spent a lot of time and energy on TV. Not just with Xbox, which is alive and well today (albeit not a significant source of income), but with other ideas that did not pan out, like “media center PCs” and the joint ownership of “MSNBC”, which was originally imagined as a sort of cable news network, website, dessert, and floor wax rolled into one.

No surprise: Gruber writes about Microsoft as well as he does about Apple.

The birth of Microsoft

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 08, 2013

From the Harvard Gazette, Walter Isaacson writes about Bill Gates’ years at Harvard.

It may have been the most momentous purchase of a magazine in the history of the Out of Town News stand in Harvard Square. Paul Allen, a college dropout from Seattle, wandered into the cluttered kiosk one snowy day in December 1974 and saw that the new issue of Popular Electronics featured a home computer for hobbyists, called the Altair, that was just coming on the market. He was both exhilarated and dismayed. Although thrilled that the era of the “personal” computer seemed to have arrived, he was afraid that he was going to miss the party. Slapping down 75 cents, he grabbed the issue and trotted through the slush to the Currier House room of Bill Gates, a Harvard sophomore and fellow computer fanatic from Lakeside High School in Seattle, who had convinced Allen to drop out of college and move to Cambridge. “Hey, this thing is happening without us,” Allen declared. Gates began to rock back and forth, as he often did during moments of intensity. When he finished the article, he realized that Allen was right. For the next eight weeks, the two of them embarked on a frenzy of code writing that would change the nature of the computer business.

What Gates and Allen set out to do, during the Christmas break of 1974 and the subsequent January reading period when Gates was supposed to be studying for exams, was to create the software for personal computers. “When Paul showed me that magazine, there was no such thing as a software industry,” Gates recalled. “We had the insight that you could create one. And we did.” Years later, reflecting on his innovations, he said, “That was the most important idea that I ever had.”

And here perhaps is the worst idea Gates ever had:

From 2000: what if Apple was the largest company in the world?

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 27, 2012

So this is fun. Back in February 2000, I wrote a post about Amazon being awarded a patent for their affiliates program. In it, I wondered about a world where Apple was the largest company in the world:

And that brings us to Microsoft and Apple. Microsoft is perhaps the largest target of this sort of “boycott”, organized or otherwise. People hate Microsoft. Companies hate Microsoft. It’s the company you love to hate. Apple, on the other hand, is one of the most beloved companies in the world. People love Apple.

But what if Apple were Microsoft? What if Apple had won the battle of the PC and was the largest company in the world? People would hate them. Why? Because they would be using the same tactics as Microsoft to stay ahead and keep every bit of that advantage in anyway that they could. Apple is the way it is because they are the underdog.

I’ll even argue that life would be worse under Apple’s rein. Apple controls the OS *and* the hardware: if we were under Apple’s boot instead of Microsoft’s, we’d be paying too much for hardware as well as the software.

Nailed it! Or not. That third paragraph is pretty wrong…one of the things that contributed greatly to Apple’s rise is their commitment to pricing their products competitively. And software is cheap.

As for Apple being the underdog, I’ve always thought one of the interesting things about Daring Fireball, even from the beginning, is that John Gruber never treated Apple as an underdog. In his esteem, Apple was the best company making the best software and hardware, and the DF attitude with respect to Microsoft was very much like that of Jon Lovitz’s Michael Dukakis in a debate with Dana Carvey’s George H.W. Bush on SNL: “I can’t believe I’m losing to this guy”. Gruber proved correct…what looked like an underdog proved to be a powerhouse in the making. (thx, greg & andy)

New logo for Microsoft

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 23, 2012

After using the same logo for the past 25 years, Microsoft introduces a new logo that echoes their Windows brand.

New Microsoft Logo

The Microsoft brand is about much more than logos or product names. We are lucky to play a role in the lives of more than a billion people every day. The ways people experience our products are our most important “brand impressions”. That’s why the new Microsoft logo takes its inspiration from our product design principles while drawing upon the heritage of our brand values, fonts and colors.

