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Crapware, crapware, crapware
Let’s all thank the late Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson for his antitrust ruling against Microsoft shortly after the turn of the century. Because of the restrictions of that consent decree, Microsoft found its competitive abilities severely hobbled. In particular, it was unable to do anything to stop PC makers from turning Windows PCs into sluggish delivery vehicles for trialware and mediocre, performance-sapping Windows desktop programs.
Little has changed in Windows 8, sadly. A neighbor brought over a new PC the other day, purchased at a local big-box store. All of the default file associations had been assigned to alternative programs that nagged and nagged for registration fees. Even the simple act of trying to open a PDF file led to a demand for a $35 registration fee. She blamed Windows 8.
I just took delivery on a new Windows 8 notebook PC today. It’s a brilliant piece of hardware engineering, but it’s loaded with third-party software that is both unnecessary and potentially a source of performance problems. Spending 20 minutes uninstalling crapware isn’t the way to delight the user of a new PC.
Incredibly bad branding decisions
Windows 8 is a perfectly good name, especially coming on the heels of the incredibly successful Windows 7.
But two other crucial branding moves that Microsoft made have come back to haunt them.
The first was the last-minute decision to abandon Metro as the name for the new-look Windows 8 design language. After spending years building mindshare and equity in that brand, Microsoft threw the Metro name under an onrushing subway car, replacing it with … nothing. So now when we want to talk about the differences between apps written for Windows 8 and those written for the Windows desktop, we have to either play word games or just pretend that it’s still called Metro.
And in fact everyone except Microsoft is doing exactly that.
And then there’s the WinRT versus Windows RT debacle. One is a set of APIs, the other is a product name. But they sound so much alike that even the head of Microsoft’s Windows division confused the two at the Windows 8.1 launch event.
Oh well, at least Windows 8.1 wasn’t saddled with some horrible moniker like “Windows 8 2013 Feature Pack Release 2.”
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.