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BLOG: Wishful thinking won't reverse Microsoft's misfortune

Galen Gruman | Aug. 19, 2013
Microsoft advocates ignore new power of users in believing Surface tablet will improve with better marketing or in phantom update

I'm known for my current preference of Apple products, and I recognize the power on your judgment of liking a product that fits how you work and think. But my loyalties have changed over the years -- I was a big Windows XP fan, for example, and was hired many years ago at Macworld precisely because I didn't drink the Apple Kool-Aid. I've even written a Windows 8 book, like Bott, so I have skin in several games, unlike Bott. My point is that we all have preferences, but that shouldn't blind us.

The truth is that it's harder to fool users these days or get them to buy inferior products -- at least those that cost real money. Marketing won't fix that. The product has to be right or at least good. What good means is relative and not always logical, but that doesn't matter.

For example, in our Twitter debate, I admonished Branscombe and Bott for suggesting that the next version of the Surface RT would cure its woes. "Promises, promises," I wrote. I cited Windows Phone, which after three versions is still a market failure. Branscombe responded that people like the Nokia Lumia Windows Phones. They do, but they're not buying them. The newest Lumias have an amazing camera, but that's not why people buy smartphones. Windows Phone's interface is initially pretty, but the OS is not very capable and the apps are poor. Most reviewers agree on this, even if they (like me) appreciate some of Microsoft's user-interface innovations. Users get all of this, and their purchasing behavior shows it.

Waiting for the messiah version of the product is foolhardy, as BlackBerry has discovered to its likely demise. Believe it or not, there's a correlation between an inferior product and poor sales.

The bottom line: Thanks to the consumerization trend that has shifted more technology decision-making to users, bad products will fail most of the time. IT or a dominant provider can't force-feed us inferior products as they sometimes could in the past. Nokia used to be the world's largest provider of cellphones, which adopting Windows Phone has not made true again; if any company could have forced Windows Phone on the world, it was Nokia. Yet it can't.

Whether you're Microsoft, Apple, Google, Nokia, BlackBerry, Samsung, Dell, Sony, Hewlett-Packard, Oracle, SAP, IBM, EMC VMware,, or Joe's Pizza, you need to be clear that the product matters fundamentally to its success, even if not all solid products succeed. Marketing can help a good product, but not fix a bad one. And wishful thinking can do neither. If you don't appeal to and satisfy the user, you're out of the game.


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