(via df)

How to build an iPad competitor

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 20, 2012

It’s funny. Or sad. Or predictable. It’s predictably sadly funny that many tech media outlets are saying that Apple’s iPad finally has a bonafide competitor in the Microsoft Surface. Set aside for now that Surface does look genuinely interesting, that the price hasn’t been set, and the thing isn’t even out yet. For a piece of portable networking technology like a smartphone or tablet to be successful on the scale at which Apple operates, you need to have an ecosystem, a network of interacting devices, software, products, and services that work together…hardware + software is not enough. Apple, Google (and partners), Amazon, and possibly Microsoft are the only companies with the expertise and pockets deep enough to build their own ecosystems. Ok, maybe Facebook in a couple years or if Nokia can dig themselves out of their current hole, but that’s really about it.

The current parts of the phone/tablet/media ecosystem are as follows:

1. A piece of hardware at a price that compares favorably to its quality and features. Apple sells premium hardware with great features at a premium-but-still-reasonable price. Google and their partners offer a range of devices at different prices corresponding to different levels of quality and features offered. Amazon offers low-price hardware with a relatively limited but appropriate set of features. Microsoft looks to have a nice piece of hardware with promising features but the price point is pending.

2. An OS that takes proper advantage of the hardware capabilities with features in line with the price of the device. Apple has iOS, with most of its devices running the same version. Google and their partners have many different versions of Android, most of which are not the most recent version. Amazon runs a customized Android OS for the Kindle Fire and a modified version of Linux for the non-Fire Kindles. Microsoft has Windows 8, which will eventually run, in different configurations, on lots of different kinds of hardware, from desktop computers to phones.

3. An app store stocked with the applications that smartphone and tablet owners want to use. Apple has the comprehensive App Store. Google, etc. have Google Play (née Android Market), Amazon’s Appstore for Android, and other stores, on which you can get most of the most popular apps. Amazon has their Appstore for Android for the Kindle Fire. Microsoft has the Windows Phone Marketplace for the Windows Phone with a more limited selection than the other stores…it’s unclear what their plans are for a Windows 8 app store.

4. A media store with books, movies, and TV shows. Apple has the iTunes store (as well as iBooks, Newstand, etc.). Android has Google Play. Amazon has the Kindle store and Amazon Instant Video. Will Microsoft offer a way to purchase media across their Windows 8 platform? Does Windows Media Player do this?

5. A digital media hub for managing media, apps, software updates, etc. This part is a bit more optional than the others since media management is moving to the device and the cloud, but still. Apple has iTunes. Android has a variety of possible desktop managers and management happens on the device or through the cloud? You manage the Kindle stuff through Amazon’s site and on the device. Microsoft will probably go cloud/device-based at this point?

6. An integrated cloud solution for syncing apps, media, and documents across devices. Again, this isn’t crucial but will likely become so over time. Apple has iCloud. Android has Google’s suite of apps (Gmail, calendar, Google docs, Google Drive, etc.). Amazon uses Whispernet and is leveraging AWS in various ways (e.g. Cloud Drive). Will Microsoft leverage SkyDrive for their tablets and phones?

7. Sister devices. Apple has the iPhone, iPad, iPod touches, Apple TV, and their full line of OS X-powered computers. Android runs on phones and tablets, but can also run on an increasing number of other devices (Google TV, etc.). And maybe ChromeOS devices? Amazon doesn’t really have an interacting network of devices. Microsoft will have phones, the Surface, billions of desktop computers running Windows 8, and, dare I even say it, the Xbox.

You don’t need to have every single part of the ecosystem for it to thrive but the more the better. Again, Surface does look genuinely interesting (as do the Windows phones from Nokia), Windows 8 and the Metro interface look promising, and Microsoft has deep pockets but all the pieces aren’t quite there yet for them. Microsoft’s real opportunity here is the Xbox. If they can properly leverage and integrate the Xbox’s growing status as a home media hub (Xbox Live), they can fill in a lot of the holes in their fledgling ecosystem, provide people with compelling devices & media experiences, and give Apple, Google, and Amazon a real run for their (and our) money.

Microsoft Surface tablet

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 18, 2012

Microsoft announced their own tablet today called Surface. Here’s the slick intro video. (Microsoft. Now mit dubstep!)

