Scoble says that he has stopped pushing Longhorn in his current evangelism forays. Customers haven’t upgraded to XP, and he wants to know why. He bemoans the fact that the company’s advertising doesn’t show off any of the cool new features of products. He points out that most users don’t know what ClearType is (if you don’t, by the way, and you own a laptop, you are missing the best feature of Windows XP).
At one time Microsoft was very good at marketing the new features in new products. They’ve lost that discipline, completely. Where the hook for MS-DOS 6 was "the easy way to double your disk", for instance, what is the hook for Windows XP? For Office XP?
The current crop of marketers at Microsoft couldn’t position a new release if their lives depended on it. Why? Because most people "upgrade" through OEM channels (buy a new PC), or enterprise agreements. Positioning at retail is not required. Indeed, retail as a distribution channel is dying.
The reason is that it is simply too expensive to position and advertise each individual product, and in the absence of meaningful competition, it is not required. Ballmer, years ago, dictated that there would be a few initiatives for marketing activities each year, and every product had to contribute to positioning the company around those initiatives. Consequently, marketing activities seek to position the corporation, and not products.
The days of Microsoft marketing individual products to the consumer with specific consumer benefits are over. The mediocrity of generic messages, and the complacency of the incumbent, is all that is left.