Photo: Dan Frommer, Business Insider
Yesterday, Microsoft shared some new details about Windows 8 at a conference for developers and handed out hardware with an early version. But the product isn’t anywhere close to done, and it probably won’t be out for another year.
In addition, yesterday’s presentation was more than two hours long — including a 15-minute demo in which a guy got on stage and wrote a program from scratch, with real code and everything — and didn’t have a set of clear marketing messages.
When Steve Jobs does his big reveals, the product is always in a finished state. It’s usually on sale within the next few months. You always walk away knowing what it does and why it’s interesting.
But Microsoft isn’t anything like Apple. So why should it take Apple’s approach?
Apple is a consumer goods company. It sells perfectly finished products to end-users through its own chain of well-appointed retail outlets.
Telling great stories is how you sell consumer products — whether it’s laundry detergent, luxury vehicles, or computers. It obviously helps if you have a great product to sell as well, but let’s not kid ourselves: Steve Jobs presentations are marketing events. They’re not fundamentally different from TV commercials.
Microsoft, despite its stumbles, is still a TECHNOLOGY company at heart. Information technology, to be precise.
It is still run in large part by geeks — CEO Steve Ballmer is a major exception, but he’s recently gone back to putting engineers in charge of most of Microsoft’s product groups. Microsoft sells a lot of its most important products to geeks, like complicated enterprise software to CIOs and developer tools to programmers. (The Xbox is an exception, but check out where it fits in Microsoft’s financials. Small potatoes.)
Like most geeks, Microsoft’s engineers are proud of what they’re building — Steve Sinofsky and Julie Larson-Green could barely contain themselves on stage yesterday. They want to share what they’re doing with the community and get feedback and make their products better. They want conversation. They want validation.
Obviously Microsoft does marketing and spin as well. Part of the reason to show Windows 8 so early is to give it a year-long runway to build buzz. Historically, Microsoft has also tried to freeze markets where it feels it’s behind by announcing way before products are done (this won’t work with the iPad, but that’s another post).
But at least Microsoft gives the community something real to discuss while it builds its next product.
With Apple, you’ll get nothing but silence — with the gaps filled by rumours and occasional legitimate scoops — until the next big reveal.
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