How to buy friends and influence people: The Microsoft way

Money can't buy you love, Bill - listen to more Beatles...
Written by silicon.com staff, Contributor

Money can't buy you love, Bill - listen to more Beatles...

For anybody in two minds about what Microsoft can do for them, listen to this ringing endorsement for the software giant from a former Apple fan who has ditched their Mac in favour of Windows XP on the PC. "Yes, it's true, I like the Microsoft Windows XP operating system enough to change my whole computing world around. Windows XP gives me more choices and flexibility and better compatibility with the rest of the computing world." High praise indeed - which is perhaps why we shouldn't be surprised to find out that it's not as genuine as Microsoft would have us believe. These words appeared alongside a photo of a woman on the Microsoft website, purporting to be a genuine testimonial from a member of the computer-using public. However, it has since emerged that the picture was a stock photo and the words were written by a freelance writer, commissioned to come up with pro-Microsoft marketing in response to Apple's 'switch' campaign, which encouraged Microsoft users to convert to Apple. Microsoft has since admitted its tactics represented a "mistake in judgement" and said it "regrets the action" to such an extent that the red-faced team behind the campaign has removed the page from the web. In the past silicon.com has levelled a number of accusations at Microsoft. We recently suggested the software giant was incapable of innovating, preferring to buy up companies and the technologies it covets (not that there's necessarily anything wrong with that - after all, you can't say Microsoft hasn't been a success. But it is wrong when the company concerned pretends it is a great innovator - and Microsoft is guilty of that). This latest story is symptomatic of the same disease - an inability to see beyond the powers great wealth bestows upon you. If you want somebody to say something nice about you, you can go about it one of two ways. You can innovate and create products that people are genuinely willing to get excited about (see Apple), or you can hand them a bucket load of cash and tell them to start being nice about you. The latter approach is seen in all manner of situations where money offers a quick-fix route to success. Aged eight, if you want everybody to come to your birthday party you can either be nice to your classmates throughout the year or you can get your mummy and daddy to splash out on a bouncy castle and the best fairy cakes money can buy and spread the word the week before. As a football chairman, if you want to win the Champions League you can either invest in the local population, set up youth academies and encourage growth at the grass roots level, for relatively little cost, but no short term gains (as seen in the past with former European giants such as Ajax and Celtic, who still boast fanatical supporters), or you can forget about the locals and plunder the leagues of Europe buying the best players around. If you want to have a number one single you can either toil hard at your art - and accept that the path to stardom is not easily travelled - or you can launch a 'search for a star' TV programme at a cost of millions - whip up a frenzy of media attention and then use some fresh-faced pretty-boy for as long as the record buying public tolerates the manufactured pop they are being force fed. Similarly, Microsoft has fallen into a trap where money has become the cure for too many of its ills. Until people within the company start to think about why they have to pay people to be nice about Microsoft, the situation will remain the same.
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