Microsoft needs more than a new slogan

Microsoft needs better products -- not ill-advised marketing campaigns or promotional websites -- to truly challenge Apple

It seems Microsoft didn't get pummeled enough in the "I'm a Mac, you're a PC" ad campaign, so it's coming back for more. This time the marketing marvels at Microsoft have cooked up a new web site detailing the various ways in which the Mac is inferior to a Windows 7 machine. Like, for example, "Macs don't work as well at work or at school" or "Macs can take time to learn" or "Macs don't like to share."

It's kind of pathetic, really. Most of these arguments are premised on the notion that if you've already wasted most of your adult life using Windows, you'll be more familiar with it than the Mac, so you might as well waste the rest of your adult life. Which is really the only reason why Microsoft continues to dominate desktop market share: It's harder to switch than to stick with what you got, even if what you got sucks eggs.

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Still, is that the best MSFT can do with its billions in profits? Seriously?

It's like Redmond has fallen so far behind in the mobile/tablet space that it's clinging to an era in which the battle for control of the desktop still mattered. ("Remember the good old days when we were kicking the Macintosh's behind?") I can't believe I'm actually writing this, but I'm starting to feel sorry for them.

Meanwhile, of course, there's that new corporate motto Microsoft is allegedly going to reveal: "Be What's Next." So far that tagline has yet to be spotted in the wild, only at an internal Microsoft trade show. But it does reveal the huge gulf between how Microsoft perceives itself and how the rest of the non-Microsoft fanboy world perceives it.

Pop quiz: If you were looking for what's coming next to the world of technology, is Redmond the first place you'd look? How about the 20th place? Is it even in the top 100?

In a blog post late last month ("Can Microsoft imitate Apple one more time?"), I asked Cringesters what they would suggest for a new Microsoft slogan.

Commenter "engpjp" suggests Microsoft take a page from the pre-second-coming of Steve Jobs era: "Microsoft: Be What's NeXT." I think they'd probably get sued for that one.

But the residents of Cringeville came up with some pretty good ones, too. Here are the best, followed by the author's initials.

* "If you've got the solutions, we've got the problems" (D. W.).

* "The 500 pound gorilla doesn't play with toys. Microsoft: We get the Jobs done." (S. E.)

* Here's one from the Caesarean section: "We came, we saw, we copied" (C. D.).

* The practical: "Reboot your life (and while you're at it, your PC)" (R. L.).

* The acquisitive: "If you can't beat em, buy em" (J. P.).

* The scatological: "Microsoft: We love downloading lots of s**** to your PC" (M. S.).

Here's one proclaiming hey, at least our CEO didn't have to resign because of a sex scandal: "We're not HP" (B. C.).

And this one would sound right at home on that new Windows-vs.-Mac site Microsoft just created: "Lots of people use our software because they have to" (M. B.).

Personally, I like eSarcasm's somewhat NSFW take on the new Microsoft slogan, especially this one: "Microsoft: Re-imagining the future by clinging blindly to the past."

Maybe Microsoft should fire all of its marketers and hire the residents of Cringeville instead. We certainly couldn't do much worse.

Got more sage marketing advice for Microsoft? E-mail me: cringe@infoworld.com.

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Robert X. Cringely

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