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Quick! Tell me about the most memorable Windows 8 commercial you’ve seen in the last year.
I’ll bet you can’t remember a single one except for the singing, dancing, clicking kids with their Surface RTs. Like the scary schoolgirls I've immortalized here.
Ironically, that wasn't an ad for Windows 8 at all. But it sure made an impression on the buying public, which wondered what the hell that was all about.
That’s a real problem for Microsoft, which has yet to deliver a clear, coherent, consistent message about why consumers should care about Windows 8.
In that respect, Apple has an almost unbeatable advantage: it sells only one iPad (two, if you count the new Mini), so its commercials are both training videos and demonstrations of the end-to-end scenarios it performs so well.
With its new series of “Compare” ads, Microsoft is finally trying to deliver that same kind of experience-based messaging. Let’s see if it works.
Consumer confusion: literally helpless
Throughout the preview process and even after Windows 8 was released to the public last October, Microsoft stubbornly refused to include any online help or orientation for new users. Driven by telemetry and test results, they seemed convinced that people would learn how to use Windows 8 as quickly and easily as a kid learning to ride a bicycle.
A few third-party partners, including HP and Dell (shown above), tried to pick up the slack with training modules that were included on the Start screen of new PCs. But most people just had to muddle through, with predictable results.
The Start screen for the Windows 8.1 Preview includes a placeholder tile for a new Help & Tips app. That's a good sign, but I'll reserve judgment until I see the final content that goes with that app. In the case of Windows 8, Microsoft has some serious explaining to do.