That keyboard cover thing is a fantastic idea…the first iPad accessory maker to rip that off is going to make a fortune. The Verge has the whole story about the Surface.

Kindle and Kinect Christmas

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 17, 2010

Since the introduction of the iPhone, Apple has ruled the December holidays. Under the tree, by the menorah, and around the Festivus pole has appeared a steady stream of iPods, iPhones, iTunes gift cards, iPod touches, and even MacBooks. Apple has sold tons of devices in the final quarter of the last three years and, with the iPad added to the lineup, will likely do so again this year.

But I think two companies who will do even better than Apple in December this year.

The first is Amazon**. The cheapest Kindle is now only $139 (and the one with free 3G is $50 more). They are going to sell a metric crapload of these things this Christmas. And even if they don’t, they’re going to sell 50 million metric shitloads of Kindle books because you don’t even need a Kindle to read Kindle books…Amazon has readers for the iPad (which is way better than Apple’s iBooks app IMO), iPhone, Android devices, Blackberry, WinPhone 7, Windows, and OS X. I never would have predicted it, but I am a firm convert to Kindle books…and I don’t even have a Kindle. The killer feature here is Amazon’s multi-platform support. I *love* reading books on the iPad at home but when I’m out and about, if I’ve got my iPhone in my pocket, I can read a book. The best book is the one that’s always with you.

This one is more of a guess, but the other company that will do well this holiday season is Microsoft. I know, right? But have you seen this Kinect thing? It’s an add-on for Xbox 360 that takes everything people loved about the Wii and Wii Fit and makes it easier, more natural, and more powerful. Basically you hook this bar up to your Xbox 360 and it tracks your motion around the room. You’re the controller. Here’s a snippet from David Pogue’s positive review:

The Wii, by tracking the position of its remote control, was amazing for its time (2006). It’s a natural for games in which you swing one hand — bowling, tennis, golf. But the Kinect blows open a whole universe of new, whole-body simulations — volleyball, obstacle courses, dancing, flying.

It doesn’t merely recognize that someone is there; it recognizes your face and body. In some games, you can jump in to take a buddy’s place; the game instantly notices the change and signs you in under your own name. If you leave the room, it pauses the game automatically.

There’s a crazy, magical, omigosh rush the first time you try the Kinect. It’s an experience you’ve never had before.

The Kinect is available at Amazon (hey, there they are again…) bundled with Xbox 360 for $300 and separately for $150.

2004 iPhone prediction

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 16, 2010

Paul Graham’s Hackers and Painters, published in 2004, contained the following footnote:

If the Mac was so great, why did it lose? Cost, again Microsoft concentrated on the software business and unleashed a swarm of cheap component suppliers on Apple hardware. It did not help either that suits took over during a critical period. (And it hasn’t lost yet. If Apple were to grow the iPod into a cell phone with a web browser, Microsoft would be in big trouble.)

Then again, a few footnotes later Graham writes:

I would not even use Javascript, if I were you; Viaweb didn’t. Most of the Javascript I see on the Web isn’t necessary, and much of it breaks. And when you start to be able to browse actual web pages on your cell phone or PDA (or toaster), who knows if they’ll even support it.

Maybe he meant Flash? (via oddhead)

MSFT vs AAPL

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 26, 2010

After posting the Apple stock purchase vs. Apple product purchase thing this afternoon, I thought, hey, Microsoft’s stock went up a bunch after Windows 95 came out so I’ll figure out how much the software’s purchase price would be worth in Microsoft stock today. The answer was not very exciting as you can see from this graph courtesy of Google Finance:

MSFT vs AAPL

Since the Windows 95 launch, Microsoft’s stock has only (only!) quadrupled in value while Apple’s stock has increased by more than 24 times. 24 times! That kind of growth is remarkable for a company that had already been public for 15 years and, everyone assumed, had already been through their boom time. Of course, what goes up can easily come down…

I stuck Google in there for good measure. It doesn’t show as much growth as you’d think because GOOG’s IPO-day closing price made it a very large company from the start…the chart hides Google’s pre-IPO growth in value. But still, look at how much Apple’s stock price has grown in comparison to Google’s since the latter’s IPO. (For fun, add Yahoo into the mix and dial the graph back to 1996.)

