Microsoft To Liven Up 'Live' Brand
In a moment of brutal but refreshing honesty, a top Microsoft official recently
said his company's "Live" brand needs
more than a little polishing
Responding to reporters' questions at the Search Marketing Expo conference
in Seattle, Kevin Johnson, president of Microsoft's platforms and services division,
said Redmond needs to "fix"
its "search image" if it ever hopes to seriously compete against
Google in the search and advertising markets.
Johnson also confessed that part of Live's branding problem has to do with
the varying identities for the same online service. He said this has only served
to confuse users about what the heck individual products under the Live umbrella
do and how they relate to each other. As an example, he pointed to services
such as MSN Hotmail, Windows Live Hotmail, Windows Live Messenger and MSN Live
The inspiration for this urgency of course, is Microsoft's crumbling attempt
to buy Yahoo, which would have immediately improved the company's position in
the search and advertising markets.
Another inspiration is the recent numbers that show Microsoft's share of the
search market is just under 10 percent while Google's is a tad under 60 percent
and continuing to climb. Yahoo controls around 30 percent, which would have
been a nice addition to Microsoft's share of that market.
With the Chips Down, AMD Banks on Puma
It's always been a comfort for many in the industry to know AMD has been around
to be the Pepsi to Intel's Coke. Every market -- both inside and outside the
computer industry -- that hopes to thrive needs viable choices.
But over the past year or more, some -- particularly server, desktop and laptop
manufacturers -- have been concerned that their choice for chips might get narrowed
down to just Coke. AMD's financial fortunes have fallen over the past 18 months
as the company has reported six consecutive quarters of losses totaling some
Some of the blame has to be laid at AMD's door due to poor execution in delivering
some key products. But the other reason is that Intel simply stepped into the
breach with some nice products. While AMD was able to hold on to its share of
the laptop market (about 15 percent), it lost literally half of its server market
share to Intel in just two years because of a product delay and the wide acceptance
of Intel's Core Duo chips.
Well, Pepsi is making what it hopes will be a comeback with its Puma
chip for notebooks, announced at the Computex show in Taipei yesterday.
The chip features some breakthroughs (the company's word, not mine) in power
conservation and graphics capabilities. With Puma, AMD hopes to grab a bigger
hunk of the higher-end graphics market because of the growing number of people
preferring to watch movies or view graphic-intensive Web sites on home computers
or while traveling. What gives company officials hope it can do this are the
commitments from Hewlett-Packard, Toshiba and Acer to use the chip in their
But just as you find Coke and Pepsi side-by-side at your local grocery store,
Intel also showed off a new chip, codenamed Atom, at the same show. The upcoming
Intel chip is going after another segment of the mobile market, namely wireless
units that would be in a category between phones and laptops.
AMD officials are hoping Puma will spearhead the company back to profitability.
Let's hope so. It's important to have a strong No. 2 to keep Intel honest.
Microsoft Goes After Corporate Users with Vista...Again
Microsoft appears ready to put its fabled marketing machine to a serious stress
test. This time, it's cranking it up as part of a redoubled effort to convince
businesses that now
is the time to switch over to Windows Vista.
Why it's choosing this particular time to send its shock troops into the breach
again isn't so clear. It's not like it can build on the momentum of Vista's
recently released Service Pack 1 (although it makes mention of the improved
SP1 in its campaign), or even the promise of new Vista features aimed at corporate
users (senior vice president for Windows and Windows Live, Steven Sinofsky,
abundantly clear in a recent interview with CNET).
Nope, nothing like that. It seems Microsoft thinks you should take yet another
look at the product because SP1 contains even better security than the initial
release, much better driver support and fewer compatibility problems with your
In his introduction to a white paper released for the new campaign (available
as a PDF), Mike Nash, vice president of product management for Microsoft, wrote:
"It is my firm belief that Windows Vista is ready for your business. If
I ran an IT organization, I would first test and remediate my applications on
Vista...make sure all new machines had 2GB of RAM and run Enterprise Service
Well, Mike, unless there's a generous dose of pixie dust in SP1 that hasn't
been brought to light yet, I'm not sure taking yet another look at Vista's capabilities
will convince many corporate users to spend the money needed to deploy it.
But one point made by the company that is worth considering is the money
IT shops can save compared to the now-sainted XP (company officials should have
led with this one) in deploying Vista across multiple machines. Now, this, I
can confirm after talking with IT pros over the past year, who tell me there
really are measurable cost savings having to do with tech support of desktop
And this time out, Microsoft got market researcher IDC to step up and give
witness. "Collectively considered, our research shows that customers found
Windows Vista out-of-the-box savings of $236 per PC annually in IT labor, user
labor and improved productivity," IDC said.
As critical as I can be of Vista's shortcomings, I also have no doubt there's
a measurable gap between people's perception of what the product is and what
it can constructively do for corporate users. But the way to sell this thing
until Windows 7 arrives (supposedly) in late 2009 is to tout money it can save
IT shops, not things like improved driver support.
Ed Scannell is the editor of Redmond magazine.