What if Apple had conducted the 'Mojave Experiment'?

Summary:In watching the many negative blog posts and comments about Microsoft's "Mojave Experiment" -- designed to try to distinguish perception from reality around Vista -- I can't help but wonder how different the take would be if it were Apple doing the same kind of marketing campaign.

In watching the many negative blog posts and comments about Microsoft's "Mojave Experiment" -- designed to try to distinguish perception from reality around Vista -- I can't help but wonder how different the take would be if it were Apple doing the same kind of marketing campaign.

A quick refresher on Mojave: Mojave was the fake codename Microsoft assigned to Windows Vista when it recently conducted focus groups among consumers running Windows XP, Mac OSX and Linux. (Microsoft first discussed Mojave publicly last week, via News.com, so as to time it to coincide with its annual Financial Analyst Meeting festivities.) On July 29, Microsoft posted to the Web video footage from the Mojave interviews, showing how users' feelings and attitudes about Vista changed once they actually got to see the product in action, rather than just hearing about it second-hand.

In the past few days, I've seen commentators claiming everything from Microsoft is trying to dupe consumers, to Microsoft purposefully didn't discuss the enterprise versions of Vista because the company no longer cares about business users.

First things first: The Mojave Experiment is a marketing campaign. (But not part of the $300-million-plus campaign that still has yet to be unveiled around changing Vista's and Microsoft's perception among Apple-ad-inundated consumers.) The Mojave Experiment is not meant to trick users into buying Vista PCs. It isn't Microsoft's answer to the "I'm a Mac/I'm a PC campaign." It isn't Microsoft trying to pretend that Vista is a flawless operating system that has gotten a bad rap for no reason. (In fact, Microsoft execs have been admitting publicly that they really screwed up with the original Vista release.)

The Mojave Experiment is simply a new way for Microsoft to acknowledge and try to combat the (well-earned) consumer perception problems it has made for itself around Vista.

The Mojave campaign is aimed at consumer users, and not business ones, for a few reasons. Apple's market share is growing in the consumer/retail space far more than in the enterprise space. That said, Microsoft and other tech vendors/watchers increasingly believe in the concept of the "consumerization of IT," meaning that if a user gets used to something at home, s/he will gravitate toward that same brand at work. At the same time, many business users upgrade unthinkingly to whichever operating system their reseller/integrator delivers to them. If they're getting new PCs and they come preloaded with Vista (with an option to downgrade to XP included as part of their license agreements), so be it.

The real "taste test" for me, when talking about Microsoft's strategies vis-a-vis those of its competitors, is how users would react if "Apple" (or insert other vendor name here) had launched its own version of the Mojave Experiment. What if Apple tried to recover from its MobileMe mess by showing users who had heard that Apple's successor to .Mac was a disaster a new version, codenamed "Gobi"? Then -- surprise -- users were told it was really MobileMe.  I'm sure commentators would be raving about Apple's marketing prowess and savvy --not about Apple's lying, cheating ways.

As I've said before, Microsoft's Vista launch could (and probably will) be a Harvard Business Case Study on how the development and delivery of a product that should have been a shoo-in went horribly wrong. But I have to give the Softies some credit: After months of silence, they're finally trying to do what they should have done a year ago, namely, figure out how to fix not just the technology mistakes, but the marketing ones,  that they created with Vista.

Do you think Microsoft should have left "Mojave" in the desert? Or would you like to see more marketing around Vista along these lines?

Topics: Microsoft, Apple, Operating Systems, Software, Windows

About

Mary Jo Foley has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications, including ZDNet, eWeek and Baseline. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008). She also is the cohost of the "Windows Weekly" podcast on the TWiT network. Got a tip? Se... Full Bio

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