Microsoft to patent Tufte’s sparklines?

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 19, 2009

Microsoft has filed a patent application for sparklines and Edward Tufte, who came up with the idea for sparklines, is wondering what to do about it. (via waxy)

The New York Yankees, the Microsoft of baseball

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 27, 2009

Greg Knauss on how the New York Yankees are like Microsoft.

But, wait… Two-thousand was — the last time the Yankees managed to win a championship. And it was awfully close to the last time that that Microsoft managed to produce a version of Windows that anybody cared about. And, hey, both the Yankees and Microsoft have long histories of dominating their professions, and of using that dominance to run up huge payrolls with — let’s be honest here — a near-decade of lackluster results.

It’s an uncanny resemblance.

Who’s up for a little Microsoft vs. Apple?

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 31, 2009

From John Gruber, an Apple booster, an essay on Microsoft’s Long, Slow Decline. And, is if in reply, an essay called Apple: Secrecy Does Not Scale from Anil Dash, Microsoft enthusiast. A perhaps unsubtle reply to both essays might be “I can’t hear you over the continual sounds of the cash register”…MS and Apple continue to be enormously profitable doing business the way they do.

Google’s search dominance

posted by Jason Kottke   May 29, 2009

After I heard Microsoft’s announcement of yet-another-interation of their search engine (named Bing), I went to look at the stats for kottke.org for the past month to see how many visitors each search engine sent to the site. I couldn’t believe how dominant Google was.

Google | 262,946 | 93.8%
MS Live | 4,307 | 1.5%
Yahoo | 4,036 | 1.4%
MSN | 2,796 | 1.0%

It’s a small sample and doesn’t match up with Comscore’s numbers (Google: 64.2%, Yahoo: 20.4%, MS: 8.2%), but wow. As a comparison, the numbers for a year ago for kottke.org had Google at 91%, Yahoo at 4.9%, and Live at 0.7%.

Playboy and Deep Zoom

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 18, 2009

The new version of Microsoft Silverlight (their answer to Flash, a question that no one asked) has a feature called Deep Zoom that Playboy is going to use to provide free access to 54 full issues of Playboy magazine.

After EXTENSIVE testing, I have determined that Silverlight’s Zoom isn’t nearly so Deep as one can imagine. (via jimray)

Wonderwall techno

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 29, 2009

We all had a healthy laugh earlier in the month when someone took the vocal track from Van Halen’s Runnin’ With The Devil and ran it through Microsoft Songsmith, creating an automatic and unusual musical accompaniment for David Lee Roth’s tortured vocals. Since then, people have done this with all sorts of songs and they’re all pretty bad. Surprisingly, Wonderwall by Oasis works really well as a techno song. (thx, rob)

Songsmith, meet David Lee Roth

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 12, 2009

Songsmith is a piece of software by Microsoft Research that automatically creates a musical accompaniment to a singer’s voice. (The intro video is priceless.) A MetaFilter member took David Lee Roth’s vocal track from Runnin’ With The Devil and put it through Songsmith…the results are pretty great. (thx, shay)

The new Microsoft ads

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 19, 2008

After a couple of teasers starring Jerry Seinfeld, Microsoft is airing some new ads that take Apple’s “I’m a PC” out into the real world. So instead of John Hodgman’s dorky PC character (who is parodied in one of the new ads), they’ve got all sorts of people — basketball players, actresses, scientists, fashion designers, etc. — proudly declaring “I’m a PC”. As Michael Sippey mentions, the ads do communicate a “message of joy and abundance and widespread use of Personal Computing”, but they’re not “great”.

I briefly worked for a design firm in the late 90s that did a lot of advertising work. One of the hard and fast rules in the office — which was taken from a book written by a successful ad man whose name I cannot recall — was that if a company was #1 in a certain space, their advertising should never ever mention the competition, not even in an oblique fashion. And even if a company was #2, they should do the same and act as if they were #1.

