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What's the matter with Microsoft?

Gregg Keizer | June 26, 2013
Experts search for meaning in three Microsoft U-turns.

Blindsided by backlashes
Nor did Microsoft seem to anticipate the backlashes to any of the three changes -- another failure, said experts.

"Consumers are more vocal now," said Miller, citing social media's amplification of complaints. "In each case, Microsoft made a bold statement, but then had to rescind it after a Twitter outcry."

LaMotte of Levick concurred. "If you release something with new functionality, consumers are prone to give feedback fast and furious. That's the benefit and the downside of social media."

That was especially true in the Xbox One affair because of the unique nature of the gaming community. Gamers are passionate about what they want, identify personally with the software, much more so than, say, users of Windows or Office. And they're already organized, so to speak, because of the way many network to play online.

They're also a different demographic group, LaMotte argued, one that likes to complain.

"Gamers love to share their opinion and share their disgust," LaMotte said. "But Millennials are especially vocal about what they don't like. It's almost as if the movement picked up steam just to make Microsoft reverse the decision, no matter what an individual thought. People who grew up in the 60s or 70s, 80s and 90s, they had things to rebel against. Millennials don't. So they find things to rebel against."

Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst with Moor Insights & Strategy, saw Microsoft's moves differently. "Sometimes companies believe that they're smarter than everyone else," he said. "Apple made that strategy feasible by being successful without soliciting consumer reaction. I think Microsoft saw that and said, 'That's how we can be successful, too.'"

Microsoft isn't Apple
Moorhead found hints of Microsoft's mimicry in its relatively-recent penchant for secrecy, a change itself from decades of being far more transparent. "Microsoft could have done a better job [in these cases] by asking people beforehand," Moorhead asserted. "But they've become more isolated, more ... insular ... as it relates to people who they used to get feedback from, like analysts and the press."

What works for one company, Apple for example, doesn't necessarily work for another, like Microsoft. "Their initial reaction [to critics] of Windows 8 was that 'We know better,'" said Moorhead. "There was no admission that they'd made a mistake or flexibility whatsoever."

That didn't go down well.

On the Xbox One, at least, Morton thought that Microsoft's miscue may have stemmed from incorrect assumptions of the market. In its initial presentation of the Xbox One, Microsoft focused on the device's non-gaming traits, particularly its television viewing features. "They build up a house of cards with an incorrect assumption of who would be the purchaser," Morton said.

 

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