Who said that the bigger a company is the more slick and polished its PR? Well it doesn’t hold true for Microsoft.
When the largest software developer in the world announced “Surface” – their new tablet — the event itself had all the polish of a high school production. I don’t know how much money it took to develop “Surface” but they should have used some of that money to train its top brass in how to introduce it to the world.
Taking a page (or a chapter) from the masterful way that Steve Jobs introduced all major Apple products, Microsoft put its people in blue jeans and Nike sneakers, rented a studio in Los Angeles and put on their show. First, the press was informed on Thursday of the Monday announcement. Not much time for people to get to L.A. Second, they started it at 3:30 pm, totally ignoring the fact that some media have deadlines.
The event started with Steve Ballmer, Microsoft CEO (who wasn’t in blue jeans) screaming at the crowd about how great the new product is. Someone needs to inform him of the invention of the microphone. Then, out comes Microsoft president Steven Sinofsky (yes in sweater, blue jeans and sneakers) to deliver the bulk of the presentation. He gave the casual, folksy Steve Jobs approach a shot but he is not Steve Jobs. Instead he came across stiff and nervous as he stared straight ahead and read every word from a teleprompter, exhibiting no passion for the product.
But even THAT can be forgiven. What definitely can’t be forgiven is that during Sinofsky’s talk, the “Surface” product he was holding and demonstrating, crashed. Panic was evident in the poor guy’s face. He had to rush off to a table on-stage and get another one to finish his talk. At least someone at Microsoft had the brains to have a few extras nearby in case one crashes, like it did in front of about 200 tech journalists.
Actually, the product looks interesting. But having it crash in front a roomful of journalists is nothing short of a disaster. I must say I cringed a bit for Sinofsky.
Microsoft should stick to what it knows. Slick, expensive television commercials where there is no room for error. The company has proved it can make software and hardware, but now it also has proved it can’t replicate the charm of a Steve Jobs.