Microsoft, Vista and image problems

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Sick of hearing terms like User Generated Content and viral videos? Here’s another unlikely brand that has jumped into the foray: Microsoft. They are underwriting an online movie competition in the US. Here’s how it works: Kyle Newman, a Hollywood director kicks off his story with the first video. Users are then asked to submit scripts for the following segments. The contest community then decides which script is selected for the finalist videos. The finalists will then be given tools of the trade – including cameras, Falcon laptops (US$ 4000-plus!) and Pinnacle editing software. Once those videos are unveiled on the contest site the community will vote on all videos and determine the winning Ultimate Video Relay.

The contest is is intended to promote the higher-end version of Vista — Windows Vista Ultimate — among videophiles, early adopters of technology and filmmakers. As this article points out, encouraging consumers to submit content on brands is fraught with risk: they may end up trashing the brand. For example, when the Chevrolet division of General Motors asked computer users in 2006 to create commercials for the Tahoe sport utility, many spots made pointed references to its large size and thirst for gasoline. While the Microsoft contest is not directly about creating ads for Vista, they are aware of the risk: If the Microsoft contest is flooded with video clips that criticize or mock Vista, “I’d probably end up with a little bit of a red face,” Mr. Barry Goffe, director for Windows client product management at Microsoft said.

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Why is Microsoft doing this? It is an acknowledgemnt that Vista has perception problems. Pundits and consumers alike have made fun of Vista’s demanding hardware requirements, availability of drivers, performance, reliability, and battery life. There are hordes of sites dedicated to guiding consumers through problems on Vista. The brand has done well, though, with more than 140mn computers sold with this OS. But it’s getting trashed by opinion makers.

UAC Personally speaking, I own a Macbook (with Leopard and Windows Vista running via Boot Camp) but use a Windows XP loaded laptop in the office (forced to). So I use 3 operating systems. My first and only love is the Mac, of course. XP is functional and gets the office work done. But the paranoia that goes around in ensuring that all the virus & security updates are in place, is irritating. I installed Vista just for a lark on my Mac. The most annoying thing about it (apart from being incredibly slow) is the User Account Control feature. Every little attempt involving various common, mundane, everyday, and relatively safe tasks will cause your screen to go dark, after which a scary confirmation prompt pops up, requiring an extra click. The only way around this to turn off the UAC, which defeats the very purpose of security. Even if its not turned off, one clicks ‘allow’ on an auto pilot, thus increasing the security risk. I have also not figured out that one compelling reason for XP users to switch to Vista, apart from the eye candy.

The one brand having a field day with this situation is Apple. It’s Mac vs. PC ads which won the Grand Effie in 2007 hit the sweet spot for both Mac lovers and PC users. My favourite one among the several spots is the one taking potshots at Vista’s annoying UAC. Microsoft is reportedly pulling off XP from the shelves from July is year. Given Microsoft’s clout it will make Vista a bigger success in the years to come. But their perception problems may well continue. No wonder they are turning to tech freaks to change things around. Shall I ask about your experiences with XP & Vista? Allow? Deny?

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bhatnaturally

Ex-ad man. Love advertising, Apple, tech, digital, design and all things creative. VP - MarCom, @Robosoft. Views personal. See disclaimer for more.

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