Microsoft needs to learn how to speak Apple and Android

Microsoft needs to learn how to speak Apple and Android

Summary: Five years ago, Microsoft might have been justified in assuming that every visitor to its website was running Windows. In 2011, that assumption is just unrealistic. An awful lot of people are using non-Microsoft devices to connect to PCs these days. Microsoft is missing an opportunity to talk directly to them.

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Five years ago, Microsoft might have been justified in assuming that every visitor to its web site was running Windows. In 2011, that assumption is just unrealistic. Yes, Windows still commands an overwhelming share of the market for desktop and portable PCs, but these days people get information from other places, like iPads and Android smartphones and MacBook Pros. None of those devices are running Microsoft operating systems.

Microsoft is aware that those other markets exist, of course. They’ve got Office for Mac 2011, and they just released Microsoft OneNote for iOS devices like iPhones and iPads, and you can get Windows Live Mesh for Mac. There are Bing apps for iOS and Android (on all U.S. carriers as of last November. Most Microsoft online services these days work shockingly well in non-Microsoft browsers on non-Microsoft devices. So why isn’t Microsoft talking directly to the people who are using those other operating systems and devices?

I thought about that earlier this morning, when I had an odd interaction with Microsoft.com. As you might recall, I’ve been using a Mac and a PC side by side for the past few months, shifting between environments throughout the day and sometimes as part of the same task.

This morning, someone on Twitter pointed me to a bookmark manager add-on for Internet Explorer. That tweet included a link that took me to the IE add-ons page at Microsoft.com. I clicked the link in TweetDeck, which opened the page in Google Chrome. On a Mac.

Now, Microsoft should know I’m using a Mac and not Windows. It’s right there in the User-agent string that went along with my request:

Mozilla/5.0 (Macintosh; U; Intel Mac OS X 10_6_6; en-US) AppleWebKit/534.13 (KHTML, like Gecko) Chrome/9.0.597.94 Safari/534.13

So here’s a close-up of what they served me in response:

"We recommend installing Internet Explorer 8 for free.” Really? How very thoughtful.

Except I can’t. As you and I and everyone on the planet knows, Microsoft doesn’t make a version of Internet Explorer for OS X, or indeed for any operating system besides Windows. So that offer is a little hollow. But there it is.

And what happens if you click the Download Now button? You get this:

As user experience goes, this is pretty awful. It’s almost a bait-and-switch deal.

Microsoft: “You want Internet Explorer for free?”

Me: “Sure, why not?”

[click]

Microsoft: “Sorry, you can’t have it. Can we sell you Windows 7 instead?”

That first page was perfectly capable of detecting my OS. When it sees I’m running OS X and not Windows, it knows for a dead certainty that I can’t install Internet Explorer. It shouldn’t force me to visit another web page to learn that self-evident truth.

I get an equally unhelpful result if I visit the Microsoft Fix It Solution Center on a Mac. Imagine this scenario: I have a PC and a Mac at home. For some reason, my PC can no longer reach the Internet. I can’t use it to find help online. So I go to the Mac, where my connection is alive and well, and I make my way to the Microsoft support site. Here’s what I find:

Those top two solutions sound like they’re worth trying. But a Run Now button? Really? That can’t possibly work on a Mac.

But there it is, and it doesn’t say anything like “Windows only.” So I click, and Chrome downloads a Windows executable file and saves it in the Downloads folder on my Mac. At that point, I am on my own.

They could offer some instructions on how to copy that file to a USB flash drive and then run it on the PC. But they don’t, and I’m left to figure things out for myself.

An awful lot of devices these days are running non-Microsoft operating systems, including tablets and phones. Smartphones are outselling PCs in many markets. In the scenario above, where I need help figuring out why my Windows PC is unable to connect to the Internet, I might use an Android-powered phone or an iPad to search for help over a 3G connection.

