Tuesday Dec 02, 2008

Microsoft's Modular Datacenters Look Familiar

Call me crazy, but if Microsoft's vision of the future data center is all about packing servers into one of these...

Isn't it a lot like the vision that Sun articulated (two years earlier) to pack servers into one of these?

Incidentally, Sun's vision is now a real, live product. And Microsoft's is a cool cartoon.

Of course, I'm biased. And I'm no expert in this space. And I realize that our industry is all about building on the ideas of others.

But still... Couldn't they at least give a little credit where it's due?

Friday Jan 05, 2007

Microsoft's Mandated Achievements

A GameDaily feature on Microsoft's "Achievement Points" program for gamers has gotten a lot of bloggers' attention. Robert Scoble, for example, believes Microsoft will eventually extend beyond games and use as a secret weapon against the likes of Google and Yahoo.

But let's not get ahead of ourselves. First the basics, courtesy of the GameDaily article:

In 2005, the marketing folks at Microsoft had a brainstorm. The Xbox 360 console had just been released and, to sell more games, they decided they would start doling out "achievement points." Play enough games, collect enough points, and you could cash them in for ... nothing, nothing at all. What a concept!

And (emphasis added):

Here's how the points system works: Microsoft mandates that every developer of Xbox 360 games "hide" 1,000 achievement points in every retail game and 200 in every casual game. Players earn points for certain successes in the game. The more challenging the task, the more points are added to the player's profile -- or Gamerscore -- which is visible to anyone who cares to look.

Appealing to users' competitive nature and vanity is fine. But mandating that developers put these points into anything that will run on your platform? That sounds a lot like old behaviors which got the Redmond folks in trouble. If they do try to extend these vanity points beyond gaming, I hope the strong-arming will be left behind.

Saturday Dec 30, 2006

Bribery 2.0

A lot of people are talking about Microsoft's recent giveaway of fancy new laptops (preloaded with Windows Vista) to influential bloggers. Some are calling it a terrible breach of ethics by both Microsoft and any accepting bloggers. I don't agree. Instead, I think Robert Scoble's take is right on. In short, he says that Microsoft is smart to try to get bloggers talking about its product, and that bloggers can ethically choose to accept such an offer so long as they disclose it in their writing. Sounds right to me.

That does not mean, however, that Microsoft couldn't do a better job of executing on its intentions. For a model, I would recommend Sun's "Try and Buy" program. (Yes, Sun is my employer and that makes me biased--but it doesn't necessarily make me wrong.) This program allows anyone to receive a variety of Sun hardware products for a free 60-day evaluation. Sun even pays the shipping costs in both directions.

Now obviously these are different programs. But at their core, I think both are forms of loss leaders intended to help products gain increased exposure (and, the companies hope, subsequent increased sales). Where I think Sun gains the high ground is with its true grass-roots approach. Participants don't have to be on any special prescreened list. Some will turn out to be IT pros with big budgets, some will turn out to be bloggers with large audiences, and some will turn out to be friendless and living in their mom's basement.

That's okay. I would argue that it's better to be too broad with special treatment than to narrow; better to give everyone access and rely on probability to catch the movers and shakers than to try to identify them up front. I'm not sure what to call it. Maybe it's the difference between a shotgun and a sniper rifle. Maybe it's the difference between top-down and bottom-up thinking. Or maybe it's just better use of new media concepts in product marketing.

Whatever it's called, I think Sun's approach has more "get it" factor than Microsoft's. Like open source ideas are doing for software and Web 2.0 ideas are doing for content, this kind of modern marketing should be about enabling a bubble-up meritocracy. No one can guarantee ahead of time who the key influencers will be for a particular product. So the best thing a vendor can do is to improve access for everyone and then let the market of ideas do the rest.

Again, I'm not suggesting that Microsoft (or anyone else) is wrong to provide special access for targeted influencers. I just think it's better to start by providing open access for all and treating targeted add-ons as an afterthought than to do things the other way around.




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