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Microsoft's counter-attack against Windows 8 coverage makes it 'look weak'

Gregg Keizer | May 14, 2013
Apple-esque communication strategy comes home to roost, argues analyst

Microsoft counter-attacked Friday, calling some media coverage of its plans to update Windows 8 sensationalist and an effort to drive website page views.

One analyst dubbed the missive by Frank Shaw, Microsoft's head of communications, as defensive. "It makes Microsoft look weak," said Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy. "Not everyone is going to be fair, but that's life."

In a Friday post to Microsoft's company blog titled "Staying centered,"Shaw took swings at coverage that characterized Microsoft's plans for Windows "Blue"— this year's update to Windows 8 and the first of what will be annual refreshes of the OS — as a retreat, and that compared Blue to Coca-Cola's 1985 pull-back from "New Coke."

Shaw singled out stories by The Financial Times and The Economist as examples of what he argued used "sensationalism and hyperbole."

He decried negative coverage of Windows 8 in general, Windows Blue in particular. "Let's pause for a moment and consider the center," Shaw wrote. "In the center, selling 100 million copies of a product is a good thing. In the center, listening to feedback and improving a product is a good thing. Heck, there was even a time when acknowledging that you were listening to feedback and acting on it was considered a good thing.

"Windows 8 is a good product, and it's getting better every day," he maintained.

Windows 8 has been panned by many commentators — bloggers and analysts — as well as by the mainstream and technical press, starting even before its October 2012 launch. But Shaw seemed especially upset at the recent reaction to a mini-publicity campaign last week by Tami Reller and Julie Larson-Green, the CFO and head of development for the Windows division, respectively.

Both Reller and Larson-Green touted the upcoming Blue — without revealing any details of its contents — as Microsoft's response to customer feedback. "The Windows Blue update is also an opportunity for us to respond to the customer feedback that we've been closely listening to since the launch of Windows 8 and Windows RT," Reller said last Tuesday.

Some outsiders didn't see it that way, and instead interpreted Blue as Microsoft's tacit admission of mistakes and that it would backtrack from the radical "Modern" user interface (UI).

Shaw's rebuttal: "In this world where everyone is a publisher, there is a trend to the extreme — where those who want to stand out opt for sensationalism and hyperbole over nuanced analysis," he said.

"What Shaw is doing is asking for patience," said Moorhead. "He's trying to set expectations. If people think Blue will be a 'swing you around the room' moment, it will not be that. Microsoft doesn't want people to get their expectations raised, and then have another cycle of maligning Windows 8."


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