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Microsoft's counter-attack against Windows 8 coverage makes it 'look weak'

Gregg Keizer | May 14, 2013
Apple-esque communication strategy comes home to roost, argues analyst

But Moorhead also saw Microsoft's predicament as largely self-inflicted, the result of its communications choices coming home to roost.

"This is the result of a sub-optimal communications strategy that goes all the way back to Windows 7," Moorhead said. "Prior to Windows 7, Microsoft had a much more collaborative communication strategy with the press and analysts. But they saw Apple get traction with a much more closed approach, and opted for Apple's strategy. They started to create a more challenging relationship with analysts and the press."

But Microsoft, Moorhead said, is no Apple. "Microsoft doesn't make a good Apple," he said, repeating an argument he used last week, when he pointed out that Microsoft has a much larger ecosystem than Apple, with thousands of hardware partners, herds of resellers, a bigger pool of developers and both enterprise and consumer customers to keep in the loop.

What works for Apple, in other words, is not necessarily what works for Microsoft.

"Microsoft needs to return to their earlier Windows communications strategy," said Moorhead. "They were one of the biggest technology companies that pioneered social media, they were once very collaborative with the press."

But the world's changed since Windows 7, when Stephen Sinofsky took over as head of Windows development and brought the more secretive, closed communications approach he'd used when he ran Office development, to the OS group. Sinofsky was ousted from Microsoft last fall.

"It is an echo chamber," Moorhead acknowledged. "Users, bloggers and the press all have opinions they can easily express. But because Microsoft isn't as close to analysts and the press as they used to be, maybe the result [of last week's blitz about Blue] was a lot different, and more negative, than Microsoft expected."

Other analysts have also noted the changes in how Microsoft interacts with outsiders, including themselves, the press, OEMs and developers. How and what it communicated to OEMs and developers — and when — negatively affected Windows 8, they believe.

"The lack of high-quality apps is a direct result of their secrecy," said Michael Cherry of Directions on Microsoft, who knocked the Redmond, Wash. firm for not providing tools, documentation and testing systems far enough in advance of the launch, or getting OEMs on board with innovative designs for the operating system's 2012 debut.

"This wasn't the sole reason for Windows 8's problems," said Cherry, "but it is the price you pay for being secretive."

Microsoft sounds frustrated, Moorhead observed, that its broader business isn't put into perspective, but that outsiders are focused on the Windows division, which contributed 28% of the company's total revenue in the first quarter. The Business group, whose biggest money maker is Office, accounted for 31% in that same period.


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