Matt Stein’s Blog and Microsoft’s Mojave Marketing

Thanks to Shaan Hurley for revealing to the wider world the existence of Ribbon Man Matt Stein’s blog. I’m not sure it’s appropriate for a blogging n00b like myself to welcome somebody with a blog four years older than his own, but I’m going to do it anyway. Welcome, Matt (no pun intended).

Some of Matt’s blog posts (particularly the early ones) make for, er, interesting reading, so don’t click if you’re easily offended. Please bear in mind that this is a personal blog, not an Autodesk one.

Matt and I generally get on fine, but we have had some frank exchanges of view and often agree to disagree. One subject where we are unlikely to share the same views is the Microsoft Vista marketing exercise The Mojave Experiment. This is something I planned to post about some weeks ago but then something more important came up and I didn’t bother. Here’s what Matt thinks, and here’s what I think:

While this is a cute marketing ploy and might convince the terminally naive, it pretty obviously qualifies as propaganda rather than any kind of meaningful study. Here’s how it’s done:

Find a selection of people with no experience of a product but with ignorance-based negative feelings about it. Make sure the hardware and software you’re going to show them all works well. Fix up the settings for minimal annoyance. Present an expensively prepared, well-choreographed demo that presents all the best features and none of the worst. Result: oh wow, what a surprise, it’s better than they thought.

A marketing company could reproduce the same results with practically anything if they set it up right. I bet I could do it with Linux, OS X, Windows Me, whatever. Give me Microsoft’s resources and open slather to present things as fairly or unfairly as I like and I will hand you whatever results you request.

For the record, I don’t hate Vista. I have Vista and XP available, dual boot, on hardware that can easily cope with the demands. In my tests on that hardware, Vista runs AutoCAD significantly faster than XP. Vista has been reliable and it looks nice, but I use XP about 95% of the time. Why? A few minor annoyances, but mostly it’s because Vista doesn’t support my mouse fully. Is that Microsoft’s fault or Logitech’s? Who cares? It’s something I have to put up with when I use Vista, therefore I generally avoid using Vista. As Matt rightly points out, Vista has a lot of minor “nice to have” touches, but all of them added together don’t make it worth putting up with a partially functional mouse. Neither do they make it worth buying a new mouse.

Back to the marketing campaign, it reminds me of a productivity “study” paid for by Autodesk an age ago to show how much more productive Release 13 was than Release 12. It was released, accompanied by a poorly worded and deceptive press release (unintentionally deceptive, supposedly), to hoots of derision from a cynical AutoCAD user community. It convinced almost nobody and angered many, and was, all in all, a spectacularly bad idea.

Autodesk marketing people, if by any chance you’re thinking of repeating that old mistake, or even “doing a Mojave” with AutoCAD 2009, please don’t. Just don’t.

One Comment

  1. Mojave is a repeat of the the Pepsi Taste Challenge, where “blind” testers are given a sip of unidentified Coke and Pepsi. Because Pepsi is sweeter, it tastes better in a quantity as small as a sip. In larger quantities, Coke tastes better, because it is less sweet.

    Microsoft is repeating the marketing error of Autodesk from Release 13. Back then, then-CEO Carol Bartz pronounced the R13 issues as a “marketing problem,” not a technical one. Echo forward to 2008, where Microsoft would rather spend $300 million fixing Vista’s image instead of its problems.

    As for the Logitech mice not working properly with Vista, I finally got double-click (on the middle button) to work, but only after so much driver install/unintstal older/newer versions, that I cannot tell you how to do it. On my wife’s Vista computer, I still haven’t got double-click working on its Logitech mouse.

    Presumably, double-click works on Mojave…

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