Every visitor who comes to microsoft.com using a Mac or an iPhone or a Droid has slightly different information needs and a set of new and interesting interoperability challenges. Wouldn’t it be smart to anticipate those needs? In the process, instead of trying to sell me a copy of Windows 7, why not point me to services like Bing and Windows Live SkyDrive that will help me connect my Windows PC and my non-Windows device?

Microsoft is missing an opportunity here. Really.

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

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  • RE: Microsoft needs to learn how to speak Apple and Android

    Good catch Ed, I also experienced the same when I surfed one of Microsoft's page using Safari on my MacBook. And I clicked on the button to get IE on my Mac knowingly that there is no Mac version of IE, but straightaway went to the page where they were talking about Windows 7. Duh.
    Ram U
    • For a bigger laugh jump into their partner portal:-)

      Renewed the Action Pack subscription a month ago. Forget non-MS browsers, the site is barely useful even with IE: unable to change to newer D&D subscription until other expired, the biggest joke of forced online tests (whilst probably challenging to the MCSE, a doodle to competent *nix guys).

      Compared to the other programs I'm a member of (IBM, Apple, Novell, Oracle) you'd think it was the nineties. Great image MS is projecting to their partners;-)

      Ed is spot on. The consumption of information on mobile devices is evaluating HTML5 (from Flex) because of it.

      Guess who's browser has the poorest draft HTML5 support?
      Richard Flude
      • RE: Microsoft needs to learn how to speak Apple and Android

        @Richard Flude - actually, it's worse than that!

        The current Partner and Online Services site isn't supported on IE9. Period. It IS supported on IE7/8, Chrome and Firefox, but not IE9!!!!

        Already notified MS of this and that accessing the online services site using IE9 prevents me from buying/adding services (e.g. Azure), but they seem reluctant to fix it.

        Am sure that they have an entire rewrite in the works as they're completely gutting their online services portal to support the move to Office 365, but someone over there needs their head examined for not providing at least basic support for IE9.

        So incensed was I that I wrote-up this whole debacle:
        http://www.bitcrazed.com/post/2010/10/05/Can?t-buy-Azure-services-using-IE9.aspx
        bitcrazed
    • RE: Microsoft needs to learn how to speak Apple and Android

      @Rama.NET Why is ANYone surprised? It is Microsoft's mindset and business practices that reaped the company monopoly status. And it will be that same mindset that drives it into the dustbin of history.
      dheady@...
      • RE: Microsoft needs to learn how to speak Apple and Android

        @dheady@... I don't want this to turn out right but I see it the same way.
        iamzoran@...
    • RE: Microsoft needs to learn how to speak Apple and Android

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  • RE: Microsoft needs to learn how to speak Apple and Android

    Android users are treated even worse than iOS users. I understand why, but when I got an Android phone, Microsoft had no good alternatives. What they've done in the mean time is force me to find alternatives to Microsoft software since Microsoft doesn't make anything (except a Bing app and their tag reader) for Android.
    gblinckmann
    • RE: Microsoft needs to learn how to speak Apple and Android

      @gblinckmann Why Microsoft let's users to install Safari, Chrome, Opera on Windows? Because Microsoft is not closed on Browsers, Microsoft knows IE market share has changed in the last years and IE has been decreasing. I think it would be great if IE9 could run on Mac OSX, iOS and Android, but if Microsoft invests in this browser, I'm sure Apple and Google wouldn't be happy since Google bases all it's revenues on it's Google search. Microsoft is already interested in smartphones with Windows Phone 7, and I'm sure you would be able to run a Google search on the IE Mobile edition. So let's not fight here, all of us should be free of using any search or browser we want on our devices.
      Gabriel Hernandez
  • RE: Microsoft needs to learn how to speak Apple and Android

    Great catch, I don't know about anyone else though, but since the days of XP needing to go there for updating are over, I haven't ventured there much at all.
    The one and only, Cylon Centurion
  • RE: Microsoft needs to learn how to speak Apple and Android