That’s the problem with Microsoft’s ads. They’re still #1 and the bigger company, but by referencing Apple’s successful ad campaign, they’re acting like Apple is #1. (John Gruber made this same point the other day.) The ads fail because they serve to remind people that Apple comes up with good ideas that Microsoft then takes and shapes into something that so-called “normal people” can use or understand. Except that this isn’t 1993. With the iPod, iPhone, iMac, OS X, the Apple Stores, and the iTunes Store, Apple has their finger firmly on the pulse of what normal people want and Microsoft’s recent attempts (the Zune, Vista) to keep up by emulating Apple have failed. If MS had created the “I’m a PC” message on their own, the ads would be great, but these copy-and-paste ads lack soul and are merely “eh”.

What’s interesting is that with the I’m a Mac/I’m a PC ads, Apple mentions Microsoft explicitly, over and over, proving the old adage that rules are made to be broken. What works in Apple’s favor is that they are the #2 company and were clever about how they attacked #1. Microsoft’s hamfisted ads are almost saying to Apple, “nuh-uh, my mom thinks I’m cool” while the image of Hodgman’s frumpy PC is hard to shake and makes Windows seem lame without being overly insulting about it.

Microsoft then and now

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 23, 2008

The iconic photo from 1978 of Microsoft’s founders and early employees has been reshot.

Present for the reunion was office manager Miriam Lubow (center of new picture), who missed the original sitting due to a snowstorm. (When Lubow, now retired, first met Gates, she couldn’t believe that disheveled kid was the president.) Absent for the reshoot was Bob Wallace (top center), who died in 2002; after leaving Microsoft in 1983, he pioneered the idea of shareware.

They should submit this to Ze Frank’s Youngme/Nowme.

Yahoo stock plunges?

posted by Jason Kottke   May 05, 2008

The big tech/business news of the day is Yahoo’s stock “plunge” following the withdrawl of Microsoft’s takeover offer. I’m sure plunge headlines sell newspapers and all, but the more long-term story is more interesting.

On Jan 31, the day before Microsoft offered $31/share for Yahoo, YHOO was at $19.18/share (market cap: $26.4 billion) and MSFT was at $32.60/share (market cap: $303.6 billion). At the close of trading today, YHOO closed at $24.37/share (market cap: $33.5 billion) and MSFT was at $29.08/share (market cap: $270.8 billion). In other words, the Microsoft offer increased the value of Yahoo! Inc. by more than $7 billion and decreased the value of Microsoft Corporation by almost $33 billion. In still other words, in attempting to take Yahoo by force, they let an amount equal to Yahoo slip through their fingers. Why isn’t anyone writing about Yahoo’s amazing stock gains and Microsoft’s plunge?

You know what’s dumb about the “SoAndSo

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 25, 2008

You know what’s dumb about the “SoAndSo Company is the Next Google” headlines. But do you know what’s *really* dumb about the “SoAndSo Company is the Next Google” headlines? Before Google became the company whose success everyone was chasing, it was Microsoft. Before that, it was IBM. That’s it, three companies since 1960. What are the chances it’s going to happen again anytime soon? (Nothing against Etsy, but this is the one that set me off.)

Microsoft wants to buy Yahoo! for $44 billion.

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 01, 2008

Microsoft wants to buy Yahoo! for $44 billion. This sounds like a horrible deal…big mergers/acquisitions like these often don’t work well.

On the complexity of personal computers

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 19, 2007

If you believe that software made for a mass market audience that costs $129 (or even $259), does just about anything you want the instant you specify, and runs on mass-produced hardware that fits comfortably in a small backpack will always perform flawlessly, you’re deluded. If you believe any advertising or marketing to the contrary, you’re twice deluded, once by yourself and once by someone else. You want 100% reliability for cheap? Buy a calculator. But don’t expect anything more than arithmetic.

Microsoft’s Art of Office site showcases artistic

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 08, 2007

Microsoft’s Art of Office site showcases artistic creations made with the Office suite of programs…upload your own to participate.

“One day, your computer will be a

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 21, 2007

“One day, your computer will be a big ass table.” Parody of Microsoft Surface, a $10,000 touchscreen coffee table. (via everyone I know)