    I doubt that too many people would be trying to install Internet Explorer Add-Ons while running Safari on a Mac.
    illegaloperation
    • RE: Microsoft needs to learn how to speak Apple and Android

      @day2die To a lot of people the Internet is the Internet regardless of browser. If people were on a Mac and a friend suggested "Hey check out this cool bookmarking application for the 'Internet'", Mac users would try to check it out anyways. Most people do not know or care to know about all this techno gobbeldy gook stuff, just that my Internet does not work or that web site does not run. Not that there are things called browsers. One of the reasons so many people just use IE instead of realising there are better options they can use.
      garethmcc
      • Really?

        @garethmcc

        Do you mean like "check out this cool cliff to jump off of"? I would have thought that as soon as the Mac user saw she was at a Microsoft site, she'd realize there is nothing there for her. But you say this is not the case.

        I had no idea Apple users were so stupid.
        pishaw
      • RE: Microsoft needs to learn how to speak Apple and Android

        @garethmcc True true true.
        iamzoran@...
    • RE: Microsoft needs to learn how to speak Apple and Android

      @day2die Okay, then, here's a similar example:
      You're on an iPhone and navigate to a site that requires Flash. You're told that you need Flash to view the page properly, and are directed to click here to download it. Except you can't - you can't download an executable on an iPhone, and there's no Flash installer for an iPhone anyway. Politics on the matter aside, the average user is left with a "huh...?" as the process fails miserably and left none the wiser as to why.
      kcsmith2
      • RE: Microsoft needs to learn how to speak Apple and Android

        @kcsmith2,
        Yes. The site that required Flash should have seen that the request came from an iOS device. At that point there are only two real choices, show the user a page that does not use Flash or show the User a page that say they cannot use the website without a Flash enabled browser. Pretty simple really. Giving them a link to download Flash is stupid.
        YaBaby
  • &quot;Me Too&quot; is not good enough

    In order for MS to compete, they must differentiate themselves from the rest of the mobile leaders. Being a "Me-Too" company is no longer a good path to follow.

    But the differences must be MEANINGFUL ... in other words, not the junk that WP7 offers. Live tiles are just plain UGLY (not to mention unnecessarily stupid) and battery drainer feature. XBox integration sound good ... but it is almost USELESS. Office integration is probably the only feature worth looking at ... but it is useful but not enough to be a "killer".

    MS needs to be BETTER than the competition and lead on something .... not just be a puppy following the leaders with YEARS behind the curb as they are today.
    wackoae
    • Impossible

      @wackoae MSFT doesn't have anyone the caliber of Jobs/Ive.
      MSFTWorshipper
      • RE: Microsoft needs to learn how to speak Apple and Android

        @MSFTWorshipper - Hang on ... didn't Microsoft's gaming console controllerless adapter just outsell the iPad? Oh, it did.

        And doesn't MS sell hundreds of millions of copies of its new OS making it the most successful software product to date? Yes, I believe it does.

        Guess you're not entirely correct then.
        bitcrazed
    • RE: Microsoft needs to learn how to speak Apple and Android

      @wackoae - Give them a little breathing room on WP7. They had the guts to cull the pig and grow a whole new eagle from a few genes and amino acids. At some point, you have to ship what you think will sell and plan to provide continual updates to add missing features over time otherwise you never ship anything because there is ALWAYS someone ahead of you.

      I, like many WP7 <b>owners</b> enjoy the live tiles - they're certainly a HELL of a lot more useful than a grid of static icons and don't draw any measurable power. XBox integration and Office & Live integration are all due to get a big set of improvements this CY whereupon they very much become VERY useful to most and killer to many.

      Yes, they're coming from behind. They've openly admitted this. But they're heavily investing and are doing the right things. Give them another couple of years and they'll be a SERIOUS challenger.
      bitcrazed
    • &quot;curve&quot;

      @wackoae
      AtlantaTerry